It's time to catch up with the Telluride and Venice Film Festivals, which are going on now.
Derek Elley of Variety doesn't like Woody Allen's latest film "Cassandra's Dream." "Like a tragic overture played at the wrong tempo and slightly off-key, Woody Allen's London-set "Cassandra's Dream" sends out more mixed signals than an inebriated telegraphist."
Todd McCarthy likes "Juno" from Jason Reitman ("Thank You for Smoking") and starring Michael Cera ("Superbad"). "Jason Reitman's modestly scaled follow-up to his sharp debut feature, "Thank You For Smoking," is rather adventurously skedded for release on Dec. 14, and should score well as an alternative holiday choice to year-end blockbusters and serious awards contenders."
McCarthy is luke warm about Alison Eastwood's "Rails & Ties." "The tale of a middle-aged husband and wife who work through a professional tragedy and a medical trauma when fate lands a young boy at their doorstep, the pic possesses some straightforward virtues, but is so discreet that its emotional payoff is delayed too long."
McCarthy is conflicted about Noah Baumbach's ("The Squid and the Whale") anticipated follow-up "Margot at the Wedding." "Perhaps some viewers will accept this as brutally honest telling-it-like-it-is, but the spectacle of such heedless self-absorption by people whose job it is to be insightful, as writers and teachers and artists, will prove too great an irony for most viewers to swallow."
Dennis Harvey likes "Into the Wild." "It seemed natural, if challenging, screen material -- and in his fourth and by far best feature turn behind the camera, Sean Penn delivers a compelling, ambitious work that will satisfy most admirers of the book."
Brian Lowry has positive things to say about "Michael Clayton," starring George Clooney. "Spare and unhurried, writer Tony Gilroy's directorial debut "Michael Clayton" features strong performances and a solid story, drawn from the familiar well of faceless corporations grinding ordinary people through their profit-making machinery."
Todd McCarthy loves "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." "A ravishing, magisterial, poetic epic that moves its characters toward their tragic destinies with all the implacability of a Greek drama, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is one of the best Westerns of the 1970s, which represents the highest possible praise. It's a magnificent throwback to a time when filmmakers found all sorts of ways to refashion Hollywood's oldest and most durable genre."
Derek Elley can't get behind Brian de Palma's latest film "Redacted." "Deeply felt but dramatically unconvincing "fictional documentary" -- inspired by the March 2006 rape and killings by U.S. troops in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad -- has almost nothing new to say about the Iraq situation and can't make up its mind about how to package its anger in an alternative cinematic form."
Elley also pans Ang Lee's latest film "Lust, Caution." "Too much caution and too little lust squeeze much of the dramatic juice out of Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution," a 2½--hour period drama that's a long haul for relatively few returns."
Robert Koehler hates Paul Haggis's film "In the Valley of Elah," which is quite surprising. "Working overtime to be an important statement on domestic dissatisfaction with the war and the special price paid by vets and their families, Paul Haggis' follow-up to "Crash" is too self-serious to work as a straight-ahead whodunit and too lacking in imagination to realize its art-film aspirations."