- TAKING OFF: Firth (left), Bacon.
As seen in the thriller “Where the Truth Lies,” the answer to finding the truth –- when one person’s entirely accurate version of an event might be completely different from another’s — is that you sometimes have to make yourself a part of the story in order to break the distorting lens of hearing it from others. While not entirely effective at pulling off this delicate maneuver, “Where the Truth Lies” is a serviceable film, with more than a few surprising twists.
Allison Lohman plays Karen O’Connor, a young journalist sent on a dream assignment. Her quarry: Vince Collins (Colin Firth), half of a Martin-and-Lewis-esque comedy act that broke up at the height of their popularity after a dead girl was found in their hotel suite. Though both had an ironclad alibi, whiffs of cover-up and mob involvement meant their showbiz careers (in front of the camera at least) were over. Now, 20 years after the act broke up, Collins is ready to talk, in exchange for a $1 million advance. Word that he’s writing a book soon brings a package from Vince’s old partner, Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon), who is writing his own tell-all book.
The problem is, as Karen gets deeper and deeper into the story, trying to ferret out the facts of how the dead girl ended up drowned in Lanny’s and Vince’s bathtub, the more entangled she becomes in both their past and present lives. Though “Where the Truth Lies” starts strong, with a solid mystery and great performances from both Bacon and Firth, wild coincidences, hard-to-believe scenarios (would they really sign a 20-year-old up to interview the subject of a million-dollar book contract?) and ever more far-fetched plot twists make sure that the film eventually sort of collapses under is own weight. What’s left is something like a cross between “Boogie Nights” and a really crummy episode of “Matlock.”
“Everything Is Illuminated”
In “Everything Is Illuminated,” first-time director Liev Schrieber asks the question: If you can’t go home again and the past is dead, what will you find if you go looking for your history? In the often-skewed world of “Everything Is Illuminated,” based on the book by Jonathan Safran Froer, the answer is a long, strange trip, one that leads you to what you need to find instead of what you want to find.
Elijah Woods plays a character named Jonathan Safran Froer. Instead of writing, this parallel-universe Jonathan Froer does the concrete equivalent of writing: collecting samples of his world in thousands of tiny plastic bags, which he dutifully staples to the wall. When we meet him, he’s starting on a journey, heading to the Ukraine to try and find the woman who saved his grandfather’s life when their village — Trachimbrod — was crushed out of existence by the Nazis.
Once on the ground in Europe, Jonathan employs the services of guides who specialize in finding the remnants of villages and towns for American Jews looking to connect with their past. Their leader is Alex (Eugene Hutz), a gangly kid who idolizes American culture and speaks a kind of Jabberwocky English, making up words as he needs them. His partner is his grandfather (Boris Leskin), who insists he’s blind and is only saved from being thought a raving anti-Semite by his grandson’s careful translations of his rants. Together with these unlikely guides, Jonathan sets off on a kind of metaphysical road trip, one that will discover as much or more for his guides than it does for him.
While Woods is purposefully mechanical as the goggle-eyed Froer, the real star of the show is Hutz. His Alex is a fireball of energy and conflicted devotion — a guy who has made a living taking people looking for the restless spirits of his country’s past, who finally takes one of the cases personally. His convoluted English, like his magazine-copied hipster clothing, makes him all the more endearing, especially when it comes time to do the hard emotional work that must be done at the end of any film that starts out looking for ghosts.
Though Schrieber does fall back on a few film-school director tricks here (flashbacks that fade to brilliant white light, etc.), for the most part “Everything Is Illuminated” is a cozy little film that’s easy to like.
Quite a few of the computer-animated movies of recent years have given me plenty of ammunition to back up my contention that pen-and-paper animation was somehow better than the newfangled, CGI style, with story quality and character development obviously taking a backseat role to big-budget CGI work. Still, there are some computer-animated kid-flicks I admire.
Add “Chicken Little” to that list. A clever and yet refreshingly simple film, “Chicken Little” had both me and my 5-year-old laughing out loud at times.
The action takes place in the Richard Scarry-like Oakey Oaks, a town populated by talking animals. One of the town rejects is the runty Chicken Little (Zach Braff), who goes on his “sky is falling” run through town, saying that a stop-sign-shaped piece of sky with a cloud on it hit him on the head. His father, Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall), tells the terrified populace that it must have been an acorn.
A year later, our hero is in his room when the exact same piece of sky comes sailing through the window. Trying to find its source, CL and his equally nerdy friends uncover a camouflaged spaceship, which leads them to believe they must foil an alien plot to take over the world.
Quick, funny and sometimes sad, “Chicken Little” manages, like the best animated movies, to straddle the line between the kid’s world and the adult world. While it’s not as good as the “Toy Story” movies, it is better than most.