"Kingdom of Heaven": An odd cultural artifact, if not a great movie, most of the critics agree. As La Manohla puts it, the film is "an ostensibly fair-minded, even-handed account
of one of the least fair-minded, even-handed chapters in human history." The biggest problem, everyone agrees, it that Ridley Scott wants to have the film be a message about the futility of religiously-fueled warfare, while all the lusciously filmed, endless, bloody battles seem to say, as Stephanie Zacharek puts it, "But gosh, doesn’t it look cool?" No one is impressed by darling Orlando; the nicest anyone has to say about his performance is this two-edged compliment from LA Weekly‘s Scott Foundas (who also has by far the most positive review of the film): "As Balian, Bloom is more minimus than Maximus, possessing about as much native authority as a postal clerk, and heâ€™s effective for that very reason." Zacharek thinks he "looks in danger of blowing away any minute," and Anthony Lane compares his final rallying of the troops speech to "a head prefect addressing a school assembly." In the NY Press, Matt Zoller Seitz at least finds the battles sequences exhilarating; David Edelstein, on the other hand, thinks "’Gladiator’ had lousy, disjunctive action, and Kingdom of Heaven is even more maladroit."
"Crash": To paraphrase En Vogue, "Prejudice, made a movie about it. Like to see it? Here it go." The film approaches the theme of racism with all the subtlety of writer/director Paul Haggis‘ last screenplay, for "Million Dollar Baby." David Edelstein says "Haggis is so relentless that you have to laugh. But you might also be
transfixed, because the cast of great actors is going full-throttle,
and the film makes such a gaudy show of its own momentousness." This is evidently the case with LA Weekly‘s Ella Taylor, who was not a "Baby" fan but who finds "Crash" both one of the best Hollywood films on race and on Los Angeles (as an added bonus, they tack on an extra essay by genuine black person Joy Mitchell, a USC sophomore). Roger Ebert also loves it. But both Stephanie and Tony find the movie well-meaning but painfully clumsy; as Tony puts it, "Crash" is a "frustrating movie: full of heart and devoid of life; crudely manipulative when it tries hardest to be subtle; and profoundly complacent in spite of its intention to unsettle and disturb."
"Mysterious Skin": Gregg Araki has finally grown up. No longer content to pluck pretty boys out of the food service industry and frame violent, sexy fluff films around them, he’s managed to make a rich, sympathetic film about a subject ripe for sensationalism: the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse. Tony Scott calls it "the work of a onetime bad boy who has grown up without losing his
ardent sympathy for the wildness of youth. It’s also one of the best
movies I’ve seen so far this year," while two out of three indieWIRE/Reverse Shot reviewers find that the movie marries Araki’s previous and undeniable stylishness with, finally, a heart.