With all of those crowd-pleasing action flicks out of the way, the fall movie season (generally the time of year when studios release their Oscar contenders) begins with “Hollywoodland” - a solid drama with a very capable cast and a nice script from Paul Bernbaum.
“Hollywoodland” details the mysterious death of actor George Reeves, best known as TV's “Superman.” While Reeves' 1959 death was officially ruled a suicide, there were some who believed he was murdered - including Louis Simo, a down-on-his-luck detective hired by Reeves' mother.
Director Allen Coulter juggles the narrative - weaving the story of the rise and fall of Reeves and Simo's investigation with great effectiveness. I also enjoyed the fact that “Hollywoodland” doesn't try to give one definitive explanation behind Reeves' death, instead opting for several possibilities that all seem likely.
The strong direction and solid script is anchored by a strong cast.
Academy Award winner Adrien Brody is very good as the slimy detective who initially takes the case for money, but eventually becomes caught up in the circumstances surrounding Reeves death.
Ben Affleck gives his best performance since “Boiler Room” as Reeves - capturing the essence of a man clearly unable to deal with the success that surrounded a role he really didn't want in the first place.
Diane Lane and Robin Tunney have nice roles as two of Reeves' love interests and Bob Hoskins oozes nastiness as a studio head who may have had something to do with Reeves' death.
“Hollywoodland” doesn't have that extra oomph to make it a special film, but it is solidly crafted and acted. And after several weeks of dog releases that include “Crank,” “Beerfest,” and “The Covenant,” solid is definitely good enough.
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is “Hard Candy” (B), one of 2006's most disturbing - yet intriguing - films.
“Hard Candy” tells the story of Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a 32-year old photographer who picks up a 14-year-old girl named Hayley (Ellen Page) on the Internet.
Jeff invites Hayley back to his house, where Hayley reveals her plans to expose him as a pedophile.
Blake Nelson's script is unsettling at times, but it isn't afraid to tackle a difficult subject. Only in the final act does the script start to lose its sharpness, with an ending that felt a little flat after an outstanding build.
“Hard Candy” feels like a one-act play, with director David Slade letting his actors take center stage - with great success.
Wilson is creepy, yet sympathetic, while Page is a revelation as a clearly disturbed teenager.
“Hard Candy” is rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content involving a teen and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.