Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Surprisingly engrossing French animated film about a girl whose father has been murdered, her obsessed police officer mother, the criminal mastermind, a burglar, and the cat that connects them. It has a nice grasp of economy in characterization and in storytelling; at a mere 61 minutes there's nothing unnecessary here, but it still tells its story, develops its characters, and has time for little flourishes. That alone makes it a triumph. Lovely stylized animation, beautifully shaded and vibrant. ****

AKA Return of the Dragon. Bruce Lee's directorial debut, and it's a real leap forward in martial arts flicks. (So popular, for example, that it's basically the martial arts flick they're still making.) Very funny and compelling, I'd put it a very close second to Enter the Dragon. And in this one Bruce fights a pre-stardom Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris and his truly horrifying amount of back hair. Great shots of the Coliseum, too. Just a solid, very well-made fight movie. **** With this, I feel like I've seen all of Bruce Lee's martial arts movies; I was going to follow-up with Game of Death, but everything I read makes it sound terrible, and I've seen all the surviving footage in Curse of the Dragon and Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey.

Gloriously ridiculous movie with Sir Richard Burton hamming his way through a Nazi-era version of the Perrault tale and murdering a bevvy of some of the most beautiful B-movie starlets of the year. It's too bad the one with the most screen time is Joey Heatherton, because she's not really up to even this dialogue, but she just looks so damn good... Insane, even stupid, but divinely so. ***1/2

Motion capture remains frustrating. I don't know why I'm still tracking it, except that I'm fascinated to see the continued merging of animation and special effects. It's ironic that this movie shut down a studio and yet the motion capture's not only better and more sophisticated than the dead-eyed soullessness of earlier efforts (particularly on the character played by Dan Fogler), the animation melds much better with the effects, and it's a much more enjoyable story than some of the other crap ImageMovers has been involved in the making of. ***

Subtle short film about a boy longing for a pet rabbit and his father, who longs for his wife to come back. They both manage to miss that inside all of this longing, they've got each other. It works, but it made me so terribly sad. ***

Stark, harrowing movie about a mother trying to simply exist after her detached, sociopathic son has gone on a killing spree. Tilda Swinton is excellent and subdued as a woman who shoulders the blame set on her by the survivors of the massacre, while struggling not to give up on a son whom she has never truly bonded with. It's a fascinating portrait of a woman trying to make sense of a situation with none to be found. It's compelling and, to be honest, unpleasant. I think it raises a question about how much the lack of a bond with her child is her fault, or whether the boy simply had something wrong inside of him. It's a very sad movie. **** Shame Tilda got snubbed by Oscar, but the Academy has never seen subtlety as real acting (or filmmaking, really), and since she never has a "give her the shot!" scene, they nominated Viola Davis for playing Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple instead. But at least if she wins it will End Racism, or something. (Also, the woman who made this film wanted to make The Lovely Bones originally; I wish she had, her version sounded less sick.)

Another very subtle film, and one that I found myself personally relating to on several levels. Michael Shannon, in an excellent performance (he gives no other kind), stars as a man in smalltown Ohio who begins having dreams of apocalyptic storms. He begins to worry whether the dreams have a prophetic significance or that he's developing severe mental illness (which his mother did at his age). Jessica Chastain plays his wife, supportive but also terrified as Shannon begins rebuilding the storm shelter in the yard. Though my anxieties thankfully never manifested themselves quite so drastically, I could relate to the sense of impending dread, doom and terror that this movie creates. One of my favorite movies of 2011. ****

1 comment:

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

'Take Shelter' was fantastic. I can watch Shannon read a phone book. And the last moment was a beautiful affirmation of faith.

I have a soft spot of 'Game of Death'. My father took me and my buddies to the drive-in to see that one. It's so goofy but the fight scenes are really terrific.