Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Film Week

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

MALEFICENT (2014)
It's a pretty, nice fantasy film. There are a lot of great aspects to it, and Angelina Jolie is really good and into the role, but as I was watching it, I was restructuring the story and thinking of ways it could have been done better. I don't hate it at all, and I'll probably watch it a dozen times on cable, but it's done in such a straightforward manner that the audience pretty much knows everything that's going to happen long before it does. It doesn't unfold in an interesting way that's as engaging as it could be. Good aspects? Love the creatures, love Jolie's performance and makeup, Sam Riley is very likable, the effects are great, the story's sweet even if it's not especially compelling, some of the messages of the film (don't make decisions in anger, don't harm innocent people just to hurt someone who did something wrong, be careful who you trust, true love is much more than instant infatuation) are valuable messages. Also, Elle Fanning is beautiful and this is the closest I've gotten yet to her making a dark, weird, creature-laden Henson movie. Bad aspects? Sharlto Copely is a good, intense actor whose character becomes one-note as quickly as possible, the three pixies disappear into the film and aren't that interesting to begin with, the narration is ridiculous and unnecessary, and nothing that happens is much of a surprise. It's a mixed bag, but not an unpleasant one. And there's a dark rape metaphor that happens that the movie is very brave not to shy away from. But the conflict isn't there the way it could be, and everything is just a foregone conclusion, so it's like the movie just doesn't try very hard. There's no real dramatic tension. It could have been so much more, but it settled for what it is. Which, as I said, is nice. For what it is. ***

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 (2013)
I was expecting a retread of what had been a surprisingly smart, clever and enjoyable first movie, but this one is almost as engaging. Where it really hits, though, is in the creativity of its designs and its living food-monsters. Charming as hell. ***1/2

ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW (2013)
Captivating, weird film about a man on vacation with his family at Walt Disney World. On the morning of the last day, he loses his job, and then begins experiencing disturbing visions and events. The big news about this movie was that it was shot guerrilla style at the actual theme park, which looks great in the black and white. It's really bizarre all the things that happen to the guy with the Happiest Place on Earth as a backdrop, and really adds to the strange feeling of the film. It's hard to describe, honestly, and I'm not sure it entirely works, but it's hard to look away from and definitely worth your time. Vivid and genuinely strange. ***1/2

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (2012)
Joss Whedon shot this in his home with some friends. As with most Shakespeare adaptations, I was more interested in the staging and the actors than in the story itself. In fact, I think it's probably to the detriment of the story that the setting is so modernized, because the sexual and marriage politics are so beyond outdated that it becomes kind of a drag watching nice people get in such a tizzy over someone's virginity. But it's well-shot and most of the actors are quite good. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof, as Beatrice and Benedick, are both especially good in the roles. They're natural comics, but they give their words the weight of experience. Nathan Fillion is reliably funny as Dogberry; I loved his genuine woundedness at being called an ass. And Clark Gregg is impossible not to like. ***

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I was very fond of Cloudy 2. The Daughter wants to see Maleficent, but the previews looked kinda scary, for her. We'll probably go anyway...