Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Film Week

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

KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK (2015)
Interesting documentary about Cobain. I didn't pay much attention to grunge or Nirvana at the time; honestly, I never even heard Nevermind all the way through until last week when, after watching this, I decided to finally listen to it. It's interesting to see this movie now, 21 years after Cobain's suicide, with different perspective and hindsight. At the time, I was annoyed by this whole idea of Cobain the Gen X Christ, which is basically how a lot of the entitled babies in my high school viewed him. This documentary follows Cobain biographically, but sticks a lot to his memories, his writings, his journals and drawings, his home movies and home recordings, and some very well done animated sequences to try and create a portrait of a mental and emotional state, eschewing the overly-reverent "voice of a generation" stuff to show a man, a husband and a father, who just wanted security, happiness, and a way to express himself. And like any human being, Cobain emerges as complicated, contradictory, and not always likable, but undeniably whole. At the end, I wasn't sad that we lost the lead singer of Nirvana, I was sorry that people who cared about him lost a husband, a father, a friend, and a son. Not always coherent, but the style really fits the subject. Absorbing and at times beautiful. ****

MAGIC BOY (1959)
Toei Animation's second animated feature, the story of a young boy who spends years learning magic in order to combat an evil witch whose bandits are raiding the countryside. Very much in the Disney model, hearkening back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio, when there were cute animals around but there wasn't a whole lot of shying away from the darkness of folktales. An engrossing movie, very well animated. I saw the American dub version from 1961, and it wasn't as condescending or cutesy as some later dubbed Japanese animated film dubs. ****

RAIN (1932)
A sound version of Sadie Thompson, which I saw a few months ago. I liked the silent version better. Rain--the story of a prostitute targeted for saving by a missionary--is well-directed, but it aims to be important and loses the humanity that is so essential to this story of morality and religious hypocrisy. Also, I think Joan Crawford isn't quite up to the role, as much as I usually like her. Walter Huston fares better as the missionary, though I wish he had found room for the occasional nuance inside the imperious self-righteousness, because what happens to the characters sort of depends on it. Not a terrible movie at all, but it's slow and doesn't quite come together. It wants to be powerful, but loses its grasp on the characters in its drive. **1/2

A DEADLY ADOPTION (2015)
Lifetime movie starring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig and produced by Adam McKay. I can understand why Will Ferrell was so annoyed that the news about it leaked; clearly it was meant to catch the audience by surprise in the hopes of becoming some kind of viral stunt. Taken on its own, it's a pretty straightforward Lifetime movie, and I think that was the point. I think people were supposed to watch it and get online and say "What is this weird movie on Lifetime?" and then it would be a little pop culture monent. Instead, the release was heralded, and when you watch it you can see nuances to it, but you can also see how it would've been funnier if it had just happened out of nowhere, the joke on audience expectations. It's just played too straight. It's not supposed to be a satire, it's really a prank that got spoiled. The final product has some humor to it, and some of Ferrell's line readings in particular are hilarious simply because of how earnestly they're delivered, but the absurdity on its own sometimes feels lacking. It's fun because it's just so odd, but it's not the laugh riot some reviewers were clearly expecting. ***

EMMA (1996)
I never caught this one, which came out as part of the vanguard of an explosion of period pieces (including adaptations of most--all?--of Jane Austen's books). Gwyneth Paltrow plays the title heroine, who wants to make love matches for all of her single friends, and gets caught up in misunderstandings. I thought it was quite a charming movie, very fun and light without being simplistic. It also took me back to a time when movies like this were very popular; the mid-nineties seem like a completely different planet of filmmaking these days, and I like going back there from time to time. I thought Paltrow was quite good, but I really liked Jeremy Northam. I miss that guy; such a talented actor, and the only thing I think I've seen him in in the last decade was The Tudors. Very nice to see him in his role here. ****

2 comments:

msmariah said...

Great mini reviews. I really wish Deadly Adoption was treated more like a comedy or a comedic take on lifetime movies. I would have tuned in for that.

Nathan said...

I haven't seen the Cobain film, but my attitude on the guy is pretty similar to what you described here. I wasn't a particular fan of Nirvana and didn't understand the praise heaped on him, but I later learned that he was a pretty cool guy who suffered from serious depression.