Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Film Week

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

BEARS (2014)
Well, you tried, DisneyNature. Your first few documentary films were quite good and didn't do any of the anthropomorphism that can drag down nature docs and make them so pointless to watch. That's been over for a couple of years. But this one, this one was especially annoying about it, because the way the bears are so damn humanized and have human emotions thrust upon them by the narration and editing is as distracting and false as some of the early True-Life Adventures were. Beautiful photography, so ** there, but a disappointment otherwise.

Lifetime movie about a high school girl on the dance team (Bella Thorne) who injures herself, falls in with a crowd of dope addicts, and does one of those Lifetime spirals. It tries to be a cautionary tale--I mean, she graduates to heroin and greasy hair and almost prostitutes herself for drugs--but they never make us care about the lead characters, do they? It's just too removed, and quite frankly, this girl's real problem is that her parents just aren't paying attention. Also, Bella Thorne is a cute girl, but she can. not. act. **

Creepy Lifetime thriller about a teenage boy caught between two crazy, manipulative women in their forties--Dina Meyer, the seductive cougar he's sleeping with, and Amanda Detmer as his extremely overprotective mother. They needed to draw that parallel a little closer, because that bitch was nuts. *

IN SECRET (2013)
Close. Adaptation of an Emile Zola story starring Elizabeth Olsen as a woman who is raised by her aunt (Jessica Lange), more or less forced to marry her sickly cousin (Tom Felton), and has her inheritance stolen to make a life for the family in Paris. There, she begins an affair with her husband's artist friend (Oscar Isaac) and the two settle on a course of action that they are then tortured by, and the entire second half of the picture just turns into a drag. Parts of it are good, and I felt invested in the affair, but Tom Felton plays his character in such a nice, affable way that I just felt sorry for him. The movie doesn't really handle the complexity well; no one is really a monster, but the film plays its morality--and its supporting cast--too broadly to really get at what any of the characters are about. The four leads are pretty good, but the film just doesn't serve its story as well as it could have. ***

LABOR DAY (2013)
Josh Brolin busts out of jail and spends Labor Day weekend with hostage Kate Winslet and her son, forming a makeshift family that is briefly happy. Yes, this movie is as bad as you have likely heard. It took me a while to figure out why, exactly. It's not that it's an inept movie, or that it's garishly bad in a weird way. It's just that everything is so artless. There's no passion to it, no point the filmmakers are trying to make, nothing being said. Things just happen, there are hints of a weird Oedipal thing with that kid that never get touched on, and then the epilogue goes on for way too long and ends with an insulting summation of mental illness. (Kate Winslet's character is agoraphobic.) It's played far too earnestly in a way that would become laughable if it weren't so long and exhausting. But artless is truly the word for this waste of time. *

Excellent French animated film about an African child who takes a journey to discover why an evil sorceress is so evil, in order to save his village from her demands and her mystic fetishes. It reminded me a lot of Rene Laloux in a way, with its straightforwardness. Really a beautiful movie. ****

Fun horror comedy about a gigantic Asian crocodile terrorizing a Maine woodland. Very of its time; remember when just sarcastically commenting on tropes being played exactly straight was considered gender-progressive? That's about what I expected when I saw David E. Kelley wrote the script. But it's enjoyable as heck. Fun cast (I particularly liked Oliver Platt as a rich, eccentric croc expert, and any chance to see Meredith Salenger), it doesn't take itself seriously, and it has a great Stan Winston creature. Steve Miner directs it almost like it's a straightforward horror flick, but the dialogue is all comic and the actors are putting a spin on it. I can't believe it took me this long to see it, but it was fun. ***

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