Thursday, December 17, 2015

Film Week

A review of the films I saw two weeks ago but never posted about.

STRANGE MAGIC (2015)
The internet really ripped this one to shreds back in January... I found it totally charming and beautifully animated. The story itself isn't really surprising--you know where it's going the whole time, because you've seen movies before--but I really enjoyed the way the story was told. I particularly loved the aesthetic of the character design, which was sort of a combination of Brian Froud, Rien Poortvliet, and Tony DiTerlizzi, which is more or less my exact aesthetic. The kind of thing I think of when I think of creatures. (Basically, anything that looks like Gustaf Tenggren.) The story concerns a fairy princess who ventures into the Dark Forest to save her sister from a love potion and the Bog King, and bits of pop songs are woven through the stories various threads in that "jukebox musical" way. Honestly, it's a very George Lucas type of film, combining fantasy, the balance of good and evil, and pop hits. I guess it's not for everyone, but I found it completely adorable and very well-made. My kind of fantasy, I guess. ***1/2

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (2015)
Kudos to director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel for what they've done with this. It's still not good, but the film is at least more palatable than the awful, awful, awful novel. Some of the scenes that came across as rapey and abusive seem more consensual in the film version because of the way the tone is handled. Dakota Johnson is perfectly cast, giving Anastasia Steele a bit of playfulness, making her more self-aware through the performance. Jamie Dornan is a block of dead-eyed wood, so they don't really have any chemistry, but the story is so boring, it doesn't matter. When it relaxes and just gives in to its style, it has life, but--and I can't believe I'm saying this--they needed to talk about Christian's contract a hell of a lot more. Because Christian's mental state isn't really explored with anything resembling depth, the contract and his obsession with control just come across as ridiculous and impenetrable, and Christian is silly and small. I couldn't really see what he's supposed to have made Ana feel about herself that she would find him so fascinating that she wouldn't just leave after the first night. He's just a rich guy with control issues--and control issues that are toned down from the novel, and just come across as... petulant. It's like halfway to a decent movie, but it doesn't come together. Still, Danny Elfman's score is a winner, and you never have to check in on what Ana's inner goddess is doing, and you never have to read what EL James thinks passes for decent prose. **1/2

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