The Help (Tate Taylor) ** - I was dreading watching this film. Though it's nowhere near as offensively bad as I thought it would be, it's still a bland cookie-cutter film that tackles the troubling, disturbing and rather complex subject of racism in a safe, simplistic, obvious way. The film's tone and performances are all over the place. Viola Davis is terrific and makes the film watchable but her performance belongs to a different, better film. Bryce Dallas Howard, on the other hand, is such a shrill over-the-top broad caricature that I feel it belongs in a John Waters movie. Jessica Chastain manages to make an impression and create an actual character with her limited screen time but frankly, I don't get the appeal of Octavia Spencer. Cinematography, costumes and sets are strictly perfunctory. Overall, the film gets an A for good intentions but a D in filmmaking.
Moneyball (Bennett Miller)
***1/2 - Now if there are two things I'm TOTALLY and COMPLETELY not
interested in at all, it's sports and math (sports more than math). This
film has plenty of both but is so well-made, well-written,
well-directed and well-acted that I was totally and completely swept up
and intrigued by it. (According to a friend of mine, it plays more like a
heist film than a baseball film, I agree). Based on a true story about
how ex-baseball player turned manager Billy Beane took his losing
baseball team and using a unique method using stats gave the team a
20-game winning streak. The film is about underdogs and the importance
of outside-the-box thinking and new ideas. You don't need to be a sports
fan to be able to relate that that.
John Carter (Andrew Stanton) ** -
It hurts me to write this review because I do greatly admire director
Andrew Stanton. This is his live-action feature debut, an adaptation of
an Edgar Rice Burroughs' sci-fi novel. It's got a lot of things going
for it. Taylor Kitsch is a great find and makes a very charismatic lead,
there are great visuals and some really good action scenes here but
unfortunately everything that is good about it is all mixed up in a huge
mess of a film which really could have used an editor with a better
sense of pacing.