Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekly Round-Up (9/8/13 - 9/14/13)

Napoleon (Abel Gance) ***1/2 - This is the 5-hour Kevin Brownlow cut of the film. It actually sort of hurts me to give it the rating that I'm giving. It's high, yes, but it SHOULD have been higher. This gargantuan biopic on Napoleon has a remarkable and impressive first three hours. From the first scene, it really grabs with its truly breathtaking and bravura filmmaking. There were moments that I got goosebumps, it was so impressive. Then the third act begins when for some reason it becomes a romantic comedy using an unnecessarily large chunk of time on Napoleon's romance with his first wife. It is so frustrating that it was on its way to becoming one of the best biopics ever made only to have it break like that. But still, for the first 3 hours, it's a stunning piece of cinema. I would still recommend it.

Pale Flower (Masahiro Shinoda) ***1/2 - A newly-paroled Yakuza member (who served time for murder) goes into his old gambling haunts then befriends and falls in love with a mysterious female gambler. This films reminds me of Wong Kar-Wai with its beautiful cinematography and lowkey/chaste love story. It's surprisingly largely non-violent for a film centering on the Yakuza but still manages to have an aura of tension about it. Violence can explode at many minute! I wasn't completely blown away by it but it's still a worthwhile piece of work.

Kicking and Screaming (Noah Baumbach) ***1/2 - It's one of Noah Baumbach's early works and as a fan of The Squid and the Whale was really curious to see this. It's about a group of college students who just graduate or are about to graduate. It's a wonderful film about young adult characters each struggling to move on to the next phase of their lives. This movie could have gone wrong in so many different ways. It could have been boring, the characters could have been annoying, it could have been too preachy, etc. But it's almost none of that. Instead, what I got are strong hints of a terrific cinematic voice in writer-director Noah Baumbach. It's a delightful, funny, poignant film.

This Is The End (Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg) *** - It is an excellent idea: An end-of-the-world Biblical Apocalypse horror-comedy and have all the characters be celebrities and they play themselves! The results? Well, it's hit and miss. More hits than misses but there are enough misses to knock it a few points off my book. This entire notion of having the actors play a version of themselves wasn't really explored deeply enough to make it a bit more cutting and satirical. There was potential there but I think it wasn't explored enough. But still, there are a lot of really good laughs and I have to say Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have potential as filmmakers. I see genuine talent there.

The Way, Way Back (Nat Faxon/Jim Rash) ***1/2 - This film surprised me. I really didn't expect it to like it this much. The plot is kind of a generic coming-of-age teen dramedy flick that we've seen before in various other reincarnations. The narrative beats and the tropes are familiar. However, with this film, the characters are wonderfully drawn and fleshed out that they really come to life (the mopey, angsty teen in the center manages to be more endearing than annoying, the mom's douchey boyfriend is not a one-dimensional cartoon, etc.). It also helps that the ensemble of actors playing them is quite strong with Sam Rockwell being the stand-out. It's funny, poignant and sweet without being cloying.

Clue (Jonathan Lynn) **1/2 - Someone highly recommended this film to me. It is without a doubt probably the best film based on a board game ever made. I've never played the board game (though all the names sound maddeningly familiar, despite never having seen the film before) so I'm gonna judge this as a comedic whodunit. It's simple: A group of disparate strangers get invited to house by a mysterious stranger and then bodies start to pile up. It's entertaining. It's fun to watch especially with this ensemble of actors (Can't go wrong with Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Michael McKean, etc.). There are funny stuff. But all in all I found it all just "eh, it's okay". I'm sorry I'm not gonna be part of this cult. Excuse me while I watch A Shot in the Dark again.


YeamieWaffles said...

Sorry to hear about Napoleon's late collapse, it sounds like an awesome film but I can see the reasons why it disappointed you, lots of good reviews this week!

Adam said...

I loved Clue

MRanthrope said...

I was really surprised by This Is The End, I had low expectations for another one of "these types" of comedies but I truly enjoyed.

The Way Way Back lived up to the hype I heard and I really dug it as well. Far more than The Spectacular Now that everyone seems to love.

Your avatar is a Simpsons style drawing so I'm gonna guess you're a Simpsons fan. I just wrote a short story on my blog that might be up your alley if so...