Sunday, January 26, 2014
Weekly Round-Up (1/19/14 - 1/25/14)
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Kenneth Branagh) **1/2 - This is the first "official" 2014 film I've seen. It's a January release. As far as January releases go, it's actually not bad. This reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise doesn't exactly reinvent the spy genre nor does it do the formula so outstandingly well. It is however very well-crafted and quite entertaining with some good moments. Chris Pine shows a lot of potential as a successor to Harrison Ford. Does this mean a new franchise for him? Eh. I don't know. But who cares, really? It's inoffensive fun.
Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley) *** - This is an autobiographical documentary about the family life of Sarah Polley centering around her mother who died of cancer when she was very young. The film mixes interviews with her friends and family and archival footage and re-enactments. One of Sarah's siblings during a talking head interview remarked, "Who the fuck cares about our family?" and I admit for the first act or so of this film, I was feeling the same way but as the film goes and different layers of it was introduced, I was swept up on it. The film introduces some neat twists and turns here and there. But in the end, it's no more than that. I can see why it was snubbed for the Documentary Oscar nomination: It's neither "important" nor is it particularly inspiring. It's a well-crafted personal film essay. No more than that.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger) ***1/2 - The answer to the question, "What is the first ever animated feature film?" is actually NOT Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It's actually THIS film. This fantasy which utilizes silhouettes of paper-cut-outs and other stuff I don't know may seem crude at first but it won't take long for one to get swept up in the story and marvel at how inventive the animation is. The fantasy action scenes here are almost every bit as rousing as anything you can make in the computer. A beautiful little animated film which must be seen more.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) **1/2 - It's not a bad film. It's also far from a great film. Yes, I'm damning it with faint praise because that's what it is. Ben Stiller's latest directorial effort at first seems to wanna be a parody of quirky, life-affirming romantic dramedies with fantastical elements but it wants to have its cake and eat it too since it's also, at the same time, sincerely trying to be one. The result is something a half-baked mixture of both. The film has some nice moments and good performances. Supporting work from Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn and Patton Oswalt are first-rate. But all in all, this is probably Ben Stiller's weakest directorial effort since it, kind of not surprisingly, is almost free from the bite/edge of his previous works.
Museum Hours (Jem Cohen) ***1/2 - A Canadian woman goes to Vienna to visit her comatose cousin. While there, she visits the museum and strikes up a friendship with one of the guards. I'm actually surprised by how much I loved this film. In a way, it's almost like a travelogue (The film REALLY made me wanna visit Vienna) but it's far more complex than its simple premise suggests. I feel hesitant to recommend this to anyone who does not have any interest in the visual arts. But those that do will get a really immersive thought-provoking, yet oddly moving slice of life that juxtaposes the paintings in the museum. An excellent piece of work.