Sunday, March 2, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (2/23/14 - 3/1/14)

The Book Thief (Brian Percival) *** - In the immortal words of Kate Winslet in "Extras", "How many more movies about the Holocaust do we need? It was grim, we get it!" Well, I don't mean to knock this film too badly. It's far from a bad film. It's just merely a bit generic. So many great films about the same subject have been done and their notes have been reprised here. It's almost a mish-mash of everything. That said, it's a well-made film with very nice performances (Sophie Nelisse is a talent to watch out for). The film is heartfelt but a little bit TOO bleak for what is supposed a kids' film.

Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk) **** - Wow! As in wow. The plot of course is pure soapy melodrama: A love "rectangle" of sorts between two spoiled children of a very rich oil baron, their childhood friend and a woman caught in the middle. He loves her, she marries another, etc. You know the drill. But like with other Douglas Sirk melodramas, he elevates the material into pure cinematic artistry. Absolutely super performances from Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack and especially Dorothy Malone who was deliciously wicked althroughout but blew me away with that courtroom scene. Add to that the very expressive Technicolor cinematography by Russell Metty. It is truly an essential masterpiece. I can tell it very heavily influenced a lot of the '80s American primetime soaps.

Saving Mr. Banks (John Lee Hancock) *** - I have to say that Mary Poppins is one of my childhood favorites and still one of my current favorite films of all time. It's an endlessly watchable classic (though I have to admit, I've never read any of the books). This film, I feel, is like two films at once both very good in their own way but doesn't always work when put together. The back and forth between seriocomic behind-the-scenes cat and mouse game between P.L. Travers and Walt Disney and the lengthy flashback scenes focusing on Travers' alcoholic father is often jarring. But the performances all hold it together. Emma Thompson is wonderful as the fiercely protective creator of Mary Poppins. Unlike Mary Poppins, this didn't make me stand up and cheer but it's still a fine piece of work nevertheless.

Her (Spike Jonze) ***1/2 - I think that as time goes by my feelings for this film will be constantly changing and evolving either for the better or for the worse. This is a film that has a lot of elements that I admire greatly: The gorgeous production design, the beautiful cinematography, the fantastic score (courtesy of Arcade Fire, one of my favorite current bands) and of course Joaquin Phoenix's great performance and he's matched by a wonderful vocal-only performance by Scarlett Johansson. As of this writing, I'm still processing it and digesting it. I guess that's a plus in what could have easily have been just gimmicky, quirky plot of a man falling in love with his female-voiced operating system. I couldn't quite call it masterpiece yet. This is a film that I will probably rewatch someday.

1 comment:

Adam said...

I want to see Mr Banks