Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekly Round-Up (3/23/13 - 3/29/13)

August: Osage County (John Wells) **1/2 - I just saw (and actually loved) the play so I know the material. The cinematic translation is not bad....only it could have been great but it isn't. The material is quite strong and the cast is mostly great (though I think Benedict Cumberbatch might have been a bit miscast since I don't completely buy him as Little Charlie) so it's watchable. Although I can't help but be a bit disappointed because it could have been really great since I can see the potential. Tracy Letts did manage to "open up" the play but I think in the hands of a better director, the material would have flown. Oh, crap. Robert Altman would have been fantastic. Oh, well. It's not essential viewing but it could have been a lot worse.

Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener) ***1/2 - I'm actually surprised I liked this as much as I did. I have to say that it's refreshing to see a GOOD romantic comedy these days, a genre which Katherine Heigl seems hellbent to destroy. Julia Louis-Dreyfus really should do more movies. She's a bright presence in this little film. The late great James Gandolfini is absolutely wonderful. It's bittersweet to see him in such a different role to what he's known for. Truly a huge loss. The film is smart, funny and a rather grown-up comedy which really is starting to feel like an endangered species these days.

Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski) ***1/2 - A mockumentary (sort of but not exactly) set in the late '70s/early '80s of a group of computer software engineers competing against each other to find out which is the best chess-playing computer software. It's deliberately crudely shot using or at least making it seem it was using, the video and editing equipment of its time period. Honestly, I wasn't sure about it at first but it eventually won me over. Some people might get frustrated by the weird tangents this film goes but I dug it. It's laugh out loud funny at times and surprising.

Gothic (Ken Russell) **1/2 - I've never heard of this Ken Russell before it was recommended to me. It's a fictionalized account of Mary Shelley, her husband and her sister's visit with Lord Byron and Dr. Polidori and the night they summoned....something which preyed on their fears and nighmares. Four out of the five principal actors (including Gabriel Byrne and Timothy Spall) give really big, scenery chewing performances with only Natasha Richardson (playing Mary Shelley) playing a somewhat believable human character (she seems to be acting in another movie). On top of that, there are quite a bit of freaky, spooky, startling imagery but unfortunately nothing really gels together. It seems to want to be a lot of things (campy horror, black comedy, etc.) but ends up being kind of half-baked. There are some cool, interesting things in there but it's only just okay for me.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Anthony Russo/Joe Russo) ***1/2 - Man, they just keep on coming. Just when I thought I feel like I'm getting bored with the superhero genre (Man of Steel and to a lesser extent, Thor: The Dark World gave me that), Marvel managed to pull this one out of the bag. I was actually worried with continuing the Captain America story in the present-day world would be too much "YAY, AMERICA! RAH RAH RAH!" jingoism but quite the opposite. In fact, I think the folks at Fox News will not be happy with the message this film is trying to convey. It's an anti-fear mongering/anti-surveillance film wrapped up in the gloss of a superhero blockbuster. It's an overall rather strong film, better than the first and belongs in the upper-echelon of the Marvel universe films.

Godzilla, King of the Monsters (Ishiro Honda/Terry Morse) **1/2 - I'm not sure if I should review this film which came as an extra in my Godzilla Criterion Blu-ray. This is not a remake per se but a recut version of the original classic Godzilla picture with scenes involving an American reporter named Steve Martin (hehehe) played by Raymond Burr spliced into the original film. I've seen the original film and I know a thing or two about filmmaking so the inserts are very obvious. It's not a bad movie per se. Just very unnecessary.

Take a Chance (Alfred J. Goulding) *** - This is a Harold Lloyd short which came with the Safety Last! Criterion Blu-ray. It's no masterpiece but it's still quite funny, especially the latter half. You can definitely see the greatness that is to come.

Wadjda (Haifaa al-Monsour) ***1/2 - This is the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia (a country known for not having a film industry) and first film shot by a Saudi woman. The film about a tween girl, Wadjda whose only wish is to buy a bike so she can race with her male friend. Through her, we see just what exactly does it mean to be female in a very conservative patriarchal Islamic society. It's a nice little film that doesn't really become more than a nice little film though it could have. I hate to damn it with faint praise since I still highly recommend it because it really puts a human face behind the veils and shows the humans underneath but it doesn't go beyond that for me to place it into greatness.

1 comment:

Michael Peterson said...

I remember watching Gothic with some EngLit friends while in grad school and thinking exactly the same - weird and exciting in places but ultimately self-indulgent and half-baked.

I'm looking forward to hear your thoughts on the new Wes Anderson film, Grand Budapest. Just saw it last night.