Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Some New Films (Short Reviews)

So I have seen a lot of films but since school started it is really hard to keep this updated between classes, screenings, work and homework. But Ia m going to try. The Oscar race is heating up with just two days before they are announced. Goodness gracious. Well hopefully I will get my power cord in time so I can actually post my Predictions before the Oscars air. But in the meantime here are some films I have seen.

“The Happening”:
Grade: F

Oh Lords this was awful. I knew this going in obviously but truly truly this was horrific. I could see what M. Night was trying to do and I appreciate the ambition but overall I think he thought making a B movie would be easier than it actually is and overstepped his boundaries. Not to mention the fact that since he seems to think he is the second coming of cinema I feel it is safe to say that he strived for something a little out of his reach or talents. Mark Wahlberg provides us with perhaps the scariest part of the film: his performance. It is amplifies by the way that the director films him using close ups with straight on, slightly low angle shots that amplify his performance and its badness and makes it seem so much worse than it is even though it is already laughably bad. The same goes for Zooey Deschanel who flat out sucks in this. Everything about this is bad. There are at least 10 times when you say to yourself “this is for real?” That is a bad sign.

“Wanted” (2008)
Grade: B-

This was decent. I liked the time and effort put into it and I appreciated the R rating and the guts that the filmmakers had to actually make an action film with violence instead of skirting around the issue by making their films PG-13 even though just as much killing is occurring, just without the blood. I hated the narration though. I mean hated it. It was trying way too hard for a “Fight Club” feel and failed miserably. Since the film begins with constant narration I could not stand the beginning chunk of the film. It does not help that James McAvoy tried way too hard in his narration. Generally I thought his character was annoying but I liked that they went for a different type of male lead. I wish Thomas Kretschmann was in more of this though as he was severely underused. Severely. But in general I thought Angelina Jolie stuck out in her role despite not having much to do, she carried a presence felt in her scenes even if she had little dialogue. I also thought there was an overuse of tenchniques and that in general the film thought it was a little cooler than it actually was. That being said, it was a cool movie. I liked the action scenes, I liked the thought that went into it and the time in developing the story and all of the stuff with the characters’ training. But it felt like it tried too hard sometimes and relied too heavily on trying to be visually innovative that it fell a bit short.

“Be Kind Rewind” (2008)
Grade: B-/C+

While I see the problems people have with this and have a difficult time being able to look past them as well I did enjoy this. I have never believed that Gondry’s films take place in this reality so that feeling of everything being a bit off and as a consequence implausible felt OK to me. Not great as I feel that his other films have captured that off feeling more successfully but it still excused a lot of the implausibilities within the plot that other people complained about. I thought everyone was good, particularly Melonie Diaz, I just felt like there were no really defined characters. Everyone felt undeveloped and all over the place. But nevertheless Michel Gondry has a brilliant mind and his visions while not always successful are still trying out ideas that are indeed unique and refreshing to me.

“The Edge of Heaven” (Auf der anderen Seite)
Grade: A-

This was so good. This is sort of like “Babel” only successful instead of never really coming together in a way that felt right. This is a beautiful film filled with interesting characters and great performances all around. The way it weaves in and out of the stories is seamless and the way it quickly establishes the characters as people you want to see more of despite their flaws and characters who feel unique and specific very quickly instead of just being rehashes of the same kinds of characters we are used to seeing. These felt like people and I loved that. Great great film.

“Rachel Getting Married”
Grade: A

I do not even know what to say about this. I felt like I was a guest at this wedding. Demme lets you soak up the atmosphere by having us listen to bits of all of the speeches and go through the ceremony. He cares so much about the characters but is determined to give us the bigger picture and open the film up. The characters and dialogue felt real. They are flawed people, people you do not always like, sometimes never do. Some things are explained others are not. Progress is made between some of the relationships but even then very little. This is a brilliant film, a better and more original work, more raw and more telling film about humans than any of the films being projected as the 5 Best Picture nominees (although Milk does something just as important with its film). You may think it is a film about another dysfunctional family but what this film does is go so far beyond what you expect and delivers a one of a kind experience that Demme infuses with his love for music through the casting of the lead singer of TV on the Radio as Rachel’s fiancee and Robyn Hitchcock as guest at the wedding. Anne Hathaway took my breath away with her fearless performance. It is astonishing what she does here. I went in expecting something really good but nothing near the performance I saw. Rosemarie DeWitt is just as good here as she never makes herself the good sister; she is flawed as well and she shows it. Bill Irwin as the father is remarkable and Debra Winger packs one hell of a punch in her big scene as well as speaking unsaid volumes with her face in the end. This is absolutely essential viewing for the films of 2008.

“The Life Before Her Eyes”
Grade: C-

This film was too ambitious. It was pretentious and was trying too hard to be something else when its real potential lied in the possibility of telling a moving story about survivors’ guilt but in the films quest to be different it forgoes all of that build up and ends up crushing it all with a twist ending. The Uma Thurman scenes make no sense and add up to nothing. There is a reason for this which is explained at the end but I feel there was potential here even with the ending but it was not executed in a way that worked. So those scenes feel like a waste. Then with Evan Rachel Wood’s scenes they are definitely more interesting but still feel unfocused. The only scene that made an impact was the scene in which the shooting took place which effected me heavily. However they shove it down our throats by using it about 6 times so they could not even do that right. I think the twist could have been very effective if the script had been given an entire reworking somehow. Everyone was very good it was nice to see Uma Thurman doing something serious and Evan Rachel Wood was great as well. Eva Amurri was the real standout in the film though containing the most presence and being the character with the most life and livability.

“Wendy and Lucy” (2008)
Grade: B+

Beautiful simple film with a remarkable lead performance by Michelle Williams. I cannot write anymore so I have to end it there. Ugh

I also saw “The Simpsons Movie” which was pretty fantastic, consistently funny and much better than I expected, “The Student of Prague” (1913) and probably something else but I have no idea what.

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