Max accompanies a woman trying to rescue pregnant concubines from a… MoreMax accompanies a woman trying to rescue pregnant concubines from a despotic ruler.
While there's no doubt that some of the action sequences are well-choreographed and mildly entertaining, the most important part of a film is its story. This one doesn't get started until about thirty minutes in, and the character development is sloppy, uneven, and unnaturally rushed. For example, we're supposed to believe that the frenetic war boy abandons his blind faith because of one embarrassing maneuver and the fact that he got to stare into a girl's eyes for two minutes. Those must be some eyes.
The reason that story is so important, especially in action films, is that the audience must be kept in suspense about how the action sequence will end. Here, there's no doubt about who will survive; the only question is how, which isn't that entertaining.
This film's champions shouldn't think that I don't get the gender politics here. I understand that the film puts women in positions of power, that it stands against sex slavery, and that its depiction of women is more progressive than many other films in the genre. That's all great and the reason why the film got one star instead of a half.
Overall, this story is weak, and all the chase sequences in the world can't rescue a weak story.
The Avengers battle an artificial intelligence war machine.
Basically… MoreThe Avengers battle an artificial intelligence war machine.
Basically inoffensive, the latest installment of the summer superhero blockbusters doesn't fall into the ruts that many of its predecessors remain. For example, Captain America 2 attempted to deal with the ethical problems of government surveillance, a subject that it simply wasn't smart enough to tackle with the complexity necessary. Here, we see the bad guy is evil in the second act, and that evil is fairly basic.
At a certain point the film became a who's who of stars who appeared in other Marvel films: "You get a cameo, you get a cameo, everyone gets a cameo ... except Natalie Portman and Gwyneth Paltrow because they're expensive and we might be sexist."
Many of these summer action films bore me because I know exactly how most of the fights are going to end, and like a comedy that isn't funny, an action film that bores is a bad action film.. This film was no exception, but there was enough interesting choreography to keep me from checking my phone to see when the next showing of Ex Machina was.
Overall, it was an unremarkable entry into the summer event film canon.
A computer coder wins a contest and travels to a remote compound where… MoreA computer coder wins a contest and travels to a remote compound where his menacing genius of a boss challenges him to perform a Turing Test on Ava, a beautiful android.
One of the smartest scripts I've seen in years is also a remarkable, compelling, and thoughtful film. The science doesn't detract from the story, and the film rewards its audience for being smart, which is refreshing. There were even times when I had no idea where the film was going, but I wasn't lost, just along for the ride.
Director Alex Garland's shots are all remarkable, subtly showing the power dynamics between these characters, and the production design department is top-notch with a set that almost becomes another character.
The performances are all excellent, but the highest marks go to Oscar Isaac who infuses a subtle but ever-present menace in the enigmatic genius, Nathan.
Overall, this is the best film of the summer so far.
The illusionist Harry Houdini and his wife and stage partner take the… MoreThe illusionist Harry Houdini and his wife and stage partner take the magic world by storm.
From the opening credits, it's obvious that this film is a mash-up of period scenes and modern music and jump-cuts. Sometimes it works, as in Houdini's jump off a bridge, and sometimes it's ridiculous, as in the several times that Houdini gets punched in the gut. More modern interference comes from the neo-Freudian voice-overs, which are tell instead of show and so drenched in pop psychoanalytics that the film seems like a boring essay with a hip soundtrack.
Adrien Brody is fine as Houdini; Brody makes a believable magician, but some of Houdini's marital scenes are forced. Evan Jones is discount James LeGros, and Kristen Connolly is nagging wife.
Overall, I'm starting to think that broad biopics are less successful than biopics that center on specific event that stands in for the rest of the protagonist's life.
A psychologist investigates the emotional problems of a woman who… MoreA psychologist investigates the emotional problems of a woman who returned from a deadly vacation.
Tennessee Williams's odd parable comes to life in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's adaptation. Featuring very strong performances by two legendary actresses (Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn), the film delights in its stage play source material.
However, what's weird about the play is the same problem with the film. We all know what happened during the summer, but Williams's time prevents him from really telling us, and Mankiewicz's time prevents him from showing us. All this obfuscating makes the film a challenge (sometimes challenges are good), but even so, Mankiewicz's flashbacks must walk the perfect line between showing us too much and showing us too little; sadly, at separate times, it's both.
Overall, this is a very strong adaptation of a difficult play.
A solipsistic computer scientist is tasked to prove that humans' work… MoreA solipsistic computer scientist is tasked to prove that humans' work amounts to nothing.
Terry Gilliam's art department is on full display, but his skill as a story-teller isn't. The scene design pops, and Gilliam's frenetic future is both frighteningly possible and a visual feast. He moves the camera deftly but often, which seems contradictory.
The story, however, is weird. Qohen's job looks like a video game with obscure math equations, and it only gains significance in the third act, and even then, the narrative has already been distracted by a ham-handed love plot that defies credibility (why is she apologizing and believing in the relationship when the previous scene involved his over-zealous advances?). It's all very pretty and confusing, which are the best two adjectives for Gilliam's work as a whole.
Overall, some fun art direction doesn't save this weak story.
A psychiatrist in a rut travels to find the key to happiness.
Is it… MoreA psychiatrist in a rut travels to find the key to happiness.
Is it possible for a film to be trite, cliche, predictable, and effective? This film is all of those things. The resolution to the conflict is obvious from the beginning, and the individual act climaxes are obvious. And while the film doesn't offer any new wisdom about life, love, and happiness, that doesn't mean that its repetition of classic wisdom isn't heart-warming and effective. There are also factual errors in the film, which will bother the more logical and cerebral viewer.
Special kudos go to Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike who give wonderful performances.
Overall, it's a lovely though unremarkable film.
Edmond Rostand's classic story comes to life in this 1990 adaptation.… MoreEdmond Rostand's classic story comes to life in this 1990 adaptation.
Gerard Depardieu has recently become a parody of himself, the fat Frenchman who drinks a vineyard and a half every day, and that makes it easy to forget how energetic, poetic, and compelling he once was. He gives a tour de force performance in this film, actually challenging Jose Ferrer for the best Cyrano.
The problem with story is that it's hard to believe that a man as arrogant as Cyrano wouldn't try to sink or swim with Roxanne on his merits. So there has to be an element of self-conscious insecurity to his scenes with her, and while that's not altogether missing from Depardieu's performance, it's still not clear why Cyrano wouldn't pursue her on his own behalf.
Vincent Perez actually brings a strength to the hapless role of Christian.
Overall, this is one of the best versions of a classic story.
A con man comes to a small town to form a Boys' Band, but he falls in… MoreA con man comes to a small town to form a Boys' Band, but he falls in love with the local librarian.
They simply don't make films with this kind of energy any more, which is a good and bad thing. The Music Man, if written today, would more fully explore the ethical questions associated with protagonist Harold Hill's profession, which is appropriate, but Hill's charm in the person of Robert Preston is infectious and fun and makes all ethical quandaries seem like departures from the fun. All of the musical numbers are scat-style super, and the production design shows of the choreography and high-scale - a scale so high that we wonder where all these people come from.
Overall, The Music Man defies logic and modern story-telling, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its charm.
A crooner and a twinkle-toes vie for the affections of a classy dame.… MoreA crooner and a twinkle-toes vie for the affections of a classy dame.
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire are at the heights of their respective talents in this delightful little film. It's a popcorn film with little substance, but it's also one to return to just for a smile.
All that is true if I were to take the film in its 1942 context, but holy irony, Batman, there is something head-scratching about Bing Crosby singing a song praising Abraham Lincoln in blackface. At that time there wouldn't have been such a problem, and within the context of the story, it actually makes a bit of sense, but wow, it's a sight that's hard to stomach.
Overall, there is enough delight to balance the film's antiquated elements.