A young girl is recruited to join a child army, and when she escapes… MoreA young girl is recruited to join a child army, and when she escapes and forms a relationship with a fellow soldier, she tries to find solace in a dangerous world.
Tense and depressing almost to the point of cliche, every horrible thing that you can imagine happening to a child does without fail. Portraits of desolate and uninviting worlds are always better when the characters have a hope the audience can share (think Midnight Cowboy's "Florida" or economic security in They Shoot Horses, Don't They). These hopes don't have to be tangible or even practical, but they have to be there otherwise we're stuck in Lars von Trier-hellscape. So War Witch is just one woe after another, and while the performances were natural and strong, the plot makes the film a downer in all the wrong ways.
Overall, if you want to hate the planet for a while, watch this film.
A Norwegian explorer floats from South America to the Polynesian… MoreA Norwegian explorer floats from South America to the Polynesian Islands.
There's no doubt that this is a harrowing journey and it could be a compelling story, but the film leaves much to be desired. The group of explorers is composed of virtually identical people, and while a few of the characters squabble, there isn't enough compelling conflict between them to keep this film from falling into a second act lull. What is more, the inciting action of the film implies that the central conflict calls into question Thor's blind and foolhardy determination, but this conflict isn't explored or realized. Rather, Thor is proved correct and his determination is supported almost uncritically in the film's non-ironic up ending.
Overall, while the subject is good, the film is not.
A hotel concierge is embroiled in a murder set-up after his lover… MoreA hotel concierge is embroiled in a murder set-up after his lover unexpectedly dies.
Wes Anderson, I'm tired of you. I'm sick of your one-trick-pony bullshit, your blithe presentation of heavy content, and your obsession with your favorite objects, inserts of hand-written notes, vintage suitcases, unmoving camera shots, Bill Murray. Thank you for The Darjeeling Limited; now go fuck yourself.
As you can probably guess from my quick, type-written note to Mr. Anderson, this film sucks in about 100 different ways. All style -- and I'm using that term loosely to describe Wes Anderson's repeated gimmicks -- and no substance, this film has so many unresolved plot elements and failed character development that I almost don't know where to begin.
For most of the film, I realized that I wasn't finding anything funny, except for a cat being tossed out the window, and that was a problem because the film seemed to be a comedy. After all, none of the dramatic elements of the film held any weight or was dealt with seriously (even the Anderson version of seriously, which merely involves an extra vacant pause).
Then, there's a murder plot that never receives any attention. Was Madame D. really murdered? Was it Jopling? How? Why at that time? What is his inciting action to kill her? And why the multiple levels of story-telling? This is a story within a story within a story, but why the layers? What's the narrative point? And why is F. Murray Abraham Mr. Moustafa? It's not racist to say that Abraham is white and Tony Revoloi is not white, so it's hard to believe that they're the same person. And if M. Gustave's fastidiousness made such an impression on the young Moustafa, then why does the older Moustafa allow the hotel to fall into such disrepair? These are basic questions, but I suppose anything can be covered up by some funny running.
Overall, thanks again for The Darjeeling Limited; now drive a cab.
After an alien species has taken over her' body, a girl resists her… MoreAfter an alien species has taken over her' body, a girl resists her invader and joins a group of humans looking to overthrow the aliens.
Convoluted and cliche, this film is uninspired in every way. The rival boys, a bland recasting of Jacob and Edward without all the sparkling personality, are indistinguishable in looks and character, and Melanie doesn't emerge as unique. The plot plods along predictably, and the characters remain undeveloped.
William Hurt, the sole reason I sat through this film, delivers a fine performance. He can't be blamed, but it's sad that even in The Village he got a great monologue that served to be worthy of his talents but in this film there's not a single inspired moment.
Overall, what will it take for all of us to agree that Stephanie Meyer sucks.
A hit-man must kill his ex-partner, who has just been released from… MoreA hit-man must kill his ex-partner, who has just been released from prison, but first they go on one last evening of entertainment.
Christopher Walken, who has discovered his sensitive side in his later years, and Al Pacino are great together, and I can only wish that they unite for a better story than this one. Uneven in tone and genre, the film is best described as Grumpy Old Men meets Carlito's Way, and those two films don't mix well. Alan Arkin, forever sardonic, is hilarious but miscast, only adding to the comedic milieu, until we're supposed to take the film seriously.
Overall, though I'm happy to see good actors giving good performances, even the best actors need a script.
The son of an industry tycoon leads a proletarian rebellion.
Like many… MoreThe son of an industry tycoon leads a proletarian rebellion.
Like many science fiction films, this early example of the genre is anti-science, portraying progress as synonymous with technological determinism and anti-humanism. But the film is passionately produced and a technological achievement. The performances are all excellent, especially Brigitte Helm's turn as angel and automaton devil.
Overall, modern science fiction films owe a debt to one of the earliest and best of its genre.
An Italian socialite, depressed with the high life, seeks moving… MoreAn Italian socialite, depressed with the high life, seeks moving aesthetic expression.
So heavily influenced by Fellini is this film that I was tongue-in-cheek surprised that it was directed by Paul Sorrentino, The Great Beauty is neo-realism at its best. The beautiful shots of Jep staring at the giraffe, the party sequences, the crazy artists who dye their pubic hair red and shave the hammer and sickle into it, the luxuriant shots of The Eternal City -- all these threads create a hypnotic fabric for the film. Toni Servillo's Jep embodies artistic ennui at its most pretentious and its most human, and the film's story is slight and subtle but still captivating.
Overall, this is not the "next step on Fellini's road," but its a fitting homage.
A aeronautical engineer dreams of building the perfect plane.
Slow and… MoreA aeronautical engineer dreams of building the perfect plane.
Slow and meandering, this film's central conflict is more technical than human, more a matter of engineering, an aspect into which the audience has no reference, than universal. While there are some sections in which we get fine interpersonal conflicts, the majority of the film involves Jiro conversing with his dream characters, and there's little to stand in the way of the love plot, thus little source for conflict.
Many critics have written about the film's beauty, and I can't see what they're referring to. Many times I thought that the film didn't take advantage of all the creative liberties that animation could allow.
Overall, when characters' central conflicts relate to their jobs, the audience must be able to participate in the suspense, and that's not the case with The Wind Rises.
P.L. Travers protects her novel Mary Poppins from what she perceives… MoreP.L. Travers protects her novel Mary Poppins from what she perceives as the fluffy work of Walt Disney.
Emma Thompson is at the top of her game once again as the imperious but damaged author of Mary Poppins. While the film is heavy-handed with its insistent flashbacks and over-wrought pop psychology, Thompson's performance grounds the central conflict. Her severe manner turn an artistic battle into an exploration of the clash between serious British arts and letters and the flash of American movies. This is Thompson's film, and Tom Hanks with a mustache passes through.
The story's dramatic question is whether the film version of Mary Poppins and its producer will understand P.L. Travers's authorial intent, and I wish the film had been more direct about Disney's failure in this regard. It's clear from the Mary Poppins clips we see at the end that the final product doesn't live up to Travers's hopes, but Travers's cathartic crying doesn't recognize the film's failure but is rather a purging of damage. So are we supposed to leave the theater thinking that she achieved her goal even if the film isn't all she dreamed it could be? It's an ironic ending, to be sure, but one that's also doused with uncertainty about director John Lee Hancock's own authorial intent.
Overall, Emma Thompson is the reason to see this film, as she is with most of her work.
A daughter returns home to find her father presumed dead, her mother's… MoreA daughter returns home to find her father presumed dead, her mother's pill addiction worsening, and various other secrets, agendas, and lies.
I think that people familiar with the play have a different reaction than those who have only seen the film. I read the play and noticed cuts to the script that bleed like a flood, and the characters' interaction seems "smushed," not organic. But that doesn't mean that August: Osage County is a bad film. In fact, it's genuinely compelling. Meryl Streep is once again remarkable, inhabiting Violet unselfconsciously, and her act two monologue is so raw and emotional that I almost sided with her character -- almost. Julia Roberts is fiercely fabulous as well, delivering a powerhouse fuck you to Streep's domineering screen presence. I like it when I get to watch two actors challenge the other, especially established talents like Streep and Roberts. Scenes with those two almost reminded me of Paul Dano and Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood; as good as Day-Lewis was in that film, Dano made him better. The supporting performances are highlighted by Chris Cooper whose "be nice" monologue seemed out-of-place, but it wasn't due to his delivery.
Overall, this is an acting master class, but the script suffers because it underestimates its audience's patience.