May 1, 2017 at 9:00 am | Posted in 2017 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ½

After a month of just not been particularly inspired by anything out there (I did try to watch “After the Storm” but slept through so much of it, I wasn’t able to write a review), I thought I would give the quirky new movie, “Colossal,” a shot. This is by far the largest film from Spanish writer/director Nacho Vigalondo (“Open Windows,” “The ABCs of Death”) and I have not seen any of this other work. So, I don’t know if this one is typical of him but it’s certainly not typical of anything else. I don’t want to give much of the plot away, as the real joy I had with this film was in trying to figure it out. Basically, a giant monster appears over Seoul and it is apparently being unconsciously controlled by Anne Hathaway. Strangeness ensues from there. The cast for the film is incredibly small. With the exception of some minor background characters, there is only Anne’s character, her boyfriend (played by Dan Stevens from “Downton Abbey” fame), the bar owner she grew up with (Jason Sudeikis from SNL, “We’re the Millers” and the “Horrible Bosses” movies), and two of his friends, played by Tim Blake Nelson (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) and Austin Stowell (“Bridge of Spies”). And even that felt like a bit too much. I can’t see the value the two friends brought to the film at all, other than to distress the audience with their utter inaction. But, perhaps that was the point. This whole, odd production felt like it was playing at being a giant (excuse the pun) metaphor, even if I wasn’t sure what the metaphor was. Hathaway’s character is clearly an alcoholic and, for much of the film, I thought the monster was a metaphor for the destruction alcohol can cause in a person’s life; it can lay waste to your soul (get it? Soul/Seoul?). But, then the film suddenly took a much, much darker turn. Then the metaphor seemed to be playing at something much more disturbing and less clear. In the end, I couldn’t figure out what Vigalondo was trying to say and how the pieces were supposed to fit together. In particular, the ending just didn’t seem to fit. As satisfying as it was for the audience, it belied the whole metaphor because it bore no resemblance to real life and felt to me like it minimized the problem it seemed to be exploring. Hathaway does a good job of being the same charming, slightly goofy character we have seen before but the real strength of the film is in Sudeikis’s performance. He has real acting chops, beyond just comedy, and he gives a powerful performance in this genre defying film. The trailers make it look like a comedy/sci-fi film but it’s really a drama, and one grimly determined to get its message across. Vigalondo is trying to take on a colossal topic and I give him real credit for telling his story in a unique way. There are things that do really work here. It’s just not enough for me to recommend the movie. That isn’t to say I wish I had skipped it. I am actually glad I saw it; I just wouldn’t see it again.



November 14, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ½

The danger of hype is what happens when you can’t live up to it. Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight” trilogy, “Inception”) is considered a red hot director right now. That’s already a dangerous set up for disappointment. Then you add in Matthew McConaughey, hot off his Oscar for “Dallas Buyer’s Club” and his Emmy nomination for “True Detective,” and you have a black hole of hype threatening to suck in everything around it. Sadly, that’s what happens here. There was little this film could do to live up to expectations and, while the visuals were breathtaking, the story was far from stellar. Had you watched the movie without sound on a massive screen in the background of some party, you could be excused for being utterly mesmerized in parts. There were some scenes so beautiful, interesting, compelling that they will stay with me for a while. However, turn up the volume and you have a strong chance of being assaulted by a musical score that was, at times, so heavy handed as to be laughable if it hadn’t been so annoying. The dialogue was unimaginative and, despite the endless cavalcade of big names, was delivered without interest. The big surprise cameo, though, was also the most interesting character by far. It was only during that story line that if felt like the film had any real energy. Worse, still, is the plot, which was  frustratingly convoluted and full of holes. For all the talk of having a physicist on set, the science was really problematic in parts. None more so than in the trip to a planet on the edge of a black hole where time was distorted to impossible extremes. It’s not that time can’t be distorted (at almost 3 hours, this film felt like it lasted 125 years), it’s just that this distortion (like the film in general) was just too over-the-top. However, nothing was more over-the-top than the ending. The movie really was beautiful enough and there were a few really solid scenes that I would have left the theater satisfied had it not been for the feel-good, wrap-everything-up-with-a-bow, love-conquers-all ending. Those final scenes were so nonsensical, so faux sentimental, so deeply silly that they really colored the rest of the experience. It’s too bad because I had expected so much more. But, then, as I said, that’s the danger of hype.

Les Miserables

December 31, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Posted in 2012 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊

Okay, look.  I have to admit, right at the outset, that I am not a musical fan.  With very, very few exceptions, I tend to find them to be varying degrees of insufferable.  This is because  1) singing in the middle of a film tends to break the 3rd wall for me   2) the songs are usually saccharin   3) and the sappy stories are one-dimensional and obvious.  That said, a musical can work for me if the plot is realistic or dark enough and it finds a way to fit the singing into the story in a realistic way (“Once”) or is so over-the-top ridiculous that I don’t mind the singing (“Moulin Rouge” or “Romance and Cigarettes”).  While, “Les Miserables” could never be accused of being an Oscar and Hammerstein, rainbows and unicorns sing-a-long, it is still a musical in the worst sense.  In fact, it’s really opera-lite; there is no spoken dialogue and every bit of dialogue is sung.  For two hundred and thirty-seven minutes.  I was done at ninety.  For many people, the singing has a way of drawing them into the emotions being portrayed (there were plenty of sniffles in the theater) but I find my emotions shut down by the singing, instead of engaging with the characters and becoming invested in their plight, I am reminded that none of it is real (we just don’t break into song in real life).  It’s a shame; the story of young people rising up against injustice, facing impossible odds, but standing together despite the cost is a powerful one and I wish I had been more moved than I was.  The sets were beautiful and the cast is a strong one.  Some critics have attacked the quality of the singing but I am wholly unqualified to comment.  The little boy who had a bit too large a part for me sounded a bit whiny when he sang and Russel Crowe sounded more like he was yelling his lines than singing them but everyone else sounded good to me.  If you are a musical kind of person and like to get weepy at the cinema, I think this has your name all over it.

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