Monday, November 26, 2012

Lee Brings Life to 'Pi,' 'Rust and Bone' and 'Hitchcock' Have Their Merits, but 'Red Dawn' is a Disaster

I caught three good films and one turkey this Thanksgiving weekend.

Lee's "Life of Pi" was the best of the bunch. I'll admit I'd read Yann Martel's Booker-winning novel and thought it impossible to adapt the story to the big screen. So, I'm pleased to say that Lee was up to the challenge.

Not only is the picture a visual marvel, but it's also a triumph of storytelling. And similar to last year's "The Tree of Life," it's a movie that deftly weaves themes of spirituality into its narrative without being overtly religious. It's one of the year's better pictures.

Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" is not on par with "A Prophet," his previous film, but it still has its share of riches - namely, the lead performance by Marion Cotillard as a whale trainer who is disfigured and enters into a romance, of sorts, with a brutish boxer (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock" may not be a great bio film and it may occasionally take a gossip magazine tone towards its 1960s Hollywood setting, but it's at least enjoyable. And Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are always watchable as Hitch and Alma, his wife.

As far the remake of "Red Dawn": Imagine John Milius's absurd 1984 film, but without any of the unintentional humor. The plot in this update is still ludicrous, but it's played with a completely straight face and dead seriousness. Needless to say, I wouldn't recommend it - not by a mile.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll catch up with "Killing Them Softly" and "Young and Wild."

Monday, November 19, 2012

From Paper to Screen: 'Silver Linings Playbook,' 'Anna Karenina' and 'Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2'

It's going to be another short one this week, I'm afraid, as I'm working on about two hours of sleep.

This week's films were all adaptations of novels, but only one of them got it right. David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" is another idiosyncratic blend of comedy and drama. The performances are all solid and the script manages to be funny, intense and occasionally a bit moving. Needless to say, this was my pick of the week.

Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina" is, alas, less successful. And it shouldn't have been. Tolstoy's masterpiece offers up plenty of drama, tragedy and fantastic characters, but they are all overshadowed by the picture's emphasis on style over substance. Why exactly does the entire film appear to have been shot on a stage, albeit a very lavish one? And why does everyone freeze when the lead characters enter a room? It's not a bad film, but just a miscalculation.

"Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2" is, on the one hand, very likely the best of the series. That being said, I still can't wholeheartedly recommend it. Its first half is pretty similar to the past four films, but the second half lightens up a bit and has a fairly clever ending.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend's selections include "Life of Pi," "Rust and Bone," "Hitchcock" and "Red Dawn."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Two Iconic Figures: 'Lincoln' and 'Skyfall'

This week's films centered around two iconic figures: Abraham Lincoln and James Bond.

In Steven Spielberg's picture about the 16th president, Daniel Day Lewis gives another tour de force performance, disappearing completely into the role. But this is no ordinary biopic. Instead, the film completely centers around Lincoln's pushing the House of Representatives to enact the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.

The picture is more of a behind-the-scenes look at how politics work, rather than the story of Lincoln's life. It's one of Spielberg's better films in a while - at least, his finest since "Munich."

And "Skyfall" marked a solid return for James Bond after the middling "Quantum of Solace." It's a little long, but Sam Mendes's entry into the popular series has some strong elements: a great performance by Javier Bardem as the villain, a visually lush sequence on the Shanghai skyline and some exciting action sequences.

"Skyfall" is one of the better Bond films in a long time.

Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll catch David O. Russell's "The Silver Linings Playbook" as well as Joe Wright's adaptation of "Anna Karenina" and, of course, "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Denzel Soars in 'Flight'

It's gonna be super short this week as I sit here sweating out the results of the presidential election.

Caught up with Robert Zemeckis's "Flight" and RZA's "The Man with the Iron Fists." I thought the first was solid and the second just average. Here are my Patch reviews.

This coming weekend, I'll catch up with Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" and "Skyfall."