This Week In Cinema: February 26-March 03, 2012

Bugs Bunny and music go together like pecan pie and awesomeness!

A lot of movies this week, but not as many great ones as I’ve been lucky to see lately.

Jing Ke Ci Qin Wang (The Emperor And The Assassin, 1998, Kaige Chen, China/France/Japan) **1/2

Handsome production value is a great thing. But all the beautiful cinematography, wonderful set construction, and lovely costume design in the world can’t make up for a story with no meat. I have no doubt that the story behind the formation of the Qin dynasty could make for a fascinating movie, but this is not that movie. Kaige Chen’s piece is more concerned with mood, an ethereal mood that is never established in any satisfying fashion. The story flits and flutters to the point of non-interest and then the film is over and I found myself not caring. Beautiful to look at, but Jing Ke Ci Qin Wang is a boring and empty experience.

The Secret Of NIMH (1982, Don Bluth, United States Of America) ***1/2

I think it’s fair to say that The Secret Of NIMH is further proof that Don Bluth should be remembered more for the great animated director he was. His works were never able to emerge from the colossal shadow of renaissance era Disney. Funnily enough it’s a work like The Secret Of NIMH that scared Disney and caused them to turn to the likes of Ron Clements & John Musker to usher in a new era for the animation giant. The Secret Of NIMH shouldn’t be relegated to a footnote in animated history because all these years later it’s still a powerhouse of animation and a magical journey. I don’t use the word magical lightly (even if the film does overuse actual magic in its deus ex machina ending) and the colors of Mr. Bluth’s animation showcase how magical of a film he has crafted. I was drawn in by the wonderful animation, my attention was kept by a well thought out and interesting story. I left The Secret Of NIMH satisfied, and wondering if Don Bluth will ever really get his due.

Go (1999, Doug Liman, United States Of America) *

So gosh darn stupid. The characters in this film are complete idiots, every time they speak it’s like my brain loses a few cells (that line is borrowed from my wife). Maybe the film is supposed to be a commentary on the stupidity of the youth in the 1990s (a claim I do not agree with in any way), but that commentary was taken care of in the first fifteen minutes and the rest of the film was redundant. Timothy Olyphant and Sarah Polley attempt to class up the joint, but their efforts are futile. Go is a useless exercise in stupidity, an exercise I wish I had never undertaken.

A Corny Concerto (1943, Robert Clampett, United States Of America) ***1/2

A more conventional short from the usually experimental Robert Clampett. Of course, conventional when it comes to Mr. Clampett is still a tad bit out there and thus A Corny Concerto isn’t far off from the rest of Mr. Clampett’s oeuvre. There’s no denying that this film is a direct shot at Fantasia and the perceived pretentiousness of that Disney feature. I love Fantasia, but I also really liked A Corny Concerto. Mr. Clampett’s short has a lot of fun with the implementation of its slapstick humor, but it’s also very witty and it picks its shots at Fantasia wisely. I slightly prefer the more experimental of Mr. Clampett’s work, but A Corny Concerto is still a fine animated short.

The Unicorn In The Garden (1953, William T. Hurtz, United States Of America) ***

The way that William T. Hurtz toys with the ability of animation to manipulate spatial dimensions is fun to watch. The Unicorn In The Garden also does some nice things with shadow and background illumination. The story itself, however, is rather slight and I wasn’t a big fan of the unfinished animation style. It’s a decent little short, but The Unicorn In The Garden is no more than that.

The Dover Boys At Pimento University Or The Rivals Of Roquefort Hall (1942, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ***

The first Chuck Jones short that I haven’t thought of as great. It was bound to happen, but it’s still a fun little short. The problem is the Pimento boys themselves, they’re plain and uninteresting, although they do have a couple of funny lines. The interactions between Dora Standpipe and the villainous Dan Backslide are funny and a sly commentary on how women can take care of themselves just fine. The animation is quality, and I did laugh pretty hard at a few of the gags. However, the whole product didn’t come together for me, I just wasn’t that interested in the Pimento boys.

Felix In Hollywood (1923, Otto Messmer, United States Of America) **1/2

One of the earliest animated shorts with a very popular figure in early animation that I am not too familiar with. Felix In Hollywood is a decent animated effort, but it feels like a testing ground. There are moments, such as when the camera zooms in on a character swiveling a cigar back and forth in his mouth, that exist only to show what animation can do. Those moments work in that context, but in terms of offering anything outside of an animated history lesson Felix In Hollywood comes up woefully short. Okay, I did chuckle at the gum shoe gag, but on the whole Felix In Hollywood is too ordinary and plain for my tastes.

The Pixar Story (2007, Leslie Iwerks, United States Of America) ***

In some ways this is a fluff piece for Pixar, but it’s still interesting to watch the genesis and ultimate triumph of that animation studio. I enjoyed getting to know some of my favorite director’s some more and I enjoyed the animation history. The Pixar Story is a very basic documentary, but it gets the job done very economically and it kept my attention throughout, all in all a pretty good effort.

Nikita (La Femme Nikita, 1990, Luc Besson, France/Italy) ***

Nikita is a fine piece of Euro trash, and that could refer to the character or the film. There are a lot of moments of coolness in Nikita, especially once Jean Reno enters the picture and starts acting like a total bad ass. Before the arrival of Monsieur Reno Nikita is a mixed bag. It has an awesome 80s European score, and it has action scenes that are more visceral than they are well choreographed. The story is too vague for its own good at times, and the film suffers from wanting to have Nikita, the character, come across as awkward and highly skilled, this is often executed in clunky fashion. On the whole Nikita is a fun, trashy, Euro action movie, I had a good time.

Quid Pro Quo (2008, Carlos Brooks, United States Of America) **1/2

There is an unnecessary twist foisted upon the ending of Quid Pro Quo, and there’s also an unwarranted attempt to connect the stories within the film so that they form a cohesive whole. As a story about the ideas of memory and loss Quid Pro Quo is a fine film with a pair of really good performances from Nick Stahl and Vera Farmiga. The subject matter of the film, able bodied people who wish to become paralyzed, is a bit too indie, as is the magic shoes element of the film. I was able to look past those aspects because they were in service of a well told story. But then the ending happened, the twist came about, and the attempt to connect all the tissues of the film occurred and I was let down by the films need to do those things.

Juno (2007, Jason Reitman, United States Of America) **

I don’t take any moral issue with Juno, all things considered the character of Juno did the right thing and she accepted responsibility for her actions. I also have very little issues with the direction of Juno. Jason Reitman does his best to make the film visually interesting and to try and use space and character placement to enhance the story. Similarly the actors, except Michael Cera who is like usual just playing a boring Michael Cera, do their best with the material given to them. My issue lies with said material, or as it is better known the god awful script from Diablo Cody. Her script makes Juno far too precious of an “indie,” a film where every character has something cute to say and the majority of characters feel incredibly fake thanks completely to said dialogue. There is a key break-up in the film, and what should have been one of the most important moments of the film is perplexing in its immature need to take sides and make one character evil when a better tract could have been taken with that character. Most of all I didn’t find Juno funny at all, but my wife really did and so did a lot of other people, I’m clearly in the minority on this one.

Annie (1982, John Huston, United States Of America) ***

There are massive story deficiencies in this John Huston musical. But, it’s the musical aspect that is the saving grace of the film. That and the fact that the actress playing the eponymous Annie, Aileen Quinn, is one heck of a charming and cute little girl. There’s a lot of charm in the musical numbers found in Annie, and very smartly the film relies on its musical charms to overcome very arch characters and a story that is super thin. The majority of the musical numbers are big hits, as tonally sound as they are catchy. Annie is a fine musical, and it’s a good thing that Annie is a musical because otherwise it would be a severely lacking film.

Ali G Indahouse (2002, Mark Mylod, France/Germany/United Kingdom/United States Of America) *

I don’t really have much of anything to say about Ali G Indahouse except for that it wasn’t funny. Outside of one very quick cameo by the character Borat I’d actually go so far as to say that Ali G Indahouse was terribly unfunny. I never watched a lot of Da Ali G Show,. and frankly this movie has scared me off of going back and watching more of it any time soon. Ali G Indahouse is one unfunny bit after unfunny bit. I hardly laughed, and that’s not good when it comes to a comedy.

Wrap-Up:

This week was not bereft of good movies, but there was only one movie that I thought was really great. Thus there wasn’t much competition for movie of the week honors. In a runaway vote, of which there is only one voter, A Corny Concerto takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

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