This Week In Cinema: June 23-29, 2013

billy elliot

I would not have been a great dancer, I’m still not a great dancer, it’s a curse really!

I appear to be back in the trend of watching more than one movie every week,

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life (2003 Jan de Bont, Germany/Japan/United Kingdom/United States Of America) *

I should have known I was in for trouble when the movie wasted Simon Yam in a nothing role. But, I kept watching, and was bored to tears by formulaic action and statuesque posing from the heroine. My lack of enjoyment with Lara Craft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life comes down to my inability to believe in what I was seeing. I never bought Angelina Jolie as some sort of Indiana Jones/James Bond hybrid, and I never bought the preposterous action scenes in this movie. I should have checked out when Lara punched a shark in the face and rode it for a while, but I thought maybe that would lead to some awfully terrible awesomeness. It didn’t, and I for one am glad that this iteration of the Tomb Raider franchise is over with.

The Tale Of Despereaux (2008, Sam Fell & Robert Stevenhagen, United Kingdom/United States Of America) **1/2

A breezy and charming film. The only real reason it suffers is because of how breezy it is and because of a few superfluous characters. I’m not sure why a magical vegetable man was needed, but he didn’t add a darn thing to the story or to the film. I liked splitting time between the mice and the rats, although this did leave the human characters pretty empty. Still, a decently animated film, with some okay voice acting, and a decent message makes for a decent film.

Identity (2003, James Mangold, United States Of America) ***

Held under a microscope the plot of Identity might fall apart. Although, since the plot deals so much with the chaos of the mind, I suppose that means the plot can hold things together however it so chooses. I liked Identity, it wasn’t great, but I liked what the film was offering. The actors were all fine, I was especially fond of John Hawkes’ performances, and the way the film was structured provided a nice little think piece. Identity is a horror film that relies on atmosphere as opposed to scares, and it works for the most part. I didn’t like the compulsion the film felt to tie everything together near the end, but otherwise a perfectly fine horror film.

The Artist (2011, Michel Hazanavicius, Belgium/France/United States Of America) ***

There’s nothing terribly wrong with The Artist, but there’s also nothing outstanding about The Artist. Try as it might Michel Hazanavicious’ film can never shake the feeling that it’s too much of a pastiche and somewhat empty. I got the feeling that the film wanted the viewer to think of the character of George Valentin as a bit of a jerk who needed to fall the way he did. The script and the direction didn’t support this, as I found George to be a lovable loser at points and a man with bad luck and misguided intentions at others. As a whole I felt that The Artist looked at classic Hollywood in a way that always felt off. The way The Artist looked at classic Hollywood was colored by what the director wanted to think of classic Hollywood versus what it really was. The dog was pretty great, but again I felt the rest of the acting was serviceable and nothing more than that. The Artist took the film world by storm a few years ago, and it is a perfectly fine film, but it’s nowhere near the level of a film that should have riled everyone up.

Godzilla (1998, Roland Emmerich, Japan/United States Of America) ***

It’s not the original Gojira, or any of the films that would follow in the franchise. It’s also incredibly stupid, with some CG shadiness, bad acting, a terrible script, and a lack of internal continuity. All that being said, I’ve always had a soft spot for this Godzilla. I still have a hard time explaining it, but I really dig Roland Emmerich’s brand of explodey filmmaking. Basically, I had fun with Godzilla, from the explosions and the chases to the stupid shit that makes absolutely no sense. A film doesn’t have to be well made to be worth your time, Godzilla is an example of that line of thinking.

Billy Elliot (2000, Stephen Daldry, France/United Kingdom) ***

A pleasant and charming film that never overdoes it on either the pleasantness or the charming. It really all comes down to the performance of Jamie Bell as the eponymous lead. He’s not just charming, he’s magnetic in the way his performance draws the viewer into the film. What happens around him is interesting, but the film truly comes alive when Mr. Bell is on screen. The supporting cast all give fine performances, and the direction of Stephen Daldry is workmanlike in the best of ways. Although I will give Mr. Daldry a lot of credit for the way he frames Billy’s electric personality in the dancing sequences. A feel good film that earns its feeling, Billy Elliot is a damn good film.

The Wiz (1978, Sidney Lumet, United States Of America) *1/2

I’ll give the film credit for the imagination on display in the costumes, sets, and overall look of the film. I didn’t always find those three elements of The Wiz to be enjoyable, but they were imaginative. The rest of the film was bland, especially in the acting department. Diana Ross was atrocious as Dorothy, not showing any skills as an actress or even as a singer, which shocked the heck out of me. I did like Michael Jackson, but I’m not sure how much of that was because of a “whoa, that’s Michael Jackson” factor. The Wiz has a bit of a cult following I’ve been told, but I’m happy to steer clear of that cult.

Wrap-Up:

Some okay movies this week and some complete trash. Although nothing really wowed me I did like a few of the films. Of those, Billy Elliot takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

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