This Week In Cinema: May 29-June 04, 2011

Netflix instant is finally done kicking my ass with tons of movies expiring, at least I hope they are!

Not as many movies this week, but I still watched a bunch,

There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954, Walter Lang, United States Of America) **

A bland and boring musical that would have been completely dead in the water without the efforts of Marilyn Monroe and to a lesser extent Donald O’Connor. The mom, as played by Ethel Merman is just annoying, the dad is kind of there, and Johnnie Ray as the eldest Donahue sibling is god awful, which is a shade better than his priest storyline. O’Connor hits some nice notes and is pleasant and appealing in a familiar way, but his character is absent for a lot of the movie. Marilyn Monroe is electric though, the film came to life when she appeared on screen and after that point the film stopped dead in its tracks whenever she was off screen. It didn’t matter that her role was a cliche and that not much was done with her character, her raw energy carried the movie to a decent level that it didn’t actually deserve.

Ondskan (Evil, 2003, Mikael Håfström, Denmark/Sweden) ***

It’s manipulative and I can spot all the areas where it elicits a reaction from me just like a Hallmark card to my fiancee on Valentine’s Day. Yet, I enjoyed the ride, the manipulation didn’t bother me that much because it worked on me and I cheered when the movie wanted me to cheer, was disgusted when it wanted me to be disgusted and so on. I have to give credit to the actors and the writing, because otherwise I found Ondskan to be a very ordinary film, the type you would normally see from a workman like director. I don’t know if that accurately describes all the works of Mikael Håfström, but it’s certainly what I would put on his paycheck for Ondskan.

Fong Juk (Exiled, 2006, Johnnie To, Hong Kong) ***

Fong Juk is my first exposure to Johnnie To, and while I liked what I saw, I wasn’t blown away. Fong Juk is a very cool movie but I didn’t see much beyond the coolness and the style. I kept thinking there would be more, but in the end I didn’t I was only witness to a few set pieces of well constructed violence and perhaps some sort of message on loyalty and brotherhood. It’s not that I’m knocking Fong Juk, I really didn’t have any big problems with it as a film, but I was underwhelmed by it. The fault for my underwhelmed state is on my shoulders, I was very psyched to see my first Johnnie To and when it wasn’t the film to end all films I was depressed, but that’s not a fault I can hold against the film. Still, I’m glad to have checked out some To, thanks to Sean at Filmspotting for pimping To heavily a while back, causing me to add him to my queue. I have a feeling that there’s more to Fong Juk than what this viewing gave me and as I explore To’s filmography more I can see a future viewing of Fong Juk turning out even better than this time.

Somersault (2004, Cate Shortland, Australia) ***

Cate Shortland sure gets caught up in expressing visual poetry, often to the detriment of her picture. I start with that complaint, because outside of an unnecessary homosexual detour taken with Sam Worthington’s character, it’s the only real complaint I have to levy against Somersault. Abbie Cornish is fantastic, she is vulnerable, lost, and every bit the child trapped in a woman’s body. Sam Worthington is pretty good as well, I can see why this performance got him noticed in America. The story is a typical coming of age tale until it reaches a point where it becomes clear that Heidi, Cornish, isn’t coming of age at all, she’s so sexually immature that she’s probably always going to be the same lost little girl she is throughout the movie. That’s a very depressing revelation, but it’s different than what most coming of age tales bring to the table, and I appreciated that. Somersault isn’t a must see, but if you do see it pay attention to Cornish’s performance, it’s a great one.

Cashback (2006, Sean Ellis, United Kingdom) **

I wasn’t surprised to learn that Cashback was originally filmed as a short. The feature length version of Cashback screams that it is a film with a few ideas that has been stretched well beyond its limits. Even in a shorter form I doubt I would have liked Cashback, it’s just not my type of movie. The lead is too passive and the concept of his ability to freeze time is handled very clumsily. Cashback does have a few funny moments, but they are surrounded by a cast that I could care less about and a level of crassness that didn’t sit well with me. Cashback is a highly disposable film, as soon as it was over I had already begun the process of disposing of its existence from my brain.

Wrap-Up:

I’m suffering from movie burnout, I know I am. I’m not one of those people who can watch movie after movie and be okay with it, at least I’m not that person anymore. As this week progressed and I moved through the titles that were expiring from my Netflix instant queue I could feel my enthusiasm waning. That’s why as soon as I finished the last movie that was expiring I decided to take the rest of the week off from watching movies. Ondskan takes home movie of the week honors, but I don’t have much else to say because all I feel is the burn, the tiresome burn.

Cheers,
Bill

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