This Week In Cinema: December 25-31, 2011

I am not an all seasons type of guy, I’m mainly a fall and winter sort of fellow!

Not as man movies this week as the last couple of weeks, but hey, no more expiring movies in my Netflix instant queue!

It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (1992, Kirk R. Thatcher, United States Of America) ***

The Muppets are always charming, even in their less than stellar moments. That charm carries It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie to heights it probably does not deserve. A lot of Kirk R. Thatcher’s film is weird, and sometimes simply bad. The sequence with Fozzie Bear delivering the money is a great example of this. The fact that it is Fozzie Bear makes what is a ridiculously cheesy and badly written sequence charming. Charming only takes the movie so far, it can’t completely make up for the lack of directorial flare or the shortcomings of the script. Still, It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is charming enough to remain a pleasant experience.

Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964, Kizo Nagashima & Larry Roemer, United States Of America) ***1/2

The animation is, at times, a bit clunky. That being said, Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer is perfect for its target audience. While I could sense the heavy handedness of the message delivery, that didn’t matter to my daughter. She watched, rapt by a movie she has seen many times before. The simple method of laying it on thick as often as possible works for a younger audience who, quite frankly, needs in certain instances to be told in big bold letters what matters in life. Outside of all my brain tinkering, Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer has some catchy tunes, and is a well told tale that kept my interest throughout. I’m still not a big fan of the static animation style employed in this film, but in every other way Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer is a fine, fine movie.

The Boy Who Could Fly (1986, Nick Castle, United States Of America) **1/2

Odd movie, with sci-fi leanings that didn’t pan out too well in my mind. The basic message of never giving up and following though with your dreams is one I agree with, and the movie handles it well. At the same time it’s treading on well worn ground and it shows. Fred Savage is easily the highlight of the movie, well along with Jake as the dog, Max. The sci-fi elements are sparse, and that ends up being a good thing because they don’t look all that good. The relationship formed between Milly and Eric is sweet, but it lacks a believability factor. I guess my main problem with The Boy Who Could Fly is that at the end of the day it was entirely forgettable and that is never a good thing.

Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994, Neil Jordan, United States Of America) **

I remember reading one of the Anne Rice vampire novels in my teen years and thinking, “this is not for me.” Watching Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles I came to the conclusion that even though many years have passed since I read that novel, this still isn’t for me. From an idea standpoint I couldn’t get behind the movie. Vampirism as a playground for lifeless emo characters does not interest me. There wasn’t a bit of investment on my part in any of the characters in this Neil Jordan film. There’s lots I could complain about- the terrible overbite given to the vampires, the horrendous Guns N’ Roses cover to end the film, or Lestat’s entire character. But, I did not care about anything I watched in Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, and that best sums up why this film was not for me.

A Man For All Seasons (1966, Fred Zinnemann, United Kingdom) ***1/2

Handsome production and a splendid lead performance from Paul Scofield raise what would otherwise be a very stagy and stagnant film to great heights. There was too much lecturing to the camera, and speech giving, but again this is balanced out by the performance from Mr. Scofield and the production design. A Man For All Seasons is shot to be very wide and expressive, and that allows the brilliant colors and tremendous sets to pop off the screen even more. All in all I did like the cast, but there were times when the screenplay let them down as it did allow the actors too many lengthy monologues where the film could have benefited from showing more and telling less. A Man For All Seasons is a great film, but more for certain parts than its whole.

Malcolm X (1992, Spike Lee, Japan/United States Of America) **1/2

If there was one thing that the real life Malcolm X was not it was predictable and clear cut. It’s a shame that Spike Lee saw fit to direct the film about Mr. X’s life so that it was predictable and clear cut. There’s nothing off the beaten path in Malcolm X, no moment when the film doesn’t do what it is clearly indicating it will do. Mr. Lee doesn’t miss an opportunity to make the world, pardon the pun, black and white. The shame in this is that it appears as if Mr. Lee decided to ignore the immense complexity that was Malcolm X the man (and also wasted a great performance from Denzel Washington), instead focusing on the simplistic notion of Mr. X as one idea at one time in his life and one idea at another time in his life, and so on. The ending narration from Ossie Davis speaks of a different film than what was presented by Mr. Lee. He speaks of Mr. X as complex and a figure who was hard to peg down. Mr. Lee’s film disagrees, his Malcolm X is a film about a man as simple as they come, easy to peg down and devoid of any notion of complexity.

African Cats (2011, Alastair Fothergill & Keith Scholey, United States Of America) ***

African Cats is a movie that exists to do two things, 1) look beautiful, and 2) show us brief glimpses into a world that is completely foreign to us. On both of these accounts African Cats is a smashing success. The narrative does feel forced at times, but it’s a minor complaint in a movie that otherwise does what it sets out to do. The plains of Africa look gorgeous, what can I say nature photography impresses me, and the film offers small nuggets of information about a world I am not privy to. It’s not groundbreaking, but African Cats is very entertaining.

Wrap-Up:

All in all another decent week of movie watching. Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer was a great movie, but it couldn’t quite match up to the melodrama Fred Zinnemann brought to the table. For that reason A Man For All Seasons takes home the movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

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