I’m not going to lie, I would not last that long stranded on a desert island by myself, two days tops I say!
A relatively slow week for movies, but a week with some great movies,
Aladdin And The King Of Thieves (1996, Tad Stones, United States Of America) ***
Most of the time the direct to video or television sequels to Disney animated features can be tossed into a didn’t need to see it pile. Aladdin And The King Of Thieves proves to be an exception to that rule. It’s nowhere near the film that Aladdin was, but it has its charms all the same. Having Robin Williams back as Genie makes the Genie character far more likable than he was in The Return Of Jafar. The songs are all pretty good and there are actually moments where the animation is of a feature quality, such as the scene where the Hand of Midas is revealed. The animation isn’t spectacular throughout and some of the jokes do have a been there done that effect. Still, Aladdin And The King Of Thieves is a well made picture that is quite enjoyable.
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006, Goran Dukic, United Kingdom/United States Of America) ***1/2
I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point I became exhausted by indie quirk. One indie movie after another was so full of quirk that I felt like I was going to explode from quirk overload. Along comes a film like Wristcutters: A Love Story, a film that is brimming with quirk. Sometimes it takes a great movie to show you that what you think is the problem isn’t really the problem. Indie quirk wasn’t my issue, it was badly done indie quirk. Wristcutters: A Love Story injects it’s quirk with likable characters who share believable emotions. The journey that the characters take is fascinating emotionally, intellectually, and visually. This isn’t a film that is weird for the sake of being weird. The wonderful themes and ideas presented by the film are what the quirk exists to serve. Goran Dukic’s film is funny to boot and features a great Tom Waits performance. Next time you need a dose of indie quirk go for something well made, go for Wristcutters: A Love Story.
Cast Away (2000, Robert Zemeckis, United States Of America) ***1/2
The mistake would be to peg Cast Away as a one man show. Tom Hanks does great work in Cast Away, there’s no questioning that. However, just as important is the work of the other actors who bookend the film. Equally important is the direction of Robert Zemeckis, and the cinematography of Don Burgess. The quiet score of Alan Silvestri is worth note as well. Cast Away is a team effort, and it’s quite the lovely team effort. The isolation that Mr. Hanks’ character feels is palpable, both during and after his actual isolation. A film just as much about survival as it is about how isolation leads to a man breaking out of his corporate shell, Cast Away is a delight to watch in every sense of the word.
Treasure Buddies (2012, Robert Vince, Canada/United States Of America) 1/2*
Snow Buddies showed that while the films in this series will probably never be great they can be perfectly acceptable family entertainment. Treasure Buddies is easily the worst in the Buddies franchise, and it’s not because it’s dumb, or that the jokes are never funny, or any of that nonsense. I could deal with all of that because this is not a film that is made for me. No, the reason why no amount of animal cuteness in the world can help Treasure Buddies is because it’s cheaply made. The green screen effects are terrible, the fake locations are entirely too fake and the mouth effects for the talking animals look like they are from the earliest attempts at such an effect. Treasure Buddies is just a terrible movie regardless of what audience it is being made for.
Flags Of Our Fathers (2006, Clint Eastwood, United States Of America) ***
A companion piece to Letters From Iwo Jima, Flags Of Our Fathers isn’t as strong of an effort as that Japanese-centric film. There’s beauty in the cinematography of this film. There are poignant moments peppered throughout the film thanks to some cleverly subversive writing, interesting parallels highlighted by Clint Eastwood, and strong acting performances across the board, especially from Adam Beach. I did have some trouble connecting to the film and that was mainly due to the floating back and forth in the timeline. The transitions between time frames weren’t always the greatest, but overall another solid effort from Mr. Eastwood.
Tsumiki No Ie (The House Of Small Cubes, 2008, Kunio Kato, Japan) ***1/2
A simple pleasure about the power of memory and the materials we do not need. As death encroaches on our main character he retreats to higher and higher levels by building smaller and smaller houses. The one thing that he can never escape from is his memories of his family. When he finally dives back to his first house, he has come full circle with his family and we, as the audience, have been given a soulful contemplation on what is important in the world. A beautiful oil painting animation style drives the emotion and helps deliver a quality short film.
La Jetée (The Pier, 1962, Chris Marker, France) ***1/2
Clearly the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, La Jetée is quite the interesting science fiction tome. It’s more interested in camera angles and silhouettes than it is in a compelling narrative. Yes, I wrote that correctly, I didn’t find the narrative in La Jetée to be terribly compelling. My main beef is with the narration which I feel suffocates the film at times, but this is made up for by the still photography and amazing camera angles. La Jetée is an interesting oddity, an experiment with form, but at times it didn’t work for me as a film.
I’m always a fan of a week that is filled with a lot of strong contenders for movie of the week honors. This was one of those weeks as there were four films I watched that I thought were pretty darn great. When the dust settled Cast Away ended up taking home movie of the week honors by a very slim margin. Until next week, watch more movies!