I’m not stealthy enough to illegally immigrate from anywhere, I’d rattle a bush right in front of border patrol with all my stealthy prowess!
The output of movies is good again this week, let’s hope this trend continues,
June 17th, 1994 (2010, Brett Morgen, United States Of America) ***
The approach Brett Morgen takes to June 17th, 1994 is a unique one. At least it is unique to me in the sense that I haven’t been privy to any other documentaries that have taken the approach of ditching talking heads and narration in favor of footage of the documented subject. Mr. Morgen’s approach has its strengths and weaknesses. The main strength is that he is able to build momentum that cannot be stopped. The film has a flow to it from moment to moment that is never interrupted by random talking heads and such. The weakness of Mr. Morgen’s approach is that it does, at times, make it hard to invest in the footage when it’s not clear what is happening in the footage or the point Mr. Morgen is trying to make with the footage he has chosen. All in all Mr. Morgen’s approach leaves June 17th, 1994 as a well made and interesting documentary about a day in sports where events crisscrossed that should never have crisscrossed. If nothing else June 17th, 1994 has made me even more interested in checking out another ESPN Films documentary that eschews talking heads, and which was much heralded by critic and casual fan alike, Senna. Still, Senna aside, June 17th, 1994 engaged me when I wasn’t expecting it to engage me and made me care to watch a topic that has been covered ad nauseum, and that is definitely worth something.
Sin Nombre (2009, Cary Fukunaga, Mexico/United States Of America) ***1/2
Sin Nombre was able to affect me largely due to its understated nature. Cary Fukunaga never overplays his hand, he never goes for the big sentimental moment or the tearjerker reveal. When one character we are following dies and another is deported, it just happens. What happens to those characters isn’t something the film dwells on, nor is it later brought up to create an added dramatic moment. The final denouement is full of emotion, but it is of the natural sort. There’s never any doubt what will happen to Willy, and when it does the film keeps its tone fitting to what is happening. Mr. Fukunaga’s effort is earnest and honest, and that made the film all the more powerful of a viewing experience.
Humpday (2009, Lynn Shelton, United States Of America) ***
Watching Humpday I couldn’t help but be reminded of Kelly Reichardt’s 2006 effort, Old Joy. This both help and hurt Humpday. When it comes to thematic depth and the nuance of the films messages Humpday is a pale version of Old Joy. However, in terms of acting and the characters within the film forming a bond and camaraderie among themselves Humpday does a much better job than Old Joy. There comes a point though, much like in Old Joy, when the realization dawns that all three of the main characters in Humpday are talking in circles. In a film like Old Joy the talking in circles problem is overcome by the added layers behind the relationships between the characters. Humpday doesn’t have a whole lot to add beyond what it is using its main characters to say and that is where the film fails to overcome its flaws. Still, Humpday is a worthy effort that in intriguing, engaging, and thought provoking, if a bit circular.
Jordan Rides The Bus (2010, Ron Shelton, United States Of America) **1/2
Michael Jordan is a very intriguing sports personality, if only this documentary were as interesting as its protagonist. The main issue I had with Jordan Rides The Bus was how it swept so much of Mr. Jordan’s tumults in his life under the rug. What makes Mr. Jordan’s foray into baseball so interesting isn’t merely that he played some minor league baseball, but all the various reasons for why he may have decided to play minor league baseball. Jordan Rides The Bus chooses one theory, and then pushes all the other theories off of the bus while barely giving surface attention to the theory it has chosen. There are moments when Jordan Rides The Bus is engaging, but those moments are fewer than the moments when Ron Shelton’s documentary is run of the mill material. When it comes to an iconic figure like Michael Jordan run of the mill just isn’t good enough.
Thunderstruck (2012, John Whitesell, United States Of America) **
From what I understand Kevin Durant is quite the charismatic basketball player. That’s not surprising seeing as how he was able to somehow be charismatic is the extremely dry Thunderstruck. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Durant was far from great, or even good, but in a movie that was concerned with being milquetoast he was pretty okay. The basketball itself is no great shakes, the effects are middling, and the story is very standard fare. At the same time there’s nothing truly offensive or outright terrible about Thunderstruck. It’s a middle of the road movie, and it shows, but Thunderstruck is certainly not a movie to get riled up, or care about, in any way.
The Adventures Of Tintin (2011, Steven Spielberg, New Zealand/United States Of America) **
I wanted to like The Adventures Of Tintin, it is a movie that based on its premise and all those involved I should have liked. I did like the animation, warts and all. The photo realistic approach has its faults, and they were present in the way the characters moved and the weightlessness they exhibited. But, when it came to the fluidity and the crispness of the animation, as well as some of the techniques used such as the dissolves, the animation was lovely. However, even if the animation were perfect it could not have made up for the subpar characters and story. I was never given an inkling of who Tintin was, what drove him or why he was taking so many risks during the film. The story never moved beyond being super shallow and thin, it never bothered to flesh out its world, and by extension the characters, and I never felt like I was watching a movie with any actual substance. I expected more from a director like Steven Spielberg, but the fault is mine for expecting such a spotty director to hit a home run with his first animated effort. The Adventures Of Tintin had potential, but the story and the characters left the film wanting in egregious ways.
Just Go With It (2011, Dennis Dugan, United States Of America) **
Compared to much of the recent output from Adam Sandler Just Go With It is like a bastion of water in the middle of a desert. It’s not a good movie, but it does have elements that made watching it worth the overly long run time. Mr. Sandler himself is not funny for a second in this picture, but Nick Swardson has his moments. Admittedly I am a a fan of Mr. Swardson, but he takes lesser jokes and makes them funny through his sheer personality. Jennifer Aniston (to be honest this is probably the best she’s looked since losing way too much weight around the third season of Friends), Brooklyn Decker, and Nicole Kidman are good to look at. The two kids are funny simply by acting like pushy little kids. But, the rest of the film is pretty terrible, with nary a laugh to be found. Still, I didn’t completely hate Just Go With It, and for a Mr. Sandler movie that is an accomplishment.
Though I watched a decent number of movies this week one stood out from all the rest. Sin Nombre easily takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!