This Week In Cinema: March 31-April 06, 2013

the limits of control

I’d like to say there is no limit to my self control, but that would be a dirty lie!

A decent selection of films this week,

The Beach (2000, Danny Boyle, United Kingdom/United States Of America) **1/2

This seemed to me like a crossroads film for Danny Boyle. Certain elements that had defined his work in a film like Trainspotting are still present, but he’s attempting to move into the headier territory of 28 Days Later… or Sunshine. The problem is that The Beach is caught in the middle, it wants to be flashy and covered in swaths of very colorful directorial strokes from Mr. Boyle. It also wants to have a deep philosophical bent about humanity and the greater dangers that society can represent. These two worlds never quite mesh in The Beach, and a lot of that I peg down to a lack of characterization of all the supporting characters. But, mainly the lack of punch in The Beach can be laid at the feet of the narration. The film tells us instead of showing us on far too many occasions. Mr. Boyle, and the writer John Hodge, can never let the story just unfold. Instead Leonardo DiCaprio’s character has to narrate the greater meaning of what we are seeing or would have seen. It’s frustrating, and removes any and all tension from this supposed thriller. Ultimately I was very let down by The Beach, Danny Boyle is capable of much, much better.

The Limits Of Control (2009, Jim Jarmusch, Japan/United States Of America) ***1/2

I recall there being quite a lot of discontent voiced towards The Limits Of Control upon its release. As far as I’m concerned The Limits Of Control is yet another stylish goodie from Jim Jarmusch. There isn’t truly a weak spot in the film as it puts its style up front and then backloads the film with meaning based on said style. I kept waiting for Mr. Jarmusch to slip up and maybe abandon the somber and languid tone/pace he had set up. Thankfully Mr. Jarmusch stayed the course with The Limits Of Control and the result is a very interesting and immensely engaging film. Most instrumental in the engaging nature of the film is Isaach De Bankolé as Lone Man. He barely speaks, but he is a charismatic figure and he makes watching his journey all the more interesting.

Teen Wolf Too (1987, Christopher Leitch, United States Of America) 1/2*

About as unnecessary of a film as there ever has been. Teen Wolf Too is the exact same film as Teen Wolf with the exact same beats, character moments, and side stories. Besides the story being tired as a result of being a complete rehash of the first film in the franchise, there’s all the issue of Jason Batemen being the lead. I like Mr. Bateman, he’s a fine actor, but his style isn’t really suited for the role he is given. I’m sure that on paper Jason Bateman seems ideal for the nebbish character stereotype. In reality he’s a bit too cool and he lacks the inherent puppy dog nature of a Michael J. Fox. From start to finish Teen Wolf Too is nothing but a giant waste of time.

Tulpan (2008, Sergei Dvortsevoy, Germany/Italy/Kazakhstan/Poland/Russia/Switzerland) **1/2

A film that is more of an oddity than an actual engaging work of art. The film does transport you to a foreign world where completely different rules and mores apply. I respected that aspect of Tulpan, and I respected Sergei Dvortsevoy’s commitment to staying with his characters and their unique way of life. It was at times funny, and a had a few nicely done dramatic beats. But, I never felt invested in the characters like I should have been. I peg that down to a lack of engagement on the part of the film. It presents the lives and world of its characters and then walks away. Gospodin Dvortsevoy expects his characters and the unique nature of their setting to engage the viewer full throttle. That never happened for me, and that left large chunks of the movie as being quite droll. Tulpan works in spurts, but on the whole it fails to engage in any sort of meaningful way.

Bully (2011, Lee Hirsch, United States Of America) ***

As the father of a daughter who was bullied in kindergarten it’s hard for me to take any sort of objective stance on this film. As a parent who had to deal with the principal saying, “boys will be boys,” and a superintendent who said we had nothing to worry about, bullying is a very important issue to me. Luckily we were able to relocate our family to a new town with a better school that actually cares about what the students do and how they treat one another. However, if I remove my personal feelings from the matter I can honestly say that Bully is a very flawed film. I had issues with the film focusing only on kids from the Midwest and Southern United States. I would have liked to see some Eastern/Western families highlighted, because whether intended or not by only focusing on the South and Midwest it sends a message that those are the only real trouble areas. I also had issues with the way some of the film was captured, or rather how it seemed that at some times a hidden camera was being used. I’m not opposed to hidden cameras, but I felt the film didn’t do a good enough job of establishing how it was gaining its footage and whether or not some kids were heightening their existing bullying to even worse levels in response to the presence of a camera. Still, issues aside Bully is an important and moving film. It shows the damage that bureaucracy has done to our school system and our children. Bully sheds light on an issue that any parent should care about, and for that reason alone I’m willing to overlook most of its flaws.

Wrap-Up:

I thought there would be some competition this week, but alas I was wrong. In an easy sweep The Limits Of Control takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

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