This Week In Cinema: December 22-28, 2013

the signal

I was really sick this weekend, so we’re all going to pretend this was actually posted on Sunday, okay?

Another week with a fair number of recent releases,

Prince Avalanche (2013, David Gordon Green, United States Of America) ***

A pair of actors I really like can go a long way towards me liking a film. I’m not saying Prince Avalanche is not without merits besides the acting. It’s a gorgeous looking film with a splendid score that has moments of poignancy and resonance. However, with a different pair of actors I’m confident I would not have liked Prince Avalanche as much as I did. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch are fantastic, a real treat to watch.

Phantom (2013, Jonathan Soler, France) ***

A nice idea that runs out of steam as the characters continue to talk in circles. As a short I imagine that Phantom could have been a great film. At a shade over an hour and ten minutes Phantom already feels far too long. There is some interesting stuff going on in the film, both philosophically and visually. However, each segment goes on a tad too long, as both characters say their piece and then keep talking in a way that adds little to what they have already expressed. Phantom is a well made film, an experiment that works more than it fails, but the film does let down its philosophical bent by over cooking the conversations at every turn.

The Signal (2007, David Bruckner, Dan Bush, & Jacob Gentry, United States Of America) ***

The entirety of The Signal is fascinating, but there’s great fascinating and head scratching fascinating. Everything up until the ending is great fascinating, with lots of big ideas being tossed around dealing with communication, humanity, the relationships we build, our reliance on technology, and so much more. The final ten minutes are fascinating in a head scratching sort of way. As a female character sits powerless two men fight over her and ultimately one redeems her. It’s surprising that such a deep movie sees fit to reduce the female form to that of a helpless damsel in need of some male rescuing. I really loved a lot about The Signal, but that ending was rough in its ignorant gender politics.

Teen Beach Movie (2013, Jeffrey Hornaday, United States Of America) ***

Don’t let the Disney Channel production stigma fool you on this one. Teen Beach Movie is a well constructed musical and fantasy film. The songs are all catchy, and the acting is spot on in reproducing the silliness of old school surf movies. The film is light on story and theme, but similar to the films Teen Beach Movie is echoing story and theme play second fiddle to having fun. I laughed a lot during Teen Beach Movie, I had a great time with these characters, and I enjoyed the ride.

Fight For Your Right Revisited (2011, Adam Yauch, United States Of America) ***

I’m probably cutting this short film a lot of slack due to its impressive cast. Fight For Your Right Revisited is quite funny and has a terrific cast to drive the humor. There’s a scene with Will Ferrell complaining about untying a knot that had me laughing really hard. A lot of this film is batshit, and that is at times a charming quality within the film. That being said Fight For Your Right Revisited overstays its welcome and the final pissing contest is stupid in a way that I didn’t find enjoyable. I did laugh though, and laughter goes a long way with me.

9 (2009, Shane Acker, United States Of America) ***

Wonderful animation and a lean story that works for the most part. Still, I don’t think the film ever comes to grips with its heroes and its message. The heroes of the film are powered by technology but the theme of the film is very anti-technology. Shane Acker’s film never really tackles the back and forth between the lead characters and the theme. All in all though 9 does offer up a nicely created world, and a bleak post-apocalyptic landscape that I had fun spending time in.

9 (2005, Shane Acker, United States Of America) ***

A created world that is wondrous and the decision to not have any of the characters talk really made the short something to pay attention to. It was very easy to get lost in the animation and the world building, but this did feel very slight on story. A little bit more background info would have helped, or even some story connectors so that what was happening on screen was grounded more. I can see why this was made into a feature length film, but this short has a charm all its own.

Wrap-Up:

Nothing great this week, but there’s nothing wrong with a week full of good movies. A lot of movies were in contention for movie of the week, but a horror movie just squeaked by to take the title. The Signal takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

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