This Week in Cinema: January 04-10, 2014

paradise lost

I’m not sure if any paradise ever was truly present!

Two movies this week,

Empire State (2013, Dito Montiel, United States of America) **

The final moments right before the credits offer an interview with the real life protagonist of the film. Including that is a big mistake because it allows the viewer to see how much more interesting the film should have been. Instead of Liam Hemsworth’s flat and boring performance we could have been given an inside look at an interesting blowhard. Alas, Dito Montiel did not deliver an interesting documentary or a good film. Rather, the film he brought to the masses is a paint by numbers crime drama. Complete with thinly drawn characters who we are supposed to care about despite never being given any reason to care. In a sea of average crime dramas Empire State is but another staid, boring, and average crime drama.

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996, Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky, United States of America) ***

I know too much about this case. That’s an odd way to start a movie review, but it’s prescient in this instance. I had a heck of a time accepting what the film was offering me versus what I expected. My previous knowledge of the subject kept me at a distance from the film and it damaged my overall experience. That’s not a fault to place at the feet of the filmmakers, but it’s an honest reaction I had to the film. I can appreciate the craft on display, the straightforward filmmaking is well done and striking. Yet I kept wanting more, and I could never quite overcome the uncomfortable distance between myself and the film. A fine film, but one where the greatness has been whitewashed by time and knowledge.


It is flawed, but of the two movies I watched this week Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills is the far superior film. For that reason Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!

Bill Thompson


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