Stunning adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel about how a college professor deals with the death of his longtime partner. Director Tom Ford’s fashion designer roots are clearly evident in the style of the film. The 60s are recreated not as they actually were, but as fashion magazines would have you remember them. Cinematography, art direction, even music – it all comes together to form a film in which any scene could be paused and printed as a beautifully composed photograph. It is a brilliant choice because the pretty but empty facade actually emphasizes the void our protagonist feels in his own life. Colin Firth presents him as a man that is both charismatic but destroyed. It’s a difficult act to pull off, but he does it brilliantly. His performance grounds the film and makes this an exquisite tale of love and loss.
Archive for December, 2009
Thrilling re-invention of the titular detective, his partner Watson, and their attempt to stop Lord Blackwood from taking over the world with his apparent supernatural powers. Irreverent update on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character is more high testosterone action hero, than the sophisticated intellectual from the books. But it really doesn’t matter. The script is so gripping, once the adventure starts, it never lets up. Unquestionably, director Guy Ritchie’s best film. The story is complemented by a terrific performance by Robert Downey Jr. and wonderful art direction which renders Victorian-era London in a stunningly grimy post industrial haze of blues and grays. Also of note is the rousing score by master composer Hans Zimmer. An entertaining and fun film.
Meredith Wilson’s sparkling filmization of the landmark Broadway musical about a traveling con artist salesman and the small town he dupes. Rousing Americana’s best asset is Robert Preston’s memorable performance as Professor Harold Hill. His sunny portrayal brightens every scene he’s in. Virtually one musical number after another, there are moments of the sublime (“Seventy-Six Trombones”, “Till There Was You”) and the expendable (“Gary, Indiana”). The latter contributes to film’s inflated 151 minute running time. Perhaps a bit of editing and a less stagebound production would have made this a near-perfect adaptation. Nevertheless those minor transgressions are far outweighed by the joyous singing and dancing that is on display in this most appealing musical.
Inhabitants of Earth are engaged in the colonization of planet Pandora which is inhabited by the Na’vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Lush, computer generated video game style movie is a technically dazzling light show, particularly in its rendering of the foreign world. Indeed there is a palpable sense of wonder as paraplegic Jake is able to walk and experience the planet‘s vegetation and wildlife for the first time. Unfortunately the story is simplistic in the extreme. The entire narrative feels like an apology for European imperialism, and specifically for the plight of the Native American. It’s a shame director James Cameron’s long awaited follow-up to Titanic didn’t employ a more original story, because the film is a stunning breakthrough of visual technology.
Pleasant enough animation about a poor African-American girl named Tiana living in the French Quarter of New Orleans, who longs to open up her own restaurant. Not the comeback that Disney has been hyping, but it is colorful and lively nonetheless. The problem is the main characters are bland and the songs, while adequate, are instantly forgettable once you leave the theater. Many of the supporting characters are notable however: particularly Ray, a lovesick Cajun firefly, Louis, a jazz-singing alligator, and Tiana’s best friend Charlotte, a rollicking spoiled diva. These characterizations boost what is a mostly formulaic entry in the Disney canon.
Townspeople’s lives begin to change under the influence of a woman who opens a small chocolaterie in a repressed French village. Beautiful production values and sophisticated score highlight this engrossing fairy tale come to life. Additionally the superlative performances by the cast go a long way into making this film so enchanting. Occasionally the script’s negative view of religion as a means to manipulate people’s behavior, can be a bit strident. However, more often than not, the story is a delightful confection that will make you smile.
Bright colorful musical set in 1958 inspired by the phenomenon of popular singer Elvis Presley and his draft notice into the army. This enchanting adaptation of the 1960 Broadway hit takes a regrettably jaded view of rock and roll music. Luckily, the brilliant cast elevates this daffy comedy into the sublime: Dick Van Dyke is charming as always, Paul Lynde and Maureen Stapleton are hilarious and Ann-Margret is a saucy minx as the all-American teenager. Wonderful score features the songs “Put on a Happy Face”, “The Telephone Hour” and “A Lot of Livin’ to Do”.
Quietly affecting story about a middle aged confirmed bachelor who makes his living by flying around the country firing people. Romantic comedy takes time to develop, but as it does, the subtle humor gradually draws the viewer into its easy-going rhythm. Director and screenwriter Jason Reitman’s follow up to Juno is a similarly quirky and talky examination of a life. What makes the film so impressive is the witty repartee, particularly between stars George Clooney and Vera Farmiga who plays a sexual liaison he meets while traveling. Together they exhibit a playful sexiness that is surprisingly poignant. Cast also features relative newcomer Anna Kendrick in a breakout performance as a fast-rising recently hired co-worker. Occasionally the dialogue can be a bit pedantic, but it’s also that concern for detail that makes these characters so humorous and moving.
Bleak, depressing road movie based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy about survivors of the apocalypse. With only the slightest trace of a story, this film is a fascinating study of the strong bond between a father and son. Actors Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee who play the central pair, are compelling and elevate what could have been just another variation of 28 Days Later, into something much more. The pacing can be extremely lethargic at times, but for those who are willing to be drawn in by the hypnotic gloom of this post apocalyptic world, the rewards are substantial.
Simply put, a perfect adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical about Anna and the King of Siam. The sets are stunning, the costumes are superb, Deborah Kerr is glorious and Yul Brynner is iconic. What can you say about a film that presents the transcendent ballet, “Small House of Uncle Thomas” within the story, and actually tops itself. The entire film was shot in an extreme widescreen CinemaScope format. The actors practically leap off the screen in one memorable dance sequence. Bold, colorful, breathtaking and unforgettable. A cinematic achievement that deserves to take it’s place among the greatest musicals ever produced.