Thursday, December 20, 2012

Film Review: The Discoverers

I know I mentioned in a previous review that I like stories of discovery.  I also have said in the past that I tend to enjoy films about teachers and writers.

Well, this film is sort of an exception to that.  Maybe it's because I saw Freedom Writers the night before and the scenes of jaded teachers and faculty tend to grate on me.  Coming from that film and seeing the opening sequence in which college professor - and Lewis and Clark aficionado - Lewis is told that teaching his students isn't important, only irked me a tad bit further

And then there are his kids who in some ways remind me of George Clooney and the younger cast in the Descendents (read my review).  Another film I didn't love.

I think my problem is that we've gone down this road before.  We've seen these kind of predictable plots.  They key in these films should be how they get there.  To paraphrase Lau Tsu, "It's the journey, not the destination."  And yet neither of these films work hard enough on the journey for my taste.

The highlights:

1) Lewis' daughter gets her period while they're out in the wilderness, cut off from civilization.  That whole situation and how they handled it is one of two top moments in the film.  I often think about those kind of inconveniences in disaster films.  People isolated in the middle of nowhere.  What does a woman do when it's that time of the month?

2) The ending.  I won't give it away, but while it's a slight let-down, it still was a nice way to close the film. :)

Additional treat:  The much undderated Stuart Margolin as Lewis' father, Stanley.

It's a comedy lacking in true comedic moments (save for the first highlight mentioned above), but maybe it will resonate more with others than it did me.

Film Review: The Impossible

Impossible is definitely an apt title for this film, which tells the true story of a family that got caught up in the Tsunami in Thailand a few years ago.

The special effects of the tsunami is incredible.  It's amazingly realistic.  It just takes your breath away.

It's a compelling and powerful story.  It also seems so unbelievable.  Yet, if you believe in fate and destiny and happenstance, you find this film quite intriguing.

Film Review: Quartet

I love the British.  I do.  I also love Dustin Hoffman.  And, I also have seen plenty of operas.  So I was expecting a truly delightful film.  Sadly, it just didn't have the punch I would have expected from a British comedy.

For a funny film I'd recommend The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (see my review).  It was lighthearted, moving and funny.  This one had some really great moments including and not only the musical performances, but some of the comedy.  Sadly, the jokes only elicited a mild chuckle from me and nothing that had me doubled over.

Highlights include Tom Courtney's character Reginald connecting with young kids by comparing rap to opera, and the ending credits which showed old photographs of the opera singers who appear in the film and the opera company they performed with.  And for the actors who aren't opera singers, they had similar photographs that included one of their hit performances on stage or film.

I think Dustin Hoffman played it on the safe end.  His cinematography was pretty basic.  It could just be he that because he's a new director, he's still learning the finer things.  Perhaps his next film will be more daring.

I recommend this film for opera buffs and anyone who enjoys watching a group of classic, British actors on screen.

Film Review: On the Road

Another admission:  I've never read On the Road by Jack Kerouac.  At times I wish I had, being an English major and always enjoying the exploration in novels.  Sadly, I have yet to read this one.  I would like to.

So it was with a blank slate that I saw the film adaptation by Jose Rivera.

Sitting in a crowded theater prior to the film commencing, I was keenly interested in knowing who had read the book, as the question was being posed to the audience.  A decent amount of hands went up.  When people were asked whether they had liked the book or not, they were divided.  I thought that was interesting.

Then the critic who introduced the film, Godfrey Cheshire, agreed that many people are divided by their feelings over the book.  To this day you either love it or hate it. 

To give us an idea of what was going on during the era depicted in the film (late 40's/early 50's), he mentioned that the interstate highway system was brand new then.  This planted an image in my mind of a group of young Beatniks exploring the country, encountering different types of people, experiencing radical new things (for the time).  I was even more intrigued.

What played out what not what I expected.  There were no experiences on the road, no strange encounters.  Instead the road itself seemed to be taken for granted.  One scene they're in New York, then they're in San Francisco.  Then the're in New Orleans.  Dean asks Sal to come back to San Fran, so he "poof!"  There he is.  But he doesn't fly there.  He drives.  It takes at least 5 days to travel from to New York to California.  I know.  I drove that route back in 1993. Think about how long it must have taken Sal to drive it.  I'm sure it wasn't only 5 days.

The movie dealt more with the downfall of Dean and his friendship with Sal.  It was done very well, and the leads, including Kristin Stewart, did a great job with the material.

Sadly, it didn't feel like a 1940's film, except for maybe the cars.  Instead, it felt like a hippy film, taking place in the late 1960's.  I'm told the characters in the book had greased back pompadores.  Not in this film.  Their hairstyles were more long and loose.  It was difficult to see what the conflict was between the Beatniks and the rest of society.  It also was difficult to place some of the scenes.

Now, I love 60's films.  I wished I was a hippy myself.  The closest I can get to that is claiming, honestly, that I was born in the "Spring before the 'Summer of Love'" (April 1967).  However, this isn't a 60's hippy film.  This is supposed to take place in the late 40's/early 50's.

I didn't hate the film. It was enjoyable for what it depicted, but I wondered if the book had more.

After the film the audience was asked if they liked it.  I kept quiet, but was amazed and surprised at the resounding, "No!" that Godfrey Cheshire received as a response.

I definitely have got to read that book.

Film Review: The Fitzgerald Family Christmas

Okay, I'm not ashamed to admit that I've never seen an Ed Burns film before.  Not that I have anything against him or his films.  I just never have seen The Brothers McMullen.  Now that I've seen the Fitzgerald Family Christmas, I would like to see Brothers McMullen.

Not having the first film to compare, I can say that this one is entertaining.  I wasn't laughing out loud all the time, but the story was interesting, the acting solid and the film as a whole was entertaining.

There were predictable moments like the sister who was dating a much older guy and her brother who was dating a younger woman and what occurs when they decide to spend the weekend at a beach house.

The main plot of the film involves the estranged father of seven kids wanting to see his family again after he had deserted them some 20-30 years ago.  Ed Burns plays the loyal son who still lives with his mother and constantly works to bring this fractious family together every Christmas.  Now, he has to get them to vote on whether they want to spend it this year with their father.

A cute film.  It won't win any awards, but it's a nice holiday film.

Film Review: Hitchcock

I found this movie entertaining... a bit too much so.

As I watched this film I found myself not really connecting with it.  At first I couldn't understand why, but afterwards I realized it was because it didn't seem realistic.  It painted Alfred Hitchcock as a temperamental, spoiled child, and not the bossy, tyrant tales about him have told. 

It is an entertaining film, though.  I would just take it with a grain of salt.

Film Review: The Other Son

An interesting, well told tale of two young men, who discover they were switched at birth.  The twist is that one man is a Palestinian being who had been raised by a Jewish family in Israel and the other is a Jew who had been raised by Palestinians across the border.

What helps this movie along is that the young men, while in shock, seem to be more curious than angry about their predicament.  Each one wants to know more about their real family.

I won't give anything more away, but I wonder how the film would have played out if they had been angrier?

Note:  This is a French film with English subtitles.  Sometimes the characters speak English because it's easier for the two families to comprehend each other.  Other times - aside from French - Hebrew and Arabic are spoken.