A Colossal Mistake?

Colossal starts slowly, and I felt completely neutral through the first half.   In other words, it lacked zest.  Some audience members were laughing at what I guess were attempts at light humor which for me fell flat.  In this chunky manner it rolls along, until it turns in unexpected, even daring directions.  The film doesn’t gel into the compact punch it might, but it ends nicely.  6/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Fido, John Dies at the End

 

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Interstellar: Up and Down

Interstellar - poster

Interstellar has been compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey, so let’s get one thing out of the way: I know 2001.  I love 2001.  And Interstellar is no 2001, any more than Dan Quayle is Jack Kennedy.  Nor even is it Gravity, and reaching under the sea nor is it The Abyss.

Interstellar - text block 1I mostly agree with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus, except for the part about expectations from Nolan, which I’ll get to in a moment:

Interstellar represents more of the thrilling, thought-provoking, and visually resplendent filmmaking moviegoers have come to expect from writer-director Christopher Nolan, even if its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp.

Critics are sharply divided over this movie.  Some are calling it a must-see masterpiece, which it certainly is not, while others have panned it.  Joe Morgenstern for the WSJ:

Christopher Nolan’s 168-minute odyssey through the space-time continuum is stuffed with stuff of bewildering wrongness.

That had me laughing!  I’m in the middle.  Lots of holes share space with entertaining, well acted sequences and moments of true wonder to fill this overlong movie.  But there’s a lack of clear, penetrating vision here, and we can blame only one person.

Interstellar - still

Interstellar - text block 2

 

 

Christopher Nolan does not have the ability to construct a cohesive narrative.  I thought Memento completely implausible; Insomnia let the raw power of its concept and acting talent slip from its grasp; I remember little about Inception other than not liking it.  And when it comes to Batman, although I appreciate the darker, more authentic shading of the Dark Knight tales, I’ll take Tim Burton over Christopher Nolan any day of the week.

After all that you might think I’m saying thumbs down to Interstellar.  But the good parts outweigh the bad, if barely; so I give it a marginal recommendation.  To all the normal caveats add a theater with a very good sound system, good enough to shake the walls and your seat during those extra-loud moments.  6/10

ALTERNATIVES: If you’re in the mood for some truly outstanding science fiction, check out my post Sci-Fi Do or Die.

Arc de Triomphe

Les Misérables is a sumptuous, gorgeous, beautifully produced period musical.  It is unabashedly musical: almost the entire film is sung.  If you are not interested in a movie which is sung, stay away.  You will know within 5 minutes of the beginning whether or not you’ll like the movie.  I was quickly enrapt by the engaging choral performances and unexpectedly good story development, and felt like I was watching something special.  The film creates an immersive experience by way of its fully fleshed out and elaborate sets, its costumes and art direction, and the ever-present soundtrack.  Story is present here, too.  The classic conflict between officer Javert (Russell Crowe) and ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) forms a great foundation on which to lay the ensuing action.

And then Anne Hathaway as Fantine performs the film’s signature piece “I Dreamed a Dream” and I was pretty much blown away.  This in my mind is one of the great solo performances ever presented on film.   I felt like applauding right there in the theater, but the silence at the end of the song cued me to bind the applause within my heart.  If the remainder of the film were a flop, which it is not, Hathaway’s performance alone would be worth the price of admission.

Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables

Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables

Now, although the musical performances as a whole I found delightful and entertaining, the cast here are more so professional actors than musicians.  As such, do not expect singing on the highest level of musicianship as you would find in, say, an opera, or a great solo pop song.  But then again the lyrics do not work that way in the first place.  The actors’ performances here are well suited to the format of Les Misérables.  In fact, the stature of these great actors only helps to add weight to the collective experience.

A down note: at around two-thirds through the movie, it becomes disjointed and disconnected from its earlier stages.  The resulting fragments cause harm.  There is a love story and a latter-day French revolution story that do not work nearly as well as the story elements that ran earlier.  And the grand finale did not quite live up to my expectations.

Nonetheless, Les Misérables is the success that Sweeney Todd never was, and I am not just saying that because Helena Bonham Carter is in both.  It will restore your faith in the period musical that might have been lost in that earlier Broadway-brought-to-film production.  Sacha Baron Cohen also impressed me here.  I had thought that he would find it difficult to follow up Borat, but with his role here and his turn in Hugo a year ago, he is proving to be quite the good theatrical character actor.

Another small negative: what is with movies these days never showing any beginning credits or titles?  I mean, at least give me the title of the movie.  Think of how titles can embellish a film’s start: the original Superman, 2001, Star Wars and Star TrekThe Doors.  In the beginning moments of this movie, there were a couple opportunities to show the resplendent title screen it deserves, and a certain richness is lost by omitting it.

Overall, though, Les Misérables is a rich and grand production, a triumphant arc that delivers more than can be expected from big Hollywood these days.  8/10, but take it as it is and forgive its trespasses.  And make sure to see it in a theater with good sound.

Now a question: What was the better 2012 musical?  This or Rock of Ages?  Good question.