Logan’s Run, Run, Run

Pursuit – run-in, pursuit – run-in, pursuit – really big run-in, end of movie.  This basic, worn out, unengaging and paper-thin plot structure is the bane of many superhero and “action” films, and to some degree explains the disparity between the Tomatometer and my score on a movie like Logan.  Almost makes you wonder if all these other critics are so dim as to not recognize the formula, or somehow think it novel.

I liked the feisty girl, and the performances in general were OK.  I’m a bit of Hugh Jackman fan — from Les Miz at least.  Add in a little fun to get 4/10.

Comparison Notes: the much better Mad Max film from a couple years back


Movie 43: For the few, the very few

Movie 43 - quad poster

Movie 43 is a collection of short pieces akin to extended SNL skits.  It is vulgar, disturbing, disgusting, uncomfortable… and often funny.  Now, none of it is belly-achingly funny, and some of the humor falls flat.  But I’m a big believer in taking a movie for what it is, and not for what it is not.  And on that basis I recommend it, if marginally.

Movie 43 - text blockFor such low-brow material, one would have expected a lot of B-list and unknown actors.  But Movie 43 “stars an ensemble cast that includes Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Gerard Butler, Anna Faris, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Seann William Scott, Emma Stone, and Kate Winslet among others” (Wikipedia).  The mixture of this kind of star power with such lurid subject matter forges a unique niche in the history of film, and credit is due on that basis if nothing else.

Richard Roeper called Movie 43 “the Citizen Kane of awful.” It will offend, gross out, and piss off a lot of people — if they ever see it.  But for a few out there, myself included, it might also make you laugh a little.  I don’t normally go for gross-out humor, but I like edgy stuff, and Movie 43 advances a lot more creativity than most so-called comedies.  It scrapes the bottom of the Rotten Tomatoes barrel at 4%.  Mind you, these are the same critics who lauded 22 Jump Street (currently 84%) — so the value of that collective, closed-minded opinion is the real bottom-dweller as far as I’m concerned.  6/10

Film Brief: X-Men: Days of Future Past (3D)

X-Men poster - QuicksilverA couple very cool scenes in the first half are killed off by utter boredom in the second.  Highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes, so maybe I’m missing something — but I doubt it.  And how many times do we need to see someone strapped down to a chair while his “other consciousness” is doing battle in another time and/or place?  We saw that in The Matrix; is it possible for filmmakers to come up with anything original?  4/10



Film Brief: Prisoners

Prisoners still

Hugh Jackman

Prisoners is your basic child abduction story, but done well.  It has good character development and performances, and permutations on the central story which often muddle lesser movies are managed well enough to add depth while retaining clarity.

There are some problems: you must forgive certain contrivances and clichés, and the film becomes just a bit draggy in a couple places.  But Prisoners delivers an entertaining story which engages for 2 1/2 hours — no easy task.  7/10

Comparison Notes: Mystic River

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.