Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Giver

Director Phillip Noyce has tried his best to bring Lois Lowry’s book The Giver to the screen, but he’s been hampered by the weak script from Writers Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide.

The story concerns a future world where memories have been sublimated by daily drugs and music and dance have been banned so everyone can live in a vapid bliss where no problems occur…unless, of course, you have some aberration or grow too old to be of use.  In those instances, you’re liquidated.  How blissful.
Only one person in this society, the Giver, is allowed to keep memories alive in case there is ever a need for information that might be helpful to the society. 

Jeff Bridges plays the current Giver, but, unfortunately, it he has what comes across as chronic constipation, so a young man well-played by Brenton Thwaites has been chosen to take over the position.  However, he wants to open everyone’s memory banks.

Thanks to admirable cast, including Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush and Taylor Swift, the film rises above the script and, although it doesn’t have the energy of other young adult adaptions, it should be enjoyable to fans of the book.

I give The Giver a 3 out of 5 for the fan base.

As Above, So Below

The only good things about Writer/Director John Erick Dowdle’s As Above, So Below are the end credits and song over them.  Otherwise, this waste of tape ranks as the worst film of the year, so far.

It starts out with main character Scarlett (Perdida Weeks…I think that translates into Lost Time) being interviewed on camera for a documentary.  Unfortunately, the cinematographer is the worst ever…or perhaps high on drugs, since the camera never stops bobbing until viewers lose all interest in what is being said or done.

But, okay, maybe this is a found-footage film.  However, soon there are 6 characters with cameras mounted on their foreheads as they go into the Paris catacombs.  Yet, there must be an uncredited invisible character, as well, since many of the shots could not have been made by any of the on-screen characters.  What's more, half of them die and even the survivors have lost their cameras, so this couldn’t have been a found-footage film, as the tapes remain buried in the catacombs.  Also, the 3 survivors are shot near Notre Dame Cathedral by the invisible character.

Actually, the story the search for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone might have been somewhat interesting, if it weren’t for this possibly most stupid decision in the history of film making.

As the plausibility of the film worsened as it dragged on, I heard audible moans from the audience and, then, realized they were coming from me.

There is an old adage that you can learn more about film making from a bad movie than from a good one.  However, this film is beyond bad.  Yet, it does produce a very positive result.  You end up realizing that no matter how many mistakes or failing you may have had in your life, they are overwhelmingly dwarfed by the making of this movie.
I give As Above, So Below a half of 1 point out of 5 and that’s only because of those end-titles.  See it only if you really hate yourself.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Co-Directed by Writer Frank Miller and Cinematographer/Editor/Composer Robert Rodriguez, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is an action feast for fans of film noir, graphic novels and, of course, the original Sin City, which came out in 2005.
There are several stories that, eventually, all hang together, including characters from the original film, as well as new additions.

It’s the style of the film that, again, dominates.  Sometimes characters are in black and white with key characteristics in color, like the gorgeous Eva Greene with ruby red lips and penetrating green eyes.  Sometimes they look like they’ve been printed on the screen.  It’s all very effective and all a lot of fun.

Though there is a lot of violence, it is stylized and only the most squeamish will find it too hard to take.

I liked this film more than the original and give it a 4 out of 5.

If I Stay

Director R.J. Cutler’s If I Stay is a bittersweet, but charming film about a young woman (Chloë Grace Moretz), who is in a coma, following a terrible auto accident involving her entire family.

Her out-of-body spirit wanders the corridors of the hospital in which her body lies as she reflects on the key incidents in her life and has to decide whether or not she will awaken or give up on life.

Though the film could have benefited from some pruning, especially near the end, it is a very effective tale which is well-produced and well-acted.  

Moretz is one of my favorite young actresses and she does an admirable job in the main role, but the stand-out performance is by Mireille Enos, who has the role of her mother. Known for her role as the tough cop in TV’s The Killing, Enos has superbly transformed herself into a hippie mother, who provides the energy and humor in the film.

Women, especially those under 20, are advised to attend with plentiful supply of tissues.

I give If I Stay a 4 out of 5.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mood Indigo

Writer/Director Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo is a bizarre fantasy about a rich man (Romain Duris), who lives…we know not why and, eventually, don’t care…in a surreal world where a large team of minions service him and machines have a life of their own.

He meets a woman (Audrey Tautou), they fall in love, she gets sick on their honeymoon (a flower grows in her lung), he spends all his fortune on trying to cure her and she dies, leaving him penniless.

You see, there is a story buried in all the absurdist contraptions and, sometimes, rewardingly beautiful images provided by Cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne.

But, the person who had the real fun in this production must have been the Production Designer Stéphane Rosenbaum, who was given the budget to create all the fantastical machines and decors.
It’s because of Stéphane that I give Mood Indigo at least a 2+ out of 5.