May 24, 2011

Thor (2011)

Serving as a sort of filler between last year’s Iron Man 2 (2010) and July’s Captain America (and 2012’s The Avengers), Thor isn't really much to write home about. Despite boasting a cast that includes Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins and a (mostly) apt director with a Shakespearean background, it is mostly a series of effects linked loosely by a sorry excuse for a plot and almost no character development. It’s not completely unwatchable, especially if you’re into marvel superheroes or 3D, but it is overall flawed when compared with other, better superhero films, that is to say, Iron Man. Not sure whose bright idea it was to get Branagh to direct this, I can only assume Branagh accepted it as a quick and easy way to make money. I might be the only one to have enjoyed the Asgard scenes, but perhaps only because they vaguely reminded me of those scenes in the 1978 Superman on Krypton, with Brando as Superman’s dad. Everything was shiny and gem-like. Other than that, the few attempts at comedy and Portman’s presence didn’t save this, and unless you can see it for free like I did or if you’re an avid marvel fan, this is to be avoided.

May 18, 2011

Biutiful (2010)

Iñárritu does Bardem. You’d figure the result would be good, but it’s not. It’s a messy, depressive and agonizing ride that never ends or goes anywhere. Gone are the interweaved plots that are Iñárritu’s signature, and instead we are left with a shaky disco mess of immigrants, petty crime and death, redeemable perhaps only by Bardem’s performance and the plastic boob-headed strippers. The chinless nose-monster that is supposed to be the female lead also gives it a train-wreck kind of quality that just makes you want to continue watching despite yourself. I do appreciate Iñárritu’s effort towards agony and desperation, but he has a long way to go before he can reach the apex of the genre that was perfected by the likes of Bergman and von Trier. Despite the cancer, dead immigrants, crime and crazy wife, I still feel like Bardem’s character hasn’t gone through enough, and his burden is somehow alleviated by living in Barcelona and the calm medditerranean waves (that in this case, carries floating chinese immigrant bodies, but is nevertheless calming). Not Iñárritu’s best work, but overall sufferable for all the foreign-film whores.

May 3, 2011

The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

Atwood’s award-winning novel by the same name is apparently a standard required reading in Canadian high schools. Having gone to french high school, I never got the chance to read it, so when I finally got around to doing so I also found out that there was a 1990 film adaptation starring Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall. After having finished the book I knew that I wanted to watch the adaptation. Since I recently watched Red Dawn (1984), I figured that maybe a dystopic future America that isn’t all about invading soviets might be something interesting. The book makes great source material for the movie, especially given its primary-colour coded social classes/castes and overall dystopic backdrop. Overall the script remains relatively close to the book, with minor modifications and a less open-ended finish, but overall it keeps with the book’s intentions. Stylistically however, the film is eerily mute and subdued, considering the subject matter. Characters appear lifeless and performances seem forced, of almost B-movie calibre. Despite this, however, I found it oddly fitting given the book’s sense of bondage and the totalitarian-style ‘don’t say anything wrong because who knows who can hear you or whom you can trust’. In that respect, the characters’ obligation to conform to the regime’s ideological and behavioural doctrine imposed on them against their will gives the performances seem particularly appropriate, if not necessarily intentional. Overall interesting, but a far cry from the book.