Saturday, February 22, 2014

Movies Monthly - February

The Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, is the silliest World War II picture I have ever seen. Each scene is flat, ineffectual, and totally lacking anything of interest to listen to or look at. I was struck by how the first three scenes established zero atmosphere, tension, or information.

To a cheerful, sprightly tune that sounds like a cross between the theme for Hogan's Heroes and the theme for Patton, Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and others, cruise around German-occupied zones in war-torn Europe as casually as a bunch of good old boys on a road trip. Similar to Spielberg's silliest depictions of Nazis in his Indiana Jones films, The Monuments Men wallows in all the cliches. Themes suggesting malevolence introduce the Germans. The Russian officer racing to intercept the Americans saving artworks snarls like he has an itchy butt.

In one of the silliest scenes, John Goodman and his buddy drive a jeep into a meadow between hedgerows. When Goodman's character sees American soldiers waiting in ambush in the foliage and pointing across the meadow, he and his buddy realize they have stepped into the middle of a fight about to happen. Fine. Some suspense. Sad when the buddy gets riddled with bullets when the Germans open fire. Then Goodman's man drives away, and the American soldiers break cover and march across the meadow as openly as British soldiers at Bunker Hill.

I struggled to remain seated throughout the whole movie. It wasn't that I had any inkling of a hope that the film would get better. I was just fascinated by how bad it kept getting.

Wow! As I write the above, it is February 14th and I've only seen one movie in theaters! I'm going to the movies tonight, and I'll see at least one or two more movies before the end of February, but that's not as many as I usually see in a month! Guess I've been busy. Or the releases have been bad!

Winter's Tale is intended as a fantasy-romance taking place in an alternate New York City in the early 20th century where a white horse can fly and the demonic bad guy (Russell Crowe), whose face splits with fiery gashes when he grows wrathful, is the righthand man of Lucifer, played by Will Smith as a mild-mannered New York cool cat.

Fine. I can get behind a bit of dazzling magic and touching romance, but the story of the undying love between a thief (Colin Farrell) and an attractive young woman dying of consumption (Jessica Brown Findlay of Downton Abbey, fans!) is so slow, bland, stilted, and silly that it never dazzles, never touches your heart. In fact, the dialogue is so stilted that it seems like the actors are performing live and having trouble remembering what to say next.

But the film's most disturbing element is Farrell's hairstyle: a buzz cut on the back and sides with a thick helmet of hair flopping down like Three Stooges Moe's Hitler mop. Ee, gads, man! I wanted to reach into the screen, yank him out, and rush him to Supercuts! Not only does he torment his viewers with this tonsorial atrocity throughout the early 1900s portion of the story, but when he appears in present-day NYC, he's still got the same haircut!

There is no magic in the world that could save this movie!

Paul W. S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Alien vs. Predator - the other Paul Anderson) delivers action, adventure, and visual spectacle in his swords-and-sandals-disaster epic Pompeii. The story moves expeditiously from the massacre of the family of a young Celt (Kit Harrington) in Britannia to gladiatorial games in Pompeii to falling in love with Cassia, a wealthy Roman girl (Emily Browning), to the machinations of an evil Roman senator (Kiefer Sutherland) – and after a few warning quakes and spouts of steam, the volcano doesn’t take long to erupt, right after the epic gladiatorial battle – just like in the classic film The Last Days of Pompeii (1935). The eruption of the famous volcano offers dazzling visuals – though the various stages of the eruption are timed to fit between segments of action involving Milo the Celt’s rescue of Cassia –and we get a dramatic variety of deaths by collapsing buildings, earthquake fissures, raining rocks, a tsunami-like flood, molten boulders, and the culminating pyroclastic (fast-moving wave of ash and rock) flow. (Actually, it was the heat 572 degrees Fahrenheit that killed most of the people.) This movie is all about entertainment, and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius is worth seeing.


Steve's Blog said...

Good Day, Sir!
As I read over your monthly reviews for January and February with delight, I can see that the latter month was far from a memorable one, with the possible exception of Colin Farrell's hair and a volcanic eruption. I await Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska due out here next week. But in the meantime, I caught Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle in theatres.

I liked American Hustle much more, finding the characters complex in their emotions and motivations. Christian Bale continues to impress me as my favorite actor working today. I was very disappointed in Wolf, finding it redundant, with little to no character arc. Thus, the lead never won me over, and it left me more numb than anything. There were amusing scenes and clips here and there, but they played out like good SNL sketches more so than coming together as a coherent epic film.

Also saw a couple of the foreign nominations like The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown. Both films are among the best of last year with The Hunt showing a modern mob mentality in very subtle ways. Broken Circle is a soulful odyssey that recalls the best work of the Coen Brothers or John Cassavetes. I can't believe it's not an American film!

Well, that's a brief capsule for now from the other side of things. Hope all is well and the movie-going experience gets better as Spring makes its way to the Cape.

Hokahey said...

Steve - thanks for the comment from the other side of the world. I hope things are going well for you. We return from February break tomorrow, and then it will be time for exams - the end of the second term and the beginning of the final term! Can't wait for summer!

Glad you have seen some good movies. I will look for The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown. As for American Hustle, I was quite underwhelmed by it. It felt disjointed. I never found a central driving force to grasp onto - if you know what I mean.

I have to say I enjoyed Wolf much more. I agree that it became redundant and it might have been lacking in character arc - but I enjoyed its energy and Scorsese's style. I was only bored in the main character's one-too-many speeches.

Yes, let's hope that the movie offerings improve. A number of good science fiction films to look forward to - Transcendence and Christopher Nolan's Interstellar.

Sam Juliano said...

I also strongly recommend the harrowing THE HUNT, (my #10 film of 2013) Hokahey, which contained my favorite lead male performance of the year by Mads Mikkelson. The film is essentially about fabrications, community gossip and innuendo getting nailed down as fact in the public opinion. The results bring destruction to Lucas, whose budding relationship with a young teacher is broken, and whose reputation around the community brings a kind of mass hysteria culminating with an eviction from the local supermarket where he is attacked by and retaliates against a butcher, and an ugly row with his best friend, Theo, who happens to be the father of his child accuser. Theo’s initial sympathy for his friend is hardened by his difficult wife who rejects the young girl’s attempt to recant her lie by suggesting that she is trying to subdue unpleasant memories. Parents are advised to watch closely for hints that there may have been further abuse, and predictably some do make claim that their kids have experienced some trauma.

As to your own observations, I can't say I am at all surprised that both MONUMENTS' MEN and THE WINTER'S TALE are worth taking a pass on, and in fact I still have not gotten around to either, nor to POMPEII which I have head from some others is better than the general consensus. As always, great work here my friend.

Hokahey said...

Sam - thanks for stopping by. With lighter traffic on the blogosphere and with the ever busier nature of the teaching profession, I have settled this year on this monthly post.

As for The Hunt, it sounds good. I shall check it out.

Thanks again for commenting - and for your appreciation.