This year I watched a fair number of films I never wrote proper reviews for. I also saw a fair number of films I wrote improper reviews for. I don’t have time to fix the later, but here are a few thoughts on the films I never blathered on about, tore up, championed or otherwise said two words about. All are kind of a mixed bag. Probably why I never wrote much about them.
Men In Black III – Cotton candy cinema of the most expensive order. Looks delicious, taste good for about 60 seconds, zero nutritional value, you know it’s not good but you can’t really hate it. Concord refuge Jermaine Clement is a great foil made of teeth and a highlight of whole show. Jones is barely here but Brolin mimics his spirit to some fine amusement. Don’t bring that ‘Will Smith is a desperate, pathetic, craven, please love me leading man’ baggage into things and it could almost be fun. Almost. It’s last few minutes are insanely stupid.
Paranorman – Once again a top notch stop-motion effort, one of the finest ever really, is marginalized by achingly remedial characterization. That means all the characters are dumb and annoying archetypes except Norman. Thus it’s a movie which is beautiful to look at but tiresome and impossible to care about. Worthy of a 1,000,000 screen captures but it’s big sister Coraline was much smarter and less condescending. Don’t know why they felt the need to dumb things down.
John Carter – Should Disney have spent $250 million on this? No. Did it deserve the malignant fate it was handed? No. A ridiculously ambitious production could never put its screenplay and pace together to form a coherent whole. All the same it has fine, if fleeting, moments mixed in with its overly and unnecessarily convoluted narrative. In more moderate hands it would have made a fine sci-fi adventure but expectation, money and the press destroyed it. If you had slapped the Star Wars label on it things would be much different.
Beast of the Southern Wild – Put this movie in the hands of A&E and you have an episode of Hoarders or whatever other show features poor people exploiting themselves for a camera. I know it’s one of the more beloved movies of the year to some, but to me it smacked heavily of simply being surrealistic art house cinema giving passing admiration to poverty, squalor and borderline child abuse. I can’t fault the fearless performances and the technique involved but there’s so much wrong here it makes the head spin.
Anna Karenina – This bold and innovative adaptation of Tolstoy’s doorstop sized Russian tome deserves a lot of points for being so delightfully unorthodox. Director Joe Wright (Hanna) takes the monolithic story and molds a dizzying theater experience around it. The sets and actors shift around their closed quarters with grace and finesse and it’s an amazing accomplishment, for a while. Eventually all that production ceases to really wow and you slowly realize Wright is trying to cram all 800 pages of Russian melodrama into his 140 minute runtime. It starts to feel like a run on sentence and ends about 30 minutes later than it should. Mostly well cast and admirably performed but has one glaring, ‘Keanu Reeves in Dracula like’ miscalculation. Banality, thy name is Aaron Johnson.