8 January 2013

This Week in Movies - 08/01/13

Life of Pi (2012) - B+

Ang Lee's visually lush castaway tale looks stunning, and muses quite effectively on the power of faith in the process. It's engaging, and despite one of the main characters being a digital tiger, cultivates an interesting character dynamic with which to weave its peculiar spell. Technically fabulous and considerably more profound than most mainstream fare.

Hitchcock (2012) - B+ 

Inventive and ambitious biopic that takes chances, even if they don't always pay off (jarring dream sequences being the main offender). Examining the period in Hitchcock's life where me made "Psycho", "Hitchcock" takes particular interest in many of its inspiration's odd habits, fetishes and his rocky relationship with spouse Alma. The cast, namely Hopkins and Mirren as the leads, are fantastic, and unlike most modern biographical pictures it is tightly paced. The look of the picture is polished, and there are some nice little tidbits for Hitchcock fans to delight in.

Rise of the Guardians (2012) - B+

Surprisingly fluid and entertaining fantasy adventure, which takes a pretty thin central idea and manages to morph it into sharp popcorn fare. The voice cast (particularly Hugh Jackman as the Easter Bunny) are the highlight, but the strong animation, action sequences, active sense of humour and appealing central message all add nicely to this amiable cocktail. Further proof that DreamWorks are a studio on the up, "Rise of the Guardians" surpassing the last few Pixar efforts quite comfortably. Even in 2D, the film is a visual treat with enough spectacle and pomp to satisfy most demographics.

Billy Madison (1995) - B+

How you feel about "Billy Madison" is probably a perfect gauge for your overall opinion of Adam Sandler as a performer. The story co-scripted by Sandler finds the comedian at his looniest and most immature, the results certainly surreal. Personally I find the feature to be a laugh a minute gas, not put together with any finesse by director Tamra Davis, but filled with enough imagination and frenzied merriment to fill several comedies. A tolerance for jokes that revolve around bodily fluids, bizarre non-sequiters and childish buoyancy is advised, but if you can stomach the work's manic tone, then you're likely in for a good time. However few movies underline the subjectivity of the comedy genre quite like this one.

I Am Legend (2007) - B

As a science-fiction film in its own right, "I Am Legend" is actually pretty good. As an adaptation of Richard Matheson's seminal novel, it falls somewhat short of the mark. Will Smith gives one of his most accomplished turns as Robert Neville, the last man on Earth, desperately seeking a cure to the virus which has turned the rest of humanity into nocturnal monsters. Director Francis Lawrence wisely transplants the action to New York, taking full advantage of the city's emptiness; expert shot selection, creative production deign and sharp cinematography all mixing to display perfect world-building. The first two acts are also enjoyably atmospheric, taking particular fascination in Robert's daily rituals, his relationship with canine companion Sam and the tension that can be wrung from enemies lurking in the dark silence. It's the concluding arc that troubles this feature, the picture introducing new underwritten figures, and happily relying on average action for its penultimate thrills. The ending also invents a new meaning for the title, as opposed to the much more poignant message the book carried. An alternate finale included on the DVD addresses the original central themes more clearly, albeit is less suited to the film itself. "I Am Legend" might have found more love on its own terms, by drawing attention to a classic piece of literature it only exacerbates its faults. Still, for the solid opening hour, staggering production design and impressive Smith performance "I Am Legend" is probably worth a watch. The movie was a substantial box-office success and a sequel has been in pre-production since 2008.

Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2013

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