Monday, March 21, 2011

A Five-Pack of Mini Reviews

I did what I set out to do this past weekend: I watched an awful lot of college basketball. In between that I caught up on the shows I missed because I was watching basketball. Amy Poehler is fantastic and that was one of the best episodes of Parks and Recreation (with another great appearance from Mo Collins). But I have fallen behind with a few reviews of things I have seen this year. These films left me slightly disappointed and terribly uninspired, this undeserving of a full review. It is not the best time of the year for new releases because we have just survived Oscar season (and a debilitating bout of the flu) and we await the summer blockbusters. These five films did get some attention from the Golden Globes and the Oscars, but they mostly fell flat.

Barney's Version
Sure Paul Giamatti won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, but he was up against Johnny Depp, Jake Gyllenhaal and Kevin Spacey in weak performances. And yes, he and the film won a slew of Genie Awards two weeks ago. My biggest problem with Barney' Version is that it is at least 20 minutes too long at 132 minutes. I also felt that the film's three actresses, as Barney's three ex-wives, were underused. Rachelle Lefevre is quickly being typecast as mouthy and ill-tempered. Minnie Driver, as the never-named second wife, is given too stereotypical a role. And while the exquisite Rosamund Pike is the heart of the story, the film's focus on Barney lessens her emotional impact. I was impressed at the make-up team, who deservedly won an Academ
y Award nomination for their great job at aging Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike throughout the film.

Barney's Version is the best film of the five that I will mention today. Two stars out of 4.

I am not going to challenge Javier Bardem's Academy Award nomination for Biutiful. He was fantastic in the film. It is just disappointing that the film as a whole is a complete mess. I had somewhat elevated expectations for Alejandro González Iñárritu film because I had been so impressed by Amores perros (2000), Babel (2006) and my
personal favourite, 21 Grams (2003), which made me fall in love with Naomi Watts. In Biutiful is the story of Uxbal (Bardem), a single father of two with a bi-polar ex-wife. He works as a go-between for African and Chinese illegal immigrants. His world begins to change when he learns that he has cancer. There are so many grand ideas and themes in the film that I would have appreciated
Iñárritu had taken a narrower approach to the story.

Bardem is a great actor who once again shines, but Biutiful is too cluttered and lacks cohesion. One and a half stars out of four.

First off, I have to say that the other poster for Burlesque, with the close up of Cher and Christina with those red lips makes me cringe. I have trouble remembering if I had any desire to see Burlesque when it was first announced. I am not a fan of Cher and I had extremely low expectations for Christina's acting ability. The trailer made it look like a low rent Chicago. I really disliked the film. The music was decent. Cher, an Oscar winner, was about as good as Christina Aguilera. Stanley Tucci is always great fun to watch but it is frustrating watching him out class everyone. Even Kristen Bell, whose film choices are Forgetting Sarah Marshall short of abysmal, added very little to the film.

If you want to watch a glitzy musical, go watch Chicago. One star out of 4.

Country Strong
So far Gwyneth has given two great performances on Glee and even teamed with Cee Lo for a Forget You duet at the Grammys. There was a lot of promotion and publicity surrounding her role in Country Strong, where she plays a country singer fresh out of rehab. It is not that Gwyneth Paltrow is a weak actress or a poor singer, but Country Strong is a waste of two hours. The screenplay and direction by Shana Feste is full of clichés and I was simply not able to get past that. Leighton Meester, whose career exists because of her ability to play a bitch on Gossip Girl, has trouble leaving Blair Waldorf at home.

I simply cannot say anything positive about C
ountry Strong. The acting is weak and the screenplay is worse. One star out of 4 (at least it is better than Amelia).

Frankie and Alice
A lot of fuss was made because the Academy Awards featured twenty white nominees in the four major acting categories. Speculation during awards season was that Halle Berry was the best bet for a nominee of colour, for her role in Frankie and Alice. Unfortunately, the film panders to Academy voters. Playing a character who suffers from dissociative identity disorder won Joanne Woodward an Oscar in 1957 for The Three Faces of Eve. Both Sally Field ( Sybil in 1976) and Toni Collette (United States of Tara in 2009) won Emmy Awards. Unfortunately, Halle Berry's performance is just not good enough. And the film itself, directed by Geoffrey Sax, is too unsure of itself and unwilling to be provocative. 2010 offered some great performances.

If you are interested in seeing a mentally unstable woman, go see Black Swan. One and a half stars out of 4.

There we have it. Five films, five disappointments. These are technically films from 2010, so I can only hope that 2011 will start offering some real gems in the near future. There are not too many titles that grab my attention for the next few weeks. But I am excited to see Hanna.

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