The Artist, writer/director Michel Hazanavicius’ loving and direct homage to the silent era, might seem like it exists solely as an exercise in style, but he populates the film with characters who know what they want and must grow to get it. Here’s a film that is a blatant escape into nostalgia–literally stuck in the past in form and technique–that is about people adapting to survive. A fantastic Jean Dujardin plays the matinee idol George Valentin. He’s on top of the world until the studio he works for decides to venture into talking pictures. Stubborn and unwilling to change with the times, he puts his fortune into making his own movie while a starlet (Bérénice Bejo) with whom Valentin has a connection begins her own career. It’s a gimmick, but Hazanavicius’ attention to character makes certain that the film acts as more. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
A modern updating of a television cop drama from the late 1980s doesn’t need to be this clever, so let’s be grateful that 21 Jump Street is as clever as it is. The film wears the laziness of its premise like a badge of honor, admitting in an early scene that it’s the result of a Hollywood system that’s out of ideas and that hopes everyone is too stupid to notice. As such, the film works for its jokes, wiping away any notion that the film or the characters in it have a modicum of self-respect left. Two cops (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) are assigned to go undercover at a local high school and infiltrate a drug ring. The high school material jokes about adapting social norms (The cool kids are sensitive, work hard, and care about the environment), while the various action sequences play around with movie clichés. It’s a silly but funny diversion. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
At least Wrath of the Titans–unlike its two predecessors (the 1981 original and its 2010 remake)–has a titan in it. It’s Kronos, the father of Zeus (Liam Neeson) and his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes), who decides to free his massive dad from his prison in a half-assed plan to rule the world. Perseus (Sam Worthington), the demigod son of Zeus, returns to battle a lot of mythological creatures, and while the remake had a problem with taking itself far too serious, the sequel has moments of humor here and there. Of course, whenever it seems to understand its limitations, the movie gets distracted by beasts, gods, and a giant lava monster to really have much fun. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, DVD/Blu-ray Combo, and Blu-ray 3D.
Director Tarsem Singh (aka, Tarsem) has a command of and flair for a striking visual sense, and there’s no denying that in Mirror Mirror. At least there isn’t for the first 30 minutes or so before the visual start to become repetitive and the story reveals itself as a re-imagining of the Snow White story with some “humor” inserted throughout. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Speaking of terrible comedies, here’s A Thousand Words, which revolves around the fact that Eddie Murphy can’t talk because that’s a good idea. A tree renders him speechless and apparently turns everyone around him into idiots who are really bad at charades. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.