And now, presenting the second installment in Flash Reviews. Some of these should have been in the first installment, but I forgot about them, so here they are.
As before, spoilers lie ahead, so stop now if you’re spoiler-averse.
The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies
Some of the action scenes were sweet (Legolas did some cool stuff and the various people riding into battle on animals was entertaining—a moose, a warthog, etc.). But, it fell short for me. Largely because I had no attachment to the characters. Thorin was not compelling and I felt no sorrow when he died, until Bilbo was distraught, then I felt a twinge of sadness because Bilbo cared so much, and I cared about Bilbo. I loved the scene with Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman fighting the ring wraiths (or whatever they were at that stage) and banishing Sauron, but it didn’t really do anything for the film as a whole. The film was entertaining, but fell far short of the deeply moving nature of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Haunting is probably the best word I can use for this film (and not just because of Jake Gyllenhaal’s man bun…). It stuck with me for weeks after watching it, a slightly uneasy, slimy kind of feeling lurking about the edges of my consciousness. It’s not gruesome (some violence and blood is present), but it feels dirty. Gyllenhaal gives a fantastic performance, with horrifying eyes. *Shivers*. The music is used to great effect, producing a terribly disconcerting set of emotions, evoking victory and triumph during Gyllenhaal’s most depraved moments. Well-done.
Recently crowned Best Picture, much to my disappointment. The film is well-shot, with impressive editing, a great soundtrack and phenomenal performances from the entire cast. BUT. It felt incredibly self-indulgent. It could have been a brilliant piece of satire (which many critics and reviewers label it as), but it was self-congratulatory. The film wasn’t trying to provoke change, it was a narcissistic, self-indulgent exercise in ego-gratification. I wanted to like it—I really did, but I couldn’t.
The Imitation Game
An inspiring film. Benedict Cumberbatch is incredible and the rest of the cast give top performances. The music is good, the production is excellent. Definitely worth repeated viewings. Yet, it seemed to get lost in the blur of other well-done inspirational biopics.
The Bourne Supremacy
Solid action film, but my least favorite in the trilogy. It seems a little sloppy and lacks the direction and purpose of the first and final installments. Also, the timeline complications introduced by the third film cheapen the experience of viewing this one.
Without Tom Hardy this film would fall apart. The film follows him in a car holding various phone conversations to juggle his work and collapsing personal life. An intimate examination of one man and the stress that life puts on us. Tom Hardy seems like an everyday guy, that anyone could be and everyone knows. His story could be mine. Or yours. Or my neighbors. And that sort of examination of life humanizes the people that I interact with on a daily basis, giving a glimpse into the problems that plague all of us behind our façade of “I’m fine.” For that, it was worth it.
An intriguing film that combines three different stories and times into one. It was fascinating and the acting was great (also, Nicole Kidman was almost unrecognizable with her prosthetic nose, but her eyes were still piercing—straight through my soul). The music was excellent. The film looks at Virginia Woolf and two women influenced by her (directly or indirectly). Anyone familiar with Woolf and Mrs. Dalloway can predict that the film is less than happy, but in a beautifully moving, tragic way. The pain of life is palpable and encouraged me to be more aware of others.
Wes Anderson’s first film. And my least favorite (although, still quite enjoyable). The chemistry between Luke and Owen Wilson is great. The hijinks are goofy and funny, capturing some of the characteristic whimsy and wit that marks Anderson’s later work. Yet, it feels a bit sloppy and thrown together. Probably the best word is amateur-ish. Understandable, but still detracting from the film overall.
The Games Maker
A Sundance Kids film, that was quite good. Some of the adult acting was a bit hokey and the plot wore thin in a few places, but overall it was enjoyable. The visuals were great, Ivan (played by David Mazouz) was incredible. The story was fascinating and the film captured the joy of playing board games quite well, building on the imagination of a child. Definitely recommend it.
Another Sundance film. Stellar cast (Ethan Hawke, Emile Hirsch, Asa Butterfield, and others). Well done. It was a coming-of-age film, that didn’t seem to really distance itself from other such films. Not that it was bad. It just didn’t seem to add anything of note to the genre, it worked within well-established boundaries and did what it set out to do quite well. But nothing wowed me. A few moments in the film were quite moving, but I didn’t have any big connection to the film as a whole.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Meh. That’s probably the best summary of my feelings about this re-boot of Spider-Man. I like Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, but there doesn’t seem to be any point to the films. While not as bad as Spider-Man 3 (which the abundance of villains threatened to make it), the film wandered aimlessly. Even the death of Gwen Stacy, which should be emotionally moving, elicited no emotional response. Tonally it’s all over the place. Utterly forgettable.
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Interesting in its depiction of deity and the interactions between Moses and God. Some fascinating theological questions are raised. The interaction between Moses and Ramses was a bit weak, with most of the characterization falling short. The visualization of the plagues was cool and gross. But that’s not enough to make a great film. Good, entertaining, but not anything great.
Not my favorite Batman film. It has an odd combination of camp and seriousness that doesn’t really work. It’s nowhere near the travesty that is Batman and Robin. The villains are quite something (Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, so that’s pretty great). I used to like this one, but it lost a lot of its appeal from the last time I watched it.
A charming film about imagination. Odd. The little girl is amazing. Lee Pace is quite good as well. Overall, the movie is good, but not anything special.
Loved this. It was absolutely delightful and charming. I was incredibly skeptical going in to it, but it was so so worth it. The acting is great. The story is simple, but wonderful. It also functions as a fascinating exploration of immigration and how we should deal with strangers. Go see it.
An updated version of Othello, that was fascinating. The focus is much more on the Iago character (Hugo), with the entire film framed with his narration at the start and finish. The Othello stand-in, Odin, is much less sympathetic than Othello is in the text. The story is set in a high school, which makes the violence much more disturbing than it originally is. Interesting.
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Not good. To be fair, the ending of the first one totally undermined the theme of the movie and that sort of trend was carried throughout this movie. Also, the acting and dialogue seemed poor. (To be fair, the animation was gorgeous. Beautiful visuals.)
Absolutely delightful. Wonderfully awkward. A joyous exploration of human foibles, with great acting, beautiful cinematography, gorgeous film. If you like Amelie, then you should definitely watch this.
Much Ado About Nothing
I love this play. Hilarious. Delightful. Witty. Moving. So good.
Not my favorite. Possibly because I think it’s a bit overdone and that it benefits so much from being staged that reading it feels quite hollow. There’s lots to think about and it’s intellectually engaging, but not so much emotionally.
The Princess, A Medley Alfred, Lord Tennyson
An interesting, almost feminist story. Fascinating in how it deals with proto-feminist ideology, but the ending seems to undermine all of that, affirming a patriarchal, masculine-centered world order, which is too bad.
The Fault in Our Stars
Overrated. Emotional cheap shots. I wanted to like this. I really did. It’s not really my scene, but some close friends highly recommended it, so I gave it a shot. I don’t know. It was engaging and a quick read, with smart dialogue, but it just felt like the story was crafted to capitalize on the emotional response of cancer victims rather than to explore the reality of living with cancer. Hence my emotional cheap shots comment.
I really enjoyed Othello. Complex and presented all sorts of interesting questions about trust and perception. Also, Iago is brilliant. Terrible, but brilliant.
I love Dickens’ writing style and thoroughly enjoyed this novel. However, the utter unlikeable nature of Pip and most of the characters made it difficult to engage with the text as much as I usually do. I didn’t really have an emotional connection to the characters and mostly was frustrated with them. By the end, Pip has a bit of a redemptive moment, but I think that’s kind of the point. Recommend the book, but be warned—unlikeable characters await.
The Merchant of Venice
I’m quite conflicted about this play. And Shylock. The ending of Shylock’s trial leaving him utterly desolated is tragic. Yet it’s followed by the happy resolution of the odd married manipulations that occurred. The juxtaposition is sharp and makes the pain of Shylock that much worse. I’m intrigued and can’t stop thinking about whether I’m supposed to like/hate/feel bad for Shylock and what that says about me and the play as a whole.
The Count of Monte Cristo (BYU)
A solid production, with some cool sets and production value. The music was…odd. Also, they adapted the story largely from the film version, which tries to transform the tale into one of redemption rather than revenge. It works in the film, but falls flat here. Edmund’s transformation comes out of nowhere and felt false. The acting was meh and the genius of Edmund’s revenge is lost in the largeness of the stage. Some catchy songs, and the Pirate Queen was absolutely fantastic.
If you liked what you read, check out Part One.