Monday, December 05, 2011

November Film Highlights

You will readth ye olde 50 Word Film Reviews blog.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Toby Jones, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost. Dir: Steven Spielberg.

Tintin sets off on an adventure to restore a drunken captain’s fortune. You need space to tell a story, but there’s so much action there’s not time to establish Tintin as a character, nevermind make you care or understand what’s happening. Cast’s perfect and animation spectacular, but that’s not enough.


The Rum Diary (2011) Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi. Dir: Bruce Robinson.

An alcoholic journalist starts work at a Puerto Rican paper and gets mixed up with an amoral entrepreneur. Fizzes, but never pops. Depp spends first half just watching things unfold, with the anarchy and wit of Thompson’s prose spread too liberally. Second half is better, but it’s far too leisurely.


Way Out West (1937) Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson, Rosina Lawrence. Dir: Stan Laurel, Hal Roach.

Stan and Ollie are delivering an inheritance to a young girl, but are tricked into giving it to her guardian. Plenty of great routines, yet even at 65 minutes, the pace’s leisurely at best. Still, each section has much to giggle at, although the dancing sequence is an unnecessary interlude.


Batman: Mask of Phantasm (1993) Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach, Abe Vigoda, Mark Hamill. Dir: Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm.

Movie based on Batman: The Animated Series. Batman investigates murders committed by a vigilante, while an old flame returns. Does what the Burton films didn’t – creates a distinctive visual world while telling a convincing character story. Dialogue is bare but has a structured plotline, not just a succession of set-pieces.


Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) Christopher Lee, Geoffrey Keen, Gwen Watford, Linda Hayden, Peter Sallis. Dir: Peter Sasdy.

Three amateur practitioners of black magic are tricked into resurrecting the Count. A really good premise is totally wasted, and soon things are back to the old stalk and bite routine. A few interesting moments liven it up, but it’s very uneven and would really benefit from having a central character.


Midnight in Paris(2011) Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Corey Stoll. Dir: Woody Allen.

A frustrated writer finds a way to travel back to 1920s Paris and mixes with art legends. A charming light comedy about the pleasures and flaws of romanticism and nostalgia. The affectionate send-ups of artists are delightful, although other characters are left with little. The denouement falls a little flat.


Days of Heaven (1978) Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz. Dir: Terrence Malick.

A landowner falls for a working girl; her lover convinces her to marry him, believing he’s months to live. A film that loves the landscape, charting a romance against the changing seasons, something beautiful but fragile and unforgiving. Arguably the story’s slight, but few movies are so gloriously cinematic.


Alien Resurrection (1997) Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott, Brad Dourif. Dir:Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Ripley is cloned in a space lab, with an alien inside her, then a group of mercenaries stir up trouble. The same stuff over again, but less effective, with another gang of who-cares getting picked off in a noisy but unsuspenseful fashion. Even Weaver seems to be slipping into self-parody.