Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Paranormal Desolation of Mitty is Lost

OK, as a disclaimer, I saw some these movies a while ago, but I'm just getting to writing the reviews now...sorry.  I'm not perfect unlike you.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Dir. Christopher B. Landon

Although I'm a big fan of the first three Paranormal Activity movies, I thought the fourth marked the beginning of the end - that the series had finally run its course and milked the franchise for all it was worth.  After all, there are only so many scares you can get with the same bag of tricks.  But the fifth entry in the Paranormal series, the spin-off The Marked Ones, defied my expectations; it manages to stray from the other entries while still building on the mythology.  Instead of being another "static camera" movie, where much of the action happening to the unaware protagonists is on security cameras, etc, this time it follows some high school-graduate latino youths with a handheld camcorder and time on their hands.  To those audience members too impatient for the other films, this one is definitely the most kinetic and at times reminded me of Chronicle, another great found footage movie.  The Marked Ones is a genuinely scary, tense horror film to bring in the new year, and the characters, although fairly stereotyped (of course they have a heavily spiritual grandmother and a chihuahua), were very likable and believable.  And the film features the scariest use of the game Simon ever devised.  As a true sucker for a good horror movie, I loved it despite its lapses in logic sometimes.  I can't wait for Paranormal Activity: Back 2 tha Hood.

Rating: B

All is Lost
Dir. J.C. Chandor

Robert Redford is alone on a boat with bad weather.  That short sentence pretty much sums up the entire film; J.C. Chandor's follow-up to Margin Call casts the veteran actor in a [nearly] dialogue-free film as a nameless captain who roughs it out against the raging, stormy tides.  While it's certainly an ambitious effort to make a film like this (especially today), I don't think this is as profound as other critics are making it out to be.  I'm sad to say the much-praised performance from Redford really just didn't do it for me.  Sure it's impressive that one man can carry a movie, but he doesn't really emote much at all.  He simply completes each boat-ly task as it comes to him, and it takes him more than half the run time to finally yell a cathartic 'FUCK' that didn't even pack the punch I was hoping for.  All is Lost may be an interesting endeavor, but I think the over-praise it's getting is unwarranted.  This is an extremely simple, predictable, at times even boring film (after a while you get used to the storm, the boat gets damaged, storm, the boat gets damaged rhythm) that doesn't really add much to the 'lost man' genre.  Just check out Cast Away again if that's what you want.

Rating: C

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Dir. Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller's latest directorial project is another ambitious misfire.  Loosely based on a character from a 1939 short story, Stiller is really going outside of his normal fare with Walter Mitty, attempting to make a more artful, "Oscar-y" work about a boring guy blossoming into the hero of his fantasies.  While the film is very well shot and imagined (with some film school-worthy examples of shot composition), it does however fall short of being the inspiring story it sets out to be.  The plot basically follows Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), a LIFE magazine worker who has his heart set on his co-worker Cheryl (Kristin Wiig), as he goes on a cross-continental trip in order to retrieve a missing negative from famous photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn).  The film is unfortunately flat in the story department, and the gorgeous visuals often don't make up for it.  The humor just falls completely flat more often than not, and there's enough product placement here to put Adam Sandler out of business.  Papa Johns, Cinnabun, eHarmony, the list goes on and on.  Walter Mitty is just not an interesting character; one second he's this cartoonishly shy, boring worker-bee, the next he's a scruffy skateboard pro/Everest climber. There's absolutely no subtlety in this film, every moment beats you over the head with its heavy-handed messages (and expect the obligatory Arcade Fire music cue). This story of Walter Mitty just doesn't have that certain spark to it - there's a reason why it had been kicking around in development hell for years (at one time or another Jim Carrey, Steven Spielberg, and Ron Howard were attached).  Walter Mitty didn't hit my funny bone or emotions - I commend the effort but something just felt off.  A better commercial than a feature film.

Rating: C

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Dir. Peter Jackson

I personally thought the first Hobbit film was fairly enjoyable - it captured the feel of the book pretty well and it's a novelty to have literally every moment of Tolkien's book given the "Peter Jackson" treatment.  But like An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug suffers from page-to-screen syndrome, where pieces of dialogue fit for the printed word take way too long to get through, and it's just sluggish.  Scenes like the pit-stop with Beorn, the bear-guy, barely advance the plot.  It's been said over and over, but this really should not have been split into three movies; it's hard not to be cynical about all these blockbusters splitting into multi-part events just because studios know that fans will pay them all the more money (look forward to parts 1 and 2 of Mockingjay soon as well).  Still, Desolation of Smaug features some great action set-pieces (such as a really fun barrel ride sequence and some rather large spiders), and Smaug himself looks and sounds amazing - Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel isn't bad on the eyes either.  As mildly enjoyable as these Hobbit prequels may be however, they just don't seem necessary and they feel like they're coming from the same place as the Star Wars prequels - Jackson is just being given total, unquestioning authority over the project, and I think it's overkill.  Still, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't fun.

Rating: C+

1 comment:

  1. Nice reviews, man. In particular I agree with your assessment of the Hobbit films: bloated but fun.


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