Sunday, May 30, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon is at its core a familiar affair -- a senstive boy tries to find his place in his tribe and win his father's approval but his efforts are complicated when he finds a new pet. In this beautifully insightful film, the boy is a Viking, his father is the Viking chief and his pet is a fearsome (and ...misunderstood) dragon -- one of hundreds that have been pillaging the Viking village for generations. DreamWorks' animated features have been spotty, IMO, but this film is wonderfully realized, the characters enormously appealing, the action scenes cleaner than the CGI battles in The Prince of Persia and Clash of the Titans (to name two of the more recent spectacles), AND the movie's message is life-affirming. The ending may be a bit shocking for very young children but overall it's a family affair.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Robin Hood

Yes, as a matter of fact, Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is quite a lot like his Gladiator. (Has it really been 10 years?) It's well-crafted, smartly scripted and boasts an enviable assortment of veteran actors and new faces. Russell Crowe as Robin Longstride is firmly at the center of this story about the origins of the legendary well-redistributor -- and there is quite a lot of action -- as he opposes Mark Strong's nefarious Lord Godfrey, who is in service to a vain and ineffectual ruler, King John, played winningly by the Guatemalan actor Oscar Isaac. But this time, Crowe, is oddly understated this time out, must share the stage with the estimable Cate Blanchett as Lady Marion Loxley. The lengendary Max von Sydow, in a small but pivotal role, gives a sure and studied performance as does William Hurt; but you would not expect less from actors of their caliber. This film has a palpable sense of time and space. My only quibble is with the prologue that sets the scene by telling us days of tyranny and oppression are no cup of tea. "England in the 12 Century was just such a time." Shouldn't that be "just such a place?" I'm just saying.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Much has been made of Jake Gyllenhaal's studliness in Mike Newell's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and for good
reason -- he looks great. He and his equallty stunning co-star Gemma Arterton are the most watchable elements in this fairly uninteresting and uninvolving but terribly busy film about magic and mystism in ancient Persia that's
based on a computer game. To be honest, I spent most of my time in the film wondering why they'd asked the L.A.-born actor to play valiant young Dastan with a British accent. Perhaps it's because Newell is a Brit, and so is Arterton, and featured players Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina. Perhaps they thought Gyllenhaal's swashbuckling adventurer would
be a distraction if he spoke in his normal voice. Trust me, nobody will be listening to anything this kid says in the film. Take the youngsters. It's got some scary moments with deadly serpents but overall the movie is harmless.

Queen & Slim

In the soon to be iconic photograph from Melina Matsoukas's distressing Queen & Slim, stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith...