Monday, June 29, 2015

Weekend movies reviewed

Far From the Madding Crowd:  unfamiliar with the source material, or the 1967 version which seems to be held in pretty high regard, I was quite satisfied with this beautifully shot romantic melodrama.  I should really write melodrama with a capital "M":  I didn't realise that Victorian authors other than Dickens were so much into co-incidence as a plot driver, but Hardy certainly was.  As reviewers have noted, the movie makes the story feel modern, but now having read a bit about Hardy's work more generally, I see he tended to upset quite a few with his take on marriage, women and sexuality.  (And he wasn't gay - something that the 1990's run of Merchant Ivory films has sort of conditioned me to expect for the source material of period drama.)

There's a very enthusiastic review of the film in Salon which I pretty much agree with, as well as fascinating article in The Conversation about some real life women who managed agricultural estates in that period.

The movie is well worth seeing - but if you are male, be prepared to be in an audience that is about 80% not of your gender, and to look out of place if you are there alone...

Noah Goes Psycho:   That's what they should have called that Noah movie from last year.  What a disaster, from concept to execution.   I just can't get my head around the point of it all:  reinventing a Bible story to make it a modern eco parable and in the process attempting to make some of it more "plausible" to modern minds (by the "drugging the animals" bit, so they don't eat each other) while making other bits more bizarrely improbable (rock encrusted angels - apparently the "giants in the earth" - but of somewhat uncertain allegiance; the Tolkien-esque CGI fighting off the hoards; not to mention the glowing Adam and Eve.)   In this movie, God sure has an oblique way of passing on messages to Noah, so much so that he seems not to understand the ultimate point at all and starts to go all serial killer.   And while the issue of God and "natural evil" may be one that a modern agnostic Greenie does not fret about in his or her love of all animals not human, surely any sensible post-Fall Old Testament figure would have worked out that nature as it is around them is not the same as it was meant to have been in the Garden of Eden?  

Look, getting into the mind of the authors of some of the Old Testament is a challenge as it is*; but I hardly see the point of making odd myth even stranger than it was originally.   None of this movie made sense at any level.  If you want a detailed explanation of where it invents things for no clear reason, you can check out  this article in Slate.

* Eg, no one seems to have a clue what the whole Noah getting drunk and being seen naked was all about, but the movie keeps it in, and indicates it's mere prudery.  So something that deserves some creative explanation doesn't get tackled at all.)

Jurassic World:   a lot of fun and a very worthy sequel; in fact, probably what should have been the only sequel to the original movie.  (I consider Lost World to be a one of Spielberg's worst, perhaps second only to Always, which I think is at the bottom by a country mile.  I haven't ever watched the whole of JP3, but it didn't seem too bad.)

The movie looks fantastic from the very start (that's one realistic dinosaur hatching that alone indicates how special effects have improved since the original) and the theme park setting as a whole looks completely convincing, no doubt due to the wonders of modern CGI when used to make realistic looking sets as opposed to gloomy, fantasy landscape.   (It also looks like it has a budget significantly bigger than the first film - but with the way they can fake crowds and buildings these days, who knows?)  The dinosaurs all look great and all, to my mind, significantly better than in the first film.  The least realistic looking thing - the oversized mosasaur - was still fun to watch.

The movie reminded me somewhat of the disaster films of the late 70's but with some mild modern skewering (the near kiss of the co-workers was quite witty), and it was about ten times better than any of Emmerich's awful films. 

Sure, it's not perfect, but well directed, likeable enough actors and moves with a pleasing amount of mayhem.

I really don't think they should try to re-visit it, but the huge success means they inevitably will. 

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