Like Water for Chocolate

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Up front, it should be noted that transfer of the DVD was substandard so the visual quality of the film was hurt–a shame when you’re talking magic realism. Immediate reaction was that this was Jane Austin in turn of the century Mexico, except with sex. But the lack of the main character’s ability to choose the life she wants for herself based on social convention was frustrating and, worse, she really makes bad choices–though I don’t think we’re supposed to believe so. Even when presented with clear evidence of who and what love really is, she continues to deny herself happiness and, when finally she provides the grand gesture of the finale, all we could do was wonder why and think she was foolish and selfish. We absolutely believe in grand love and huge gesutures, and have written some, but this just didn’t feel right. Somewhere in here there was a good story and movie, but perhaps we’d need to read the book to truly appreciate the intention.

But I’m a Cheeleader

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A little better than the rating, but overall, this is a slightly black-comedy look at reprogramming camps (and “camp” is the operative word here). Just a little too much over-the-top to rise above the well-trod material, even when filmed 11 years ago. A surprising cast of people, many of whom were not well known at the time also makes it a fun Where’s Waldo hunt for actors. If you want some silly entertainment on the subject of personal identity and choice, give it a shot.

The Book of Eli

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This is a soft 3 stars despite brilliant cinematography and solid performances. It all comes down to the plot and (potential) message. You should make up your own mind, if you have the time, but despite some good moments and a non-jaundiced view of survival and more than a little echo of Mad Max, the ultimate outcomes and driving motives are left suspect in my own personal set of beliefs and mores. Enough so that I was left with a slight taste of bile in my mouth. I imagine there are interpretations that would not elicit such a negative response, and perhaps I’ll eventually get there, but the initial reaction was not good and required some rationalization and apologies on our side to not be disappointed.

Me and Orson Wells

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I really wanted to like this more than I did. I mean, Orson Wells, Joseph Cotton, the advent of the Mercury theatre, pre WWII NYC, what could go wrong? In a word or two: Zac Efron. To be fair, how much of his failure is directing is hard to pull apart. His fresh-faced, non-gravitas was supposed to be endearing amidst the cuthroat entertainment scene, but it came off as lack of ability until near the very end, but by then it was way too late. Ultimately I had wanted this to be a companion piece to Cradle Will Rock (a truly spectactular view of the other end of this legend’s era). But the few glimpses we get into the genius that was Wells and the slimey under-belly of Broadway, and the creative impulse, and rites of passage never really gel… they just stay a sort of gooey mess that you don’t mind too much, but you’re not going to keep it around your kitchen for long.

Sping, Summer, Winter, Fall… and Spring

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This is a heavy 3, verging on 4 stars. The story isn’t overly surprising, but it is told honestly and with very minimal dialogue. Visually it is wonderful. However, I can’t help but feel that if I knew more about Korean culture and Bhuddism, specifically, that a ton of symbolism in the movie would open up to me. It felt like we skipped along the suface of this movie, much like the lake upon which most of the action takes place. Is that a drawback or impetus to research? That will be up to you. Glad it was recommended to us… now we recommend to you…

Alice in Wonderland (2009)

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Tim Burton through and through and a decidedly non-Disney feel despite the studio support. Given the problematic material, this reimagining/sequal is entertaining and has some truly wonderful performances. As a whole, it is prettier to look at than it is a good movie, but it is more of a romp than it is a movie to begin with–that Burton managed to provide a good arc amidst the madness is impressive.

Art, writing, life explained… or at least commented upon…