The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians by the Turkish government between 1915 and 1923. Turkey has long denied that this took place, so the filmmakers take a rather soft approach to the story, setting out a romantic plotline with the genocide as a backdrop. So the resulting drama is somewhat uneven, but the events are so powerful that the film can't be ignored.
It opens in 1915 as the Ottoman Empire is collapsing. Mikael (Oscar Isaac) is a young Armenian studying medicine in Constantinople with a promised fiancee Maral (Angela Sarafyan) back home. Even so, he falls for Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), who shares his rural Armenian background. But she has a boyfriend, Chris (Christian Bale), who is investigating rumours of war as the Germans arrive to help the Turkish government round up its ethnic minorities. Mikael is soon arrested, but escapes from the work camp to return to his parents (Shohreh Aghdashloo and Kevork Malikyan) and Maral. Meanwhile, Chris and Ana are trying to report the story of what's really happening, and Mikael joins them to help a group of orphan refugees.
Yes, this is a sweeping epic in which there's a lot going on, and it's filmed on a lavish scale. The characters' lives continually intersect throughout the story, and the intensity of the wartime atrocities is seriously powerful. On the other hand, this makes the four-sided romance feel like a melodramatic distraction. The actors are solid, but the earnest tone undermines any real emotional edge. Isaac is sincere and decent, Le Bon is strong and wilful, Bale is solid and cynical, and Sarafyan is lost in the shuffle. Aghdashloo, as always, provides wrenching support.
Continue reading: The Promise Review
In Atlanta, TV fitness guru Jules (Diaz) is about to reveal that she's pregnant by her celebrity dance show partner Evan (Morrison). Meanwhile, Holly and Alex (Lopez and Santoro) are looking into adoption even though they're not sure they're ready; Wendy and Gary (Banks and Falcone) are finally expecting after trying for years, only to be upstaged by Gary's dad (Quaid) and his much younger wife (Decker); and food truck operators Rosie and Marco (Kendrick and Crawford) rekindle their teen romance with unexpected results.
Continue reading: What To Expect When You're Expecting Review
In 1954 Boston, Ted (DiCaprio) is a US Marshal heading with his new partner Chuck (Ruffalo) to the Shutter Island hospital for the criminally insane. A patient (Mortimer) has mysteriously disappeared, and the head doctor (Kingsley) is acting suspicious. So is everyone else for that matter. As Ted delves deeper into the mystery, which hints at a big conspiracy, he struggles with the implications these events have for his own life, including the death of his wife (Williams) and his experiences liberating Dachau at the end of the war.
Continue reading: Shutter Island Review
And forget every image of Vikings you've ever seen, these guys are less Scandinavian herdsman and more post-Apocalypse titans. Remember Humungous from The Road Warrior ("The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!")? Throw a few bear skins on that guy and give him a helmet made of twelve ram's horns and he could play every one of the Viking raiders in Pathfinder. I half expected MasterBlaster to come surging out of the primitive landscape.
Continue reading: Pathfinder Review
Chris Noonan's Miss Potter continues a rather long line of films that attempt to diagnose the creative process of a writer and the critical world that surrounds the writer's inherent social (emotional) ineptitude. There are moments where Miss Potter seems to be on the right track in feeling out the emotional trajectory of its main character, but it often chooses the route of greater cuteness over the challenges of trying to study the life of a writer.
Beatrix Potter (Renée Zellweger) came from a well-off family and was well past her marriage date when three brothers agreed to publish her book, expecting nothing more than a minor profit. In case the name doesn't ring a bell, Miss Potter was the brains behind the beloved Peter Rabbit and several other indelible creatures of delightful fantasy. When the elder statesmen of the publishing firm deem the project unworthy of their time, they send their young brother (Ewan McGregor), to handle the book and its flighty author. As you may guess, the two fall head-over-heels, much to the chagrin of Beatrix's parents (Bill Patterson and Barbara Flynn) and to the glee of his sister (Emily Watson, the film's most evident charm factory).
Noonan, best known for the now classic Babe, treats his subject with the same well-dressed adorability that Potter gave her creatures, most notably Peter. A more easygoing version of Marc Forster's Finding Neverland, Miss Potter spends more time striving to deal with the relationship status of its heroine than delving into the quixotic charm of her writing process. The better parts of the film are the flourishes of animated hallucinogenics that Noonan puts in as a reminder of where these creations came from: Beatrix's parlor of emotional eccentricities.
The problem is that, when push comes to shove, we've seen Potter's story before, and Miss Potter is severely lacking in trying to differentiate its source material from any other classically-tinted story of love and writing. Acting-wise, there couldn't be a sweeter bunch of actors to add to the candy-coated shell the film inhabits. But the film invariably goes for impenetrable cuteness, even when a rather obvious tragedy occurs. In fact, all the drama that arises seems to be treated with fumbling, patronizing dullness to give more ample weight to what is a rather wanting character study.
Rereading the Peter Rabbit books, you have to marvel at the simplicity and class that the books had in telling a story with a solid moral. What Miss Potter doesn't have is the creative veil that Potter herself gave these wonderful stories. The film could have been so detailed and surreal, yet it relies on whimsy like the animated whirl of Beatrix's parents stepping into a cartoon pumpkin led by four monstrous rabbits. It is missing that childlike love for nature and animals that Beatrix must have had, and in turn, forgets what it's like to have an imagination.
Not Harry's mom.
Sachar's antihero is Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia LaBeouf), an affable but luckless teen who's accused of a crime he did not commit and ordered to serve his sentence at Camp Green Lake, a Texas labor camp that's neither green nor near any lake. Instead of archery and crafts, the inmates spend their days digging holes under the watchful eye of crusty Mr. Sir (Jon Voight). His boss, Warden Walker (Sigourney Weaver), seeks something of value under the camp and needs the boys to keep tunneling until the unidentified treasure is found.
Continue reading: Holes Review
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