"Snow White and the Huntsman" (*1/2)
Directed by Rupert Sanders
I took the effort to revisit Tarsem Singh's own take on the fable, "Mirror Mirror", before sitting in on "Snow White and the Huntsman", and though I don't wish to file comparison, it's pretty clear that the latter has much less enthusiasm in its cogs. I think it's pretty clear when a filmmaking crew is having fun, and when they're not. This film seems like rather drudging work. It takes real emotional effort to make something this cinematically dull. Lacking any color or levity, but not possessing any real emotional tether to proceedings, people die and battles wage, for no purpose. What's more, it feels like the actors are just too consumed by the ham of the dialogue and lacking intellect of the script to really put in any effort. This film just feels entirely effortless, and not in a positive manner.
"Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" (**)
Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon
Dreamworks has made a pretty good name for itself across the past few years for making wild and crazy films, filled with popping shenanigans, but not overtly kiddie as to not appeal to the adults. "Madagascar 3" shatters that a bit, throwing about the same shenanigans, but this time strictly playing to the children's crowd from which most of its box office is growing from. It feels like we're coming into a half completed story, and they don't feel the need to make us care about these characters any more. They don't put in nearly enough heart, which they quite oddly had plenty of in "Madagascar 2". It feels like a conclusion for the sake of concluding, and not for the sake of closure, or smart entertainment. The kids? They'll love it, and they already do. It's us who aren't gonna have a good time with it.
Directed by Liza Johnson
The lower-class family drama is in desperate need of a retooling, given the manipulative situation that it finds itself in. "Return", like so many of its kind, seems to feel like it doesn't have to work for meanings, and that they're naturally there. That's not to say anything is done awful, but from start to finish, everything in "Return" is typical of the genre. Linda Cardellini is the standout, but even that seems a given, and the typicality of it drains the film of its life. It stops finding its emotional answers a good fifteen minutes into it. After the halfway point, there's really little reason to go on, and the excuses it gives are quite honestly poor. This type of filmmaking needs a new direction.
"Romeo + Juliet" (****)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
While on the subject of liveliness in cinema, one film I revisited this week that is in absolutely no need of more is Baz Luhrmann's take on the foremost recognized Shakespeare novel. Crazy, ridiculous, and teetering on the edge of obnoxious, "Romeo + Juliet" is subsequently never out of ideas. They are bursting through the seams, giving new relevance to those lifeless words Shakespeare wrote so long ago. The romance is as foolhardy as ever, and Baz is absolutely in love with that notion. The film revels in a gorgeous fit of beauty, rage, passion, and unbridled energy. It bursts for attention, and if you're giving it, you're finding something quite special. Baz is one of the foremost visual stylists working today, and that shows in all his work, this included.