Today's reviews include a fantasy period thriller, a documentary about an archaeological find, and gender bending horror movie from Spain's greatest filmmaker. Let us begin:
IMMORTALS - Director Tarsem Singh (The Cell) has not exactly carved out a niche for himself as a critic's darling and nothing about Immortals is going to change that. It tells a wildly adapted version of the life of the hero Theseus from Greek mythology that bears very little resemblance to its source material most of the time. This sort of story can be very interesting accompanied by interesting choices. The choices in this movie mostly seem to be determined based upon how well they show off the production values, which are impressive but a bit over blown. The acting ensemble is similarly either vapid or overblown. Even talent like Mickey Rourke is left to just stand around and look menacing most of the time. Mount Olympus looks a little bit like a male modeling agency's float in a gay pride parade, but it certainly works on that level. The film shares some of its production team with the similar film 300, and the look and feel are much the same. Much of the camera work, sets and effects are beautiful, but they tend to overshadow, rather than complement, the story and performances. All in all, Immortals is very pretty to look at, but you are unlikely to call it back like you promised you would when you left the next morning. 2 1/2 of 5*.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams - Cave is a documentary by famed director Werner Herzog who rose to prominence in the 70's making narrative films like Aguirre, the Wrath of God. His career has had a 21st century Renaissance in the field of non-fiction film making. Here he gives us a front row seat to the archaeological find of the century: cave paintings dating back 30,000+ years, the earliest examples of artwork known to man. The camera work inside the cave is amazing, and the images of the paintings have a certain power to them, a very haunting quality. The exposition and interviews with experts outside of the cave are very interesting if slightly less engaging. This is a minor gripe, however, scientists are not noted for their sparkling and photogenic personalities. The paintings...extraordinary. 4 1/2 of 5*
The Skin I Live In - I love the work of Pedro Almodovar in general. His films always have an element of campy melodrama, like a John Water's flick, but more elegant. My favorite films of his also have some wacky element of the fantastic involved as well. Not since All About My Mother has a film of his seemed as free in this way as The Skin I Live In. It strained credibility right up to the edge of the cliff, but kept me invested in the story the whole way through. Antonio Banderas is never better than when working with the director who got him started and their chemistry as a team has not faded with time apart. Every twist in the plot came just seconds after any careful veiwer's moment of realization that it was coming, heightening the suspense. Unless subtitles give you hives, check it out. 5 out of 5*
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is also available on Netflix Instant Play.