Today's reviews include an unlikely German love story, an animated mystery adventure suitable for the whole family, and an experimental indie drama. And awaaaay we go...
The Future - The Future tells the story of a couple in their thirties who contemplate adopting a cat and end up throwing away everything they actually have in their lives in an effort to grasp some illusory life they fear they are missing. Writer/director/star Miranda July fills the movie with numerous twists and interesting storytelling flourishes, but sometimes comes off as trying to be weird just for weirdness's sake. The bigger problem, however, lies in the acting performances. Both July and co-star Hamish Linklater (best known for TV's The New Adventures of Old Christine) seem to almost be sleepwalking through their lives at times. I'm all for subtlety in acting, but they almost seem bored. Linklater is perhaps better suited for comedy. July (as I've said of another young writer/director/actor recently) would perhaps benefit from working under someone else's direction a bit more before she tries to direct herself.
That being said, the film does have a certain charm and is not without some great moments: all the voice-over narration by the cat, the stretch garment dance (you'll know it when you see it), and the scene where Linklater has to restart the tides to name just a few. Ultimately, however, July's sophomore feature film shows a lot of promise and creativity, but fails to quite come together, largely due to the actor's dispassionate displays of passion. Available on DVD. 3 1/2 of 5*
The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn - Steven Spielberg had a busy year in 2011. He produced Super 8, and directed both War Horse and this, his first ever animated feature. Super 8 was a mixed bag for me, and War Horse a mild disappointment, but I definitely saved the best for last with Tin Tin.
How do you make a cartoon about a boy and his dog capture more of the excitement of Raiders of the Lost Ark than the last Indiana Jones movie did? If I knew, I'D be Spielberg, but somehow he did it. This mystery/adventure spans the globe and is filled with excitement and suspense. Classic source material doesn't hurt. I must admit to being unfamiliar with the original Tin Tin comics, but this movie has certainly piqued my interest in them. I hope that so-so domestic box office doesn't prevent this franchise from continuing. There were a couple of silly, kid-toonish moments, but overall I think that adults will enjoy this film just as much as kids.
The motion capture animation is perhaps the best that I have seen. It is almost creepily realistic. It is a shame that the Academy's reticence to embrace new technologies kept Tin Tin out of the animated feature race this year as it is the only 2011 animated film I have seen that could have given Rango a real run for its money.
I can't end this review without tipping my hat to the excellent acting work done by the entire cast, particularly Jamie Bell and the master of mo-cap, Andy Serkis. It is high time that the Oscars add a fifth acting category to reward work done in motion capture and voice over work. Bell and Serkis for this film, Depp for Rango, and Serkis again for Rise of the Planet of the Apes would have made for strong competition this past year, and made all Serkis's fans who petitioned for a Best Supporting Actor nod put down their pitchforks and torches.
I highly recommend that you watch Tin Tin and share it with any kids in your life. Available on DVD. 4 1/2 of 5*
3 - NOT a film for kids, but still quite a good one, 3 is the story of a (well, mostly) heterosexual couple in in their 40's who unknowingly both begin an affair with the same thirtysomething man. Both the level of coincidence at play here and aspects of how the film end (I'm not saying anymore) challenge plausibility a bit, but the script and the acting are strong enough to overcome this minor complaint for the most part.
American audiences are most familiar with writer/director Tom Twyker from his excellent 1998 film: Run Lola Run. 3 creates an atmosphere that is quirky but captivating like Lola, but slowed down a bit, given a moment to marinate here and there. It also relies far less upon showy directorial flourishes than the earlier film, perhaps a sign of maturation on Twyker's part. This year, we will see this film maker's first English language feature: Cloud Atlas. I for one can't wait.
I am not really familiar with the careers of any of the principle actors prior to this film, but it would be unfair of me not to complement the work that they do here. All three are completely believable, breathing life into a story that would be hard to swallow in the hands of lesser performers. Available on DVD and Netflix Instant Play 4 of 5*