Monday, November 19, 2012

Promarlius Kingdom

     These DVD reviews include a modern day fable of the innocence of youth, a cynical science fiction take on the meaning of life, and a powerful documentary about a musical innovator who became the international voice of a nation.  That voice was...

  Marley - I have never been a huge fan of reggae music.  I definitely had an appreciation for Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the basic knowledge of ten or fifteen of their best known songs.  A few of them I have always considered pretty great songs.  So my level of interest going into this nearly two and a half hour biodoc was questionable and I feel I was prepared to judge the movie on its own merits since I wasn't really rooting for or against it.
     Director Kevin MacDonald was a successful documentarian (Touching the Void, 2003), who made a promising foray into narrative cinema (The Last King of Scotland, 2006) that might have lasted a little too long (The Eagle, 2011).  I am happy to report that Marley is a triumphant return to documentary film making, a real pleasure to watch.
     Admittedly, the first hour does seem to ramble a little, and did not captivate me nearly as much as the latter half of the film did.  However, I'm not sure that the end of the film would have packed as much punch with less set up.  If you did not see HOW humble Mr. Marley's beginnings were you wouldn't appreciate how much he overcame to become the man he did.
     Marley is an entrancing picture by the end, one that clearly indicates what was important about this man.  He did not become just the most eminent representative of his genre of music, but of a religion, and a nation.  I never really appreciated how much of an effect he had on the world.  If you are a fan, chances are it is already on your must see list.  If it's not, unless you just DETEST reggae, I would unreservedly recommend checking it out.  4 1/2 of 5 stars.

    Moonrise Kingdom - The works of Wes Anderson run a little hot and cold with me, but I think this may be his best feature (well, certainly, LIVE action feature) since The Royal Tennenbaums.  I'm not sure exactly what it was that made this one click for me.  It did have the perfect ensemble supporting cast of adults, who were all pretty equally excellent.  If I did have to pick one stand out it would probably be Bill Murray, but he does have a couple of unfair advantages.  "Moonrise" being his fifth collaboration with director Anderson, Murray has had a lot of practice with the conventions of the film maker's private universe.  Moreover, it almost seems that the world inside Anderson's head is one in which everyone speaks and behaves in a way very similar to Murray's signature persona:  dry humor and intense dispassion.
     Most of Anderson's pictures tend to be star-studded affairs, and it was sort of refreshing to see two relative unknowns (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) lead this film's cast.  They could easily have been true creatures of the film's world, newly hatched and quirky by nature.
     The look of this film is very unique, with a sepia tone to all the visual elements.  Robert D. Yeoman's cinematography work is really excellent here.  He and Anderson work together to create numerous little tableau's in the film, moments that call to mind sources as divergent as The Last Supper and The Shawshank Redemption.  Alexandre Desplat's scoring is brilliant as usual, enhancing the mood of each scene without overpowering the story.
     My only complaint with the film is that, for some reason, it started to drag for me in the last half hour or so.  Maybe the novelty of this little world and its inhabitants began to wear off a little, maybe the film's thematic development never quite came together for me.  I'm not sure.
     Moonrise Kingdom is a serious contender in several awards races this year, Original Screenplay probably being its strongest category.  It could crack Best Picture, Score, or Cinematography as well.  It may well be deserving of a nod in Production Design, but actually getting one seems a bit far fetched at present.  Though this film did not quite reach the heights of Royal Tennenbaums or Rushmore, it came very close, a sort of light to "Royal"'s relative darkness.  4 1/2 of 5*

  Prometheus - Maybe I  went into this one with greater expectations than was fair, but you have too forgive me on that point.  A prequel to Alien?  By an Oscar winning director (Ridley Scott), who had already made the first (and only the first) film in the franchise over forty years ago?  Throw in three powerful lead performers, and a story centered around the origins of mankind and what's not to like?  Well, "like" is pretty much all I could muster in the way of enthusiasm.
    Of aforementioned three leads, only Fassbender really impresses, as the politely sinister android David.  This is Noomi Rapace's first English language feature, so perhaps we must be a little lenient on her faltering accent, Theron suffers from comparison to her performance in Snow White and the Huntsman.  Again, expectations.
     Basically, Prometheus has this great concept and set-up, but completely fails to utilize these in a sustainable way.  It boasts some impressive visual effects, and all of the craft elements are commendable, but the script fails to deliver on its initial promise.  3 of 5*

Related articles: Sept. Oscar Buzz and Predictions - The Techs: Part 1Part 2The GenresScreenplaysSupporting PerformersDirectors, and PictureThe Best Huntsman's Shadow, (Snow White and the Huntsman review)

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