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Dolittle (2020)

Here’s the revelation of the new year: I didn’t hate Dolittle. In fact, I kind of admire it and mostly enjoyed it. Given the advertising, bad buzz, and mountain of critical pans, I was expecting very little from this movie, so perhaps it chiefly benefited from dramatically lowered expectations, but I feel comfortable going on the record in the Dolittle fan club. Robert Downey Jr. stars as the magical vet and adventurer who can speak with animals, and for the first 15 minutes or so, I was laughing at this movie and shaking my head. There’s a moment where Dolittle, a gorilla that just showed its backside while playing chess, and a duck are laughing uproariously in their own languages, and the moment holds awkwardly and it was so weird. After 15 minutes, I began to adjust to the movie’s wavelength and I began to appreciate how committed to being weird the movie was. This is not exactly a movie that aims for a safe broad mass appeal, even though it has familiar messages of family, acceptance of loss, and confronting personal fears. It takes chances on alienating humor. You could take any incident from this movie, including its finale that literally involves disimpacting a dragon’s clogged bowels, and on paper, without context, it would be the dumbest thing you could imagine. However, when thrown into a movie that never takes itself seriously, that is actively, almost defiantly being weird (a joke about a whale flipping off humans with its fin made me cackle), the things you might mock take on a new charm. Director/co-writer Stephen Gaghan has worked in Hollywood for years and given the world Traffic and Syriana, so he knows his way around working within a studio system. Dolittle at times feels like a live-action Aardman movie with its anarchic spirit. Downey Jr. (Avengers: Endgame) bumbles and mumbles in a thick Welsh accent that he may regret but he’s fully committed. Michael Sheen (Good Omens) is a delight as a seafaring antagonist, and he knows exactly what kind of movie he’s part of. The animal CGI can be a little dodgy at times for a movie this expensive and not every jokey aside works but enough of them did to win me over. I’m under no illusions that a majority of people will just scoff at Dolittle and never give it a chance, and I thought I was ready to join their ranks, but then a funny thing happened when I sat down to watch the movie and accepted it on its own silly terms. I had fun, and I know there will be others that do as well. It may be a disaster to many but to me it’s a beautiful mess.

Nate’s Grade: C+

Bridget Jones’ Baby (2016)

bjb-adv1sheet-rgb-1-57ab705f117b2-1Coming 12 years after the last Bridget Jones outing, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how warm my feelings still were for this plucky, feisty heroine. Now in her mid/late 40s, Bridget is contemplating a life never becoming a mother when, surprise, she gets very pregnant and has two possible fathers: billionaire love guru Jack (Patrick Dempsey) or her newly available on-again off-again beau, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). It’s a frothy plot contrivance but the screenwriters (including author Helen Fielding and co-star Emma Thompson) are able to produce fun comic scenarios that fully embrace the premise and its soapy conflicts. Bridget has two pretty appealing options, and when both men finally discover the possibility of the other, it becomes an entertaining game of one-upsmanship. The requisite romantic comedy elements don’t forget to be funny too, including an ending rush to the hospital that achieves some inspired slapstick. The film is swiftly paced and filled with zingers, and I just sat back for the two-plus hours and enjoyed the company of these silly yet realistic human beings. I enjoyed the adult humor and conversations that rarely get as much development in this genre. With all her self-sabotaging ways, you come to realize how much of a prize Miss Bridget is, and Zellweger slips right back into the role like no time has passed. However, plenty will grumble about Zellweger’s much-publicized plastic surgery, or the fact that she didn’t pack on the pounds for this picture, but I don’t see why any of that greatly matters in the interpretation of this character. The personality of Bridget is more than the alignment of her facial features. For fans of the series, Bridget Jones’ Baby is a welcomed return to form from 2004’s Edge of Reason and an extra dose of enjoyable fan service, tying up its tidy happy ending with a bow. Here’s something to chew over: my father had no prior knowledge of the Bridget Jones series, decided to see this movie, and enjoyed it thusly. Give Bridget Jones and her baby daddy drama a chance and you too may be surprised.

Nate’s Grade: B

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Not every film franchise gets to a sixth installment, although Police Academy and Friday the Thirteenth managed to. After over twelve hours of storytelling, is it even possible for non-fans to enter the Harry Potter world (only an idiot would begin a film series at number six)? I am a willful Muggle to this universe. I am content to wait for the movies, and it drives the readers nuts. “The books are so much better,” they all say. Then they tell me what was left out of the movies, and honestly it’s usually a good thing. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince echoes the increasing darkness of the later books by author J.K. Rowling, but now I can finally walk out of a Potter film and know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the book must have been superior. Half-Blood Prince is a film adaptation that spends too much time in all the wrong places.

Lord Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes, seen only for literally a split-second) is back with a vengeance, and his followers, Death Eaters, are branching out and attacking the Muggle world as well. Headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) has asked Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) for help in recruiting a former Hogwarts professor. Horace Slughorn (Jim Boradbent) used to be an esteemed potions professor, and one of his bright students was none other than a young Voldermort (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Fienne’s real-life nephew). Dumbledore and Harry explore liquid memories that belong to the Dark Lord in hopes of learning how to defeat him. In the meantime, the kids are under attack not by Voldermort but by hormones. Harry’s friend, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), are secretly in love but neither has the heart to say something. Ron uses his star Quidditch status to “snog” with the eager Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), who’s infatuated with Ron. This infuriates Hermione and she seeks comfort in a studly student herself. Harry is starting to feel his heart go pitter-patter for Ron’s sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright), which requires Harry to be very delicate in negotiating the “Can I snog your little sister?” portion of male friendship. Oh yeah, and apparently Harry is also using a potions textbook that used to belong to some whiz kid known as the Half-Blood Prince.

The further I get away from Half-Blood Prince the more certain I am that it is the least involving film of the series. The plot is somewhat nebulous and unclear, and so much of the story is dominated by boring teenage romance. I understand that Hogwarts is swimming in hormones, but these kids spend the whole time making shifty doe-eyes at each other than doing anything substantial. That makes for a boring romance, and when the movie is dominated by this stuff for two hours it doesn’t make the movie too engaging. I understand that the Ron/Hermione courtship has been setup for some time, but it takes forever to move even incrementally closer to that coupledom. The Harry/Ginny material is lacking at best. She’s such an empty presence and they do so little with her character that I have no idea what would warrant Harry’s affections. There is no spark, no heat, no sexual tension, and no interest. I was actually relieved when Half-Blood Prince drops practically every storyline with twenty minutes left. Seriously, these plotlines aren’t resolved or capped or even addressed, they just don’t exist once Harry learns the word “horacrux.” And let’s talk about that subject just for a moment. Dumbledore lures Professor Slughorn back to Hogwarts so Harry can learn Voldermort’s secret of eternal life, a secret that Dumbledore already knows because he’s been taking leaves to locate and destroy Voldy’s horacruxes. I felt detached and disenchanted throughout Half-Blood Prince.

There are other plot holes and irregularities, and I wonder if writer Steve Kloves (who took the fifth movie off) is merely serving up 153 minutes of plodding prologue for the big finish. The drama is becoming more static and the supporting characters of previous installments reappear and do little but stand with hands in their pockets; they have nothing to do. The flashbacks to Voldermort as a child reveal relatively nothing new; only indicating her was a creepy kid. The two action sequences squeezed in are not from the book, meaning Kloves was trying to add some excitement to what is a rather sleepwalking storyline. The action sequences mean little; the opening attack on London’s Millennium bridge offers some nice sights but little consequence, and the destruction of the Weasely house comes across like Kloves was grasping for greater conflict. Too much of his film is the young love foibles with the occasional sideways glance at Draco (Tom Felton) brooding in the shadows. The ending, with its notable death, still strikes an emotional cord but it also comes across as rushed and without depth and resolve.

What is the significance of the Half-Blood Prince in this adaptation? The mysterious figure was good in potions class and his old textbook helps Harry in class. That is it! The late reveal of the identity of the Half-Blood Prince is so incidental and off-the-cuff, that the actor practically has to say, “Hey, remember that whole Prince thing like an hour ago? That’s me. Yep. So see ya.” It’s such an indifferent plotline handled with such indifference. I had to ask my Potter-versed wife why Rowling would even bother naming the book after such a minor, irrelevant plot footnote. Kloves’ adaptation feels lost and mostly like filler.

So why does a slower, less coherent, less interesting Harry Potter rank better than the first two films? Because director David Yates takes an artistic step forward and this addition has style to spare. Returning to the Potter director’s chair, Yates has a stronger feel for the world and creates striking film compositions with the added help of noir cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie, Across the Universe) and the foreboding production design by Stuart Craig. The sets have a grand Gothic appeal and help compensate in tone for what is lacking in the screenplay. The opening bridge attack allows for soaring flights through London and then into the magic world, and it’s a great opening visual rush. The memory flashbacks have splendid visual artistry to them as we watch inky brush strokes coalesce into solidified images. It’s a fantastic special effect and it is welcomed every time. This isn’t one of the more special effects heavy installments but the effects are as good as ever especially when seen through Delbonnel’s lens.

It’s interesting to have watched the three main actors grow up in their roles, which also gives them the ability to revert to autopilot when the movie lags. In the Half-Blood Prince, the trio burrows back into previous acting episodes. Radcliffe gets talked to a lot so much of his acting in this jaunt seems to involve intense bouts of nodding. He does have one sequence of exaggerated comedy when he swallows a luck potion, and the actor feels delightfully unrestrained. Grint gets the most screen time he’s had in ages and continues to dial up the daffy humor. As I stated with my review of Order of the Phoenix, I think Watson began as the best actor of the trio and is now on a fast-paced downward slide. Her character gets to experience jealousy and heartache, and Watson shows some ability to convey mixed emotion. The most interesting actor of all the kids is Felton, who I found to be surprisingly empathetic. He’s tortured over his fate, a mission given to him by the Dark Lord. He’s torn apart by moral indecision and a sense of duty. That’s way more interesting than watching Ron and Hermione try to make each other jealous. Why didn’t Kloves devote more time to the anguish of Draco? That’s where the drama is. There just isn’t much room for character growth and acting in the rest of Half-Blood Prince. The best acting award goes to Broadbent (Moulin Rouge, Hot Fuzz). He conveys the regret of Slughorn with every manner and gesture. His sad, poignant confession is oddly the emotional highlight in a movie that includes a momentous death later.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince feels like a half-hearted adaptation, with way too much time spent on tepid teen romance. This is the most visually arresting Potter film next to 2004’s Prisoner of Azkaban, but it just fumbles the storytelling. The sixth film is too often boring and inconsequential. Too much of the film feels like it was purely made for the die-hard Potterheads, and if any Muggles have questions of clarity they are required to seek out a friend to ask. This is just sloppy writing. It feels like everyone is just busying themselves before the sprint to the big finale. We’re just about at the end of the long winding road that is Harry Potter, though I’m sure the fact that the producers are splitting the final book into two movies likely will not mean that the individual movies can finally have a two-hour running time. Half-Blood Prince would have greatly benefited by being shorter, more precise, and more significant; the 16-year-old romantic squabbles seem so slight in the backdrop of Voldermort and his army on the rise. I’ll give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but this is not a Potter venture I’ll likely return to again. It just doesn’t measure up when it comes to movie magic.

Nate’s Grade: B-

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

I have never read one single word from C.S. Lewis’ classic children?s tales, The Chronicles of Narnia. I have never read one word from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings tomes either. I read five pages in Dune and returned it to the library (50-page glossary of vernacular my ass!). I have also never read one word of any Harry Potter book, and I’m quite all right with that. I have several friends that were consumed by Lewis’ series in their childhoods and now are consumed by J.K. Rowling’s series. I don’t confess to be geek-free; I read the Shanara series by Terry Brooks when I was in junior high. I collected comic books, I watched cartoons, I still do both to an extent, but I suppose I left the fantasy genre with my appreciation for flannel all the way back in junior high (I also discovered women). Whenever I enter a fantasy film I bring with me no baggage. And so I strolled into The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe ready to be entertained by a good story, whether Lewis, a big Christian theologian and author, was advancing some kind of Christian allegory or not. After seeing all 125 minutes, it’s safe to say I’ll be in line for any potential sequels.

In the heat of WWII, the Pevensie children are being transported out of London to live with a kindly professor (Jim Broadbent) on a safe rural farm. Peter (William Moseley) is the oldest and assumes the leader position vacated by their departed father. Susan (Anna Popplewell) is the brainiest, Edmund (Skandar Keynes) is the moodiest, and little Lucy (Georgie Henley) is the precocious true believer.

One day during a game of hide and seek Lucy hides in an upstairs wardrobe. To her delight and amazement, she is transported to a magical, snow-covered realm known as Narnia. She encounters a faun, half man-half hoofed animal, named Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy). He’s shocked to see a live human girl before his eyes and invites her for tea. There’s an old prophecy that says when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve arrive then the 100-year winter will end. The evil White Witch (Tilda Swinton), the one ruling Narnia with an icy fist, wants the humans captured and dead so she can rule forever. Lucy tells her siblings about her amazing adventures but they don?t believer her, that is, until they all tumble forth into the land of Narnia. The older kids mostly want to return home, but Edmund has sold them out by aligning with the White Witch. Now they’re on the run from her pack of wolves and the Pevensie children must seek out the powerful Aslan (voiced by Liam Neeson), a heroic lion who is all that stands in the way of the White Witch.

I declare my undying love for Tilda Swinton, truly the best character actress we have working today. Swinton already gave one bizarre yet outstanding performance this year as the androgynous angel Gabriel in Constantine (Swinton does androgyny better than anyone else; hell, she was convincing as a man and a woman in Orlando). In Narnia, Swinton exhumes a chilly command that could make you stand at attention. She’s such a hostile, icy, stone-faced villain, and Swinton has such calm confidence the whole time. She preens like a rock star and has the oversized ego to boot. She’s the kind of bad girl you could really fall in love with, especially if you have monstrous maternal issues.

The rest of the actors are mostly good. Henley steals every scene she’s in, and I’m not talking about the added attention of her suitable British choppers (my apologies to U.K. readership). Neeson seems a little bored with yet another wise teacher role just this year. I would be more interested in hearing the original voice of Aslan, the stupendous Brian Cox (Troy). McAvoy has a gentle sweetness to him.

Director Andrew Adamson integrates the flashy computer effects with surgical-like precision. Adamson?s experience as co-director for the Shrek films has given him the know-how to coordinate massive effects sight unseen and still coherently direct his live-action actors (ahem, George Lucas, ahem). The special effects in Narnia are outstanding. The characters move and behave with staggering authenticity (I know most of these creatures are mythical and have no comparison). The vistas and landscapes are beautiful, particularly the winter wonderland of Narnia. Adamson has a keen eye for visuals and lavishly recreates his visions; the climactic battle is bloodless but no less exciting.

Most of the story flaws come from the source material. Narnia lacks the epic scope of the Lord of the Rings movies as well as the seriousness. As a result, no one feels very much in danger even during the more harrowing moments of battle. Lucy’s gift of “resurrection juice” kind of let’s the air out of the tension balloon. What suspense is there if a character has a magical healing elixir they can just whip out? The two girls are removed from the final battle and have little impact on its outcome. The White Witch’s tactic of freezing her enemies instead of killing them seems to be foolish, especially when they can be thawed at inopportune times. A major character’s sacrifice seems a tad superfluous if he can just reappear, lickity split like he had an extra life. Lots of secondary characters get the shrift when it comes to characterization, so you feel less than you should when something happens to them; this is even further hampered by Lucy’s Jesus Juice.

There’s a real genial sense of magic to Narnia. When little Lucy first transports to this magic realm, her face lights up in that adorable cherubic way, she wafts through the falling snow, catching it with her hands. Her moments with Mr. Tumnus are note-perfect from the dialogue, to the vocal inflections, to where the scene leads. Their relationship is very tender and provides some of the film’s best moments. Looking back, I can pick apart the movie, but while I was sitting in my theater I was deeply surprised how affected I was. I felt their fear, I felt their sorrow, and most of all I felt some sense of magic. The logic part of my brain was telling me how silly it was to see Santa Claus, let alone witness jolly ole Saint Nick handing out weapons for all the little good girls and boys (“Ho ho ho, kill ’em good for Santa.”). Yet while I watched I never questioned these things. The power of Narnia had taken full hold of me and I was swallowed whole by its tale.

Narnia is a good entry point for children in the world of fantasy. It’s suspenseful without being scary, and familiar without being too simplistic. Unlike Tolkien’s complicated worlds and heavy tales, Narnia is more a children’s story, what with the inclusion of unicorns, centaurs, fauns, and a menagerie of talking animals. There’s the suitable kid fantasy, like becoming king and fighting monsters, but there’s also a focus on family reconciliation and being accountable for your own actions. This isn’t a story that will overwhelm its audience but will leave them hungry for more adventures. The characters are mostly sketches (the leader who doesn’t want to be a leader, the overly logical one, the disaffected youth constrained by too much discipline, the little believer in the unknown), so it’s a testament to the filmmakers that the story and the characters have as much resonance as they do. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe sets up the parameters of the Narnia universe and its inhabitants and now future sequels can add meat to this bare skeleton. Narnia is a fantasy film the whole family can enjoy.

The Christian allegories and metaphors mostly fly under the radar, with the exception of one extremely obvious scene that might make Mel Gibson wince. I even think Narnia is better enjoyed as a straight-up story than as an elaborate series of codes and messages harkening toward Christianity. If you view Narnia with the intent to break down its meaning and supplant connection to the Bible, then you’re really missing out on some great storytelling. And Narnia isn’t outwardly religious; it’s mostly a film preaching good values rather than simply good Christian values. Most of the lessons and values taught within Narnia are universally applicable to all people.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a superbly entertaining retelling of C.S. Lewis’ classic children’s series. Adamson connects all the expected fantasy dots while seamlessly incorporating awe-inspiring special effects. The bountiful imagination up onscreen is the film’s biggest charm, rendering a divine touch of magic to the finished proceedings. Despite any better judgment pointing out the simplicity of the tale and characters, the production is first class and compelling. I was completely surprised how affecting I found the film and how immersed I became. This is great storytelling aided by gifted storytellers. Narnia is bigger than a family film, more accessible than a “Christian movie,” and more entertaining and endearing than most films released this year by Hollywood.

Nate’s Grade: B

Gangs of New York (2002)

Watching Martin Scorsese’’s long-in-the-making ‘Gangs of New York’ is like watching a 12-round bout between two weary and staggering prize fighters. You witness the onslaught of blows, see the momentum change several times, and in the end can’t really tell which fighter is victorious. This is the experience of watching ‘Gangs of New York’, and the two fighters are called “Ambitions” and “Flaws.”

The film begins in the Five Points district of 1840s New York among a vivid gang war over turf. Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) witnesses the slaying of his father, Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson), at the blade of William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his “Native” Americans gang. So what does this son of a dead preacher-man do? Well he grows up, plots revenge by making a name under the wing of the Butcher becoming like a surrogate son. But will vengeance consume him?

Watch Leo DiCaprio assemble toughs, rake heels, and ne’’er do wells to his Irish gang of rapscallions with facial hair that looks to be tweezed! Witness a one-dimensional Leo suck the life out of the film like a black hole! See Leo become the least frightening gangster since Fredo. Watch the horribly miscast Cameron Diaz play pin-the-tail-on-an-accent! Witness as she tries to play a pickpocket with a heart of gold that falls hopelessly and illogically in love with Leo! Marvel how someone looking like Diaz would exist in a mangy slum! See the brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis upstage our stupid hero and steal every scene he inhabits! Witness one of the greatest villains in the last decade of movies! Watch Day-Lewis almost single-handedly compensate for the film’s flaws with his virtuoso performance! Admire his stove-top hat and handlebar mustache!

Witness a wonderful supporting cast including John C. Reilly, Jim Broadbent and Brendan Gleeson! Wish that they had more screen time to work with! Wonder to yourself why in all good graces this film took nearly two years of delays to get out! Speculate away!

‘Gangs’ has the sharp aroma of a film heavily interfered with by its producers. The whole exercise feels like Scorsese being compromised. ‘Gangs’ is a meticulous recreation of 1860s New York that often evokes an epic sense of awe. The story has more resonance when it flashes to small yet tasty historical asides, like the dueling fire houses and the Draft Riots. But all of these interesting tidbits get pushed aside for our pedantic revenge storyline with Leo front and center. You know the producers wanted a more commercial storyline, which probably explains why Diaz has anything to do with this.

The script is credited to longtime Scorsese collaborator Jay Cocks, Steven Zallian (Academy Award winner for ‘Schindler’’s List’) and Kenneth Lonergan (Academy award nominee for ‘You Can Count on Me’). So with all these writing credentials, don’t you think one of them would realize all of the dumb things going on with the story? The ending is also very anticlimactic and ham-fisted. Just watch as we segue from a graveyard to present day New York, all thanks to the Irish rockers of U2!

I know this much, Day-Lewis needs to stop cobbling shoes and act more often. ‘Gangs’ is his first visit to the big screen since 1997’’s ‘The Boxer’. He spent part of this hiatus in Italy actually making shoes. I don’’t know about everyone else but this man has too much talent to only be acting once every five years. Somebody buy his shoes and get him a script, post haste!

Scorsese’’s ‘Gangs of New York’ is at times sprawling with entertainment in its historic vision and at other times is infuriating, always dragging behind it a ball and chain called “stupid revenge story/love story.” I’’m sure the film will get plenty of awards and Oscar nods in prominent categories, and this seems like the Academy’’s familiar plan: ignore a brilliant artist for the majority of their career and then finally reward them late for one of their lesser films. So here’’s hoping Scorsese wins the Oscar he deserved for ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Goodfellas’.

Nate’s Grade: C+

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Director Baz Luhrmann’s last project was the MTV-friendly William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (like someone else has a Romeo and Juliet) which was adored by the under 15 set that now buy N*SYNC merchandise. Luhrmann waited a long time for his follow up with Moulin Rogue, a manic musical that seems like candy for the eyes. It may have been a long time but it was well worth the wait.

The sparkling world of Moulin Rogue is around turn of the century France. Christian (Ewan McGregor), an aspiring writer, has traveled to this place against his father’s wishes. Christian believes in the beauty of love and the pull of the heart. Within minutes of setting foot in France he gets wrapped up into a production by a dwarf (John Leguizamo) and his cadre of assistants. Christian is sent to the most provocative club in town, the Moulin Rogue. Here he attempts to persuade the most famous showgirl Satine (Nicole Kidman) to help push for their musical to get financial backing. Satine inadvertently confuses Christian for the man she is supposed to seduce for a large some of money, the Duke (Richard Roxburgh). And thus the merry band of misfits get their play the backing while Christian blossoms a love for Satine. But their love must remain hidden for the Duke is led to believe that Satine is his and his alone.

Kidman owns this movie, plain and simple. From her first shattering entrance being lowered from the ceiling to the last scene, she is absolutely magnificent. She has never looked better either or, as my pal Sadie would put it, like “walking sex.” McGregor gives a nice performance as the dough-eyed lover. Jim Broadbent plays the Moulin Rogue’s owner, Zidler with howling delight in all his manic expressions. Even Roxburgh gives an underwritten antagonist the right amount of weasely twitch.

One of the more surprising features is how well the two leads can actually sing. Kidman gives a soft and whisperingly sexy take on “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and McGregor can belt out a tune with some admirably throaty pipes. As these two veer in and out of songs it’s a pleasure to watch and hear.

Luhrmann has crafted a musical with ADD, but I say this as a compliment. Moulin Rogue‘s pace is fast and pounding. People twirl above the sky, the camera zooms wildly through town streets, and dump trucks worth of confetti fly through the air. Moulin Rouge is exploding with glitz and never lets up. The editing and visual artistry is stirring. By about ten minutes into the proceedings when a green fairy starts singing a seductive version of “The Hills are Alive” you know you are in for something else. And what a something else the film delivers. There was not a moment I didn’t have a smile glued to my stupid face.

Moulin Rogue could be described as a musical for people who dislike traditional musicals. In traditional musicals people go along stuffy formula, then break out into great choreography song-and-dance. With Lurhmann’s musical is a breakneck of pomp where the characters zip around to exaggerated Hanna-Barbara sound effects and start chiming away with 70s and 80s pop songs that we all know. After the initial shock/humor of hearing characters belt out renditions of “Roxanne” and “Like A Virgin,” a familiarity sets in and it blends in to produce a surprising artistic addition.

The story of the movie is nothing new or extraordinary; it’s well worn territory. But where Moulin Rouge breaks apart and shines are with its style and exposure. The visuals are astoundingly lush and lively, the music is game and pumping, and the movie is just screaming to be seen. This was a true work of love.

The movie is bursting to the seams with life. I loved every single second, every single frame, every single moment of Moulin Rouge. I can’t wait to go see it again.

Nate’s Grade: A

Topsy-Turvy (1999)

Mike Leigh’s latest might prove to be the old Brit’s most daring and ambitious spectacle of memory. It’s the tale of English musical maestros Gilbert and Sullivan chronicling their rocky yet firm relationship and the bustle of theater life. The period is set down exquisitely with massive amounts of elegant costumes and set designs, all of whom do well to distract you from the plot. Oh I forgot, there isn’t one. The drawback to Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy is that it is less a movie and more of a recreation of Gilbert and Sullivan musical numbers. Each musical piece lasts in its enduring entirety unyielding to be edited in the least. Thus in between each interlude is a snippet of theater life and the insanity displayed much more fluently by 1998’s Shakespeare in Love. Topsy-Turvy degenerates into a Fantasia style movie — a musical number here, a snippet in between, then another musical number, and repeat for two hours and forty minutes. To theater lovers, and especially Gilbert and Sullivan enthusiasts, Mike Leigh’s celluloid account should prove a triumph and brilliant in its startling recreation of 1880s English life. But to any other audience members out there, boredom will set in quickly enough and you’ll be asking yourself when you leave if you bought a movie ticket or a theater ticket.

Nate’s Grade: C

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