Olympus Has Fallen is a train wreck. Rushed to premiere in March, well ahead of the film that essentially birthed it (the superior-in-every-way White House Down), this film is all sloppy construction without purpose from beginning to end. We open with top Secret Service agent Gerard Butler boxing with his best friend, Aaron Eckhart’s President of the United States. Following this relatively brief prologue, we’re thrust into an annoyingly over-telegraphed and perplexingly CGI-heavy car crash sequence, in which Butler has to choose whether to save the President or the First Lady. He does his job, but the President can’t quite forgive him for it, and we cut to several months later.
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It is difficult to provide a detailed synopsis of Trance that doesn’t give away at least some of the plot points so I will be as vague as I need to be. The story we are first introduced to is one of an art heist devised by auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) as a way of clearing his extortionate gambling debts. Along with Frank (Vincent Cassell) and his gang of mercenaries they successfully steal a valuable painting but something goes wrong. During the robbery Simon is struck on the head and cannot remember where he hid the painting as he feared being double crossed by Frank. By way of trying to unlock the secrets in Simon’s head they consult a hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) and this is where things get interesting.
The Mississippi River undulates toward us, the surprisingly lush Arkansas banks directing us, against this current, to infinite open water. Dawn’s fog has yet lifted. It tints this narrows the blue of ghosts. Mud is a film of the unwritten, of how any number of things and tales can intersect one’s trajectory and how the well-willed do not diverge. They simply come to the opening. Jeff Nichols, in his third film, following 2007’s served-notice Shotgun Stories and 2011’s excellent Take Shelter, once again unspools a South smarter and more gracious than the versions of any other filmmaker today.
Any artist or fan of art is familiar with the adage that the true greats obsess. An artist is driven to create because of his preoccupations—these impassioned curiosities (some would surely say nuisances). He needs answers, insight, and the only way he can hope to attain either is to lay himself bare in his process—to inject what drives him (perhaps mad) into the production and the product. Terrence Malick is likely the most spiritual, dreamlike filmmaker today. We recognize in his films the contemplation, archetypes, aesthetics, and beauty requisite in his films, and so in his films we recognize him. To the Wonder must be to some degree autobiographical. Malick’s relationships with his films’ veracity are often as elusive as a line of dialogue. But likewise, we can always count on some sort of communication.
The film begins with a series of film-photographic images, taken from a variety of sources; they are at once a reflection on the transition from film to digital as well as the transitions in people’s lives. By this end, the viewer is found in the midst of a meditative narrative that comments on the impact that the notion of God—or spirituality—has on one’s life. Its interdependent nature—that one’s thinking about God causes God to be a part of one’s life—is considered in Malick’s search to find nature in man. His search has never been quite so clear as in To The Wonder.
During Disney’s focus on live action in the third quarter of the 20th Century there were few animated films that are truly worthy of the famous name. Unlike The Sword In The Stone and The Aristocats however where narrative was secondary to episodic humour, Robin Hood warrants a revisit.
Just when it seemed that there were no more action roles for Tom Cruise to take, Oblivion appears. Directed by TRON: Legacy’s Joseph Kosinski, Oblivion was the first major Sci-Fi release of 2013 and, with a budget of over $120 million, promised to be one of the year’s biggest. In the film, Tom Cruise steps into his first major Sci-Fi role since Minority Report to deliver yet another mediocre effort; once again, Tom Cruise is playing Tom Cruise.
Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond The Pines strongly evokes the feeling of passage—the passage of time, the passage of motion, the passage of ideas. The balanced structure harmonizes elements of cinematography, narrative, and ultimately narration to achieve a celebration of passing and the transaction between generations. The tripartite story illustrates how one life affects another, and how the experiences one person has makes an impact on the next. It effectively expresses a mimesis—an independent yet exacting replication—that a child may demonstrate; they are branches of the same tree, and one grows into the next.
The Sword In The Stone is perhaps one of Disney’s lesser known, and maybe even less popular films. When originally released in 1963 the studio was moving away from its reliance on animation into more live action film production and it is possibly no surprise that this, and films that followed in the 1970’s and 1980’s possibly lacked a some of the narrative strength of their predecessors. That said, there are still some wonderful moments here that shouldn’t be overlooked.
What’s been somewhat lost in the internet’s clamoring for a Pacific Rim prequel is just how frustrating it would be to see such a restless imagination conjoined to a single blockbuster franchise for the forseeable future. Mercifully, the fine folk at Criterion have decided to take measures to temper this rhetoric with their recent Blu Ray release of Del Toro’s first masterpiece, The Devil’s Backbone.