Eventually I may go back to try to figure out why The Lord of the Rings trilogy works so well and this one doesn’t. Desolation of Smaug, like last year’s An Unexpected Journey, gets the job done well enough. I’m not mad at it. But by the time “The Two Towers” was over more than a decade ago I was fully enthralled. Not so much here.
Dir. Amy Berg
(2012, R, 147 minutes)
My primary concern about West of Memphis was whether it needed to be made at all. The great Paradise Lost films, spanning 1996 to 2011, covered the case of the West Memphis 3 as it happened; it is an essential portrait of the American justice system. The new film, directed by Amy Berg and produced by Peter Jackson, reiterates a lot of facts we’ve already heard, adding also the wisdom of hindsight; the second Paradise Lost film largely, and incorrectly, pointed to John Mark Byers as a possible suspect in 2000. This film also includes Byers, but not as a significant point of interest.
Dir. Peter Jackson
(2012, PG-13, 169 minutes)
I was late to the Lord of the Rings party. While most critics and audiences seemed to be immediately smitten, I left the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring slightly disappointed – absorbed but not enthralled. So I was shocked by how overwhelmed I was by The Two Towers the next year, and then The Return of the King the year after that. If I consider the trilogy one long nine-hour film, I guess I’d say it just took three hours to get good.
Dir. Peter Jackson
(1994, R, 99 min)
Heavenly Creatures is a film that succeeds because of how well it immerses us in the world its characters live in. Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet (Kate Winslet) are adolescent girls who meet at school in 1950s New Zealand and develop a mutually dependent bond that concerns their respective parents. Pauline is sullen, keeps her head down, seems to be a good student but is alienated from those around her. Juliet, a British transfer student, is her opposite: she stands tall, speaks up, corrects their teacher insolently. There’s an immediate grin of admiration in Pauline when she watches Juliet assert herself … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.org.
Dir. Neill Blomkamp
(2009, R, 112 min)
★ ★ ★ ½
The aliens are coming! They will kill us all! Plunder our resources! Invade our bodies! Eat our babies! Make merry sport of our women!
Or … maybe not. When aliens come to Earth in District 9, in a derelict spaceship that hovers inertly over Johannesburg, South Africa, they appear helpless and malnourished. When we bust down the doors of their ship, they don’t fight back, perhaps because they can’t. They have weapons but don’t use them. But mankind, in its reactionary fervor, responds to them with sneering mistrust. Who are they? What do they want? Why have they come here? We project our motives onto them and decide that they are hostile creatures who mean to overthrow us, so we do it to them first. They come in peace. Us … not so much.