The Morning After: Dec. 26, 2011

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

We Need to Talk About Kevin


Tilda Swinton’s style of acting is perfect for We Need to Talk About Kevin. This flashback driven exploration of a mother’s grief, disgust, despair and inability to cope after a deadly tragedy the depths of which aren’t revealed until the final act, is quintessential Swinton. Few actresses could have given the film her measure of facial discordance she is so easily capable of. It’s a film told entirely in solemn glances, brief glimmers of success and waves of nauseous relief. The film’s portrait of a mother unraveling, but coping is one of the finest things this year.

The Adventures of Tintin


Few filmmakers in the last three decades have the capability of creating such visual flair and marvelous adventures as Steven Spielberg. Spielberg got a keen taste for adventure in his Indiana Jones films and although his fourth film was an utter disappointment, he’s made up for his transgression with this lighthearted, warm animated adventure epic. The film takes time to get started, but when it does, it’s thrilling, exciting and supremely satisfying. The animation is the kind I’m not quite fond of. The motion capture style has its limitations still and while I found the early scenes to be filled with trim excellence, there’s a bright scene at a sultan’s operatic gala that reveal the techniques shortcomings. Here herky-jerky movements in characters create a distraction from the events surrounding it, but as the film churns on into one of the most exciting chase sequences in memory, you mostly forget the troubling animation that led immediately up to it.

My Week with Marilyn


Michelle Williams has a natural grace that has made her a watchable starlet. Although she’s chosen to keep her craft honest, sticking to small films with small budgets and intense subject matters, Williams masters each role as if it’s a fine piece of art, and they are. In My Week with Marilyn, Williams branches into the more mainstream, giving the audience a depiction of Marilyn Monroe they aren’t likely to find again. Her honest depth gives a wonderful naturalistic appeal to the late actress that’s too often muddled by the poorly handled film surrounding it. Branagh is fine in his performance as Laurence Olivier, but Eddie Redmayne and Emma Watson (in her first post-Potter performance) are surprisingly effective. Watson has a spark of talent here that’s a bit lost in the story that leaves her mostly as an afterthought.

Coriolanus


Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut summons memories of Richard Loncraine’s amazing Richard III. By translating Shakespeare’s little known stage play Coriolanus to the big screen, Fiennes attempts to expose a new audience to the material while retaining the original dialogue. Set in modern Italy on the brink of anarchy, the film explores the relationship between a battle-hardened soldier distrustful of the public, but defending his country as only he knows how. The uprising from a neighboring region threatens to destroy his home and he defends it. Fiennes is fierce in the title role, but it’s the performances of Gerard Butler, Brian Cox and especially Vanessa Redgrave that bear watching. Butler has never been this good, which is a bit surprising. We’ll hope this leads to more serious, dramatic turns in the future. Cox is at his best and Redgrave is sublime. As a mother who’s more dedicated to country than her son, Redgrave never leaves a scene unchanged, she is the driving force for the film, but is too often sidelined by a meandering plot that doesn’t really fit into Shakespeare’s traditional mold. It’s something of a tragedy, but you don’t care much about those who die.

Merlin (Season 2, episodes 2-4)

In three episodes, Merlin continues to lay the foundation of classic Arthurian legend. Whether it’s setting up the forbidden love affair between Arthur and Guinevere, the rivarly for Gwen’s love between Arthur and Lancelot or the eventual fall of Morgana. This is a show to watch for fans of Arthurian legend who don’t mind the facts getting a bit confused.

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