Mittwoch, 7. Mai 2014

Short takes

"Tracks" chronicles one girl's journey through the vast expanse of the Australian outback with four camels and a dog. It's easy to like since the concept behind it about men versus nature is graceful in its simplicity and the movie itself is competently made throughout. The photography is unsurprisingly gorgeous, capturing the barrenness of the desert and the translucence of the ocean in all their grandeur and purity the beauty feels holy sometimes. As a dramatic feature it's rather undercooked, though, limited in its ability to surprise and move by the trappings of a real-life story. The challenges along the road are all more or less forseeable and none of director John Curran's attempts at developing an emotional association with the protagonist, whether from the angles of a love interest, a loyal pet or a troubled past, has the needed space to brew.

"Neighbors" by Nicholas Stoller has a premise that shouts comedic potential but never really delivers on that promise. The script lacks fluency and in its haste to pack gags and retain a shred of emotional relatability somehow misses both the anarchic outrageousness and the tender core it aims for. Even with a brisk running time of 96 minutes, the jokes often feel repetitive or forced. All the major cast members have their moment to shine but none is consistently good. Faring especially poorly is Seth Rogen, who has rarely tried this hard and come off so obnoxious on the big screen. The talented Rose Byrne is mostly wasted in her flustered efforts to catch up with Rogen's obvious, excessive improvisation. And Zac Efron is just not very funny. That the movie gets stolen by a dialogue-less infant says a lot about the quality of the material.

"Reaching for the Moon" tells the romance between famed American poet Elizabeth Bishop and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares in by-the-book biopic format, with all the ups and downs pretty much mapped out from start to finish. Director Bruno Barreto hardly ever tries anything remotely innovative, so while the two-hour film flows by smoothly enough, it also remains resolutely unremarkable. Technical aspects are uneven. Best in show is the diverse, subtle costume design while the original score is constanttly overwrought, adding unnecessarily sentimental notes to an already soapy narrative. Lead actress Glória Pires has charisma to spare but is rarely given worthy lines to deliver. Views of Rio de Janeiro's sweeping coastline and Samambai's lush ridges offer welcome respites from the stupor of melodrama.

"The Selfish Giant" is the kind of movie to watch when one's feeling a little too comfy in their blessedly unchallenged existence. Set around an impoverished community in rural England, it's about people who have not known one easy day in their life. Through lucid lensing that communicates a depressing urgency and puts the ugliness of it all in striking focus, writer/director Clio Barnard hits that gritty note from the get-go and never strays. With sober, compact language, verbal or visual, she takes you to a place and time that feels awfully real. Child actor Conner Chapman is so well-versed in the calloused language of the abused and so practiced in the expressions of the perpetually disappointed it's heartbreaking to watch. Not terribly original but authentic to a fault, this movie is a powerful, relentlessly bleak dose of social realism.

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