Dienstag, 12. August 2014

Short takes

"Night Moves" is an eco-thriller that's not very thrilling. Centered around a dam-bombing by environmental extremists, American writer/director Kelly Reichardt goes about it in a flatly sensible, coolly routine, decidedly untheatrical manner. The first two-thirds of the movie strikes one like an everyday terrorist's manual for its practicality and general placidity. The last part finally raises the emotional stakes and cooks up some tension here and there, but it's still pretty frustrating as nothing ever comes near the boiling point. The performances are all correspondingly sedate. Of the principal cast, Dakota Fanning fares best thanks to the perturbing vibe from those big, hollow stares while Jesse Eisenberg falters, hopelessly trapped in the limitations of an impenetrable role.

"A Most Wanted Man", faithfully adapted from spymaster John le Carré's novel of the same name, inherits the original's problem of lacking a strong, compelling plot. The juicier aspects of global counter-terrorism are underused in the construction of the story, which instead gets tangled up in lofty, rather affected concerns of human rights, so that even when every effort is made to suggest some unspecified dark forces of international intrigue, it's never really exciting. Philip Seymour Hoffman proves as watchable as always, adding with each sideways glance and unexpected hardening of his features a much-needed presence to the screen. Visually also underwhelming, one wouldn't suspect from the modest production and cinematography of the film that it's shaped by the hands of Dutch director/ famed style wizard Anton Corbijn.

"Jersey Boys" can't transcend the customary trajectory of biopics and ends up looking quite generic, readily forgettable. Which is not to say that, along the forseeable curves of the known format, the movie doesn't offer a familiar, if lazy, form of entertainment. Lead actor John Lloyd Young is convincing as the man caught between mega-stardom and the unberable ordinariness of an off-stage existence- and boy can he sing. Clint Eastwood's direction isn't in any way inspired but he does guide the decades-spanning life story of a Rock 'n' Roll legend along with a dependably steady hand. There are occasional failings in the technical departments like the crude soundstage in the earlier scenes and some poor old-age make-up near the end, which are not fatal, but definitely distracting.

"Wir sind die Neuen (We’re the New People)" is one of those comedies that most likely come from a real place, mean well, have a big heart and try to impart comforting wisdoms- in this case about how old people are just cool people with experience- but can't find the witty, authentic way to do so. Though the idea of pitching three senior citizens regrouped in a shared flat against their young neighbors is nifty, what follows is a string of caricatures about the generation gap (somewhat flipped but still) and oversimplified resolutions that have zero plausibility. German writer/director Ralf Westhoff does put a spring in the film's step, so things move along with painless briskness, and lead actress Gisela Schneeberger gives an appropriately relaxed performance. Otherwise rather slight and unmemorable.

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