At The Movies

Ill-fated relationships
By Tony Sheppard
Apparently it’s a week for ill-fated on-screen relationships.  The Sundance-winning “Like Crazy” seems like a simple college love story, set in Los Angeles, until British student Anna (Felicity Jones) overstays her student visa and in doing so jeopardizes her eligibility to re-enter the country.  This leaves Jacob (Anton Yelchin) standing at the airport with a fistful of flowers, as Anna is detained by immigration officers.  

What follows is a story of young lovers separated by an ocean and a legal system, and trying to maintain a distance relationship across eight time zones.  It’s a neat, simple story that’s very well acted – although it’s also a film that makes you want to start a crowdsourcing campaign to buy the director a tripod.  

In its less frenetic moments, the camera pauses long enough to establish sequences of still life compositions that manage to convey the passage of time as awkward encounters and conversations play out, essentially off-screen.   It’s a little disjointed at first but starts to seem natural over time.

In an even more simple production, especially in terms of locations (as “Like Crazy” criss-crosses the Atlantic), the Norwegian film “Happy Happy” tells the story of Kaja and her husband Eirik as they react to Elisabeth and Sigve moving in next door.  Kaja is unhappy as Eirik pays very little attention to her, except to tell her she’s ugly or to encourage their son Theodor to torment her.  So it’s no surprise that she’s drawn to Sigve who is solicitous and complimentary towards her – but she also sees Elisabeth as altogether perfect and assumes their marriage must be equally flawless.  

The outcome is an understated but often hilarious sequence of encounters, of varying levels of success, between different combinations of the two couples.  Interrupting the narrative scenes are what are essentially chapter breaks featuring a four-man singing group.  As with the still life shots in “Like Crazy,” these seem out-of-place at first but fit better as the film progresses.  It’s an appealing story that may cause some to question how good we all are at judging the people around us, including those with whom we share our beds.

Multiple ill-fated relationships are featured in “Jack and Jill,” a more amusing than is often the case comedy from Adam Sandler in which he plays both male and female fraternal twins.  While Jack dislikes Jill’s company, which is an understandable response as she’s depicted, she’s much more appreciated by Al Pacino (who plays an obnoxious version of himself much like Neil Patrick Harris’ appearances in the “Harold & Kumar” franchise).  Surprisingly, this comedy of errors, complete with the usual sophomoric bodily function humor, actually works quite well.

Directed by Tarsem Singh – Reviewed by Malcolm Maclachlan
Is eye candy enough to keep you interested for 110 minutes? For me, it can be – if the candy looks good enough. For Tony, not so much, which I respect. Heck, I probably respect it more than my own opinion in this case.

But I can’t help it. Despite knowing “Immortals” is not a great film, I enjoyed the heck out of it. And what would you expect from an action movie by Tarsem (now a one-name brand), the director behind those famed two-hour paintings, “The Fall” and “The Cell.” I enjoyed  both of those immensely, too. I mean, I read somewhere that a third of our brains are devoted to visual processing.  

And if that’s true (though I’ve heard it’s actually only one quarter), you won’t have much brain left to think while watching this film. It’s so richly detailed, so beautifully shot, so absurdly costumed, you can’t take your eyes off it. The action works really well because they keep the camera panned out, the actors are actually fighting in longer takes, and they have the sense to slow things down when stuff gets really intense so you can see it. After watching a butchering of the “Conan the Barbarian” story that looked like it was shot by the people behind “The Blair Witch Project” (with a similar budget), it was quite refreshing to see something that looked like “300” meets “Project Runway.”

The plot? Uh, something about the Theseus story from Greek mythology. Henry Cavill has the muscles to pull off the title role, Mickey Rourke makes a great bad guy, the supporting cast does just enough. None of it makes all that much sense, but the story moves along and never gets bogged down in the details.

And reigning over it all is Zeus. Luke Evans seemed a little young for the role, but his portrayal reminded me of the one thing that the far inferior “Clash of the Titans” got right – Zeus never really made that much sense. He makes strange decisions, contradicts himself, goes back and forth between sappy father figure and fits of irrational violence. He really just seems like he needs some ADHD medicine. Which is actually true to the original Greek myths, despite the fact this plot doesn’t follow them very closely. The Greek gods are like human children in some ways. Which, when you look at the world we actually live it, kind of makes sense for deities.

In short – check your mind at the door, and have fun.

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