It is great to see documentaries receiving wider acceptance amongst mainstream audiences. Still, many are reluctant to consider documentaries as a legitimate source of entertainment. However, if there was ever a film that manages to disprove this short sighted view, it is Errol Morris’ Tabloid. Joyce McKinney is a former beauty queen who is accused of kidnapping and raping her Mormon boyfriend Kirk Anderson. McKinney is a woman who condemns the vicious media spotlight, but seems to secretly crave it. Her life story is so outlandish that not even the best script writers could have come up with. Morris playfully flashes bolds works like “handcuffs” and “loves kink” to emphasize how his own film is adding to the sensationalism of McKinney’s life. Tabloid also offers an engaging look at how the media, especially British tabloids, use manipulation to dig up information on their subjects. Although the events that made McKinney a household name took place in the 70’s, Tabloid feels perfectly at home in our current media obsessed society.
I honestly do not think that there was a 2011 film that I procrastinated more on seeing than Rango. I am not sure why, despite ample opportunity, it took so long to watch the film, but I am glad I finally got around to it. The character designs and the overall animation are fantastic. The animation in the action sequence between Rango’s posse and the moles in the desert is especially stunning. What struck me about the film was just how funny it is. While the references to the Sergio Leone western and films like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were amusing, the character of Rango himself was the most entertaining aspect of the film. Whether he is hitting on a headless torso of doll, or trying to invent a whole idea persona, Rango is joy to watch.
Rango is part of our "The Must See List" series.
The Ides of March
Set in the cutthroat world of politics, The Ides of March is ultimately a film about the loss of innocence and how easily morals can be compromised. The ensemble cast do a great job conveying the political game of chess that is played on various levels (e.g. between political camps, at debates, with members of the press, etc). There are so many great actors in the film that occasionally it feels like there are not enough quality parts for all of them. Although George Clooney’s direction is solid the subplot between Stephen (Ryan Gosling) and Molly (Rachel Evan Wood) never feels fully realized. There is not enough depth to their relationship to justify the lengths Stephen goes to for her. This causes the film to lack the biting political punch that one would hope for. Still the performances and overall premise are strong enough to keep the film interesting.
The original Cars ranks at the bottom of Pixar’s canon of films for me and Cars 2 only fairs slightly better. Despite taking comedic, and I use that term loosely, aim at the spy film genre, the film’s main problem is it tries to make a bit player from the original, Mater (Larry the Cable guy), and makes him the main character. Mater is just not that interesting of a character and his dimwitted humour wears thin pretty fast. Cars 2 would have been better had the main characters been the spy duo of Miles Axel Rod (Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer). Also, the film feels like it is aiming towards an even younger audience than the first one. This is odd considering the blatant environmental message in the film. Young kids will not care about importance of embracing cleaner fuel and its impact on the world. The film’s only real saving grace is its spot on satire of the James Bond franchise.
When a film makes you want to wear gloves everywhere you go then you know it has done an effective job. Unlike the film Outbreak, Contagion uses the act of touching, which is something we all numerous times a day, to show how the virus is transmitted. Steven Soderbergh does a good job balancing the majority of the various storylines in the film. Only one story, Dr. Leonora Orantes’ (Marion Cotillard) arc, seems to get lost in the shuffle halfway through. The cast is wonderful all around, Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne in particular really steal the show. Law really nails the annoying blogger whose motives may be more sinister than he lets on. Fishburne is given a less flashy role, but is equally effective. He plays a doctor who is trying to do things by the book, but must also face the natural human instinct of protecting the ones he loves. By the end of the film you will not only be a little leery of bloggers, but you will also want to bathe in hand sanitizer.