Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Movie Review: 2012 Review Summaries - Part 3


Five reviews in total: The Dark Knight Rises, The Dictator, Elena, The Five-Year Engagement, & Friends With Kids.

Still going alphabetical.  At this rate you can expect my review of Zardoz sometime around May.



The Dark Knight Rises (2012).  Starring Christian Bale & Tom Hardy.  Directed by Christopher Nolan.  Rated PG-13.

Story: 3 / 5
Direction: 4 / 5
Acting: 3 / 5
Visual: 4 / 5
Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5

The Dark Knight Rises is the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  Batman has been dormant for several years following the events of The Dark Knight, now he’s called back into action to face Bane.  Christopher Nolan has the unfortunate baggage now of being someone who is either loved or hated, nothing in between... thank you, Internet.  Well, let me say now I am one of those in-between people.  I think his stuff is good, but I’m not foaming at the mouth over him.  He gets great performances out of his actors.  He manages to add depth and a serious tone to material that in less competent hands might fall flat or come off silly.  The Dark Knight rises is not a perfect film, the ending, while touching, is a real eye roller.  If there was ever a time to take a risk in a superhero film this was it, and he didn’t.

Would I recommend this film?  Yes, but only after you’ve seen the other two.  There are people who argue that each film stands on its own, and I suppose that’s true, but these really were conceived as a single work.


The Dictator (2012).  Starring Sacha Baron Cohen & Anna Faris.  Directed by Larry Charles.  Rated R.

Story: 2 / 5
Direction: 3 / 5
Acting: 3 / 5
Visual: 3 / 5
Overall Rating: 2.75 / 5

The Dictator is another Sacha Baron Cohen film.  That should tell you most of what you need to know about it.  He plays a middle eastern dictator modeled after some of the eccentric tyrants of recent memory.  He is mistaken for someone else, gets lost in New York, and learns about life, love, and genital mutilation.  It’s nothing special if you've seen his other work.  For the most part the best gags are given away in the trailer.  The big speech at the end is yawn worthy.  I wanted to shout at the screen “Yup, America is a worse dictatorship than North Korea, you’re absolutely right!”  America bashing is getting old, especially when it’s ill informed nonsense formulated by watching bits and pieces of our news broadcasts.

Would I recommend this film?  Yeah, maybe.  It can get pretty offensive, so bear that in mind.


Elena (2011).  Starring Nadezhda Markina & Andrey Smirnov.  Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev.  Not Rated.

Story: 4 / 5
Direction: 4 / 5
Acting: 3 / 5
Visual: 4 / 5
Overall Rating: 3.75 / 5

Not much is directly revealed about the main characters in the film Elena.  Most of what you know comes from passing dialogue and even interpretation.  Elena and Vladimir are married, but previously had other spouses and children with those spouses who are now grown up.  They don’t see eye to eye on how each treats their respective children, both of whom are not exactly well adjusted young people.  It’s pretty clear Vladimir comes from wealth and Elena does not.  Vladimir is stricken ill and that’s when everything turns upside down.

Would I recommend this film?  It’s not for everyone.  It’s very patient and not the kind of narrative that beats the audience over the head with exposition.  If you’re alright with that, then by all means try and find this somewhere.


The Five-Year Engagement (2012).  Starring Jason Segel & Emily Blunt.  Directed by Nicholas Stoller.  Rated R.

Story: 3 / 5
Direction: 2 / 5
Acting: 3 / 5
Visual: 3 / 5
Overall Rating: 2.75 / 5

Oh what can I say about The Five-Year Engagement?  If you saw the previews you know what it’s about and can pretty much guess how it plays out.  It’s a little more sure handed (initially) than most romantic comedies, but completely and utterly falls apart at the end.  There’s that moment near the end of the film, let’s call that the “David Staring at the Blue Fairy Moment” or DSBFM for short (a reference to the film A.I.), when a movie should end, but for whatever reason the director, the producer, the studio, or some fool insists on tacking on an unbelievable happy ending.  It brings down the film as a whole, but it’s still a mostly harmless romp.  The leads are good in it, and I won’t even pretend that I don’t have a thing for Emily Blunt.  If “the list” ever comes back she makes my top five.

Would I recommend this film?  Yes I would, if you’re in the mood for a middle of the road romantic comedy with above average depth.


Friends With Kids (2011).  Starring Adam Scott & Jennifer Westfeldt.  Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt.  Rated R (for graphic scenes of diaper changing).

Story: 3 / 5
Direction: 3 / 5
Acting: 3 / 5
Visual: 3 / 5
Overall Rating: 3 / 5

Friends With Kids tells the story of a film that was milling about in Hollywood limbo until Bridesmaids was a hit and suddenly there was a market for a so-so semi-comedy that had Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, and John Hamm in supporting roles.  Joking aside it’s a decent film.  As the title implies it’s about a group of friends, most of whom have kids, but the protagonists Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott)  are just good friends, who can’t form long term relationships, so they decide they’ll have a kid together.  Can you guess whether they get together in the end?  Of course they do, but it’s handled with more tact than most romantic films.  In this case the film was written and directed by the star, Jennifer Westfeldt, whom you can guess by the name has ovaries.  This is probably what gives it that somewhat refreshing take on an utterly predictable cash-cow genre.

Would I recommend this film?  Yes I would, but don’t expect Bridesmaids style laughs, it’s not really a comedy despite the pedigree of its supporting cast.


Explanation of Ratings

All ratings are on a 5 point scale where 1 is the lowest possible score.  A score of 3 indicates the film was simply effective in this regard.  A score of 5 indicates perfection in a given category.  The overall rating is a simple average of the four scores.

  • Story -- How well the film was written?  Did the story make sense?  Were there plot holes?  Was the dialogue natural for the style/genre?
  • Direction -- How well was the film put together?  Did all of the elements come together properly?  How was the pacing?  Was the tone consistent and effective?  A subcategory of this would be editing, but for the purpose of these reviews it is combined into one category.
  • Acting -- How good were the performances?  In a drama did the lead actor/actress draw the audience in?  In a comedy where the performers funny?  This is an amalgam score of all the performances in the piece.  A single great performance can elevate the entire score, but a bunch of bad performances can just as easily bring it down.
  • Visual -- How did the film look?  If there were visual effects were they used appropriately and did they look good?  Did the overall look enhance the telling of the story?

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