New Movies Out This Weekend-7/11
This weekend there couldn't be a bigger difference between the four brand new movies out in theaters. One's a gorgeously shot black and white Polish film and another is a cloying, corny musical starring Kiera Knightley. There's even a big budget action blockbuster coming out this weekend about apes taking over the world. All of these films offer diverse viewing experiences, some more interesting than others. Here are my thoughts on these new releases.
There isn't a film out there this summer that's as drastically and refreshingly different from the obnoxious big budget blockbusters than Ida, a terrific Polish gem shot in gorgeous black in white. The film centers on a young woman discovering her past, all against the ravishing background of 1960's Poland, with the luminous black and white cinematography looming over these fascinating and complex characters. Ida is without a doubt Pawel Pawilkowski's most personal and beautiful film to date, without ever containing a dull shot throughout the course of the film. The gentle, patient pace of the film goes hand and hand with the breathtaking cinematography that creates haunting, memorable imagery. Pawilkowski has built his career on a memorable series of fascinating character studies but Ida represents his strongest depiction of young Polish life, with a number of valuable supporting characters that all play an important role in the development of the luminous title character. A variety of diverse films have been using the technique of black and white cinematography to form a certain tone or a particular emotion, from Frances Ha to Nebraska. However Pawilkowski uses this method to its highest of abilities, making Ida a formidable addition to the growing industry of Polish cinema.
Sometimes visual effects can be so stunning that you don't even think about the many flaws in the film's plot. That's what happened to me while watching 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes', a silly yet entertaining blockbuster that stands as a major improvement over 2011's 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'. The 1968 version of 'Planet of the Apes' is a classic however the new series of 'Apes' films are using special effects to their advantage, using motion capture technology to create spectacular images on screen. The robotic acting from James Franco and Frieda Pinto is thankfully left out of this sequel, giving lots of memorable screen time to the great Gary Oldman whose acting style goes hand and hand with the film's dark tone. Andy Serkis, the king of motion capture acting, once again plays Caesar who is threatened by a group of human survivors from a deadly virus that was unleashed ten years earlier. Serkis has played many different creatures in blockbusters before such as Golum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong in the 2005 remake however the character of Caesar has successfully given Serkis a lot of complex range to work with and the final result of his performance is quite impressive. Matt Reeves, who's directed films such as 'Cloverfield' and the remake 'Let Me In', shows that he can indeed create a big Hollywood action film that's both fun and intelligent. Now I don't want to overhype this movie because there are definitely a bunch of flaws that exist throughout but for a blockbuster coming out in the middle of summer, 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' isn't a bad way at all to spend a hot afternoon in an air conditioned movie theater.
When the lovely indie musical 'Once' came out in theaters back in 2006, it took the world by storm it seemed, producing a Broadway musical and even a solo album from the lead actor. Eight years later, director John Carney has made a fairly similar film dealing with the same themes that were shown throughout 'Once' but now created with bigger and more recognizable actors. Kiera Knightley stars as a woman who gets dumped by her selfish rockstar boyfriend played by Maroon 5's Adam Levine in his acting debut. Feeling heartbroken, Knightley travels to New York City in hopes of making it big as a singer. There's also Mark Ruffalo playing a washed up record producer who just happens to hear Kiera Knightley perform at an open mic night at a bar and is captivated by her music. They start making music together and that's when the film turns further into a corny, emotionally manipulative mess. There's certainly several attempts made to make the film charming or feel good, however the level of cheesiness is off the wall and you never truly get the sense that these characters are anything remotely relatable. What worked so well in 'Once' was its small scale and soft, sweetness that created a sense of sheer enjoyment that 'Begin Again' just can't come close to equaling. Even with a strong supporting cast that includes Catherine Keener and Hailee Steinfeld, the film ultimately falls short.
Dealing with the similar structure of 'Crash''s interlocking storylines, Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis is back with another drama centered around miserable, lonely characters dealing with several serious issues. Liam Neeson is a terrific actor who's career has been revitalized by a series of compact, entertaining action films in the last few years however he feels miscast as a struggling married writer imagining the characters he's writing who appear in over the top, overly dramatic short vignettes. One involves Adrien Brody as a corporate thief on the run from the law who meets a beautiful gypsy woman in Rome, another shows Mila Kunis playing a failed soap star who wages a custody battle with her husband played by James Franco for the son she endangered in New York. There's also stories involving Maria Bello, Kim Basinger, and Olivia Wilde as a single girl in Paris who's toying with Nesson's character. Despite a very strong ensemble cast, Haggis overreaches multiple times, ultimately creating a forgettable melodrama that amounts to a critically flawed and unintentionally silly disaster.