Much Ado About Nothing by Joss Whedon
From announcement, this has been a highly anticipated film. Whedon, whose most recent release is The Avengers, has gotten his friends together and made a Shakespeare film (original dialogue in tact, though edited) at his house. The results are a moderate success. The adaptation sort of stumbles out of the gate with a framing devise not from the play and not remotely necessary for the film's enjoyment. Further, one gets the impression that this was filmed sequentially, because some of the actors don't seem up to the challenge of Shakespearean dialogue. But, about the time the plotters begin scheming to match Beatrice up with Benedick, the comedy sets in and the film finds its footing. The standout performance belongs to Amy Acker as Beatrice. Her comic timing is perfect and she handles the romance and drama equally as well. Oddly, just like Kenneth Branagh's version, the weakest performances come from the villainous side of the thespian squad. I actually caught myself thinking, "Gheez. Even Keanu Reeves might be welcome right about now." (Fans of the 1993 version know exactly what I'm talking about). Despite its flaws, I - along with what seemed like a majority of the audience - gave over to its charms. I give kudos to Whedon for stepping out of his oeuvre and admit, this is good enough, that I'd give him the chance to do more.
Do Not Disturb by Yvan Attal
My biggest complaint with most American remakes of foreign cinema often has little to do with their quality (sometimes they're okay, or even good - see Let Me In), it's just that they're entirely unnecessary. So, in that spirit, I wanted to try the inverse. I wanted to see a foreign remake of a recent American film. Do Not Disturb is Yvan Attal's take on Lynn Shelton's 2009 film Humpday. The film's not bad. The French dude's who challenge each other into making a gay porn together despite the fact they're both straight are slightly older and some of the set-up is altered, but it largely remains the same film. If you've not seen Humpday and prefer your comedies in French, then okay. Go for it. If not, simply rent Humpday and overlook this largely unnecessary remake.
Mr. Pip by Andrew Adamson
Wasn't originally expecting to see this one, but ended up there. Andrew Adamson is known for the Shrek films and for the Chronicles of Narnia films. Here, he goes with a subject that I imagine must be personal for him. Based on the book, Mr. Pip is about the relationship of a young Bougainvillian girl and the teacher (Hugh Laurie) who taught her to read Great Expectations in the middle of the 1989 Bougainville Civil War against the government of Papau new Guinea. If you weren't aware of such a background war, don't worry - neither was I. The story is actually quite good. The performances are largely good as well - the Bougainvillian non-professionals give Laurie a run for his money. But there is a major flaw in the film's structure which leaves it feeling like a really long prologue followed immediately by an overly-long denouement. The result becomes too jarring and ultimately too plodding. However, with some time back at the editing board, this could become a solid motion picture.
Boy Eating the Birds Food by Ektoras Lygizos
We're in tough straights in America right now, everyone knows that. Likely, everyone also knows that it's even worse in Greece. From the heart of that comes a film about a lonely young man who strives to be a professional singer (but will settle for call center work) who is struggling to make ends meet. It's gotten so bad, that he's sharing his canary's bird seed in order to survive - and it only gets more desperate from there. Oh, and he's on the verge of pure mental breakdown. Sound appealing? Largely, thanks to an astonishing, and nearly wordless performance by Yannis Papadopoulos, it actually is. It's disturbing (and one graphic scene will definitely keep this from your local theater - and I do mean graphic), but it works. Is it a pleasure? No. Is it well-made and well-meaning? Yes. Variety put it best (and they also go into details of what the graphic scene is, if you must know) when they describe the film as an expression of a people who feel as if they're simply being kept around as a beautiful, but unnecessary, pet for the world. A stirring feature-film debut for theater director Lygizos.