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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Roundup of New Films Released on 2 Decemeber 2011

But first, the one film from last week that I haven't reviewed yet - at least of those I've seen.

Dream House is something of an oddity of a film in that it's a psychological drama that plays out like a ghost story. Sadly, though it's probably better than most reviewers suggest, it doesn't entirely work on either level. It's efficiently put together and, considering it boats always solid thesps like Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts, it's obviously well acted. It's just that, for a ghost story, its decidedly uncreepy and, for a psychological drama, it's surprisingly inert. All this, despite the grizzly murder that is the backbone of the film, as well as the big twist in the middle of the film that, though obvious in hindsight, actually managed to take me by surprise. If you're going to see it, try and go in with low expectations and as little knowledge about the film as possible (hope I helped!) but there's little reason not to wait for the film to show up on TV - where, to be honest, it will probably work better.   

And now onto the two remaining films released this week...

Puss in Boots may be a breath of fresh air after the increasing staleness of the Shrek franchise from which the character originates, but this is no animated classic. Antonio Banderas is back as the adorable swashbuckling titular feline in a new adventure that takes him away from Shrek but not from the world of fairy tales as he teams up with Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and potential love interest, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayak) to take on Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris) in a race to claim those famous magic beans. The result is a snappy, lighthearted adventure built upon beautiful animation and a voice cast that is far more interesting than the typical stunt casting for which Dreamworks Animation is now (in)famous. The problem, though, is that not only has the central "joke" of re-imagining classic fairytale characters been more than a little played out, neither the characters nor the story of Puss In Boots are liable to stay with you once the closing credits have rolled. Even the gags, that start out so strong in the early parts of the film, lose both luster and frequency as the story unfolds. And the less said about Galifianakis's (of whom I'm normally a fan) massively irritating Humpty Dumpty the better.       

Far more interesting is Another Earth, a curious but satisfying mix of heady science fiction and gritty indie drama. This isn't a film that will draw huge crowds, nor is it one that will win everyone over but I, for one, was really won over by it. Its story is a mixture of the mundane and the extraordinary: a young woman who, after spending four years in jail for driving drunk and causing an accident that kills the pregnant wife and young son of a college professor, tries to make amends to the man whose life she has destroyed, all the while applying for a chance to take a trip to the parallel earth that suddenly appeared soon after the night of her accident. Another Earth is very much an independent film, costing all of $150,000 to make and is co-written by the film's star (the apparently incredibly talented, Brit Maling) and its director (Mike Cahill), with the only other major player being Lost's William Mapother as the grieving widower. The result is a film that can't rely on special effects or big-name actors but is instead allowed to tell a very intimate story about love and grief and uses its science fiction trappings as a way of further describing its central theme of redemption. It's shot with an almost documentary-like - yet surprisingly cinematic - visual style that conveys the film's cocktail of down-to-earth urban drama and awe-inspiring out-of-the-ordinariness, absolutely perfectly. It's slow, it's low-key and it's certainly anything but mainstream  but if you're a fan of either genuinely independent cinema or metaphorical scifi, Another Earth is certainly worth a look.


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