Mini-Review: California Solo

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

California Solo

To not put too fine a point on it this is a film that features a circle closing. It’s a character study, a low-key drama which isn’t going to have outlandish plot points and twists and turns. There is progression and conflict, mostly of the internal variety, but it’s more subtle than one is used to. The circle closes on this story, but some slight coming to terms has occurred.

So how does one go about assessing a tale wherein little to seemingly nothing changed? It comes down to the engaging nature of the narrative, how it builds, how the subtle construction of it works.

Carlyle’s performance is great, but in a tale such as this that tends to be a given rather than a boon. What seems to be missing here is not the change or the evolution but the crescendo. Instead the impetus for change seems to be more of the same. The inciting incident in essence repeats itself such that what our protagonist strove to avoid becomes unavoidable, it’s how he looks at it that changes and it’s very internalized.

To go on much further would be to literally spoil it. It doesn’t have to be revelatory eureka moment, but a more profound, moving, defeated – any kind of emotion really – button to this tale, even with similar structures being supported, would’ve carried more weight.

5/10

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Mini-Review: Dracula 3D (2012)

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Dracula 3D (2012)

This particular selection from Dario Argento was an official selection of last year’s Cannes Film Festival and was recently picked up by IFC Midnight here in the US. However, if you are a fan of his I would not recommend you go out of your way to acquire the film, as I did, and simply wait for it to roll around as a rental [It has rolled around on DVD and Blu for purchase and rental. Rather cheap even for a 3D version]. If you are not familiar with Argento do not start here. I’d recommend Suspiria as a jumping off point.

Much of what’s unfortunate about this film is the disconnect between certain elements: there is throughout a very uneasy relationship between the well-photographed, geometrically intricate, well-lit shots; gorgeous production design and a tendency to go for really unconvincing and unfortunate CG. This is not just a complaint about CG blood, but larger elements. Much of the CG blood usually upon opening wounds and then the close-ups use practical effects well.

An issue of a less nitpicky nature is the that there isn’t a consistent enough progression and amplification of stakes and incidents. Argento has always had a leaning to a slow-burning style but there there’s not a lot of intrigue to buffer that slight build here. Those peaks where there are spikes in the action, where we need to feel the oomph, are usually undercut by the CG work.

The scoring is great, and minus some seriously off moments by some lesser players the acting is good to passable. One thing that had me searching online after it was over was that there is a veritable bestiary of creatures that this Dracula can become. This is not inaccurate, but with the redefinition that cinema has had in various versions over the years it rather took me aback without a more overt introduction in this tale. However, it really is the stuttering pace, the disjointed nature of certain elements and fairly lifeless final third that keep this version from staying afloat.

5/10

Mini-Review: Elway to Marino

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Elway to Marino

I almost waited to write this one. As a football fan, especially one who grew up with John Elway being my favorite player, it’s hard to keep a documentary like this in perspective. However, aside from the mind-blowing revelations about the intricacies and the process that was the most pivotal draft in the history of the league, I keep going back to cinematic elements, to the storytelling and ask myself: is this picture being painted as well for all as it is for me?

Naturally, the seismic impact of the would-be moves have more effect when you have hindsight, but the film really does a wonderful job. Any documentary owes its success to perseverance and a little bit of good fortune. The good fortune in this case is that Elway’s agent, Marvin Demoff, not only also represented Dan Marino, but kept a diary of the meetings and calls regarding John Elway’s pursuers as the process for him was always likely to be complex and he wanted to relate information accurately, but he still had it.

In narrative terms it has subplots, dovetails, ironies, revelations and everything you could want. In technical terms, in terms of building a documentary, I think it has a lot of that going too. The scoring highlights and builds the tension, the b-roll shots and editing decisions build the drama, the narration is well-written and excellently delivered by Tom Selleck. It contains interviews with most of the key players you’d want to hear from. Not only that, but in terms of structuring it doesn’t do anything tremendously unique like some have done, but the little touches really do act as the coup de grâce, the withholding of title cards with player resumes for dramatic impact fore example.

Lest I go on too long to keep this “mini,” this truly is a great installment in the series that may not have the “human interest” emotional wallop some do, but for fans it’s a must. There’s drama for all concerned, for non-fans this series should be able to bring you along for the ride also. It’s incredible.

10/10

Mini-Review: Jacob

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Jacob

There are a few things that are bit odd that are going on in Jacob. They are all easily explicable, however, that doesn’t stop them from being odd. The main thing I noticed is that the film, while never on easy footing, is far more comfortable and closer to offering escapism in its hyper-reality flashback sequence, which dominates the film. In the few present sections the film is far more stilted an awkward in its cinematography, performances and make-up.

The structure of the film is curious because it’s not as involved as the armature of the film would have you believe. It’s your standard flashback to the birth of a legend. However, what’s incumbent on a film when it flashes back not once but twice is some upping of the stakes. The conclusion of the film is fairly predictable and anticlimactic because we get a glimpse of the future beforehand.

The pace is never right and much of what holds the piece back is that it feels like it gets its tongue stuck in its cheek rather than just planted firmly. The inspiration appears to be the works of Rob Zombie based on some of the aesthetic, tonal, character and story choices, but no one involved can even bring the film up to that level. On occasion there is a wrinkle, a look, shot or set piece that stands out but overall the center is never found, so one can’t expect it to hold.

3/10