Thursday, May 31, 2012

In Theaters: "Snow White and the Huntsman"

At risk of sounding silly, the main problem with Snow White and the Huntsman is that it’s about Snow White and the huntsman. The title characters are played by Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth respectively, but the film also has Charlize Theron acting up a storm as Ravenna the wicked queen, as well as a rogue’s gallery of your favorite character actors as the seven dwarves. Both of these secondary elements are infinitely more interesting than the leads; they get a fraction of the screen time, with Theron all but disappearing from the middle hour. There must be nothing more frustrating for a filmmaker than finishing a big summer movie, and realizing when it’s all over that you made the wrong one.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On DVD: "Coriolanus"

Ralph Fiennes first played the role of Coriolanus on the London stage nearly a dozen years ago, and appears to have been unable to shake it—it stayed with him for all of this time, and here we have, as his feature film directorial debut, a film adaptation of the play. It’s not hard to guess why he wanted to immortalize his performance on film; it’s a decathlon for the already intense thespian, full of giant acting arias. Every word spoken to the Roman peasants drips with acidic indifference (“Get you home, you… fragments”), and when he has had enough of their accusations, his speech is powerful, rafter-shaking even—nearly as terrifying as the quiet chilliness of his proposal to ally himself with his enemy. But this isn’t a book-on-tape turn, the way some actors play their Shakespeare; his is a powerfully physicalized characterization, and even in his dialogue scenes, he’s like a coiled snake about to strike.

Monday, May 28, 2012

On DVD: "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

Eva (Tilda Swinton) is a woman who has learned to walk between the raindrops. She keeps her head down; she ignores the people who stare or point. Something terrible happened in her recent past, something involving her son Kevin (Ezra Miller), and she feels responsible. She's trying like hell to get on with her life, but that's clearly not going to happen; she's too haunted, by whispers, memories, ghosts.

Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin tells Eva's story within a fractured narrative that becomes a dreamlike intermingling of her complicated past with her tortured present. It also does so without telling us more than we need to know about either, yet never seeming to withhold information; in spite of our uncertainty (particularly in the opening scenes) about how one thing relates to the other, Ramsay's such a confident and assured filmmaker that we feel adrift but not lost.