Saturday, 7 September 2013

Films En Route: 42, The Big Wedding, Hannah Arendt, Jack Reacher, London – The Modern Babylon


I watched eight films on the way to Europe and back. Leaving aside the three obscure (and mediocre) foreign films I watched, here are capsule reviews of the other five, from worst to best:
The Big Wedding
I watched this because it stars the likes of Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams. Big mistake! To call this film a waste of talent would be a huge understatement. Written and directed by Justin Zackham, The Big Wedding is an incredible misfire. The silly plot only gets sillier as it develops, with hardly an ounce of originality or real humour. A disappointing mess. *+
42
Strictly by-the-numbers biopic. It’s an important story (first African-American in the major leagues) and it’s fairly well-told, but it’s handled in a disappointingly unimaginative TV-movie style. The only bright light is Harrison Ford’s surprisingly effective effort as Branch Rickey, the man who gave Jackie Robinson a chance. **+
Jack Reacher
Far more interesting than I had expected, with a solid intriguing (and satisfying) plot, this Tom Cruise effort, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie,  was quite entertaining for much of the way (until the predictable violent ending). ***
Hannah Arendt
Margarethe von Trotta’s film, about a few weeks in the life of one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century, could have/should have been much better. Barbara Sukowa does well as Arendt, and this snapshot of a vital debate on the banality of evil as manifested in the trial of Adolf Eichmann is effectively structured, but the dialogue often made me cringe (worse than a bad TV movie). Still, the film provides much fruit for discussion and is definitely worth a look. ***
London – The Modern Babylon
This documentary from Julien Temple, about life in London since the beginning of the 20th century, is not so much a history of London during that period as it is the story of how its people have changed over the years (especially focusing on immigration issues and how London became the most multi-cultural city in the world). That focus makes this film uniquely fascinating and important. ***+

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