Weekly Mini Reviews: “Byzantium,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo” & More

October 13-19, 2013

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Byzantium | Neil Jordan | 2013 | ★★★

For about the first 40 minutes, Byzantium is kind of tedious as it just seems to be about a vampire going through an existential crisis. But it’s at that 40 minute mark when things start getting interesting and the mysteries behind the lives of Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and Clara (Gemma Arterton) and the shadowy figures that follow them are unraveled. From then on it not only gets entretaining, but there are some intense scenes that make the whole thing worthwhile. Overall, it’s a somewhat refreshing take on the vampire myth (like how they kill, how they are converted and who is allowed to convert), but it doesn’t completely alter it. In the end, you could do worse than watching this, and it gave us that one beautiful poster and a great performance from Arterton.

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The Monster Squad | Fred Dekker | 1987 | ★★★

Unlike Hocus Pocus, I have no nostalgic attachment to The Monster Squad, so I thought I’d be looking at it as one would watch any other film. This led to at first be wary of the way the whole thing is poorly put together on a script and editing level. But then I realized that this film has absoultely no other purpose than bringing to life the fantasy of just about every child: saving the world from monsters. And on that level it is wonderful. Sure, it doesn’t have the artfulness of other movies of its kind like The Goonies, but it most definitely matches that same film’s spirit of adventure and fun, and that’s all that matters. Plus, you can never go wrong with watching something featuring Stan Winston effects.

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Much Ado About Nothing | Joss Whedon | 2013 | ★★★

Let me just get this out of the way: I don’t care for Shakespeare. I find his work a chore to get through with very little thematic reward (with the exception of “Julius Caesar” and “The Tempest”). So if there’s a reason why I decided to check out Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado About Nothing has to do with his involvement and the cast. In the end, they are the only reasons to check it out. I loved that Whedon made something that was as far away from his TV work or The Avengers as possible and he does fine with material that he’s not acustomed to. He does falter a bit due to the limitations of his shooting locations, but that’s understandable given the rushed production and budget. The cast is super charming, especially Amy Acker who gives one of my favorite performances of the year. Now, Shakespeare’s prose does get away from most of the cast, but it’s okay because they are clearly having fun making the film and that comes through the screen and it made me have fun as well. It’s just, well, fun.

Post Tenebras Lux | Carlos Reygadas | 2013 | ★★★

I’m not too familiar with Carlos Reygadas’s filmography besides the titles and basic plot description and as a result I really didn’t have any interests in his films. The decision to watch Post Tenebras Lux came on a whim. From the first moment I was transfixed as it’s filled to the brim with beautiful images that perfectly and honestly capture the way of life in these particular areas of Mexico. There are a couple of party scenes in particular that took me back to the time when I lived back there. Despite all this, I could not help but roll my eyes at what the narrative is trying to get at (or at least my interpretation of it), which comes down to “God save those poor rich white Mexicans from those devilish poor people.” But hey, I won’t knock it down because of that because its powerful visual story telling trumps anything else. And it made me curious about the rest of his films, so I guess Reygadas wins.

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The Purple Rose of Cairo | Woody Allen | 1985 | ★★★★

Watching The Purple Rose of Cairo made me wish that I could once again fully articulate my thoughts on any films, because it’s perfection and I want to shout it to the world. I want to fully articulate why I found it charming, funny, and depressingly sad all at the same time. I want to dig deep into Woody Allen’s message of how despite how terrible life can be at times you still have to live it, but there will always be a movie playing somewhere that will take you away from it all, even if it’s only for a couple of hours. Perhaps someday I will, but for now just trust me when I say that it’s the best Woody that I’ve seen and that it’s a masterpiece.

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2 thoughts on “Weekly Mini Reviews: “Byzantium,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Purple Rose of Cairo” & More

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