Weekly Mini-reviews: “The Day of the Doctor,” “White House Down” & More

November 17-23, 2013

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Christopher and His Kind | Geoffrey Sax | 2011 | ★★★

Christopher and His Kind is a television film based on the memoirs of Christopher Isherwood’s life in Berlin during the time Adolf Hitler was on the brink of power. While his life during this time would inspire the short story “Sally Bowles” and the novel “Good Bye Berlin” (which would become the basis for Bob Fosse’s Cabaret), as presented in the film his personal adventures are hardly the material that should inspire a feature-length film. I mean, after all, he admits he moves there only because the gay scene was great and he is only affected by Hitler’s rise to power indirectly. Or perhaps it is deserving of the cinematic treatment, but because of Geoffrey Sax’s tonally jarring take on the material (it’s shot like a “Doctor Who” episode directed by a Jean-Pierre Jeunet wannabe), a score that blatantly rips-off Thomas Newman, and one particularly bad performance from Imogen Poots, it may not feel like so. In the end though, it’s a perfectly passable film that knows it’s limitations, and it features some fine work from Matt Smith as Isherwood, Douglas Booth as his German lover, and Lindsay Duncan as his overbearing mother as well as a couple of genuinely touching moments. It’s your usual Masterpiece theater stuff and that should tell you whether or not you’d enjoy it.

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Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor | Nick Hurran | 2013 | ★★★

Finally, after months and months of anticipation the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special has come and it is…good. For me it may not have been the face-melting television event to end all television events that I once hoped it would be, but there’s still plenty to love about it. The back-and-forth between Matt Smith’s Eleven and David Tennat’s Ten (or Twelve and Eleven?) is everything we expected it would be and the addition of John Hurt’s Doctor was great. Also, it features what could very well be the best action scenes the show has ever done. Even so, I feel it could have been a tad more epic and it gets too hung up on a subplot that is not particularly integral to the greater picture. I wish they had spent that time with s subplot that involved the actual Rose (Billie Piper) and not the Bad Wolf version of her. Since she is still my favorite companion I wanted to see her old, awesome character go around with Clara (Jenna Coleman) kicking ass. That’s actually my biggest gripe. However, it works, even with these flaws. In the end the show does something monumental, as far as the show’s cannon goes, that gives the show so many possibilities for a great future, and that’s all that matters. Here’s to 50 more years.
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Planes | Klay Hall | 2013 | ★★

There’s really not much to say about this one. We all know it’s a shameless cash grab and that there’s almost no artistic ambition behind it. But you know what? Despite there being almost no energy driving the film, a lazy script that is pretty much a mash-up of both Cars films, and lackluster voice performances, it’s not terrible. I mean, it’s not good but it managed to keep my attention and there weren’t really any moments that took me out of the movie, unlike, say, Turbo. As far as Disney straight-to-video stuff goes, it’s perfectly acceptable. Otherwise it is mediocre but slightly passable.

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The Rabbi’s Cat (Le chat du rabbin) | Antoine Delesvaux & Joann Sfar | 2012 | ★★★

The Rabbi’s Cat is yet another wonderful and creative French animated film. It tells the story of a can, who upon eating a parrot gains the ability to talk and then wants to pursue a conversion to Judaism to become a good cat so that his owner, the rabbi, will allow him to play with his daughter. Along the way they end up in an adventure trying to find a land in Africa populated by black Jews that is said to be the cradle of life. In addition to being complete joy, hilarious, and gorgeously animated, it’s also surpringly thoughtful when it comes to religion, it’s primary topic. By making the story be seen through the possibly-atheist cat it shows how silly the concept of religion is, and it’s not targeted at any one religion. At the same time it doesn’t condemn those that do follow a religion by showing that the people that follow them are human, and humans can be good or bad and use that religion to do good things and bad things. It really is a fantastic piece of work that needs to be seen.

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White House Down | Roland Emmerich | 2013 | ★½

There are some scenes in White House Down involving the daughter of Channing Tatum’s character, a young girl with a Youtube channel who loves politics and government, that give the film a compelling and fresh perspective into these kind of terrorism scenarios that summer blockbusters tend to present. Sadly, these scenes are too few and don’t happen often enough and for most of the running time we have to put up with this lifeless slog of a film. The lifelessness has nothing to do with the predictably stupid script, but with how poorly made the film is in just about every aspect. First it moves way too slow for the type of film it is. Then, Roland Emmerich can’t decide on what tone to give it, so we are left with unintentionally funny dramatic moments and with supposedly-light moments edited like a drama which takes away any comedy they may have had. The performance are also so bad. Channing Tatum, whom I had grown to love thanks to his recent comedies, is back to his wooden, charmless form; Jamie Foxx just sits there and delivers his lines without conviction; James Woods puts no energy into a role that could have had some great scenery chewing moments; And everyone else has absolutely nothing to do, and they act like it. I mean, even Richard Jenkins is bad, and that’s not something that happens every day. All I wanted out of this film was a fun time, and they couldn’t even deliver on that.

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