Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 novella The Little Prince has long been acclaimed as a masterpiece of children’s literature, and rightfully so. In spite of the book’s ostensible target audience, Saint-Exupéry tackles adult themes such as mortality and fidelity with the same gusto with which he handles more childish whimsy. The remarkable cohesiveness of the two approaches has largely contributed to the novella’s staying power and broad appeal.
When the teaser for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children first burst upon the scene in the fall of 2003, it would have been a staggering understatement to say fans were excited. In fact, fans of gamings flagship fantasy series were positively chomping at the bit for any new information regarding the sequel. The teaser was sparse but the morsels it did offer gave the public some pretty major bits, such as a recut of Sephiroth burning Nibelheim, shots of Vincent, Barret, and Tifa, and the return of the Turks, all scored to a new version of the iconic One Winged Angel theme from FFVII’s final battle. Was Square setting the bar a bit too high right out of the gate? Just how could they possibly match the insane hype they were already building almost two years prior to release?
To fully appreciate Peter Jackson’s last foray into Middle-Earth, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, one must understand it’s actually two separate movies. The first movie is a sour, pseudo-Shakespearean morality play that has nothing to do with Hobbits. The second movie is a heartfelt rumination about friendship and self-sacrifice. For those willing to overlook the sour for the sweet, there are great treasures to be found, as Jackson brings his trilogy to a suitably-epic conclusion.
Wild is a mildly-satisfying travelogue through one woman’s troubled life that never quite delivers the catharsis it promises. Reese Witherspoon gives a brave, physically-demanding performance, despite her character’s unconvincing psychological transformation. Director Jean-Marc Vallée deftly intertwines our hero’s tragic past with her epic hike along the Pacific coast, but neither informs one another on an emotional level. The result is a beautiful looking film that feels lonelier than a desolate mountain pass.
If you can imagine Nixon resigning in the middle of All the President’s Men, with the remainder of the film dedicated to Woodward and Bernstein fighting their editor, you have a pretty good idea how Kill the Messenger plays out. It’s not a bad film, but it is a sloppy one that squanders a firecracker start and a terrific performance from Jeremy Renner. As Gary Webb ponders whether to publish his inflammatory story, he is advised that, “Some stories are just too true to tell.” Such is the case with some scripts, which, in their admirable haste to relate the truth, forget the requirements of compelling storytelling. If you want to find the heart of Webb’s story, you’ll have to dig a little deeper.
Guilt is a powerful motivator. Its nagging voice can corrupt even the noblest of intentions. In the case of The Two Faces of January, a son’s guilt leads him into a questionable alliance in which he becomes inextricably trapped. There are twists and turns, jealousy and lust, but the real pleasure of a film like this is watching how far people will go to silence those nagging voices. Even if it means losing everything they care about.
We’ve seen countless films depicting the monstrosity of World War II, but The Notebook gives us an unflinching look at the monsters it created. Both observant and nonjudgmental, director, János Szász, drops us into a war zone bereft of borders or buffers. Allegiances crumble and shift like the tattered landscape, where even familial ties yield to stark necessity. This is a challenging film that reaffirms the survival of the human spirit, not through acts of courage or bravery, but by harnessing our spitefulness and hatred to outlast the enemy. Whether the soul can endure such a coldhearted transformation is left for the audience to decide.
Back in February, it seemed almost unfathomable that 2014 could produce a more listless spy thriller than 3 Days to Kill. Oh, for a return to those bygone days of innocence. There’s a new kid on the block and he looks a lot like the guy who used to be James Bond. Based on a popular series of ‘80’s espionage novels, The November Man feels less like an adaptation and more like the outtakes from some mediocre made-for-television movie. It’s a Frankenstein creation of re-cycled plots and villains, pieced together with lethargic pacing and turgid action sequences. Where are the invisible cars when you need them?