Saturday, April 4, 2009

Movie Journal: Stardust

There's only so much to say about Stardust, and that's mainly that it is a charming film that succeeds in parts but ultimately fails where it really counts. Sound familiar? I used the same words in my review of Indy 4, though I assure you that Stardust is in many ways the better movie.

Why do I say this? Because, again, it's got a lot of charm. The majority of the time characters come across really well and there are more than a few fantastic scenes. However, to go into any detail concerning the first act and a half of the film would be to destroy it for the reader. The fact is that Stardust sets up the story almost perfectly and then fails to deliver.

It's hard to say exactly what doomed the latter half of the film. I have a few hunches, one being the casting choice of Claire Danes as the ethereal and immortal Yvaine. Claire Danes just doesn't do ethereal and immortal, if you know what I mean. She and the main character were a terrible pairing, and the least charming aspect of the movie. As a result it was really hard to be engaged by the events between them. I had initially thought that Danes had been a weird casting choice, but also that there must be something I missed and that the director would make it work. Not the case. In fact, every time I saw Danes I was ripped right out of the experience because she just didn't belong. This was not a good moment for an actress of her caliber, partly because it may be that she was carefully cast but just didn't do a very good job.

It's terribly sad, because Stardust is a very unique and ingenuity-infused film, and with a few tweaks it could have been truly great.

6 out of 10

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Movie Journal: An American In Paris

An American In Paris is one of the greater musicals such as The Music Man and Singin In The Rain, though it tends to achieve far less publicity. Mark my words though that it is every bit as great, if not more so.

This fabulous musical tells the story of...wait for American in Paris! Would you believe it? Gene Kelly stars as a young, struggling artist. He's also the film's choreographer, and boy does he go to town on this one. As the film opens up and the main character is introduced, each movement is like that of a ballet, elegant and precise. And that's far before any singing or dancing even starts, though there's much to enjoy until that picks up. The characters positively come to life on the screen, and give you a guided tour of life in Paris, and what the people are like there. At least, what they're like in a musical.

So anyway, as I was saying: Gene Kelly is Jerry Mulligan, an inexperienced if inspired artist who is barely scraping by. So along comes Milo Roberts, an older, wealth-inflicted woman who has taken an uncanny interest in his work. She wants to help him. It could be that Milo is lonely and attempting to take advantage of Jerry by putting him in her debt, but in his situation, what choice does he have? Things become even more complicated when our hero meets another gal; a young and gorgeous doll he's hooked on almost instantly. This quite visibly upsets Milo, but that's not where the trouble ends. Though Jerry starts going out with this girl named Lise Bouvier in secret, and adores her more than anything in the world, it seems there's something she is not willing to tell him, just like he's not willing to tell her that Milo's financial grip on him is growing uncomfortably tighter.

Sound cookie-cutter? It's not. The storyline is more than the sum of it's parts, and the same goes for the film's rich characters. The dialogue that passes between each one is, to say the least, very well crafted. It's outstandingly clever, and meshes with each song effortlessly scene by scene.

Which once again brings me to the subject of Gene Kelly's choreography, which was almost never better than this. Prepare for your mind to be blown away before the movie is over. "Captivating"? Yeah, it's captivating; your brain will be in microscopic bits. Before the film's end there comes an almost entire act of stylish musical montage madness that leaves you breathless. Musicals don't get much better than this.

Bottom-line? An American In Paris gives us a precious glimpse of the sheer beauty a painter sees in his lover, and it's so spectacular, so amazing, so majestic, that there's no way you're going to watch it just once.

9 out of 10