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Mini-Reviews: Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Priest, Bridesmaids

In an attempt to give readers my feelings on films as I plug away on a number of writing assignments, I’ll provide mini-reviews to give my succinct opinion on films and to give me time to finish my other projects.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams:

Here is a film which uses 3D technology to fully capture the human experience. It provides you with a sense of wonder, but the pace is leisurely, the shots are long and steady, and there’s nary an explosion or gimmicky shot to be found. Werner Herzog, the mad German filmmaker, has used 3D for the first and last time to film Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a breath-taking historical document. It’s a documentary about Chauvet Cave, the recently discovered cave with the oldest discovered cave drawings– and the 3D is to help you feel the cave around you and note the contours of the walls. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is less of a narrative, and more of a journey: it’s one you’ll likely not forget any time soon.

Chauvet Cave’s drawings are more than twice as old as the next oldest discovered drawings, kept perfectly in this cave like a time capsule. You get a sense from the art that these 32,000 year old Neanderthal artists weren’t primitive in the way we’d expect: they understood movement, dimension, storytelling. It makes you wonder about the history and purpose of art, and if we’re as different as a species as we think ourselves to be. The cave is gorgeous, full of amazing stalactites and stalagmites, along with insane crystal and calcite deposits all over the place. You get the feeling that if cavemen were telling stories because the spirits drove them to, the spirits are still very present in a place like this. Herzog narrates the film with his usual off-kilter poetry, and the characters who he interviews all have wonderfully insightful things to add to the proceedings. The tale by the scholar who began dreaming of lions after spending a few days visiting the cave stirred up emotions in me, and I didn’t know why.

This movie made me think of my dad. As a family, we took a family vacation every summer growing up. These trips gave me an appreciation and respect for nature and history, even though I’m sure on many of the earlier ones, I didn’t have nearly the frame of reference to fully grasp the grandeur of a place like Glacier National Park. I remember loving it and thinking it was gorgeous– I can only imagine how in love with it I’d be today. One summer, we went to Petroglyph National Park, and I remember my mom and dad taking hundreds of photos of the petroglyphs. I thought, “These are cool, but why take pictures of hundreds of them? It won’t ever accurately capture the history of the place or the wonder of being there.” In Cave of Forgotten Dreams, one woman is constructing a big picture of many of the walls through technology, but when we are shown the picture in the film, I had the same thought as Petroglyph National Park. Despite how cool a place is, photos sometimes won’t do it justice. The contours of the walls, the shimmer of the crystals, the air and sounds around you– this makes a cave. Herzog understood this when he utilized 3D, and by yielding this technology in the right way, he has created a document of what it’s like in a cave that the general public is not allowed to visit. This is a gift. One of the greatest marvels of science and history has now been preserved in a format that actually replicates a visit in a visceral way. This is not a film to be missed, as it won’t be forgotten.

Priest:

The brutal reviews this film has been getting made me concerned that my low expectations weren’t low enough. I didn’t think Scott Stewart’s Legion was very good, and this movie looked quite similar in tone and execution. It’s easy to understand why Priest got bashed by many critics– it feels somewhat derivative, the dialogue is clunky and mostly humorless, the actors don’t really bring much to their one-dimensional characters, and the CGI at times doesn’t look great. However, Priest was never boring, and it’s definitely more fun than Legion. I’d go so far as to say if you like the trailer, you’ll definitely like the film– I think the better moments in the movie aren’t in any of the commercials I’ve seen (a rarity nowadays). It’s far bloodier/gorier than I expected from a PG-13 film, and there are enough jump-scares and enjoyable fight scenes to feel safe recommending this on DVD to even a skeptic.

The thoroughly unimportant plot is as follows. Vampires started taking over the planet. The clergy (headed by the invaluable Christopher Plummer, the only actor who truly hams it up here) decide to make priests the chief vampire killers, and they put the infected in “reservations,” leaving the rest of humanity to live in their post-vampocalyptic cities. The priests are disbanded. When the main priest (Paul Bettany)’s niece (Lily Collins) gets kidnapped by a former-priest-turned-vampire (Karl Urban, who tries being hammy but never moves past quirky), he joins forces with another former priest (Maggie Q) and the sheriff/niece’s love interest (Cam Gigandet) to stop the vampires. A few of the fight scenes are actually fun, with a couple of kills eliciting responses of “Damn!” from the audience. The finale in particular takes place on a train in a sunny desert, making for well-lit carnage. Look, it’s all very silly. You already know if it’s not for you. I found it to be more entertaining and diverting than it should have been. It’s what I call a perfect TNT movie– it’s late at night, you’re flipping through channels, and stumble upon Priest, so you watch the whole film. It’s fine for fans of the genre, skeptics can wait til DVD or TNT. (Final note: I saw it in 2D, but I’ve heard out of all converted 3D films to date, this film had the best conversion effects. It’s easy to see where in the film the 3D might have been cool for fans of this particular technology.)

Bridesmaids:

Judd Apatow and Paul Feig joined forces for Freaks and Geeks, which proved that teen dramedies didn’t have to be about cool, popular, attractive kids to be funny. Now they join again for Bridesmaids, which proves that raunchy comedies starring women can be funny. Although there isn’t much competition, it’s easy to see why people are ecstatic about this film– it’s by far the funniest female comedy I’ve seen. It’s not perfect, however: it suffers from the common Apatow syndrome of being too long, and several of the plot contrivances distracted from the overall quality of the film. However, it’s a movie where women manage to talk frankly about sex, bodily functions, and other profane subjects while maintaining a sweet tone that never gets crass or jarring. It also boasts star-making turns from both Kristen Wiig as the lead character and Melissa McCarthy as the scene-stealing sister of the groom. Don’t let the hype build you so high that you think this will be one of the best movies of the year: I’m skeptical that it will remain the best comedy by year’s end. But it certainly earns a spot in the pantheon for hopefully opening the door to quality female comedies.

To quickly discuss what doesn’t work, there are issues of timing: many segments go on a few beats too long. There’s an early “competitive toast” in which two characters try to get the final word in the toast. If it ends earlier, it gets a big laugh at the end– instead, it gets the big laugh, but ends too late and leaves us with a smile instead. Several parts of the film are like this. Additionally, there is the common problem in many comedies where if a character just spoke honestly, the conflict would disappear, so characters go out of their way to not just say what the should. Primarily, this occurs in the conflict between Wiig and Rose Byrne, the rich passive-aggressive bitch friend of Maya Rudolph. So many instances occur where if Wiig just spoke honestly to Rudolph (“Didn’t you notice your other friend trying to usurp my Maid of Honor role back there?”), the conflict wouldn’t exist, since it should be obvious to literally everyone what Rose Byrne is doing. Also, the way in which the film separates Wiig and her love interest, Chris O’Dowd, leading into the third act is also unbelievable.

The Wiig-O’Dowd relationship is probably the best part of the film until that point though, because it injects plenty of heart into the wacky proceedings. The first few scenes of the film are perfect, with one of the more awkward sex scenes ever on film followed by a great lunch conversation between Wiig and Rudolph. All of the raunchier scenes work very well, including what is sure to be the most talked-about scene, which involves food poisoning at a dress shop. Wiig has to do some very (one may say overly) wacky things in this film, but she carries it all very well– she’s unconventionally pretty and certainly has the charisma to carry a film. Her chemistries with Rudolph and O’Dowd invest the audience into the film. Some of the supporting characters are wasted, but one of them rules the movie every time she’s on screen: Melissa McCarthy. In the same way that Zach Galifianakis was in high demand after The Hangover, she will be in high demand from here on out. Every line she has is a scream, and despite being a freak of sorts, she comes off well, because she’s the only woman in the whole film with confidence and honesty. Even though it certainly isn’t perfect, it carries laughs and invests you emotionally. Plus, if this were an Olympic event, creating a raunchy female comedy and sticking the landing would earn Bridesmaids very high degree-of-difficulty points.

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~ by russellhainline on May 15, 2011.

One Response to “Mini-Reviews: Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Priest, Bridesmaids”

  1. […] BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: 10. Carey Mulligan, Drive 9. Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter 8. Elle Fanning, Super 8 7. Berenice Bejo, The Artist 6. Shailene Woodley, The Descendants 5. Anjelica Huston, 50/50 4. Melanie Laurent, Beginners 3. Sareh Bayat, A Separation 2. Cate Blanchett, Hanna 1. Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids […]

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