A Cat in Paris (2010). Along with the Mambo-era romance Chico & Rita, this charming French production was the other surprise nominee for Best Animated Feature for this year’s Academy Awards. Like Chico, the story is a little too slight to be considered a truly great film, but it does have some impressive, beautifully colored imagery to recommend it (and hopefully alert Hollywood to the fact that not all successful animated films have to adhere to that Pixar/DreamWorks template). A Cat in Paris follows a Parisian cat (but of course), who comes to the aid of Zoe, the lonely, traumatized little girl who takes care of him. The independent kitty also belongs to an athletic, kindly petty thief in the city, and together they help nab the criminal who’s planning the heist of an ancient artifact – the same man pursued by Zoe’s mom, a police detective (he also murdered Zoe’s dad). Like I said, not much of a story to hang on to, and yet the visuals – computer aided and yet more warm and vivid, like a living story book – are dazzling enough to make it a winner. I enjoyed this one more than Chico & Rita, yet Christopher preferred the latter.
Harakiri (1919) and The Wandering Shadow (1920). Two films from Kino’s forthcoming Fritz Lang: The Early Works DVD collection. Though not without their archival value, these torrid dramas are very typical of that early silent period (stodgy, inert). Neither of them give any indications of the studied, visually resplendent directing style that Lang would later be known for, but they have a few positive points. Harakiri is a Japan-set update on Madame Butterfly with exotic (over the top, actually) production design; The Wandering Shadow counters a confusing story with lovely photography of the German Alps. At DVD Talk, I will shortly be posting a full review of these (plus the third film in the set, 1921′s Four Around the Woman).
Pulse (2006). This was our annual “scary” movie pick for us to watch in the back room while the trick-or-treaters ignored our house. I dunno why, but we always strike out this time of the year – and this soggy techno-thriller was no exception. This was a remake of a Japanese scary flick (bad sign #1) about a group of college students who are shocked to find chat messages and visions of their friend (who had recently committed suicide) on their computers and cell phones. Soon they are drawn into a terrifying cyber-world in which ghostly figures corrupt their souls and eventually transform them into chalky black dust, sucking their souls into the ether and creating a nationwide epidemic. Too dull to be frightening. Much of the film’s visuals were blatantly ripped off from the opening credits of Se7en, and the scares came out too contrived and too often to be truly effective. The cast (headed by Kristen Bell and Ian Somerhalder) contributes decent-enough performances. The single most annoying thing about Pulse: every shot has that dingy-blue post-production effect that seems to have gripped most recent scary-flicks.
DVD Talk reviews:
Disasters Deconstructed: A History of Architectural Disasters (1996-2011) – Recommended