Lise Lyng Falkenberg's Point of View

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Into the Woods

The PG rated musical film “Into the Woods” directed by Rob Marshall is based on a 1986 stage musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. The story is funny and quite interesting, mixing different fairy tales such as “Cinderella”, “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Jack and the Beanstalk” and creating a new storyline. Some of the actors are very entertaining like Chris Pine (Cinderella’s Prince), Daniel Huttlestone (Jack), Tracy Ullman (Jack’s mother) and Johnny Depp (the wolf who disappointingly is only in two scenes at the beginning of the film), others like Anna Kendrick (Cinderella) and Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood) are not. They are just annoying. Most characters like the witch (Meryl Streep), the childless baker (James Corden), his wife (Emily Blunt) and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) are quite indifferent, though, no matter how good they are at singing. You never get to identify with them, as the musical creates an ironic distance between characters and audience, so you don’t really bother about them. I can live with that, but I can’t stand the music, which is rather unfortunate for a musical.

To make it perfectly clear, I’m not a Stephen Sondheim fan. I’ve always had a problem with his music, as no matter which musical it is, it sounds the same, and I suspect Sondheim of being incapable of writing anything but the same tune. I know that fans call it “stream-of-consciousness” and hail its repetitious patterns, but frankly, it is numbingly boring and it puts a stop to the plot action more than once. In fact, in the cinema where I watched the musical, the audience got so very bored, that whenever a song started, they all turned on their mobiles or headed for the toilets. Only the princes’ song “Agony” sung by Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen is remotely funny, but that is because of the actors, not the music.

Because of the music, “Into the Woods” seems unnecessarily long (it’s 125 minutes, which is at least 35 minutes too long!) and in the end, you just want to go home. Still, I’ll give it 3 out of 5 stars, as the plot, the lyrics and actors like Tracy Ullman, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp are okay: ***

Saturday, March 07, 2015

The Imitation Game

“The Imitation Game” tells the amazing and tragic (partly) true story of the British mathematician Alan Turing (1912-1954) who helped solve the Nazi Enigma code during the Second World War and became the father of computer science.

Norwegian Morten Tyldum has directed the film and it’s a bit confusing as the story jumps between not only two but three periods of time. There is the “now” in the 1950s where Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) is under suspicion of being a communist, the “then” during the codebreaking period from 1939 and on and finally the “far past” in 1927 when Turing as a boy in Sherborne boarding school realises that he is gay. Whenever the scene changes, you have to hold on to your popcorn and see what decade Turing is going to pop up in next.

Benedict Cumberbatch is very convincing as Turing, a man who is a genius and knows it. When Turing comes to work in codebreaking, this makes him obnoxious and intolerable in the eyes of most of his colleagues. His only female colleague Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) doesn’t mind and she falls in love with him, not knowing that he is gay and this is the big problem of the film. I had hoped it would be a film about codebreaking and of living in the UK as a homosexual during the war, but instead we get a love affair between Elizabeth Swann and the bastard child of Sherlock and Rain Man and that annoys me. There isn’t much truth to it, either, as the film builds up the relationship to much more than it actually was.

In the film Clarke is the only one who can reach Turing with her intelligence, beauty and sweet disposition, but people who knew Turing and Clarke in real life have complained that Knightley is inappropriately cast, as the real Clarke was “rather plain”. Furthermore, she and Turing were friends solely because they had the same kind of personality, but a female Rain Man? Oh, no! Not in this film! Instead, you get the impression that even gay guys are going to give heterosexuality a shot, if only Keira Knightley comes along. When that is said, the film addresses the problem of prejudice against gays and women and that is very sympathetic.

Keira Knightley and especially Benedict Cumberbatch dominate this film so profoundly that you hardly notice any of the other actors. Despite decent efforts from actors like Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear and Matthew Goode, the only one really noticeable is Mark Strong as the sly and elusive Stewart Menzies, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).

Despite all good intentions and amazing acting from Benedict Cumberbatch, I can only give the film three out of five stars: ***

© Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

Big Hero 6

“Big Hero 6” is based on a team of comic book superheroes appearing in Marvel Comics. It tells the story of 14 year old Hiro (Ryan Potter), who suffers incredible losses, faces a masked villain, gains some friends and suffers even more losses.

Had Hiro been a normal boy, it would have been hard to justify the light tone of the film, as he is leading an extremely traumatic life, but Hiro isn’t normal. Firstly, he is a 3D computer-animated character and secondly he is so brilliant that he enters university at the age of 14. Here hangs out with his much older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) and his much older friends Gogo (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and Fred (T. J. Miller) and meets professor Callaghan (James Cromwell) and entrepreneur Krei (Alan Tudyk). When a masked villain steals Hiro’s newest invention, he has to turn himself and his friends into super heroes while forming a close friendship with the personal healthcare robot Baymax (Scott Adsit), which his brother has invented.

All the losses that Hiro has to suffer makes this film at least PG-rated, but I quite like it, although it isn’t surprising, but actually a bit boring at times. The robot is the star of the film - big, cuddly and kind like so many animated characters before him from Baloo in “The Jungle Book” to Sulley in “Monsters Inc.” - and the friendship between him and Hiro is quite touching. I found it much too easy to guess the identity of the masked villain, though, and all of the characters are extremely stereotype, especially the female characters, Hiro’s Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph) included.

What I like the best about “Big Hero 6” is how San Francisco and Tokyo has merged into one city: San Fransokyo, taking the best from both. That is brilliant. Moreover, YouTubers Dan Howell and Phil Lester cameo as two of Krei’s technicians, at least in the UK-version.

The film is directed by Dan Hall and Chris Williams, it lasts 102 minutes and I’ll give it three out of five stars: ***