Friday, February 8, 2008

STARDUST (Matthew Vaughn, 2007, UK) Neil Gaiman captures lightning in a bottle with this Grimm fairy tale romance that never gets too cute or too sentimental. There is but a simple path from our mundane world into the fantastic and Tristan, our protagonist, innocently stumbles into a great adventure. Gaiman is our great modern Fantasist; this story incorporates many imaginative fairy tale conventions but never becomes trite or obvious; there are a few surprises around every dark corner. Imagine a falling star professing its love to a rodent and you will begin to understand with childlike wonder the magic of the tale. The viewer is never bogged down with explanation or exposition as the plot quickens and the tension seethes towards the (hopefully) beneficent climax. Gaiman wrote a story for his legendary SANDMAN series a few years ago (HEART OF A STAR) about a beautiful emerald star with whom Dream had fallen in love. In that, I see the germ of this film and I am glad he fleshed out the idea (or gave it flesh), so to speak. The direction is adequate but really nothing special and the performances are top notch without being over-the-top. (B)
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (Julie Taymor, 2007, USA) A juvenile and insipid love story between Jude and Lucy (witty, get it?) inspired by some of the greatest BEATLES music ever produced. The story and acting is mostly flat and uninspired though Jim Sturgess as Jude is a revelation (not revolution…1 or 9); his subdued lonely expressions and rich wonderful voice are exclamation points to this otherwise humdrum narrative. This film relegates BEATLES music to the droll low-life pop culture status of most modern bands and creates a two-hour music video with vapid transitions between guitar riffs. Julie Taymor’s superficial understanding of compositions such as REVOLUTION and HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN is the visual equivalent of emasculation. LET IT BE is the emotional highlight of the film but fails to carry the emotional weight it so desires to express. But the film is not a total loss: It is visually and stylistically stunning (though puerile) and aurally astounding! To truly appreciate the film it must be watched in High-Definition with an explosive surround sound setup: I watched this on Blu-Ray and the colors really popped and the songs utilized all speakers to their fullest extent which was quite an experience. Overall, a great idea unrealized makes a rather dull story with exciting graphics…much like a video game. (C)

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