Movie Review ~ A Dangerous Method

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightly, Vincent Cassel

Director: David Cronenberg

Rated: R

Running Length: 99 minutes

Random Crew Highlight:  Glazier – Georg Schneider

TMMM Score: (5.5/10)

Review: At the center of Cronenberg’s newest film is the curious rivalry between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.  On the outskirts is another tale of the relationship between Jung and a female patient and how she becomes the catalyst that drives a wedge between the two men and their fundamental beliefs.  Cronenberg has given us a handsome film with attention to period and detail but that is ultimately light on narrative and purpose.

The problem right off the bat is the casting of Knightly as Sabina Spielrein.  The character, as written by Christopher Hampton adapting his play which was itself adapted from a book, starts off howling and carrying on as she’s brought in for treatment with Jung.  Knightly is not up to the challenge of playing Spielrein and puts forward an interpretation of a hysteric that’s as unbelievable as her Russian accent.   For the first thirty minutes or so, these scenes of her hysteria are nearly unwatchable and you pray to see a nurse prepare a good sedative for her.  Alas, she’s left to shudder, scream, stick her jaw out, bug her eyes, and speak in fractured sentences.  It’s a performance that is out of place here…even taking into consideration the mental illness being discussed.

Thankfully, she’s calms down as the movie progresses and shares the bulk of her scenes with Fassbender who only makes her better.  Fassbender plays a less tortured version of the character he plays in Shame but both share sexual issues that threaten to destroy everything they’ve built up.  What he does here is give us a conflicted Jung but neither he nor Knightly generate any heat to give the audience reason to believe they have passion for each other.   I never understood why he was drawn to her or continued indulging her obsessive ways.

Mortenson, wearing Nicole Kidman’s fake nose from The Hours, is understated to the point of boredom.  I’m pretty sure Frued was at least a little less somber than how Mortenson plays him.  A true supporting character, his discussions with Jung are interesting and revealing but he too struggles with connecting to the material enough to give his trajectory great weight.  The working relationship/friendship Frued had with Jung always had a bitter edge and we don’t get that here.

Perhaps this is just an overly sophisticated movie at the end of the day.  Cronenberg is clearly interested in the vices that make people have but hide and he’s not one to shy away from taboo material.  There is darkness here but it’s conducted in the natural light of an office setting rather than in the dark corners of a bedroom.  The film is at its best when it digs under the surface to the unknown meaning of dreams and unattained desires but once is ventures into the known world it becomes talky, stagnant, and uninvolving.  I can’t help but wonder if Knightly wasn’t the catalyst for this film much like her character was for Jung and Frued.  With a different actress in her role the film may have taken off rather than just taxing the runway.

Movie Review ~ Beauty and the Beast : 3D

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The Facts:

Synopsis: The 3D release of the classic Disney tale.  Belle, whose father is imprisoned by the Beast, offers herself instead and discovers her captor to be an enchanted prince.

Stars: Paige O’Hara, Richard White, Robby Benson, Angela Lansbury, David Ogden Stiers, Jerry Orbach

Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

Rated:  G

Running Length: 84 minutes

Random Crew Highlight:   Inbetween Artist: “Beast” – Travis Blaise

TMMM Score: (9/10)

Review: By announcing plans to convert their popular films into 3D, one could accuse Disney of lining their already hefty pockets.  If these conversions are all handled with the care paid to Beauty and the Beast I’d happily line up, shell out, and see them all.

A better candidate for a 3D upgrade than 2011’s The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast reminds us why the film is considered a pinnacle of hand-drawn animation and a crown jewel in Disney’s crown.  I felt The Lion King didn’t have enough texture or color to warrant the depth that 3D can give to a film.  In Beauty and the Beast the lush landscapes, dark castle hallways, enchanted objects, and (at the time) cutting edge computer animation all burst off screen just as well as they did when first released.  It’s amazing how much of it works in 3D, actually with “Be Our Guest” a delirious highlight.

Much was made at the time of the computer animation utilized in the sequence where the Beast and Belle dance for the first time.  Still capable of choking up even the hardest hearted audience member, has there ever been a better or truer title tune?  Even more than “Be Our Guest”, seeing the “Beauty and the Beast” sequence is worth the price of admission.

The wonderful voice talent of O’Hara, Benson, Lansbury, and the late Orbach is as fresh and solid as ever.  I’m glad they left the “Human Again” sequence out of this version which was added when the film was re-released in IMAX years ago.

Next year will see the re-release of Finding Nemo in 3D…but here’s hoping that more classics like The Little Mermaid are given this royal treatment by Disney.

A nice treat before Beauty and the Beast 3D is a short sequel to 2010’s Tangled.  I found the original to be highly underrated and enjoyable with excellent hand-drawn animation, songs, and voice talent.  Beautiful 3D sequences in that elevated it to an unexpected surprise.

Tangled Ever After centers on the wedding of our two leads and the hijinks that occur when the rings go missing during the ceremony.  It’s a fast and breezy ride that reminded me why I responded so well to the first.  Our two pranksters (the groom’s steed and the bride’s chameleon) don’t utter a word and are still riotously funny.  The heroine of Tangled pairs well with Belle in that both are headstrong, independent women who you get the impression will do just fine even without a price to marry and live happily ever after with.  Disney was wise to use Tangled Ever After as a lead in to Beauty and the Beast 3D – it’s a fulfilling evening.