Movie Review ~ Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Two young people journey through the dreamlike worlds of Cirque du Soleil to find each other.

Stars:

Director: Andrew Adamson

Rated: G

Running Length: 91 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  Canada’s highly regarded Cirque du Soleil has spent the last several decades slowly expanding their artistry throughout the world.  With sit down shows in Las Vegas, touring shows around the globe, or getting in early on the reality show bubble (Fire Within on Bravo), the group always seems to be first in line to try something and not have a fear of failure.  They are really just trapeze artists without a net and that’s what has made their work so strong.

Like their inventive stage shows, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away won’t be for everyone.  The nearly dialogue-free film marvels maybe a bit too much at its own creativity…but in the end the striking visuals and surprisingly engaging stunts work their magic on audiences to help tell the tale of two young people crossing the dizzying Cirque worlds in their quest to be reunited.

As is the case with many of their performances, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away begins with a pixie youth entering a world unfamiliar.  Circus Marvelous is where the film begins as Mia (Linz) wanders around solo, catching the eye of a young Aerialist (Zaripov).  It’s during his stage show that both Mia and The Aerialist find themselves swept away into an alternate universe from the creative minds at Cirque du Soleil.

The Worlds Away are basically filmed segments from various Cirque shows around the world.  Now before you dismiss this as a movie pieced together from clip reels let me say that what Cirque du Soleil did was go back to their shows to see what pieces would work best in the film and then adapted them to fit with the story.  The thread that ties everything together is admittedly weak because it’s really just a way to get to a series of performances observed by Mia or The Aerialist…but as the film progresses it gets more interesting and focused.

The first half of the movie is probably less “fun” than the second with more of the ribald and funny acts coming in after the halfway mark.  The opening acts come from the shows O and Kà and there is no grandiosity lost as we marvel at the wondrous beauty of the merging of magic and water with O.  Kà draws on visuals from imperial China with gravity defying stunts that are highlights of the film.  Other sections are drawn from Viva Elvis, Love (The Beatles), Mystere, Zumanity, and more.

More than a glorified 90 minute ad for the troupe, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away has another trick up its sleeve courtesy of an excellent use of 3D technology from director Adamson (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and producer James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar).  The movie was filmed in 3D so there is a striking amount of depth to the image that really does enhance the film experience.  It’s worth the upcharge to take in the Cirque worlds that burst with color and rely very little on digital effects.

I was worried going in that some of the tension of seeing a Cirque show live wouldn’t be present and was surprised that I was as involved with the film as I was.  Though nothing can compare with witnessing some of the magic live, Adamson and his Cirque collaborators have done a smashing job with putting to film some of the crazier stunts that have been conceived.  Using very little special effects is another selling point and helps the audience believe in the stunts they are seeing, creating the desired effect of actually being a part of the show.

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away is an entertaining trek that allows audiences to experience the world of Cirque du Soleil from whatever city they may be seeing the film in.  It starts off pretty ordinary but ends in typical Cirque fashion with a rousingly moving finale.  You don’t have to go to Vegas or wait for a touring company to introduce you to the wonders of Cirque du Soleil.  Though I highly recommend shelling out the dough to see them live if you ever have the chance, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away should fit the bill as a worthy substitute.

The Silver Bullet ~ Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

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Synopsis: Two young people journey through the dreamlike worlds of Cirque du Soleil to find each other.

Release Date:  December 21, 2012

Thoughts: It seems that Cirque du Soleil is absolutely everywhere today.  With sit-down shows in major cities and several satellite troupes out on tour, the exposure of the Canadian circus group is as high as it has ever been.  The company will get another jolt of attention when they release their collaboration with James Cameron and director Andrew Adamson (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) for this 3D fantasy poised to lure families who might not be able to shell out the hefty dough to see a Cirque show live.  The trailer is visually stunning (of course) but it does leave me wondering what exactly the audience is in for and how the thrill of live performance will be captured on film.  Considering the talent of all involved, I’m not too worried.

The Silver Bullet ~ Star Trek Into Darkness ~ Pre-Teaser

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Synopsis: After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

Release Date: May 17, 2013

Thoughts: J.J. Abrams worked wonders with his 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise ny bringing in a fresh faced cast ready for the challenge and tapping into his highly successful television scribes, he brought the series in a new direction that still retained the feeling of the original series.  A sequel to that mega-hit was inevitable but instead of rushing things, Abrams has taken his time to get Star Trek Into Darkness into theaters.  The first teaser (billed as a teaser announcement) is an exciting mix of expected space age wonderment and some mysterious clues as to where the crew of the starship Enterprise would be headed next.  As a serious fan of anything related to outer space, this is one of my highly anticipated films of 2013.

31 Days to Scare ~ Bait 3D

The Facts:

Synopsis: A freak tsunami traps shoppers at a coastal Australian supermarket inside the building – along with two great white sharks

Stars: Xavier Samuel, Chris Betts, Sharni Vinson, Julian McMahon, Phoebe Tonkin

Director: Kimble Rendall

Rated: R

Running Length: 91 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:  It’s no secret to family, friends, or random strangers that my favorite movie is JAWS.  There’s something about that film that has always spoken to me, my fascination with the ocean, and my love of sharks.  It helps that it’s a damn fine film with assured direction, brilliant performances, that killer score, and one menacing shark.  All in all…perfection in my book.

Ever since JAWS was released I’ve always been a sucker for any movie with an underwater shark (or creature) chowing down on any kind of stock character the movie could throw at us.  I’ve watched the television movies, read the knock-off books, been loyal to Shark Week through all the iterations of Air Jaws, and even shelled out my sheckles for Shark Night 3D which stunk worse than a chum bucket left out in the heat.

So you can understand why I approached Bait with some trepidation. Though I was pleasantly impressed with the restrained shark thriller The Reef, it was clear that Bait was going to be more of the cheap scare variety so I could only hope that it at least did its business with panache.  The resulting film is a good news/bad news sorta situation.

The good news is that some of the shark effects look quite good.  The bad news is that for every good shark CGI effect there are five more that look like a bad Sega game from 1989.  In a perfect world, the sharks would still be built for practical use to avoid the cartoon-y look they almost always have in cinema.  To be fair, even films with bigger budgets like Deep Blue Sea had trouble making their sharks look convincing…though to its credit Deep Blue Sea used a lot of robot sharks that looked real.

More good news is that Bait places its sharks and their prey in an unusual setting which always keeps things interesting when you are dealing with weak effects and weaker acting.  Though the supermarket that is flooded by a tsunami and brings with it two hungry sharks is well set-up, it can’t escape looking like it was built in a large tank of water.  Clearly, the set was at the mercy of the elements that had to support large amounts of water and debris.

The better setting is an underground parking garage that sets the scene for some of the better scares and had me getting my feet up onto the couch and off the floor more than once.  While two lovebirds are stranded underwater in their car, another is trying to get to safety…and all three have to contend with a shark that knows they’re there and is figuring out how to get to them.  Director Rendall does his best work here by finding some clever means of escape for the teens.

In movies like this, if you’re going to insist on having several parallel storylines you must MUST make a case for it.  In Bait, there are about five subplots going on that just never catch on.  There’s a muddled twist about a store robbery gone awry, a love triangle, a father-daughter conflict…it’s just all too much to be supported on such flimsy, floating ground.

It doesn’t help that the acting is subpar to say the least.  While our leading man (Samuel) fares best with his haunted past angle, better known actor McMahon (Nip/Tuck) is totally out to sea with a half-baked character that he adds no life to.  The women, usually the surefire dodos in horror films, are actually given their due here with help from Tonkin and Vinson who don’t just scream and yell and wait to get eaten.

It’s interesting to note that Bait was released in its native Australia in 3D.  It had a small run in the US utilizing the same technology and while I saw the 2D version I couldn’t see many places were the 3D would have added much in the way of depth or scares.  In the long line of shark films Bait may have some teeth to it but it still can’t hold a candle to its bigger budgeted sister films that inspired it.  I wouldn’t put it in the same universe as JAWS but it’s better than the usual direct-to-video crap that drifts out of tinsel town every few years.