Alexander Payne’s first directorial effort since the Academy Award-winning film Sideways recounts the tragic tale of Matt King, a land baron in modern day Hawaii. The Descendants, while having a certain Payne-esque quality to it, is a top-notch film that sells a realistic story about grief and anger.
Starring George Clooney as the grief-stricken Matt King, and Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller as King’s daughters Alexandra and Scottie, the film follows the family as they deal with the aftermath of his wife Elizabeth’s boating accident.
King, a lawyer and a self-described absentee father, is put in charge of selling or keeping his family’s 25,000 acres of land in Hawaii. The important decision is put on the back burner after Elizabeth is critically injured in an accident.
While dealing with his grief, King learns from the disgruntled and rebellious teenager Alexandra that his wife had been cheating on him. Filled with anger, hurt, and feelings of betrayal, King must come to terms with his situation while keeping his family together.
In a way only Payne can accomplish, the stakes are constantly raised in the film, leaving audience members on the edge of their seats with each new bombshell. The movie balances the fine line between mourning and being angry at the person you’re longing for.
The Descendants may deal with depressing content, but there are some laugh-out-loud moments and witty dialogue dispersed throughout the film. Also, you won’t leave theatres deeply saddened after watching the movie. Similar to other Payne films, the characters face many obstacles but are left with a hopeful future. With solid acting from Clooney and the girls, The Descendants is an almost accidental feel-good movie that’ll leave you laughing and crying at the same time.
4.5 / 5
HUGO IS AN enchanting family film with spectacular cinematography by Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese.
Based on the book Welcome to the Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, the film follows a young orphan boy named Hugo Cabret, played by young actor Asa Butterfield, who lives in the walls of the central Paris train station in the 1930s. Hugo must be always on guard, in case he’s captured and sent to an orphanage by the station’s inspector, played by Borat’s Sasha Baron Cohen. In the walls, Hugo maintains the station’s clocks and seeks to unravel a mystery left by his late father, with the help of his adventurous friend Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz).
Young up-and-comer Asa Butterfield manages to mirror the high level of acting ability of his fellow castmates, Sir Ben Kingsley and Christopher Lee, by exhibiting a true grasp of the acting craft. Cohen demonstrates he is really a multi-faceted and talented actor beyond his series of comedic films.
Scored by Howard Shore, Hugo’s soundtrack perfectly suits this whimsical tale. From chase scenes through walls of the train station to an unexpected historical lesson about the pioneers of filmmaking, Hugo is a story that will capture the hearts of everyone and leave them pining for the sense of home and completion we all so desire.
Happy Feet 2
2.5 / 5
HAPPY FEET 2 is a 3-D, computer-animated, family film written and directed by George Miller. For the second installment of this penguin franchise, Elijah Wood reprises his role as Mumble and Robin Williams lends his voice as Ramon and Lovelace. Pink replaces the late Brittany Murphy as Gloria.
This time around, Mumble blends into the crew with his tap dancing, but he still has a problem. His son Erik (Ava Acres) is hesitant about dancing and doesn’t feel up to the talent of the rest of the penguin pack. Through the coercion of Grace and Mumble, Erik tries dancing but is then humiliated.
After fleeing the colony with his two friends Boadica and Atticus to Adelie Land, Erik encounters the ruler named “The Mighty Sven.” Sven, who takes an instant liking to Erik, is a penguin with the ability to fly. Mumble eventually gets a hold of the trio and tries to take the three errant penguins back home, but on their journey back, Mumble realizes an iceberg has struck Emperor Land and they all must try and save their fellow penguins.
This movie doesn’t compare to its predecessor—it’s just a slightly below-average sequek. The plot is predictable and at times becomes boring. As with most family-friendly films, the movie is chock full of lessons, like the importance of promises and the bonds of friendship. Happy Feet producers get points in having many adult jokes, but even that isn’t enough to save this movie.
My Week with Marilyn
3 / 5
DURING THE SUMMER and fall of 1956, Colin Clark, then a lowly assistant on the movie The Prince and the Showgirl, spent a wild and adventurous week with the Showgirl set of the movie—Marilyn Monroe. This is the premise for the latest period, piece My Week with Marilyn. Based on Clark’s memoirs, the movie tracks mega star Monroe’s first visit to England while filming the ‘50s comedy.
Monroe fans be warned: This movie is not another Marilyn biopic. This doesn’t stop Michelle Williams, who plays the famous starlet, from stealing the show. Williams, who reportedly studied all things Marilyn for six months, nails the iconic actress’s breathy speech, sophisticated walk, and sultry seduction.
Playing opposite the ‘50s sexpot is Eddie Redmayne as the lovelorn Clark. Holding his own against Williams’ stellar performance, Redmayne sells Clark’s story as a posh, wealthy, and young Englishman determined to make it in show business. Kenneth Branagh (Oliver Lawrence) and Judi Dench (Dame Sybil Thorndike) also add authenticity to the film through their portrayals of renowned actors.
Aside from the superb acting, the film is visually stimulating. The costumes and set transport viewers back to the ‘50s. Monroe’s iconic look is spot on in each scene and the other actors are appropriately styled.
On the other hand, a shallow script plagued the film. The actual plot weighs down the film. It’s a miracle the actors did such a wonderful job with a subpar script. If more time was spent writing and adapting Clark’s memoirs, My Week with Marilyn would be a solid Oscar contender. Unfortunately, this blunder is just too big to let go.