Film Briefs: “From Up on Poppy Hill”, “The Place Beyond the Pines” and “Trance”

20130412__trance2-566~p1Film Briefs is our way of giving our opinion on films we might not necessarily have the time to review in full.  This is a column where we sum up our feelings about the last few movies we saw and throw ‘em up just to give you an idea of what’s out there.

Follow the jump to see briefs for From Up on Poppy Hill, The Place Beyond the Pines and Trance

From Up on Poppy Hill

680x478one-star2Well, Studio Ghibili, it was inevitable. After years of continually hitting everything – from home-runs like My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Only Yesterday (1991) and Pom Poko (1994), to knocking line drives such as Nausicaä (1984), Castle in the Sky (1986), Spirited Away (2001) and Ponyo (2008) – eventually you had to strike out. But you shouldn’t feel too bad. Heck, even Babe Ruth went down swinging every now and then. I’m sure your next at bat will no doubt be triumphant, if of course you’re willing to look at what went wrong.

May I suggest changing up your stance, or in this case, adding a little umph to your storytelling so as not to lull the viewers into a $8.00 (matinée price) nap? I’m all for simple stories, even ones involving the saving of a clubhouse and the search for family ties, but why did you feel the need to present it in the dullest way possible? And as for the introduction of incest into the plot… really!? You do know kids are watching this, right?

Sure, the artwork is mesmerizing, and there were several times where I wanted to run up to the projector and hit pause to fully appreciate the artistry, but at this point in the game, Studio Ghibli, that’s to be expected, and it is not enough to win me over. I want engagement, something you failed to give me with From Up on Poppy Hill.

The Place Beyond the Pines

article-2252149-169F2516000005DC-334_634x378four-stars4The primary question I ask myself when determining if sitting through a 2 hours and 20 minutes movie was any good is, was there a sense of closure and satisfaction and/or did I want the movie to continue for another 2 hours and 20 minutes? my answer, YES!

Following the success of Blue Valentine (2010), Derek Cianfrance‘s sophomore offering is an attempt at illuminating the theme of sins of the father being passed onto the son. It’s every bit as ambitious as the crisscrossing characters and see-sawing timeline jumps found in the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, Babel, 21 Grams), yet unlike those films, Cianfrance takes a refreshing more linear approach to the story. As promised by the film’s trailer and IMDB storyline, the film does contain chase scenes and bank robberies, but those hoping to catch the second coming of Nicolas Winding Refn‘s Drive (2011) or Michael Mann‘s Heat (1995) will more than likely be let down. Two-thirds of this movie is straight up drama, which was just fine by me, considering none of it was of the melodramatic variety.

As long as Cianfrance continues to work with cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (Hunger, Shame) and/or incorporate more dogs dancing to Bruce Sprinsteen songs, I’ll always be the first in line for whatever he puts out next.


Trance-Movie-e1358162488293two-stars1I struggle to recall the last time such a sadly underwhelming attempt at mystery asked its audience to ignore all things logical in order to just enjoy the film, yet that’s exactly what director, Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and longtime collaborator writer, John Hodge (Shallow Grave, A Life Less Ordinary) are asking us to do with their latest offering, Trance.

Those, like myself, who were unable to ignore the bombastic suffocation of pulsating techno music smothering every other scene, as well as the poorly thought out logic pertaining to the rules of the film’s key plot element; hypnosis, would probably benefit more from slamming their head into the ground immediately following the film’s opening scene, which, along with an “integral” plot point added just for the sake of seeing a completely naked Rosario Dawson – be it body double or not – was the only redeemable quality this film had to offer.


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