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Interesting watch that falls far short
This is a film worth seeing, simply not one I will feel the need to watch a second time. It has its moments of humor, the emotions-as-pies motif is unique and interesting, and if nothing else, it's different, but it falls short.
It felt extremely disjointed: the overall tone seemed to erratically waver from one scene to the next, as did characterization when it wasn't wholly one-dimensional.
The tone of the movie oscillates wildly from one scene to the next. Starting with a dark but humorous tone, the plot quickly wends its way into some very depressing and unsettling territory with Jenna's physical abuse. The emotional abuse at the hands of her husband's utterly flat character (discussed below) becomes more asinine as his characterization does, losing its dramatic impact. Jenna's musing stays dark, but loses much of its intended humor when those dramatic moments it contrasts begin to fizzle. In another film, this might be a frank portrayal of a bleak life, but in "Waitress", it comes off as unsure.
Even if the tone is unsure in a negative sense, the plot is unpredictable in a positive sense. It is unclear what will happen to Jenna, and that holds your interest. This makes it all the more disappointing when an obvious deus ex machina saves her from her dreary life at the film's end.
Russell's character is well acted, but unsteadily written. Though I understand the sad dynamic of an abusive relationship, I had trouble suspending my belief in Jenna and Earl's continued relationship. While it is mentioned that he has changed since marrying, and Jenna does plan to leave him eventually, her character is SO no-nonsense and direct with everyone else that I couldn't reconcile that side of her with the one who stands abuse from an imbecile.
Earl's character is one I do understand because we're absolutely hit over the head with his defining traits. His repetitive speeches declaring his neediness lack any subtlety. After abusive, needy, and obtuse, we're left with no more words to describe his shell of a character. Each time Sisto enters, his character reiterates that same information about himself and my attention drifts.
Though Dr. Pomatter's character is also a bit flat, he serves his purpose in the movie quite effectively. He is nice, nervous, and drawn to Jenna; that is all he really needs to be. He's well acted by Fillion, who has a good sense for comic timing and the charm necessary for the role.
If you're interested in seeing it, I encourage you to do so, but with the understanding that it has a wealth of shortcomings.
The Dark Knight (2008)
character development falls short of bar set by Batman Begins
While I really enjoyed the film, I don't think it deserves the near-perfect rating it's currently receiving here. My main gripe is the overall lack of character development, and the somewhat anti-climatic ending.
In the previous film, an insightful dual time line showed the protagonist's development. In this installment, we're left in the dark (no pun intended) about the two main characters who steal the show from Bruce Wayne: Harvey Dent and the Joker.
For Dent, we're mainly treated to foreshadowing lines about faces and heroes becoming villains. At his fund-raiser, get a hint of just how good he truly is: while totally uncomfortable socializing with the city's elite, he still sparkles because it's a necessary evil. This scene left me wanting to see much more about how he came to possess such strength. His fall would be so much more poignant if we knew more about his rise, but we met him a the top. There's story to be told there that is only hinted at, and mainly from the standpoint of his career, that would enrich our understanding. We know how he came to be the hope of the city, but we don't know how he became the person capable of being that hope.
For the Joker, we receive contradictory stories of his past. The Joker's vague past actually works for his character, unlike Dent. It makes him all the more terrifying (and he WAS terrifying) that he so effortlessly spins a new tale about his past that will most resonate with his selected victim. Enjoyable as that was, it would have been nice to be thrown a real tidbit about his origins.
Despite a stunning performance, I did tire of his elaborate traps. The psychological puzzles leading to someone's death started to smack of Jigsaw in the Saw series, and while the Joker's chicken came before Jigsaw's egg, this torture shtick is something that's been played out in B movies over recent years.
The citizens' resistance to his final act was a moving plot point, but, as part of the film's culmination, it seemed misplaced. It was an interesting and appropriate way to thwart the Joker's planned chaos, but ultimately it was people not acting: people doing nothing as a climatic moment. The pace of the movie, which had been almost dizzily fast until this point, suddenly went a bit limp.
Though it lacks its predecessor's character development, cohesive story arc, and great pacing, it is still a great watch due to incredible performances from the full cast.
Across the Universe (2007)
Not all bad, but not great either
People seem to either be in the camp of "I love the Beatles, therefore this movie is brilliant", or "I love the Beatles, therefore this movie is a bastardization." I enjoy the Beatles, but don't believe that they can do no wrong (I have 7 words for you: Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite. Does anyone really like that song? Really?). I went in hoping for something dazzling and trippy ala Moulin Rouge.
The problem is: Moulin Rouge selected songs that would forward its plot, whereas Across the Universe forced songs in where they had no business being; Bono and Eddie Izzard both really got into their characters, as hackneyed as they were, but their scenes were long, pointless, and entirely derailed the plot of the movie. No matter how much I liked a scene, after that interminable foray into psychedelia, I just didn't care anymore.
Judging from the trailer, I expected this to be visually stunning. However, the slick CG effects really clashed with the gritty lighting and intimate camera angles. It was like special effects brought to you by the guy who invented the Pink Floyd laser show.
That said, this was still overall a fun watch, just not an ingenious one. There are good jokes and great vocal performances, but it suffered from lack of a solid plot and, frankly, lame effects.