Spike Lee's New 'Miracle'?
In the world of film WWII has been done. It’s been done well, it’s been done poorly. It’s been covered from every side and recreated in every angle under the sun. It has not however been done by Spike Lee, the most prolific black filmmaker in film’s history. This fact makes his new film Miracle at St. Anna, which takes place during WWII, not simply just another film from that era. Like or dislike his films, Lee has a style and flare for filmmaking that is often hit (Do The Right Thing, Inside Man) or miss (Bamboozled, Get on the Bus) but always something to talk about.
But let’s ignore the man behind the camera for a second and talk about Miracle at St. Anna as a film itself, putting aside our opinion of its director. The film, which clocks in at a hefty 160 minutes, follows four black soldiers during WWII and a white child who one of them rescues from death. The four men are separated from the rest of their platoon and their racist commander during a battle and find themselves and the boy, who seems to have miraculous powers, in a small Italian village in the mountains that has been surrounded by Nazis. There are also modern day bookends to this story that involve one of the four soldiers and his trail after shooting a man in cold blood in a post office. Then there are about ten more subplots and themes that would take far too long to get into here.
Actually, it seems it would take far too long to get into them in the movie too. While the movie’s main plotlines are strong and many scenes are relentlessly powerful, Lee seems to have some problems covering everything he wants to cover or in this case everything the book the film is based off of covered. A flashback scene of the soldiers getting kicked out of a diner because they’re black seems out of place and lacks any serious impact on the rest of the film. There’s just a bit too much there and it makes the beginning of the film immensely disjointed and hard to follow. Thankfully once everything settles down near the end the plethora of storylines starts to dwindle down into a powerful final 40 minutes.
The acting is also a bit uneven, though the subject matter and Lee’s steady neorealistic directing mean that almost none of the emotion is lost. Some scenes feature impressive performances from an actor who in another scene seems pleasantly removed from the events going on around him. Michael Early’s character is imbalanced on the whole, sometimes acting in one way only to switch to what seems to be an almost completely different character in the next scene.
This looks kind of weird, but it's not.
But returning to the man himself, Spike Lee, this might be one of his best directed films, despite a few odd choices in cutting. A far fling from his earlier movies, which were filled with the idea of confronting the viewer with the anger and hatred in the world, this film, much like Inside Man, focuses more on the good things that unify us all and not the evil. Lee presents his scenes in a crisp, straightforward way that lends the film far more power than it should have given its shortcomings, and if there is one thing this film and Spike Lee are good at delivering it’s power.
3 out of 5. Could of been better, but very powerful. Trailer
'Eagle Eye' is blindingly bad
"Eagle Eye" should give film goers everywhere a new respect for Michael Bay. No, not because he directed the film, but because the film's director, D.J. Caruso, does such a poor job of trying to be him. Michael Bay can take a poor script crammed full of action and make it exciting. "Eagle Eye" proves that D.J. Caruso can't, and all that's left over is a few disappointing action sequences and one liners that even Roger Moore's James Bond would cringe at.
With a movie this bad it's hard to decide where to start to tear it apart, but then again I'm pretty sure the film's plot will do it on its own. After his twin brother dies, slacker Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) returns to his run down apartment to find that a terrorist's cache of weapons has been delivered there. A mysterious woman calls and tells him to get out quickly. Around the same time single mom Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) gets a call from the same voice and is told that if she doesn't do exactly as the voice says her son will die. The two meet up under the guidance of the voice. It seems this voice can control pretty much anything that is on a network and thus can see them constantly via security cameras and other such networked technology. Thus the two are supposedly forced into obeying the voice, which turns out about halfway through the movie to be an insanely smart computer designed by the US government.
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Yes, that plot twist occurs only about halfway, leaving the rest of the film to wallow around in its own poor excuse for a plot as the characters make dumber and dumber decisions about how to survive this 2001 looking AI. I'm going to start a petition called "Film Lovers Against Movies With Plots That Revolve Around People Acting Like Idiots," because it's really just annoying. No wonder the screenplay had four writers; it would take that many rewrites to come out with a product as inane as this. I picture the first screenwriter turning in a really good cold-war espionage film that just hints at AI. Then the second one comes in and updates it into a 90's action film. Then they hand it off to the third screenwriter who brings it into modern day and then goes crazy with the AI thing, making it the villain. Then finally the last screenwriter adds in the one-liners. That is, of course, entirely theoretical and probably false, but it's the only way in my mind that I can excuse the ramshackle nature of the plot.
Really though, I could have forgiven the idiocy of the story if the action had stood up to the test. You're talking to a "Die Hard 4" fan here, I don't need to be blown away by story I just need to be literally blown away. Instead Caruso, who should stick with mimicking Hitchcock like he did in "Disturbia," directs his action like he doesn't want to see the coolest parts of it. Cutting away from flipping cars and explosions like they weren't the only thing the movie had going for it and instead chopping hastily through even the best of the action sequences, which, by the way, ends in yet another non-existent tunnel in Washington DC. Sorry, we're out of good movies. We've got "Eagle Eye" though.
It's hard to judge acting when even the best one-liners in the film were hardly getting a reaction from the audience, but I'd say that almost everyone involved turns in a performance worthy of an Oscar considering what they had to work with. If only one of the four screenwriters, or the fifth guy who came up with the original story, had realized what a horror they were releasing upon theaters. Oh well, I guess the September movie slumps have to be filled with something.
I can't wait until the holiday season.
-1 out of 5. So very bad. Trailer
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