The Films of Tarsem Singh
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Immortals (July 3/12)
Obviously inspired by the success of 300 and Wrath of the Titans, Immortals follows Henry Cavill's Theseus as he sets out to stop a vicious warlord (Mickey Rourke's King Hyperion) from obtaining a deadly weapon - with his companions on this epic journey a scrappy sidekick (Stephen Dorff's Stavros) and a mysterious oracle (Freida Pinto's Phaedra). Immortals has been infused with a pervasively routine feel that grows more and more problematic as time progresses, with the movie's been-there-done-that vibe compounded by Cavill's terminally bland work and an ongoing emphasis on underwhelming action set-pieces. Far more problematic, however, is the relentless chatter that fills up much of the film's overlong running time, as scripters Charley and Vlas Parlapanides continually stress the characters' context-free and almost impossibly dull conversations on the nature of Greek mythology (ie who cares?) Filmmaker Tarsem Singh's efforts at alleviating the senseless atmosphere generally fall flat, as the director has suffused the movie with a larger-than-life visual sensibility that ultimately stands as just another misbegotten element in a hopelessly disjointed piece of work (ie there's a palpable lack of cohesiveness here that is, more often than not, disastrous). And while the film does boast a small handful of compelling moments - eg Theseus delivers a rousing speech to his troops just before the final battle - Immortals, by and large, comes off as a distressingly cynical cash-grab that seems to exist only to profit from the success of its like-minded predecessors.
Based on the Brothers Grimm fable, Mirror Mirror follows Snow White (Lily Collins) as she's forced to leave her kingdom after an assassination attempt by her wicked stepmother (Julia Roberts' The Queen) - with the film subsequently detailing Snow's friendship with seven scrappy dwarves and her eventual romance with a handsome prince (Armie Hammer's Alcott). Filmmaker Tarsem Singh has, expected, infused Mirror Mirror with an impressively striking visual sensibility that does, for the most part, remain an ongoing highlight within the proceedings, as the movie otherwise suffers from a pervasively familiar feel that prevents it from wholeheartedly justifying its existence (ie Tarsem and company aren't quite able to bring anything terribly new or exciting to this well-worn tale). Having said that, Mirror Mirror has admittedly been peppered with a number of agreeable elements that prove instrumental in sustaining the viewer's interest - with the uniformly charismatic performances certainly going a long way towards staving off one's boredom. (The stars are fine in their respective roles, undoubtedly, yet it's ultimately the off-kilter supporting cast that consistently manages to deliver the goods.) And although the repetitive, padded-out midsection threatens to negate the watchable vibe, Mirror Mirror bounces back for an expectedly (and appreciatively) upbeat finale that confirms its place as a passable bit of kid-friendly entertainment.
Self/less (July 15/15)
Tarsem Singh's most accomplished (and entertaining) movie since his debut, 2000's The Cell, Self/less follows Ben Kingsley's dying millionaire, Damian, as he participates in a super-secret operation that will transfer his consciousness into a younger, healthier body (Ryan Reynolds) - with the movie subsequently detailing Damian's slow realization that the man behind the revolutionary procedure (Matthew Goode's Albright) might not be as altruistic as he seems. It's an engrossing premise that's employed to watchable yet unspectacular effect by Singh, as the movie, written by David and Àlex Pastor, goes in a decidedly (and, sporadically, lamentably) familiar direction once it passes a certain point. Rather than explore the wealth of drama inherent within the setup, the Pastor siblings opt to take the narrative in a more over-the-top and action-packed direction - with the film ultimately transforming into in all-out thriller as Damien begins investigating the secrets behind Albright's age-defying technology. It's in this realm that Self/less seriously tests one's ability to suspend one's disbelief, as it is, to put it mildly, difficult to believe that Damian would so aggressively question the hows and whys of his new body (ie the character's dogged pursuit of the truth ultimately puts the lives of several others in jeopardy, in addition to his own). It's nevertheless worth noting that Self/less remains quite entertaining for the duration of its running time, with the movie benefiting substantially from both Singh's direction and the various performances. (Reynolds' exceedingly charismatic and compelling work here is almost revelatory in its effectiveness.) The end result is a decent throwback to the sci-fi/medical thrillers of the 1990s, with the film's adult-oriented sensibilities ultimately ensuring that it stands out in a landscape littered by cartoons and comic-book extravaganzas.