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3 Films to See Over Memorial Day Weekend

Hope Madden Hope Madden 3 Films to See Over Memorial Day Weekend
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The Eye-Popping 3D Memorial Day Weekend Extravaganza is here. Yes, summer is nigh and the bigger-is-better mantra will soon overwhelm local cinemas. And while there are some insanely expensive blockbusters to peruse this holiday weekend, the best bets are some of the smaller, well-stocked and unusual films hovering around the fringes of the weekend barbeque.

A Bigger Splash

Remember that infamous high school math problem about the trains? You know, the one where two trains leave different cities heading toward each other and you are tasked with discovering when and where they collide?

A Bigger Splash is a lot like that, only instead of trains we are dealing with ex-lovers and the location of the collision is a gorgeous volcanic island off the coast of Italy.

Rock star Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is on vacation, recovering from throat surgery with her studly younger partner Paul De Smedt (Matthias Schoenaerts), when they are interrupted by unexpected houseguests: her ex-lover and producer, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), and his recently-discovered, lascivious daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). It’s clear that Harry still carries a torch for Marianne. It’s also apparent that he is more than willing to use the close quarters to fan those flames into obsession.

Schoenaerts and Johnson deliver solid performances in their somewhat underwritten characters (disdainful melancholic and crafted nymphet, respectively). Fiennes and Swinton, however, are delightful contrasts. Fiennes very nearly steals the show with his frenetic outbursts of verbal diarrhea — and in the scene where he dances to the Rolling Stones, he does. However, in the end this is Swinton’s movie. The layers of emotion she manages to convey with minimal dialogue is what truly makes the biggest splash.

Grade: B+

Alice Through the Looking Glass

One billion dollars. That’s global money, keep in mind, but still, who’d have thought Tim Burton’s utterly banal and forgettable 2010 acid trip Alice in Wonderland had made so very much money? Too much – and not just because the film had no genuine merit, but because that kind of sum necessitates a sequel, however wildly and wholly unnecessary – even unwanted – that kind of muchness must be.

Director James Bobin (The Muppets) has the unenviable task of following Burton into the rabbit hole – not unenviable because he may suffer by comparison, but because his options are somewhat limited based on the film’s predecessor. Expect garishly overdone visuals that offset weekly drawn characters.

Familial tensions are at the heart of the tale, penned by Linda Woolverton and based on some of Lewis Carroll’s most dreamlike and incongruous storytelling. Too bad Woolverton and Disney insisted on hemming Carroll’s wild imagination inside such a tediously structured framework.

Imagination and tiresome capitalism butt heads from the opening sequence, and without the foundation of compelling characters or the requirement of engaging storytelling, Through the Looking Glass proves to be a pointless, though colorful, bore.

Grade: D

Love & Friendship

Love & Friendship may be the film most likely to satisfy both the truest Jane Austen fan and the passerby who finds her material generally little more than finely written rom/coms.

This is partly due to writer/director Whit Stillman’s uncanny flair for Austen’s dialog, but more because of his power to mine her prose for more than simple romance and righteous indignation.

With the widowed Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale – never better) at the wheel, this is
a criss-crossing, matchmaking plot of the most delightfully acidic sort. Stillman’s purpose, like Austen’s, is to point out the social barriers and tethers that make true freedom nearly impossible for women of the age. But instead of bucking the system quietly but proudly like Pride and Prejudice‘s Jane Bennet, for instance, the film celebrates a heroine who has so mastered the intricate societal rules that she wields them to her benefit.

Lady Vernon is a mercenary, unfeeling charmer – a truly amazing character done proper justice by Beckinsale’s lilting performance. And while watching her bend, cajole and shepherd her pawns to her will is endlessly fascinating, it’s the intimacy shared only with her one true friend Lady Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) that gives the film it’s most wonderfully venomous bite.

Grade: A-

Also opening in Columbus this weekend:

  • CRUSH THE SKULL – (with original short) (NR)
  • DOUGH (NR)
  • LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP (PG)
  • THE ONES BELOW (R)
  • SUNSET SONG (R)
  • WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (2014) (PG)
  • X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (PG-13)

Reviews with help from Christie Robb.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her weekly horror movie podcast, FRIGHT CLUB.

Looking for more film events in Columbus? CLICK HERE to visit our Events Calendar.

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