20 January, 2013

Savannah Review bundle: "In Our Nature" (*½), "Tomorrow You're Gone" (**), "The Sapphires" (****), "Rise of the Guardians" (***½)

Gabrielle Union, John Slattery, Jena Malone and Zach Gilford star in "In Our Nature"
"In Our Nature" is perhaps the most disappointing film out of the 2012 Savannah Film Festival. Zach Gilford, Jena Malone, John Slattery and Gabrielle Union comprise an accomplished cast that fails to produce any sentiment from a dry screenplay. The premise is there; an estranged father and son unexpectedly reunite at their family cabin with their respective partners. Unfortunately, "In Our Nature" is riddled with unpleasantness, from slow-as-molasses pacing to the complete joy vacuum created by scene upon scene of unlikeable characters performing unlikeable actions with no attempt at relief. The filmmakers seem confident that they have created realistic characters with realistic emotions, but those who sympathize would still find a hard time enjoying the film. Jena Malone earns best in show honors, but her character still teeters too unevenly for her capable talent to grab hold. 1.5 out of 5 stars.

"Tomorrow You're Gone," "The Sapphires" and "Rise of the Guardians" after the jump.

Stephen Dorff and Michelle Monaghan star in "Tomorrow You're Gone"
"Tomorrow You're Gone," from director David Jacobson, only receives better marks than "In Our Nature" because of an impressive turn from Michelle Monaghan. Co-stars Stephen Dorff and Willem Dafoe don't disappoint either, but the film sure does. Without lacking in atmosphere or an appropriately shadowed tone, "Tomorrow You're Gone" only lacks in substance. In fact, it lacks a lot of substance. A Q&A session with Jacobson and Monaghan after the film shed some light on the purpose of certain religious imagery and undertones, but they don't carry quite enough weight in the film to make up for the almost complete lack of puissance. Monaghan delivers a formidable amount of intrigue, but her character is almost completely disassociated from the plot while being absolutely necessary to the film. Jacobson can do better, and I wouldn't mind seeing him team up with Monaghan for a second outing. 2 out of 5 stars.

Shari Sebbens, Chris O'Dowd, Miranda Tapsell, Deborah Mailman and
Jessica Mauboy star in "The Sapphires"
Without a doubt, "The Sapphires" would have won the Audience Award at the 2012 Savannah Film Festival, had the competition been opened to special gala films. Chris O'Dowd has already endeared himself to the world with "The IT Crowd" and charming turns in films like "Bridesmaids" and "Friends with Kids." O'Dowd proves his skills as a leading man here, alongside four lovely Australian ladies in Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens. While not a traditional musical in structure, "The Sapphires" succeeds at incorporating the appropriate music at the appropriate times. (For instance– I haven't seen "Dreamgirls" on stage, but I feel like the film suffers from not featuring true soul or Motown music, despite taking place in the Motown world.) "The Sapphires" gets a bit over the top in places, but only ever builds on your investment. Hopefully some U.S. theatrical release plans get worked out soon for this sweet, crowd-pleasing gem. 4 out of 5 stars.

"Rise of the Guardians"
"Rise of the Guardians" is, surprisingly, the first animated feature I've reviewed here. It was presented as the closing night film of the Savannah Film Festival, thanks in part due the festival's partnership with RealD and also to celebrate the dozen plus SCAD alumni who had a hand in bringing the film to the big screen. Since I don't usually get to see many animated films, I'm not sure if my expectations are too high or too low. However, "Rise of the Guardians" made for a fast-paced and visually satisfying hour-and-a-half. An eye condition prevents my vision from cooperating fully with 3D glasses, but the animation on display is clearly excellent. Vibrant and detailed, the film's visuals are paired up with a familiarly voiced cast consisting of Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Chris Pine, Isla Fisher and a convincingly Russian Alec Baldwin.  3.5 out of 5 stars.

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