Mixed bag: You Kill Me (2007), Fuel (2008), It Happened to Jane (1959), We’re Not Married (1952)

Originally posted on recollective.tumblr.com, January 3, 2012

Watched January 1, 2012:

You Kill Me (2007) – 2/5; You Kill Me follows a mob hit-man (Ben Kingsley) who is forced into Alcoholics Anonymous by “the family” after his drinking begins to hinder his ability to kill. While away from home to complete the 12-step program, he meets a woman with her own set of issues (Tea Leoni) and they strike up an unlikely relationship. The various sub-plots of mob crime, romance and struggles with addiction had the potential to create quite an interesting film, and possibly even a brilliant dark comedy. Merit can also be found in the solid individual performances by most of the film’s cast. However, the utter lack of chemistry between Leoni and Kingsley ruined the entire film for me. No matter how great the individual performances may be, nothing can replace the missing spark between two lead characters. Kingsley, an actor usually known for his jarringly in-depth performances, seems flat and uninspired here as a result. Without that spark of excitement and chemistry the film is left with a huge hole, and unfortunately it throws the entire project off-kilter.

Fuel (2008) – 5/5; After many repeated recommendations by my sister and months of sitting lonely on my Netflix instant queue, Fuel can finally be added to my “watched” list! This documentary has a lot going for it — surprise appearances by unassuming “green” celebrities, historical tracking of America’s fuel consumption, speculation about the future and the intrigue of possible government cover-ups. What it boasts above all, though, is truly amazing graphics. I would go so far as to say that they’re some of the best I’ve ever seen in a documentary film. The animations and charts have sleek, modern designs, making not only the graphics themselves but the documentary’s message as whole easy to follow and absorb. The result is a thought-provoking, impactful film in which fantastic graphics are paired up with an urgent message to match.

It Happened to Jane (1959) – 4/5; This film hooked me instantly with one of the most adorable opening songs I’ve ever heard. I’ve noticed that this is a common thread in Doris Day’s films; they seem to always open with a completely lovable song, endearing the audience to both Doris and whichever character she happens to be playing from the get-go. In this late ’50s comedy, Day portrays a woman who raises and sells lobsters for a living. Her business is nearly ruined when a train fails to deliver one a shipment to one of her customers on time, killing all of the lobster on board. A large, long-distance battle ensues between Day’s character and the man who owns the train as a result of the botched shipment. The whole lobster storyline seems pretty silly, and it does lend itself to a few equally ridiculous scenes. However, it adds a sort of absurd hilarity that wouldn’t be present if Day was portraying, say, your average corn farmer. Lobsters aside, the film as a whole was actually much more engrossing than I expected it to be. It should not be analyzed as anything more than light entertainment, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys slightly cheesy ’50s films with a very slight edge of drama (as I very obviously do).

Watched January 2, 2012:

We’re Not Married! (1952) – 3/5; I had very high hopes for this film as it stars two actresses that I adore, Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe. On top of that, the film has a plot that was much more typical in the ’50s than it is now: a number of married couples find out that they are not, in fact, legally married. Each couple’s story is shown in a separate segment, not unlike those you would find in a book of related short stories. The distinctly ’50s plot could have easily drawn me in simply on the basis that it isn’t something we usually see in current films. I’m often attracted to stories which feature multiple intertwined perspectives as well, so on paper this seems like it would suit my tastes perfectly. However, the segments can feel a bit repetitive due to the fact that they’re all structured in exactly the same fashion. The justice who “married” the couples reflects on the day that he met them; the couple then receives his letter, and their reaction to the news is shown. Despite the fact that it fell short of its potential with multiple plot-lines, what I really took issue with was a mistake on part of modern distributors: billing Marilyn Monroe as the top star of the film. Had I known that Marilyn and Ginger’s roles were both fairly small, with each being limited to one segment, I would have come into the film with different expectations and may have enjoyed it more. Instead, I came away feeling as though their names had been attached as a ploy to gain modern viewers or sell DVDs.

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