Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D


Now there's an umbrella that would be useful in a flood.

Now there’s an umbrella that would be useful in a flood.

(2012) Adventure (Paramount) Erica Linz, Igor Zaripov, Lutz Halibhubner, John Clarke, Benedikt Negro, Dallas Barnett, Matt Gillanders, Tanya Drewery, Sarah Houbolt, Ascia Maybury, Damien Gordon, Zach Brickland, Iren Goed, Jason Berrent, Jeana Blackman. Directed by Andrew Adamson

In the past couple of decades the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil has elevated the traditional circus into something more graceful, more elegant and somewhat surreal. There is a definite European vibe to the Cirque with a bit of a Canadian twist – no animal acts, no sideshows, just graceful and athletic humans performing acts of physical contortion, aerial grace and demanding athleticism while wearing surreal costumes and make-up. Rather than a random collection of acts, each Cirque show has a theme and sometimes even a story that unifies all the acts and makes it an interesting whole.

Over the years the Cirque has spread to Las Vegas with as many as seven different shows playing at various casinos on the Strip. All of the shows were created by the Cirque in theaters largely designed by the Cirque in order to present breathtaking new feats of athleticism. Snippets from all seven shows are presented here, although none from any of the other permanent or touring Cirque shows, including La Nouba at Downtown Disney in Orlando which incidentally I haven’t seen – it’s kind of funny that things you’re willing to do as a tourist you won’t find the time or money for as a resident.

The story line is simple; Mia (Linz), a young waif, goes to a traditional circus where she catches the eye of an Aerialist (Zaripov). When the Aerialist falls from the trapeze during the show, the earth literally swallows him up. When Mia jumps from her seat to go aid the apple of her eye, she is also swallowed up and finds herself in this amazing, surreal universe. She is looking for her aerialist but nobody’s seen him. She passes from tent to tent, each containing an act or two from a different Cirque show. Eventually, she finds him and the two do a kind of aerial balletic courtship.

And that’s an hour and a half of your time, folks, all presented in eye-popping 3D courtesy of producer James Cameron who reportedly was testing some new systems for his upcoming Avatar sequels. For the record, you do get a much closer view of the Cirque performers doing their thing than the audience does. That’s not always a good thing – the costumes and make-up look a lot different from a distance than they do close-up.

Still, while the thematic elements that are part of what make the Cirque shows so compelling are kind of violated by this greatest hits compilation (as it were), it is the Cirque acts themselves that make the show worth seeing. Even close up with their harnesses and wires clearly in view, it doesn’t make what the performers do any less spectacular. Those who haven’t seen a Cirque show will be awed and have their breath taken away and admittedly a movie ticket, even with the 3D upcharge, is much less expensive than purchasing even the cheapest of Cirque tickets.

So as an introduction to the Vegas Cirque shows this gives you a fine overview (although the Elvis Presley themed “Viva Elvis” show at the Aria has since concluded it’s run) although with the caveat that it doesn’t compare to seeing these shows live, even with the advanced 3D. For those who have seen at least one of the Cirque shows this is going to come off like a 90 minute ad and that might not necessarily be what you’re looking for. I would have wished for a more compelling linking sequence and perhaps more elements that were not related to the Vegas shows. Perhaps someday the Cirque will see fit to create a movie that stands on its own with stunts and acts created specifically for the movie. Now that would definitely be worth seeing.

REASONS TO GO: Beautiful music, some occasionally breathtaking acrobatics and a few imaginative sets.

REASONS TO STAY: Pretty much a 90 minute ad for the Vegas Cirque shows.

FAMILY VALUES:  There is a little sensuality – nothing overt, as well as a few images that might the very young might find scary.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Each of the acts from the Vegas shows were filmed on the stages where they are performed.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/1/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 57% positive reviews. Metacritic: 55/100. The reviews are about as mixed as you can get.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Where the Wild Things Are

CIRCUS LOVERS: The early scenes take place in a traditional big top tent and midway of a circus, although in keeping with Cirque du Soleil tradition no animal acts are shown.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: The Gravedancers

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New Releases for the Week of December 21, 2012


This Is 40

THIS IS 40

(Universal) Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Jason Segel, Megan Fox, John Lithgow, Albert Brooks, Melissa McCarthy, Charlyne Yi, Graham Parker, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow. Directed by Judd Apatow

In a sort-of sequel to Knocked Up, Judd Apatow revisits the lives of big sister Debbie and her husband Pete as Debbie gets set to hit the big four-oh. They realize that they are in danger of letting life pass them by and try to figure out the important things before they are too old to appreciate them.

See the trailer, clips and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material)

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D

(Paramount) Erica Linz, Dallas Barnett, Lutz Halbhubner, John Clarke. A young woman finds that a strange and exciting circus is actually a portal to amazing worlds. Featuring the acrobats of various Cirque du Soleil shows from across the country, the film was directed by Andrew Adamson of the Narnia series and produced by James Cameron, who is testing out new 3D technology for his upcoming Avatar sequels.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: PG (for dramatic images and some sensuality)

Dabangg 2

(Arbaaz Khan) Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha, Malaika Arora. A police officer battles a corrupt politician while attempting to romance his wife, shore up his ties with his brother and father who are still mourning the murder of his mother in the first film and occasionally break into song without warning.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

The Guilt Trip

(Paramount) Barbra Streisand, Seth Rogen, Kathy Najimy, Adam Scott. An inventor, about to embark on a road trip to sell the most important product of his life, becomes concerned with his mom’s chronic loneliness and impulsively invites her along. A road trip with Mom…what could go wrong?

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for language and some risque material)

Hyde Park on Hudson

(Focus) Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Eleanor Bron. In 1939 the King and Queen of England became the first reigning monarchs of that country to visit the United States. Their mission was to plead for American assistance in the coming war, a war that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wasn’t eager to join. Visiting at Roosevelt’s upstate New York retreat Hyde Park, the fate of the world hung in the balance and the whole thing was witnessed by Roosevelt’s cousin Daisy.

See the trailer and featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Historical Drama

Rating: R (for brief sexuality)

Jack Reacher

(Paramount) Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall. A former military cop now wandering the country without possessions or roots, content to explore with complete freedom. He will have to put his skills of his former profession back to work when a former Army sniper is accused of a heinous crime that Reacher doesn’t think he committed, plunging him into a maelstrom of secrets that men would kill to keep that way. From the bestselling book series by Lee Child.

See the trailer, clips and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, language and some drug material)

Monsters, Inc. 3D

(Disney*Pixar) Starring the voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn. The mouse mavens pull out yet another Pixar classic to be dusted off and given the 3D conversion treatment. Very nice. Unnecessary.

See the trailer, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: G

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian


The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Ben Barnes has sworn off taking LSD before battle sequences.

(2008) Fantasy (Disney) Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Liam Neeson (voice), Sergio Castellitto, Eddie Izzard (voice), Vincent Grass, Harry Gregson-Williams (voice), Tilda Swinton. Directed by Andrew Adamson

 

When last we left the magical world of Narnia, the Pevensies – High King Peter (Moseley), King Edmund (Keynes), Princess Susan (Popplewell) and Princess Lucy (Henley) have returned to our world of wartime England only moments after they left, despite having spent a lifetime in Narnia, growing up to be young men and women. Instead, they are children again with a lifetime of memories and experiences. I guess they can scarcely be called children with that in their heads.

While standing in a London tube station they suddenly realize that they are being called back into Narnia and wind up on the beach. But isn’t that Cair Paravel, their beautiful Camelot-like castle? And why is it in ruins?

Things have changed in Narnia. For one thing, centuries have passed and the Four Kings and Queens have passed into legend. Narnia has been invaded by a race called the Telmarines who speak with a Latin accent (some say Spanish, others Italian) who have routed the magical creatures that live there until they have faded into mythology. Some say they never existed.

Miraz (Castellitto), brother of the recently deceased King of Narnia and Uncle of the rightful heir Caspian (Barnes) , is the proud father of a newborn baby. It’s an occasion for joy, but what Caspian doesn’t realize is that Miraz was the one who had his father killed. He needed Caspian to legitimize his rule over the kingdom; now that Miraz has a son, Caspian is unnecessary. Caspian’s tutor, Doctor Cornelius (Grass) realizes this. He also, being a native Narnian (an increasingly rare breed under Telmarine rule) is privy to the information that the magical creatures are still alive and living in hiding in the woods of Narnia.

Cornelius urges Caspian to flee and find the natives which he does, but Miraz discovers his absence and sets out his soldiers to find him. Caspian blows on a horn – Susan’s horn – which is what summons the Pevensies back. It also gets Caspian aid from the creatures of Narnia, whom Caspian had always thought of as monsters. There are some tense moments as neither Caspian nor the Narnians trust each other.

However after the Pevensies witness some Telmarine soldiers preparing to drown Trumpkin (Dinklage), a surly dwarf, they rescue him and in return he takes them to the headquarters of the Narnians where they meet up with Caspian. Of course, a bit of a pissing contest ensues between the ancient King of Narnia and the rightful king but as Caspian’s confidence grows, Peter realizes that he isn’t there to run things.

As the Telmarines begin building a bridge that will allow their main army to attack the Narnians (over which they have a vast numerical advantage), the Narnians must lead a daring raid on the castle and then prepare to defend themselves against the Telmarines. With Aslan (Neeson) nowhere in sight, it will take a miracle to save Narnia and restore her to her rightful citizens.

This is a much darker film than The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe which was more of a straightforward fantasy. This has political intrigue as well as medieval battle scenes which are realistic although fairly bloodless. It is also a bit more talky than the first movie which was a bit more action-oriented.

The problem with the Narnia series is that the lead quartet of actors are just not nearly as accomplished as the Harry Potter leads. Simply put, they’re bland and not as appealing – Keynes and Henley, the two younger ones, can be downright annoying in places (although Keynes would redeem himself in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). Barnes, the latest addition to the main cast, is handsome but he seems a little bit unsure of himself in the movie. This isn’t his first rodeo but I doubt any of his other projects have put as much weight on his shoulders and on top of that he’s given a ridiculous accent to master, one that disappears (thankfully) in Dawn Treader.

Dinklage and Izzard fare well in their roles bringing some gravitas and comic relief and the effects can be marvelous. The battle scenes are well-choreographed and much better than those in the first film. While they don’t have an antagonist as evil as the White Witch nor a performance on par with Swinton’s (who makes a cameo as the Witch midway through the movie). However, the Telmarines are far more realistic a foe, giving the movie an entirely different feel, which is a good thing.

This is to date the weakest of the three films although it isn’t that bad as you can see by the score. The series is currently on hold; a fourth film was planned but the untimely death of one of the producers has left the franchise waiting for someone to pick up the slack and bring the series back on track. Certainly given the box office of this film, the future movies in the series (if any) will have much smaller budgets.

While this series has never gotten the love of other fantasy franchises, it’s still managed  to produce some quality movies thus far. That’s not to say that the movie measures up in quality to Potter or the Lord of the Rings films but it isn’t a total loss either. Let’s just say that those who love fantasy won’t be disappointed; those who loved the books from their childhood might be.

WHY RENT THIS: Some fine battle and special effects sequences. Creature effects are pretty nifty. Peter Dinklage – need I say more?

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The Pevensies are still wooden and bland. The movie is a little more talky and why are the Telmarines Spaniards?

FAMILY VALUES:  Fantasy violence and a few somewhat scary creatures.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In addition to playing the White Witch, Tilda Swinton also makes a cameo as a centaur.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: There is a fascinating featurette on how this big production affected the tiny village of Bovec in Slovenia, where the bridge scene was filmed. The Blu-Ray edition contains something called Circle Vision Interactive which allows the viewer to watch the castle raid sequence with commentary and features all shot with a 360 degree field with HD resolution. It’s pretty nifty.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $419.7M on a $225M production budget; the movie didn’t quite make its production and marketing budget back..

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Inkheart

FINAL RATING: 7/10

NEXT: Kill Bill: Vol. 2