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Pop Off: It could have been great

By Brendon Field
On February 11, 2013

A movie can be considered good in two ways. There are movies that adequately and competently tell a story without ever reaching greatness. Then there are those that achieve greatness or at least have the clear ability to do so, but are withheld from a higher level of quality by glaring flaws. The latter I find to be most annoying breed of film. While I enjoy and would recommend them; when watching them I can never shake the feeling of - "this should be a lot better than it is." Here are some films that fit into that category.
"Places in the Heart:" This Depression-era drama earned Sally Field her second Oscar for Best Actress and is a wonderfully moving film about people considered lesser in society coming together to prosper. Unfortunately, it contains a boring and needless subplot about the affairs of characters barely related to the protagonist. Its biggest crime is taking away precious screen time that should have been used for central development. I really want to love this movie, but I can't if I only enjoy two thirds of it.
"Les Miserables:" I am referring to the version released two months ago and I firmly believe that if it was telling anything other than one of the most beloved stories of all time, it would not have worked. The endless singing became irritating before the second act, the deliberate pace never gave the story a second to breathe and several parts of the plot just aren't told well. What exactly did Fantine die of? This film has Victor Hugo and the original songwriters to thank because they are the only reasons it managed to barely come together.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2:" I loved the entire "Harry Potter" film series and while the final installment works as an action packed battle and a conclusion to the story, it doesn't do the series justice. My issues with the movie are all nitpicks, but they stack a mile high. The final confrontation is too short, some effects are reused way too often, one of the hallows (the cloak) is completely forgotten about and many others that basically come down to the film not going into enough detail. But it only ran two hours, given everything that preceded it, that's way too short.
"The Insider:" This film tells two very compelling stories and it does so with excellent performances, but it should have only told one. The arcs for Jeffrey Wigand and Lowell Bergman, (played by Russell Crowe and Al Pacino respectively) don't transition well and the tone is so gritty and the plot so detailed there's only so much of it I can take. But its biggest problem is it treads all over its own morals. It states the media wrongly abandons the people it's trying to defend, and then the film's structure does just that by having Wigand appear in one scene in the film's final hour.
"The Wind in the Willows:" Kenneth Gramme's masterful novel has received upwards of a dozen cinematic adaptations. I've seen about half of them, all of which belong here. The 1987 version was well told but the musical numbers were unnecessary and underwhelming, the live action 1996 version was had some great scenes but ultimately tried too hard, and the acclaimed Disney version deviated a lot from the book and lacked a distinctive tone and style. There needs to be a version that tells the story the way Gramme intended: jumpy but balanced, slightly aimless and with a strong focus on mood and atmosphere.
 


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