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"The Fall"

Directed by Tarsem.
Written by Tarsem, Dan Gilroy and Nico Soultanakis.  Based on the film "Yo Ho Ho" by Valeri Petrov.
Starring Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru.

Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  6/2/08


The first time I saw the trailer for "The Fall"?  How about on my Xbox 360, which has a number of downloadable trailers on its community page; the trailer in HD looked incredible, so when the film opened last week, I was sure to check it out.

The visuals are certainly the selling point of "The Fall", a film by the guy that did the J-Lo thriller "The Cell" way back in the day.  The costumes, sets and special effects are just as elaborate, thanks to a shoot that was done in 24 different countries over the course of a few years.  Lee Pace ("Pushing Daisies") stars as a 1930s film star in an LA hospital who befriends a little girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), and during their friendship he tells her an epic fairy tale about a group of good guys who are exiled on a remote island by an evil dictator; using their wits, guns, swords and a pet monkey, the five warriors must take down this dictator and his horde of enemy soldiers.  The film cuts back and forth between the hospital and the fantasy story, set in exotic locales all over creation.

This will be a great Blu-Ray DVD to own later; I will admit that the story is occasionally weird and non-sensical but in some ways that aids the story, because all you have to concentrate on are the visuals.  Pace shows some promise in this film (completed quite a while ago, apparently, as early as 2006) but he is not star-quality enough in some ways to carry the epic portion of the story; the side actors are serviceable, but never overwhelming.  The big make-or-break character in "The Fall" is actually the little girl, and as Alexandria, Untaru is sometimes great--cute, engaging, sad, heroic (especially when she inserts herself in the storytelling later in the film).  Then, at times, she is a pain in the ass, whiny even for a child, and downright unintelligible...and, this is because director Tarsem decided to cast a child whose English is cutely broken at times, and at other times, I couldn't understand a single word she said, and I was laser-focused just on the girl for a while.

It is decisions like these that baffle me to no end; couldn't you cast a cute little girl whose lines don't come out sounding like a drunken hobo?  Were there no other children on the studio lot for the months that this film was being shot?  Why not minimize the child's role and stick to a beefier fantasy story?  I don't know, but me, I would have cast Betty American Actress, make her eight years old and completely naive to the world, and put her in a full-on body cast.  You create the same level of sympathy and get an actress whose lines come out clean.

Just me.

"The Fall" is generally very watchable, but the Alexandria character and a surprisingly violent final 20 minutes bring the entire product down a bit; I'll admit that I thought too much of the film takes place in the hospital, but I guess you need to have some balance in order to make this whole thing work.  Catch it at a nice theater with good projectors, or wait to see this on hi-def TV next year; the visuals are truly incredible.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09