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Review: Winter's Tale

Feb. 14, 2014by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: In 1916 New York City, Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is an expert thief, on the run from the notorious Short Tails gang, led by the diabolical Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) whos somehow connected to Lucifer himself and determined to stop Lake from performing his miracle. This miracle is somehow connected to a flying white horse, which magically shows up to rescue Peter any time hes in trouble, and a dying young woman named Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) who quickly steals Peters heart.

REVIEW: WINTERS TALE is a fascinating film. Oh, its not good, not by a long shot, but damn if its not one of the more entertaining movies to come out this month. Every once in a while, a bad movie comes out thats so stunningly bad, but oh so sincere that sitting through it is the cinematic equivalent to watching a train wreck. Youre horrified, but at the same time you just cant look away.

And make no mistake, WINTERS TALE is bad. On the journey from the page to the big screen, something went horribly awry with Mark Helprin’s classic, and that thing seems to be Akiva Goldsman. A veteran screenwriter, Goldsmans earned the ire of many a fanboy (and girl) with him being responsible for the scripts to BATMAN FOREVER, BATMAN & ROBIN, POSEIDON, THE DAVINCI CODE, and more. Then again, he also wrote A BEAUTIFUL MIND and CINDERELLA MAN, so clearly theres talent there. Apparently, this has been his passion project for years, and he uses it to make his big-screen directorial debut.

An ambitious film, even for a veteran director, somehow Goldman had to distill a 600 page + book into a two hour movie, while still making the narrative clear enough so that audiences wont be confused as to why Peter goes from living in 1916, to walking the streets of NYC in 2014 without having aged a day. Sadly, Goldman is not successful, as WINTERS TALE is so watered-down and muddled that the film is often utterly confounding. Bizarrely, the more unclear the narrative gets, the more entertaining the film becomes as it goes from being merely mediocre into a truly awful piece of work that occasionally crosses over into the hallowed ranks of the so bad its good.

Given all the time-hopping, and ultra-saccharine (yet straight-faced) dialogue that actually has Colin Farrell demand to know whether its possible to love someone so much that they cant die, one cant help but wonder if WINTERS TALE might have worked better as an animated movie. For one thing, it would have eliminated one of the most painfully unconvincing CGI eyesores in years, which is Colin Farrells white horse, which occasionally sprouts CGI wings that make him look like a less believable version of the old Tri-Star Pictures horse from the eighties.

That said, animation would have robbed us of Russell Crowes hilariously over-the-top performance as the diabolical Pearly Soames, who receives instructions from none-other than Lucifer himself. Crowes actually pretty great as Soames. I dont know if Id call it one of his legitimately good parts, but considering the movie hes in, he hits all the right notes. Even when the movie is failing spectacularly, Crowes around to chew the scenery and entertain us.

Ah, but what of the big-name actor who plays Lucifer himself in an extended cameo??? While its been widely reported, in an effort to avoid spoilers, we here at JoBlo decided to make this next bit invisible. If you want to know, just highlight the next few lines with your mouse. Will Smith plays Lucifer. Im not joking. Sporting some earrings and anachronistically dressed in a blazer over a print T-shirt (in 1916 mind you), Smith shows up in two scenes (clearly shot back-to-back) where he orders around Crowes Soames, and even sprouts CGI fangs. This alone almost makes WINTERS TALE a must-see in theaters, as the audience reaction to his appearance is sure to be hilarious.

One has to feel bad for stars Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay, who give it their all. Farrell is such a good actor that its a shame to see him wasted in fluff like this. Farrell also seems too old for the role, being in his late-thirties, while the character is supposed to be twenty-one. Findlay is good casting as the terminally ill young woman (not a far cry from her role in DOWNTON ABBEY) but shes so saintly that she cant help but seem a little boring, at least compared to Crowes demonic baddie. Befitting Goldsmans stature, tons of other big names turn up in small parts, with Matt Bomer inexplicably cast as Farrells Russian immigrant dad, while Jennifer Connelly gets a sizable but bland part as a modern-day woman drawn into Farrells quest.

At nearly one thousand words, Ive still barely scratched the surface about what makes WINTERS TALE such a fascinatingly bad movie, but suffice to say somewhere along the way it all went horribly awry for Goldsman, who seemed genuine in his passion to translate this novel to the big-screen, Other than a nice musical score by Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams, this is an all-out disaster, but its nevertheless a must for connoisseurs of bad cinema.

Source: JoBlo.com

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5:15PM on 02/22/2014
I just saw this and actually really enjoyed it. The acting was great, the "shaky" cgi looked to be done on purpose to highlight the fantastical elements and the story took me in. To each there own.
I just saw this and actually really enjoyed it. The acting was great, the "shaky" cgi looked to be done on purpose to highlight the fantastical elements and the story took me in. To each there own.
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2:35PM on 02/16/2014

who's Will Smith?

As with 'Alexander', he'll probably blame the director in a year or two.
As with 'Alexander', he'll probably blame the director in a year or two.
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2:10PM on 02/14/2014
Ha! All this time I thought that this was the Shakespeare play.
Ha! All this time I thought that this was the Shakespeare play.
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4:09AM on 02/14/2014
Who plays Lucifer? I can't highlight it on my phone. Someone spoil it for me in a reply. And who does Smith play?

Who plays Lucifer? I can't highlight it on my phone. Someone spoil it for me in a reply. And who does Smith play?

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4:41AM on 02/14/2014
Highlight it on your phone, COPY it, then PASTE it somewhere else on your phone (like notes or memos or something).
Highlight it on your phone, COPY it, then PASTE it somewhere else on your phone (like notes or memos or something).
12:06PM on 02/14/2014
Will Smith is Lucifer.
Will Smith is Lucifer.
10:59PM on 02/14/2014
Sounds awful.
Sounds awful.
3:28AM on 02/14/2014

Knew it..

The trailer was god awful especially the part when the horse took off flying I laughed so hard.
The trailer was god awful especially the part when the horse took off flying I laughed so hard.
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-11
2:15AM on 02/14/2014
HEY EVERYBODY! WILL SMITH IS IN THIS MOVIE!!! NO SPOILERS BUT YES WILL SMITH IS IN THIS MOVIE!!!
HEY EVERYBODY! WILL SMITH IS IN THIS MOVIE!!! NO SPOILERS BUT YES WILL SMITH IS IN THIS MOVIE!!!
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1:50AM on 02/14/2014
Yep, I agree with the review. This was a clunker. It felt dated rather than old-school, clumsy instead of charming. I'm not going to spoil too much (stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled at all) but let's just say that Will Smith's role in the movie brings new meaning to "aww hell no!"
Yep, I agree with the review. This was a clunker. It felt dated rather than old-school, clumsy instead of charming. I'm not going to spoil too much (stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled at all) but let's just say that Will Smith's role in the movie brings new meaning to "aww hell no!"
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2:14AM on 02/14/2014
WILL SMITH WAS IN THIS MOVIE??????
WILL SMITH WAS IN THIS MOVIE??????
2:27AM on 02/14/2014
He's the best part of the thing. Because it is preposterous.
He's the best part of the thing. Because it is preposterous.
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