A pair of earnest-duds based on WWI or II true stories, but how many times do we have to watch bad movies with noble intentions think a World War setting can save any narrative flaw or stale filmmaking?
The Zookeeper’s Wife…Based on the true story of a Polish zoo that doubled as sanctuary for Jews during WWII the film hopes to be a “Schindler’s List” with zebras and elephants, but truly has only one real asset: star Jessica Chastain, who can do wonders with even a slightly inaccessible, underwritten role. Yet the supporting cast is underwhelming (including Daniel Bruhl, cornering the market on love-lorn Nazis trying to romance occupied women between this movie and “Inglorious Basterds”), and the staging is beyond lackluster. Director Niki Caro has made great films with “North Country” and “Whale Rider,” but the pacing here is so inert, even scenes of endangered children have the suspense of watching a weather map. Grade: C
The Promise…Unlike Germany, which has acknowledged and tried hard not to repeat the atrocities of the holocaust, Turkey won’t even admit the Armenian genocide happened, let alone that they were responsible for it. This shameful behavior has continued almost exactly a century after said genocide, and it even affected this movie’s IMDB rating before it was even released (the site noticed a lot of one-star ratings coming from territories the movie had not even opened in). All of that must be horrifically frustrating for Armenians, and almost makes me wish this were a better movie that I could champion. Sadly, “The Promise” is saddled with an uninteresting lead character (played by Oscar Isaac, who is more at home portraying cynical modern-men than earnest Armenians in period settings with thick accents), and a love rectangle plot where the married Isaac and Christian Bale fight over the somewhat-bland Charlotte Le Bon. As is so often the case, Isaac is oblivious to the fact he’s jilting a much more attractive woman, “Westworld” stunner Angela Sarafyan to have a pissing-contest with Bale. Grade: C