Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE KEEP (1983)
Pretty, well-shot Michael Mann movie. Great score by Tangerine Dream. Also incomprehensible, boring and a waste of a good cast. ** stars.

Fucking fantastic. I really wasn't sure what to expect here; reading Comics Scene and Wizard so much when I was younger, I just remember every potential Captain America project getting bogged down in the symbolism of what Captain America means. Where this movie succeeded the most for me is that it was more interested in who Captain America is. I used to read Captain America when I was a kid, because there was always something about him that I could identify with, but I could never really articulate what it was. But there's a moment in this movie when Dr. Erskine asks Steve Rogers if he wants to kill Nazis, and Steve answers "I don't want to kill anyone; I hate bullies." I wanted to cheer at that moment. That's it. That's who Captain America is. That's what Marvel Comics seems to have forgotten. This movie lives up to that declaration, and there are so many pleasures along the way (especially for Marvel nerds like me; particular highlights were the existence of a cosmic cube and Neal McDonough being generally awesome as Dum-Dum Dugan). Director Joe Johnston gets to revisit some of the feel of The Rocketeer with the 1940s sets. This may be my new favorite Marvel movie, to be honest. Love this. Love the hell out of this. **** stars.

CARS 2 (2011)
Well, it's more enjoyable than the first movie, which I'm not much of a fan of. I really felt the loss of Paul Newman here, but I liked the spy stuff. It's what saves the movie for me, because this one is more interested in the spy comedy stuff than in John Lasseter's continued fellating of the folksy Americana that only exists in dreams and old Disney movies. Like the first movie, it looks great; there's real texture and the way the light plays is beautiful. I guess I like this one better than the first because it's more of a cartoon; it's like a feature length version of one of those Mater cartoons they show on Disney Channel. I still don't care about the Cars universe beyond how much it frustrates me--seriously, how do cars make flags and tie headbands and eat wasabi?--but it's at least cute and has Michael Caine. **1/2 stars.

Lovely and charming, and extremely well-animated and told by the people I consider Disney's real stars (including Burny Mattinson, who worked on the first Disney Pooh cartoons). I didn't experience the Milne stories until I was older; I experienced the Disney version first, so this movie brought back a lot of warmth that was inherently there in me. Most of the voice cast is spot on (Tom Kenny as Rabbit, Jim Cummings as Pooh), others have new variations that are surprisingly nice (Bud Luckey as Eeyore, Craig Ferguson as Owl), but I realize that only Paul Winchell will ever really be Tigger for me. Still, I adored this movie; it's slight, maybe, but it's beautiful. **** stars.

RANGO (2011)
More fun and enjoyable than I expected. I'm not crazy about the character design, which just has "trying way too hard" screaming from every painstaking detail, but I liked the animation. Cute story, despite it being way too complicated and still very predictable. I especially dug the rattlesnake. I also appreciated that, with the exception of Johnny Depp in the lead, the actors were actually acting instead of playing their easily recognizable personae, like in a lot of American animation. *** stars.

Not as smarmy as I expected, but there's still a bit too much of the "aw, shucks, ain't we cute?" in there for such a predictable storyline. Anne Hathaway is still very good when she tries, playing the beautiful, perfect girl with Parkinson's, though it's movie Parkinson's, which is like what Roger Ebert calls Ali McGraw Syndrome, where she just gets more beautiful and fragile without ever really displaying the more horrible effects of her illness. Jake Gyllenhaal is good, too, but I was more interested in his skills as a business hustler than I was in him being the stand-up guy. I don't know, it's a cute time-waster with a pretty, talented cast, but nothing special. *** stars.

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