Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Film Week

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

PACIFIC RIM (2013)
I have to admit, I didn't have much enthusiasm about this movie based on the trailers, and I might not have been interested in seeing it if it weren't directed by Guillermo del Toro. Also, not much of a mecha fan. But I do love kaiju, and this was just a hell of a fun movie. Enjoyable as all hell, with a few actors I really dig and a lot of room for just the right amount of silliness. I wish they'd played up some of the humor a bit in the trailers; the reason I didn't end up going to see this is that I didn't want to devote the time to yet another dark, humorless, overly serious, "edgy," ponderous, overlong action flick. This was just pure fun with a good grasp of character and a love of giant monsters pounding giant robot suits. And a great bit of Ron Perlman. ****

THE WORLD'S END (2013)
The final part of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy is frankly the best Doctor Who episode I've seen in years. What starts as a flick about five old friends meeting up 20 years later to finish the Golden Mile--the pub crawl they failed at as students--takes a sudden turn into science fiction territory that feels just so perfectly right. I love that this movie is a meditation on friendship and growing up, a comedy about reconnecting with people who might not remember you fondly, a commentary on the homogenization of communities, and a science fiction adventure comedy that feels like at times like Douglas Adams. Terrific stuff. ****

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013)
I don't think Monsters, Inc. necessarily needed a prequel, but I genuinely enjoyed this flick about Mike and Sully's college days. It's a campus comedy that builds some emotional beats about friendship and doing your best, with fantastic character design. And I love the color of it. This is the kind of movie that reminds me how drab movies tend to be today. Like I said, not a necessity, but very fun and well-animated. I dug it more than any of Pixar's movies since Up. ***1/2

THE CROODS (2013)
Wow, this was a tiresome movie. Well-animated and well-designed (particularly the creatures and landscapes, which look gorgeous), but just generally annoying. It's about a family of Neanderthals who are forced to leave their cave during the continental shift, and who basically force a Cro-Magnon called Guy to lead them to safety. Lots of obvious jokes that don't land. The Neanderthals are basic and have no subtext or imagination, and Guy's the only one who gets to have any subtlety or thought, because he's more modern, I guess, except he's played by Ryan Reynolds, so he still comes across as a dummy. Most of the voice acting is pretty bad, but Nicolas Cage tries in a role that requires a lot of predictable beats. There was probably something here that might've made a comedy of manners or just a decent adventure flick, but it's just not fun to watch. I hate to see good animation design wasted on something like this. **

THE KINGS OF SUMMER (2013)
An emotionally sincere movie about three teenagers who run away from home one summer and build themselves a house in the woods. It makes no apologies about being a coming-of-age film, and even if it isn't as profound as it wants to be and even if it does occasionally pull its punches with montages and lighter comedy than it needs, the moments where it's genuine and honest come through and carry the movie. I want to see more by these people. Some really good performances, particularly Moises Arias as a kid who's very weird without being too much of a cartoon. So far, my favorite film of 2013. ****

2 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

I never see movies anymore. I saw the Croods preview, and had my serious doubts.

SamuraiFrog said...

I probably wouldn't have seen it if Chris Sanders (of two of my favorite animated pics, Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon) hadn't been one of the directors. The places where you can see his touch are great, particularly in the weird creatures.

There's a quiet bit towards the end with Nicolas Cage's character and a big saber-toothed cat, and it's so charming. I wish the whole movie had just been the two of them and no dialogue at all. That would probably be considered too challenging by a modern animation studio.

(Witness the trailers for the new Walking with Dinosaurs, which go to great effort to create beautiful dinosaurs and impressive visuals, and then ruin it with modern dialogue.)