Thursday, April 28, 2016

Film Week

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

I'm a creatures guy, and I loved the creatures in the movie. The dinosaurs were neat, the genetically-engineered Indominus Rex was a great movie monster, but there's not really a story here to make it worthwhile. The story's thin gruel, and so tedious. Just when the movie feels like it's ending, it goes on for another forty minutes. I like the design of the movie--it's like original Disneyland aesthetic mixed with 70s science fiction. And there are talented actors here, most of the characters are drawn so broadly that I ended up not liking anybody. Bryce Dallas Howard's character is like a throwback to a dumb movie from 30 years ago, where she has to learn a lesson about how women can't be fulfilled by a career and are supposed to be fulfilled by family. Chris Pratt is supposed to be the epitome of the natural man who's good at everything; he's like Indiana Jones... if Indiana Jones stood around talking about how cool he was all the time. It's like Spielberg fan fiction: the kids confronting divorce, the remote cool dad, the well-meaning whimsical-but-unrealistic entertainer, the distrust of authority simply for being authority, and the unnecessary cruelty towards women (one woman's death scene is needless and drawn out; the sexism in this movie is somewhere between passive-aggressive and full-on, as though the filmmakers thought it was obvious men were better than women and women just need a good reminding--I can't believe you were all going on about high heels when that's nothing compared to how stupid Howard's character is always being made to feel; she's one of those movie women who gets into a good executive position and yet is somehow too incompetent to perform that job, and the movie loves constantly reminding her of that). It was just such a drag to watch because every time dinosaurs were running around and I was starting to get into it, somebody gave a dumb science-scare speech or were being dismissive of the one main female character. I can't believe this movie, with these attitudes, came out last year and not in 1985. Easily my least favorite Jurassic Park movie. And besides all of that, it's bloated and there's no structure, and even the score is underwhelming. **1/2

I really, really loved this movie. It worked in all the ways I expected it wouldn't. The episodic nature of the story required some tone shifts, but I think the movie handled them in interesting ways that didn't make it feel overlong. Part of that is because Neel Sethi is a very alive and kidlike Mowgli, playing the character with personality instead of intoning important truths about man's relationship to nature. Everything here is computer-generated, and director Jon Favreau does an excellent job of using the effects and Sethi's performance to create a sort of storybook jungle that has its own realism and emotional consistency. The voice performances are mostly great, particularly an understated Ben Kinglsey as Bagheera and Bill Murray as Baloo, Scarlett Johansson gets my favorite scene in the movie, involving a dreamlike vision sequence. Idris Elba's Shere Khan is terrifying. I love the way the movie plays on the 1967 animated Disney movie (particularly in the music), but adds a modernism to it that doesn't break the story. I just always appreciate a movie that creates its own reality and doesn't have to tie itself to a specific time and place.

My favorite creature in the movie, though, is Christopher Walken's King Louie. Since it's specifically a new take on the Disney version, we're tied to this character that doesn't come from Kipling (there being no orangutans in India). Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks reimagine him in a way that was so fascinating to me, turning him into a wise-but-dangerous King of the Bandar-log, a gigantopithecus whose dialogue implies a long life of wandering and seeking knowledge, and who fervently believes that learning how to control fire will send him up another evolutionary notch. I saw this on Sunday, and I'm still so fascinated by this depiction. He's wise, he's ruthless, he's scary, and then he sings "I Wan'na Be Like You." This movie was made for me. ****

Monday, April 25, 2016

Muppet Monday

One of my favorite episodes of the too-short-lived Muppets Tonight is its second season opener, featuring The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. It's just a fun, sweet, goofy episode. Here he is on the episode (in 1997) performing the lovely "Starfish and Coffee" from his 1987 album Sign “☮” the Times.

Related: Kirk Thatcher talked about his experiences making this episode this weekend. Tough Pigs has it here.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Song of the Week: "Partyman"

I don't know how long this will stay up, but I love the Batman soundtrack. 1989 was such a shitty year for me, and I really fixated on the movie, the score, the Prince album, the Sunsoft video game, the comic book, and all things Batman, and it helped me get through some of those months of awful. This was actually always my favorite song on the Batman album, and I had no idea there was a music video until today.

Thanks for helping me make it through one of my worst years, Prince. I'm sad you're not here anymore.