Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wreck-It Ralph (review)

Wreck-It Ralph (2012) is an animated film about video game characters, an idea which as a former video game nerd sounded both creative and interesting. Unfortunately where its content succeeds in being original, the movie ultimately suffers from its uninventive form. It amounts to a fresh coat of paint over a story we've heard a million times. It is by-the-numbers formula, and while some audiences like myself will find themselves content to watch more of the same presented in a new way, other may be frustrated by the lack of ingenuity.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Lego Movie (review)

The Lego Movie (2014), the recent 100 minute advertisement for Lego's popular line of construction brick toys, has been receiving astronomically positive reviews. Of all the movies nominated for Best Picture this year, the only one with a higher rating on Rotten Tomatoes is Gravity. Everybody is in love with it. Maybe it's just because it's February and we're stuck in between Oscar Season and Summer Blockbuster Season and most of the movies coming out right now are kind of trashy (Winter's Tale, Endless Love, Ride AlongBarefoot, Vampire Academy, and Nut Job all have less than 20% as I write this). In any case, as much as I'd love to be the dissenting voice here and tell you that this is just another kids' movie, it actually kind of lives up to its hype.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SIFLW: Long Flashbacks

On this week's episode of Something Interesting From Last Week, surprisingly long flashbacks!

Last week I saw The Last Man on Earth (1964), the original adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend which later provided the source material for 1971's The Omega Man and 2007's I Am Legend. The movie has a unique structure: the first half hour shows Vincent Price in the dystopian world Earth has become, but then there's a flashback which almost lasts another half hour by itself (24 minutes). You spend so much time in the past that it begins to feel normal, like the natural setting of the story, but just then it suddenly returns to the ruined world of the future. This causes a jarring effect which evokes Vincent Price's feeling of loss/nostalgia through the form of the film rather than having this sort of emotion conveyed through dialogue.

Coincidentally I also watched another film with an odd flashback structure (and also featuring Vincent Price), 1958's The Fly. Here again we get half an hour of setup only to rewind several days, but in this case the flashback lasts almost an hour (53 of the film's 94 minutes). More of the movie happens in the past than in the present, but with significant bookends on either side. The flashback houses the majority of the film's central events involving a woman with a husband who conducts a dangerous scientific experiement which mysteriously leads to his death. The effect is first of having you question the murderer's innocence and sanity (before the flashback) and afterwards of forcing you to believe in and side with the murderer (by having the flashback take place from her perspective).

Both solid movies which I would recommend for any fans of science fiction oldies, a bit slow by today's standards but fun for any who might be interested.

Related: The Best and Worst of Movie Remakes

Friday, February 21, 2014

On RoboCop Comparisons

RoboCop (2014) is the new remake of the original RoboCop (1987) and as such was doomed to begin with. The original has a large fan base and is widely considered influential if not masterful. As with any kind of remake or reboot, there was significant backlash even before this new film came out. This preparatory backlash is silly, and comparisons to the original are unnecessary and unjustified. The new movie's not going to erase the old one, and in this case it didn't even ruin anything. The new RoboCop might not be better than the old one, but taken on its own merits it's a solid, enjoyable movie.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Hobbit: The Consolation of Smaug

Last month I wrote a largely negative and somewhat nit-picky review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The thing is, while I may be disappointed with the fact that Jackson's Hobbit movies don't live up to the standards of his Lord of the Rings trilogy, it's not like they're bad movies. They could be better, but there are two sides to every argument. I'm on both sides with this movie, and I can see how elements which I criticized can also be enjoyable. So with that in mind, here is my counterpoint to myself, my defense of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Counselor as Experimental Film

The Counselor was one of the most divisive films of 2013. Its detractors criticize it for failing in all the same areas where its fans praise it for succeeding: it's either contemplative, philosophical, and literary, or soporific, uninteresting, and superficial. However, turning the tables a bit to look at the film from a slightly different perspective reveals something in it which should interest any movie lover whether or not you enjoyed watching it. The structure of the movie is unique especially for a production with such big name talent attached to it. The Counselor runs much more like an experimental film than a blockbuster, which makes sense with a first-time screenwriter but is nonetheless surprising given its professional appearance. Whether or not you think it worked is a matter of personal taste; I want to look at how it rewrites the laws of the screenplay.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Frozen: The Hero and True Love

Frozen is the newest animated feature film from Disney Animation Studios and is, as many Disney movies are, a movie for children. So why should you care about it? You're a grown woman and/or man! Sure, you may have enjoyed The Lion King back in its day, but we're in the middle of awards season and can watch Big Kid Movies like The Wolf of Wall Street. What's more, if you've seen anything on television or even in theaters about Frozen it was probably limited to the fact that there's a cute snowman and a cute reindeer and they get into cute wintery high jinks. There's much more to the film than that: it has an actual story with actual characters, and more importantly it enacts a reversal of two major ideological trends characteristic of Disney and Hollywood.