Thursday, July 31, 2008

2 Bloggers and a Movie...on Wall-E

My usual blogging buddy Kate couldn't make it to this outing of 2 Bloggers and a Movie, so this time around, I brought in guest blogger Mandi. Enjoy our discussion of Wall-E and other things animated.

Faith: Welcome to 2 Bloggers and a Movie...even if you don't blog about movies.
Mandi: I blog, but just not about movies.
Faith: So the title still works.
Mandi: Technically, yes. And thanks for asking me to be a part of this!
Faith: So...I remember you telling me you didn't like Wall-E as much as you thought, or something like that. Right?
Mandi: Right. I guess from the previews I was expecting a more cutesy movie, and it kind of took a really dark turn. Plus it had a political message, which kind of annoyed me.
Faith: I actually thought the political message would be really annoying too, but since it turned out to be more about getting fat and not killing the earth, I didn't care as much.
Mandi: True, but for some reason I just didn't expect the whole "take care of the earth" message to be so strong, so it kind of blindsided me.
Faith: Well, it is the trend these days. You know, "I like to be a part of solution." Hehe.
Mandi: Earth concousness is all over the news and reality. I go to the movies to escape that. I'm all for saving the earth though, so I guess if the message gets through to some kids and they start taking actions to help the Earth, it's not all bad.
Faith: Quite true. Because no kid wants to see a bunch of overweight adults rolling like sausages into a pile. No matter how funny it is.
Mandi: Hee hee. That was amusing. Especially Mary catching the kids.
Faith: Yes! Loved that part. So, besides the blatant message, you didn’t just love Wall-E (the character)?
Mandi: It just didn't really hold my attention. I think it jumped in to the deeper plot before we really got to know Wall-E so I didn't have a big attachment to him.
Faith: I thought he was so adorable. I got so used to not hearing full dialogue, that when I did start to hear it, I was a bit thrown.
Mandi: I knew there wasn't going to be a lot of dialogue. I guess somewhere in the back of my mind, I expected it to be like the shorts before the movie, but just longer…if that makes sense.
Faith: Makes sense.

Mandi:: I'll probably watch it again when it comes out on DVD (over and over and over again thanks to my 4 year old nephew who liked it). Maybe I'll like it better that time because I'll kind of know what to expect. I am one of those people who sits through the entire closing credits, and I was really happy with the way those were done. Showing humans getting back to being functional and the Earth healing itself.
Faith: That was very cute. I especially liked the idea of growing pizza.
Mandi: LOL, yeah.
Faith: Can I have a pizza garden? It would feel far healthier.
Mandi: You would be a millionaire if you could pull that off!

Faith: Haha! So, as a Pixar movie, where does it sit?
Mandi: I think it's at the bottom of my list right now. But like I said, it might grow on me.
Faith: Hmm...I think it's right before A Bug's Life...which puts it near the bottom. But if I'm rating it with all the other animation I've ever seen, it's pretty high on the list.
Mandi: Oh! One thing that I did think was neat was how they combined live action and computer animation.
Faith: That was cool! Don't really see that at all, and it didn't look weird.
Mandi: They worked it in really well. It wasn't like they just threw it in so they could claim to be the first movie to do so.
Faith: Yeah, those Pixar people are nice and modest like that.
Mandi: Yeah. What did you think of the short before hand?
Faith: Funny that you say that. I was just trying to remember what it was!
Mandi: Presto. The magician and rabbit.
Faith: Ah, crazy magician and his funny bunny. It was hilarious!
Mandi: I really enjoyed it. I think I just enjoy the shorts that have animals in it more than the ones without. For the Birds is my all time favorite. It'll be hard to beat that one!
Faith: For the Birds was the best. The one before Ratatouille just didn't work for me, though. That was the one with the guy helping the baby bird fly, right?
Mandi: I think that was the alien one.
Faith: OK. I'm a liar. You're right. I did like that one.
Mandi: LOL
Faith: Was the baby bird one before Cars?
Mandi: No, that was One Man Band. I didn't care for that one. I can't even think of the one you're talking about.
Faith: Great. Now I have to find it. (And no, I didn't really like One Man Band either).
Mandi: LOL
Faith: You know what, my baby bird one might be before a non-Pixar movie.
Mandi: I'm trying to think of other movies it could have been a part of.
Faith: Thank you, Google! First Flight in 2006. Dreamworks. Definitely not Pixar. And we are WAY off topic.
Mandi: Doesn't take much.
Faith: Haha. Hmm...I need to be a better movie reviewer for a moment. Back to Wall-E. I know what you disliked about it. What did you like about it?
Mandi: I liked the message that we are in control of our destiny. If we don't like something about ourselves, or our lives, we have the ability to change it. And Wall-E IS adorable. But he does remind me a lot of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit.
Faith: But that's what makes him adorable! I never thought I'd think a robot was so darn cute, but he totally is.
Mandi: Yeah, I definitely think that tapped into my childhood memories of that movie.
Faith: Who (or what) was your favorite supporting character? For me, it's a toss up between the little cleaner robot and the captain.
Mandi: I really liked John and Mary. The little cleaner robot was a hoot!
Faith: Pure comic relief.
Mandi: When Wall-E puts dirt on him and he freaks out. Priceless.
Faith: If he'd been human, I think he may have looked a little like David Hyde Pierce. Only shorter.
Mandi: LOL...I was just thinking the shorter part. Or one of those overly anal kids.
Faith: Yes. Some kid with glasses and perfect hair, carrying around a big cleaning brush.
Mandi: Who doesn't even know the word "fun" exists.
Faith: Yet, he seems to make everyone laugh.
Mandi: I really like Mary and John though. It's amazing because the bulk of the movie is dealing with the love story between Wall-E and EVE, yet I was happier when Mary and John noticed each other than when Wall-E finally got EVE's attention. I think the human factor goes a long way with me.

Faith: I think the Pixar people realized that too. You can only go so far to humanize a couple of robots. I loved Mary and John playing in the pool. "I didn't know we had a pool." So great.
Mandi: LOL. John Ratzenberger always has pretty awesome characters. I like watching the Pixar movies just because I know he'll be in there somewhere.
Faith: Very true. I love the joke he did in Cars...just in case we all forgot he's a Pixar staple.
Mandi: I don't remember the joke.
Faith: At the end--at the drive in--they're all watching car versions of the Pixar movies. He keeps commenting on the “wonderful actor” playing all of his roles.
Mandi: Oh yeah! Did it seem to you that EVE was the most...I guess I could say "human" robot.
Faith: Very much. She had more vocabulary and expressions, and she seemed...softer.
Mandi: Emotionally she was the kind of hard working girl, not taking much crap from the guys because she had to prove herself. At least that's how I felt about it. Then she softens up to Wall-E
Faith: It was very 30s era screwball comedy.
Mandi: Yeah.
Faith: EVE is the robot equivalent of Katherine Hepburn!
Mandi: True!
Faith: No, no, Carole Lombard...she's my favorite.
Mandi: Hee hee....that works too.
Faith: So. If you had to give a 50 word or less review of Wall-E, what would you say?
Mandi: Hmmm....let me think about that for a minute.
Faith: Good, because I have to think as well.


Faith: OK. Here I go. With its usual stellar visuals and adorable characters, Pixar won my heart once again with Wall-E. I never thought I'd fall in love with a robot, but I just want to hug him and squeeze him and call him George. Though not my favorite Pixar movie, Wall-E is still some darn fine filmmaking.
That’s 53 words, but who cares.


Faith: Still thinking?
Mandi: Hee hee...thinking, writing, erasing, re writing, etc. I'm trying to think of what to say because everytime I come up with something, I realize that I actually liked the movie more than I thought I did.
Faith: Haha. And people say movie discussions aren't worthwhile.
Mandi: While Wall-E is no where near my favorite Pixar movie, it did hold my attention and get me thinking. I couldn't help but be touched by Wall-E's longing for love and companionship, which are very human emotions. Because it has WAY less dialogue than other Pixar movies, I think it will bridge the language barrier easier to help us realize that we have to work together as ONE planet to survive.
Okay...that was just my thought process...I should probably cut that down. I can follow directions.
Faith: Nope. No touchy. That works for me! So it turns out the message didn't bother you so much?
Mandi: Apparently not.
Faith: Yeah, cute wins out every time.
Mandi: Hee hee. True.
Faith: Well, I think that wraps it up. It's been a pleasure!
Mandi: This has been fun! I love things that make me see other points of view! Thanks for asking me to be a part of it.
Faith: We must do it again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Slacking Superheroes and Perfect PR

Last week, I saw Hancock. I went into this movie thinking it would be a dark comedy about a superhero who just doesn't care. What I got was a dark comedic drama about a superhero who has serious emotional issues. I won't say I didn't like it because I did, but it just threw me when I wasn't laughing as much as I thought I'd be.

Will Smith is Hancock, a superhero who drinks too much, makes horrible decisions, and hates being called an asshole. When he tries to save the day, he causes massive amounts of damage and just angers people in the process. Hancock isn’t the kind of man who cares what other people think...until the day he saves the life of PR executive Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a man who himself is on a mission to save the world by getting big companies to make big charitable contributions. Ray sees the good in everyone and decides to help Hancock by improving his attitude and image. Ray's wife Mary (Charlize Theron), on the other hand, thinks that it's all a bad idea. She says it's because the drunken Hancock is a lost cause, but there seems to be more she's not sharing.

When Hancock is funny. It's funny. Personally, I never thought I'd laugh so hard at someone getting something shoved where it should never be shoved, but I had tears in my eyes. I also love Hancock's issue with people calling him an asshole because it reminded me so much of Marty McFly and his "chicken" issue. But even the funniest parts didn't make up for the extremely serious moments.

It's OK to have serious tones in a comedic piece. In fact, Peter Berg has built his career on mixing comedy and drama, but for this movie, it just seemed a little too ill-balanced. Seeing Hancock depressed in his prison cell was a little too much of a downer for me. And his anger management meetings really didn't do much to make me laugh or boost the story.
Plus, the climax is full-on dramatic with quick cuts, intense music, and stark lighting--something that just feels out of place in a superhero comedy movie. I think the story got a little confused about what kind of feeling it wanted to portray which, in turn, probably effected the actors.

Jason Bateman and Will Smith turn in decent performances. I've seen them both do better work. Bateman's comedic timing is great, but he doesn't seem as comitted to the comedy as he does to the serious. Will Smith, on the other hand, seems to be working the other way. He's really comitted to the funny parts--making Hancock into a very angry, darkly funny guy. His dramtic part, though, seemed a little forced and over the top. Which is weird since we've all seen Smith turn in some pretty damn good dramatic performances. Theron is really a side character here and doesn't get to shine until the last part of the movie, but she too seemed a little off her game.

All and all, I don't regret seeing the movie. I enjoyed myself and laughed heartily at moments, so I would recommend it, just on DVD.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Flashback Review! Southland Tales

So I'm reading over my past reviews, and I realized that I never posted my review of Southland Tales on this site. I talked about the odd casting, but never talked about the movie. So, I dug into my archives and found the review I wrote for Critics Rant. Enjoy!

There are many levels of bad movie. There are good bad movies that you love watching because you enjoy making fun of them. There are bad bad movies that you are so mad you wasted your time and money seeing that you are offended by the thought of them. Then there’s Southland Tales. It’s the kind of bad movie that you want every single one of your friends to see so that you can all discuss the atrocity to which you’ve just subjected yourselves.

I believe the only way to truly enjoy Southland Tales is to be tripping on some pretty good acid. Even then, though, I think you might get bored after about thirty minutes and resort to watching static on television.

It’s truly not a boring movie; that’s definitely not what’s wrong with the film. It’s got nuclear war, Big Brother, political corruption, crazy drugs, time travel, and midgets in SWAT gear. What bored me is that I didn’t care what the hell anyone did or didn’t do.

In 2005, a nuclear bomb was dropped on Texas. This, of course, led to World War Three. Now, three years later, the government has reinstated the draft, issued nationwide identification cards, and controls the Internet. The Republican Party has a good chance of winning the election, and there’s an extremist Marxist group that doesn’t want that to happen.

Dwayne Johnson is Boxer Santeros, an action star who’s married to Madeline Frost (Mandy Moore), the daughter of Senator Bobby Frost (Holmes Osborne) who happens to be on the Republican ticket. Senator Frost’s wife is Nana Mae Frost (Miranda Richardson) who is not only the head of the NSA (I think), but she also runs the USIdent office, a Big Brother operation that controls the Internet and every other thing going on in America.

Still with me? I’m not done yet.

So Boxer gets kidnapped and taken into the desert. Somehow, he gets back into California with a case of amnesia and has been shacking up with porn star Krista Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar). He and Krista write a screenplay that oddly emulates what’s going on in the world, and they get wrapped up in what I believe to be a conspiracy that involves the Marxist movement, a German who’s created a power station operated by ocean water (played by the hilarious Wallace Shawn), and some strange time-space continuum whatnot. Oh, and a drugged-up war veteran played by Justin Timberlake narrates.

The movie plays as if too many ideas crawled onto the page, and Richard Kelly didn’t want to let any of them go. There are scenes that actually had my attention. I thought, finally, this movie is going somewhere and getting interesting, but no. As soon as some semblance of a storyline would show itself, the film would stumble and fall right back into an immature statement about American politics and war.

Richard Kelly definitely has ideas buried in the muck that is Southland Tales. Peppering the film with news footage that looks like it was plucked directly from C-SPAN is perfect. He’s poking fun at our country’s need for sensory overload in every sense of the word. Having one of your main characters be a porn star who is trying her hand at singing, television, and her own energy drink is spectacular. But either he concentrated too much on jamming every concept in, or he didn’t let the actors in on the joke.

Mandy Moore is surprisingly interesting as the whiny senator’s daughter, but I know for a fact she can do better work. Christopher Lambert, Miranda Richardson, and hell, even John Laroquette should be ashamed of themselves. I wouldn’t think it was so sad to see them play such horrible characters if it didn’t look like they were trying so hard.

Dwayne Johnson is the only one who gives a convincing performance. And it’s really only because he’s playing a confused, half-wit of a man who can’t quite figure out what his purpose might be. He does know one thing, though. He’s a pimp, and pimps don’t commit suicide.

Yeah, I don’t know what it means either, but it was the funniest damn line in the entire movie.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Incredible Banner

Well, I don't know about grittier than the first movie, but The Incredible Hulk is definitely sleeker than the first. It actually more resembles a movie that Ang Lee would direct than The Hulk that Ang Lee actually directed.

Not only is Edward Norton a better Bruce Banner than Eric Bana, the whole supporting cast works better. OK, Liv Tyler might do a little more fawning and pouting than necessary, but she still has great chemistry with Norton. Also, the storyline feels better for Hulk. Unlike Lee's The Hulk, there is no crazy estranged father with a dark family secret. There's not even a true origin story. The opening credits features a flashy, montage ala Spider-Man 3 which replaces the sure-to-have-been boring revamp of the backstory. When the movie officially starts, we jump right in.

Scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is living in shadows--a day worker in a Brazilian soda factory--searching for an antidote for his GAMMA poisoning. But after a small cut seeps blood into one of the bottle (yeah, I'm never drinking Brazilian soda), the people he's trying to hide from track him down. During the pursuit, they bring out the Hulk, and Banner decides he has no choice but to return to the States.

After reuniting with the love of his life Betty Ross (Tyler), Bruce and she search for a cure while running from Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth)--an uber special-ops guy--and Betty's estranged father Gen. Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross (William Hurt).

The Incredible Hulk is definitely not short on huge action scenes. The first chase-turn-fight is wonderfully shot, keeping you on your toes as you hope Bruce's heart rate doesn't get too high. And when the stakes just seem too crazy, he calls attention to it for you, making everything more grounded (and a little funny). From this scene, we learn that Blonksy isn't a man to be messed with. As other soldiers are being tossed about a beaten up by Hulk, Blonsky keeps a clear head and sharp eyes on the target. Even without the help of special juice, Blonsky is a great antagonist to Banner/Hulk.

Maybe it's because the Hulk isn't one of my favorite comic book characters or it could be the fact that the green guy is all CG, but I really believe Norton's Banner steals this film from the Hulk. I'm definitely not saying this as a bad thing, but it could prove a bad thing for the Hulk fans out there. Norton adds a light sense of humor and an edge of vulnerability that completely disappears when the Hulk comes out to play. When Banner is Banner, the movie plays like The Fugitive, when Banner is the Hulk, I feel like I just turned channels to watch Peter Jackson's King Kong. The transition is like a slap in the face, but maybe that's how it should be since Banner and the Hulk are so completely different.

Even though I enjoyed the film, I really hope a sequel isn't in its future. But of course, the way Hollywood works now, I'm sure the contracts are already being passed from desk to desk at Marvel's newly-formed studios. The Incredible Hulk is a great stand alone movie with an ending that feels complete and hopeful.

With solid acting and great action, it's a fun movie for a hot summer afternoon. As far as it ranks with other summer action movies, though, Iron Man still kicked its butt.