I took Noah to Powell Hall tonight for their Sound of Music Sing-a-Long. They showed the movie complete with lyrics in the subtitles and everyone had a blast singing along. Before the movie started, they had a costume contest, so a lot of people dressed up as characters, including an adorable pair of little twin girls dressed as nuns (who should have won, in my opinion). We were instructed to hiss at the Baroness and boo at the Nazis, and they taught us some choreography to do during Do-Re-Mi. We’ve watched the movie before with Noah, and he likes some of the songs already, so he really enjoyed it. Good times.
Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl make a pretty good team in the new romantic comedy Killers (whose plot seems strikingly similar to the Cruise-Diaz vehicle Knight and Day that opens later this month — just sayin’), although I will say that the on-screen chemistry seemed to be lacking, when compared to Heigl’s previous pairings with the likes of Gerard Butler (The Ugly Truth) and Seth Rogen (Knocked Up), so I guess I’ll have to blame Kutcher for that.
As a comedy, the movie has its moments. Former Marine, and former Daily Show correspondent, Rob Riggle lights up the screen in a supporting role not unlike his scene-stealing cameo in last year’s The Hangover. And The Mustache That Wet A Thousand Panties makes an appearance, as Tom Selleck returns to the big screen with a solid supporting role as the over-protective father, deadpanning his disappointment with Kutcher as a son-in-law. Overall, this movie is formulaic, predictable, and a bit implausible in places, but still entertaining.
It looks like my prediction about Avatar is on track to come true, but the box office reports today reminded me just how pointless box office reports are. I already know the answer to this question, but why do these reports still use dollars instead of gross tickets sold? Hey James Cameron! Since you’re trying to revolutionize the movie industry with your work, how about doing something really revolutionary — how about you demand that your box office receipts be reported in numbers that actually mean something? Because, if you look at Titanic‘s box office take, it’s based on the cost of tickets in 1997 (about $4.50). Tickets on average today are about twice that much, so when Avatar‘s take exceeds that, it’ll be on half as many tickets. On the other hand, Titanic sold about 95 million tickets in 1997. That number still has meaning today. For example, the original Star Wars in 1977 sold over 160 million tickets in total. So if bragging rights are going to mean anything at all, everyone needs to be using the same standard of measure. Otherwise, just stop bombarding us with meaningless numbers!
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Avatar will soon be the biggest-grossing movie of all time — and even if it doesn’t, it probably deserves to be. Living up to most, if not all, of the hype surrounding it, the film is visually stunning, and the story is compelling, if a bit formulaic. Director James Cameron has spent literally decades developing this project, and it is obvious that this is the work of someone with great attention to detail. The technology behind the production is simply staggering, and is likely to change how movies are made for decades to come — not just the 3-D gimmickry, but the innovative motion capture techniques he has created. The CG graphics are impressive, but like any good movie, they support and enhance the story, they don’t detract from it.
Many have criticized the movie for being too political, as it draws obvious parallels between the war portrayed in the movie and the current war in Iraq. The anti-imperialist message is undeniable, of course, but the movie succeeds at delivering that message without coming across as preachy, which is not an easy task for any storyteller. Most notable for me is that the story is also surprisingly spiritual, invoking our own indigenous Native Americans in describing the people and cultures of the fictitious world of Pandora. That spirituality ultimately plays an active role in the story’s outcome, and is not just an afterthought.
Overall, Avatar is exquisitely made eye candy that is also emotionally satisfying. I would recommend it.
I don’t go to the movies much (there are three reasons for this), and even when I do, I rarely take the time to write reviews of them anymore (I have people who do that for me). But every now and then a movie comes along that I just have to comment on.
The Hangover is easily the funniest movie I’ve seen in a long time. Even funnier than Wedding Crashers, and that was pretty damn funny. The story is a bit derivative, but the comedy is fresh and well-written, and the raunch is kept to a minimum. It’s just constantly funny throughout the whole movie. Mike Tyson’s cameos are comedy gold (I heard he did his scenes in one take), and the rest of the cast is superb (especially Ed Helms). If you are looking for something to keep you laughing for two hours, this is it.
They never do explain where the chicken came from, however.
I read recently that Pixar is 10 for 10 — their last ten releases have opened number one at the box office, and their new offering Up is no exception. Noah took me to see this movie for Father’s Day, and I enjoyed it, although I was a bit surprised by it. The trend in animated movies for kids is to sprinkle just enough humor for the adults into the mix that they enjoy it too, so that they have a reason to come back for the next one. I’m trying not to be too cynical about that, but you cannot ignore the fact that the kids aren’t the ones paying for the tickets.
I think this trend may have been taken too far. That is, these are no longer kids movies with a few adult themes, they are adult movies with flashy graphics for the kids. The entire first act of Up is essentially a flashback, with very limited dialogue, telling the poignant back story of Carl, the hapless curmudgeon who turns his house into a makeshift dirigible, and his wife Ellie. The story is touching and overall very sad, and I’m not afraid to admit I shed a tear watching it. Pixar does fine work. Last year’s WALL-E was very similar in its liberal use of adult themes and limited dialogue. It was also very good, and deserved the Oscar it won for best animated film.
But I believe it is increasingly becoming a stretch to call these kids movies. Someone could remake Schindler’s List as an animated film, with enough eye candy to hold a kid’s attention for ninety minutes, but that doesn’t make it a children’s movie. I’m not trying to be critical of Pixar’s stories, just their marketing. Pixar makes great movies, they just aren’t always what they seem.
A while back, I wrote about how movie franchises rarely make it to the fourth installment, and that there’s a reason for that. The latest offering in the Indiana Jones series is a painful reminder of why this is usually true. It would be easy to blame George Lucas, and, in reality, he is mostly to blame. He really tried to do too much in this movie. Like a quantum physicist struggling to find the Theory of Everything, this movie attempts to weave every crackpot conspiracy theory on the Internet, from alien autopsies at Roswell to the Nazca lines, into a coherent story that features the crystal skulls as its centerpiece.
As an audience member, I am willing to suspend my disbelief at some implausible hokum if it furthers the plot in some way. But what exactly was the point of showing Indiana surviving a nuclear weapons test in the Nevada desert, apart from offering yet another showcase for the CG talents of Lucas’s crew at ILM? And this was in the first fifteen minutes of the movie, so it was all downhill from there. This movie is a cross between National Treasure and The X-Files. And not in a good way.
Like his Star Wars prequels before it, Lucas forgot everything that made the original Raiders of the Lost Ark such a classic, and went off in some entirely new direction, and buried the characters we know and love in a CG-laden reality that is anything but real. I can’t believe Spielberg agreed to direct this mess. Do yourself a favor, and forget this movie was made. Go rent Raiders and Last Crusade (skip Temple of Doom) instead. It won’t cost you as much, and you’ll enjoy it much more.
There certainly was a lot of hype surrounding this film, and J.J. Abrams has a lot riding on it since it is the first foray into the big-screen world for his Bad Robot production company. If this movie doesn’t do well, it could be bad news for his much-anticipated Star Trek movie due out this Christmas.
Overall, I would have to say that I cannot shake my feelings of disappointment over this movie. My expectations were not high going into it. I’m a fan of Lost — one of Abrams’s TV productions — so I know he’s capable of intriguing stories and great special effects. But I also knew that it was all filmed in “documentary style” with handheld camcorders, so I was anticipating needing a sick bag by the end of it, a la Blair Witch.
I’m happy to report that the jerky camera work was tolerable, however, the pacing of the movie is a bit awkward. The obligatory character development at the beginning is tedious, and once the action begins it stops and starts instead of steadily building to a final payoff.
There are many worthwhile scenes captured in this movie. Scary glimpses of the monster, eery views of a deserted metropolis, but they do not flow easily into one another, and the film lacks a certain cohesiveness as a result, almost as if it was designed with commercial breaks in mind.
Although the approach for recording the events is somewhat unique, the idea behind the story is not new, and the end is not terribly gratifying, so I would have to say that J.J.’s first film is simply average. Hopefully he can do better in the future, or he’s going to have to stick to television.
Few movie franchises make it to the fourth installment, and there’s a reason for that. By the fourth one they’ve typically run out of steam. Notable exceptions to this rule are Lethal Weapon 4 and this movie. The original Die Hard (1988) was a seminal movie, defining a genre of wise-cracking, unkillable, near-super-human-cop movies. So it’s surprising to see that, after almost twenty years of imitators, this movie still feels fresh.
This movie goes back to its roots in the original for several humorous references (yet another agent Johnson of the FBI) as well as plot construction. The story is decidedly contemporary (dealing with terrorism and making plenty of references to DHS) so it’s quite interesting that there are so many parallels between it and the original — terrorists, hackers and the FBI all figure prominently in both films.
Speaking of hackers, as I predicted, Justin Long is still turning out great performances. He seems uniquely qualified to play the geek who is still cool and engaging (although I don’t think he comes anywhere near a Mac in this film). And the venerable Kevin Smith turns in a stellar cameo as the Hacker King.
Despite some remarkable battles with plausibility (the whole scene with the F-35 comes to mind), this is a great movie. Full of all the thrills and one-liners of previous installments, and Bruce Willis is still delivering the goods after almost twenty years.
My expectations for this one might have been higher than usual since I thought The 40-Year-Old Virgin was so good. While writer/director Judd Apatow has disappointed in the past — that Ron Burgundy movie is simply unwatchable — he delivers in this movie. For any thirty-something that has gone through the joys and travails of having a baby, there are plenty of references in this movie that will strike very close to home.
Oh, and keep an eye on Kristen Wiig. She is a scene-stealer in this film, her brilliant character work on SNL is reminiscent of Gilda Radner, and I predict her career is about to blow up.