It has been far too long since my last update, so I decided to bunch together a couple of movie reviews to make up for the lack of writing.
The first of the two reviews is for Gore Verbinski’s “Rango”. Seeing as this movie was released back in March and it may have slipped into irrelevancy in the pop-culture section of your mind, I’ll throw in the trailer for you:
Granted, this appears to have highly-animated and jumpy characters and is produced by Nickelodeon (a cable channel that has descended far from its 1990s high point), this is not kids-only fare–in fact it might be one of the best films you’ll see this year. Directed by Gore Verbinski (“The Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy), the film opens with an introduction to a chameleon with an identity crisis (voiced by Johnny Depp). After an accident that leaves him stranded in the desert, he comes across a small town appropriately named Dirt where all of the inhabitants are small anthropomorphic desert creatures. Being the peculiar stranger in town the chameleon seizes the opportunity to create a new tough-guy persona for himself, dubbing himself “Rango” and getting promoted to the position of the town sheriff. However as he is forced to deal with the town’s dwindling water supply (which is literally their form of currency) as well as gun-toting criminals and corruption amongst the townspeople, his acting skills will be put to the test as he comes to grips with who he really is and what he must do for the betterment of everybody.
There were some filmmaking tropes present in the film that did grate my nerves a bit, such as some cheesy slapstick comedy and a couple of seemingly out-of-place, fourth-wall breaking jokes. Though I will write those off as being necessary hooks to keep the younger audiences entertained as well as securing a budget for this animation spectacle (because we all know that it/s very, very difficult and time-consuming to make an animated film, and the only way to make a guaranteed profit is to pander to the masses who think that it is only a kids-fare medium–but alas, that is a rant for another time). What enthralled me about this film was the animation itself and the film’s unique style. Everything in the film–from the backgrounds of land barren but for cacti to the characters’ physique and outfits–is in luscious detail, balancing perfectly on the line between cartoons and realism without falling into the uncanny valley. The style is a marvel, as well–it’s a rather surreal western that seems to be a hybrid of the wackiness of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and the gritty action of “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” (both of which are successfully referenced in this film, another strong point).
Overall, this is a film well worth any cinephile’s time. It’s great to look at and has an entertaining plot. And so far, I’d say that this is the frontrunner to the Best Animated Feature Oscar for this year.
The second film I saw recently is the acclaimed summer blockbuster “Super 8”. Here’s the trailer:
Science fiction buff J. J. Abrams (Star Trek reboot, TV’s “Lost”) writes and directs this homage to the great Spielbergian flicks of the late 1970s and early 1980s involving some small-town teens’ love of movies, young love, and supernatural events. When Joe Lamb (played by Joel Courtney) loses his mother in an accident, he finds solace in his friends and their moviemaking–something that his father (Kyle Chandler), deputy officer of their small town, discourages him from taking part. But Joe is determined to help his friends finish their movie for a film festival, and with the addition of Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) as their film’s protagonist’s wife he definitely does not want to abandon the project now. All is going fairly smoothly until during a late-night shoot they witness a logically-improbable train crash where they all come close to wrapping up on their lives. They survive, but decide to keep what they witnessed a secret. That’s easier said than done, because soon after the derailment strange things start happening around their small town: The U.S. Air Force gets involved, and they seem to be hiding information; the town’s electricity starts to fault; people, pets, and appliances start to disappear. Who could it be? Hooligans? The Soviets? Something from out of this world?
I have to say, this is a summer blockbuster that sets the bar high. As stated, it is a terrific tribute to Spielberg’s earlier films (he also produces the film) and seems to be a cross between Spielberg’s “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial” and the Abrams-produced “Cloverfield”. It doesn’t try to go over the top in terms of special effects or story elements, but stays more grounded and proposes what would really happen if an alien came to Earth (an alternate to a full-fledged invasion). Abrams techniques to make the film seem more timely (lens flares, anybody?) might annoy some but movie geeks will appreciate its authenticity and how it adds to the film’s sense of being homemade and more heartfelt, instead of just being a by-product of corporate Hollywood.
The only deterrent that I had from this film is the highly improbable events that occur throughout the film, which is a shame seeing as it tries to root itself in credibility and be more believable than other alien-flick dribble (as seen in the trailer, I highly doubt that a pick-up truck could derail a freight train and send the cars flying in every direction). Besides those few annoyances, this film was fantastic. Cinematic summer escapism at its best. I urge you to go see it–you will not be let down.
Oh, and another good thing about these two films: THEY’RE NOT IN 3-D. No need to pay for those ridiculous glasses and stare at hazy, paper puppet-like images for two hours. It’s nice to see that 2-D tickets are starting to sell more, at least domestically, and that this gimmick may soon be over
I’d write more reviews about all the movies I’ve watched on Netflix recently (suggestion: SIGN UP FOR THAT. You won’t regret it.), but I don’t know if I have the will to write all of those reviews–or that you have the patience to read them. Anyway, thanks for tuning in!