Monthly Archives: October 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

     Where the Wild Things Are may be considered a classic in children’s literature, it’s simple and teaches a modest lesson, and everyone’s familiar with it – so who better to tackle such an imaginative tale than the creative juggernaut Spike Jones? That’s what I thought, anyway. But for those who aren’t familiar (how does that happen?), it’s the story of Max, a young boy who possibly has one of the worst cases of ADHD imaginable – or at least, that’s how the film portrays him. A rambunctious little tyke with a wild imagination, Max happens to lash out at his family whenever he’s ignored…or displeased. Personally, I don’t find this image appealing, but I digress. So after a particularly rough night, Max runs away, and discovers a wild new world inhabited by bizarre creatures. Marveled by the tales he spins, the creatures dub Max as their new king, and turn to them in their times of need. It may seem to be a harsh way to learn lessons in responsibility, but it’s actually very effective, especially when the subjects could possibly eat you in your sleep. 

     This film had a lot of promise. I mean, a lot of promise. The trailers were fantastic, as was the hype. But to start this off well, I have to say, the visual aspects of this film were spectacular. The wild things looked exactly as they did in the book, and the CGI was absolutely flawless. In a word, this film was visually beautiful.  And the way ever moment was captured, there was this child-like quality to it – a way of putting yourself in Max’s shoes, perhaps – or the sneakers of any young child.  
     However, the book was what, maybe ten, twelve pages long? And to stretch it all out to an hour and forty minutes is well, a stretch, for lack of a better word. Perhaps if it was simpler, like the book, it wouldn’t seem as long, rather than repeating the same points over and over again. Though I do give the movie credit for keeping the same ending and certain plot aspects of the book, it seems that the original ending is awfully displaced in this film. In the book, Max returns home because he’s homesick and lonely. In the film, the loneliness was tossed on the audience like a wet blanket (via Max’s trial and error as King), and there wasn’t much about him missing his mother – he just seems to bask in her distress/relief upon his return.

     I do have to give props to Max Records for being such an apt Max. Records was very natural with the character, as if they gave him a wolf suit and let him loose on the set. Though I personally couldn’t really relate to him (perhaps it’s because I’m a cynical college student, but whatever), he seemed to stir some up flashbacks in all sorts of folks – mainly in the noisy children and parents behind me. Uff-da. …At least the music was good. (Thank you, Karen O!)
     So in all, Where the Wild Things Are is visually stunning, but too much filler.  It would probably be better off as a short film.

               

Final Grade: B+


                                                         
                                                                                                                                                                        …I think Subway can use this.

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Zombieland

     Basically, the story of Zombieland is basically that of any z-flick: zombie apocalypse, minimal survival, one man’s/group’s journey. Except this is more like America’s response to 2004’s British cult smash Shaun of the Dead. But anyway, Zombieland mainly focuses through the perspective of our young hero simply known as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who has survived what he’s come to terms with as Zombieland for some time now, living off of his own set of rules. He ventures off to find his family in Columbus, Ohio, when he meets a man called Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) – an enthusiastic zombie hater who is hell-bent on destroying every zombie he encounters, and finding a last remaining Twinkie. Their means of survival suddenly hit a rut when they encounter a suspicious pair of siblings, known as Wichita (Emma Stone) and her little sister, Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who have plans of their own.
     And despite that it follows with the usual attributes of a z-flick, there was some great original ideas – such as the fact that the movie starts sometime after the zombie apocalypse sort-of-thing and goes about how one can cope with such an existence, which can’t help but remind me of The Zombie Survival Guide – not that it’s much like it. Zombieland is just as exciting as it is hilarious, and it is destined to please any Romero fan. And there is a fantastic cameo that is just entirely amazing – stick around after the credits, you won’t regret it.
     And yet, despite its gore-filled flawlessness, there is one thing that just irks me. That thing that makes me wonder, “What? WHY?” – followed with a “NO!”   And the thing of which I speak goes by the name of Jesse Eisenberg. Remembering him from his The Squid and the Whale days, he was such a creep. Seriously, I didn’t know how to relate to this guy. I mean, he was good, if creepy was what he was aiming for, but I expected him to sort of stick to indie – he belongs there. And here he is, in both Adventureland and Zombieland (weird) – the lead cute-and-nerdy guy. Only my problem is, he’s not cute whatsoever. If anything, he’s that awkward guy in the back of the class that people are only nice to in order to insure that they’re not the first he takes out when he snaps. I bet he’s a nice guy, but I think I’d rather see him as the awkward outcast than the awkward hero. Why don’t they just go with the default cute-and-nerdy go-to-guy Michael Cera? Because honestly, I have no idea how or why this guy’s getting laid in all of his movies (or in Zombieland’s case, almost). It’s just so unrealistic, even for a movie with a zombie-clown.

 

Final Grade: A

(Because I won’t let Eisenberg drag this thing down.)

                                                                                                                                                                
There’s a Visine for that.
 

               

9

9 is a story about a dystopia built by happenstance – all humans are dead and technology’s the only form of life left. A small robotic doll awakes to this world, thrown into a story of the fate of existence – which is entirely left in his tiny hands.

I have to hand it to 9 for its remarkable use of creativity. The story is original, and each of the stitchpunk dolls has their own unique personality – the origin of which is a complete mystery until the end. The animation is brilliant. Just brilliant.  The dark atmosphere emitted from the screen is haunting to say the least. It could be argued that there could be more dead humans around, but the lack of visual stimuli is what makes the scenery so grotesque. Not to mention, the adversaries that our little protagonists faced where equally creative and terrifying.

However, despite such creative advantage, the story itself lacked definition. The plot was forgettable, dragging a bit often. It was like I wanted to grab the controls and take over this videogame and move on. Personally, I prefer director Shane Acker’s 2005 original short (www.movieweb.com/video/VIC7UEFHbP8HGF) to a full-length deal.  Alas, without the entire thing we miss out on the amazing character relationships, so there’s a plus.

In all, 9 is a quirky little film with an incredibly dark edge – if only it didn’t drag so much….

 

Final Grade: B

                                                                                                                                            

District 9

                Approximately 28 years ago, extraterrestrial life forms made contact with humans; a colossal mother ship hovered above Johannesburg, only for human infiltrators to discover weak and malnourished worker aliens (also known as “prawns”) shut inside, lost without leadership. Since then, the prawns have adapted as refugees on human soil, living and thriving in a group of slums in an area known as District 9. It’s up to Multi-National United (MNU) to keep them in line, eventually moving them into new housing.  But during this mission MNU representative Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copely), makes a discovery which leads him to fall victim to his own government, fending for himself amongst prawns.

                The story of District 9 is original, coming off as a simple man vs. unknown conflict, but then exposes the complexities of human nature, ultimately conveying the art of understanding – as if we witness a wonderfully executed sci-fi adaptation of the seven stages of grief. However, certain aspects of this film were almost reminiscent to 1984’s The Fly – but with better special effects.

With that aside, District 9 is a triumph to uphold. But what’s even more incredible is that this is director Neill Blomkamp’s first feature film, as it was for marvel Sharlto Copely. Though Copely had originally never intended on pursuing a career in acting, his performance holds much promise for future endeavors. The proof is in his purely sympathetic portrayal of a crumbling man.

                Plain and simple, District 9 is arguably one of the best films of the summer, if not the year. It’s original, it’s captivating, it’s just plain awesome.

Final Grade: A