Monthly Archives: June 2012

Brave

Brave is probably the most refreshing Disney film I’ve seen in a while, and it’s definitely another to add to the grand list of Pixar gems.  I appreciated that Pixar seemed to go all-out for breaking traditions with this one, after all it’s the first Pixar film with a female protagonist and also their first period-film.  At first I was a little leery, being afraid that there would be a cruel turn and making Brave an obnoxious girl-power film, especially with the rise about the corset-lacing scene.

Harris, Hamish and Hubert.
Completely interchangeable.

Fortunately, there was nothing to really worry about.  Merida’s journey of self-discovery and defiance beautifully captures the emotional turmoil of growing up and the eventual acceptance (or compromise) that comes with it.  At the same time, there is also a story of family and empathy that isn’t entirely shoved down our throats.

If I had to nit-pick, I think my only real complaint was that even though the story mainly focused on the relationship between Merida and her mother, I really wish that there could have been more on the dynamics between her brothers and father.  Granted Fergus is a typical sort of dad, not to mention the chemistry between him and Elinor is absolutely adorable (yay Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson!), but I would have loved to see some more character traits in the triplets, who were simply adorable little plot devices.

Side Note: I totally thought this guy looked like a buff Spoony. Especially when his eyes get all buggy.

Other than that, I really can’t complain.  The remaining characters were great (I especially enjoyed the different clans), the animation was gorgeous, and it’s a fairly solid story.  Also, stick around after the credits to see a plot hole disappear.

Final Grade: A

 

WYSHW: Colour Me Kubrick

What is that drink?

I love John Malkovich.  I love Stanley Kubrick.  I know I’m not the only one who has a great admiration for one or both of these incredible people. At the same time, I’m not totally surprised that people haven’t even heard of the 2006 comedy Colour Me Kubrick, in which Malkovich plays a man who spent years posing as Stanley Kubrick without even knowing anything about him.

Inspired by a true story, Colour Me Kubrick follows a man named Alan Conway, a flamboyant socialite who under a thin guise as Stanley Kubrick, exchanges money, drinks, dinner, getaways and sex for an opportunity to be in his latest project.  As insane as the premise sounds, it actually worked, like in real life.  Did you click the link?  Crazy, right?

“I shaved off my beard off.”

 

Colour Me Kubrick showcases one of Malkovich’s…quirkier performances, such as in Red or the more notably underrated  The Great Buck Howard.  As a result we are given a sympathetic but enjoyable character who you’re not sure if you love or hate.

Like I said, most of the film relies in the story, because it is that unbelievable – and liberties were taken but that doesn’t make it any less of a story.

What can also be appreciated are the Kubrick film references throughout the film, namely from A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, and Spartacus (as seen in the trailer).

…I’ve got nothing.

Colour Me Kubrick may not be the most deep or profound films out there, but it’s certainly different and worth checking out, even if it’s for the name-dropping.

Next time on WYSHW, I defend an art-house film about the power of story-telling.

Rock of Ages

I really didn’t expect much out of this one – I mean, I’m not a huge fan of ’80’s hair bands, and I was feeling fairly hesitant about giving this contrived plot a chance.  Then I released all inhibitions and went for it, and in all honesty the movie was okay.

“Hey man.”

 

Set in 1987, Rock of Ages paints a portrait of a pair of young lovers in the height of a music revolution – one’s a small-town girl (Julianne Hough) and the guy’s a barback (Diego Boneta) working in the Bourbon Room, a legendary hub on the Sunset Strip.  Both of them dream of fame and whatnot, but everything changes with the arrival of the myth, the man, the legend, Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise channeling Axl Rose) who rocks their motherloving world.

Like I said, the plot is your standard feel-good-musical plot so there weren’t any big surprises there.  The performances, on the other hand, were what impressed me.  And I’m not just talking about the incredible pole dancer choreography either.   You could tell that the actors were having a great time, and that’s really what this movie was all about – and these guys can sing.  In addition to that, the mashups of some of the songs were pretty entertaining.

These guys turned the movie around for me.
Also, doesn’t Alec look like Stephen with all that stubble?

 

I think it’s fair to say that Rock of Ages is like a really really long music video for an “80’s Greatest Hits” album.  Was it fluff?  Absolutely.  But it was fun good time fluff with attractive people.  Shallow and fun, just like the era itself.

Final Grade: B

WYSHW: Cold Souls

Cold Souls was one of those movies that I remember seeing some interviews and a few plugs and then nothing much afterwards.  To be honest I thought the idea was absolutely captivating: man’s soul gets too overbearing, he sticks it into storage – he wants it back but it was stolen.  It’s one of those things that you don’t really hear about.  The reception was fairly positive, but negative reviews claimed it was too similar to Being John Malkovich – at least that’s what the wiki says.  Personally, I don’t believe that.

“Are you telling me, my soul is a chick pea?”

The film follows Paul Giamatti, as himself, who can’t seem to get the hang of his role in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.  He finds an ad in the New Yorker about soul storage and looks into it, discovering that the extraction process is fairly simple.  After his procedure, he pretty much becomes Jim Carrie with Aspurger’s – unbearable and untalented.  When he wants his soul back, he discovers that it’s been stolen by a Russian soul mule (Dina Korzun).  The resulting confrontation sends Paul on both an external and internal journey to get his soul back.

I have to say I really dug Giamatti’s performance in this film.  Granted, he kind of made it look easy to make it seem like one doesn’t have a soul, but it’s a start.  The concept is original and interesting, and the result is a dramedy if I’ve ever seen one – the ending is a little open, but not unsatisfying.  And the scene where Paul is forced to look into his soul is something heartfelt and wonderful and allows one to ask the question, “What does a soul really look like?”

Bottom line: a very cool underrated film.

Next time on What You Should Have Watched: John Malkovich as Stanley Kubrick…sort of.

WYSHW: Fido

If you recall my last installment of What You Should Have Watched, I hinted at covering a zombie survival comedy.  It is true that I was going to cover the 2008 film Last of the Living, but Imagesince my Poughkeepsie Tapes feature I decided to cover more easily-accessible films (I am so sorry No Roi, perhaps later).  So this time around I am still covering a zombie comedy, but I chose something a little more me.  Ladies and gentlemen, Fido.

Fido takes place in an alternate universe, circa 1950.  Radiation from space has turned the recently dead into flesh-eating monsters, bringing humanity’s savior, Zomcon, into power to end these Zombie Wars.  Zomcon has created a device to control zombies, allowing them to be civil servants to the higher class.  When a young boy named Timmy befriends his family’s zombie, calling him “Fido,” this causes a stir between his parents.  Then when Fido accidentally slips his collar and causes a small outbreak, their friendship is tested as Zomcon is called in to destroy the cause of the panic.

Image

Truly a Kodak moment.

Fido is truly a zombie flick unlike any other.  The fact that it’s based in the fifties backs a subtle civil rights agenda, but it’s presented in such a way that it’s almost a subtle parody, especially because the film sports the theme that zombies are people too, even though they’re no longer people.  The setting also has a wonderful kitschiness to it, which allows bonus points in my book – not to mention an excellent cast, headlined by Carrie-Anne Moss and Billy Connolly.

Image

I want this framed.

 

Cute, quirky, and equally disgusting, Fido is a must-see for zombie fans.

Next time on WYSHW, a comedy about being souless.

Prometheus

Alright it’s 2:51 a.m. – I’m a little wired here so I’ll do my best.  Here we go.

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU

Sequelitis is a modern and deadly plague of the film industry.  Symptoms of which include the steady rise in gimmick which happens to coincide with a dramatic loss of decent writing and/or story.  Films have a higher risk of being exposed to sequelitis during times of financial duress or box-office success.  Essentially, all films are at risk.  Take for instance, the Alien franchise.  The first film was something new and exciting – the second allowed more creative and technical liberties, but never really held up to the first.  Then it went downhill from there from re-writes to shameful plot-holes, then finally endured stage-four sequelitis and reaching the agonizing “Versus” phase.  Finally death and all loss of credibility.

So far, there is no cure for sequelitis, but there is a treatment.  This treatment does not mend the damage that sequelitis has caused but it can help restore the original faith there once was, providing that warm fuzzy feeling that audiences originally felt.  This treatment is called a prequel, and it has a 50% success rate.  Prometheus falls in that upper 50%.

At first I was completely skeptical.  When we first meet the crew of the Prometheus ship, we have our standard set of characters who we don’t really care about anyway because we know that they’re going to be alien-chow.

I mean seriously, look at this guy:

Let’s see – bad attitude? Check. Off-kilter? Check.
Now, who really expects this guy to live?

Then of course they’re led by a frigid no-nonsense commander (played by Charlize Theron) who has no interest in the scientific possibilities of the mission.  Seriously, why are the same characters in every science fiction movie?  However, these cardboard cut-outs simply let the real stars shine through – those being Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the android David (Michael Fassbender).  These two are practically the only people worth watching in the film, being that they’re the ones who have the most substantial development – and one isn’t even human!

Sure, it’s Noomi in skivvies, but you have no idea what just happened.

As the film rolls along, the focus is more on survival and good old fashioned intense thrills, allowing one to put the characters on the back-burner.  Prometheus becomes a film purely of intrigue and wonder – an apt beginning to the evolution of Alien – the film and the species.

Yet it still left me curious and wanting more.  I want the answers.  Being that the film is based on the quest for knowledge, is that a clever marketing ploy or poor writing?  Regardless, I am not unsatisfied by this work.  I don’t even think I want a sequel.  Please, don’t spoil this moment.  Let me sit and wonder.

Final Grade: B+

Men in Black III

When I heard rumor of a third Men in Black I let out a deep sigh of the ages.  How could they possibly screw up the series more than they did?

The sequel was only made for product placement and a whole lot of boobies.

What made me feel old though was the fact that MIB II came out a whopping ten years ago – and since, director Barry Sonnenfeld had learned a lesson and took some time with the script for this one.  That being said, I was pleasantly surprised.

All you need to know about MIB III is that a space-baddy named Boris, played by Jemaine Clement, is released and then there’s a lot of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.  It just so happens that K royally pissed Boris off, so he goes back in time to prevent K from screwing everything up – now it’s up to J to set things right again.

What’s impressive about this movie is that it keeps the conventions of the series while presenting something new.  For example, there’s still the cutesy banter between J and K, but now we get to see these two more as people instead of talking heads.  Then with the help of the time jump, J learns more about K (aptly played by the incredible Josh Brolin), and in turn learns to be less of a wisecracking smartass and more about the consequences of his actions.  Unfortunately, little time was spent on fleshing out the villain, so it was really hard to understand what his motivations were other than revenge.

What was unusual about the film was that though it seems like a fitting end to the series (at least I hope it is), this was that though Zed was given a proper sendoff, Jeebs and Frank were nowhere to be found.  I appreciated the hints about Frank’s existence, but what happened?  They overkilled him in the second movie so they just stopped using him all together?  And then Jeebs was nowhere to be seen.

Here’s my big problem: The stuff about K and O (Emma Thompson) is absolutely adorable, but what happened to K’s wife from the first two movies?  After all, she was the reason he was so crotchety to begin with, and then he was still miserable because she left him in the second one.  What’s going on here?  K does not seem like the guy to have cordial relations with more than one woman at once.  I guess like anything else, I’ll just go with it because the plot says so.

Overall, MIB III did a good job cleaning up MIB II‘s mess.  The story was fairly decent and it wasn’t like the cast was trying too hard.  If it wasn’t for that massive plot-hole and a bit more character development, I’d say this movie was as good as, if not better than, the first one.  Alas, it wasn’t.

Final Grade: B

I’ll miss you, little buddy.