Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cineplex catch-up

I haven't been out to the movie theater much lately, and realized the backlog of things I actually wanted to see was starting to pile up, so this weekend I headed out to the Cineplex three times to catch up. Here's what I saw and what I thought:

KICK-ASS
Sometimes disturbing, sometimes exhilarating, and usually leaving me a bit disturbed for being so exhilarated. It's not exactly deep or sharp social commentary, but it's a pretty fun, dumb action vehicle. The movie trots along for the first act and is enjoyable enough, and then Hit-Girl (the little girl being trained by her father to be a vigilante) shows up and swearing and slaughtering and the movie just keeps going crazy from there.

Nicolas Cage was even pretty fun in this, doing something of an Adam West impersonation whenever he was in his superhero costume. I was talking to my friend Ryan about Cage last night, and we both agreed that, however outlandish his personality and however many bad movies he makes, it's impossible to dislike Cage too much if the first time you encountered him was in Raising Arizona. The residual goodwill from that just never quite wears out.


HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
Finally, a delightful and heartwarming animated feature from Dreamworks. I'm a big fan of animation, but have never really been won over by Dreamworks, despite their ambitious and ample output. The first Shrek movie was fun enough (though it's a crime against humanity that it won the Oscar over Monsters, Inc), and I haven't really embraced anything else since. "Kung Fu Panda" took a step toward being about something more than laffs, but didn't entirely work for me. "Monsters Vs. Aliens" looked fun, but was a big dud.

"How To Tame Your Dragon" was something else entirely. It's still a comedy, it's still got plenty of gags, but this time they don't seem to be the very point of the whole endeavor. For the first time in the company's history, the jokes take a back seat to things like character and story. Relationships are more important than gags, and as a consequence, the gags land all the better. "Panda" had brief moments of beauty, but "Dragon" really takes care to fill the screen with gorgeous imagery. It even slows down at times and asks you to take things in. It's a really refreshing change for the studio, and I hope we see more of the same from them.

It's not up to the standards of Pixar's very best output, but it is as good as their lesser outings. And from me (a devoted Pixar fan), that's a big step forward.


OCEANS
The second annual documentary from Disneynature is a mess - a nature documentary with attention deficit disorder. It's constantly jumping from subject to subject without providing context or narrative. Granted, the Earth's oceans is a broad subject to be covering, but last year's "Earth" was even broader but managed to be a lot more engaging and informative.

The movie tries to make an argument for itself that it's more about presenting the beauty of the oceans than boring with facts and figures, but the imagery falls way short of similar ocean documentaries (I was in awe of "Deep Sea" a few years ago) and manages to be really boring to boot.

This movie was made by two guys named Jacuqes, proving once again that guys names Jacques really love the ocean. And documentaries. And documentaries about the ocean.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lost portraits - Sawyer and Sayid


Lost portrait series #11 - James Ford aka "Sawyer" aka "La Fleur" aka "that jerk who is always snarling at people to seem like he's mean when really underneath he's a nice guy after all but then again what kind of nice guy wants everyone to think he's a jerk? Sounds kind of actually jerky to me."


Lost portrait series #12 - Sayid Jarrah. The man who totally hates torturing people but, gosh darn it, just keeps winding up in these situations! What's a fella to do? Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Sayid's got to torture. Or kill. It's what he's good at. Also: yearning.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lost Portraits - Juliet and Desmond


Lost portrait series #9 - Juliet Burke. The "Other" woman - ha ha: jokes! Brought to the island to assist with research in pregnancy, wound up acting as midwife to a new reality. Also given the supernatural power to have the world's most dramatically arched eyebrows.


Lost portrait series #10 - Desmond Hume. Remember way back in the first season when the audience's most heated speculation shifted from "what is the monster?" (remember everyone thought it was dinosaurs?) to "what's in the hatch"? Raise your hand if your theory was a sweaty Scotsman listening to Mama Cass records. Nobody? The island's Odysseus, always sidetracked by mission to mission while all he wants to do is return home to his Penny. Good luck, brotha.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lost portraits: Charlie, Hurley, Miles, and Eko

Whoops. Forgot to post two of these here last week, so here's four to make up for it!


Lost Portrait series #5 - Charlie Pace, for whom salvation and temptation were often delivered in the same package. Sometime jolly sidekick, sometime wolf in sheep's clothing, sometime superstar, sometime nobody, and inventor of invisible peanut butter.


Lost Portrait series #6 - It's Hurley, dude.


Lost portrait series #7 - Miles Straume. You have to love a guy who, upon realizing he's been given an astonishing gift (the ability to communicate with the dead) - a talent that questions the nature of reality as we know it and presents a myriad of untold possibilities for discovery - thinks to himself, "now THIS I can profit from!"


Lost portrait series #8 - Mr. Eko. Fake priest, real preacher. He spoke softly and carried a big stick (that also spoke softly, metaphorically). Looked into the eye of the island and went to his smokey death too soon.