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.

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