I wish fairy tales were real, the again my beard would probably make me a big ole meanie, so maybe not!
I watched a lot of movies this week, more than I intended to actually. Oh well, that just means more of my blathering is foisted upon you guys.
The Brave Little Toaster (1987, Jerry Rees, Japan/Taiwan/United States Of America) ***
Any animated movie that has references to Alfred Hitchcock and Federico Fellini is trending towards a great score in my book. Luckily The Brave Little Toaster is cute and charming even without references to directors I like. Their is a level of sophistication to the story that I don’t recall being present in many animated movies from around this time. The Brave Little Toaster was released at the same time that Disney began their animated renaissance with The Great Mouse Detective so I don’t want to give it too much credit. That being said, the story in The Brave Little Toaster is remarkably adult, especially in the dialogue and the viciousness of some of the characters. The aspects of The Brave Little Toaster that I liked made up for some inconsistencies in the created world and some less than noteworthy animation.
Sunshine Cleaning (2008, Christine Jeffs, United States Of America) ***
I’m doubtful this would hold up if I ever watched it in the future. I’m letting a great cast hide a subpar script, direction that is lacking, and a movie that has no idea what it wants its themes to be. I know what I just posted is pretty damning of the movie, but I really did like that acting. Sunshine Cleaning suffers from a clear attempt to be as indie as possible, it’s one of those movies that is too cute for its own good, too on point, packaged too nicely, just too everything. Again, those are damning words for a movie I’m giving a pretty good score too, but I really liked the acting. Amy Adams is good, Emily Blunt is great, and Alan Arkin is his usual dependable self. I was ready to give the movie props for using the vastly underrated Clifton Collins Jr. more than most movies do, but then they forgot about his character at the end and ticked me off. Pay attention to the actors, they hide a truly flawed movie.
EverAfter (1998, Andy Tennant, United States Of America) **1/2
This retelling of the Cinderella tale was far too cheesy for my liking. It didn’t help that I don’t buy Drew Barrymore’s acting most of the time, I definitely don’t buy her in any sort of pre-modern setting. Getting away from all the cheesiness of the film, because really outside of a few decent moments EverAfter was a lot of easily disposable cheese, I want to talk about cod pieces. EverAfter is full of cod pieces, they are everywhere, they will populate my dreams and nightmares for many moons to come. Why did cod pieces go out of style, why did they ever come into style, these are the pressing issues now hounding my brain. EverAfter as a movie is superfluous, but as a work on cod pieces, it’s devilish, insightful, superb, and scary.
Enchanted (2007, Kevin Lima, United States Of America) ***1/2
Intensely charming, Enchanted is how a fairy tale should be, at least the whimsical kind. The story is familiar, where it will go is well known, but the journey is a treasure trove of discovery. The songs are catchy and well written, the entire movie is full of wit and is very self-aware. It’s not annoyingly self-aware though, it’s funny and intelligent, I never for a second thought the film was taking me as a viewer for granted. Kevin Lima and company knew the tropes they were playing around with, they knew how to have fun with them and how to make sure I, as the viewer, was having fun as well. Amy Adams is a delight, but for that matter so is the rest of the cast, I don’t think I’ve ever seen James Marsden have more fun on a screen I was watching. I had a blast, I don’t see how anyone can watch Enchanted and not have a blast.
National Treasure (2004, Jon Turteltaub, United States Of America) ***
It’s not special, but it is an entertaining lark. I can see why people latched on to what I originally assumed was going to be a waste of time when I first heard about it a few seasons ago. It’s on par with Raiders Of The Lost Ark and The Mummy as far as adventurers/historians tales go, that much is certain. Nothing really stood out, National Treasure is a well put together adventure that I enjoyed, I guess that’s all I needed. National Treasure is also, surprisingly enough, my first exposure to Diane Kruger, while decent can’t say I saw much reason for any hoopla yet.
Face/Off (1997, John Woo, United States Of America) ***
So incredibly stupid and over the top, but so awesome because of both those things. I’ll be honest, the script has moments that are made cool by the actors, but it’s mostly shitty and the plot is asinine. Somehow John Woo is able to move beyond what sucks about Face/Off and deliver great action. Face/Off remains my only exposure to Mr. Woo, and I’m still not sure if his artistic violence works beyond a bit of fun, but it sure was a lot of fun in Face/Off. I don’t think the violence, as artistic as it was, would have mattered if not for the performances of John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. Those two men ham it up to the extreme, I had a ball watching them try to out-ham one another, and the faces Cage makes throughout the movie are sublime in a way that few things are.
Hawaiian Vacation (2011, Gary Rydstrom, United States Of America) ***1/2
A new Toy Story short that ran before Cars 2, it’s slight but it’s hilarious. Hawaiian Vacation also has a surprising emotional center, Ken is an easy character to like and that helped draw me into the emotion. Hawaiian Vacation is littered with the characters I grew up with being just as funny as always, looking just as great as always, and telling another story that I enjoyed getting to see.
Cars 2 (2011, John Lasseter & Brad Lewis, United States Of America) ***
It’s not the best Pixar, but Cars 2 is far from the blight upon cinema that most are making it out to be. It’s funny, but I wouldn’t call it hilarious, it opts for the easy joke a few too many times to be hilarious. It looks gorgeous, the various locales pop off the screen and the vehicles that populate the world of Cars 2 are lovingly detailed. The story is very slight, but that’s not really a problem because this is a straight adventure film from Pixar, it isn’t trying for any greater message or to touch on some larger theme. Cars 2 is Pixar’s attempt at doing a raucous adventure film, and while not perfect they do a good job. The biggest problem most people have with the film is probably Mater, and while I can understand not liking Larry the Cable Guy I do really like him as Mater, his sweet innocence is still welcome in Cars 2.
Green Lantern (2011, Martin Campbell, United States Of America) **
I love the idea behind the character of Green Lantern, that should be enough to let you know why I was so disappointed in the film Green Lantern. Character wise the film gets it all wrong, opting for a version of Hal Jordan that I couldn’t connect to, a version that I never bought as the greatest hero in the universe. The story is the real problem though, it’s super predicable and thus super boring as well. I knew what was going happen five minutes before it happened, and I’m not some super sleuth so that’s a problem. The CG was problematic as well, it’s more miss than hit, and at key moments it’s very clearly CG looking as opposed to real looking. Green Lantern should have been great, instead it’s a big disappointment.
A good week overall, sure there were some misses, but I liked more than I didn’t like and that’s a good week. Cars 2 and Hawaiian Vacation continued the tradition of strong outings from Pixar, John Woo made me giddy with Face/Off, and a toaster managed to entertain me. Movie of the week honors go to Enchanted, I liked that movie more than I thought I would, it’s a buried gem if I ever saw one. That’s it for this week, check back in next week for more of my blathering!