I’m no good at hustling, maybe a smidgen better at being brave, but I’m always on someone’s most wanted list!
A lot of movies this week,
Hair-Raising Hare (1946, Chuck Jones, United States Of America) ***1/2
Like the best of Chuck Jones’ work Hair-Raising Hare is willing to throw lots of jokes against the wall and see what sticks. While this does mean that some jokes are funnier than others it equals a darn great comedy in the end. The animation is top notch as usual, and the detail found in the animation always surprises me. The evil Peter Lorre evil scientist didn’t need to have a mirror with broken shards of glass that formed teeth, but he did and that made the movie just a little bit better. Another great short from Mr. Jones, but that’s almost always a given.
The Vicious Kind (2009, Lee Toland Krieger, United States Of America) **1/2
Lee Toland Krieger goes to some interesting places in The Vicious Kind. His film explores the hurtful nature of love and uses the excellent acting chops of Adam Scott and J.K. Simmons to anchor the film. The character Mr. Scott plays, Caleb, is an excellently drawn character. He is a misogynist, an asshole, and an extremely damaged individual. The movie acknowledges this and doesn’t shy away from showing Caleb as both charming and disgusting. I was with the film until a key moment involving the character of Emma. She is the lone female in the film who we really get to know. At various points she is called a whore and abused, all by Caleb. It appears as if she is going to be the strong female to oppose Caleb. Then she sleeps with Caleb, and I was left questioning the point of her character. She feeds into Caleb’s misogyny and ultimately makes the film less than it should have been.
The Hustler (1961, Robert Rossen, United States Of America) ***1/2
It’s amazing what a smoky atmosphere and a few great actors can do for a film. At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Robert Rossen’s film. Try as it might, the film never really succeeded in pulling off a dramatic pool sequence. In the end it didn’t need to because the allure of the film lies in Paul Newman, George C. Scott and Piper Laurie, among others. Mr. Newman is smoldering, he’s hurt and damaged yet with good in him to the point that I wanted to reach through the screen and help him. Miss Laurie is headed for disaster, and she made me care every step along the way. Mr. Scott was sleazy and dangerous, the type of man smart people have learned to avoid. The cinematography was gorgeous and every performance was spot on, I’ll be damned if I didn’t end up loving a movie about pool.
Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (1998, Guy Ritchie, United Kingdom) **
Loads of style, but style in the service of what? There are times when Guy Ritchie’s film is funny, and the characters have an interesting appeal to them. But, on the whole Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels is a lot of unneeded style. The way the camera is always moving, slow motion is used, and so on and so forth. Mr. Ritchie does all of this because he’s interested in style, but the film lacks any substance to go along with said style. When I finished Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels I had an empty feeling because what I watched simply wasn’t filling.
La Luna (2011, Enrico Casarosa, United States Of America) ***1/2
Simple, yet extremely effective, and affecting, short. The animation is gorgeous, especially the ripple effect that is used in the landscape and the giant star. The lack of dialogue is cute and helps add some flair to a tried and true theme. Said theme is handled in such a succinct way that it carries a lot of impact. La Luna is a very economical movie, every movement and moment is measured, it never feels like a second of the film is wasted. In the realm of modern animated shorts Pixar Animation Studios still reigns supreme.
Brave (2012, Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, & Steve Purcell, United States Of America) ***1/2
Brave is a simple movie, its story is very simple and its characters are driven by simple ideas and desires. That’s not a bad thing mind you, simplicity done right can be a great and wonderful thing. Brave skirts the border of great, it’s a really good film with outstanding animation that crosses into the land of great from time to time. The ancillary characters aren’t fleshed out, but that’s okay because they are not the focal point of the story. They exist to flesh out the universe and they do that just fine. The true focus of the movie is on the relationship between mother and daughter. Most of the story beats are predictable, but they are in service of a great lead relationship and a nicely thought out main theme.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012, Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, & Conrad Vernon, United States Of America) *
To all my film friends who told me that Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted was actually an enjoyable and funny entry in the Madagascar franchise, you are flippin’ crazy. The animation in this film is very subpar (I’ll never be able to forgive how blocky the animation is). The story is stupid, with plotholes all over the place. The main problem with everything I’ve ever seen from the Madagascar universe is that the Penguins are interesting an funny, but that’s all the universe has going for it. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is terribly unfunny, with obnoxious and uninteresting characters, and was a giant waste of my time.
A batch of great movies this week, but when the dust settles The Hustler takes home movie of the week honors, just edging Brave by the end of a pool cue. Until next week, watch more movies!