This Week In Cinema: January 27-February 02, 2013

the fantastic flying books of mr. morris lessmore

I love me some movies, but I also love me some books, and when the two meet…

Another week, another bevy of movies,

The Alphabet Killer (2008, Rob Schmidt, United States Of America) *

If you’re going to present a film loosely based on real life killings featuring a cop with a mental illness it’s important to get some of the facts right. The Alphabet Killer gets all of its facts wrong, pitifully so in fact. It treats its police department like its the FBI, what with their special task force and referring to detectives as investigators. It labels the main character as having schizophrenia, then over the course of the movie equates having Schizophrenia with having Asperger’s syndrome, the physical form of Tourette’s, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and maybe even a hint of Parkinson’s. I work in the medical field, and while I’m not an expert on those diseases, I can tell you that they are very different and do not all fall under the umbrella of Schizophrenia. Outside of those complaints The Alphabet Killer is freaking awful. Eliza Dushku is not a believable lead, or a good actress outside of Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel it would seem. The direction is ridiculously inept, and the conclusion to the film is so bad that I was rolling my eyes for a long time. The Alphabet Killer is a bad movie, that’s all there is to say.

Air Mater (2011, Rob Gibbs, United States Of America) ***

Short and to the point, Air Mater isn’t anything special but it’s pretty fun. The animation looks good, and the flying sequences are nicely realized. I could have done without the final in joke about Pixar Animation Studios next toons project, Planes. Still, the jokes were funny, the action was cool, and the movie breezed by. I better watch myself, because I appear to be a fan of a lot of Tow Mater related films now, and that is clearly not allowed in any real cinephile. Okay, that last bit of snark wasn’t really needed, but, Air Mater is pretty good, give it a shot, I liked it at least.

The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011, William Joyce & Brandon Oldenburg, United States Of America) ***1/2

We love books, at least most of us do. For those of us who grew up on books and still love reading books there is something about the crinkle, smell, and texture of the paper that is intoxicating. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the value of e-readers, and I am in no way opposed to them. But, there’s something different about holding a real book in your hands. Feeling the heft and weight of the book as your imagination is touched and your life is enriched. I wouldn’t love movies as much as I do without books, and The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore understands such a connection. It is lovingly animated, only suffering from one choppy sequence. This short film touches at the power of books, the power of the mind, and the power that humanity can hold when they allow books to flow from them. I pretty much loved this short, I can’t imagine a book lover not loving The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Waiting For Superman (2010, Davis Guggenheim, United States Of America) ***

It’s pathetic that the supposed leader of the free world is willing to allow the future of our nation, our children, be decided via a lottery ball. That is also telling of the issues faced by Davis Guggenheim in Waiting For Superman. For the most part I found myself agreeing with this documentary. The system is broken, it does not work. The bureaucracy, the teachers, the unions, and the parents are all to blame. As adults we are supposed to be the ones looking out for the youth of our world, but Waiting For Superman helps to show how shitty of a job we are doing in that regard. All that being said, I felt let down by Mr. Guggenheim’s documentary. There were a few moments, such as a late phone call to one of the young subjects of the documentary, that were fake in an annoying way. For all the truths that Waiting For Superman wishes to bring to light, I thought the documentary avoided the tough questions. Where were the questions to Union leaders about whether or not their contracts were hurting the students? The documentary took the time early on to comment on the problem of overcrowding in public schools. But, later when a superintendent closes over twenty three schools the documentary fails to ask her if this will crowd the remaining schools. I liked Waiting For Superman, it was thought provoking, but it avoided too many hard questions to be a great documentary.

AVP: Alien Vs. Predator (2004, Paul W.S. Anderson, Canada/Czech Republic/Germany/United Kingdom/United States Of America) **

I will admit that I enjoyed some of the mythos established by AVP: Alien Vs. Predator. I liked how the film set up the history of the two species, and how they tied humanity into their history. It wasn’t a perfect background, but it filled in enough gaps for me to be interested. Then the Predators showed up looking like NFL linebackers, and I lost interest. What AVP: Alien Vs. Predator fails to recognize is that Alien, Aliens, Predator, and Predator 2 (yes, I legitimately love that flick) were great films because they put the humans first and the alien species second. In AVP: Alien Vs. Predator every human exists as nothing more than fodder for either the Aliens or the Predators. That hurt my interest in the action, and when I realized that in this film the Predators were nothing more than hulking linebackers I gave up altogether. Two icons like these deserved far more than AVP: Alien Vs. Predator.

Any Given Sunday (1999, Oliver Stone, United States Of America) **

The more I watch of Oliver Stone’s filmograohy the more it’s clear that his filmmaking style isn’t for me. Any Given Sunday is loud, obnoxious, sensational, and obvious. The film said everything it needed to say about fifteen minutes into its runtime. What followed was a tour de force in making as uninteresting of a movie as possible. In every scene, sequence, and scenario it was painfully obvious that Mr. Stone was going to go for whatever was the most sensational. I find that approach incredibly uninteresting, and my enthusiasm for the movie was quickly drained away and then stomped to death by the end of Any Given Sunday. Another big problem in the movie is the acting, specifically the sleepwalk performance from Al Pacino and Cameron Diaz being a fish out of water every time she was on screen. In every moment, and every possible way, Any Given Sunday is a film that manages to misfire and miss its marks.

Team America: World Police (2004, Trey Parker, Germany/United States Of America) ***1/2

The satire of Trey Parker’s film is blunt like a hammer to the head. But, for all its bluntness the satire happens to be uproariously funny. I found myself laughing at the absurd observations and the utter absurdity of Team America: World Police. The puppets themselves were funny in an off putting way. There are lots of offensive jokes, a terrifying sex scene, and a screenplay that is willing to take shots at anyone and everyone. Add that all together and the result is a comedy that isn’t always funny, but when it is funny it manages to be funny in a great way.

Wrap-Up:

Decent week as far as the overall quality of the movies went. Truth be told one movie knocked me off my rocker when I watched it and there was little chance of another movie topping that one. The whimsy, the theme, and the incredible resonance of The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore are why that film is taking home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

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