Beasts of the Southern Wild – This movie is pretty special, for a number of reasons. First of all, the idea that everyone in this movie is an amateur is astonishing. I did not imagine for a single moment that the actors in this movie were first timers. A few movies have tried this – Act of Valor comes to mind as a particularly bad example – and it’s often not a good idea. But these people were amazing. The girl, everyone knows now has received a lot of recognition. The father too, though, is amazing. Toeing the fine line between ignorant, drunk, basically abusive father and passionate, devoted father is so well done. The movie is made well too, and I guess from a first time director, it’s quite pretty to look at. It does fail (technically) in one regard, this thing with the aurochs. They claim in the extras that they didn’t want to have digital aurochs because there’s no computers in this world. I don’t know if that’s true, or if computer effects are just expensive, but in either case their solution doesn’t work. The aurochs are obviously pigs with fur coats and hats on, and their insertion into scenes with humans is pretty bad and distracting. Their place in the movie is a bit odd, I’m tempted to say they aren’t necessary. Mostly because to me this movie is about people living on the wrong side of the levees in Louisiana, but of course, to them it’s not the wrong side. What is amazing to me about this movie is that it showed me, more clearly than I imagined possible, the mind of people living that life. We hear about people in situations like that: too stubborn to leave their homes, too ignorant to know their lives could be better, unable to see that things could be any other way. And all of that is true. But this movie allowed me to, very briefly and shallowly, put myself in their context. The father just wants his daughter to be strong enough to survive. It does not occur to him that she could survive by going somewhere else. So he teaches her to be tough through means that are the very definition of emotional, and occasionally physical, abuse. You don’t leave though, because that’s your home, and no person, or storm, or disease can change that. That is tragic, and beautiful, but so sad. It doesn’t excuse anything, if you hit your kid or are permanently drunk, you are bad at your one job, and you don’t deserve to have it. But if I’d never seen anything else, I’m sure I’d act the same way, sad as that makes me. So I want to say the aurochs are not necessary to tell that story. I guess the author sees them as a destructive force, symbolic of the changes that will destroy our lives, the way we thought they should be. Though I may be wrong, I also saw them as analogs to us. The aurochs were supposedly creatures that ruled the earth, but were overcome by the ice age. I kind of see them as people, fighting against the dying of the light, so to speak. Too strong and stubborn and stupid to give up as their world is taken from them. Maybe that’s not what they meant, but it’s part of what I saw, and it was pretty powerful for me.
Iron Man 3 – This movie is very funny, but it’s not much of a superhero movie. On the plus side, it’s actually hilarious. I laughed more in this than I do in a lot of comedies. The snarkiness of Tony Stark, the robot butler, Happy, they are all pretty good. On the flip side, the iron man parts aren’t that interesting. There’s not a lot of them, to start with. The people who like this movie seem to see that as a bonus, but I could do with more iron man in my iron man movie. The general layout of things is okay, but the movie is just really really dumb in parts. The Mandarin – dumb, Tony’s primary obstacle – dumb, the stuff with Pepper at the end – dumb, Tony’s final choices – dumb. Some of it just plot holes, some of it pretty eye-rolley. So, the movie is okay, if you really really don’t pay attention to anything and just go in for the laughs, it’s good enough.
The Campaign – Pretty funny. Nothing different than what you saw in the previews, probably the funniest parts are in the previews. By no means the funniest movie in any recent amount of time. But if you want to see some jackassery from Farrell & Galifanakis, you’ll certainly get it and it’ll be funny.
Wreck-It Ralph – So good! Borderline awesome. The intellectual part of my brain recognizes that this is fundamentally a standard animated movie. Same old humor, same old goals, villains, heroes, challenges, ups and downs. But the rest of my brain, the part that loves everything about this movie, that part had a good time. This is not a movie that was cynically shat out by people who have never played a video game who want money from people who did or do. The makers clearly have a love for that stuff, and they share that, and it’s awesome.
Django Unchained – Pretty good. Pretty much exactly what you think it is. Some pretty violent violence, though not as bad as he’s done before. As per usual, the dialogue is really the star of the show. Christoph Waltz and Quentin Tarantino were made for each other. I love the crap that he writes down, and I love the way that he says it. It’s what made Inglorious Basterds great, and it’s what makes this movie great. Everyone else does a fine job, both Jamie Fox and even moreso Leonardo Dicaprio are great, but nothing is as good as when Waltz is putting on a show. Tarantino does stick to his tropes and it is pretty over bearing at times. The spaghetti western, hero standing in the doorway, triumphant music crap is too heavy handed for me. Plus the damn thing is quite a bit too long. But it’s still pretty good.
Man With the Iron Fists – Take equal parts Kill Bill (with even more kung fu trappings), mortal kombat, dynasty warriors, and ____, with very bad writing, average directing, but good choreography, and you have this movie. I understand the movie is trying to emulate some of the kung fu tropes, but the dialogue is pretty awful. The general structure is completely as you expect, but nothing wrong with that, it’s really the words that kill it. The only one who really pulls off his part is Russell Crowe, he had decent lines. The rest weren’t great actors, and weren’t given much to go on. But I didn’t come to the movie for the dialogue, I came for the punching, and that is good. RZA tries to get fancy too often with his directing and ruins it (all those split screens, and some really really clumsy zoomins/slowmos of some action). But most of the time it’s fun, with some cool weapons/powers and a bunch of blood. Can’t argue too much with that.
We Bought A Zoo – This movie is actually nice. It’s nothing unusual, nothing fancy. A man has lost his wife, and his kids have lost their mom. They are lost, and so arrives the macguffin – buy a zoo! That part’s a bit hard for me, since I don’t like zoos. I can’t really be charmed by all these animals in cages. No need to jump into that argument, but it does remove what is perhaps supposed to be the cute hook for this movie. But still, the movie does what it wants to do, and tells a fairly honest story.
ParaNorman – Cute animated movie. Better than Frankenweenie, I think, but that’s largely due to the fact that Tim Burton is doing his burtoney thing so dang often. It’s fun, it’s charming, it’s nothing better than any other animated movie, but that’s still entertaining.
Hotel Transylvania – Same thing as the last one, fun, funny, cute, that’s it. Except for the part where someone can be standing in a shadow and staring at the light source that is creating the shadow. Really annoyed by that. But the rest of it is fine.
Dredd – Meh. People seemed to like this, and be surprised that they did. I didn’t really, and am not surprised. They bust into a building and fight their way to the top. Like The Raid, except without the insanely cool hand-to-hand fighting. Instead it has super violent slow-mo bullet-drive action. That stuff is decent, not badly done, but not super compelling either.
Premium Rush – Also meh. Didn’t seem like a movie about a bike messenger could be that good. Spoiler alert – it’s not. It’s not exactly bad, no one screws up. It’s just a random “uh crap I’m stuck in this crazy situation with murderers through no fault of my own. Also, I’m on a bike” It tries to romanticize the bike messenger culture, which is mostly obnoxious. And the “biker vision” thing, while a worthy concept, doesn’t work out. But bike messengers are so up their own butt about their little subculture, they probably think it’s great, so maybe it’s just for them.
Cosmopolis – Super meh. It’s kind of an interesting concept, but it’s not an interesting movie. It mostly jumps between boring, surreal, and non-sensical. Some cool moments, and probably a fan of the movie would tell me it’s supposed to be all those things. But for me, it’s just not that good.
End of Watch – This one is good. On the face of it, it’s just another cop movie. It’s trying to connect somehow the modern world – social media, youtube – and the found footage type movie (not the mystery or anything, just the “raw” footage), which isn’t super necessary to anything. But it feels very real. Some very flawed men who do have a vision for their lives. But not so flawed that they are pointless like so many “bad cop” movies. And it doesn’t really beat you over the head with it. Just a well done movie, in the end.
Carriers – Not sure how this got to the top of the queue. It’s a movie from a few years ago about people getting along in a post-pandemic type world. I can’t say that there’s anything particularly bad about it. Acting is fine, dialogue is fine. But it also didn’t really add much to the genre, so it ended up kind of boring.