Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Best Pictures in Few Words

It's that time! The big ceremony is only a week away, and instead of full reviews, here are concise recaps of the seven Best Picture nominees we've seen.

127 Hours
A trapped hiker has only a dull pocket knife and one choice. Will he gain the upper hand? Boring, gory, and profane. Keep this movie at arm’s length.

A thief, student, con man, and druggie commit sleep espionage. Reality and dream worlds interweave. This is Nolan at his best. Never a nightmare.

King’s Speech
The King’s stutter inspires no one, but a vocal coach can help—by encouraging swearing. Inspiring nonetheless. Recommended without (much) hesitation.

Toy Story 3
Neglected toys at a daycare center face awful children and mean toy bullies. Can they escape before recess? Suspenseful and heartfelt. Bring tissues.

True Grit
A determined Arkansas girl and a drawling U.S. marshal hunt down a murderer. Brilliant dialogue in a Western setting. Indians, gunsmoke, and blood.

Social Network
A jilted college nerd makes a web page for revenge. Classmates say he stole the idea. Too much language and sex as social fallout and lawsuits ensue.

Winter’s Bone
An Ozarks girl searching for her missing father gets caught up with dangerous drug dealers and murderers. Technically impressive, but slow and boring.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rango (2011)

On Saturday, I crossed another item off my bucket list: go see a movie in a theater by myself. This desire stemmed from the many conversations with confirmed bachelors lauding the merits of solo screen viewing. So, without the accompaniment of friends or family and only the popcorn in my lap and the squirming children nearby to keep me company, I sat down to enjoy a cinematic feast – an advance screening of Rango.

Once Upon a Time in the West
Narrated by singing mariachi owls, Rango tells the story of a lonely domesticated chameleon who dreams of having friends and achieving Shakespearian greatness. He gets his chance when he is accidentally neglected in the Mojave desert, where he stumbles upon the town of Dirt. The town is filled, not with people, but with an eclectic cast of species reminiscent of a Brian Jacques novel. Cats, moles, snakes, lizards, mice, and birds all co-exist and interact amicably. Seeing this as the chance to invent himself as a legend, the chameleon adopts the name Rango and, by use of puffery and fabrication, becomes a local hero and the town’s sheriff. But this new role isn’t easy. Drought, starvation and a reptilian evil threaten the little hamlet, and Rango must summon all his strength and courage to defend the creatures and restore order. And maybe, just maybe, through all of this, Rango will find a family and a home.

Ugly as a Burnt Boot
Okay, not quite. But to me, an animated film should be beautiful, transport me to new places and dazzle my eyes with brilliant colors and outstanding scenery. This was not the case. The colors were as drab as an Old West ghost town and did nothing to capture my senses. However, the character animation was incredibly detailed and interesting to look at and provided me with the sometimes frustrating challenge of determining the actual genus of each animal.

You Ain’t From Around Here, Are Ya?
The dialogue was fairly snappy and held my attention for much of the film. But as the action lagged, the dialogue began to drag on. “Is it over yet?” was an oft repeated question by the young viewer next to me. A little more humor wouldn't have hurt as the film took itself very seriously and the laughs were few and far between.

Showdown at High Noon
Well choreographed, visually interesting and incredibly fun, the action scenes were the highlight of the movie. The aerial stunts, intense chases, loud explosions and seemingly insurmountable odds put a smile on my face and had me cheering for the protagonists. In the best scene of the film, our heroes are chased through a narrow canyon by an army of vicious and deadly winged creatures ridden by a horde of dangerous moles (at least I think that’s what they were). The movie is worth seeing for this sequence alone.

Sounds Like Trouble, Son
I had no prior knowledge of the film's composer before entering the theater but upon hearing a few rousing bars of intense vibrato strings and pulsating rhythms, I was able to easily identify my favorite composer’s handiwork: Hans Zimmer like you've never heard him before. The Old West feel was a welcome departure from the maestro’s typical fare, and splashes and references to old Morricone pieces only heightened my overall enjoyment.

The Not-So-Good, the Bad and the Ugly
In this animated world, prayers for guidance and help go up to the “Spirit of the West”, who later interacts with the characters in the form of a Clint Eastwood look-alike. This New-Age take on spirituality presented its young audience with a faulty image of God which was distracting, unnecessary, off-putting and did nothing to enhance the story or build character.

But most notably bad in the movie was the amount of adult humor. Before escaping from his glass imprisonment, Rango spent his time with a topless Barbie doll which caused adolescent giggles from the children and nervous chuckles from uncomfortable parents. In addition to this, the film presented its intended young audience to jokes regarding all manner of unspeakable bodily parts and functions. Further shocking to hear in a children's movie was the amount of profanity. The cursing marred the dialogue.

So as I exited the theater and turned to my companion to discuss what had just been seen, I remembered that I was alone. And as I stepped over discarded candy wrappers and unpopped kernels, I understood Rango's character all the more. What both Rango and I learned in 90 minutes is that life is better with friends. So will I become a regular lone movie-goer? Hopefully not. Should you bring some friends to go see Rango with you? If you're in the mood for watching talking animals interact on screen and also some great action sequences then go for it! But bring a friend; you'll have more fun if you do.