Sunday, October 19, 2014

THE BOOK OF LIFE - Amor de los Muertos

Many great movies are meticulous, laser-focused affairs, films that have a mission statement that they zero in on early and hew to from the first frame to the last, using every facet of the script, visuals and performances to reinforce this single imparted truth. This can be especially helpful with family films meant for a wide child audience, allowing a movie to be accessible and stimulating to a young audience in a "digestible" manner.

And when properly executed, it works like gangbusters. The environmentalism of Miyazaki, the self-actualization of Brad Bird, the praises of true love through acceptance in Frozen or Beauty & the Beast, or the message of friendship until the end of the Toy Story films - the results speak for themselves.

But rules are made to be broken. The Book of Life takes a different approach. And while the result isn't the sort of richly-crafted masterpiece of message, tone, and perfect plotting seen in these previously-mentioned cinematic titans, it creates a beautifully unwieldy magic all its own.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

THE BOXTROLLS - Beautifully Bizarre

I'm not entirely sure who The Boxtrolls is "for" (other than me) in the sense of target demographic or potential audience. It's a stop-motion animated film, hardly an historically record-breaker at the box office, and Laika (the studio behind Coraline and ParaNorman) hasn't bucked this trend. And while it's been marketed as a family film, its tone and sensibilities have more in common with PG-rated "kids" films of the 80's than more modern fare, the kind like Ghostbusters or Gremlins that have just as much material for the adults that will fly far enough over the heads of kid audiences that it's still "safe" for them. Barely.

But I'm pretty ecstatic that it exists at all, regardless of why.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014

EDGE OF TOMORROW - Groundhog Troopers

I really like Tom Cruise. There was once a time when this statement wasn't remotely out of the ordinary, as Cruise was one of the few movie stars of the 80's to actually gain popularity in the 90's as the modern ideal of the action hero morphed from beefy Olympian to more of an everyman, but the guy seems to have fallen out of public favor. The fact that, apart from Brad Bird's examplary live-action directing debut on Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol aside, his movies haven't been terribly great lately.

And while he made some bold choices when choosing roles a few times in the last couple decades, lately he seems to have been on - well, for lack of a better term, Cruise Control, choosing parts that ask little from him outside of the ability to smile, punch, and run.

Luckily, Edge of Tomorrow proves to be a major course correction.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST - Making History

Along with 1998's Blade, the original X-men helped to kick-start the modern superhero genre. While a few hallmarks of the original X-films (more serious focus, toning down of the colorful comic book elements) saw themselves reflected in movies like Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, there was very little else to the early films of the franchise of note, other than giving screen appearances of varying quality to an increasing roster Marvel mutants. As the franchise hit choppy waters with X-men: The Last Stand and X-men Origins: Wolverine, Fox looked for ways to breathe new life in to the franchise.

This paid off with the pretty good The Wolverine from last year, and the very good X-men: First Class from 2011, but interestingly enough it's this year's Days of Future Past that not only restores the franchise's financial success and brings it to new critical heights, but finds a unique twist that both makes Days a compelling film, and also gives the franchise something to truly call its own in a continually crowded field.

In creating one of the most "comic book-like" films ever made, this franchise has actually retconned it's own history.