Sunday, March 29, 2015

Insurgent

This review is spoiler-free.

The training is over, and the real fight has just begun for Tris Prior. She worked so hard to become one of the best of the new Dauntless recruits, but now all that means nothing; she doesn't belong to any faction anymore, but along with her Dauntless friends has been branded an insurgent and is being hunted by the rest of the Dauntless who have joined forces with Erudite and Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet). But never mind that Tris barely got to be Dauntless before she was kicked out -- all that training is about to come in handy anyway.

She also picked up a useful fashion sense in Dauntless.

As she will always be, Shailene Woodley remains the best and most captivating thing about this franchise. When all else fails it is her face, and her performance that holds your interest. Her Tris has regal grace and strength, but can still convince us that she's a teenage girl, and her inner struggles with fear and forgiveness and self-loathing don't seem too petty coming from her so sincerely. With just a few looks she gives quiet depth to a character I found lacking while reading her every thought on the page.

Romantic co-star Theo James is Four -- mostly just around for his good looks and even better fighting skills this time, without much else to do. But still he is not without his charms, and while there's not much praise to give him, there isn't anything bad to say either. Previous-romantic-co-star number one, Ansel Elgort, as Tris' brother Caleb gets to prove why he was cast as Ansel Elgort this time, but still you can tell he's just setting up for the big stuff in Allegiant. Still the more screen time was welcome, and everything was set up really well.

Four's cool. Caleb runs funny.

My personal favorite (and previous-romantic-co-star number two) continues to be Miles Teller's Peter. Peter is the only character who I fully understand yet is still interesting enough to pay attention to. He's a fun antagonist, and the only one of this series. Every time he came on screen I could literally feel the weight of the movie lift with his lightening, less-serious presence.

In fact this movie's main downfall was the seriousness. Divergent, while still serious at its core, had an easy-going fun-to-watch element flowing though everything that happened. Insurgent, well, with the war games, zip-lining, and making friends being over with -- Insurgent just forgot to have fun. (Peter's the only one who remembered because he's the only one who just doesn't care.) There was a lot of heaviness, and not much at all to balance it out. Fortunately it could have been considerably worse -- while heavy and nearly unrelenting, at least all the serious drama was done well. Being at the core of the story and its drama, Tris and Woodley get the credit again for keeping it all afloat. Also worth mentioning is that I'm sure I'll be less bothered by this smallish problem when I see it the second time.

Oh boy. The bf and the ex-bf are going at it again...

That could also apply pretty well to the second and final problem this movie was hit with -- unfocused plotting. Not that plot events didn't make sense, but as a whole it didn't seem to know what it wanted to concentrate on. It was like a loopy little bee, flying in circles, trying to figure out which flower to land on compared with the simple, detailed and straightforward mapping of the first movie. I read the book, but still spent too much time trying to figure out where we were and what was important.

I guess you could say having read the book was actually unhelpful, since the plot was rearranged and simplified quite a bit. Since it is simpler, and more memorable, I prefer the film's version, but being simplified (not to mention having the middle-chapter syndrome) gave it extra time to deal with. Some of that time was used interestingly, but Tris' time-filling dreams got old fast -- especially with the later simulations having the same flavor.

"Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?"

The most fun this movie has is in the action scenes. Nothing particular about them stuck out at me, but overall they kept me more engaged than I was otherwise. So you can imagine what my favorite parts must have been -- places that had some fun fighting, plus fun-adding Peter involved. That one early scene at Amity was great. Hand to hand action was always good, but occasionally there was big, visual, or "action" stuff that didn't do much besides go pointlessly over the top -- mostly in sims, but sometimes elsewhere. And that last obviously CG shot of people from a distance? Not good.

Without the "wow" effect of a new dystopian world for us to wrap our minds around, Insurgent tries hard to make up for it with twists and turns, bigger fights and higher stakes. Some shots missed -- some of those seem like blind shots in the dark for any moral dilemma or twist in character an audience might find compelling without ever following up on them. And some shots hit the target. Those were mostly physical things you could see on the screen, like a performance that is compelling because the actor made it so, or an old-fashioned hand to hand showdown, or complex character relationships and motivations beginning to unfold.

Like Tris, this franchise isn't perfect, but it's going keep on fighting.

Or the simple reason we are drawn to these kinds of stories in the first place -- to watch a small, underpowered group of people passionately, dauntlessly standing up and fighting for what is right, when there's almost nothing left in the world worth standing up for.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Odd Thomas

This review is spoiler-free.

He's pretty familiar with death. He can see dead people, and they can tell him how they died. Sometimes he can even tell when death is coming. He is clairvoyant, or psychic, or something; he's gifted, he's weird, he's strange. He is odd -- Odd Thomas.

And that's not just a title or nickname, that's his real name. A name he lives up to every day, because not only can he see dead people, he feels a responsibility to do something about it -- like, maybe apprehend their murderer -- which can get some strange looks as he chases people down the street. He also doesn't want anyone to discover his gifts. Then they might start calling him more than "Odd."

Guess why I wanted to see this movie. I'll give you a few hints -- it wasn't for the ghosts, and is pictured here. Give up?

Anton Yelchin plays our paranormal crime solving weirdo. He was the reason I wanted to give this obscure movie a shot, and ultimately he was the reason I was happy I did. Odd isn't actually that strange acting, he's mostly just an unusually endearing, enthusiastic twenty-something with an overload of charming confidence. Think a classic jaded noir mystery film PI, but young and modern, and, well, happier -- for the most part. He even does the narration, explaining things to the audience that might be tedious to understand otherwise, and cracking one-liners like the best of them. Narrations can go either way with me, and this one is a winner.

The only people who know about Odd's abilities is his girlfriend, Stormy (see, everyone in this movie has interesting names) played by Addison Timlin, and the local Sheriff, played by Willem Dafoe. Though he tries to keep her out of his escapades, Stormy is often his backup; the Ned to his Nancy Drew; the Dr. Watson to his Sherlock Holmes. And Sheriff Porter is the go-to guy once the bad guys have been caught, and Odd needs a good cover story to keep his secret safe.

Strange Weather.

Because the film is not rated, I'm going to put a little content review here. I'd give it a PG-13, for a little bit of language, plus brief strong language; a bit of sexual content, plus one girl in some revealing underwear; lots and lots of scary/tense/suspenseful moments, a good amount of out-and-out violence, and some disturbing/gross moments. Also, there are some disturbing creatures. The violence and creepiness was definitely the worst of it, but that I didn't mind as much at all. And I was glad for how well the scary and suspenseful was balanced with comedy.

In fact my favorite aspect has to be the comedy. The script had some great humor for all the characters, but mostly for Odd. Odd practically never stops talking between his narrating inner thoughts and his real-life penchant for hearing his own voice say smart-alack-y things, and as long as he's saying words, he never stops spinning them out with a generous helping of wit. Watching him put together the pieces of a puzzle was so fun and exciting, not necessarily because of what he was figuring out, but because of the way he went about figuring it.

Short-order cook by day, crime-solver by-- well, day and night actually.

As for the plot and the mystery, it kept me guessing, and in the end made a good amount of sense with one or two small holes -- but no more than you'd find in a popular American TV crime drama any night of the week. However, if Steven Moffat tried to pass it off as a Sherlock episode, people would doubtlessly be disappointed. It's all about context though -- I didn't expect a Sherlockian-type complexity, I just wanted to see Anton Yelchin fight evil, and the mystery allowed for that with amusing style. And in the end I was even impressed at how sensible it was -- never trying too hard to outdo anything, or take on more than it could handle, just skipping along happily to the beat of its own witty little drum.

Odd Thomas isn't breaking any new ground here, but some things never get old, especially when they're done with a heart and a soul, a dashing hero, and a cheerfully cynical attitude.

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Trailer - Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

Tom Cruise's 5th Mission: Impossible movie's full trailer released today, and it looks like true sequel to MI4, with even more at steak and even bigger stunts (if that's possible!). I for one, do not need to be convinced by a trailer; I knew from the moment this film was officially announced I'll be seeing it in theaters, but if I wasn't already sure I still would be now!

Tom Cruise is back of course, (and oh my gosh that plane stunt -- and you know it's real too, because it's Tom Cruise!) and the team from 4 is back too -- Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg -- minus Paula Patton though, but "replacing" her is Rebecca Ferguson, who seems more than capable of kicking the butt, and wearing the dresses. And Ving Rhames' Luther is back for a real role this time. Back to Renner and Pegg though, they are who I'm most excited to see again. Jeremy Renner because he's Jeremy Renner and doesn't need any other reasons, and Simon Pegg, because he awesome, and Benji comes off really well in the trailer. Oh, and it appears Alec Baldwin will be the villain, so that's cool.

Take a look, then share your thoughts on it below!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cinderella

Spoilers.

Magical, romantic, sparkling, magnificent. This is how a Disney Fairytale is done! Forget trying to mix fairytales with the cynicism and depravity commonly known as "reality" -- here, old fashioned, sweeping romance and true love wins the day. But neither does this film skimp on the lessons that can be applied to reality once the last echoes of "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" fades away with the credits.

The look of this movie took my breath away.

Kenneth Branagh was the absolute perfect choice to direct a live-action adaptation of this classic Disney tale. He is no stranger to the poetry of old-timey language, having mastered Shakespeare a time or two, and he has a visual style that isn't afraid to go all-out, which comes in handy when you want to exploit every magical second out of a raggedy dress turning into the most beautiful ballgown you've ever wished to wear.

He kept the camera moving -- to every imaginable angle -- and created some amazing and striking shots, and even entire scenes. Like, as Ella runs from the ball, the camera tracking her tilts to a sharp angle as it moves (a little nod to his Thor style, perhaps?). And as the prince curls up on the bed with his dying father, the shot slowly moving up and away perfectly enhances the sweet, sad moment. Or in the forest, when our heroine and hero first meet, verbally sparring as their horses turn circles around each other. My absolute favorite though, has to be as Ella and Kit dance, with the camera moving around them as they swept about and spun that huge skirt. It was almost dizzying, like we were dancing with them.

I want to know what it's like to swish this skirt.

Being a remake, and so exactly as it was, it could have been easy to do the recreation perfectly technically-wise, but miss out on the less physical, more important things. Not the case here; this telling has more heart than the classic animation it copies, plus, I feel bold enough to say, every single other Cinderella telling out there put together. When you feel the threat of tears before even the first 5 minutes have gone by, you know you're watching something with a big heart.

Now I must mention the characters and players. Hayley Atwell as Ella's lovely mother goes first, because it was she who threatened to make me cry at her heartbreaking scene with a young Ella after she becomes fatally ill. Hayley naturally shows every quality of strength, charm, grace, and kindness that her character passes on to her daughter.

Like mother like daughter, right? Unless it's step-mother and step-daughter.

Lily James then picks up every one of those traits with charisma and passion. She is the ideal Cinderella. It's easy for the character to be portrayed as mousey, and in this day, it's easy to go too far opposite, making her a tom-boy feminist instead of feminine. But Lily is perfection -- her Ella is not mousey, but kind and gentle, and she doesn't act like a man, but an elegant woman, strong and brave in character. Joyful in her trails and thankful in her fortunes. And of course, she is beautiful, and most importantly, gives a lovely, sincere performance.

Opposite her, is Richard Madden as the prince Kit. Besides being the perfect picture of a Prince Charming with his curly hair and blue eyes, I was very pleased to see his character develop into someone deeper than a guy who wants to dance with the prettiest girl at the ball. In the forest we see that he has integrity, kindness, and compassion. In scenes with his father we see affection, bravery and nobility. And everywhere in between he is wise and thoughtful, a gentleman, a faithful friend, a strong leader -- in short, the ideal match for our beloved Cinderella.

I told you -- he is the very model of a modern major Disney Prince!

Helena Bonham Carter's appearance as Ella's Fairy Godmother is almost no more than a cameo, but with the time she has she is quirky and amusing. The ugly step-sisters are Anastasia and Drisella, played by Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera, who are both amusingly playing against type with their ridiculousness and silliness, to great result. They are funny, annoying, evil, and even pitiable as the story demands.

Ever lovely and elegant, the great Cate Blanchett graces us with fashionable and villainous performance as Ella's Wicked Stepmother. Wicked she really is -- laughing at and putting down Ella at every turn -- but in an interesting turn of events, we understand her blatant hatred of her step-daughter. Understand, but never condone. And that is how a good villain is done.

Loved the mother's sense of style, but the daughters'.... yikes.

I expected this movie to be old-fashioned in its romance and storytelling, but I never hoped to see old-fashioned morality such as forgiving your enemies. And yet, at the end of the movie, Ella forgives her step-mother of her cruelty, an act that encompassed the fullest meaning of the film's theme; to have courage, and be kind. It was a theme often not subtle in its delivery, but every time sincere in its truth.

This little fairytale went all out, with every bit of magic it could muster, and became something magical and beautiful to see -- full of romance and sparkles and sweeping colors -- but also full of beauty and magic of a different, much more meaningful kind -- seemingly ordinary things becoming extraordinary, good triumphing against evil, and dreams coming true for the steadfast servant girl and the noble prince alike.

Their romance and courtship happened quickly, but we are left with no doubt of their love being of the truest sort.

Our heroes' sweet reunion at the shoe-fitting, where they promise to take each other as they are, is a perfect complement for the final scene, where Kit calls Ella "his Queen," and Ella calls her King "her Kit." I'm not sure if it was intentional, but either way it is a beautiful thought of how they see each other -- as equals. Kit, the King sees a beautiful queen who can rule righteously with him, and Ella, a poor maid, sees a man, who will love and care for her. I don't think either will be disappointed.

It's never said in so many words, but I know this is true:

They lived happily ever after.

THE END

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Maleficent

Major Spoilers throughout.

Once upon a time, not very long ago, there was a beloved entertainment genre, known as "fairytales." Fairytales were known for their fantasy settings, sweeping light romance, and clear-cut good vs. evil themes. But then some people grew tired of the simple, classic stories, and started a new trend of turning those tales on their heads and confusing the enjoyment right out of them -- Maleficent is one such product of that trend, and the poster child for everything ridiculous about it.

From the very beginning this story's manipulation is forced and awkward. I mean, this is what the heroine looks like. Lurking in the shadows.

There are two kingdoms; one filled with humans, and the other with magical creatures and fairies. The most powerful being in the fairy land is Maleficent, just a girl, but equipped with huge horns, gigantic wings, and full of kindness and love for everyone -- just like all of her kin. Young Maleficent meets a human boy her age, Stefan, and the two slowly form a close friendship that eventually turns to love. Then without warning the boy is gone. Maleficent grows up into Angelina Jolie. Then the plot really starts rolling, when the human king attacks her land, for murky reasons of fear, jealousy, or some other nasty, unreasonable human feeling.

In the battle, it is important to note, Maleficent and her forces kill many soldiers, and suffer no casualties themselves. If you think that goes against the supposed strict peacefulness of the fairies, you're absolutely right. After the king is easily defeated, and on his deathbed from a fall caused by Maleficent, he promises the throne to the person who can avenge him, speaking to his officers and councilors, but his servant is also present, a grown up Stefan (and now Sharlto Copley). Stefan grew greedily ambitious over the years; for the throne, he goes to murder the person he supposedly loved as a boy. To a little of his credit, he can't do it, but he does mange to cut off and steal her wings, which gets him the throne all the same.

Well-played Stefan; you wanted to be a king when you grew up; now as a bonus you're also Sharlto Copley, and not even a murderer!

Those wings must have housed all of Maleficent's goodness, because after they're gone, her transformation into the villainous, vengeful, and vile lady we all know is swift indeed. And her villain side makes much more sense than her good side. She enlists a crow (Sam Riley, when he is in human form) to be her spy and when he reports that the new king Stefan and his queen have had a daughter, she makes her move for revenge.

The obvious question now is why didn't she just go to the castle and kill Stefan immediately? Or maybe just take and eye for an eye (or eye for wing, as the case would be)? But no, her master plan of revenge is to curse his daughter. She is too good to murder the one she wants revenge on -- one who deserves it -- but she has no problem doing essentially the same to an innocent. She curses the baby girl, as we all know, to prick her finger on a spindle on the sixteenth birthday and fall into a sleep-like death (I think the technical term is actually "death-like sleep"). Only after Stefan begs her does she allow for a cure -- true love's kiss can break the curse, and nothing else -- this, because she knows true love doesn't exist; when they were young, he gave her a kiss saying it was true love's, and look at how they turned out.

This is how that turned out.

The further the story goes, the less sensible it gets; the very next thing the king does is have every spindle in the land burned and their remains stored in the castle. What. Then, he sends the baby away from him and her mother to be raised by three undersized, spectacularly incompetent fairies. Baby Aurora would have died in their care if not for... the protection of Maleficent and Diaval the crow.

Then as time passes there's a bunch of time-filler, masquerading unconvincingly as plot as the fairies act stupid, Aurora grows up, (turning into Elle Fanning) and Maleficent follows her around, pretending to hate her. In my boredom, I did notice that Diaval was an interesting character; he pledges his service to Maleficent after she saves his life, and is singularly and faithfully devoted to his pledge. This doesn't keep him from speaking his mind when he thinks differently from her though; he genuinely cares for Aurora and doesn't attempt to hide it. For a while I thought it would be a great twist if he were the one capable of delivering the curse-breaking smooch.

Besides the feathers for hair he's not at all bad...

Speaking of the smooch, when Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) -- sporting literally the worst hairstyle ever -- shows up at Aurora's house looking for directions it was so awkward and uncomfortable that I wish they had just dispensed with the romance altogether and been done with it already. I guess they somewhat understood how important romance is to a fairytale after all; but not enough to put any effort into making it meaningful -- or even romantic.

A little sense long wanted is restored when Maleficent finally regrets cursing Aurora. That moment is the most compelling the character and actress ever gets. On her sixteenth birthday, Aurora discovers her parentage and her curse, and guesses that it came from Maleficent, sending her off to the castle, and not long after that, sound asleep in a bed.

No surprise there!

The twist is actually legitimate. Over the years Maleficent came to love Aurora like a daughter, and after Phillip's kiss fails to do the trick, Maleficent gives her a farewell kiss on the forehead, promising to protect her even as she sleeps, and Aurora wakes up, without even a hint of a grudge, which was really very nice of her. The problem here being not that Maleficent's love shouldn't have been able to break the spell -- of course it should -- but the implication attached to Phillip's failure that fairytale-brand "true love" -- true, and romantic love -- doesn't exist. And the movie never gives us a reason to believe that it does. In the end Aurora and Phillip still have that super-awkward cutesy attraction, and it's played like a good thing. But, if his kiss didn't work, then he didn't love her, so why would they still end up together?  The most obvious explanation is that selfless love and romantic love are mutually exclusive, and that is a conclusion that I do not appreciate.

Another explanation is "The Frozen Rule": "You can't love someone you just met." I take issue with that one too.

With the climax comes the worst plot hole of the film, when Stefan discovers that Maleficent is in the castle and wages war on her in a parlor. Now, Stefan became an interesting character to me, and I even held out hope that he, like Maleficent, would get a redemptive turn in the end. But I shouldn't have. So Maleficent defeats him, (with the help of Diaval in dragon form, and her wings which apparently can live separate from her and fuse back to her back just in time) but being a good guy doesn't kill him, and just leaves him -- to attack her from behind and fall to an anti-climatic death from a tower. Confusion added to disappointment when I suddenly wondered why Maleficent hadn't just told him that Aurora was awake.

Like, DUHH.

I so wish they had, to see what it would have stemmed. On the one hand, Maleficent's evil motivations were the loss of her wings, and Stefan's was the (impending) loss of his daughter, so once neither had the motivations they should have been able to bury the hatchet. That was my first thought, based on the simple assumption that Stefan loved his daughter, but then I considered the other hand -- that he might not have as much as I'd thought. This goes with the cursing scene -- it bothered me a lot that all he does to defend Aurora from evil-intending Maleficent is to stand there stupidly, asking her to please not to. He never lifts a finger to stop her, suggesting that his life was most important to him.

"I'll just be over here.... destroying your daughter's life!"

And perhaps his hatred of Maleficent was more deeply seeded -- and what started with concern for his daughter morphed into a revenge and power obsession, and guilt-suppression, until he lost sight of where it began. This makes sense with his cold reception of Aurora upon her return. So perhaps knowing she was awake wouldn't have made a difference. But the question is moot; he was never given a chance to go one way or another -- though either would have been interesting to see. Instead his character was cut short, along with my last hope of seeing anything remarkable come out of this movie.

In comparison to the previous 1,500 words of my nit-picking problems, other details of this movie left very little impression. Visually, it was occasionally not bad and slightly memorable, and for the most part the acting wasn't terrible -- though when it was terrible, it really was. The writing and plotting was cheap and filled with holes. And even as the best the film had to offer, Maleficent never interested me. Not being a fan of Angelina Jolie, I wished more screen time for every single character besides her (and those three super-annoying fairies), but Elle Fanning was left with nothing to do, Brenton Thwaites actually detracted from the movie, Sam Riley flew along under the radar, and the promising arc of Sharlto Copley's character turned out to be no more than a long fall and a sudden stop.

Actually, that a bit how the entire movie felt; very long fall; very sudden stop!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Big Hero 6

Spoilers are marked.

The Academy's pick for Best Animated Movie of 2014 has finally been seen by me, and maybe it was all the hype, or the unrealistically high expectations that were set by its being a Disney animation and Marvel superhero movie, but it underwhelmed me. The pop and sparks of brightly animated colors and dazzling action sequences do not alone a great movie make.

They can only make it visually good, and that it was.

Our hero's name is Hiro. (Ryan Potter) He is a smart little whippersnapper, with a hot head but a good heart. He's a genius, but, as is common with geniuses, he can also be super dense, and hardly has two common sense to rub together. He's also an underachiever, something his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) helps remedy. Tadashi is also smart -- maybe not a genius like Hiro, but he makes up for it heaps and heaps of common sense, which he turns into advice and encouragement and gives generously to his flighty little bro.

The four sidekicks are pretty much just there to fill the number requirement. And in Fred's case, to provide some gnarly comedy, dude! Actually, Fred's pretty cool, and we get to know him very well. Not to say that we understand him; he's super rich, but acts like a beach bum, and is obsessed with superheroes and monsters. The rest are so boring that I will not even devote individual space to them here. As a whole they're there for backup and to look cool, and that exactly what they do. They don't feel like wasted potential, nor do they seem like failed attempt and being more than they are.

Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, and T.J. Miller make up the four that make up the six. Alan Tudyk gets another side character to master, and Maya Rudolph is present.

It's a kiddie movie, so I understand why it turned out this way, but the initial super cool creepiness of the baddie when he first shows up in the kabuki mask and the black cape with the dramatic lighting and the army of mini robots is seriously diminished once we learn who he is, and what his motivations are.

But most importantly, there's Baymax. (Scott Adsit) He alone holds this film up on his big puffy shoulders, and my only regret is that I watched the trailer too many times (which housed most of his best stuff) so it wasn't as new fresh and funny as it could have been. But I definitely still enjoyed all that was new to me. As a robot Baymax has a singular character that is impossible to twist around to suit the plot. He has his one goal of seeing to Hiro's medical needs, and he pursues that goal with a tenacity that only can be described as "robotic" but in surprisingly sweet, surprisingly heartfelt way. And also funny -- even if he's not actively doing something that's funny he still is, and never stops being funny.

Or squishy.

Not so much problematic as it was average, the plot was a nice blend of classic Disney animation and classic Marvel superhero-ing. Good, classic structure, healthy doses of excitement and drama; but safe. As interesting as the safeness would allow, but safe none the less. A result, I imagine, of the very premise being something of a risk (although after Guardians of the Galaxy was it really?) what with almost no one having ever heard of these heroes before. And I should be more lenient anyway, and give these guys a chance to have their origin story before expecting anything bold from them, but then again the best origin stories are bold too.

So the plot itself wasn't fantastically or memorably bold, but one thing in this movie was, and that was simply the way it looked. What with the setting of San Fransokyo, and Disney feeding off the ever-popular superhero pizzazz, everything, and I mean everything in this movie was striking; beautiful scenery, cool, sharp action and general immaculate, artistic animation, so full of color. I wanted to see this in theaters, 3D and everything, and maybe if I had it would have immersed and overwhelmed me and my senses enough so that I wouldn't have seen the flaws I saw, but I didn't, so I did.
 
Yep. That's a view.

Individually none of the gaps and holes in this story were too bothersome, but collectively they add up to a good deal, especially once you add the big one:

(Kinda big Spoilers in this section)
It's not totally unimaginable that in a moment of anger Hiro might ask Baymax to kill the villain, or even think to remove Baymax's "good" chip, not realizing both what the results would be and Tadashi's would-be disapproval. It is far-fetched, not making any sense with his established character, but can be overlooked in a pinch. Sure. Okay, but after, at home, Hiro still hasn't cooled down any, or realized what happened? He just tried to murder someone, and nearly killed his friends in the process, (and let the bad guy escape) and that doesn't make him second guess his rash decision of murderous revenge? All so that there can be a emotional scene where he finally comes to his senses? That's just way too much. Because Baymax is so great, the part where he prevents Hiro from removing the "good" chip again is good -- great really, possibly the best dramatic moment of the whole film -- but I'm not sure if it was worth the unexplainable and dramatic character change in Hiro.
(End Spoilers)

"I'll MAKE IT fit!!"

The problem manifested itself mostly in that event, but its origin was more fundamental. When a film's main enjoyability rides on the "wow, 3D" or "ooo, shiny" factor, and overshadows the rest of the features, no matter how nice they are, there's something wrong in my book. And even worse is when the need for visually cool, attention-grabbing things becomes a compulsion, and causes the really important things (like characters) to not only be ignored, but twisted into a shape they don't fit into.

The Big Hero 6 team had some soaring ups, that were all leveled out by drooping lows to the same averagely good place it all would have been without either extreme. So the question is, are the lazily drooping lows worth the occasional fun and fantastic heights? The answer is, like the movie, neither an extreme high or low, but the more middling positive, "I suppose so." There isn't much substance, and half of it is sadly miss-aimed, but it's a literally high-flying, laser-shooting, funny and diverting spectacle.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Upcoming Movie Roundup - March

February was another disappointment for 2015. Although I did see Old Fashioned, and appreciated it very much, it wasn't as great as I'd hoped and didn't save the month from flops and disappointments. And on top of that Agent Carter is over. However, March is looking up! If all goes to plan I will be seeing two of these films in the theaters, and there's also a new season of a quality television show that is nothing like Agent Carter, but can perfectly replace it anyway. Is March looking up for you too? What movies will you be seeing?

Chappie
Mar 6th; R
What with the director of District 9, Neill Blomkamp helming this, I wonder if it will be the very first successful attempt at making an "AI" movie where the AI being is actually a good guy. I can't think of a film that has done it satisfactorily yet, so that could be very cool. But besides that, this looks like a very original and interesting movie anyway, with a cast including Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, and Sharlto Copley proving the voice and moments for Chappie. Still I suppose there's the possibility that this will be more "Elysium" than "District 9" but even that is better than most.




Cinderella
Mar 13th; PG
This is exactly what I need: a classic, cute, silly, beautiful new version of a great, happy, fuss-less classic fairytale, Cinderella. Something for us to lose ourselves in, and help us remember why fairytales are so appealing in the first place. Cast; large and familiar; Lily James and Richard Madden as Ella and the prince; Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother, Hayley Atwell as Ella's real mother, and Helena Bonham-Carter as her Fairy Godmother; and Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera as the ugly stepsisters. And Kenneth Branagh directing. This is the most promising thing I see; he really knows how to do old fashioned romance and drama with a beautiful style. I can hardly wait for this one!




Insurgent
Mar 20th; PG-13
#2 in the Divergent series. And I'm not as excited about his one as I would like to be. Mostly, I think, because I didn't like the two sequel books as much as I did the original. Still, there's plenty of potential there, and it might make a better movie than it did a book. Also this is the best installment for my favorite character, Peter, (Miles Teller) and I'm also looking forward to Caleb's (Ansel Elgort) expanded role. Then of course there's Shailene Woodley, and she is solely what makes this series tick as well as it does. Theo James, Kate Winslet, and in fact everyone who didn't die in the last movie return (and some who did -- what are you doing, Ashely Judd?) and there's lot of new characters too. I'm sure I'll be seeing this, but I'm not holding out any hope that it'll be any better than the first.




While We're Young
Mar 27th; R
With The Secret Life of Walter Mitty I suddenly started to like Ben Stiller, particularly his more sincere comedies, so when I ran across this trailer it caught my attention, and it looks like it could be a pretty interesting movie. It's about an older couple (Stiller and Naomi Watts) who start hanging out with a young couple (Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver) and the interesting results of this unlikely, socially strange friendship.




Broadchurch
Season 2; premieres March 4th 10/9c on BBC America
Broadchurch is the exact opposite of everything Agent Carter was. It is dark, melancholy, serious, creepy and depressing. Hardly and light moments or even a break from the building tension. But it sure is good. Starring the great David Tennant as the disturbed and depressed Detective, and Olivia Coleman as his partner, who after the last season has a husband on trial for murder. (The cast is teaming with Doctor Who alumni; also Arthur Darvill, Jonathan Bailey, and David Bradley.) The reason this can replace Agent Carter, is because the season, James D'Arcy has joined the cast! This trailer suggests (strongly) that he'll be playing a bad guy, but still, it's something.