Monday, 22 October 2012

Moonrise Kingdom Commentary

Wes Anderson is definitely an interesting director.  And a very difficult one to review.  He has this knack for taking pretty basic stories and plots and making them extraordinary and surreal through the use of clever writing and very quirky characters.  Some of his films have stories that are more out there than others.  The Life Aquatic and The Royal Tenenbaums come to mind.  Moonrise Kingdom moves more to the other end of the surrealism spectrum.  It has a premise that seems quite plausible and there’s only a few instances where you really feel like what just happened couldn’t in real life.  Two misunderstood kids fall in “love” and decide to run off together.  The only problem is, they’re on an island and really have no place to go.  Anderson took that and put it into the hands of a perfectly cast group of actors and came up with a movie that is quirkily funny and heartwarming at the same time.  And, when you’re done, you have that signature “what the hell just happened” feeling that is prevalent at the end of all of his movies.  But that isn’t a bad thing.  While the viewer usually feels like that, they also feel very happy for having witnessed the film.  It’s a hard feeling to describe in words.  You just have to watch the movie.  You’ll either get it or you won’t.

I mentioned a perfectly cast group of actors.  This is just that.  Ed Norton is fantastic as the in over his head scout master.  Bruce Willis is strong as the island police officer.  Normally, Willis takes his comedic roles a bit too far.  I don’t know if it was good directing or just the surrealism of the movie but Willis reined it in and did a good job.  Bill Murray and Frances McDormand play supporting roles and keep it limited to that.  It would have been easy for any of them to dominate.  But they let the movie focus on Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as the two runaways.  And both of them deliver.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Gilman became an Anderson mainstay like the Wilsons or Jason Schwartzman.  Anderson’s movies can sometimes be overwhelmed by the deadpan acting of everyone but it never took centre stage in Moonrise Kingdom.  I was a bit disappointed that neither of the Wilson brothers made an appearance but they can’t be in everything Anderson does.

See it.  You’ll either love it or hate it.  But you can’t take someone else’s word on a Wes Anderson film.  You have to see it and decide for yourself.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Here Comes The Boom Commentary

Like Happy Gilmore, this movie is about someone stepping out of their comfort zone to participate in a sport in order to help someone they care about.  It's a Hollywood story that is done a lot.  It is even made by the Happy Madison company.  But it is not so similar to Happy Gilmore enough to say that it's basically the same movie.  Happy Gilmore relied very heavily on the weird "out there" gag.  Boom doesn't rely on much of that at all.  Instead, it is a movie filled with heart and inspiration with the requisite laughs thrown in.

I can't really think of anything bad to say about this movie.  The only thing that I didn't really care for was the big, inspirational Hollywood ending.  But, given the type of movie it is, they really couldn't get away from that.  They also couldn't get away from Voss learning his lesson and changing as a person because that's just the formula for these inspirational movies.  Some will fall flat and some will be good. Like Happy Gilmore, Boom delivers.  But, as I said, it's for different reasons.

Boom is very well written and cast.  Everyone looks and plays their parts perfectly.  This is especially true of Henry Winkler.  He's a scene stealer throughout and delivers his jokes with a deadpan naiveté that makes the audience keep laughing after he's done.  Secondary characters are strong and allow Kevin James and Salma Hayek to shine.  James has always been able to play the loveable has been like in Paul Blart and Zookeeper.  But he really takes it up a notch with his delivery of both smart ass and simpleton lines in Boom.  He's played a lot of good roles (and is one of my favourites ever since King of Queens) but I think this is his best so far.

Even after the over the top and unrealistic (bordering on cheesy) moments, you come away with a really good feeling.  When that happens and you laugh as much as I did, that makes it a top feel good movie in my books.  Definitely see this one.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Taken 2 Commentary

The first Taken was a great movie.  It was fantastically written, shot and acted.  It kept you on the edge of your seat for the whole time with a terrific pace and tension.  Taken 2 is a prime example of going to the well once too often.  They tried to do the same thing and it fell completely flat.  It has the same great shooting and acting.  But the writing is where it suffers the most.  From start to finish, this story is full of holes and problems.  It is odd though.  I would have thought it could have been really good.  After all, in most movies where someone is avenging a death, it's the good guy going after the bad guys.  In this one, it's a very bad man avenging his very bad son who died at the hands of the good guy.  They could have taken that morality angle a little further.  Rather, they addressed it briefly and moved on trying to focus on the thriller aspect.  Normally, I would applaud this.  But I thought it was too good an angle to dismiss and, if they had executed the thriller aspect better, I could have looked past it.

But the thriller was executed very poorly.  There are just too many holes and conveniences to make it a realistic story that I can get lost in.  the first Taken had that element.  It always seemed plausible and portrayed a very nasty situation so vividly that it was almost disturbing (and, if I had daughters, I probably would have been traumatized by watching it).  Taken 2 loses all of that element of the movie. Sure, the action (what little there is - it takes a half hour for anything to happen) and fights (fist and gun) are pretty decent but it is overshadowed by things like Kim conveniently finding a whole ensemble of clothes that fit her perfectly in a maid's locker.  Or Bryan being able to figure out where he is and where to go later (two different places) using the same information he took in while blindfolded.  He also has a very intimate knowledge of Istanbul's slummy areas and then has to recall the sounds he heard in the van?  That whole aspect is just too confusing to really explain without a three pint conversation.  But the worst hole is just so preposterous; how does a person who has failed a driver's test three times suddenly become able to execute advanced driving maneuvers in a stick shift in unfamiliar, narrow and crowded streets?

It really was a waste of good acting performances and decent directing.  There's just too many of those holes combined with an uninspired and predictable story that it really failed as a sequel.  They should have just left well enough alone with the first one.  Don't see it.  Watch the first one again and get chills down your spine.