Last week was a big one: both Interstellar and Big Hero 6 on the same day. This week: not so much. I was on vacation last week but have since seen both movies and found them worthy of talking about, so… double review time!
In a last-ditch attempt to escape a dying earth, an ex shuttle pilot leads a mission through a wormhole to find a suitable colony world.
Big Hero 6
A teenage robotics genius teams up with his dead brother’s friends and a health care robot to bring down the villain who ruined his life.
You really can’t go wrong with either as long as you’re in the target audience. Those who don’t like science might be bored by three whole hours of Interstellar‘s space rambling while grown-ups who don’t retain much of their inner child might find the bombastic action of Big Hero 6 silly and forgettable.
This Friday was Halloween. There weren’t a lot of new movies at the theater to pick from, and even most of last week’s were gimmicky, phoned-in looking low budget horror movies. So I rewound the clock a few weeks and went to The Best of Me with my mother. After all: The Lucky One was pretty good, and who can say no to James Marsden?
A pair of high school sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks are reunited twenty years later by the death of their mentor.
Mom and I both like a good love story. The kind where you float away from the theater thinking: “awww.” Our mistake was looking for one from Nicholas Sparks. The Best of Me was the worst of Nicholas Sparks: he created an adorable couple and then beat them to death with the Hammer of Tragedy.
John Wick (blah blah revenge blah), Ouija (blah blah ghosts blah) and St. Vincent (blah blah Bill Murray blah) were my choices this week. I was tempted to say the hell with them all and watch James Marsden in The Best of Me, but it’s a Nicholas Sparks movie and they’d probably kill him for no reason at the end. So I saw St. Vincent.
A grouchy, alcoholic gambler with money problems forms an unlikely friendship when he agrees to babysit his wimpy 12-year-old neighbor.
The whole ‘odd child forms unlikely friendship with unpleasant adult’ idea is not new. It’s the focus of About a Boy, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and approximately half of Adam Sandler’s movies. So St. Vincent isn’t exactly profound, but it is cute. Good for a few feel good hours of entertainment.
Fury, The Best of Me, and Book of Life came out this week. I’m tired of World War II movies about Heroic Americans in general and Brad Pitt specifically. Nicholas Sparks movies tend to make me want to punch his lights out. Book of Life is a cute cartoon about dead things created by Jorge R. Gutierrez, a Guillermo del Toro student. No brainer.
Two best friends, a soldier and a musician, compete for the hand of the same girl while the king and queen of the dead wager on the outcome.
In most respects, Book of Life is pretty good. It’s pretty original. The story is pretty tight. Characters are pretty likeable. It’s got a pretty cute side kick. The message to kids is pretty relevant. Where it really shines is in the visuals. Every inch of the screen is filled with something bright and intricate, which will either give you a headache or make you want to buy it as poster art.
I’m ‘meh’ on vampires in general (upgrade to ‘bleh’ if we’re talking sparkly Twilight vampires). I also know almost nothing about Vlad the Impaler, historically speaking. But this week I went to see a historical vampire movie about Vlad the Impaler, because… well… you gotta watch something, right?
A Transylvanian prince turns himself into a vampire to protect his people from slaughter at the hands of the Turkish army.
Perhaps because I know almost nothing of Vlad the Impaler’s true history, I was pleasantly surprised by Dracula Untold. I was expecting it to be stupid, but I actually enjoyed it. And, I suspect, you will too if you’ve ever watched a Twilight movie and wished someone would just turn into a hoard of bats and wipe out an army or something.
I haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl (too many books, too little time, etc.) but I have seen David Fincher’s other movies (most recently The Social Network). That alone was enough to make me choose it over the creepy doll movie (news flash: china dolls don’t need any help looking creepy). The story for Gone Girl seemed pretty well worn.
A husband falls under public and police suspicion when his wife goes missing on their fifth anniversary.
I mean, The Fugitive, Prisoners, The Captive… same thing, right? NO. Gone Girl is all kinds of f***ed up. I’m really glad I didn’t read the book first and ruin it on myself. I will now attempt to describe the experience of watching the movie without revealing any spoilers.
There’s just something about stop-motion animation. Maybe it’s the enormous amount of work that goes into it. More likely it’s the incredible amount of detail you end up with when you’re filling your screen with real objects rather than pixels. Whatever it is, I couldn’t resist The Box Trolls, which was adapted from an Alan Snow book I have not read by the people who did Paranorman.
A boy raised underground by box trolls joins forces with a neglected girl to rescue the harmless creatures from the town exterminator.
Box Trolls is ghoulishly cute like Paranorman. It also has that underlying theme of ‘just because we’re different doesn’t mean we can’t get along.’ It’s not as funny or as scary (or as good) as Paranorman, but there’s so much detail in the sets and characters that you might not even notice.
I read a lot, but I didn’t get around to James Dashner’s Maze Runner before the movie came out, so I went in ‘blind’ so to speak, which is probably the best way to go with book adaptations. No one likes to sit there going ‘that’s not how it was in the book!’ All I knew about the movie came from the trailer: that it was like The Hunger Games, but all-boy.
A teenage boy with no memory starts asking questions that change everything for a community of boys living at the center of a giant maze.
While the The Hunger Games was all about survival, Maze Runner‘s plot is centered around figuring what the hell is going on. I enjoyed watching their action-packed quest for answers, but unfortunately when the answers finally came, they made no sense.
For the second week in a row, I had two choices. Dolphin Tale 2: the sequel to a trite kids movie full of structural issues or No Good Deed. Since No Good Deed looked like what would happen if you tried to re-enact Labor Day at home (i.e. oh no, a bad man is trying to kill me!), I opted for the more upbeat option.
A teenage boy stands to lose his disabled dolphin friend if the aquarium can’t find a female playmate for her by the government deadline.
The big problem with Dolphin Tale was that they took a great true story about a disabled dolphin learning to swim again and pushed it into the background so some little kids could make trite speeches. Thankfully, the sequel is much better. It’s moving instead of trite and adorable instead of annoying. Cuteness for the whole family.
Nothing really struck my fancy this week, even though I had three weeks of new releases to pick from. I guess the summer season is over. The trailer for November Man wasn’t inspiring – sort of a Spy Game redo with Pierce Brosnan as the trainer and some new guy as the trainee. Don’t fall in love, etc. etc. But I picked that one anyway and it turned out the trailer didn’t do it justice.
A retired CIA agent is pitted against his former student as he tries to find a missing woman before the CIA can use her to control the next Russian president.
Action-thrillers like Taken that pretend to be smart and complicated but are actually just about throat chopping are all the rage these days. What I like about The November Man is that you get the visceral throat-chopping satisfaction but with actual intelligence, complex characters, and plot twists.