Since it’s the holidays and I have more spare time on my hands, I actually saw several movies this week: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (totally fun and awesome), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (totally disturbing and awesome), and The Adventures of Tintin. I wasn’t sure which to review at first, but then I decided to do the one most suited to a family trip to the movies during the holiday season. And that movie is The Adventures of Tintin. The plotline is taken from one of Herge’s original Tintin comic books:
An intrepid reporter and his dog team up with a cursed sea captain to uncover the mystery behind a treasure filled ship that disappeared a hundred years ago.
I watched the Tintin cartoon avidly as a kid, so while I was excited for the movie, I was also a little worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, like most of the nostalgia driven 90s movies they’ve made in the last few years (Transformers, The Smurfs, The Chipmunks, etc.) But I should have known better. Any movie directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson can’t help but be awesome.
As much as I like to see movies that are filled with new ideas and as much as I like to heap scorn onto the sequels of terrible franchises (see Transformers et all), I greet sequels to movies I like with a certain amount of relief. After the disappointments heaped upon me by new movies I expected to be good but turned out to be bad (see Hugo et all) it’s nice to have a movie come along that I know I’m going to like. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was one of those movies. The plot was almost incidental to me.
Eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes teams up with his newly married partner Dr. Watson to thwart the evil Professor Moriarty’s plan to cause a world war.
The important part was that Guy Ritchie was directing again and all my favorite cast members (Robert Downy Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams) were back. I’m never completely free of doubt, of course, but now that I’ve seen it I’m relieved to find out I was right. Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows is very nearly as good as the first one.
As weird as it was to see a movie about New Year’s when everyone’s thinking about Christmas, and as underwhelmed as I was by Valentine’s Day, I chose to see New Year’s Eve this week because my only other option was The Sitter. So read this review and file the information away for that period between Christmas and New Year’s, when everyone’s actually thinking about what to do on the big day. With an ensemble movie like this, it’s almost impossible to write a good logline. The closest you can get is:
A bunch of people (who are kind of sort of vaguely connected to each other sometimes) have trouble with relationships on New Year’s Eve.
It’s really easy to make a bland ensemble movie, because with so many characters it can be hard to balance character development, screen time, and plot payoffs. Love Actually, the Christmas movie that started the recent holiday ensemble trend, managed it really, really well. Valentine’s Day, on the other hand, did not. I expected New Year’s Eve to be more of the same, because it was the same writer (Katherine Fugate) and director (Garry Marshall). But I was pleasantly surprised to find it was much, much funnier.
I really wanted to see Hugo this week, but to my utter shock, when I checked the listings, it wasn’t there. A big-budget 3D Martin Scorcese movie getting shunted aside like a two-bit Canadian independent? Impossible. So I complained to Empire Theaters. The email I got back was along the lines of “too bad, maybe it’ll pop by some other time” LIKE THEY DIDN’T FREAKING KNOW. It was at that point that I realized it would be pointless to continue pushing these idiots and settled for Arthur Christmas instead. I had hopes for it. After all, it’s Aarman’s latest film.
The bumbling second son of Santa joins forces with his aging grandfather and an elf wrapping specialist to deliver a gift to the one kid missed by their high-tech Christmas operation.
There’s really not much that hasn’t been said or done when it comes to Christmas. The militarized elves were done in Santa Clause and Fred Claus featured a screwup son of Santa, so it wasn’t the concept that attracted me. It was the involvement of Aardman, who has made some of the funniest cartoons I’ve seen, including Chicken Run and Flushed Away. I took a chance and found out I was right: Arthur Christmas is hilarious.
I am no fan of the Twilight series. I did, however, rather like the last film, Eclipse, so I decided to give Breaking Dawn Part 1 (or if you want to be proper about it The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1) a fair chance. I wouldn’t have chosen to give it a fair chance on the weekend of my birthday, but I guess we all have to suck it up and make sacrifices at some point in the name of increased website traffic. Now, the plot blurb for Breaking Dawn Part 1 is rather exciting:
A human girl marries a vampire and quickly finds herself pregnant with fast-growing hybrid that is slowly leeching the life out of her, making her and her “abomination” a target for the local werewolf pack.
A vampire-human hybrid monster eating it’s mother from the inside out like a baby Ebola virus? Enormous, vicious wolves circling in for the kill? This is the stuff of nightmares. They could not possibly make a boring movie out of a setup like that. If you think this, you are wrong. Despite the exciting setup, Breaking Dawn Part 1 manages to be both boring and stupid. Twilight fans are now invited to send me angry emails that have no chance of changing my mind.
When I thought I was going to the movies by myself, I waffled for a while and finally settled on In Time, which came out last week but had a cool updated Logan’s Run vibe. Then my friend invited me to see A very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (longest title ever) with her, so I went along with it. After all, Harold and Kumar is newer. The trailer doesn’t give you a lot to go on, but if you dig deep down, there actually is a plot:
Former stoner turned business man Harold’s quest to create a perfect Christmas for his over-critical father in law provides the impetus for hooking up with his former best friend and current stoner Kumar for another drug-fuelled adventure.
I had never seen a Harold and Kumar film before (there are at two others), so I was coming into it fresh. I wasn’t expecting to like A Very Long Title Involving Harold and Kumar very much, seeing as how it’s a stoner comedy and I view drug use as only slightly funnier than animal cruelty (i.e. not), but I was surprised to find evidence of actual intelligence in this movie (you have to have SEEN Platoon and Trainspotting before you can parody them) so despite the crudity, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. In fact, I kind of liked it.
Normally I review Hollywood movies because that’s what everyone has access to, but this week I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to review a little indie horror film that premiered in my town last Wednesday night. I heard about it through an acquaintance of a friend whose relative is a member of a group that knows someone who was involved in the movie (that’s generally how things work in Cape Breton – we’re not big on advertising). Anyway it’s a parody, and I’m always on the lookout for something new to laugh at, so I gave it a chance. The premise was promisingly simple:
One by one, a group of teenagers stranded in the woods get killed by a psychotic forest ranger.
The tickets for Legend of the Psychotic Forest Ranger were even more expensive than normal movie tickets ($15 on a weeknight compared to $9.99) so Psychotic Forest Ranger was going to have to work about 33% harder than a normal movie to be worth the price (doesn’t seem fair because it’s indie, but this is how the world works). And while the movie itself isn’t $15 worth of fun, the whole experience of seeing the film in such a hopped-up environment is.
I’m kind of burned out on the big blockbuster summer movies, so this week I thought I’d see Crazy Stupid Love. Then Girl Guide grocery bagging day occupied me for all the movie hours on Friday and I went on vacation Saturday (yes, I’m working on my vacation right now – you’re welcome). So I ended up reviewing Friends With Benefits instead, which came out last week. You remember Friends With Benefits. It’s that one that’s the same as No Strings Attached except it stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis instead of Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman.
Two people who are fed up with relationships meet and decide to be sex friends instead of going on dates but end up fighting feelings for each other anyway.
After having seen both of the trailers, I declared No Strings Attached to be the better movie. I mean, hello! Natalie Portman! She won an Oscar! But now that I’ve seen them both, I have to admit I was dead wrong. While No Strings Attached was pretty laconic for a romantic comedy, Friends With Benefits was relentlessly hilarious.
The Green Lantern was not a superhero I was familiar with as a child. When I thought about him at all, I often got him confused with Green Hornet, so that the picture I had in my head was of a guy in a black car with a green ring that worked sort of like the ones on Captain Planet and the Planeteers. This year’s crop of superhero movies cleared up the confusion for me. I never would’ve guessed that the actual story for Green Lantern went more like this:
A test pilot receives a ring from a dying alien that gives him the power to create anything he sees in his mind and the duty to fight alongside a corps of galactic guardians against a massive amorphous being powered by fear.
I was unsure of what to expect from the film after I saw the trailers, because there were some promising jokes that made light of the alien/superhero angle but also a super lame, ultra serious poem/oath that sounded like it was written by a fifth grader. I had high hopes, given that there were fighter planes involved, but sadly now that I’ve seen the movie I have to report that Green Lantern isn’t even the best superhero movie I’ve seen this month.
Superhero movie projects attract directors who like to destroy stuff. Guys like Sam Raimi, who directed the Evil Dead movies, and Brett Ratner, who did Rush Hour. They do not attract former members of the Royal Shakespeare Company who continually direct themselves in adaptations of the bard’s greatest plays. Except, apparently, if they’re Thor. When I heard Kenneth Branagh was set to direct this latest comic book movie, I was floored. However, when you look at the logline for Thor, you can totally see why he would be interested.
Thor, the son of an alien king who inspired the Norse myths, is banished to Earth for his arrogance and must earn his powers back before his trickster brother starts a war and steals the throne.
Except for the alien part, it sounds very Shakespearian, doesn’t it? Branagh himself has even compared Thor to Henry V in interviews. It’s a very intriguing take on Thor. The question is: can Kenneth Branagh, with his lack of action movie experience, make a comic book film that would fit into the Avengers line of movies? Incredible Hulk and Iron Man both had an irreverent tone that sat really well with me. I wondered: could Shakespeare-Thor possibly manage this? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.