Sunday, February 22, 2009
2009 animated drama by Henry Selick, creator of similar fair The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. Selick is a billy BA at stop motion animation. He decided to flex his muscles by doing this movie 100% stop motion (no computers at all) and in ReelD. The former means that it has an old style feel. It seems similar in vibe to movies many of you watched as a kid in the 70s and 80s. In fact, Selick worked on the California Raisins Christmas Special from like '86. The fact that it's in ReelD means you will be blown away on more than one level. This was the first flick I've seen in ReelD. This is the new version of 3D where it's not the gimmicky stuff flying out at you thing, but instead it's a sort of hyper HD. It sounds weird, but it's really like looking at something three dimensional. It as though you're looking at something real. My daughter said, the movie looked like a pop-up book. It's incredible. But, back to the movie. Coraline is about a young girl who moves with her overly self-focused parents to Ashland, Oregon and into a creepy old house full of interesting characters. Little does she know that there is more to the house than meets the eye. At night she discovers that a secret passage leads her to a parallel version of the house where everything is better. The food is tastier, the neighbors more fun and the garden (which Coraline loves) is full and beautiful. But things are not as they seem and soon she realizes there is a very dark side to the parallel world. But she also realizes that she can't just run away from it, she's gotta face it. The movie is great. It's visually incredible. The characters are interesting. I loved seeing French and Saunders as two ex-burlesque dancers and Keith David is fantastic as a black cat. I'm not so sold on the message b/c in the end her annoying parents that lead her to be tempted by this alternate world are still annoying and not much different. At the same time I loved that Coraline is who changed Coraline's world, it was up to her to do what is right. Good message for a young girl. You want change, make change. The movie can get a bit scary at times and was always creepy. If your little guy/gal gets easily spooked, this one may give them nightmares. If you like a good story and are a fan of this type of animation, then this is worth your time. It's a marvel of stop motion work. Not only is it the longest stop motion flick ever made, but it was clearly a painstaking, detailed labor of love.
Friday, February 13, 2009
2008 Comedy directed by Ben Stiller and written by Ben Stiller, fellow actor Justin Theroux and screenwriting master Ethan Cohen. So Ben Stiller is trying to get work as an actor in the late 80's and finally gets a role in the (excellent by the way) Spielberg war flick Empire of the Sun. He sees that all these, in his opinion, pretentious actors act like they get a real understanding of combat and conflict by going to 'boot camp' for a week before filming. He says that the 'boot camp' was hilariously lame and he noticed that when he visited his friends on the set of other 80's war movies, like Platoon and Casualties of War, it was the same, all the actors lived like pampered princes and then talked about how they understood what it was like to be in the thick of it in battle. So, he started writing Tropic Thunder, which is a comedic look at this, peeling away the phony outer layers. So, in Thunder, a multi-million dollar war flick is being made in Vietnam and the sets are vastly constructed and the after parties wild and full of stars. The actors live like kings. The man on whom this faux movies is actually being made thinks they're just not getting it and suggests that the production move into the woods. All they'll bring is a bag full of explosives, a handheld camera and the primary actors. So they rig a bunch of hidden cameras in the jungle and drop off the actors and the director off. Unfortunately the director, the only one with a radio to the chopper, dies and suddenly all these violent drug dealers are trying to kidnap the actors. In other words, suddenly they really are in the thick of it. It's an interesting idea, but it plays out in pretty typical fashion. Take a character who's very set in his/her ways and stick them in a uncomfortable situation and watch as the comedy ensues and the protagonist learns who they really are and what they really want out of life. Snore. But it's not that bad. There are some funny moments and Robert Downey Jr and Nick Nolte both give great performances. But alot of it's only marginally interesting. For example, Jack Black plays a hilariously edgey pill addict, but he also played this sort of role in 1999's Jesus' Son and, I think, he was much better in that version. So, if you like Ben Stiller style movies, then you'll probably like this one, but if he's not your cup of tea, then I'd wait to catch in on TV.