ANTICIPATED FILMS FINALLY HIT THE BIG SCREEN
It’s not an oxymoron that some big summer films are both eye-candy and popcorn treats. Maybe that’s why we load-up on junk snacks in the lobby before settling in our seats. For me, a good movie must first be visually stimulating. Ideally, it should also tickle one’s gray matter as well. Director Chris Nolan understands this and that’s why his BATMAN RISES is probably the most anticipated film of the summer. But until Nolan’s epic climax of his extraordinary Dark Knight trilogy arrives next month, we’ll have to settle for mere eye-candy with these stylized fun films.
Pixar’s latest release under the Disney banner is a lush, richly designed adventure set in ancient Scotland. The beautifully realized cinematic art is reason enough to escape to this energized fairy tale realm about a feisty princes who desires to determine her own destiny but when she does so, creates chaos in the kingdom of her father and mother who reign as king and queen. Because of the consequences of her impulsive and desperate act, Princess Merida must be brave enough to fix her fate and undue a terrifying curse. Although somewhat predictable in its telling, the fabulous character designs and wonderful voice work trump the minor flaws of the story. On display here is proof that digital animation has reached a level of stylized photo-realistic artistry that Walt Disney himself could not even conceive. And he had quite an imagination. The rich sounds that surround and the highlands’ influenced music are add immensely to the mostly satisfying movie experience. This is a kingdom I enjoyed visiting; while I was there, I believed it was real. Brenda Chapman came up with the original story and also directed but was removed 18 months before release and replaced by Mark Andrews. The resulting film retains volatile mother-daughter issues and also features brisk action sequences amped by Andrews, who claims Scottish ancestry and a long fascination with the legend and lore of old Scotland. Rated PG.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER
The two Tims, Burton and Bekmambetov, have joined to deliver this bloody adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s popular novel (he wrote the screenplay as well) to the 3D screen. What unfolds is a grand scale alternate history that reveals the secret life of Lincoln. Stylized choreography abounds in the vampire battles and yes, we do finally get to see a macho Abe swing that axe the way we knew he could. I liked the interplay between known history and the new revelations of this fictional (?) take on Civil War related events and issues. I liked that the truth about slavery is all about providing fuel for hungry vampires. What a great metaphor! Director Bekmambetov directed cults faves DAY WATCH, NIGHT WATCH and WANTED, so he’s up to the task of hyper action. Benjamin Walker is just fine as an obsessed Lincoln and the 3D is sometimes eye-popping – as it should be. Rated R.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
Steve Carell and Kiera Knightly take their time take their time dealing with what they want while an approaching asteroid targets earth and life as we know it. Writer Lorene Scafaria directs her first feature and this oddity careens from one extreme to the other. I loved the craziness of a world gone mad but was not so taken with the lack of emotion of our two leads and the dreary numbness of their core relationship. I would imagine humans, on the brink of doomsday, would have heightened emotions of love, lust, rage and or revenge. On the other hand, maybe there would be a last-minute collective resignation and a transcendent sense of our one great human family and the world that could have been if we had all loved each other. What would you do if you knew the world was about to end? Still, I was fascinated with the premise as it unfolded, but probably won’t see it again when it reaches home video. Scafaria wrote the painfully amateurish NICK & NORA’S INFINITE PLAYLIST and, in a way, this is kind of a continuation of those two emotionally flat and nebulous characters. Nice poster, though. Rated R.
To see or not to see — that is always the question. Regarding other films still playing, my advice here is to see HYSTERIA, a beguiling film set in the Victorian about the invention of the vibrator. It’s a sweet romantic comedy. One not to see is Adam Sandler’s repellant THAT’S MY BOY. Sandler must hate his audience. His latest film (does he make a new one every month?) is like a third grade bully who wrestles you to the ground and rubs your face in dog doo and then laughs hysterically. This is bottom of the barrel crap. Life’s too short to waste on bad movies.
Listen to my weekly movie updates on Michael Knight’s Friday am KNWZ 94.3 show.