CJ7

Film, 2008

Disclaimer: I watched the English dub of this movie. I was pretty disappointed in this movie. I thought it was going to be a lot of fun, but it spends most of it’s time making a play for high character drama (including TWO overblown death scenes right in a row) and isn’t particularly successful at it. It’s still a Steven Chow movie, there’s fun, cartoony action and goofy humor, but not jammed into every square inch like we’re used to from him, and it doesn’t seem as cleaver. But, if you’re just looking for something to show the kids for the night, you could do a lot worse. It’s not baseless short attention span bait like most kids movies these days. 2.5


Coraline

Film, 2009

Coraline is one of those movies in which it not only seems like everything is done exceptionally well, but the parts come together in a perfect storm that elevates it to a height that you feel like no one could have reached purpose. Cases in point; The sound design is very atmospherically effective; it makes everything seem unsettlingly empty. The music is great; It’s really refreshing to hear something accompany this type of material that’s at least a little bit of a departure from Danny Elfman. The visuals are, obviously, unbelievable. The animation is, if anything, too slick. So slick that someone not in the know beforehand would probably assume that it was CGI. It reserves it’s true visual weirdness until the end, making for one of the most thrilling final third acts in recent memory. I’m sure that a part of my enthusiasm has to do with the fact that the theater I saw it in was running it in 3D, which was the best I’ve ever seen. The writing is unlike any other mainstream American film in recent memory in that it isn’t desperately trying to sell itself to the audience. There aren’t any stupid jokes, there are no winks at the audience and there’s no tacked on sentimentality. But above all else it’s a REALLY GOOD MOVIE. It’s exciting and scary, just like you want it to be.
I never thought that I would ever rate a movie this highly, but I think Coraline succeeds brilliantly at everything it does. I really wish I thought there was something wrong with this film so I could only give it four and a half stars… but I’m coming up blank. 5


Gremlins

Film, 1984

For some reason that I can’t quite wrap my head around, I can’t totally get behind Gremlins. Despite the fun concept, cool director, perfect era of production for the material, great monsters and surprisingly dark nature, it didn’t ever hit the heights that I wanted it to. There are many factors that could be held accountable for this. It could be that the film’s pacing seemed off and it kind of dragged, it could be the low level of charisma possessed by the leads, maybe it all seemed too good to be true… but a big part of it is also probably due to the fact that it’s been so influential. Even though I had never seen it, I felt like I had. Little cackling monsters stealing vehicles and crashing them into things,killing people in a variety of humorous ways… I didn’t feel like I was seeing anything new. I hate holding stuff like this against a movie- if I had seen it at the time of release I bet it would have been a whole different story. There is a lot of stuff that still manages to shine through; the puppets are really cool and fun to watch, a middle-aged woman gorily dispatches almost all of them right off the bat, and there’s a lot of really cleaver jokes (the juxtaposition of the dark material over the Christmas holiday especially)- these things get it an extra half star. But for me, it just didn’t take off like I wanted it to once the little guys broke loose. 3.5


The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T

Film, 1953

It’s impossible to capture the personality of Dr Seuss’ books on film (as miserable adaptation after miserable adaptation have shown us) but this film, an original work by Seuss, comes very close. The energy, style and entertainment value are all clearly the work of the man himself, although it’s probably not what most people are looking for when they hear the words “Dr Seuss movie”. The sets are mind blowing, the costumes are great, the child actor is wonderful, and I even loved the musical numbers (particularly “Because We’re Kids”). It’s so simple I can’t think of any other way to say it; this is a great, great movie. 4


Marley & Me


Film, 2008

I went in expecting the wacky comedy I was promised in the previews, but was instead given a bland, sentimental family drama. That’s not totally true, it did kind of try to be a comedy during it’s first half, but totally lacked any of the required wit and personality. Around the halfway mark the film turns full on family drama, offering up played out morals like “It’s better to raise a family than to be a hotshot at work and with women” and “Dogs are good because they love you no matter what”. Jennifer Aniston’s acting and character couldn’t be blander. I would give the filmmakers points for not shying away from addressing the dog’s death, but they get them taken right back away for tipping the sentimentality scale many times over. On the plus side, Alan Arkin is pretty good during his few scenes and it’s nice to see Kathleen Turner again. 1


WALL-E

WALL-E gets big points for distinguishing itself in the horrific wasteland that is children’s animation with two great strengths; it’s strong, culturally relevant (and well communicated) message and it’s departure from this type of fare’s typical safety zone (although it’s not a huge leap). I couldn’t shake the feeling however, that there were some missed opportunities; the grandeur of space seemed lacking, they could’ve taken the designs of the future human race a bit further and the optimistic ending kind of sells it’s grim warning of a premise a bit short. But these are relatively minor complaints; the scenes of WALL -E, the last personality on Earth bigger than a breadbox, quietly (futilely) sorting through our skyscrapers of waste 700 years after our departure from the planet are crushing in both their scope and implications. 3.5/5


Wallace and Gromit in the Wrong Trousers

The coolest thing about Wallace and Gromit movies to me is how the filmmakers have taken these two classic characters, transposed flawlessly from a simpler time, and sets them in straightforward (albeit family friendly) horror and noir movies. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but they do it perfectly. This one in particular is my favorite of their bunch, if only for it’s inclusion of Feathers McGraw, “chicken” outlaw. 4/5


Shrek the Third

Uninspired, boring and ugly. .5/5


Surf’s Up

Film, 2007

Hey! This movie is actually really funny! If you (deservedly) hate garbage like Shrek, you should really give this a chance. It’s a fine story for kids, with a good ending, and it’s really, really funny. They managed to inject some looseness into the rigid world of computer animation by presenting it as a documentary and incorporating a lot of (assumably) improvised dialogue, with lots of interesting choices for actors (Jeff Bridges and Zooey Deschanel). The worst part is the horrible pop-music montages, but they pass quickly enough. The animation if pretty boring, but more than technically passable. 3


Happy Feet

Film, 2006

It’s absolutely astounding that George Miller was able to convince Warner Bros to spend years of their time and millions of dollars on something with the depth and complexity of a Hallmark card. The Frankensteining of sub-par pop music and nauseatingly realistic cartoon characters make it even more unbearable. Then the third act violently turns into a weird drug trip nightmare- which might actually be cool, if it wasn’t so out of place. 1.5