Quickfire reviews. (11.29.09)
Let me preface this by explaining the scale of 10. Most sites will have ratings out of 5 or 4, something like that; I don’t think there’s enough variety there. Rotten Tomatoes has a great system, where they consider 60% of positive reviews certified “fresh” and anything below “rotten.” 6/10 sounds like a good breakpoint to me. Sometimes I’ll rate multiple aspects, and then give an overall, which isn’t an average, but will be weighted on my own personal opinions of the strength of those aspects. For A Christmas Carol, I’d give the visuals a 6, and the story a 3. But are the visuals that impressive that I’d even care about watching it again? No. So my overall is a 4. Get it? I will also be introducing something else later that will factor into reviews, but for now we’ll leave these as is. Without further adieu…
A Christmas Carol 3D (Story 3/10. Visuals 6/10. Overall 4/10)
3D used to be a gimmick just to make more money for the studios. It still kind of is, but directors are figuring out that 3D can enhance the film-going experience without a serpent coming inches from your face. They’ve gotten pretty good at it, and past films like Bolt, UP, and even the re-release of both Toy Story films have created an experience that pulls you inside a film and just makes it that much more enjoyable.
With A Christmas Carol that’s certainly the case. The visuals are amazing, and sometimes it looks so real that it ends up looking fake, which may not totally make sense unless you see it yourself. However, from a story standpoint, I think it’s kind of lifeless. It’s like Robert Zemeckis decided, “Ok team, we’re going for straight visuals here. I’ll have my 8 year old write the script. Visuals! 3-D!” It’s very lazy, and it doesn’t really capture the magic of Christmas the way that The Polar Express does. I find that a much more entertaining watch, even if the visuals aren’t as good as they are here in Carol. Would I watch Carol again? I guess so. If someone had a new 3-D television and got it on Blu-Ray, yeah. But even then, I’m sure we could find something better.
The Men Who Stare At Goats (Story 4/10. Clooney 6/10. Overall 4/10.)
In a few words, if you’re going to see this film, you’re going to watch a fun, lovable, slightly-crazy George Clooney and Jeff Bridges slightly re-living the glory days of The Dude. But Clooney is really the only bright spot in an otherwise average film. Is he good enough to make this performance overly memorable? Not really, but he’s still fun to watch and warrants a rental.
2012 (VFX 9/10. Re-watchability 7/10. Overall 5/10.)
You know exactly why you want to see 2012. There’s no thinking, no deeper meanings, just massive earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and explosions. It’s fun, it’s suspenseful, and it stars Woody Harrelson as a crazy homeless man living in an RV which doubles as his own radio station control center on which he predicts the end of the world. What more could you want?
Where The Wild Things Are (Overall 4/10.)
This is not a kids film, and unfortunately not nearly as good as I had thought, or hoped, it would be. A child may find the big monsters funny looking and maybe even cute, but there is just no way they’re understanding what the film really is about and the values of forgiveness, gratefulness and even playing well with others. Maybe the story is too simple, maybe it’s not as deep as it wants to be, but the biggest problem? I’m not even sure Max understands the real lessons the writers want him to learn. My advice for Spike Jonze? Give Charlie Kaufman a call and see what he’s up to. I’m very indifferent here and simply don’t care that much about this film.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (The Cage 8/10. Imaginary Iguanas 3/10. Overall 7/10.)
Do you like Nicholas Cage? I do. I could never get tired of The Cage. We’ve seen his brilliance in Adaptation and Leaving Las Vegas. We’ve seen his awesomeness in cinema treasures like The Rock, ConAir, and Face/Off, and possibly my personal favorite, National Treasure.
What is The Cage like here? It’s kind of a melting pot of brilliance, awesomeness and crazy Cage. It’s a treat to watch Cage’s drugged up and painkiller addicted character in Bad Lieutenant. Plain and simple, it’s not that it’s a great film, it’s a pretty solid, standard, neo-noir detective story that just happens to involve the best bad lieutenant possible. Imaginary iguanas aside, I would easily watch this again. I hope Cage gets some Oscar buzz for this because after the shit he’s put out lately, he deserves it.
The Blind Side (Bullock 6/10. Overall 5/10)
Based on a non-fiction book by Michael Lewis, writer of the infamous Moneyball that changed baseball.
John Lee Hancock’s last film was The Rookie about a washed up late 30’s pitcher whose pro career was cut off by surgery; now a science teacher/high school baseball coach, he promises to try out for the majors if his team can win states. If you liked The Rookie, you’ll like The Blind Side. It’s the true story of a family in Tennessee who took in a homeless high school kid, and he happened to turn into the LeBron James of high school offensive tackles. It’s your standard, feel good, Disney-fied story with Sandra Bullock leading the way. She does a great job, probably a better performance than most you’d see in this kind of film, but this Oscar talk needs to settle down.