Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Movie Review:How to Train Your Dragon

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a young Viking who missed all the Viking traits...he is slight of built, slender, wiry, weak, and creative.
His father, Stoick (Gerard Butler) is quite disappointed in him since he is not a "real Viking". Hiccup, in the course of trying to prove he is a Viking, brings down a dragon with one of his inventions.
The story then follows his developing friendship with Toothless the dragon as they figure out the "hereditary enmity" between dragons and Vikings is actually an acquired taste. The story follows a predictable arc ending in reconciliation and new friendship.
That is no indictment of the movie, however. The joy in this movie is broad and rich.
It comes from the beautiful animation, the heartwarming story, and the entertaining story.
Sometimes those of us who have seen a vast number of movies and/or read a wide range of literature tend to get a bit jaded. Sure, the story arc here is familiar, many of the jokes have been seen before...but that has more to do with the number of flicks I have seen than the quality of this movie.
The story is good...that is why it has been done before. The fun comes in the slight tweaks, the cool animation, and the way Toothless will remind you of the coolest dog you ever had.
I loved this movie and walked away smiling. Love the animation, the story, the jokes. It will be coming to my house in DVD form.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton made his name as a director for having a skewed, warped vision of the world that came through in offbeat, off-kilter, and edgy movies. The movie viewer who anticipates standard colors, appearances and fare in a Burton flick will inevitably be sadly disappointed.

The Alice in Wonderland world then seems like a natural for him. If he can turn Willie Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory into a freak show that makes the creepy version played by Gene Wilder seem downright normal…which he did…then the possibilities for the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts, and so forth are many indeed.

That makes the bland, uninspired, dare I say outright boring Alice in Wonderland all the more surprising. There is no sense of fun in the drab Mad Hatter played by Johnny Depp, the Knave (Crispin Glover) is…boring, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is boring, the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) is…boring, the boring, the cinematography...well, you guess what I think it is.

Burton did not expend much energy on this flick. From the formulaic, stereotypical “villains who are not real villains, just clueless, self-absorbed people” trying to convince Alice to marry the simpering, image-conscious Lord Charles Kingsley (Martin Csokas) in the opening scene to the final “sailing off into the sunset” moment, the movie just plods along going nowhere.

There are moments of fun. Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas) are mildly amusing and the movie would be better with more of them and less of everyone else. The rocking horse bugs, for example, are at least easy to look at. But they disappear and with them the imagination you usually find in a Burton movie. There is little or no originality in the remainder of the movie.

There are a few curious yet unbelievably major plot holes…such as how the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) can assume the appearance and form of the Mad Hatter, or why the deposed White Queen (Anne Hathaway) has a nicer castle than the Red Queen.

But the supporting characters feel…boring, incomplete…there are no memorable secondary characters. This is a surprisingly uninspired, unoriginal, insipid bit of movie drivel not worthy of the talents of Burton, Depp, or anyone else involved in the project.

I never expect much from a Burton movie and so often receive a pleasant surprise as his dark, twisted take on the world turns certain things on their head and makes them entertaining. Not this time.

If you have a free movie rental via Netflix, save it for something better than this stinker.