Remove all romantic notions of such a life from your mind, and try to imagine that your combat skills were the foremost thing you understood about the world. Concepts such as love and innocence would be foreign to you, and you would have to learn to appreciate the vast difference between intellect and experience.
Hanna is an uneven but conceptually remarkable story of a teenager who embarks on a journey to discover what there is to see and do in the world outside of her unfortunate upbringing. Does this sound like a fairy tale? In a way it is, if the late Tom Clancy had penned it. The film is almost as much of an old-fashioned but realistic “fantasy” as a modern-day thriller, and the clash of moods and settings makes for a fairly creative product.
The original RoboCop is a delight of an action film that boasts total mastery over its tone and intent from moment to moment. It knows when to be subtle and to be excessive. It knows when to be exciting, thought-provoking, or even heartbreaking. It revels in unsophisticated fun and at times becomes downright goofy, but the movie is always well aware of its purpose, which it simply keeps on expanding. It likely won’t appeal to viewers who shun depictions of intense violence (which are present even in the edited-for-television version, which was my only viewing option at the time), but moviegoers who can accept these gruesome yet exaggerated moments may indeed find themselves laughing.
Numerous tasks and technical issues have prevented me from being able to cover all of the movies I’d planned to get to, so I am going to end my spotlight on computer-generated films on a high note, with my favorite entry from DreamWorks and one of the best examples of the medium I’ve ever seen. How to Train Your Dragon, despite its narrative issues, is a wondrously crafted movie that is as enjoyable as it is gorgeous.
I didn’t think Disney had it in them. An unironic fairy tale, in 2010–long after DreamWorks’ Shrek had endeavored to tear the genre’s conventions to bits, during a time when (as I recall) the popularity of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series was ramping up with the television show on the horizon? It still works. The idea of a girl kept in a tower by an evil witch may not seem new, but this story gladly justifies its existence with plenty of good ideas that make it a modern classic.
I’m sending my spotlight on Pixar films out with a bang before I move onto films from other companies. The Incredibles is a novel and insightful glimpse into the lives of a family of superheroes, who grapple with issues much more mundane than deciding whether to go to school or save the world. How are sibling rivalries resolved when your children both have superpowers? Do those powers give children an unfair advantage when competing against others, or is this no different from normal children triumphing over those with less skill or ability? Perhaps the most important question the film asks is this: When is the time to be a hero to the many, and when is the time to be a hero to your family?
Passion and imagination will thrive in all of the obligations and responsibilities the adult world throws at us, as Pixar’s Up takes great pains to remind us. The old but shrewd Carl Fredricksen hatches an ingenious plan to use hundreds of balloons to carry his entire house to a secluded set of waterfalls deep in South America. Though the movie glamorizes excitement and adventure, Fredricksen isn’t going at this for his own sake. He’s doing it for one of the most precious reasons imaginable … to keep a promise he made to his wife, many decades ago.
Up is a movie that stands at a great crossroads and isn’t entirely sure of its ultimate destination. In tossing together two protagonists with vastly different ages, upbringings, and personal values, this largely enjoyable movie makes a grand opportunity to bridge cultures new and old, but some of its own story decisions get in the way.
My stint of reviewing computer-generated movies continues, which will likely take more than a week if I want to cover much beside Pixar films, and tonight we head deep into space. Wall-E is a tale of one lovable robot falling head-over-”heels” for another and becoming a hero to her and many others in the process.
It’s rare that I actually enjoy romance stories in movies, since too often I see them tacked on or forced, but this one feels like the cornerstone on which its surrounding plot is built, even and much more so than the environmental themes that govern this film’s setting. As a result, it becomes one of the most valiant and touching love stories I’ve ever witnessed.
One chef aspires to be the greatest in all of Paris. Another wants to be a success in a world that’s generally kept him at the bottom. The latter has little talent … but the former is a rat.
Disney’s and Pixar’s Ratatouille is a joy of a movie to watch again and again, much more so than a number of movies I’ve been watching lately, with an original premise, enjoyable characters, fun comedy, and an unparalleled mastery of its art. Two unexpected allies form an equally unlikely bond, in a story that laudably examines itself closely while letting its own imagination roam freely.
How obscure can a film be, when I can’t find a thing about it on Wikipedia or TV Tropes?
Aero-Troopers falls short in more ways at once than I’ve ever seen a computer-generated movie fail. The character models and their animations, nearly a decade after the release of Toy Story, look so wooden as to insult the uncanny valley, as can be seen in the DVD cover above (thanks, Amazon). The characters themselves are uninteresting, the plot goes from being trite yet acceptable to completely nonsensical, and the dialogue manages to combine laziness, self-indulgence, and massive amounts of cheese all at once. Even the marketing slogans on the movie’s box feel wordy–”The survival of their airborne world lies in the hands of this one small boy?” Really?
Sometimes a bad film serves as a reminder of why other films succeed, and Aero-Troopers is a reminder of why good presentation can’t be taken for granted.
A pitch-perfect action film, Unstoppable is a runaway-train story based on the CSX Locomotive No. 8888 incident. An enormous, fast-moving, and unmanned vehicle is carrying dangerous chemicals toward a heavily populated city, and it’s up to our heroes to save the day. (For my gaming friends, does this premise remind you of Blast Corps on the Nintendo 64? It does for me!)