Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Week In Tickets: 18 June 2012 - 24 June 2012

Another summer week with more reading than watching. I got through Greg Rucka's Alpha and started Keigo Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X around the couple of movies I saw:

This Week In Tickets!

A good chunk of the weekend was, happily, spent at my cousin Sarah's wedding. I naturally managed to leave everything until the last minute, which led to me sleeping on the couch in my father's hotel room because I hadn't booked one of my own in time, which is the sort of thing I really should look into growing out of. But, hey, I was far from the only disorganized person, from the stories I heard about the rehearsal dinner. I doubt them, because the involved my Uncle Dick actually raising his voice, which I do not believe is something he is equipped to do.

Epic toast by the best man, though, and my nieces are just dancing fools who were able to keep going well into the night. I bet they crashed hard, though, because I was pretty sluggish the next day and I didn't do much of anything.

That's why I cut my planned movie-ing for Sunday down to one movie from two and chose Your Sister's Sister on the basis of "hey, it combines with the grocery store for a single trip". Which isn't quite the only movie I saw that way; Friday night had me choosing Brave over Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter based on when the bus would drop me off after work.

"La Luna"

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 22 June 2012 in the Arlington Capitol #1 (first-run, RealD 3D)

Is it okay to admit I was a little disappointed with the two "Toy Story" shorts Pixar gave us before Disney movies last year? I mean, I love the characters and all, but they came on the heels of the amazing "Day & Night", just revisitations of familiar characters compared to something new and exciting

"La Luna" is a trickier beast in a lot of ways. It's great-looking, really cutely designed and smoothly animated - and it does its cartoon-style gags a lot better than most CGI shorts do - with Michael Giacchino contributing a nice little score. It's frequently playful, although it's somewhat unusual in that it hoards that whimsy until the very end. A lot of films, even short ones, will have more little payoffs of the concept it sets up than "La Luna" does, whereas this one doesn't seem to want to spill until the last shot.

Which is fine, because it's a really terrific last shot that is not over-built. "La Luna" at various points teeters right on the edge of not getting away with it, but winds up doing just fine.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 22 June 2012 in the Arlington Capitol #1 (first-run, RealD 3D)

Brave is certainly a nice enough movie, one I'd recommend to my brother with the five-year-old daughter without much reservation. It's heroine Merida even has a full complement of parents, something which has bothered them in the past where Disney princess movies are concerned. And for a kid Dagny's age, I'll bet it's pretty darn magical, especially if you're not comparing it with other things: As Disney princess movies go, it's not Beauty and the Beast; as Pixar goes, it's no Toy Story; as movies about rambunctious kids dealing with dangerous animals in medieval Scotland go, it's no How to Train Your Dragon...

The movie had a somewhat more publicly tumultuous history than many productions - I believe it was originally set to by Brenda Chapman's movie (and titled "The Bear and the Bow"), but by the time it was done, two others also had directing credits and there was a fourth writer credited as well. Though many productions have more hands involved than the single auteur the credits suggest, there are two ways having several people pulling in different directions can go. Sometimes, a movie will go all over the place, which gets a bad rap but which I think is preferable to having the various voices cancel each other out. That's sort of what happens here - there's never the point where the movie feels big and ambitious; it's timid, never going off on the grand adventure that all the movies listed in the first paragraph have.

If there's one factor that exemplifies this smallness, I'd say it's the witch that sets the second act drama in motion. As amusing as bits of her scenes are - and her character shtick actually dovetails pretty nicely with what happens to move the plot forward - she exists not just as a plot device, but one that withholds information for no good reason (having just watched the latest Torchwood series, I had Eve Myles's voice in my head disdainfully saying "oh, you're cryptic"), and has other problems. One of the movie's themes is that "legends are lessons", but having this goofy magic-user pop up diminishes the grandeur of those legends. Plus, she's the source of anachronistic gags that Disney overdid badly after Aladdin's Genie proved so popular.

(Aside - for a movie with the Pixar name on it, this really feels like the lesser Disney features of ten or fifteen years ago, both in how tone and execution. It's the sort of thing that putting John Lasseter in charge was supposed to sweep out of Disney Feature Animation, which is sort of ironic.)

Fortunately, none of these issues make Brave actually bad, just mediocre story-wise. I love its core characters enough to want them to be in a better movie, especially Merida with her tomboy streak that borders on selfishness (she is a teenager), awesomely-rendered wild hair, and voice-acting from Kelly Macdonald. King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson) are pretty terrific too. The movie is also just gorgeous, full of nifty character designs, beautiful scenery, and wonderful composition - or whatever you call the animated equivalent of cinematography. The 3D is very much a double-edged sword here, though: For as much as it seems to be the film's native format and it is used very well, the projection struggles pretty badly with the number of scenes that take place at dusk, even at a theater with a decent reputation for presentation. I suspect it will look amazing on a 3D TV with active-shutter glasses.

Kids, of course, aren't going to care much about the structural stuff, and likely most adults won't either. Combined with the Wreck-It Ralph trailer and the "La Luna" short, it's a couple hours that entertains its audience pretty well, and there's nothing wrong with that.

BraveYour Sister's Sister

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