Friday, December 27, 2013

Winter Movie Review: Walter Mitty, Catching Fire, Frozen, The Desolation of Smaug and my Sanity, Thor 2.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: It's an introverted underdog story about a guy who has a midlife crisis which stirs him up to follow his dreams, and his subsequent adventures which finally become more exciting than his daydreams about life. Highlights: You can literally see the vigor and life be breathed back into Mitty, played by Ben Stiller, who emerges from the end of the movie, glowing and transformed from a zombie-like office prisoner. Sean Penn is also delightful as the elusive photographer Mitty must trek the globe to find. Based on a short story. Advice? Rent it for a date night.

Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2): Having read the books ages ago (thank you AATL student Kenny for recommending me to do so back in 2011!) I have to say that the film version of Catching Fire was spectacular. It's not what I imagined at all, but at least the lead characters are settling in to her their roles and are quite enjoyable to watch after an awkward beginning in the first movie. Jennifer Lawrence 'takes no prisoners' in her delightfully sardonic dialogue which seems aptly appropriate for the horrible circumstances she finds herself in. Compelling story, great effects, go see it! Highlights: Watching first timers react to all of the plot twists in the theaters. Woody Harrelson, need I say more. Advice? See it in theaters. 

Frozen: Disney has a bad habit of disappointing me on an existential level. Frozen was another let down. The music was lackluster, even with Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell and Jonathan Groff. Yes, I understand that you are systematically reinvigorating the outdated parts of your theme parks (The Muppets, Pirates of the Caribbean, Norway in Epcot) but this movie is still frustrating. I appreciated "the message" at the end of the story which saves the day, but it was a long, tired journey to get there. Also, the costumes were ridiculous. (See photo left.) Why can't our ice princesses be decked out in Patagonia or North Face for once? I'm tired of all of these harsh climate ridiculous outfits (Jasmine, Elsa & Anna, Ariel, etc…) can we be more practical, please? Disney purists are vetoing my future movie reviews as a result of this post; don't get me wrong, the movie was fun, and probably spectacular in 3-D, but I'm still looking for a bit more for my future daughters/nieces to appreciate. Highlights: Beautiful ice and snow animations recycled (as the originally canned 'ice' setting from Brave) great for the holiday season. Advice? See it in 3-D, or rent it.

The Hobbit 2: The Desolation of Smaug. If I could emit obscenities in public without being  a bad role model for the younger generation, I might waste them on this film, which was a complete mockery of the genre, and a desecration of the Tolkien text. Admitting that the original Tolkien text was more of a bedtime story than a 3-movie battle pic, is committing heresy in Middle Earth, but someone must do it. I laughed through the entire first scene, and enjoyed fellow moviegoers' bafflement at the strange and alien scene playing out, a back story, which would lead us in a new direction for this film, which literally needed to provide a plot reference point. Cue two hours of "the only path before us is the most treacherous one but we must take it anyways." I laughed again when Gandalf abandoned his comrades right before that path, as I would have done, before entering a forest of the worst gargantuan spider infestation you could imagine. Sorry, Ron, the path never "follows the butterflies." Fast forward two hours and the third hour takes you to meet Smaug, the most beautiful, terrifying and fun dragon we've met since Draco in Dragonheart. As Smaug, Benedict Cumberbatch emits dark baritone phrases reminiscent of his Khan (Star Trek: Into Darkness) character, and here we finally have something interesting to watch. (Since up to this point, I've only enjoyed the inserted scenes with the new *girl* character, Tauriel. For those of you who didn't know, she was added by filmmakers because Tolkien doesn't have any female characters in this book. Even so, Evangeline Lily's character (Tauriel) is the seventeenth billed cast member. Ouch. So much for the Bechdel test!) The movie ends with a cliffhanger which is annoying, because by this point I wanted to see everything burn. Also, this movie has an 8.3/10 rating on IMDB which just goes to show me that Hollywood can buy reviews by adding Michael Bay style effects. Great effects, horrible story. End rant. Highlights: A dragon. The Freeman-Cumberbatch reunion. Orlando Bloom as a young(er) Legolas who is apparently almost mute at this point in his immortality. Advice? Rent it, fast forward until you see a dragon, watch, cry into your pillow at the desecration of a much beloved story. 

Thor 2: The Dark World. I am thrilled that this movie was awesome, because, let's face it, the first movie was a little bit a good way which I saluted Marvel for, even as my own friends laughed at me. I actually saw this slaphappy sequel twice, and it was fun and enjoyable both times; due mainly in part to witty dialogue, acting performances and and precise punchlines (Kat Dennings, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd) which entertained us through the ominous and certain terrifying onslaught of an alien fueled armageddon. The story was brilliant, concocted by the best science fiction writers, seamlessly mixing fake science (gravitational fields that can be messed up by planetary alignments sorry geophysicists, "soul forge" quantum field generators, and portal-type traveling worm holes) with movie magic, making science exciting again, even if we've finished our science courses for life. Highlights: Female scientist protagonist. Female "political science" assistant. Chris Hemsworth's costume. Tom Hiddleston's giddy delight at Asgard's imminent demise. Stellan's nude insanity.  Stan Lee's cameo. Chris Evans' cameo. (Geeks: Read the Scientific American's expose on the science behind Moljnir (Thor's hammer) here.) Advice: See it in theaters!