Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Things That Should Be Mandatory

I'm going to make this a double feature. I saw two movies this past week, and both of them were inspired, beautiful, and imaginative. Anyone who loves a good movie should see both of them. They take, in no particular order, the number 2 and number 3 slots for the best movies I have seen all year.

Life of Pi Review

The Life of Pi is not just an amazing movie, and you should watch it. It is not just a beautiful script with wonderful actors telling an amazing tale set to vivid and evocative imagery and music that touches on every emotion in the spectrum of human feeling effectively. Yes, it is all of those things, but I also feel that it is the first movie to really prove that a movie can be designed so thoroughly around 3d that the final result simply wouldn't be quite the same if you saw the movie without it.

Every frame of this film is a work of art, and it is fully aware that its story is allegorical. It plays on it, and it makes a powerful impression with impossible images that each stand out as inspired.

The movie has to be taken as a whole. Some of the decisions feel a little clumsy in the beginning of the movie, but over the course of the plot they make more and more sense. Irrfan Khan as older Pi is one of those choices. As the film opens and as we are introduced to older Pi he seems extraordinarily plain in every way. Even his voice lacks anything compelling. As he narrates it becomes clear that his opening is a brilliant stark contrast against the events, and his voice becomes a calm narrative force when everything else feels terrifying and isolating.

Enthralling and captivating contrasts fill the entire film beginning to end. Having read the book, the initial trailers didn't seem to understand what the book meant, or the way it felt. Ang Lee does get it, astoundingly so. Lee gets it and shows it off in the way every animal is captured and in how every single moment is filled with living things.

The only two criticisms of film would be the dialog for the writer. It comes off as a little cheesy and heavy handed. Rafe Spall does what he can with it, and he does well enough that a lot of people may not even agree that it is a little thin. Being contrasted against the beautiful narrative and dialog of Pi Patel may even be the only reason it felt that way. The other would be a very slight heavy handedness of the emphasis on faith in the narrative toward the middle of the film.

About three times the movie made statements that felt forced and unnecessary. The symbolic structure of the movie is so well done that it just was not necessary to have it pointed out so many times. Even if you feel that a certain level of it was needed at some points in the film, it goes just a hair too far, and the audience is not quite left to draw their own conclusions despite being told that they should.

Overall Life of Pi is am amazing work, and a film that is worth watching. Try and find the time to go see it because movies like this just do not get made very often and especially not with a budget like this. Vote with your dollars and let them know that they made the right decision when this movie got funded.

Rise of the Guardians Review

You should watch this movie. I'm starting to sound like a broken record, and I know that two movies in a row is a bit difficult to justify, but that's the plain simple truth. This movie is excellent. It is thoughtful, beautiful, and touching. In some ways it manages to cut deep and rip at something important and essential. It pulls a few of its punches short and those few pulled punches stopped this from being one of the best movies ever made instead of just one of the absolute best animated movies ever made. Even when Rise of the Guardians holds back, it does so beautifully and with grace and you will never even notice.

Peter Ramsay has managed to capture a sense of wonder and amazement in the entire world. All of the major characters manage to deliver something unforgettable to the viewer that speaks to that part of you that loves what belief represents.

The opening is incredibly abrupt. The movie opens almost immediately with the essential exposition that is in all the trailers. There is so much substance to Rise of the Guardians that the film needs to get this information to the audience and out of the way of the narrative as soon as possible.

And the part that's really amazing? The action is intense and meaningful! All of the conflicts and characters are arranged and in play inside of the first ten minutes. Everything is coming together and moving in a whirlwind. The basic elements of the plot start with the rogue good guy joins the organized team of heroes, but it makes this seed into its own thing.

Santa Clause manages to be one of the best Santas put to film. Alec Baldwin delivers his lines superbly. His character is layered, responsible, and feels like a natural leader figure. Jack Frost feels like more than a thin representation of roguish rebellion being forced into a role of responsibility because he is more than that. We are told that it is important to find your core identity early in the film and then we are shown this theme being reinforced throughout the plot.

Jude Law makes his villain sympathetic and plays well off of Jack Frost's character. I make a note of the performances by Alec Baldwin and Jude Law, because they are exceptional; but, Chris Pine, Isla Fisher, and Hugh Jackman each turn in excellent performances.

This movie lives and breaths both spectacle and substance, and on top of it all it has some of the very best action of the entire year. Watch it. You won't regret it.

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