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Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Sweet baby Jesus where do I even begin my appraisal and admonition of this masterpiece of cinema? Should I start with the masterfully crafted totally original story? Or maybe the brilliant screen writing that perfectly blends existential drama with pop culture savvy? Or perhaps the cavalcade of stellar performances coming from every direction? Or maybe even the groundbreaking cinematography that presents possibly the best use of a steadi-cam ever conceived? No, you know what? I'll make it simple. I'll start out by saying that Birdman is good. Really. REALLY. Good. In 1989 Michael Keaton quickly jumpstarted his way to fame in Tim Burton's revered Batman film, which he followed up with Batman Returns. Ever since, Keaton's career has gone through it's ups and downs, his name slowly slipping away from household notoriety. And now he stars in Birdman as Riggan Thompson, an actor whose life suspiciously follows a very similar path to Keaton's. Riggan is an actor who garnered his fame by playing the fictional superhero Birdman. Years after the success of this franchise dwindles Riggan finds himself a wash-up, trying to validate himself by producing, writing, directing, and starring in his own stage play which he hopes can make it to Broadway. Meanwhile Riggan's friends, ex-wife, daughter, colleagues, bitter rivals, and the voices in his head all stand to help or hurt him in reaching this goal.
Rarely do I walk out of a film as excited as I was after leaving Birdman. I don't remember the last time I had such an immediately positive reaction to a film where I was able to so quickly come to the conclusion that what I had just watched was an absolute masterpiece for the ages. Birdman left me with a sense of joy, excitement, and an overall feeling of inspiration and true genuine wonderment. Birdman is genius. Birdman is astounding. Birdman is brilliant. Birdman is, dare I say it, perfect. OK, maybe not perfect, but pretty damn close. Birdman exemplifies some of the most incredible original storytelling in one of the most inventive and revolutionary ways I've had the pleasure of witnessing in years. It brilliantly takes such a simple story and adds so many ingenious plot devices and visual elements that make this one of the most unique films I've ever seen. It's a story that introduces us to many eccentric characters, some lovable, others hateable on such an entertaining level. It then takes these characters and weaves them into a wacky and weird tale of love, life, jealousy, and ambition that has an offbeat unconventional atmosphere that perfectly matches the strangeness of the characters, all backed by the smooth flow of the visual style that strings us along through this wild fantastic ride.
No words I can write on this site give Birdman the justice it deserves. This is simply just something that has to be experienced. Birdman takes you on such a magnificent journey through drama, comedy, existential crisis, and even a bit of fantasy to add yet another incredible visual element. Birdman is a photorealistic painting that, the longer you stare at it, starts to become this bizarre surreal art piece in a league of its own. I don't even want to explain what the hell that means. I just want you to experience it
Seeing Birdman might be the biggest favor you can do yourself this year. It exceeds expectations on every level, and honestly provides you with one of the most unique cinematic experiences you've ever had. I believe Birdman has the power to change the way we think about film and entertainment. It's going to make waves, and for a damn good reason.
One for the ages
In an age where the science fiction film market is suffocated by sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots, nothing is more refreshing than an original high concept science fiction action flick that is actually executed well. This makes Korean director Bong Joon-ho's American directorial debut Snowpiercer an exhilarating breath of fresh air in this stagnating genre.
Snowpiercer takes us to a post-apocalyptic world where the entirety of humanity lives on a train that constantly circles the globe after the world has frozen over due to a failed climate change experiment. The unstoppable train essentially acts as a metaphor for social class warfare with the "peasants" stuffed into the train's tail section, while rich elites enjoy the luxuries further up the train. With everyone in their correct preordained place the train runs smoothly. That is until Curtis, played by Captain America, leads a revolution of tail-sectioners up the train to end the oppression and kill the elusive Wilford, the inventor of the "sacred engine" which runs the train who, although no tail-sectioners have ever met him, lives at the front of the train. Curtis and his revolutionary members fight their way from the back of the train, learning a lot of harrowing things about humans and society along the way.
As an avid lover of science fiction few things make me happier than seeing the triumph and success of an original science fiction film, especially in 2014. Snowpiercer is based on a comic book series that I haven't read, but as far as I know the only similarities between the comic and the film are the train and the frozen Earth it circles. Other than that everything about Snowpiercer is an original tale, brilliantly crafted and intelligently presented. Snowpiercer isn't a handholding exercise that over explains every little thing. It's a film that forces you to pay attention as you get to piece together the world and the backstory as you ride along. It makes for a story that unfolds at an exciting pace, always keeping you guessing right up to the end where events take place that you never could have seen coming.
Snowpiercer is one of the smartest action packed thrill rides I've seen in a long time. There's a pleasing amount of depth to this story that draws a lot of sympathy and keeps you wanting more. That is paired with great visuals and some of the most exciting fight sequences to sink your eyeballs into in a while. There's a particular scene involving axes and fish that gets me worked up every time no matter how much I watch it. The great thing about Snowpiercer is even if the story does nothing for you and you lose interest in all the characters and plot, you're still left with a wickedly fun action film.
Of course, Snowpiercer doesn't come without its flaws, but fortunately they are flaws that don't impede any enjoyment of the film, and they by no means hold this otherwise fantastic flick back. Problems mainly stem from the writing and acting, here. The script is a little expository at times (but it's high concept; it almost has to be), and some of the dialogue is pretty on the nose and comes out with a tasteful side of cheese. Some moments don't come across very genuine, and others are just melodramatic.
The acting pulls me to both sides. On one hand you have stellar performances by Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris as villains. Then you have the film's two main Korean actors, Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-Sung who make compellingly entertaining junkies, and then smaller roles by great actors like John Hurt and Allison Pill. But, and I'm probably not the first to say this, Chris Evans is not the best actor. He's got enough good looks and charm to carry a franchise like Captain America, but when it comes to darker more serious roles he isn't quite as convincing. He doesn't quite have the acting chops to be taken seriously, but he, like the other flaws of the film, don't stop me from enjoying Snowpiercer.
If you like sci-fi there's honestly no reason you shouldn't see this. It is a shining example of great filmmaking on a technical and visual level, as well as incredible original storytelling. Snowpiercer isn't a film you enjoy along with your popcorn and then forget about instantly. It's a film that, yes, you enjoy the hell out of along with your popcorn, but you'll be left thinking about it long after its over, the tell-tale sign of a great movie.
Gyllenhaal's crazy eyes steal the show
Screw this movie! Nightcrawler wasn't blue, didn't have a tail, Professor Xavier didn't show up ONCE, and Jake Gyllenhaal never even teleported! What the hell is this? Worst X-Men movie of all time... period.
Just kidding. As awesome as a standalone Nightcrawler film would be, the actual film Nightcrawler starring Jake Gyllenhaal is a wickedly twisted social commentary that boasts, what I think, is the performance of Gyllenhaal's career. He plays Louis Bloom, the most polite sociopath you will ever meet. Hungry for work, Louis finds himself a lucrative career in what is known as nightcrawling. Nightcrawling, which has nothing to do with mutants or Charlie and Frank's nighttime shenanigans (for all you It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans), consists of driving around late at night looking for car crashes, robberies, murders, or anywhere blood is being spilled, and then capturing it on camera first hand as it happens. The candidly grotesque footage is then sold to news outlets for their broadcasts. Louis Bloom quickly finds out that there is a career to be made out of this strange and unorthodox activity, and he will stop at literally nothing to be the best nightcrawler out there. And, of course, stop at nothing means exactly what you think it means. It's been a while since I've seen a film that succeeds on so many levels. Everything about Nightcrawler is fantastic from the darkly compelling story line, to the expertly crafted dialogue performed by a slew of excellent actors, to Robert Elswitt's stunning cinematography that combines dark and brooding tones with beautiful color saturation that sucks us into Louis Bloom's comically twisted reality. From start to finish Nightcrawler is a brilliantly crafted film that snatches you up and menacingly drags you along through it's disturbing twists and turns, some of which are almost too devilish to handle in such a frighteningly realistic setting. When it's all said and done the person who probably deserves the most credit for Nightcrawler is the film's star, Mr. Jake Gyllenhaal. The character of Louis Bloom is one of the most well written characters I have had the pleasure of meeting on the big screen in a long time, but Gyllenhaal takes the character to a whole other level. On the physical side Gyllenhaal lost a significant amount of weight to give Bloom a lanky ghostly look that adds to the manic determination of his character. But it's the nuances in his character's eyes and face that are so telling of what this character is scheming or thinking. Yet at the same time it's never too much, always keeping the audience in the dark as to what exactly this unpredictable son of a bitch is going to do next. Then at the same time Bloom presents himself as this highly professional, highly determined young man with strong convictions and verbose explanation of his actions and goals that make it hard not to side with him or understand him, as much as you know you shouldn't. It's hard to put into words just how great of a performance this is, which is why I urge everyone to it see for themselves.
I really loved Nightcrawler right up until the end. The story was paced excellently, the characters grew in a believable and compelling way, and the climax was nothing short of awesome. But when the credits started to roll I immediately wanted more. Maybe it's just me being greedy, but I felt like where the credits came in should have been the start of the third act. We're left on such an open note that hardly feels like an ending, but perhaps that's the point? Needless to say, I'm ready to watch Nightcrawler again.
Oh boy. Christopher Nolan you magnificent, complicated, and deep pocketed sonofabitch, you've done it again. You've managed to astound, confuse, and inspire me once more with your boundary pushing, genre defining, works of art. And this time you've taken your wild imagination and jaw dropping spectacle into space, and all I have to say to that is... thank you.
I'm weary of going too deep in this review, partly because of the spoilery nature of this and all other Nolan films, and partly because I'm still trying to wrap my head around what I just spent three hours watching. I may do an Interstellar review 2.0 after a much warranted second viewing of the film, but for now what I will say is that this movie is fantastic. There are a very few people in the world who could pull something of this magnitude off, and I'm once again blown away at what Mr. Nolan is capable of accomplishing. Interstellar is one of the biggest technical achievements in post turn-of-the-century filmmaking and it's one of the most impressive visual spectacles I've ever witnessed on the big screen. It also helps when you view this achievement in the glory of 15 proof 70mm film, the format Nolan would have wanted me and all the rest of his millions and millions of viewers to see it in. And quite frankly, there's a reason for that. Interstellar takes place in the near future when the Earth's food supply has run out, and the world is plagued by famine and dust storms. Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a pilot turned farmer who is enlisted by whats left of NASA to embark on a mission through a wormhole that could provide the key to saving the human race. Obviously, the stakes are pretty high and it's best that I don't say anything more than that, because the less you know going into this film the better, and that's a fact.
Interstellar sets out to accomplish what sci-fi masterpieces like 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blade Runner accomplished in pairing these themes of space and time with the human condition. I've yet to decide whether it pulls this off in the way the aforementioned films do, but that's something I'll decide after a second watch. What really is amazing is just how much Nolan is attempting to tackle here with Interstellar. It's not just a story about intergalactic travel, time travel, and quantum physics. It's a story about the willpower of the human race and what we can accomplish through love and perseverance. It sounds a little melodramatic, which Interstellar is, but in an age where the human race continues to deplete our planet of its resources, making Interstellar frighteningly relevant, its melodrama that hits home. Interstellar didn't make me cry. It didn't make me cheer. But it did make me feel. It instills inspiration and pride over what we as humans are capable of. From a meta standpoint it's already inspiring to see what the film itself pulls off on the technical scale, which I think makes the fictional accomplishments of the characters within the film feel all the more impeccable and amazing. Interstellar reminds us how much of a fight the human race is capable of putting up. It reminds us that we will "not go gentle into that good night." In years to come when real famine and real drought plague the real human race, it will be time to look back to Interstellar to remind ourselves that we don't have to lay down and surrender to mother nature's wrath that we brought upon ourselves. I don't know if Interstellar is a masterpiece, but what I do know is that in one weekend it has already earned a spot in history as one of filmmaking's biggest achievements.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Baymax will be your new favorite thing this year
2014 continues Disney's animation streak with the Marvel comic adaptation Big Hero 6. Big Hero 6, set in the fictional metropolis of San Fransokyo, tells the story of Hiro Hamada, a prepubescent robotics inventor who teams up with a group of college grads who are blurring the line between science and magic to fight crime in their beautiful bustling city as the superhero team Big Hero 6. Hiro and his hipster friends comprise 5 of the 6 members of Big Hero 6, with the 6th member being one of the most lovable robots to grace the screen in years; Baymax. Baymax is a big plushy healthcare robot whose adorable naivety and soft squeaky appearance will make kids fall completely in love, and they'll be raving about him until their parents buy them that $80 Baymax action figure. Well played, Disney.
By no means is Big Hero 6 just a well marketed cash grab that will lead to countless toys, video games, and probably even TV shows. Yes, it most certainly is that because Disney has a job to do, but Big Hero 6 is first and foremost an exciting CGI adventure that never lets up on the action, the humor, or the spectacle, and even carries enough emotional weight to well up a tear or two. Just like its robot protagonist, this movie is just plain lovable. It's enjoyable from start to finish in almost every aspect.
The CGI is nothing short of astounding, as is to be expected from Disney. The design in everything from the art, architecture, and especially characters is fantastic. The city of San Fransokyo is one of the more beautiful cities ever rendered, but the beauty of the scenery doesn't even stop there as our characters visit mysterious islands and mile high worlds of air balloons, all providing unique and constantly changing visuals. The technical work of Big Hero 6 deserves an indefinite amount of credit for the world pulled off here.
And if you're not falling in love with the scenery you're hopefully falling in love with the characters instead. Each unique character comes with their own wildly entertaining personality fueled by a cast of fantastic voice actors including Ryan Potter, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, and Silicon Valley's always hysterical T.J. Miller. 30 Rock's Scott Adsit, with the help of some voice modulation, provides the voice of Baymax, whose voice has just enough robotic charm to be one of the most believable and adorable AI's in years.
My only issue with Big Hero 6 comes in its writing mainly, and in part from its story line. There were a number of times where I was reminded that I was watching a kids movie when characters would do things like reiterate points from before, just to make sure the audience hadn't forgotten. There were moments when things were over explained and over emphasized so that everyone was able to keep up. The fact that this is a kid's movie makes these little screenplay transparencies slightly more forgivable, but they still irk me. The story holds strong for the majority of the film, but the third act introduces some elements that seem to come out of nowhere and could have used more setup to allow them to carry more weight, All in all it works though, and the film ends on a great big happy note that sets the stage for endless franchise milking.
Big Hero 6 is worth the watch, no matter what issues it has. It is a solid 102 minutes of fun that will astound you visually, make you laugh genuinely, and might even draw up some tears at the beautifully sentimental moments between Hiro and Baymax. Disney continues to strike gold at their animation department, and I have a pretty damn good feeling this isn't the last we'll see of Baymax and the rest of the Big Hero 6 team.
In the age of piracy, SOPA, and net neutrality, this is a must see.
When a documentary can illicit tears of both anger and sadness, you know it must be doing something right. Such is the case with The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz was one of the co-founders of the internet's so called front page; Reddit. He was also one of the most outspoken and inspired activists fighting to keep the internet free, protecting the rights and privileges of the American people whose government was trying tirelessly to censor the free speech granted by the web. Tragically, he took his own life at the age of 26 due to the constant pressures and endless scrutiny and indictment placed onto him by the American government. This film chronicles his tragically short life and attempts to put Aaron's name out there for the sake of carrying on his legacy. There aren't a whole lot of documentaries or films in general out there that I would say it is crucial that you watch. However, The Internet's Own Boy is one of these films. It pulls back the curtain on one of the most significant and relevant issues of our modern era, which is fighting censorship and maintaining the ability to access and attain the necessities the internet grants us. For instance the film starts out by showing us Swartz's many hacking campaigns where he would obtain legal and court documents from the American courts that one would otherwise have to unfairly pay for, and making it free to the public. It shows Aaron's fight for people's right to information, something the government seems to be stopping at nothing to revoke. It's truly sickening to see the things that Aaron, his friends, and his colleagues are put through in their fight for such a just cause. There are parts of this film that are absolutely infuriating, and there are parts that inspire as much as the other moments enrage. The victorious battle against the SOPA bill, for instance, highlights one great victory that shows off the American people's ability to make change happen, and fight back against what they know is wrong. This film shows what civil disobedience, protest, and the aptly coined term "hacktivism" are capable of, but it also shows the ignorant unfairness of what the government is capable of as well. Hence the frustration. It highlights the absurd idiocracy of a system stuck in the past, one that literally bases its bylaws off of The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act written in the 1980's when computers were a brand new idea and the endless scope of the internet wasn't even a conceived notion yet. The Internet's Own Boy strikes at a lot of issues that so easily get swept under the rug, and urges all of its viewers to be conscious of our rights and whether or not they are being stripped from us, because it can happen right under our noses. It concedes to us that we can't settle for unfair censorship and we must continue to fight back against a system that wants to tie our hands behind our backs and put duct tape over our mouths. Yes, the story of Aaron Swartz is a very sad one, and the film strikes emotional chords that give a beautiful amount of weight to the story being told. But the goal of The Internet's Own Boy is not to sour our moods with the tragic story of one of the 21st century's greatest minds. It is to raise awareness of this war against censorship; a war that can and must be won. The relevance of the issue is too immediate and too vital to our free speech system to be ignored. If you use the internet, you must see The Internet's Own Boy, and you must help carry on Aaron Swartz's noble legacy.
Gone Girl (2014)
Fincher never ceases to amaze
David Fincher is back into the feature film game, and he is continuing to prove that he is an absolute master of his craft. His new film, Gone Girl, based off the novel of the same name is a stupendously crafted mystery thriller. It's a devilishly clever story that keeps you guessing at every corner, laying on surprise after gruesome surprise to twist and rile your brain for two and a half hours.
Gone Girl stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, a middle America husband whose wife suddenly goes missing from her house one morning. The neighborhood wide search for Amy Dunne begins, as well as an investigation into her appearance that starts to reveal some strange and startling clues about Amy's whereabouts. All the while all eyes are on Nick Dunne as the potential murderer of his wife, despite his constant assurance that he didn't do it. More and more questions begin to pop up as this compelling mystery unravels at a perfectly crafted pace, told in a beautifully dark tone with an icy tinge of black comedy.
Gone Girl is cruel and unforgiving in its story. It drags us through this harrowing and painfully real mystery that is packed with the typical Fincher darkness, of which he mixes in that snide and hilariously crass streak of humor. It's Fincher in near tip-top storytelling form. Gone Girl keeps you guessing all the way through. There are moments when you think you're ahead of the game and you've figured it all out, but the next moment will shoot all that down, leaving you scrambling to try and pick up the pieces.
This movie takes you on a dark and twisty roller coaster ride that is exceptionally fun from start to finish, even if two and a half hours seems a bit overlong for this story. Gone Girl certainly hits bumps and potholes along its way, but the unraveling mystery and undaunting suspense is a glue that holds the film together. At times the dialogue doesn't land the way it should, and this might be because the the film's screenwriter, Gillian Flynn, is also the author of the novel, and some of Flynn's words on the page don't translate quite as well to the screen.
A slew of good performances certainly help smooth out the dialogue though. Rosamund Pike is fantastic as Amy, one of the most complex and unpredictable characters I've seen on the screen in recent memory. Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry are surprisingly great in their smaller yet still crucial roles. Hell, even Ben Affleck delivers a pretty great performance. Whether it's enough to carry the film or not is debatable, but the movie has so much else going for it already.
Then there's the finale of Gone Girl that is so brilliantly simple. The ending comes unexpectedly, delivering a dreadfully bleak final note. One that, per usual Fincher form, leaves you with an uneasy feeling in your stomach as you try to digest what you just experienced. This grim movie has the power to draw a real physical reaction, and that's saying something. It has the power to tell a truly gut wrenching story in two and a half hours, but also keep it wildly fresh and entertaining. Gone Girl is easily one of the best of the year thus far.
Before Sunrise (1995)
There's nothing to it, yet there is so much
Here is cinema in its most simplified and most raw form. Before Sunrise is what you get when you strip away all of the flash, all the flare, and all the cluttering visual elements of a story and instead simply turn on the camera and allow two actors to be together and tell a story completely driven by poignant dialogue. Before Sunrise stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine, respectively. Jesse, an American traveling Europe for his own vague reasons, meets Celine, a French girl, on a train on the way to Vienna. The two immediately strike up conversation and wind up taking a spontaneous trip through Vienna together, where they slowly fall in love, despite their inevitable split the next day when they both must return to their respective home countries. It's a beautifully told tale of blossoming love, while tragedy looms in the background.
Richard Linklater loves telling stories in unconventionally unique ways, and Before Sunrise is one of his earliest and most successful attempts at unique storytelling. Of course, the film's uniqueness stems from its simplicity. I feel like if you go into this movie expecting any more than talking you are doomed to hate it. But, if you go into it expecting rich dialogue and textured characters contemplating life, love, and the universe, you are bound to really enjoy this film.
There really isn't a whole lot to say about this lovely little film, because all of its charm and beauty stems from its simplicity. There is so little to this movie, and yet so much to enjoy as you fall in love with these characters, subsequently just falling in love with the whole idea of love, because Hawke and Delpy make it look like such a naturally magnificent thing. You have here a film that essentially goes nowhere (it all does take place in one city in one night), yet takes you on such a journey into the psyche and the dynamics of these two fascinating characters who, along the way, meet a whole cast of other interesting and eccentric individuals who move the story along.
If anything is wrong with this movie it's that you can see the slight inexperience in Linklater's writing, something he has obviously overcome because he has made a slew of other fantastic films since making what is only his third feature film. The script, albeit very well written, does walk the line between superficial and profound at times. And yet the conceited ideals our protagonists exude coincide with the youthful ignorance this film beautifully portrays in its characters.
This film captures the spirit of its characters, and draws you into accepting all of the decisions which, in retrospect, might have been foolish. A girl getting off a train with a stranger she just met to visit a town she's never been to seems like a bad idea if you ask me, but Before Sunrise convinces us so genuinely that love is real and will conquer all.
The Zero Theorem (2013)
As much as it wants to be, it's no Brazil
After hiding away from the spotlight for a few years the zany auteur Terry Gilliam has resurfaced with his new film Brazil Part 2- ahem, excuse me, The Zero Theorem. It's a wacky science fiction adventure full of bright colors, grandiose retro-future architecture, and dutch angles; lots and lots of dutch angles.
The always magnificent Christoph Waltz carries this flick in his starring role as Qohen Leth, a computer programmer who is seeking the answers to the universe which can allegedly be found through the zero theorem, a computer algorithm where zero must equal 100%. The science is a little wonky and doesn't actually make much sense, but in Terry Gilliam's bizzarro world where science fiction and fantasy seamlessly blend together, it doesn't really matter. As Qohen searches for the elusive zero theorem he finds himself running into distractions like Bainsley, the seductive love interest who takes Qohen inside his own mind, and Matt Damon as Management, the obtusely Big Brother inspired government entity that rules over Gilliam's dystopian future society.
The Zero Theorem is highly reminiscent of Gilliam's earlier works like Brazil or Time Bandits which, in theory, is really awesome and it's the reason the trailers for this movie got me so stoked. However, a 90 minute execution of this idea becomes a little drawn out. The visual stylings take us back to the worlds Gilliam created in the 80's and 90's, but the story rehashes a lot of the same ideas that have now lost their profoundness to the test of time. Its themes of life's purpose and the universe's ultimate meaning seem like they are trying to be incredibly profound and of epic metaphysical scale without really trying to delve too deep. The Zero Theorem has this idea that if the script says something is profound and major, it automatically is without really having to explain why. It seems like Gilliam set out to accomplish a lot more than his film actually does, which in part is because of a weak script that at times leaves a lot to be desired.
As is the case with all Gilliam films, though, I have to commend him on his ability to create a world and then suck you into that world with black hole strength. It's so easy to get lost in a Gilliam society, and The Zero Theorem is no exception. There is a nuance to everything and no scene is complete without some wild set decoration that, though it may not serve any purpose, is a lot of fun to look at. Gilliam also really excels at making his worlds feel natural, with no character feeling out of place in this strange world that should feel so alienating. Characters don't make reference to the strange and foreign world they interact with, they simply go about their business as if this topsy turvy society is just the norm.
The Zero Theorem is far from perfect, but it still makes for wonderfully odd entertainment. There are a lot of little things worth appreciating in this film, from Christoph Waltz's light up sex suit, to a fantastic smooth jazz cover of Radiohead's "Creep." The pseudo-profundities are lost in the flashy visual flare and the story leaves you without much emotional weight to draw on, but this is still a pretty good little film. It doesn't take you on a journey on the scale of some of Gilliam's earlier more superior work, and it is a little too reminiscent of Brazil (even down to having practically the same ending), but I was still able to thoroughly enjoy The Zero Theorem.
The Boxtrolls (2014)
A beautifully designed miss
Back when I was a little kid growing up with my VHS player, the forever classic Wallace and Gromit series instilled in me a love for stop-motion animation that would last a lifetime. Thus, every time a new film comes out that is done entirely via the tediously spectacular art of stop-motion I get really excited. When I saw the trailer for The Boxtrolls, a film from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman, I was psyched. This one was made out to be one of the most fantastical, exciting, and magical stop motion movies to come out in years.
What The Boxtrolls actually ends up being is a fun little adventure movie that's good for some lightweight entertainment, but never really takes you to that magical place that a movie like Coraline can take you. Now, I've only seen some of Coraline and none of ParaNorman because I'm an awful person, but I still had certain expectations for The Boxtrolls that the movie ended up falling just short of. The Boxtrolls certainly has the stunning visuals of the aforementioned films, and it creates a beautifully illustrated world full of cooky caricatures and exquisitely detailed sets. To think that it was all done by hand is truly mind-blowing and no matter how good or bad one of these films is, you have to give so much credit to the insanely dedicated crew who put this together.
What left me feeling a little disappointed after The Boxtrolls was its story, and how it fails to take you on a truly imaginative journey. The movie is about a race of creatures called Boxtrolls that live in the sewers of the city of Cheesebridge. With them lives Eggs, a boy who was taken by the Boxtrolls as an infant and has grown up thinking he is one of the creatures. When the Boxtrolls begin to be hunted by the townspeople who think they are evil and malicious baby-stealing creatures, Eggs heads up to the surface world to save his Boxtroll friends, but along the way he learns some startling secrets about his past.
The Boxtrolls is a very simple story told in a very simple way. There's nothing particularly exceptional about the tale that unfolds here. It's basic, stream-lined, moralistic, and predictable. These are of course the opportune adjectives to describe most kids movies, and that's what The Boxtrolls feels like. You have a very clear hero and villain, with other archetypal characters thrown into the mix that all fit their archetypal roles. There's not a whole lot of creativity in the storytelling, and the film mostly relies on its brilliant sets and the film's titular creatures, the squeaky and lovable boxtrolls.
Speaking on the critters, though, I thought the film could have benefited a lot from some backstory to these creatures and their world. Who or what are boxtrolls? Where did they come from? What do they want? The same can almost be said for the human characters as well. Nobody is too fleshed out in this film, and we only love or hate certain characters because the movie tells us to through the exaggerated maliciousness of the villain and the uncompromised cuteness of the boxtrolls and their human children protagonist friends.
A kiddy story laced with kiddy humor makes The Boxtrolls a film that you can appreciate for the technical aspect, but you will find very difficult to fall in love with. There's plenty to enjoy, and I left with genuine laughs and a mostly satisfied smile on my face, but I think I will forget all about The Boxtrolls a few years down the road.