ParaNorman (2012)

ParaNorman_1Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, Jodelle Ferland, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, John Goodman

Directed by Chris Butler & Sam Fell

Expectations: Fairly low. I’m only watching this because my girlfriend talked me into it.

threehalfstar


The older I get the more I don’t understand adults who like kids’ movies. Well, let me rephrase that. I don’t understand adults who like modern kids’ movies. If you have kids you get a pass because you’re going to see them anyway, so you might as well grow a taste for them. But I don’t have kids, so enjoying or even bothering with modern kids’ movies makes no sense to me. They’re clearly not for me, they’re for kids. So good riddance, and thanks but no thanks. But every once in a while, one comes around that even I can’t ignore, and ParaNorman is one of those films. And it’s a whole lot of fun no matter your age, especially if you enjoy horror films.

ParaNorman is about a kid named Norman (who woulda thought?) who can see ghosts. He’s labeled a freak by his classmates, and even his own father berates him on a regular basis. Norman, on the other hand, enjoys his gift, it’s just how everyone else reacts to it that gets him down. Funnily enough, Norman’s town has a history of persecuting those with a supernatural gift. There was once a witch who lived there, but the townspeople took care of her in the way that everyone took care of witches in the 18th century. And because this is a horror movie, the witch cursed the town and tonight’s the night that everything comes together for the curse’s realization.

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Flight (2012)

flight-posterStarring Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Tamara Tunie, Nadine Velazquez, Brian Geraghty, Peter Gerety, Garcelle Beauvais, Justin Martin

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


The elements for a fantastic movie are in place, but Flight is much too long-winded and unfocused to get its point across succinctly. I really did like the film, don’t get me wrong, but there’s only so many scenes of Denzel Washington throwing caution to the wind and getting drunk that I can take. I suppose that’s all part of his journey, but it felt long to me. In any case, at its heart Flight is a movie about alcoholism. Anyone who’s dealt with an alcoholic (or with addiction itself) can tell you that it’s a frustrating experience, and Flight recreates that frustration wonderfully. I’m unsure if that’s a compliment, but I’m pretty sure it is… I think.

Flight tells the story of Whip Whitaker, a pilot with a serious substance abuse problem, particularly vodka and cocaine (but he’ll take what he can get). If only someone had told him about all the great low cost and free rehabs for addicts out there. Anyway, the film opens on the aftermath of a night of sex and heavy drinking, and in just a few hours Whip must pilot a commercial airliner from Florida to Atlanta. It’s a short flight… what could go wrong? Everything, apparently. Once in the air, the turbulence is immense, but despite his drunkenness he’s still a good pilot who’s confident and able to do his job. This flight sequence is unforgettable and incredibly well-done, easily the most thrilling and memorable scene in the film. Shame it comes at the beginning, especially in such a long, understated character study.

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Argo (2012)

argo-poster1Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé

Directed by Ben Affleck

Expectations: I don’t know. Not much, but the Oscar win has intrigued me.

twohalfstar


I had a lot of problems with Argo while I was watching it, but in the end, it’s a good movie. Emphasis on “movie,” as while Argo might be based on a true story, the dramatized events in Argo stretch the limits of believability far beyond anything you’d expect in a film with its roots in actual history. The film doesn’t need a documentary approach or strict adherence to facts; I’m aware it’s a movie and I’m prepared to be entertained. But when the climax of your political thriller reminds me of the very over-the-top John Woo movie Face/Off, you know that you’ve gone too far. Argo is exciting, no doubt, but I simply cannot overlook its treatment of history.

But it’s clear that Argo and its producers know that most people don’t care. They take the story of the American embassy being stormed by angered Iranians and embellish it to the point of a simple heist thriller. There are six Americans caught in unfriendly territory, and only rogue CIA agent Ben Affleck is wily enough to get ’em out! He’s got one hell of an idea for a rescue, and it’s just crazy enough to work! Throw in fantastic small roles for John Goodman and Alan Arkin as a couple of Hollywood types, and you’ve got yourself one of the more entertaining films of 2012. Irresponsible and ridiculous, for sure, but definitely entertaining.

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The Artist (2011)

Starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Beth Grant, Ed Lauter, Joel Murray

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius

Expectations: High hopes, but moderate expectations.


I love film, if I didn’t I wouldn’t bother writing about it. I consider myself something of a film historian, not that I collect and catalog old works, but that I’m concerned with maintaining an understanding of the industry in its many forms throughout the years. Silent films were a huge part of my life about ten years ago, so much so that I was pretty much watching nothing else. It is this foundation that instantly gets excited when talk of a new silent film emerges. Then I happened to see the trailer and I realized that not only was it a silent film, The Artist is a film set in the silent era and its plot revolves around the film industry. Great. As much as I love film, I kinda hate films about Hollywood, so my expectations were instantly cut in half, which is honestly the best thing that could’ve happened.

And now that I’ve seen it, I can honestly say that I don’t really understand why it’s getting so much praise. I mean, I get it… if Drive was the movie that lit millennials’ bulbs in 2011, and The Tree of Life was the one that rang the bell for arthouse fiends, then The Artist is the film that floats the boat of the nostalgic lover of old Hollywood, but shouldn’t a film actually be good beyond the hype, pretense and nostalgia? All three of these critically acclaimed movies fell far short of the mark for me, and as much as I didn’t care for it, I’m tempted to say that The Tree of Life is the best of the bunch, regardless of my star ratings (which I stand by). Didn’t expect to ever say that.

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Mini-Review: The Princess and the Frog (2009)

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Starring Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Jennifer Cody, Jenifer Lewis, Jim Cummings, Michael-Leon Wooley, Peter Bartlett, John Goodman, Oprah Winfrey

Directed by Ron Clements & John Musker

Expectations: Moderate. I want to like this one.


Disney finally makes a return to hand-drawn animation and it’s actually pretty good! The Princess and the Frog tells a modified version of the classic tale, The Frog Prince, but this time around both a prince and a princess are transformed into amphibians. Oh no! Featuring the stunning backdrop of New Orleans, Louisiana and all the jazz and Cajun fixin’s that come along with it, The Princess and the Frog is a delight for fans of classic Disney animation.

That being said, I think the film is a bit too long. Perhaps one or two fewer songs and it would have been much better, because realistically there’s only so many princess songs I can handle in one sitting. I suppose I should have expected as much in a Disney Princess film, but I was hoping for a bit more variety. Keith David is the cast standout as the Shadow Man voodoo practitioner, owning every scene he’s in with an oozing charm. His big song is the best of the film as well, featuring some insanely good animation that is reminiscent of the psychedelic Pink Elephant song in Dumbo.

Overall, it’s a great reboot to the hand-drawn Disney lineup and I hope they put out some more of these types of movies. The film expertly captures the mood of New Orleans and will excite and delight fans of all ages.

Uncle Jasper reviews: C.H.U.D. (1984)

C.H.U.D. (1984)

Starring John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry, Kim Greist, John Goodman, J.C. Quinn, Michael O’Hare, Hallie Foote

Directed By Douglas Cheek


 

What was it with toxic waste, nuclear ooze, and mutated shit in the 1980s? Sure everyone usually associates the Ninja Turtles with the toxic monster craze of the time, but really they were only one of many. Films like Alligator, The Toxic Avenger, and Warning Sign kind of spawned this influx of toys, cartoons, and video games all showing kids just how much awesome stuff could result from mankind’s general neglect of his environment and a blanket disregard of chemical safety. And shit, who could argue with them? When you are grossing out girls at the lunch table with Madballs and those little plastic garbage cans with slime inside, nuclear waste seems like the coolest fucking thing in the world… Later, in order to completely confuse and baffle our youth, Captain Planet and the Planeteers was thrown into the mix, announcing to us that this toxic shit was no longer cool. Now in 2010, Captain Planet has been off the air for 18 years and counting, while preproduction has just began on The Toxic Avenger 5… you tell me what message ended up resonating more with our youth?

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