Rango – Directed by Gore Verbinski
At this moment in American animation, there are two types of films: Movies made by Pixar, and movies made by people who wished they worked for Pixar. Rango is that rare film that doesn’t fit into either category. It’s that rare American animated film that bravely treads its own path. There is some formula here: Weird little dude goes on epic journey and finds himself, is a staple of animation that can’t really be veered from if you expect parents to bring their children.
This film is quite unique when compared to other recent animated fare. It’s one that wears its love of the legend of the American west on its sleeve, and it’s tributes to American icons range from Clint Eastwood to Hunter S. Thompson. Those, combined with a myriad conglomeration of western tropes, make this more suitable to western fans than to people looking for mindless escapism for their half-wit children. A fun, adventure film that rises above a lot of the cookie-cutter mediocrity found in animated films these days, and one of the very few that strives to find its own way.
Adjustment Bureau – Directed by George Nolfi
I’m surprised that I didn’t hate this, considering that I usually like religious films about as much as Stephen Harper likes the word coalition. Make no mistake, this is a Christian film: Good-looking intelligent people aren’t allowed to have sex with each other because a magical sky-god (or in this case, sky-librarian) doesn’t want them to. Why? Because he said so.
This really is a silly film in many ways. For you to truly enjoy it requires your brain to completely throw out any adherence to reason or logical thinking. So, the perfect religious experience. But there’s still some things to enjoy here: 1 ) It’s a beautiful film. George Nolfi has an eye for cinematography that most directors would kill for, and 2) This is the big one. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have an on-screen chemistry so powerful and believable that it makes the rest of the cliches of the film a lot easier to tolerate. You believe some (though not all) of the bullshit that the movie is slinging because Damon and Blunt work so well together on-screen. Ultimately the movie fails them, with a truly moronic “everybody gets everything they ever wanted in the history of ever because they’re good and I’m good and yay puppies!” ending that could only be created in Hollywood. Or in the Bible.
Sucker Punch – Directed by Zack Snyder
Going into this movie, I thought that this was a make-or-break film for Zack Snyder. I’ve been apologizing for him for years, and I honestly thought that Sucker Punch, being the first movie he directed that was actually created by him from the ground up, would be his breakthrough film. I thought he would finally show us all that he was more than just a talented stylist with a sl0-mo fetish.
Alas, he is not. And alas, the apologies have come to an end. This is a terrible film. And if THIS is what Zach Snyder comes up with without studio intervention, then he might be a terrible director, and I’ve now thrown out any hope in his upcoming Superman film being anything but a waste of time.
Here’s the “story”: Sad girl gets placed into Arkham Asylum by a poor mans Udo Kier. Her way of dealing with her fate is to imagine that she’s in a poor man’s Moulin Rouge. Even that isn’t good enough for her, and so while she’s in cabaret hell, she further imagines a series of scenarios that borrow liberally from every action-adventure movie you’ve ever seen, with a soundtrack that would have been 5 years out of date in 2002. And then Don Draper stabs a knife in her head, and that’s the end.
This has been called a video-game movie and I guess it is, though I think that’s kind of unfair to video games. There’s a series of challenges that don’t seem to exist for any reason other than as plot points, and to say that the characters are two-dimensional would be to give them the benefit of the doubt by about one and a half. There is some eye candy to look at, but the script and acting are so clumsy that Snyder did the impossible and made me hate a movie that featured pretty girls with samurai swords.
Also, I’m pretty sure that if you took out all of the slow motion, this film would clock in at about 9 minutes.
Jane Eyre – Directed by Cary Fukunaga
While on the surface this period piece might appear to be a goth emo-grope so dark and moody that it seems to have come out of Tim Burton’s sock drawer, it actually is an extremely credible coming of age film, full of effective performances and a wonderful adapted screenplay that might get some Oscar love next year. Great performances by Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.