Thursday, January 12, 2012

My 2011 Movie Odyssey - Part XI

The Gnome-Mobile (1967)
This is a fun little movie as two children (the ones from Mary Poppins) and their grandfather (Walter Brennan) try to help a group of gnomes find a new home. I keep using the word charming to describe these live-action Disney movies, and it’s starting to sound redundant, but that’s the best word I can think of to describe them. They are pleasant and almost always leave you with a smile on your face, even when the humor falls flat. They are trying to be fun entertainment that the whole family can enjoy without talking down to younger audience members or boring the older crowd. I find it very disappointing that Disney nowadays seems to be content aiming for the lowest common denominator with its live-action fare.

Paul (2011)
I was really looking forward to this one. I really like Shaun of the Dead and the televison show Spaced, and I love Hot Fuzz, so the latest teaming of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost was a guaranteed success. Except it wasn't. The humor was not nearly as sharp as in previous efforts and too often aimed for the lowest common denominator. But was really irked me was their treatment of conservative Americans, especially in the character of a sweet, Bible believing young woman. She is shown the enlightened truth of atheistic evolution and suddenly she is swearing up a storm and trying to jump into Simon Pegg's pants. It is supposed to be funny but it really comes out as just pathetic writing. There were some good sci-fi references, but mostly the whole thing was a giant disappointment.

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
I really liked the first half as Daniel Craig tries to figure out who he is and why he has a weird metallic object strapped to his wrist. The second half, however, is pretty run-of-the-mill action stuff, with the answers to the questions asked in the first half being far less interesting than the questions. The whole thing is still a pretty fun summer action movie.

Splice (2009)
Once I got over how short-sighted and impulsive the scientists acted, this turned out to be an interesting piece of sci-fi/monster horror.

The World’s Greatest Athlete (1973)
The Disney formula doesn't always work. Sometimes you get a movie like this one, that has a couple good sequences, but ultimately is just too silly for its own good.

The Singing Ringing Tree (1957)
I read an article that claimed that this might be the best children's fantasy movie ever made, so I decided to check it out. It is a very pretty morality/fairy tale with lush production design. Some of the costumes and effects are extremely dated, but they rarely look cheesy as they are still interesting to look at. It was quite an enjoyable movie (though I wish I could have watched a subtitled version instead of one with an English narrator). And for the record, The Wizard of Oz is still the best children's fantasy movie ever made.

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Eddie Murphy is engaging, but there was very little to distinguish it from similar 80s movies.

Blade II (2002)
I was eager to see this since it was directed by Guillermo del Toro but was very disappointed. The story was unengaging and the big plot twists were dumb.

Oldboy (2003)
In the middle there is an amazing fight sequence. It takes place in a hallway where the main character fights off about a dozen attackers, armed only with his fists and a hammer. The fight is brutal and is staged in one continuous shot. It is an astounding piece of filmmaking. I just couldn't connect with the rest of the film. And by the end, when all the secrets are revealed, I was repulsed by the directions the narrative took. It also didn't help that Netflix streaming only had a dubbed version of the film.

The Adventures of Hercules (1985)
THIS is the Hercules movie that has him turn into a cartoon as the climax. In the sequel to 1983's Hercules, Lou Ferrigno once again stars as the Herc, this time tracking down the seven thunderbolts of Zeus which have been scattered across Greece. The plot is no better than that of a video game; Hercules defeats a monster to reclaim the thunderbolt then instantly travels to the next place where he faces off against the next monster. There are visual effects all over the movie, but they all look terrible, especially the scene in which Hercules battles a glowing ball of light and when he faces off against a gorgon in a blatant (and terrible) ripoff off Clash of the Titans. The dialog is laugh out loud atrocious, and for reasons known only to the filmmakers, every time Herc lands a punch, the screen flashes red. But the absolute cinematic pinacle of the movie is the climax. Hercules and Minos battle each other in the stars as bad rotoscoped images of themselves, occationally transforming into various animals to make everything more thrilling. Then, once Minos has been defeated, Herc gets huge and stops the moon from colliding with the earth. I was wrong earlier; THIS is the worst Hercules movie ever made.

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