Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Moonlight Movie Reviews - Lincoln, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, and Rise of the Guardians

 Well, I know it's taking a while to get a new comic strip up. We'll get out of that funk eventually. Right now, I have to take those paying art gigs just to survive, so haven't had much time for anything else. I've got about 4 gigs I'm trying to settle up over this week and next, and 2 more to follow. However, I'll try to get a new strip out in-between. In the meantime, we'll keep posting our other staples, Monty's Crush of the Week, some new Management Recommendations, and tonight, some of my somewhat late Movie Reviews. If you haven't seen the movies, hey, these reviews can still be useful. It's a bit tough for me to catch things on opening weekend these days, ha. My mother is still in town from her Thanksgiving visit though, so I did get to see a rather interesting mix. So, let's get started with those right now! 

Well, first up, a few days ago, I went with family to see "Lincoln", the Daniel Day-Lewis starring biopic on the favorite American President directed by Stephen Spielberg, the favorite American director. Can I just begin by asking one thing? WHERE WERE ALL THE VAMPIRES?!!

Oh, well. Turns out this is a very reality-based film, but it still may not be what you'd expect. In fact, SOME audience members will probably find most of this film very boring. I'm not saying I did, I didn't, but I could see how some people would feel that way. Keep in mind that one of my favorite films is "1776", the musical primarily about writing the Declaration of Independence. That movie is mostly congress sitting in session arguing with each other, and singing more often then not. Well, much of this film (not all of it, but a lot) is like 1776 if it WASN'T a musical. Truly. That gives you a good idea of what you're in for with at least the first half of the film. And, if you are really set on seeing a movie about Lincoln's life from birth to death, you'd probably get more satisfaction from "Abe Lincoln - Vampire Hunter", no doubt. See, as it turned out, this movie is entirely about getting the 13th Amendment passed to end slavery. It's about how Lincoln gets the job done and the struggles and relationships involved in it. It's NOT about the entire life of Abraham Lincoln. It's basically about his second term in office through to his death (and, if that last part is a spoiler for you, that is so sad).
Now, don't get the wrong idea, this is a great film. The acting and directing is top of the line. Everything in this film is. And, what's the deal? Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt going to be in EVERYTHING now? Jeez! And, don't think this is all politics. It is mostly politics, some family drama, but also, thankfully, some lighthearted, humorous moments that are still a part of the plot, courtesy of James Spader and cohorts. There are many people worth mentioning in this. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones play excellent roles. Of course, this is Daniel Day-Lewis's film, but I felt everyone in this one was equally impressive and significant to the film. It's a very, very good movie, the kind that screams Oscar, though I can see how it would not be for everyone. I think the biggest thing in that regard is what I said before. Plot-wise, it's a lot like 1776 without the music. I recommend it to the true lovers of American history and/or great acting/filmmaking.

And now, for something completely different...

What's that? Disappointed about the lack of vampires in the previous review? Well, no vampires in this one either. It's a Twilight film. Okay, all kidding aside,... well, actually, first, let me say that I saw this one mainly because my cousin is in it. She plays Aunt Huilen. So, I took my mother to an afternoon showing today, not realizing the Alamo Drafthouse has a "Baby Day", and today was it. Meaning, babies are allowed to come to any movie and cry and scream their little heads off. Actually though, they were mostly pretty well behaved the whole time, and I don't blame them. This movie was sooo relaxing! Seriously. I'm not saying it was a good movie, but, in all honestly, it was an enjoyable enough experience. It was mostly a lot of beautiful people talking softly amid beautiful surroundings, and there were werewolves too, so,... it was like... relaxing. Plus, there WAS this big, epic battle at the end that was actually pretty cool! BUT... then they poked you in the eye on that one. I don't want to spoil it for ya, but, man. I thought it was getting pretty ballsy there at the end, but it was a psych out. Why? Because, basically, this film saga is the writer's masturbatory fantasy, so, SPOILER ALERT, everything works out in the end with no serious losses. 

Let me say a bit about the plot though. And, also, I should mention that I haven't seen most of these movies. Still, I know a little about 'em; enough that I wasn't at all confused about what was happening, mostly. You could probably get the full saga experience just by watching the first film and this one. Anyway, this starts out when Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) has just been turned into a vampire by, if I got things straight, her new husband, the vampire, Edward. He turned her to keep her from dying in childbirth. That must have all been in part one of "Breaking Dawn" though. Anyway, in this movie, we see the family settling in with their new baby, we find out the werewolf, Jacob, has an interesting connection to the kid, and everyone is soon scared for their lives because the vampire mafia is coming to do some executions on the Cullen family for making a vampire kid (sorta like in Interview with the Vampire, they are forbidden). The boss vampires just don't know that this vampire kid is a human/vampire hybrid and has control, and also that she ages (rather quickly, it seems).

So, what's the good and bad of this movie, the final in a film series that has split the country, nay, the world, not over Edward vs. Jacob, but over their love vs. hate of the saga itself? Well, what's good about this film is that it is relaxing, has a lot of prettiness and eye candy, there are werewolves, my cousin is in it, and some of the visuals are interesting/amusing, if not particularly well-done. The villain guy is sufficiently freaky too, ha. That brings us to the bad. While the film is actually engaging enough, it's definitely based on some weak writing. Like I said, it's not big on getting realistically dramatic and serious, it's a fantasy-romance novel on the bigscreen, literally. It is shallow and unintentionally silly and campy. But, that's something you probably knew already or else completely disagree with on principle. So, what else? Everyone comments on Kristen Stewart's constant, deadpan expressions and deliveries. They continue to be present. I think the worst part about Kristen in this one is that stale narration. Honestly, narration only works in a few movies. I don't know if the Twilight films could tell their story without narration, but they probably should have tried. There's something even worse in this film though, and that's the CGI. I like that their werewolves look like large wolves, but they totally look like CGI. All the CGI in this movie is blatantly obvious. And, the worst part was the CGI baby. Yes, Bella and Edward's baby is actually at least partially CGI, and it is creepy looking! And, for the life of me, I can't think of WHY that was truly necessary.

Having said all that though, the bottom line I have to lay down is this: I was never actually bored in this movie. I was entertained the whole time. I have to give it that. It wasn't really good, but it was engaging. It's too bad the big fight at the end turned out the way it did, because while it had a cleverness about it, it also destroyed all the impact the events of that battle had. As run of the mill as it would have been had things not turned out the way they did, it would have felt a tad less like just a long bubble bath in the end.  

But, enough about that! It's Christmas!

Okay, so, this one I actually saw twice! Though not perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Did it fully reach all its potential, not quite, but it was still very good. 

"Rise of the Guardians" comes off a bit like a superhero team movie made up of the famous characters of childhood legend such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy. In this story (perhaps the first of many if it turns a profit, since it is based on a book series a la so many past, sadly failed attempts in live-action to mimic the successes of Harry Potter and Twilight), Santa Claus gathers the other Guardians together when he discovers an ancient evil called Pitch is back in action and looking to destroy the childhood fantasy icons and bring fear and nightmares back into the limelight as they were in the Dark Ages. The Man in the Moon, an unseen entity who empowers the Guardians, has also informed them that they are to recruit a new member, Jack Frost, currently an aimless spirit who goes about creating snow, ice, and blizzards purely for his own enjoyment. This is definitely Jack Frost's movie. It's about both his learning about his own past as well as becoming a member of the Guardians, which both involve figuring out who he was, is, and wants to be. The Guardians themselves, as well as the villain Pitch, all have great personalities, though we don't get into their backstories at all, so we don't fully get to know them. It's not a huge problem, but it's one thing that could be picked on. The movie is visually gorgeous, and the celebrity voices do a fantastic job. Hard to believe that's Alec Baldwin as Santa Claus, who is played here like a boisterous, Russian fellow also known as "North". The highlight though, was definitely Hugh Jackman as the Australian accented, boomerang chucking Easter Bunny. Isla Fisher is an odd-looking, but still charming, hummingbird-inspired Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman, well, he is silent, but full of personality. Jude Law is excellent and beautifully animated too as the villain, Pitch. The star of the whole deal though, must be Chris Pine (of Star Trek) as Jack Frost. 

I wouldn't say this is quite on the level of most PIXAR movies, but I did like it a lot. Of course, I'm a nut for the holiday characters. Probably the only thing I wanna be hard on here is the pacing, which is what most people complain about on this one. A lot of folks are making the excuse that it is a kids' movie, but that doesn't fly with me since I don't think that is ever a reason to be half-assed about a film or dumb it down, or worry about attention spans (when I was a kid, we had kids' movies that were very adult and didn't have to move at 100mph from beginning to end), and I just in general hate the attitude that if something is animated, it is just intended for kids, even if that IS the main target audience in this country. This particular film only slows down in a couple of areas, off the top of my head, and thank goodness for those. It is usually very fast paced from very early on. Like I said though, it's almost a superhero movie, really, so I get that to some degree, but I still think it would have done well to have even a bit less of the noisy action stuff, particularly in the beginning. It is probably the intro of Santa Claus that seems the most thrown at you. Maybe because it is the first intro of an already Guardian character, happening right after the intro of Jack Frost that is more satisfyingly shown. I guess they wanted it clear that this is Frost's film. At any rate, I would have liked Santa's intro to be a bit more relaxed and his character a bit more developed. In fact, just doing that MIGHT have made the rest of the film's pace fine. The problem also may have been amplified by the boisterous take on the Santa character though. I suppose most of us would have imagined Santa as the top leader of this group instead of the unseen Man in the Moon, or at least with a more serious personality (after all, Frost is supposed to be the fun one). That might have worked a bit better, at least upon first introducing him. Perhaps his wild side could have come out as the adventure proceeded as a bit of a surprise to the others.

All in all, there's not a lot to complain about though, as this movie is mostly great! There might be a few minor logic holes, even within the logic of the film, and maybe some character designs or personalities weren't as pleasing as others, but those opinions will vary from person to person. It is all done very elaborately, the film has its deeper, touching moments, it's great nostalgia for the kid who grew up with these childhood legends, and it's loads of fun, too. Things for Pitch didn't turn out exactly like I'd thought they would, and MAYBE it would have been an even better movie if they had, but I still say this is a really, really great one that I highly recommend for the holidays! I really do wish some decent action figures came out for this one. Go see it!

Incidentally, not the FIRST time Santa Claus has gone up against Pitch onscreen!

Santa Claus (1959), check it out!

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