Movie Review | Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians came out around Christmas time last year.  Since I’m a sucker for animated films I’ve been dying to see this one.  I wasn’t expecting much and I don’t know why I felt that way but I was more than pleasantly surprised by the quality of this movie.

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SUMMARY

Rise of the Guardians is about a band of children’s heroes forced to put aside their differences to fight the onslaught of evil suddenly invading the children of the world.  The Boogeyman has unleashed his evil powers on the children in attempts to gain the children’s belief in him and, in turn, snuff out their belief in the guardians.

Our main character in this film is Jack Frost.  He is a spirited and fun-loving young man with a deep longing for friendship; however, he is invisible to all children, no matter how hard he tries to get them to believe in him and, in turn, love him.

REVIEW

This film is a perfect feel-good, holiday movie.  The screenwriting, characters, and artistry were whimsical, colorful, and all around lovable.

The Rise of the Guardian’s screenwriters did an excellent job making Jack Frost lovable and relatable.  He is everyone that has ever been left out, misunderstood, or ignored.  They also did an excellent job with character arc.  Most of the characters molded into new, more lovable characters throughout the movie.  They each were confronted with their own wrongdoing and forced to battle it head on.  The only character exempt from any character arc was the Sandman and that’s because he was this sort of role model, grandfather figure who had it right from the beginning.

Creativity oozed from the characters.  The Rise of the Guardian‘s knocked these done and redone characters out of the park and gave them wholly new, and very appealing, identities.  And all the little details about the stories of each of the characters were not only addressed but they were integral parts of the story.  The new take on how the Sandman, Toothfairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa got to each child in one night was intensely imaginative and eye-popping. I particularly loved how they focused more on the lesser known characters of the Sandman, Jack Frost, and the Tooth Fairy and brought reason to dreaming, the collecting of teeth and all things cold and wintery.

By the end of the movie I was left with a heart beaming with gladness, eyes full of wonder, and all of two small qualms.  My issues were a result of two open-ended statements left unattended.  At one point in the movie Jack Frost lets the band of guardians down.  The Easter Bunny is particularly let down and he says “Easter is about new life and new beginnings…”  The reason why this line bothered me was because if that’s what the Easter Bunny’s “center” is about then he should have been the first to accept Jack Frost and the first to forgive him for making a mistake, however grave.  The second statement that remained unanswered was in the final battle of the film.  The kids had discovered a secret to the demise of the Boogeyman and in one instant Jamie, the first friend and believer of Jack Frost, says “I know what we have to do.”  I assumed that this meant it was up to the kids to defeat the Boogeyman once and for all; instead, the Boogeyman is simply knocked out and when he awakes again he is suddenly no longer a threat because the children don’t believe in him.  For such a brilliantly woven film to leave the movie hanging on a loose thread that could have been tied in beautifully was very disappointing.  As a result of this the ending was stiff and generic.

CONCLUSION

I love how this story was written through the eyes of our children’s imaginations.  So many movies now-a-days are created from the parents perspective where there is revelation that the parents put the presents under the tree and the parents trade the tooth for the gift.  I’m not even an advocate for planting lies in little kid’s minds, however innocent and small, but in the made-up world of imagination and creativity, keeping the real world wholly out of it is truly a stroke of beautiful brilliance.

I would highly recommend this movie to anyone of all ages and backgrounds.  Whether adult or child we all need a little dose of childlikeness every once in a while.  Besides, I promise you will be left with a heart that feels like it was just warmed by the fire while you sat in the world’s most cozy chair with a heavenly cup of hot cocoa in hand.

If you had to be one of these children’s heroes, who would you be and why?

  1. Santa Claus
  2. Easter Bunny
  3. Tooth Fairy
  4. Sandman
  5. Jack Frost

Photo credit:  http://alienbee.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/rise-of-the-guardians-banner.jpg

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Movie Review | Oz the Great and Powerful

 

I got to see Oz after a decadent meal at The Lucky Monk with Mom and Dad.  Quick plug, for those of you who live in the area and haven’t been it is well worth a visit, or two, or five 😉  Anyway, afterwards we all headed over to the theater to take in the seemingly Oz the Great and Powerful.  Not a total let down, but it definitely was not what I hoped it would be.
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SUMMARY

Oz the Great and Powerful is the bridge between the story of Wicked and The Wizard of Oz.  Wicked is the story of how The Wicked Witch of the West came to be.  Though Oz the Great and Powerful disregards the Wicked story as it paints a different back story for The Wicked Witch of the West it offers a new perspective on how The Wizard of Oz came to be.  And finally, in the classic The Wizard of Oz we are given the story of how true balance is restored in the land of Oz by the heroics of a young woman and her band of unlikely friends.

The story of Oz the Great and Powerful starts in Kansas with Oscar Diggs (James Franco) wooing a young maiden.  He is a traveling magician for the Baum Bros Circus.  Just as in The Wizard of Oz we are taken through the beginning of the story with black and white film in a square format and are thoroughly introduced to key characters and moments immediately.  In the short time we are in Kansas with Oscar we are introduced to his major character flaws of womanizing, dishonesty, and selfishness; his blatant abuse and under-appreciation of his assistant Frank; and a key exchange with a crippled girl.

Right after Oscar’s magical performance he is sucked into the heart of a tornado by air balloon.  Soon enough the film slowly transitions from black and white to very colorful and from a square format to the traditional wide-screen of today.  He immediately meets Theodora (Mila Kunis) and hears of a prophecy foretelling a wizard would fall out of the sky to save the land of Oz.  Remaining true to his deceitful character Oscar claims to be this foretold wizard upon hearing he would inherit a throne and a room full of gold.  The remainder of the story unfolds from here.

REVIEW

Oz the Great and Powerful is one of those movies that doesn’t really know what it is.  Overall, it generally felt like it was thrown together with cheesy humor attempting to be the glue.  Everything about this movie screamed of underdone to me: the acting was poor, the plot shallow, a character arc was mostly nonexistent, the cinematography was generic, and the dialogue juvenile.

I hate to criticize acting because it’s almost impossible to tell if poor acting is a result of the actor or if it is because of the directing or screenwriting.  Regardless, the performances put on by all the leads, James FrancoMila KunisRachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams, felt more like poor debuts of Hollywood wanna-bes.  In this case I think it was a combination of choosing the wrong actors to fill these cheesy comedic roles and poor screenwriting.  The only actress who pulls it off convincingly is Michelle Williams, everyone else felt very forced and awkward.

Other than the plot described above the story doesn’t go much farther.  All throughout the movie the plot casually and uneventfully walks through Oz collecting characters.  There are mild encounters with the other main character shortly after but the only major event in the movie happens at the very end and that even feels lack luster.

Based on the introduction of the self-seeking and lying Oscar I assumed I was in for some character development.  Instead, I am left with an itty bitty character arc – in the end, Oscar saves the day but I felt no real victory for his character because it was all without humility and honesty.

Though the film work was impressive, especially in the tornado scene, I found there to be little artistry in it.  Unlike my recent experience with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters the use of cinematography in Oz the Great and Powerful stuck to all the basics.

And my final disappointment was with the dialogue – it all fell into cheesy, chatty talk that was of no interest, nor real importance.  Because of this none of the characters held any real substance nor could they pull at my heartstrings. However, the exception to this statement is a little China doll.  Her character is the only one with a strong personality and her back story combined with her cute wit make her undoubtedly endearing.

CONCLUSION

When I watched the trailer for Oz the Great and Powerful I knew the movie could go one of two ways:  one, the whole movie would be as exciting and solid as the trailer or, two, the trailer gave away all the best parts of the movie.  My opinion is that this movie did the latter, much to my dismay.

Theater-worthy movies to me are movies oozing with big action and overwhelming cinematography; Oz the Great and Powerful possessed neither.  Props to the trailer creator though because they had me fooled enough to get me into the theater.  It’s an entertaining movie, but I recommend waiting for it to come out on video before putting in the time to watch it.

Movie Review | Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

On Thursday I got to go on a date with my parents 🙂  We went to Hansel & Gretel:  Witch Hunters then out to eat at Chatters.

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I expected the movie to be dark and gory and yet I was still inclined to go – I typically avoid scary movies like cats avoid water.

A SUMMARY THAT DOESN’T GIVE AWAY THE MOVIE

The premise of the movie is based on the Grimm’s fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. A pair of siblings, a boy and a girl, stumble on a house made of candy nestled in the thick of the woods.  Upon eating some of the candy right off of the structure the inhabitant, a witch, captures them.  She fattens the children up intending to eat, but, instead, the witch falls into the roaring fire herself.  Morbid story for children isn’t it?  Hansel & Gretel:  Witch Hunters begins here and henceforth sets Hansel and Gretel’s life’s work as witch hunters.

Several years later the viewer meets the adult Hansel and Gretel in a troubled small town.  They are hired by the town mayor to track down 11 missing children.

REVIEW

Hansel & Gretel:  Witch Hunters was all about maximum gore and comedic thrill with a big helping of sexy.  As a pansy when it comes to scary movies I found myself unfazed  which means this movie was of the scary as comedy genre; even though the setting was perpetually dark and the witches donned gross, creepy faces, the abundance of sarcastic remarks from Hansel and Gretel, the shameless use of gorgeous actors for the stardom siblings, and the comedic presentation of the gore the movie was left no more scary than Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

The entertainment value in the film was wrapped up in the action, quick camera cuts, talented costume designers, and quick, gory wit.  Every moment was action-packed with only a handful of quiet moments.  The intention in camera choices was clearly all about capturing that action and the intensity.  Then there were also these brilliant costume designs, especially on the witches.  At one point in the movie I actually turned to my mom and said “someone sure had fun with the costumes huh?”  The wardrobe was a sort of Lord of the Rings orcs meets Disney’s witches – the faces were grotesque with grey pallor, excess wrinkles and scars, and covered in a variety of nasty sores.  I’m not one to appreciate or enjoy buckets of gore to laugh and point at but I definitely could tell Hansel & Gretel:  Witch Hunters‘ screenwriters were hunting for that audience.

Though I found the movie entertaining it’s plot  was shallow, character development was nonexistent, and I took offense to a particular exchange.  The premise of taking the childhood story of Hansel and Gretel and growing it into adulthood with an intriguing profession was brilliant.  However, I could tell that was about the end of their storytelling concern.  From that point on all the writing choices seemed to be based around producing as much action, sex appeal and gore as possible to entertain the very core of all that is sinful – this film didn’t just want the fans of horror or thrillers, they also wanted the fans of fantasy and sexy.  Because of that choice there also was not a shred of character development.  The acting even only served to produce cool stunts and quick sarcasm.  Emotional color was absent, not even the sexual scene with Hansel and Mina, the briefly tearful moment with Gretel, or the scene with Mina’s death possessed any gripping feelings.  The last shortcoming of this film was a simple, but acute cutting remark made by Muriel when we first meet her.  A search party of hardy men fall prey to Muriel and with the last live traveler mumbling “oh god” before her she says, “not even your god comes here.”  As a Christian I was affronted because I knew the writer explicitly included that remark to snuff faith and because I’m all too well aware that God certainly can, and does, rid the world of darkness all the time.

CONCLUSION

The point of Hansel & Gretel:  Witch Hunters was quick and hard entertainment.  It would be good for anyone interested in dark fairy tales, thrillers, and gore but not necessarily those longing for a scary or a horror film.  I won’t say not to see it because only seeing it satiated my curiosity as a fairy tale, Disney nut, but if you do, guard your heart against the darkness because no one needs that filth in their system, even if it’s made out to be comedy instead of evil.

Image courtesy of ACESHOWBIZ

Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

I finally got to watch Wreck-It Ralph!  I have been so excited to see this movie and was not disappointed.

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Disney animated films are my favorite films in the world.  So much so I frequently cuddle up with my dogs and the likes of Tangled (my #1 obsession), Brave, Mulan, and Tarzan.  I happen to still own multitudes of Disney movies on VHS because I stubbornly insist that they are simply not the same on DVD.  In my defense, if you put in Lion King on VHS then put in the enhanced DVD you too will see a difference – what I love about classic Disney movies is that they were hand drawn, but that raw quality is lost when they are converted to enhanced DVDs.

Wreck-It Ralph, like its predecessors, was full of cute banter, lovable characters, on-the-edge-of-your-seat-action, and tear-jerker moments.  It amazes me how the statements “everything has been done” and “every story has been told” always seem to melt away when I watch movies like Wreck-It Ralph.  This story had not been done before.

SUMMARY

Wreck-It Ralph is about Wreck-It Ralph.  This story is a sort-of coming of age, action film about heroes and friendship with a sprinkle of romance – you know, just to keep it interesting.

Ralph is the villain in a retro arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr.  The game is simple, Ralph wrecks the building and the gamer manipulates Felix to fix it.  But Ralph grows weary of acting as the villain and embarks on an adventure filled with unlikely friends, candy, and cy-bugs to prove he’s a good guy.

REVIEW

Wreck-It Ralph is a film full of colorful settings and characters backed up by an original and heart-wrenching tale.  All the best things.

As a 24-year-old woman with a child-like spirit and an abounding love of color I was totally enraptured by the land of Sugar rush and the playful spirit it embodied.  At several points I was wishing the game Sugar Rush were a real game so I could play it (hint, hint Disney).  The other main settings of Hero’s Duty and Fix-It Felix Jr were also brilliant and enticing but both paled in comparison to Sugar Rush.

We are brought into the story through Fix-It Felix Jr with a monologue from Ralph.  The game setting embodies the early arcade games with the pixellated structure and the more subdued and simple color palette.

Hero’s Duty was tailored around the dark and dangerous mission of the game, to destroy all the cy-bugs.  In this case, the setting is mainly painted in black and neon green with high-definition and dramatic illustration.

Our main character, Ralph is a lovable, though hot-tempered, underdog villain who longs for friends and a cozy home.  The writers quickly entice the viewer to sympathizing with Ralph but only to an end.  Though Ralph lives in the dumps and has no friends he also proves to be mildly deserving when he unleashes his wrath among his game-mates and stomps off in resolve.  This simple moment defines Ralph’s true character as a selfish and overgrown hot head. Then the viewer gets to watch him transform into a real hero.

Our secondary, and also flawed, character is Venellope.  She is a vibrant, yet irritating small girl.  The viewer also gets to watch her transform and grow-up but I won’t reveal how that goes.

And finally, we have Felix and Sergeant Calhoun.  These characters get thrown together as they hunt for Ralph in order to save the game Fix-It Felix Jr. from the fate of being unplugged and the unsuspecting land of Sugar Rush from a dangerous cy-bug invasion.  Sergeant Calhoun is an abrasive and intense character with a tragic back story and Felix is an optimistic, super-friendly little man.

And finally, the story is inherently original and heart-wrenching due to the unique tale of arcade game characters getting involved with each other by jumping games and the way the writer’s so intentionally make the viewer fall in love with the characters.  But that’s all I will divulge about that because otherwise I’ll give away all the good stuff!

My only qualm with the movie isn’t even a qualm because I see why it was necessary; I didn’t like that Ralph was a tragic character who I sympathized with then grew quick distaste for because of his rage and selfishness.  But, I suppose, this story wouldn’t be nearly as gripping if it was based around a troubled character who was inherently lovable   With a preface like that there would have been little room for Ralph to have a character curve.

CONCLUSION

Clearly I loved the story.  More than that, I loved that I was pleasantly reminded to avoid selfishness and of the real value of friendship.

Image borrowed from:  http://www.primagames.com/

P.S.  Check out my 100th Blog Post HERE!  Psst… I’m having a giveaway drawing over there :)