Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fun (mostly) with early reviews

I've been having fun perusing the early reviews of films coming to a theater near us.

First, some early takes on the film of the holiday  I am most looking forward to seeing, Disney's The Princess and the Frog:

 Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood reporter.
This is the best Disney animated film in years. Audiences -- who don't care whether it's cel animation, CGI, stop motion, claymation or motion capture as long as it's a good story -- will respond in large numbers. A joyous holiday season is about to begin for Disney.

 Lisa Schwarzbaum, Enterainment Weekly 
This old-fashioned charmer holds its own beside the motion-capture elegance of Disney's A Christmas Carol, the engrossing stop-motion universes of Coraline and Fantastic Mr. Fox, the CG-enhanced genius of Up, the wonder of 3-D technology, and, indeed, the unique, hand-drawn Japanese artistry of Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo as the year's deepest, most affecting, and most inventive movies.

Justin Chang, Variety - who's a little more mixed, but maybe my optimism interprets this as positive:

And whatever one makes of the material -- which sanitizes voodoo for mass moppet consumption and even serves up a G-rated Mardi Gras climax -- it's an unmistakable pleasure to behold an old-school, hand-drawn toon, assembled with pristine craftsmanship and attention to detail, at a time when CG, 3D and even stop-motion animation are all the rage.

Then there are the early review of Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. Harry Knowles of Ain't it Cool News, predictably, loved it. 

I know what you’re thinking. How can a film about the rape and murder of a beautiful 14 year old girl be anything other than traumatic, but frankly… the film is lovely.

Less convinced is Todd McCarthy, chief film critic of Variety:

Unfortunately, the massive success Jackson has enjoyed in the intervening years with his CGI-heavy "The Lord of the Rings" saga (the source of which receives fleeting homage in a bookstore scene here) and "King Kong" has infected the way he approaches this far more intimate tale. Instead of having the late Susie Salmon occupy a little perch in an abstract heavenly gazebo from which she can peer down upon her family and anyone else -- all that is really necessary from a narrative point of view -- the director has indulged his whims to create constantly shifting backdrops depicting an afterlife evocative of "The Sound of Music" or "The Wizard of Oz" one moment, "The Little Prince" or "Teletubbies" the next.

Ouch. I hope I disagree.

Now to cheer myself up with some of the delightful pans of a film not even Amy Adams could convince me to see, Old Dogs:

Keith Phipps, The Onion (A.V. Club):

Adults should steer clear. Kids should be sent to it only if they’ve been extraordinarily naughty.

James Berardinelli, Reelviews

What's wrong with this movie? A better question might be: What's right?

Ty Burr, Boston Globe:

A pitiful family comedy about two aging buddies forced to play daddy, it looks exactly like what you’d get if Robin Williams and John Travolta went out, got hammered, scrawled scenes on a bar napkin in random order, gave the napkin to “Wild Hogs’’ director Walt Becker, and filmed it. Trust me, you could do this at home and save yourself the $9.50.

Schwarzbaum, EW

Six-year-old boys may laugh at the bowwow of a comedy Old Dogs. But then, 6-year-old boys laugh at the word poop — and the word poop plays a big steaming part in this stinky endeavor.

And best of all is Drew McWeeny, AKA Morarity, of HitFix.com, who wrote THE most vicious and delightfully acidic pan I have read ALL year:

If "Old Dogs" were a person, I would stab it in the face.
Millions of years from now, after Western Civilization has fallen and the Earth has ruptured and cooled and been reborn and a new life form has taken over the planet, if any of them happen to stumble upon a working DVD player and a copy of "Old Dogs," they will sum up the passing of our culture with two simple words:  "Good riddance." ....
If you truly hate your family and you're all trapped together this weekend, and you reeeeeally want to punish them and show them just how little you value their joy, then by all means, pile into the car and rush out to find a theater playing "Old Dogs."  But if you have any self-respect at all, and if your time and your brain cells mean anything to you, then skip it.  It's not ironically awful.  It's not so bad it's great.  It is a soul-crushing experience, depressing and sad, bad enough to make me retroactively wish away the careers of all involved.
Sad indeed. I remember when Robin Williams' presence in a comedy was a GOOD thing. Now it's like a collision alarm


Scott Copeland said...

Thanks for linking to McWeeney's review. That is the pan of the decade.

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