I've watched a bunch of movies lately. During our vacation, we caught a double feature at a drive-in, just to do it, and one afternoon when it was 99 degrees outside, we went into town to see a movie just to escape the heat and dig some air conditioning. Also, had a few waiting on the DVR when we got home. So...
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Steve Carell has the "loser but with certain redeeming qualities" role down pat. I'd previously caught the scene where everyone comes together at the house and everything goes nuts, and it seemed well done, but obviously it would've helped to know how all of that insanity was built up, so I checked out the whole movie. Better than I thought it would be, not entirely predictable, and even with a weird twist or two.
You know what would've been awesome? If we hadn't seen David Lindhagen earlier in the film, only heard about him. Everybody knew his name, since Cal had said it about 100 times by then, then amidst all the chaos at the house, he shows up and it's Kevin Effing Bacon!
Anyway, fun movie, worth a second watch.
The Amazing Spider-Man
Not mind-blowing, but an interesting take on the story. Coming so soon after the Tobey Maguire movies, comparisons are inevitable and entirely fair, but I hate reviews that do nothing but compare a movie to previous versions. Unfortunately, that doesn't leave a lot. Uncle Ben's famous mantra showed up in multiple variations, making it almost comical how they seemed to be trying to repeat it yet not say it the same way. Many parallel scenes, some done better, some worse. I thought it was amusing when it occurred to me that Emma Stone kinda looks like Kirsten Dunst, and Kirsten's a blonde who went red to portray Mary Jane, while Emma went blonde to be Gwen (and yes, I'm aware that Emma is a natural blonde, but most people think she's a redhead because she's done so many roles as a redhead). It was weird seeing Emma as a high school kid after seeing her as a grad student.
I thought the giant lizard dude was a strange choice for the first main bad guy, but apparently that follows the comic books, so whatever.
That scene with the crane operators... oh man. Some people apparently found it moving or at least stirring, but I was just shaking my head at the absurdity of it. Oh well.
Regardless of whether or not they needed to reboot this series a mere 10 years after the last series began, they've done it, and it was pretty good. Worth one more watch for sure, to catch all the little things.
A lot of people are calling this one Pixar's first failure, and that's only because they don't even count Cars 2. Those looking to bump the count are calling it their second. I don't think that's fair. Pixar set the bar pretty high with a number of really good movies early on, and it was inevitable that they would start creating movies that were less than unqualified blockbusters. Also, while I didn't think Cars 2 was that great (I do consider it their first failure), I enjoyed Brave, apparently more than most.
It was a weird story that seemed to have trouble with what its message was. Was it "Don't be sexist?" or "Be brave, and that will help you... do something cool eventually" or "Bears aren't necessarily bad" or what? So let's forget that and figure that maybe there wasn't a moral as such. Sometimes you're just supposed to watch the movie and enjoy it.
The animation was of course absolutely amazing. The early scenes with the girl climbing the mountains, and the waterfall, I literally forgot that I was watching computer animation. I actually thought to myself that that's pretty good aerial photography right there. So it's Pixar and they're still the best in the business when it comes to animation, so there's not much more that can be said there.
Back to the story. Yeah, obviously something unexpected and tragic was going to happen regarding the spell and the girl's wish that her mother would "change". Should've been a bit more specific, my dear. I liked how the queen became a bear but was still the queen mentally and tried to act like it, and the bear mentality only took over slowly. I was surprised that she actually turned into a bear at all, given that the main antagonist was established as a bear from the king's story. Predictable that some confusion would arise, of course, but oddly set up.
I won't consider this one a "failure" by any means, but it was a weird one. Maybe Pixar does better with anthropomorphic toys and cars and bugs and fish and stuff, because a lot of people didn't think Up! was all that great (though I did), and now Brave didn't quite work for a lot of people, either. I'll watch it again when it comes round on cable, just to see if there's more foreshadowing or depth to it that I missed the first time.
Ice Age 4: Continental Drift
The first Ice Age was fun. The second wasn't bad, and while I don't actually remember much of it, I do remember watching it and thinking the entire time that it was a sequel and was pulling out all of the usual sequel tricks. I never saw the third one.
This one was pretty good, or maybe I was just really tired by this point. Or both. Family themes are a pretty common staple in family movies (go figure) so we have the teenager with the loser friend, trying to be cool with the cool kids, dumping on the friend, and of course the friend has to save everyone's life or do something else amazing to prove his worth. Yeah, so we knew how that was going to play out from the moment he was introduced.
Meanwhile, there was a whole deal with the pirates. Really? Prehistoric animal pirates? Okay, fine. Yay for Diego finally getting some... uh... pussy (can I say that? this is a family film after all) after four films. Okay seriously, my wife and daughter were talking about how we've explored Manny's family and Sid's family, while Diego has always been the loner, because cats are solitary creatures. So the girl is a pirate, she obviously has some loyalty issues, and once again we know how it's gonna turn out, but I guess the one "twist" pretty much had to happen as well. In fact, that particular twist is so clichéd that it might as well be part of the basic formula.
Not a complete waste of time, but we were there to see Brave and this was the other feature, so whatever. Would not watch again.
Love and Other Drugs
I love Anne Hathaway. I think she's absolutely beautiful, and it's refreshing that an actress who's established herself isn't afraid to get naked in a movie. It used to be more common, but America has just gotten so prudish that most actresses won't do it once they're made a name for themseves because they're afraid it will cheapen them or something. So Yay for Anne. It's not just about seeing pretty girls naked; really it's not. It's about writing characters and movies and roles with stories to tell that include physical intimacy and actors not being afraid to take them on. It didn't used to be such a big deal, then it became a huge deal. Enough about that.
It was billed as a comedy, and indeed it was, but it had a surprisingly serious subplot to it, Maggie's medical condition. There is no cure for Parkinson's, and yes she spent most of the movie frustrated by it, but not exactly wallowing in self-pity. She had her art and she had her life. It's more that she's accepted her fate and come to terms with it, and she really wishes that Jamie would respect her wishes and stay the hell away. Not so that she can live in self-pity, but because she honestly does not want to burden anyone. Finding a support group, something that for some reason it had never occurred to her to before, was revelatory, and it helped her a lot. Unfortunately, what it helped her to do was find the strength to continue her struggle alone. She became convinced more than ever that she didn't need Jamie. And he of course wasn't going to give up because let's face it, she looks pretty fucking fantastic naked. No! I mean because he loves her! He really does care! Yeah, that's what I meant.
Overall, the movie seemed to lack balance. Jamie is a pharmaceutical rep, but we spend almost all of his time following one client, Dr. Knight (Hank Azaria). Pharma reps have hundreds of physicians on their call plans. I think we got a quick scene showing how Jamie has other clients, then it seemed to focus just on the one. And Trey, the ex-Marine competition guy. And Bruce, Jamie's mentor and boss. And Jamie's brother Josh, who's a millionaire but still a loser living on his brother's couch. We met Jamie's family early on, then never followed up with them.
I don't know... it seemed like with all of these characters, we had plenty of material, but the mix didn't turn out right. Ultimately, the movie didn't give a damn about any of the others; all that mattered was Jamie and Maggie. Did we care if Jamie got the Chicago assignment? Did we care if Josh either got laid or went back to his wife? Only so much as it meant he'd be out of Jamie's apartment. Did we care about Dr. Knight or Trey, or Cindy the cute receptionist with the white hose? Not really.
Would watch again, but honestly, just to see Anne Hathaway naked. The story was okay, but it was a mess and had too many characters and seemed to be trying to do something, and failing. Or maybe it wasn't really a comedy. She has an incurable disease, so it was a given that they wouldn't live happily ever after. The best they could hope for was... what we got.