Monday, June 02, 2003

Summer Movies thus far (6-2-03)

Finding Nemo
Starts with the Disney patented obligatory death of a parent, apparently to frighten ungrateful children into being thankful their parents have even taken them to a movie at all, since they COULD BE DEAD, Y'KNOW. After the Bambi moment, the dad fish, Marlin, is overprotective of the lone baby fish, Nemo, and so Nemo acts out on his first day of school and ends up in an aquarium in a dentist's office, so dad has to go find him to bring him home. I was surprised that Albert Brooks (the father fish) delivered such a fine vocal performance; he always strikes me as kinda cardboardy in his movies. Ellen DeGeneres as his buddy was a wash, though. She just doesn't have the vocal chops to pull off an animated character. She's funny doing stand-up, but she's oddly monotone, like Jerry Seinfeld, out of that context of stand-up (imagine Jerry as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, for instance). The character would have been 100% better if someone like Catherine O'Hara or Cheri Oteri or Andrea Martin had been the voice. And, for the first time in Disney animated history, outside of a running gag with seagulls, all the best gags are in the previews. The other big flaw is the latent politically correct tone of the whole thing. Nemo has an underdeveloped fin, so he's handicapped. Dad is neurotic from the death of his wife and 10,000 children, minus one. Dory, the comic relief pal, has short-term memory loss, so thus too is handicapped. The deus ex machina Pelican has a fetish for dentistry, so he comes to chat with the fish in the aquarium about the latest procedures, thus can only dine on fish who are strangers. The surrogate father/escape artist alpha fish in the aquarium has deep scars from landing on dental equipment during his many escape attempts (shudder). And the sharks are all trying to go vegan and have a 12 step support group to assist in swearing off their natural diet (phrase, "fish are friends, not food"). So everyone's messed up in some way and trying to cope, so the plot feels like it was cooked up in your local collegiate identity politics department to show how wonderful "diversity" is, and how much better it is if you've got some physical or mental wound to overcome as well. Wife, daughter, and I all gave it a film rating of: C-

TLD: My daughter was watching some Disney Christmas thang starring Goofy and his son, Max. (That Goofy actually managed to find a girl and produce progeny is something to contemplate all on its miraculous own, imho.) The music started to swell, and my daughter, all of four at the time, turned to me and said, "Daddy, I think Goofy's going to die." This with no prompting or other seeding of ideas from my wife or me. Apparently, the Disney = Parental Peril meme is so blatant, a small child can hone in on it, and worse, dread it. I laughed out loud as most parents do when surprised by a fresh example their child's brilliance and assured her that Goofy was very safe as he was a main Disney character (thus introducing the useful "red shirt" meme regarding a character's potential fate), and we went back to watching the show. However, I didn't point out that evidently Max's mom had met some terrible end already, probably through one of Goofy's spectacular slapstick accidents he's prone to. ("He-yuk! Garsh. Mommy's dead!") I wonder, did all the parents of the nieces and nephews of Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy die, or is divorce rampant in the Disney cartoon universe? Or maybe all the Disney podlings are the result of a hidden cartoon porn industry as described by Harlan Ellison.

Matrix Reloaded
Lotsa swat-fu, tail-chasing pseudo-intellectual dialogue, and gratuitous swearing in French (not one Keanu "Whoa" utterance though!). Nice, entertaining summer movie stuff. Decent sequel. It has a self-contained story arc, so we're not left hanging in hyperspace, as we were at the end of The Empire Strikes Back; and we're set up nicely for the next flick, due in November. The Wachowski bros. need to avoid love scenes, though; their influences there seem to be 70s porn rather than actual sex with real girls. Hugo "the elf lord" Weaving still delivers his lines like the evil Kirk in the episode where the transporter divides them into good "wimpy" Kirk and bad "I'll screw Yeoman Rand and then buzz the Klingons MWAHAHAHA!" Kirk, only neutered and heavily dosed with Quaaludes. I think its box-office performance (great open, relative free-fall since) proves the adage of wartime fiction consumption habits. When things are going well, movies can be dark, sinister and tragic and folks won't mind it, and even kinda enjoy a good bummer or two. During times of war and economic hardship, like right now, people tend to like bright, shiny, happy tales about heroes conquering evil, and things turning out OK. Stories about oppression from sinister machinations from above just don't seem to be people's cup of tea when it's actually happening in real life. Alternate theory: everyone knows they're going to buy it on DVD anyway, so why not save the ticket money for that purchase? Film Rating: B-

Bruce Almighty
A definite rental. I enjoyed it while there. Laughed a few times. I think Jim Carrey's funny and talented. I haven't had that much lust for Jennifer Aniston since she was the breakout girl on one season of "Friends" - man she's a cutie. But, once I walked out of the theatre, I didn't think about it again until now. (And then my primary contemplation has centered on whether I would prefer George Burns or Morgan Freeman if God manifested Himself in actorly form. Alanis Morissette is right out.) I didn't feel like quoting any lines from it at parties (universal adoption of dialogue or catch phrases being one of the signs of a great comedy, e.g. "That's OK, I can walk to the curb from here"). The theology didn't offend me, which in its own right is kind of an accomplishment these days. Though it was pretty much a retread of Oh God!, with a little Bedazzled thrown in. Film rating: B+

TLD: Why would you want to read yet another web stranger's movie reviews? Good question. The only professional movie critics worth the time are Roger Ebert and Lisa Schwarzbaum (not really available on the web due to the blocked-unless-you-subscribe-to-AOL idiot move of "Entertainment Weekly"). Most other pros are misanthropic Pauline Kael wanna-be's, and thus try for her bizarre, lop-sided sensibilities, making them mostly harmless and virtually useless. (Kael's essay, "Trash, Art, and the Movies" is worth searching out, however. It's brilliant.) Harry Knowles at Ain't-it-cool-news is usually worth checking out. I personally am getting a bang out of the 2Blowhards offerings - if you don't agree with their review, they usually have enough other stuff to chew on to make their reviews worth a few swings of the eyeballs. But, if those aren't enough, and if you find you have similar tastes to mine (though I'm a tart when it comes to both movies and music - so my eclecticism almost disqualifies me as a guide), and aren't doing anything else at the moment, then maybe on occasion I'll have something to offer, if only just a Cliff Claven trivia moment or two. Hope you enjoy.

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