The holiday movie season has officially started, dragging me away from my apartment, through the chilly weather and to my local movie theater. The question is, will any of the big budget holiday flicks be worth the price of admission? I’ve seen a few so far this month, so I thought I’d share my opinions on those movies. I’ve also thrown in some thoughts about a couple movies I caught on DVD from the library.
Ender’s Game– Adapting books into movies is a tricky thing. For one thing, you need to be faithful to the source material to please us mega fans. At the same time, you also need to make a good movie. Ender’s Game may have succeeded with the first task, but it fails with the second. It feels like the writers went through the book, wrote down a list of all the important bits, and strung them together in the most artless way possible. So characters or themes that get chapters of development are explained away in one brief scene, or just a line or two of dialogue. The result is while Ender’s Game surely has it’s strong, and suspenseful moments, and the acting is just fine, it feels like you’re constantly being told what to feel, but never actually feel it. So you’re told than Ender is special, but do you believe it? On top of that, aging up the characters, while it results in stronger performances, has the unforeseen consequence of speeding up the timeline. So it kind of looks like they trusted the fate of the human race to a kid they’ve been training for a few months. Not very credible. C-
Thor: The Dark World– Wow have these phase two MCU movies been divisive! The main difference here is while Iron Man 3 didn’t always mesh with me, I really enjoyed the second Thor movie. Is it perfect? No. The villain felt weak, and the romance still isn’t quite there yet, but gosh did I have a fun time with this one. The movie continued its emphasis on family, which I really liked, and the interactions between the character are quite strong. I felt that the humor seemed to be better handled in this film than in Iron Man 3 (oh boy, THAT cameo really cracked me up), the actions sequences are great, and I’m happy with every casting decision. Unlike other viewers I’ve encountered, I didn’t find the beginning slow, not did I find the plot to be overly complicated or overly simplistic. Thor: The Dark World is a film that engaged me emotionally and got me excited, which is really what I desire most from these big budget comic book movies. B+
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire– Catching Fire does what Ender’s Game failed to do. It manages to be faithful to the source material while still providing a high quality film. I don’t even know where to start. What about the casting? Clearly, this is Jennifer Lawrence’s time to shine, but everyone, including some actors I have actively disliked up until now (Sam Claflin, who knew he could act?), does a really good job, despite the fact that no one looks like how I pictured them while reading the book. While The Hunger Games was enjoyable, Catching Fire manages to improve on the first film’s flaws by giving us a more direct view of the carnage of the arena (far less shaky cam), a better presentation of side characters, smoother pacing, and just all around better directing (Francis Lawrence? You better be coming back for Mockingjay!). Catching Fire is a movie that it tense when it needs to me, moving when necessary, and doesn’t have a dull moment. They even put back in the scene from The Hunger Games book that I was so pissed about them taking out of the first film. This may be the best movie I’ve seen all year. A
And the rentals…
Epic– Wow. This is the most jaw droppingly beautiful animated movie I have seen in a long time. It’s such a pity that the story is so meh. On one hand, Epic looks like pure Nancy-bait (given the strong female protagonist, devil may care love interest, magic-based plot, exciting fight scenes), but I ultimately found I didn’t really care about what was going on all that much. Also, CGI animated movies are beginning to all look the same to me, and Epic is a prime example of that. They all have action-filled plotlines, snappy dialogue, quirky and cute sidekicks, and just enough heart to give it meaning, but keep it from feeling sappy. Now, I’m not saying that these are bad things, but if all of your CGI animated movies look the same, then nothing really stands out. Not an awful movie, but not all that great either. C-
Red: Werewolf Hunter– Sometimes our loyalties to actors bring us to some awful films. Red: Werewolf Hunter is a prime example of that. One of my favorite actresses, Felicia Day, stars as the eldest daughter in a family of werewolf hunters. Red: Werewolf Hunter is a film that is problematic on pretty much every level. The plot very often veers into illogical places, the acting overall is wooden (even though Day has her moments, this is far from her strongest performance), the script is frequently cringe worthy, the fairy tale elements do not mesh well with overall storyline, the villains feel like rip offs of superior performances and well… it’s just boring. What’s frustrating about Red: Werewolf Hunter, is you can’t help but feel like there are some really cool ideas here. Unfortunately, the end result is so sloppy and dull that you almost don’t care. D
Next up? Frozen and The Hobbit!