With the Oscars behind us, it’s nearly time for summer blockbuster season. That’s right you’ll soon be able to restock your collection of 3D glasses.
True, the last couple of Oscar seasons have featured a 3D giant or 2, but nothing captures the magic of 3D like Thor’s hammer flying out of the screen at you.
Let the anticipation begin. In just a few short days…yes, the summer blockbuster season now starts in March…the explosions, the action sequences, and the 3D induced nausea will begin.
At least for 11 percent of us, that is. For 55 percent of us we’ll leave that theater with the thrill of a summer blockbuster and some physical complaint that we attribute to 3D technology.
If only there were some way to curb these discomforts, some kind of technology that allowed us to enjoy our film sans vomit bag, some kind of entertainment that did not require premedication with ibuprofen…
Perhaps someday…until then take comfort from these words of advice: If 3D movies make you dizzy, nauseous, and/or cause you physical pain, see the movie in 2D. Because at the end of the film it really doesn’t matter how many superheroes fly off the screen in your direction as long as you remembered to enjoy the show.
NBC News: 3-D Movies Leave Many Feeling Sick
Journeying into the world of children’s movies can be a little scary for an anyone over the age of six. We can only handle so many cheap, easy jokes and overly simplified plots and themes.
A children’s movie about zombies holds equal terror, but in the case of “ParaNorman” these fears are blessedly not realized. Because it’s okay to scare the kids every once in a while. They can handle it.
That right there is probably what impressed me most about this movie, but plenty else did too. First, a brief synopsis.
Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a little strange. He’s eleven years old, has a father (Jeff Garlin) who doesn’t understand him, a mother (Leslie Mann) who is insanely caring and understanding, a sister (Anna Kendrick) who’s a teenage girl, and a grandmother (Elaine Stritch) who’s dead.
Did I mention that Norman sees and talks to dead people (this is where the similarities to “The Sixth Sense” end)?
He’s different and he’s ostracized because of it, not only by kids at school, but his own father and most of the town.
That town is the small town of Blithe Hollow, a hamlet completely defined by a centuries-old witch-hunt (of the literal kind) and the resulting curse, a tall tale to everyone but Norman who’s just discovered the reality of the situation from his dead, crazy uncle (John Goodman).
What follows is a little scary, a little funny, and incredibly well done. Yes, there are zombies and witches and ghosts, but what “ParaNorman” nails on the head is what it’s like to be different and the power that fear can have over us.
There is the predictable adults vs. kids/innocence vs. cynicism theme, but it’s used so obviously that it works. The mob mentality is explored in a child-friendly and equally overt fashion. It really is quite touching. I cried.
This being a kids movie, all turns out well, but all loose ends are not tied up, something that I personally appreciated.
I’ve said it before (as has Kermit) and I’ll say it again, kids are smart, give them the chance and they might just emotionally recover from that intelligent children’s movie about zombies…and surprise you.
In a universe full of sequels and remakes it’s easy to lose faith in the presence of intelligent life out there among the mess of blockbusters thrown at the masses on a regular basis. In the case of “Men in Black III” its third movie status was working against it as well. The trilogy curse is nothing to scoff at and this third film embraces its history.
This time around (still under the direction of Barry Sonnenfeld) Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back and keeping the universe in line. Aliens are still live among us and someone has to make sure we don’t know about it.
Unbeknownst to them an old foe of K’s, the awesomely named Boris the Animal (the almost unrecognizable Jemaine Clement), has escaped his lunar prison and set off to kill K. Sounds simple and sinister enough. Of course it isn’t, Boris doesn’t just want to kill K, he wants to kill him before he has the chance to shoot his arm off and imprison him. He succeeds and K vanishes from his time stream. The end.
Just kidding. This is where it gets time-travel complicated. The only trace of Agent K’s existence (beyond his recent/not so recent death) lies with Agent J, who miraculously remembers his old partner. With the help of Agent O (Emma Thompson) he travels back in time to correct the past and save his partner.
The past happens to be 1969, just days before the first moon walk, and the recently revised death of Agent K. Despite warnings to avoid the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) at all costs. Agent J quickly finds himself in the custody of his future partner. Once J reveals most of the truth to K (another no no), they’re off again (or for the first time) to save the universe and K.
There’s just one more piece that makes this puzzle of time and space work. It’s with the help of Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), a being with the ability to see all possible futures, that “Men in Black III” manages to be a rather sweet story about the impact of one person and the influence the smallest of choices can have. It’s epic, it’s funny, and although not as flashy (aside from the occasional neuralizer) as it’s predecessors (to its credit) it’s a welcome and heartwarming addition to the franchise.
This movie works because they know their strengths and use them. Few can deny who the foundation of this franchise is. No offense to Mr. Smith, he is a valuable part of the equation; however, the prospect of a Men in Black universe without Tommy Lee Jones, the essential premise of this film, is a bleak one indeed.
Of course, Josh Brolin as the younger Agent K only needs about five seconds of screen time to prove that he is up to the challenge. In a frighteningly accurate portrayal of 29 year old K (who’s clearly seen several rough decades) Mr. Brolin steals the show, until Tommy Lee Jones shows up again of course. It’s not a caricature, it’s not an impersonation, it’s an unbelievably brilliant performance found in an unlikely place. I wouldn’t be even remotely shocked if the next Men in Black film turned out to be a prequel. He’s that good.
“Men in Black III” has history, two movies of it, yet it manages to stand on its own just fine. Fans of the franchise will like this film. Those who haven’t seen any of the Men in Black trilogy, give it a try. It might surprise you. It’s an intergalactic story with heart and humor and history. What’s not to like?
It’s true of life and usually true of summer blockbusters (you know what you did Green Lantern).
In the case of Jon Favreau’s Sci-Fi Western, Cowboys & Aliens, you might guess that expectations were set pretty low.
You would be wrong. I’d say they were moderately high, considering.
Let me remind you that it’s about cowboys and aliens.
It’s too absurd a concept with too good a cast to be anything but entertaining, and on that front it delivered.
Sure it’s not going to be accepting any little golden men, but how could this be anything but awesome?
Plus, just for fun, let’s throw in a half-dozen plot lines, some inferred historical context, and several brief, heart-warming moments…now go!
What makes it work?
In the immortal and oft-repeated words of Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig): “I don’t know.” It just does, and of course, I’ll do my best to explain (sans spoilers).
From the moment Lonergan (still portrayed by Daniel Craig) comes to in the middle of nowhere, without any idea about who he is or why he has a single shackle on his wrist, this movie has all the makings of a Western.
In fact, up until the airborne aliens arrive there’s very little extra-terrestrial going on.
Lonergan quickly proves his mettle as the Western hero we would hope for and (with a newly acquired wardrobe, horse, and dog) wanders on into a nearby town.
Craig leads this movie with the same suave nonchalance that his fans know and love. He gives Lonergan’s amnesia a hint of the tragic, where it could easily be purely comic. His accent may take a few trips across the United States, but his quiet yet commanding presence makes up for it.
Lucky for Lonergan the only person on the planet who could tell him where his bracelet came from, Ella (Olivia Wilde), happens to be residing in the town.
Although her character is a little underdeveloped, I have to say Miss Wilde impressed me. It’s clear from the beginning that she is more than what she seems. Mr. Craig may be on the posters, but this is just as much Ella’s story.
Of course, since the aliens are irredeemably bad we need a more human villain, in this case the embodiment of racism and closed-mindedness who’s just open-hearted enough to change…
Enter Harrison Ford as the former soldier turned wealthiest man in the area (and consequently arrogant and bossy), Woodrow Dolarhyde.
What can I say about Harrison Ford? He plays the gruff, old man beautifully with a charm that cannot be explained. His transformation happens ridiculously fast, but it works, inducing only a few giggles along the way.
While Craig, Ford, and Wilde lead this cast, the filler stories and ensemble who bring them to life give what could have easily been a light fluffy, fun piece, depth.
Now we have our central characters and side stories in place, it’s only a matter of time before those laser-gun slinging villains descend upon the small town and turn their century upside down.
What makes this movie intriguing is the juxtaposition of futuristic technology and the Western frontier.
They have fun with that occasionally, but play it straight for the most part, which makes the contrast less jarring. The humor is fast and rare and never about the presence of alien life.
When the local Native Americans join in to fight the invading forces, there’s a lot of pride swallowed and you can’t help but think that a common enemy in the past may have changed history for the better.
All in all, this movie is fun to look at (I’m referring to the landscape shots of course) and fun to see unfold.
The lighting, the landscapes, and general grunginess of all those involved point to a rip-roaring, gun slinging, cow roping Western and by all accounts, that’s exactly what it is…just add aliens.
It’s not perfect, but it’s unexpected and well done.
…whew…got through that without one mention of Hans Solo, Indiana Jones, or James Bond…shoot.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our reviews and reactions: The Crusade on Cinema
Before I begin, let me clear the air a little bit.
I know what you’re thinking. ”Cars 2″ really? Is that worthy of the title “summer blockbuster” and the resulting presence in the Crusade’s summer blockbuster review collection?
Let me assure you that much discussion went into that very subject.
In the end we determined that the explosion to action sequence ratio in conjunction with its sequel status put it well within the blockbuster quota…and with that I present to you “Cars 2″ the review:
When you come from the same family as “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo” and “Up” and “Wall-E” (and need I go on?) it’s got to be tough to deal with the expectations.
Nevertheless “Cars 2″ cannot avoid the inevitable, it’s the sequel to one of Pixar’s less successful films.
Since”Cars” round one, the folks at Pixar have clearly (and accurately) identified Mater (as in Tow-Mater voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) as the strongest piece of this car-dominated universe.
Having already starred in his own series of shorts, Mater steps in as the hero of this sequel.
The rest of the gang from Radiator Springs is back of course in a whirlwind, transcontinental adventure.
Our plot takes form as racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) sets off to prove he’s the fastest car in the world, while learning important life lessons and promoting alternative fuel sources.
Anyone really shocked that there’s a secondary environmental message?
Shortly into their international excursion, Mater finds himself mistaken for a CIA agent by British Intelligence Officials Finn (Michael Caine) and Holley (Emily Mortimer), and needless to say hilarity and espionage ensue.
This film moves much faster and makes a lot more noise than it’s predecessor. Things explode, cars die, and all while travelling the globe.
The location animation in this movie is stunning, Tokyo, Italy, Paris, and London, are all well represented.
Of course with all of the beautiful scenery, there is always the risk of distracting from the plot, but aside from Paris, which had me thinking on “Ratatouille” for a moment, the location shots enhance the story for the most part, rather than cause travelling daydreams.
In the end, what starts out feeling like an extended Mater short eventually comes together as a rather adorable story about appreciating the dents and lemons in your life.
It may not be Pixar’s crown jewel, but we can’t all be race cars (or incredibly insightful wooden cowboy dolls), but when life gives you lemons sometimes you just might eke out an adorable sequel.
Perhaps in the next Cars film, and rest assured there will be a “Cars 3,” they can address the fact that the automobiles in this universe seem to rule over the planes, trains, and boats.
Why do the rich cars own boats which also have faces, Disney?
Check out this and all of the Crusade’s film reviews, blockbuster and otherwise, on our new “Crusade on Cinema” page…go ahead, click the link, it’s the blue words that say “Crusade on Cinema“…now there’s two of them, it’s almost irresistible…or if you like scrolling, there’s also a link at the top of the page…but that seems like a whole lot of work, and you still have to click on a link…now you have four options…tell your friends.