Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Movie reviews

Here's another prep source I find myself checking out almost daily: http://www.flickville.com.

Two recent reviews by By Teddy Durgin (tedfilm@comcast.net):

"Ray Hits the Highnotes!"

The easiest and most obvious sentence I am going to write in any review this year is this next one. “Ray” (new in theaters Friday, Oct. 29) features an absolutely astonishing lead performance by Jamie Foxx. Mark my words. Bet the house in Vegas. Sign up for your office Oscar pool now. You’re already gonna have one correct pick. Jamie Foxx will win the Academy Award for Best Actor for this film.

The former “In Living Color” star has shined to a lesser extent in such recent movies as “Any Given Sunday,” “Ali,” and “Collateral.” This is the first movie that he has really carried, though, and amazingly he does so by completely disappearing into what I think is a very tough role.

Ray Charles was an American icon, a true musical genius of the 20th Century. But director Taylor Hackford wanted to show both the good side and the bad side of the legend. So not only did Foxx have to completely convince us he was Ray Charles--one of the most distinct and instantly recognizable performers of all time with his signature bobbing and weaving at the piano, often with a giant smile on his face--he had do so without the aid of his very expressive eyes, as the role would require him to be behind the dark glasses of the blind singer for nearly the entire running time. At the same time, Foxx would have to play Ray Charles from all sides. Not just the musical prodigy, but also the drug addict and the philandering husband. And we still had to care about him, because “Ray” is a L-O-N-G movie, folks.

“Ray” is rated PG-13 for sexuality, language, and frequent scenes of drug abuse.

BONUS DVD REVIEW: Hey, speaking of Oscars, I have totally slept on touting the recent DVD release of the two-disc set of “The Shawshank Redemption.” This is one of my all-time favorite movies, an amazing and eternally inspiring film where hope wins out over hopelessness. This wasn’t just the feel-good hit of its year, 1994. It was one of the great feel-good movies of the 20th Century. A modern-day classic, a perfect film.Finally, the good folks at Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment have seen fit to give this motion picture the deluxe treatment it has so long deserved. First off, I can’t imagine a better audio commentary than the one writer-director Frank Darabont turns in here. Chock full of great anecdotes, interesting factoids, and keen insights into the nature of cinema, acting, writing, and directing, this is a perfect fan’s companion to the film.

"The Incredibles: A Superhero-Family Film Not Quite for the Whole Family"

I might as well be on the payroll of Pixar Animation Studios, because I have deeply loved everything they have churned out since the ground-breaking "Toy Story" in 1995. Not only has Pixar delivered on the visuals and the surface thrills each time out, the company's artists and filmmakers take the time to flesh out their stories with interesting characters, clever plotting, and witty dialogue. It's time for them to start planning the next step in the company. Pixar IS the new Disney! I want Pixar World in Florida and Pixarland in California. I want to ride the "Finding Nemo" water ride, shop in the "Toy Story" gift shop, and cover my eyes as I ride through the "Monsters Inc." factory.

The designers should be able to get a ton of amusement-park ideas from the company's latest effort, "The Incredibles" (new in theaters Friday, Nov. 5). Unfortunately, therein lies a bit of the problem with the new film. "The Incredibles" is easily the weakest of Pixar's animated efforts thus far, largely because this is the first of the company's products to actively look like a video game. In no way is "The Incredibles" a bad movie. I highly enjoyed it! But I had come to expect greatness from these guys, and instead what I merely got was a movie that is very good.

Pixar movies work because the guys and gals writing and animating them are regular people, just like you and me. They've carpooled to work, punched time cards, raised families on budgets. When the mix of ordinary and extraordinary collide in flicks like "Monsters Inc." and "The Incredibles," the result seems like something pulled out of your own subconscious. You can watch a Pixar movie, and the execution is so simple and flawless that it looks easy. But, in reality, these are the hardest movies to pull off!

Unfortunately, some of my interest started to wane as the second half of "The Incredibles" kicked in, and Mr. Incredible was suddenly pressed back into service (on the sly, of course) to save the world from a megalomaniac who calls himself Syndrome (the great Jason Lee). The plot is ripped right out of every other superhero flick and James Bond adventure ever made and is the least interesting part of the whole movie. Even more of a letdown is that when the whole "Incredible" family gets involved, the end result is highly reminiscent of the recent "Spy Kids" trilogy in which professional heroes Mom and Dad team up with their teenage daughter and pre-teen son to thwart an assortment of evildoers. There's also a vaguely "Simpsons" dynamic at work here, too, that adds to the familiarity.

And here is a really strong warning. "The Incredibles" is most definitely NOT a film for very young or impressionable kids. Some of the children in the theater I saw it in were having a fairly tough time handling the sequences involving frequent explosions, crashes, and characters evading certain death. This is Pixar's first PG-rated film, and the rating should certainly be heeded. A LOT of bullets fly in this flick, and there are several instances where it is clear that characters have been killed (none graphic, though). At one point, Mr. Incredible is even duped into thinking that his entire family has perished.

Final verdict: "The Incredibles" is more a film to enjoy in the moment than to cherish forever in a family DVD collection like "Nemo" or "Toy Story."

"The Incredibles" is rated PG for cartoon action violence and intense sequences involving peril. Those bringing little, little kids to see this should also note that the film has a running time of 115 minutes, pretty long for a film of this type.

No comments: