crap i have watched recently #8

breakfast clubSPOILERS, MY CHILDREN, SPOILERS!

Wreck-it Ralph:  This is a Pixar-like movie that was not made by Pixar.  It even has a sweet/funny little cartoon at the beginning, just like a Pixar movie.  But it’s not Pixar, no matter how much it wants to be (and despite the enormous cred granted by John Lasseter as the executive producer).  That said, for a not-Pixar movie it’s a pretty good Pixar movie.  Wreck-it Ralph is the bad guy in a 30 year old eight bit arcade game but he’s tired of living alone in the dump (literally) while the good guy (Fix-it Felix, Jr.) and the other characters live it up in a nice apartment complex.  When Felix throws an anniversary party and doesn’t invite Ralph, the big guy decides he’s had enough.  He leaves his game in search of an opportunity to be a hero but inadvertently causes all sorts of problems in other games, including the candy-filled, hyperkinetic Sugar Rush.  Of course, his wonderful ability to wreck stuff  saves the day, the game, the snarky-cute little girl, and the arcade itself.  It’s kind of busy and scattered, with lots of sudden plot devices (characters that die out of their games can’t respawn, glitches can’t leave their games, the bugs (get it?) from Hero’s Duty have the ability to wipe out the entire arcade, etc.).  It jumps randomly between violence and slapstick but there’s no real doubt how it will end.   The characters do not have a lot of depth but all the voice actors do a great job and it kept me entertained, so it’s hard to complain too much.

Mostly this movie is a mash note to the days of old-style video arcades.   There are lots of game cameos (Sonic, Street Fighter, PacMan, Qbert, etc.) and even more knockoffs (Disney couldn’t get the rights to everything).  Games from the simple jumping from platform to platform game (Fix it Felix, Jr.) to the FPS (Hero’s Duty), to car racing (Sugar Rush) are represented.  There are some nice touches:  the 12 step therapy and support group for bad guys; the little tram systems (“PacManorail”, *gigglesnort*) that take characters out of their games, down power cords, and into the grand central mall that is the surge protector; the tough-as-nails female soldier with the worst back story code ever.    It wants to be Toy Story and it’s not but I laughed throughout almost the entire movie.  Even a Pixar knock-off is better than nearly anything else out there.  Seriously, have you seen what’s in the theaters these days?  It’s depressing.   So buy yourself some super-sweet candy, settle in, laugh at all the silly jokes, and remember those good old days when a pocket full of quarters was all you needed.

Score:  Meh.

Pitch Perfect:  There is really not much to say about this movie.  Apparently competitive collegiate a capella singing is a thing and Pitch Perfect is about that thing.  Anna Kendrick, who played the therapist in 50/50 (and was also in some vampire movies I didn’t see) plays Beca, a young woman who really wants to move to Los Angeles and produce music.  Her mean old dad makes  her go to college instead; he eventually “encourages” her to join a campus singing group and give it the old college try, so to speak, before he’ll agree to fund her LA adventure.   The Bellas are a (wait for it) rag-tag group of socially awkward misfits compiled straight out of a catalog for that sort of thing.  Their leader is an uptight princess with epic barfing skills and their musical choices are bland and uninteresting.  After a few predictable setbacks the girls get their stuff together, Beca mashes up a wicked set for the team, and the gals sing and dance their hearts out.  The Bellas win the contest, Beca wins her guy’s heart, and her dad wins the argument over whether college is a good thing.  (Yep, kids, this is all about staying in school.)

Still, the singing and dancing were good.  In fact, there could have more of that and less of the silly rivalry between the Bellas and the other campus group, the Treble Makers.   There’s a fun riff-off (kinda scripted, but this is a movie…), some cool beatboxing, and the mash-up at the end is great.   There’s a bit of snarky humor, particularly between the two singing contest announcers.  There is also a surreal but apparently heartfelt homage to The Breakfast Club.  Overall it was an entertaining hour and half that did not stress the brain overmuch (and it did take my mind off  Cloud Atlas for a bit).  One thing just confused the heck out of me though.  This is supposed to be a capella singing, which by definition is singing unaccompanied by instrumentation.  Yet nearly every single time these kids performed a ton of background music kicked in.  This was weird and defeated the whole premise of the movie but whatever.

Score:  Meh.

Cabin in the Woods:  Joss Whedon.  Horror movie.  Talk about  a mash-up to make your toes tingle.  Will it be satire?  Will it be homage?  As it turns out it is both, as well as a torture porn flick played straight.  It’s scary.  It’s funny.  It’s deadpan.  It’s self-referential.  It’s a parody.  It’s a movie inside a movie.  It’s meta.  It’s…kinda pointless.  The premise is the basic scary movie plot:  a group of kids heads off to the woods for a weekend of partying.  Our young heroes are a bit different than your standard expendable horror movie kid victims and the movie goes to great pains to make them likeable.  They are attractive and smart and funny and we do indeed like them.  They’ve got weed, they’ve got a keg, they’ve got hormones, and they’ve got a creepy little house in the mountains for their frolics.  There is even a big spooky lake.   They aren’t in the house very long before stuff starts to get weird and in short order they are beset by zombies wielding knives, saws, and a bear trap.   What we know and the poor doomed kids don’t is that everything happening to them is being orchestrated by a bunch of technicians in some big complicated science-y facility.   The juxtaposition of the tech staff doing their jobs, occasionally gambling on the fate of the kids and partying while these nice college students die in increasingly gruesome ways is sometimes deeply disturbing.   The ending is a spectacular gore-fest that is possibly supposed to have been funny.  Excess is funny, right?

I’m not a big fan of the modern horror movie, mostly because I find no entertainment value in watching nice people get dismembered.  I can’t comment knowledgeably on the tropes being sent up here or on the various movie references scattered about.   But I love to be scared, I loved to be creeped out, and I really love inside jokes.  Whedon co-wrote this and executively produced it.  It’s basically well-crafted.  There are clever attempts to use the genre’s conventions against themselves.  There’s even an entirely unsubtle message that seeking enjoyment in the suffering of others is pretty low rent.  So given its pedigree I had great hopes for this movie.  It has its moments but in the end it turned out to be little different than the movies it parodies.  I will give it huge props for having Thor in it though.  Hubba.

Score:  Meh.

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~ by gun street girl on November 10, 2012.

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