Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Theater Interruption (Pacific Rim / The Conjuring)

Pacific Rim (2013)

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Travis Beacham (story and screenplay), and Guillermo del Toro (screenplay)

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi

It would be easy to call Pacific Rim a dumb, over-the-top action movie on the same level as the Transformers series. But to brush it off so simply would be to ignore the fact that there is a difference between "simple characterization" and "lazy characterization," between "silly" and "stupid," between "embracing your inner child" and "being immature." Guillermo del Toro obviously knows the difference and realizes that just because you are playing with major archetypes doesn't mean you can ignore the details. Sure, the movie is big, loud and cheesy - but it is also obvious that a lot of time has been spent crafting these characters and creatures and del Toro had just as much fun making the film as anybody is having while watching.

Score: 6 / 10

The Conjuring (2013)

Director: James Wan
Writers: Chad Hayes and Carey Hayes (screenplay)

Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor

Watching "The Conjuring" is almost depressing; on its own merits it is slightly above average, but the fact that 99% of horror that has come out in the past few years is truly bad makes it look like a masterpiece in comparison. It plays out exactly like you would expect a haunted house / exorcism mash-up would. But while it does nothing new, it hits almost every beat very well, flawlessly combining atmosphere and jump scares. Wan is very good about using misdirection in order to keep the scares fresh and seems to have an excellent sense of just how long he can draw out a tense moment before reaching the breaking point. Highly derivative but well executed with only a couple moments of unintended silliness (usually a major problem for me with horror).

Score: 5 / 10

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Theater Interruption (Mud / Despicable Me 2)

Mud (2012)

Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland

A modern day Huckleberry Finn displayed through a mild Southern Gothic filter. Nichols seems to love this setting, beautifully photographing life on the river, warts and all. The story is a simple enough fable and generally doesn't feel too heavy-handed in its coming-of-age messages, though I don't feel like the ending works quite as well as the earlier material, tending to be a bit too over-the-top. I also wouldn't argue against a bit of trimming, as the middle section does start to drag a bit. However, the performances from the kids are surprisingly good and McConaughey continues his hot streak with a role that I wouldn't be surprised to see earn him an Oscar nod.

Score: 7 / 10

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

Directors: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Writers: Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul
Stars: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt

I'm of two minds with this movie. On the one hand, this is probably a bit funnier than the first one based purely on a LPM (laughs per minute) metric. On the other hand, the thing that made Despicable Me stand out from the crowd was the villain-as-protagonist angle. By making Gru into a purely good family man, they've stripped the franchise of its best attribute and distilled it down to simple, silly fun. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that (and I'm sure the kids won't care), but it surely will generate a bit less interest for the adults. Solid, funny, vanilla family entertainment.

Score: 5 / 10