First up, the new animated film Rango with Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Ray Winstone, Alfred Molina and many more, brought to you by director Gore Verbinski of Pirates of the Caribbean fame. I went in to this movie expecting a lighthearted animation and boy was I surprised. This movie is REALLY good and a lot more than a kids’ cartoon.
Rango tells the story of a pet chameleon who gets lost in the desert and ends up in a Western-style town in need of a sheriff, a role which he quickly assumes somewhat accidentally after exhibiting his “courage” and “heroics” to the town mayor. On the outside, Rango is a very competent Western, with a good story and some nice references (wait until you see the “Spirit of the West” near the end), but this movie is a whole lot more than that. To begin with, this movie is full of GREAT characters, epecially Johnny Depp as Rango. Playing a pretentious “actor” from the city, he fumbles his way through the wild west much like the characters in “The Three Amigos.”
One of the greatest parts about the movie is the writing. Written by John Logan (The Last Samurai, The Aviator, Sweeney Todd), this is definitely not a kids movie. While perfectly appropriate for most ages, this movie was very obviously written for an adult audience. Lots of great humor and action fill this movie, but my favorite part is the level of absurdity in this film. Lots of great meta moments as well as some great references (watch for an amazing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference) make this movie a must see, although it does get a bit overly weird at times.
The other great thing about this movie is the look. As the first animated movie done by Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects company best known for its work on Star Wars, it is no surprise that it looks as good as it does. But MAN does this movie look good. Character design, set pieces, environmental effects (particularly water, which plays a large part in the story), it all looks DAMN good.
Anyway, definitely see this movie. Here’s a trailer if you’re not convinced. Oh yeah, forgot to mention, the mariachi band chorus narrators are AMAZING!
The other movie I saw recently was Zach Snyder’s Sucker Punch. As a huge fan of 300 and the Watchmen movie as well as having enjoyed his remake of Dawn of the Dead, I was REALLY looking forward to this. And despite the largely negative reviews, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, though it definitely had it’s flaws.
Sucker Punch is the story of a girl who, after accidentally killing her sister (did she?) while trying to save her from being molested by her father following the death of their mother, is committed to a mental institution by the father in the hopes that she will be lobotomized, thereby keeping her silent. The movie follows her attempt at escape from the asylum through dream sequences.
Unfortunately, the story is where this movie falters a bit. The back story is all told through a montage of video clips set to music with no dialogue, and this trend of little dialogue and lots of music continues through the movie, making it feel quite a bit like a music video at times. This sort of makes the plot tough to follow, especially with the dream within a dream storytelling, but I don’t completely hate the style choice.
Anyway, apart from the vague plot (which I will talk a bit more about later), I felt that this was a pretty strong movie, or even more, a VERY strong demo reel for the director. Most importantly, this movie is GORGEOUS. Every camera angle, style choice, and color technique really worked for me. Even in the few instances I was slightly bored, I was more than drawn in by the visuals.
The other major win in this movie is the action. In another review, I heard this movie described as a musical if instead of songs, the musical broke out into video game cutscenes. This is actually a great way to describe the movie. Basically, in order to escape, the characters of this movie need to find five items. Every time they go in search of an item, we are treated to an amazingly created dream sequence set to music showing this search in a fantastical way. These pieces of the movie are what really shine. From samurai battles, to World War II type epics and robot battles, they are straight out of your favorite game (or Japanese movie/anime) and boy are they fun.
The music in this movie is also pretty sweet. I’ve heard complaints about the music and it’s use, but i thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of really cool covers of popular songs that I feel really fit the scene. I can understand that some people might be upset with the overuse of music, or might find it strange to use modern music cues in less than modern settings, but I think it worked.
I said I’d mention the story again, and here’s why. The story was very vague and a bit tough to understand, but there is a bit of a twist at the end and I think upon second viewing there is quite a bit more going on. I feel like not everything is as it seems and that upon better analysis of the scenes and symbolism, this movie may actually be a lot smarter than it seems. But for now, it’s worth it just to see pretty girls, in pretty, well designed action scenes as well as to check out this very unique new style of film-making (whether or not it fully works).
Here’s a trailer for you…
I know I promised only one more post, but this got a little long winded, so there’s one last one coming.