Posts Tagged ‘children’

poster

I’m tickled by Taika Waititi’s sense of humor. Yes, tickled.

After watching Boy, I didn’t need to be sold on Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

But a grumpy, bearded Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) as a gruff outdoorsman was enough to make me ecstatic before the movie even started. As with Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is about an eccentric youth in New Zealand, which is yet another fabulous opportunity to show off that stunningly beautiful landscape. While Taika makes a cameo in this movie as well, he doesn’t get near the screen time or juicy role that he gave himself in Boy.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the story of Ricky Baker—a troubled foster youth in New Zealand.

Oh, and Ricky is a wannabe gangster. Hilariously so. He keeps it gangsta.

bella

The movie starts with Ricky being dropped off at the doorstep of Bella (played by Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (played by Sam Neill). Once Ricky takes a look at this backwoods hole in the wall, he turns right back around to the Child Services vehicle. Ricky gives no fucks—even though this is his last stop before juvy.

Rima Te Wiata is an incredibly endearing presence as Bella, who just loves Ricky unconditionally from the start. Ol’ “Uncle” Hec isn’t quite as caring and nurturing as Bella. Hec is much more comfortable in the bush than he is around other people. His interests don’t exactly align with Ricky Baker.

Sam Neill is an actor with surprising range. Of course, everyone recognizes him for his role as Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park. However, Sam Neill was spectacular in Seasons 1 and 2 of Peaky Blinders—where he plays a corrupt and menacing authority figure with misguided morals and a grudge against Cillian Murphy. In Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sam Neill shows off his comedic chops as Hec.

ricky-and-hec

While the life of a kid in foster care isn’t exactly uplifting material, that’s the brilliance of Taika Waititi. With his outlandish, sometimes twisted sense of humor, Waititi’s exuberance finds the silver lining to turn a negative into a positive. I truly can’t wait to see more of Taika Waititi’s work.

Julian Dennison holds his own as Ricky Baker. He’s not in the same stratosphere as James Rolleston’s performance as Alamein in Boy. But there are some similarities between those characters. Instead of an adoration of Michael Jackson, Taika Waititi has the young male character infatuated with Tupac—naming his dog after the infamous rapper. Although Julian embodies this particular character well, I’d be surprised to ever see him again. I think it’s a credit to Taika that he’s capable of getting such great acting from young kids.

taika-waititi

How can you not feel relaxed and comfortable around that guy?

If you are one of the few who has watched Boy, then Hunt for the Wilderpeople is more of the same. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Boy was a superior film. Each movie shows off a different aspect of New Zealand and their sense of community. The audience is given a glimpse into what life can be like with the support of family or friends on that beautiful, sprawling expanse of wilderness.

It’s pretty majestical.

baker-dance

4 out of 5 stars

Advertisements

Poster

I have zero connection to Disney movies.

Even as a child, I was already too grown-up for their fake worldview.

I am a better person for it. Disney is a disease that infects children with unrealistic expectations. Director Jon Favreau does an admirable job subverting the classic expectations of Disney movies as much as possible. But the cheese is overwhelmingly ham-handed and inescapable.

Of course, this is still a children’s movie—first and foremost. Like most kids movies, they sell audiences on the bullshit line that it’s for children but can also be enjoyed by adults. While Favreau performed substantially better than most would in his position, that balancing act is very visible.

Neel Sethi

Before we get into spoiler territory, let’s talk about what works. Above all, The Jungle Book is a success because Disney nailed their casting of Mowgli. Neel Sethi was phenomenal and picture-perfect for the role. Few child actors could pull of the physicality needed for Mowgli to move throughout the jungle in a realistic fashion while also believably interacting with CGI animals. Apparently, The Jim Henson Creature Shop was wisely brought in to fabricate puppets to serve as reference points for Neel Sethi. However, this movie probably doesn’t work remotely as well with any other child actor.

You have to love Mowgli because this is his journey and you are with him every step.

Baloo and Mowgli

Bill Murray is always a welcome presence, and he does a superb job bringing Baloo (the bear) to life. The character depiction perfectly matches Bill Murray’s voice and delivery. The third casting choice that Disney had to perfect was Shere Khan (the tiger) because he’s the villain that you must fear and despise. Idris Elba reveled in this opportunity and he chews ample scenery. As a result, Shere Khan is the correct mix of menace and power. I could do without every other casting decision.

I understand why they would want to cast Ben Kingsley as Bagheera (the panther)—especially considering the backstory of the book in the context of India. I mean, he’s fucking Gandhi. But it felt like a decision obligated more out of politics/commercial incentives instead of a character-based decision. Personally, it feels like Ben Kingsley mailed it in—either that or he’s not a good voice actor. Emotionally, Bagheera feels flat. While he may have intended for it to come across as regal, Ben Kingsley’s delivery feels like he’s bored and divorced from what is happening on the screen.

Bagheera

For a completely computer-generated movie (except for Neel Sethi), The Jungle Book breaks new ground and deserves praise for being a technological achievement. As usual, the 3D is completely unnecessary and I think it would drastically detract from the visuals. While there is a certain disconnect between the voice actors and CGI animals moving their mouths, I was able to forgive and forget that these were actors in a sound booth. You just have to go with it because you can only do so much to replicate how voices echo through the space and density of a computer-generated jungle.

Although it may look silly 5-10 years later, this is an important step in CGI development.

Now that I’ve praised this enough, let’s get down to talking some shit about a children’s movie.

Spoilers galore.

A surprising amount of death occurs in The Jungle Book.

However, no real violence is shown when a death happens, but the character completely disappears from the story without so much as a lingering shot. This occurs multiple times. Maybe I’m guilty of overanalyzing, but I believe you negate the impact of the death you’re showing by just breezing right past it. Mufasa’s death in The Lion King makes a monumental impression because they show the act and direct aftermath—Simba seeing the body of his dead father and mourning him.

Whereas in The Jungle Book, it’s impossible to tell whether or not some characters actually died—specifically Kaa and King Louie. Both of these characters feel shoehorned into the movie. I have no idea what their previous roles were in the animated movie or book, but the screen time for Kaa and King Louie appears to primarily serve as clumsy exposition to further plot points.

Kaa

Kaa is a massive python s-s-seductively voiced by Scarlett Johansson. She is in one scene where she basically tells Mowgli the story of the red flower (Shere Khan killing Mowgli’s father and getting burnt badly in the process) and then tries to devour Mowgli. Somehow, Baloo silently climbs up an extremely high tree and I guess he viciously kills Kaa to save Mowgli. Remember, Baloo is a lazy, obese bear—but evidently he can climb really high steathily undetected. Kaa never reappears in the story, but you also never see Baloo kill Kaa. It’s just a roar, heavy implication, and quick cut.

King Louie appears in a similar yet even more bungled sequence. King Louie is voiced by Christopher Walken, which is so weird that it works. While King Louie is an orangutan in every other incarnation, Jon Favreau turned the character into a Gigantopithecus. Essentially, he is King Kong as an orangutan with all of the quirky personality traits of Christopher Walken. King Louie wants to learn the secret to controlling the red flower from Mowgli so he can use it for his own sinister devices.

King Louie

Bagheera and Baloo track Mowgli down after he’s kidnapped by the monkeys and taken to King Louie. With their help, Mowgli escapes, but they all have to outrun and outwit King Louie. This leads to King Louie destroying his kingdom so he can try to grab Mowgli. As a result of his greed, the whole kingdom literally crumbles down on top of King Louie. These scenes make it seem like Kaa and King Louie only exist to talk about the red flower (fire), threaten to kill Mowgli, and then die.

It seems very odd as an adult, and I would imagine children must also be confused.

And apparently, all life is precious in the jungle except monkeys. Countless monkeys presumably get slaughtered—or else we’re supposed to pretend they’re made of rubber and have no bones so they can get clawed and trampled without any repercussions. Why did the monkeys get fucked over? As far as I can recall, the monkeys are also the only animals that aren’t given human voices.

That is some fucked-up shit to do to our closest DNA relatives, Fatreau.

Finally, Mowgli learns from King Louie (before he is crumbled to death) that Shere Khan killed Akela. That was also another glossed-over death because Khan attacks Akela and throws him off a cliff. It is incredibly quick, but at least that is a death that has an impact. While the wolves let Shere Khan reign supreme over their domain, Mowgli is immediately out for blood when he hears the news.

Shere Khan

Mowgli runs to the man village to steal fire and sprints through the jungle with a lit torch.

In his haste, embers from his torch fly off and ignite the jungle. This all leads to a very stilted final stand after Mowgli miraculously runs back home in a matter of minutes (the same ground that it took him days to flee). Inevitably, Mowgli kills Shere Khan with fire—using the blaze he created by burning the jungle. But it’s all cool because elephants are natural firefighters. Problem solved!

So the lesson here is don’t play with fire…unless you have an elephant around.

I don’t know why they intentionally made the hero (Mowgli) destroy part of the jungle—even if it was by mistake. Apparently, that fire didn’t kill any other animals or destroy their habitats. Remember, elephants are magical and can fix any situation by knocking down some trees.

Despite all its faults, The Jungle Book is a good movie.

But everyone should relax on the instant classic bullshit.

Red Flower

3.5 out of 5 stars

Poster
Look at the poster and treasure it because that’s better than anything in this movie.

Cooties is a massive disappointment on so many levels.

I was eagerly anticipating the release of Cooties, a zombie horror comedy set in a school where the children are the zombies. Even if the zombie genre has you sick and tired (and running a fever and stumbling around looking for brains), you have to admit that is a promising premise. Fruitful ground to explore ways to bend the genre and bring something new to the table. No such thing occurs in Cooties.

I regretfully inform you that this movie is boring and forgettable.

Zombie Children

Not living up to my expectations isn’t such a horrific offense, but Cooties fails to meet any expectations or self-imposed standards. Although there are laughs and worthwhile moments, those scenes are few and far between—practically buried under a mountain of shit that not even Andy Dufresne could crawl through. So many gags or intended jokes fell flat. Sadly, this is a run-of-the-mill movie.

The story of a zombie outbreak is a horror comedy doesn’t need to be remarkable. In this movie, it’s important only as the reasoning for why it is occurring in a school. That’s not the unpleasant part about Cooties. No, leave that load to the lead character, Clint—played by Elijah Wood doing Elijah Wood things. This annoying fuck is an aspiring horror writer and the movie tries to play up the horribleness of his writing, but it obviously feels like it is a gold mine of funny. It is not. It is obnoxious and difficult to endure.

Elijah Wood

I’m not sure why you would want your main character to be so grating. Normally, I like Elijah Wood. But I wanted to watch a herd of feral zombie children feast on him in this movie. Congratulations, you made me hate Frodo. I suppose that is an accomplishment. C’mon, he’s The Good Son! As an actor, Elijah Wood is fine in Cooties. Wood wasn’t given much to work with, but he does his job delivering the sub-par material.

He doesn’t embarrass himself. If you want to see Elijah Wood embarrass himself in a horror movie, then maybe you want to watch Maniac—mostly shot from the perspective of Elijah Wood as a serial killer attacking women and fucking mannequins. On second thought, never watch that movie. Maniac is legitimately one of the worst movies I have experienced. I have no idea why Elijah Wood agreed to do that movie when he has all of that sweet Lord of the Rings money in his bank.

Back to this other miserable pile of shit, the best part about Cooties was Rainn Wilson.

Rainn Wilson

Rainn Wilson perfectly plays Wade, the dickish PE teacher reliving glory days out on the children’s playground. Wilson deserves more respect for his acting chops. At his best, Rainn toggled between serious drama and ludicrous comedy in Super (directed by James Gunn). In Cooties, Rainn Wilson goes full-bore into the role—reluctantly running through children then gleefully dispatching the zombie demon children back to hell. He is a moronic loudmouth and a great source of comic relief.

Why weren’t there more character actors cast as fellow teachers with Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson?

You can’t convince me that this wouldn’t have been a better movie with something like a brief cameo of Betty White getting devoured by the little bloodthirsty bastards. Give me some David Koechner or Keegan-Michael Key to chew scenery. Sprinkle in Kumail Nanjiani as an uptight school administrator and you have an infinitely better movie. It seems like they may have had that intention with casting Jack McBrayer as one of the surviving teachers, Tracy. But then they gave him practically nothing to do.

Arguably the only other entertaining aspect of Cooties was Jorge Garcia as the crossing guard, Rick—watching the horror unfold while tripping on mushrooms in his van trying to ride out the high. Jorge Garcia is a loveable oaf and he’s a welcome break from the borefest that is this movie.

Jorge Garcia

I wish there was more to enjoy, but Cooties doesn’t give you much to relish during its 88 minutes. Unfortunately, the brief runtime could have been even more brisk if we’re being honest. Somehow, it still feels long as fuck. Through the first act, Cooties shows promise before completely falling apart when the children storm the school. You could probably trim the movie down to 70 or so minutes by cutting the characters themselves discovering the spread of the outbreak and subsequent tacked-on ending. It certainly could not have made the movie any worse. This is a cringe-worthy experience.

In retrospect, I was hoping for too much from Cooties. I wanted a goofier Faculty-esque fun horror with zombie children causing chaos. After grinding to a halt in the second act, the only thing I was eagerly anticipating was the merciful end. Cooties is the equivalent of a comedian laughing at his own jokes.

When people complain about the oversaturation of zombies in our culture, they can now point to Cooties as a prime example. This doesn’t even qualify as beating a dead horse. The zombie herd has consumed all of the dead horse’s entrails and its corpse barely remains. Mark this down as another entry in the constantly growing, already bloated genre of horror comedy genre. No one can compete with Shaun of the Dead so we should all stop trying if it’s just a rehash of the same shit we’ve seen a thousand times over.

The worst crime of Cooties is that is simply an exercise in going through the awkward motions.

Awkward Motions

1.5 out of 5 stars

Poster

Everyone needs to calm the fuck down about The Lego Movie.

Legos might be toys for all ages, but don’t let the Warner Bros. marketing campaign fool you into thinking this movie is for adults and children alike. Occupying an odd middle ground (or no man’s land), The Lego Movie is capable of capturing an adult’s imagination and it’s brightly colored enough to entertain a child, but there’s no compelling component to satisfy either mind. You’ll lose interest eventually.

Basically, The Lego Movie is to be enjoyed by a manchild or hipster and tolerated by everyone else.

But the commercial brilliance of The Lego Movie is that it appears to appeal to everyone. Parents can take their children and sit them in front of the gigantic screen for a bland experience meant not to offend anyone. I don’t hate The Lego Movie, but I hate everything it represents in the film industry. However, this movie could have easily turned out so much worse in the wrong (or just different) hands.

Children won’t remember anything from this movie other than to ask their parents for Legos.

Adults will only remember how much better The Lego Movie is than every other typical animated movie.

It is important to note my relative bias because I’ve never liked many children’s movies—even when I was a child. Nostalgia is commonplace and most people seem to love re-living childhood memories of books, movies, toys, and other objects of pop culture. I can barely remember anything before junior high school so I am certainly not the target audience that’s harboring any special memories of playing with Legos.

My main issue is that there’s simply nothing remarkable or noteworthy about The Lego Movie.

Batman

It’s only been about a week or so since I’ve watched The Lego Movie, but no single joke or any specific scene sticks in my memory. Without Will Arnett’s comic relief as Batman (Christian Bale’s raspy voice impersonation and all), I don’t think there would have even been a handful of laughs. Chris Pratt is suitable as Emmet, but Charlie Day as Spaceman Benny is definitely the second best thing about this movie.

The Lego Movie largely coasts on its cuteness. But thanks to a clever ending, people will fondly remember this movie because it wraps a nice bow around the story. Considering its immense success at the box office, a sequel is undoubtedly already in the making. My life will still be complete without subjecting myself to the inevitable sequel or any other subsequent attempt to cash in on this established good will.

Perhaps I’m partly reacting in response to the overwhelming love for The Lego Movie, but I genuinely believe only about half of this movie hits the mark. The social commentary and satire feel hollow since the source is a billion dollar business that’s directly benefitting from everyone laughing at their catchy “Everything is Awesome” tune. And Warner Bros. is now laughing all the way to the bank.

Due to increased expectations, The Lego Movie just fails to live up to the hype. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie, but it is undeserving of such commercial success. Move along people, nothing to see here.

The best lesson: when you make a movie for everyone, you make a movie for no one.

Lego Movie

2.5 out of 5 stars