Saturday, January 5, 2013

Catching Up: Movies for Maybe Kids ?

Divorced or widowed daddies are such a jewel to Hollywood, depicting exactly how far a good man can go to support his family.  Yeah, the myth of the great man doing only what he really should be doing in the first place, is still pretty stuck in Hollywood.  Add to that the standard factor of the man having enough money to do "what needs to be done" and you get something which is probably already a trope.  We Bought a Zoo (2011, Cameron Crowe) is one such movie.

But despite my cynicism I rather liked this Happy Happy story about a man who buys a failing small California zoo and decides to reopen it.  He believes it will help his grieving / emo kid recover from the death of his mother and give his daughter another perspective on which to focus. Given that the source material is British, and I am always rather fond of these British flicks where people overcome insurmountable barriers to achieve a Happy Happy goal, it was expected I would be fond of this.  Yes, he depletes his bank account, yes he fights with his kids and yes he runs into more trouble than he is due, but with the hard work of the motley crew and a very fresh looking Scarlett Johansson, they succeed at opening the zoo (to Kevin Costner & baseball style crowds) and healing his family.  I wonder how the real zoo is doing?

Hugo (2011, Martin Scorsese) was something I should have seen in the cinema instead of Netflix. It is a grand scale mystical movie along the lines of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, where Hugo, a boy who lives in the Gare Montparnasse train station (yes, that one we see in any period movie about Paris) after his father passes away.  He repairs the clock while being obsessed with the toys sold by Papa Georges, the toymaker.  Hugo believes the toys are important to his repair of an automaton his father was working on before he died.

The movie, you might think, is going to be a journey of discovery for a boy who still understands whimsy, in a setting full of incredible sets, over the top characters and brilliant costuming (just my allusion to Jeunet) and, well, it is.  But that is not what the movie is about.  It is really about Scorsese's love of film and cinema.  It is a love story, in truth and in metaphor, for the golden age of film making before the rules were made, when everything was silent and the special effects were hand made.  Which is kind of odd, considering the grand amount of CGI used in the movie.

Speaking of CGI, do we still use that term for entirely computer generated animated movies?  Or are they now just animated movies as I don't think many are done without computers these days.  Brave (2012, Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman) was one I was looking forward to, the latest from Pixar.  We have Merida and her nest of red hair, a princess for the 21st century, rebellious and definitely not looking for her Prince Charming.  Despite knowing of her family obligations, what she wants most in this life is to choose her own destiny. Of course, her parents need to marry her off.

I expected a movie where we focus on her being at odds with the obligations but end up with her understanding why she had these obligations while still retaining her own self-direction, all wrapped in a pseudo Celtic mythos in Hollywood Scotland / Ireland.  What we got instead was a slapstick comedy of transmogrification hi-jinx with rambunctious baby broth... bears. Most of the magic was replaced by chase scenes and a movie that mostly left me feeling flat.  Maybe a second watch will improve my impression?

Oh, at least I enjoyed catching the Pizza Planet truck. And Kent's somewhat similar view.... darn, we don't disagree much more these days :)