You know, you’d think I’d get around to writing about something other than movies. But I’m on vacation now, so this is all you’re going to get. My thoughts on some July movies follow.
The Last Airbender
I really wanted this movie to be awesome. I mean, I want all the movies I see to be awesome, but for this one I had especially high hopes. This is because it was a live-action adaptation of the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is one of the best things ever.
Now, I will admit to some trepidation when I heard that M. Night Shiyamalan was the driving force behind this film. But, by all accounts, he was so excited by the cartoon that he fought to be able to make the movie, and at least the story was already coming from somewhere else, so there’d be no lame twist ending. In fact, the first season of the show had one of the best endings to anything I’ve ever seen, so there’s no way he could screw that up, right? And the trailers were looking pretty sweet, too.
But alas, all my hopes and dreams were dashed. The Last Airbender had Lucas-esque dialogue, narrated montages that skipped over so much and explained character interactions rather than showing them, and just felt rough and unfinished. It was also short. I will grant they had a tough job, cutting 10 hours worth of TV down to a single movie, but they could have at least gone for a 2.5 to 3 hour movie rather than the abrupt 90 minutes we were given.
The ending also changed somewhat from the show, cutting out details making it just a little bit less awesome and a lot wussier. Way to go, M. Night! You could have filmed the last 3 episodes of the season shot-for-shot and had one of the best things ever on film, and you still managed to cock it up.
(It is my fondest hope that Shiyamalan was working busily away on a 3-hour awesome epic version of this movie when the studio told him it had to be released in a month, and so he whipped this version together in the little time he had, and that the DVD will have a super-cool Director’s Cut.)
The movie was not without *some* redeeming features: it did showcase a lot of cool ideas from the show, and the bending looked pretty good (though not quite right compared to the original). Some of the actors were okay, but they weren’t given much to work with.
I wish I could recommend this movie wholeheartedly, but it was so rough, and so disappointing, I can’t. About the best I can say is that if you do see it, the cool ideas that made it into the movie might inspire you to watch the original show, which is—as I have stated above—one of the best things ever. (Also, if you do see the movie, see it in 2D—the 3D is the converted kind, not the filmed kind, and apparently sucks and makes the movie incredibly dim and an even worse experience.)
This was a cute and funny CGI movie. I saw this in 3D, but apart from a few token “wow” scenes nothing would have been lost seeing it in 2D. It centers on Gru, a supervillain who gets scooped when a new villain steals the pyramids. As part of his plan to regain his status as the most dastardly of supervillains, he adopts 3 orphan sisters. Wackiness ensues.
From the setup, you can probably figure out the emotional arc of the plot, but it is still handled with charm and humour. It doesn’t approach Pixar-quality, but it has plenty of laughs, some clever ideas, and some “Awwwwwww” moments. A satisfying and entertaining summer movie.
This is the latest movie from Christopher Nolan, whose last movie (The Dark Knight) was all kinds of awesome. As such, there was a lot riding on this to be a success, and a lot of hope from audiences that it would be different and good. Thankfully, I think it succeeded on all fronts.
Inception is a sort of reverse heist movie. Leonardo DiCaprio plays an expert at going into others’ dreams to steal ideas and knowledge who gets hired to *plant* an idea instead. He has to assemble a team, make a plan, and then execute it (which inevitably goes wrong). Wackiness ensues.
Now, the plot is more complicated than that. A *lot* more complicated. That may be the greatest problem in the movie. They have to devote a lot of exposition to it in the first hour of the film, and then when the action kicks in it is somewhat-to-very confusing to follow what is really going on when the plan goes awry. The overlapping action scenes are beautifully-constructed, though, and once you’ve given it a bit of thought, only the ending is left as ambiguous.
So, this is an excellent movie that is beautifully shot. I saw it in IMAX, which was pretty sweet (except for sitting in the 3rd row like I did). It’s not a simple action movie, it’s not quite a drama, but it is really good. I recommend this one.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
I know, I know. Disney movie, starring Nic Cage. Why give it the time of day? Well, we gave it the time of day because nothing was out that we hadn’t already seen that we might possibly find amusing. But you know what? It wasn’t bad. In fact, I might even go so far as to say it was pretty good.
Nic Cage seems to have found his most natural role ever in playing a creepy, crazy old guy, and Jay Baruchel nailed his lovable nerd loser role (as he is wont to do). The plot was a bit predictable, but it moved quickly, *mostly* made sense, and was pretty fun. The visuals were good, and in some places genuinely clever.
So this movie was like the inverse of The Last Airbender: the trailers made it look awful, but it turned out to be surprisingly good. It’s not the best movie of the year or anything, and it doesn’t really need a sequel, but it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours on a Friday night, and that is more than most movies can say these days.