Movie Review: The Royal Tenenbaums

 

This year was the year for me to familiarize myself with Wes Anderson’s filmography. I started the year with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, revisited Moonrise Kingdom, stayed at The Grand Budapest Hotel, and met one quote-unquote Fantastic Mr. Fox. I saw this film over the summer and didn’t get around to reviewing it until now.

Three gifted siblings reunite after several years and deal with family issues.

I want to live in the Tenenbaum house, not necessarily with them. I’ve always liked really large houses since I was a kid. The floor plan that was included with the Criterion Collection print was very detailed, as usual with any Anderson work.

I know this sounds strange but I think there’s too much quirkiness in this film. Granted, each character has their own distinct traits but it doesn’t create a cohesive whole. Then again, the entire family isn’t really together in the traditional sense.

It was at a little more than an hour into the film that it started to lose steam. Then came Margot’s montage and the bathroom sequence. These are the two best sequences of the film in terms of telling a story. On the one hand, you have rock music playing over a series of life events (something that doesn’t come to mind when I think of Wes Anderson) and the other has mellow music with a serious course of action, coupled with some brief flashes of life.

Somehow, this is only one of two Wes Anderson films listed in the 1001 Movies series (the other being Rushmore which I have yet to see). I can’t say which is the better of the two listed but I will in the Rushmore review, whenever that will be. I think this was put on the list early on as a way to get some representation of his work. I expect that The Grand Budapest Hotel will be added to the list in time.

While it is considered one of the more popular films of Wes Anderson, it’s not one of mine.

6/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

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Movie Review: WALL-E

 

There are times where I watch a movie and partake in some riffing; then there are times where I want everyone to just stay quiet and watch the film. The latter didn’t happen last night when I saw this for the first time in a while. If anything

A robot who has developed emotions finds a plant and helps bring humanity back home.

This was one of the few movies my entire family saw in the theaters when it was released. From what I can remember, it was a good experience and eventually my autistic brother got it for Christmas years ago. Over time this movie eventually moved to the movie collection in our basement, only to be retrieved whenever I felt like watching it.

I enjoyed the first half where it was just WALL-E and EVE with minimal dialogue. I cannot remember the last time an animated film started off without dialogue from our protagonist for a noticeable amount of time. Looking back, it reminds me of when I saw some silent films with a large crowd that included children. They connected with WALL-E the same way they did with Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd.

The themes of commercialism and the culture of consumerism was not lost on me. I laughed at the superficial material goods offered like the septuacentennial cupcake-in-a-cup but then it got me thinking about what I prefer in terms of brand and quality. I want the very best version of a movie if at all financially possible. But why am I willing to put money behind a brand (e.g. The Criterion Collection) if it means burning a hole in my wallet? I guess it’s more about the prestige of having a high-end version of a film on my shelf (more so if I get it autographed if the opportunity arises).

Considering it’s position in the Pixar chronology, it’s a solid installment in the post-Cars era and makes up a trilogy of great films (Ratatouille, this, and Up). I’d rather have all three of those films make the list but alas, it was this one. Not that I utterly dislike this particular film but it’s more in the upper half of my favorite Pixar films.

At least it’s comforting to know that VHS tapes will still work seven hundred years into the future.

7/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Winner of Best Animated Feature

Movie Review: Equilibrium

puppy

Nothing says dystopia like repressing emotions and creativity, as well as the need to obey. According to this film, it’ll happen in a few decades. One thing is for certain: we will always have good ol’ Ludwig van in a dystopian society.

An enforcement officer, in a world where feelings are suppressed through medication, misses a dose and sees the world in a new light.

I had not heard of this film until I noticed it was on the roster for this semester in Film Club. I heard, through various people, that this was an overlooked film. Given the recent run of dystopian films, based on books mostly catered to young adults, I thought it would be yet another film but more for adults. Within the first few minutes, I noticed traces of Fahrenheit 451 and THX 1138. I shrugged it off and figured it was best to see what else the film had to offer.

What’s interesting is that there is no futuristic technology, even though it is set in the future. When the film was released, the use of tablets with styluses wasn’t in full swing or as modern was what we have now. Televisions have been and can be large, though the preferred shape is more rectangular than square as seen in the film. It doesn’t date the film as heavily as other future films.

When the majority of an action scene is spent with gunfire, I turn off my mind and just wait for the scene to end. However, the fight choreography is interesting to look at, at least when you can see it. I haven’t seen a gun used as blunt weapon with such force and dexterity.

But why suppress emotions and creativity? Simply put, it restricts dangerous thoughts. Using pills to restrict emotions isn’t anything new, as seen in THX 1138. Unlike the aforementioned film, the feelings are more about caring for others rather than the self.

The soundtrack, while evoking some elements from The Matrix, does become repetitive and intrusive, especially during serious moments. Even when it was quiet, I felt that some scenes were better off without it.

While it does have some things to say, those sentiments have been said before in other works. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by The Matrix because of the fight choreography or from seeing other, better executed dystopian films. In the end, it was like I had taken some doses of that Prozium in the film.

5/10

Movie Review: Inkheart

 

I was at my library browsing the movie collection for the weekend. I found this film on the top shelf, reminding myself that this was turned into a movie. Needless to say, some stories are best left in your own imagination.

A tyrant wants a man and his daughter who have the ability to bring stories to life to summon a destructive creature.

The story really begins in late June 2005. I was bound for Europe without any parents for three weeks as part of People to People; in hindsight, I wasn’t mature enough for the trip. I’m waiting for my first flight where I spy the paperback version in the store. The cover stated that it would be a movie. I bought it and still have it on my shelf to this day as a memento. The movie came out in the states in January 2009. That’s a long time to promise young readers that a then-popular book would be turned into a movie.

Where do I begin? From what I remember from the book, the opening is wrong. Meggie met Dustfinger on a rainy night at their home, not in broad daylight on the streets as seen in the movie. Disappointed? A little but it’s not like I cared.

There was no emotional depth to the movie. In the book, Cornelia Funke took the time to let the reader bond with the characters and understand their motives. That’s not the case here, even though she was a producer. Meggie loved to read books but she barely reads in the film.

The climax is anything but. In fact, the movie ends in such a way that ensures there will be no more sequels and for the better.

I suppose I should say something positive; Capricorn’s castle was how I imagined it.

I don’t recall if it reached any of my theaters but I knew it wasn’t well-received. It was another fantasy adaptation that tried to be the next Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings but it didn’t have the drive, like Eragon and The Golden Compass. I had read Roger Ebert’s review of it and figured it was a film that was best left to exist and fade away.

This could have been better. This should have been exciting. That’s not the case. Maybe I’m too old for this movie. Regardless, I didn’t find this entertaining or engaging on a basic level. I would say read the book instead but I don’t see anyone doing that today.

4/10

Movie Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

 

If that isn’t an impressive shot for a stop-motion film, I don’t know what is. I’m jealous. Last night, I went to my library and found this in the “new releases” section. This was the first time I could get it as other patrons had previously checked it out. Now I want the Criterion print on my shelf.

Mr. Fox returns to stealing chickens from three evil farmers who try to kill him.

I’m still new to Wes Anderson’s work, only having seen Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and now this. Even from just those three films, I can see that he has an eye for composition and color palette. Nearly every frame can be a beautiful photograph tucked away in some scrapbook in the attic. Speaking of color, here’s the color map for the entire film.

As I waited for the DVD player to warm up, I noticed the rating on the back listed “slang humor” as an advisory. While it isn’t the strangest reason I’ve found for a rating, I saw where it came from. In the film, instead of using actual profanity, every word is replaced with “cuss”. I don’t have a problem with the actual use (other than making sure my viewing environment is secure from impressionable ears) but after a while, it does lose power and meaning. Here, the euphemism (being a family film and all) has a new spark of life and maintains its power throughout. At one point, a wall in the background is seen vandalized with “CUSS”. That’s funny, along with the fact that this was a 20th Century Fox film.

Halfway through the film, I was interrupted and was asked to do some chore. It was the first time my eyes looked away from the screen. I felt a little disoriented as for the past 45 minutes, I was in a symmetrical world with clearly defined focal points. Now, everything was asymmetrical and unclear. Once I resumed play, I felt back at home until the end of the film. I’m fine now, but it’s incredible if a film can do that to your vision.

Looking back on it, I wonder who the audience was. Besides fans of Wes Anderson, Roald Dahl, and stop-motion animation, I didn’t see any indication of a specific audience. I don’t remember seeing tie-ins with fast food joints or any kind of merchandising outside of a soundtrack. People did watch it, as it made a little more than their budget. It’s an official Criterion Collection selection, like I mentioned above, but those are mainly for the serious collector and viewer. So who is it for? I’m not exactly sure.

It’s not a perfect film but I enjoyed this film and look forward to adding it to my personal collection. It’s different but fantastic.

8/10