Your Digitally Designed Weekend at the Movies

11/23/2012 10:50 AM |

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Life of Pi: When I went to see Wreck-It Ralph in Orlando, Florida (yep), I saw a pre-trailers featurette explaining why you should be psyched for Life of Pi because of its use of 3D technology. Regal theaters have one explaining why you should be psyched for Les Miserables because of its recorded-live singing; I realize it’s a bit opportunistic but it is sort of neat to see movies hype themselves for technical reasons rather than just saying: Kaboom! Tom Cruise! Sideboob! (Actually, I would probably love a trailer that actually said those things.) Anyway, no less an authority than James Cameron goes all-in for this non-trailer, calling Life of Pi a masterpiece (that happens to be made using the 3D technology he developed). I’m psyched for any movie based on an unfilmable book, although I have to say, in the actual Life of Pi trailer, a lot of the digital stuff looks terrible. The water looks congealed, the tiger has that fussed-over slightly-too-mobile appearance common to CG creatures, and that glowing whale is half awe-inspiring, half shrouded in digital muck. I’m not anti-digital effects by any means; I just wonder if this will be a case of a great volume of effects overtaking great quality. Then again, Ang Lee’s last effects-laden movie was the supposed misfire but actually pretty cool Hulk movie, and, more to the point, Lee never seems to make the same movie twice (I don’t remember enough of Lust, Caution to make a joke about how it’s actually exactly like Hulk, so feel free to make your own, Lust, Caution fans!).

Rise of the Guardians: I probably haven’t been watching enough Nickelodeon to know for sure, but it feels like this latest DreamWorks cartoon hasn’t begat the hype levels I’d expect from the studio, which produces two or sometimes even three cartoon features per year (maybe they’re buckling a little under the load). Rise of the Guardians, from the concurrently developed William Joyce book series, isn’t as DreamWorks-y as ur-DreamWorks projects like the Madagascar series (no pop culture references, only a few “jokes” that consist of a character saying “really?” or “seriously?”), but it still has a franchise firmly in mind, advertising a “rise” that does not so much take place in the movie itself, which finds the Guardians of Childhood—Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and, uh, the Sandman (do kids still talk about the Sandman?)—already risen and protecting the world’s children. Jack Frost, the obligatory rebellious-loner newbie, rises a little, I guess, but The Guardians: Franchise Rising would be the most honest title. Rise of the Guardians isn’t terrible by any means, but for a movie brimming with imaginative designs, whimsy, and committed vocal performances, and largely bereft of the worst DreamWorks tendencies, it feels curiously synthetic, like the DreamWorks crew drank the Kool Aid on those sparkling How to Train Your Dragon reviews. Like William Joyce’s own Oscar-winning short, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” I feel like it’s something I should’ve really liked, but only sort of did. I will stump for the generally underappreciated DreamWorks cartoon Bee Movie, though.

Red Dawn: I have not seen the original Red Dawn, but it almost couldn’t be as terrible as this race-hopscotching remake, which swapped the original Russian and Cuban bad guys for the Chinese before realizing the Chinese are more likely to buy movie tickets than invade us and re-swapping North Koreans in post. Political opportunism aside, the movie stumbles badly as a thriller, relying on montages, speechifying, questionable effects, and the charisma of Josh Peck. It’s been on the shelf so long that the movie’s other Josh, Hutcherson of Hunger Games, has leapfrogged above Peck in the Hollywood pecking order (or is that Joshing order?); fans (does Josh Hutcherson have fans? I know Peeta Mellark has fans, and I guess that’s become sort of the same thing) might be disappointed to find out that J-Hutch only logs a supporting role here. Hutchersonologists will note, however, that Red Dawn ’12 has the Josh Hutchersoniest insurgent violence ever: a bomb rigged to a skateboard. (I pretty much picture Josh Hutcherson skateboarding everywhere.)

Hitchcock: The unimaginatively titled Hitchcock fits into two suddenly popular 2012 mini-genres: the limited-scope biopic, covering the making of Psycho as Lincoln only encompasses the making of the Thirteenth Amendment; and the Hitchcock psychological profile, with the Psycho-era Anthony Hopkins version of Hitchcock prequelizing the Birds/-era Toby Jones version of Hitchcock (The Girl premiered on HBO recently; it’s on my DVR, as yet unwatched). I can only hope we’re going to slowly work our way through every two-to-three-year period in Hitch’s life, with different actors covering the making of various movies, sort of a long-form I’m Not There. Of course, maybe I should see these two Hitchcock movies before I decide that 30 more of them are a good idea.

Rust and Bone: After a stint as Christopher Nolan’s go-to femme fatale, Marion Cotillard returns to suffering drama as a lady who loses her legs in a killer whale-related accident. It doesn’t sound like something I’d normally want to see; this movie sure is lucky that Cotillard is hypnotically beautiful and deeply talented!