Goodness gracious, we're on to part 4 already?! What did you do, write these at one in the morning? YOU BET YOUR ASS I DID!
One aspect of Adam McKay productions that I absolutely love is that it seems like everyone involved with these films seems to be having the most fun while making them. The Campaign definitely is no exception, as it is ripe full of great scripted and unscripted comedy. Similar to The Dictator, this film seems like perfect playing ground for strong comedic actors to just mess around and toss around ridiculous ideas. With the likes of Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, and Jason Sudeikis, the film is equal parts clever and goofy- what else could you expect from Jay Roach, who brought us the Austin Powers films? The Campaign is very much in this vein, and I’ve got to say, it still works. There’s a bit of satire going on here, and it isn’t too strong, but at the same time, it isn’t being beaten over the head of the audience. Instead, the film just works as an easy to get behind comedic piece about two characters. Both Ferrell and Galifianakis are still in top-notch form, and pull off some great stuff here. Ferrell gets to go insane, as he is good at doing, and Galifianakis does his goofy Seth Galifianakis schtick, but adds a level of sweetness to the simpleness that works in building the character. In the end, I felt that The Campaign was just a strong comedy. Granted, I am a fan of comedy, and in many ways, I am easy to impress. Really though, this film is just pure fun, with not much else to aspire to. And that is completely fine.
Films about police officers in LA so rarely have the chance to be unique or have something new to them these days. It’ll all be gritty and violent with a dramatic edge to it, but what else? WHAT ELSE, FOLKS?! How about you make one of the cops a filmmaking student? Dumb idea? Sure sounds like it, but dammit, End of Watch somehow makes it a fascinating, intriguing look into the lives of two police officers. More importantly, it’s a look at two really good friends as their lives are constantly challenged and in danger. They’ve got love in their lives, and they have dreams/worries/fears- seeing them in such an intimate, almost frightening closeness really heightens the intensity and stakes at hand, in a clever, stylish way. Just when I thought found footage/first-person films were starting to get tired, this film makes some bold, interesting choices. It’s an ambitious approach that isn’t necessarily perfect, but its fascinating to witness playing out. What really makes this film worthwhile is the friendship at its core, between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. These two take chummy police officers to an entire other level, adding a sense of humanity that almost feels in another league compared to this film’s conceit. Sure, they’re headstrong, testosterone driven alpha-males, but when they really get close and bare all to each other, their characters suddenly become very special. They gain another dimension and a vulnerability that draws you in like a tractor-beam. You can’t help but feel for these guys, especially as they break and desperately try to hold it together. What solidifies the strengths of these two though is when they’re just being good friends. When they’re joking around and just talking in the car or with friends, the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Peña is so believable and delightful. Hearing Peña repeat a joke as if someone didn’t just hear it is such a small but perfect detail that helps shine deeper into his character. It’s very soul-bearing, well developed choices and details like that which make End of Watch a really strong, stylish action thriller that truly is about two well established and portrayed human beings in their best times, and at their worst times.
Like many others, I was very worried about Brave during the time leading up to its release. I felt it looked very gimmicky and like the humor came from a much more blatant place than we’re used to in Pixar. I was so satisfied to be proven wrong upon watching it. I ended up really liking Brave, as it is a very sweet, funny, and exciting movie that looks absolutely beautiful on top of it all. As a tale about individuality intertwined with acceptance of the beauty of family, Brave has a lot of beautiful themes and ideas, of which it tackles in some unique ways. In a sense, I can see how where the film goes could make some eyes roll, but the end result it zeroes in on pays off perfectly on all of the promises it establishes early on. I can’t say its the best Pixar film, but in many respects, its one of the more admirable ones to be made. Where it goes with its main character is special, especially in comparison to Disney’s past princess tales, and in covering such an important topic like being yourself, the film absolutely succeeds. Along with that, it’s fun, funny, and contains some of the most gorgeous landscape and closely detailed moments of animation and art design I’ve probably ever seen. Pixar did as Pixar usually does, and yet they went the extra mile as well. Brave has a lot of worth to it, and teaches some special lessons along the way. It’s a strong, sweet film that will be beloved for a long, long time, and deservedly so.
The first part of Peter Jackson’s new epic adventure is an easily accessible one that drew me in quite easily. Its sense of humor and openness to setting out on adventures adds to a mystical air the film maintains throughout. Though it’s a grand journey our characters set out on, Jackson made it clear and crystal, all of the stakes at hand here, as well as each and every situation that arises. The crew we roll with on this adventure is filled to the brim with charisma and enough individual intrigue that makes the group mind even more interesting. At the head of the film, though, is Martin Freeman, as the affable Bilbo Baggins. As the unexpected hero, Freeman does well in being befuddled and confused. Though as he progresses, his character develops to braver, bolder ends, even if he’s still unsure. He makes for an easy to follow protagonist that you can really root for. The Hobbit is truly a technical marvel, impressing with its high quality CGI and exciting penchant for action. The cinematography flies through these complicated, well detailed locations and landscapes, giving you a good idea of the scale and intensity going on at all times. It’s gorgeous and exciting at once, in usual WETA fashion. It’s good to know that Jackson still has a great storyteller in him, and The Hobbit is definitely a great start to an intriguing, sure to be enjoyable trilogy.
Prometheus has a story that follows a common theme that I’ve really admired in various other films from this year, which is that it is about dreamers and people searching for something bigger than they are. This sort of core is encapsulated within a shell that showcases my favorite aspects of sci-fi horror- silent, stark imagery in which vastness is equally as frightening as close quarters. Ridley Scott’s capturing of the world within this film is casual, and only stylish in broad, but appreciative strokes, be it through camera movements or ingenious placement. This matched up against an interesting level and tone of excitement and intrigue, be it out of fear or discovery, makes the adventure that we’re following feel that much more exciting and new to us as it is to the characters we’re following. It’s impressive on a technical standpoint throughout, with which it helps establish a strong tone for a unique world.
I think why many viewers were disappointed by this is because Damon Lindelof’s script sets up a lot of great questions and ideas, but in the end, most of them aren’t able to be taken into account. Though by this token, I felt it was kind of appropriate, and added a level of mystique and dark charm to the film. In a movie that’s essentially about humans wanting to literally meet their maker, it’s fair that there are some things that just stand in our way/stop us. Included, the drive to keep searching anyway is even more satisfactory. These themes aside, I think Prometheus has a lot of worth to it. It’s an adventurous sci-fi horror film that looks beautiful in establishing a gargantuan, mysterious world to explore and mess with the players involved. Speaking of which, the cast all around is really strong, especially within Idris Elba (as cool as a cucumber), Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall Green, and Noomi Rapice. Each of these character revel in varying levels of humanity, and it is interesting seeing them interact and essentially toss around existential ideas. So take that, and a fascinating universe beautifully rendered and captured, and you’ve got Prometheus- a bold and gorgeous looking film with a lot of questions. Many aren’t necessarily answered, but that honestly shouldn’t deter you from such a cool, creepy, and fascinating adventure.
AND NOW, a special little film I’d like to commemorate the existence of…
LOCKOUT IS A MOVIE ABOUT A PRISON IN SPACE. IT IS RIDICULOUS AND DOESN’T CARE, WHICH IS WHY I LOVE IT. EVERYONE WATCH IT AND HAVE FUN. IF YOU TRY TO TAKE IT SERIOUSLY, PLEASE DON’T, BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE STUPID, WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT.
So. That concludes this round. Stay tuned for part 5! Thanks, and have a great day!