November 2013 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Disney’s Planes (2013)

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Tons of characterAndrew DISLIKE BannerDespite being a spin-off of the world created in Pixar's 2006 film Cars, it's worth prefacing this review that Planes is not made by Pixar.  Yes, it has a story credit for Pixar head-honcho John Lasseter.  But aside from laying the groundwork for the universe of Planes Pixar Studios had little to do with this film that was once slated to go straight to the DVD shelves.  Instead it received a theatrical release to little acclaim and has arrived at its originally intended destination with a heftier profit margin and even fewer reasons to exist.

Planes is a sign of what is to come for Disney and Pixar if their quality control does not start to pick up a bit.  The world of Cars is hardly creative, spinning off from the same idea of giving inanimate objects lives and personalities that fueled the Toy Story franchise since its inception.  Yet, Cars at least had the great Paul Newman lending his voice to a story that contained a few nice slices of Americana.  Planes has Dane Cook warbling his lines in a thoroughly derivative story told with some horrible stereotyping.

Americana may gloss over some of the darker aspects of American society, but at least there's a chance we could get some war fuzzies thinking about quiet county drives.  There's nothing grounding the world of Planes outside its tenuous connection to Cars.  It's as cynical a cash-in as can be, and the saddest part is with this being the first of a planned Planes trilogy, it worked.


The World’s End (2013)

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Dublya Tee EffAndrew LIKE BannerEveryone I know has a friend like Gary King.  He's a mix of the total anarchist and peace-loving hippie, willing to engage in all manner of property destruction and chemical consumption in an eternal search for the party where he is free to love all and be loved in return.  The appeal of the King's of the world is easy, they seem to float through the most troubling years of our lives with a resolute sense of self.  The tragedy of the King's is that they run the risk of never evolving beyond those years and become a pitiful shell of shattered confidence.

The World's End keeps this duality firmly in the center of yet another excellent genre homage from the trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost.  This time the apocalypse is on tap, as well as the careful illusion of arrested adolescence for Gary King, whose world may end if it crumbles once again.  It's a comedy, but a sobering one willing to examine the self-destruction behind the impulse to live in those teenage years for the rest of our lives.

For Wright, it's a concentrated return to form after the manic, if fun, pandering of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  For Pegg, it's a reminder that he can work the dark line between comedy and drama better than anyone since Dennis Hopper passed away.  For Nick Frost, it's a showcase that proves he is not just the laughable best friend, but a performer with his own surprising depths.  Finally, for us, it's a frequently hilarious if brutal reminder that our adolescence is best left in the chaotic years that spawned it.


Hellraiser Halloween Marathon / Masochistic Episode / Cry for Help


Jacob COMMENTARY Banner No Rate


Halloween may been a distant memory for most of you, but not for me! While Andrew was tackling the Halloween franchise, I was re-subjecting myself to another long-running horror franchise: Hellraiser. Hellraiser is a series I both loved for many years and tried, mostly in vain, to defend to my roommate, friend and co-contributor Danny Reid. Last year I sat down with him and watched nearly all nine installments. I had planned on doing a retrospective on each film last year in time for Halloween, but time and life intervened. Well, here I am a year later with another chance, and better late than never, right? But enough babbling, let's open this box!


Blackfish (2013)

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Size and beautyAndrew LIKE BannerI hate zoos.  The idea of forcing domesticated environments under the guise of an animals natural surrounding has always felt like one of the worst kinds of lies.  They give just enough illusion of freedom to allow each animal to slip into their natural state just for a bit, right before the artificial nature of their world comes crashing down.  It's no wonder some go crazy, or attack their trainers, in a vain effort to get some control back into their lives.

Blackfish, a new documentary from first-time filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite, is controlled in a way I can't be when it comes to these animals.  Step by step, she lets former SeaWorld employees get that happy glow back just for a bit when they talk about training their Orca friends.  Then, slowly, as they recall the violence and struggle with each outburst, we watch the light fade as they share their realizations that what they are doing is wrong.

Cowperthwaite is right to ground the film in such basic emotions.  At times it seems like the employees could be talking about one of their own children, or a handicapped ward that relies on its differently equipped guardians for guidance.  This isn't her story, but one that she grounds in basic decency, and lets the people she talks to bring up the questions of whether this is right or not.  This is the rare film which might actually change some minds about zoological captivity, as the anger and sadness comes not from any attempts from her to stoke the fires, but from letting people talk from their wounded hearts.


Turbo (2013)

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Gotta go fastAndrew LIKE BannerAmerican animated films have hit a nadir over the last few years.  Much like the rebirth and gradual descent of traditional cel animation in the late '80s, the computer generated New Wave hit its peak a few years ago with Up and Kung Fu Panda.  Pixar has become steadily enamored with itself, churning out bad sequels, prequels, and spin-offs with none of the originality that they afforded offbeat films like Ratatouille.  While Dreamworks moved away from the song and dance pop culture riff-fests of the early '00s to begin producing generally respectable and sometimes great work.

Turbo does not signal an end to the nadir, but also is not a sign that it's time to start despairing about the state of studio animation just yet.  It's a charming story built from a premise that could have been Saturday morning filler material.  Instead, it uses a plethora of charming actors, a warm and diverse crew of genuinely affectionate characters, and a beautiful sense of scope and speed to bring the little snails dreams to life.  It's a nice reminder that not every film has to strain to have some grand life affirming message.  Sometimes just finding characters struggling to be good, no matter how silly, is a decent way to go.

I admit, though, that Turbo does take a bit of time to rev up.  The first act about a snail who dreams of going fast while sticking himself to a TV screen with racers drags on way too much. It doesn't help that little Turbo is voiced by Ryan Reynolds, an actor who can be great, but dials his performance to "reasonably pleasant" and barely deviates from there.  The bland setting and hero don't signal a great time, but when the world building begins the fun really starts to take off.