Thursday 30 March 2017

Pete's Dragon (2016)

I only recently watched the original Pete's Dragon, a technicolor musical about an orphan sold into slavery and his pet dragon. Upon escaping from his captors Pete and the titular creature go to a sea-side town, getting into mischief and befriending the lighthouse keeper. However, Pete's owners are looking for him, and there is a greedy snake-oil salesman who sees a money making opportunity in capturing the dragon.
The songs were good, the acting was not subtle, and the villains were moustache-twirling (in one case, very literally) - but it was a thoroughly enjoyable film, very much of it's time.

Disney's odd fascination with remaking it's classic films to be "grittier" continued with a 2016 version.
The film is immediately more on-the-nose, as we meet Pete as a very young boy, orphaned by a car crash, and then lost in the woods for years. Cut to a few years later, when the forest is being cut down by a logging company, and Pete is discovered.

The characters all react fairly naturally - Pete's taken in with the caveat that he'll be handed over to social services; Dr Judge Bones (Karl Urban) is initially curious as to what could be knocking down the trees (that haven't been cut) and eventually evolves it into a money making scheme, without being over the top.

In essence, the characters are written believably, and the acting is definitely not hammy (much as I enjoy ham).
The special effects are a weak-point, but I was absorbed enough in the film that it eventually stopped bothering me, looking more like moss than polygons.

It's very different to the original, such that by seeing one you don't feel like you've seen the other. If you get the time watch both, but maybe not in a small timeframe.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Movie is, I suspect, a pseudo-sequel to "The Lego Movie", which was awesome.
 Will Arnett (Job from Arrested Development) reprises his role as Lego Batman, the arrogant loner who graced us with the greatest song ever written:

The story is multi-faceted, but largely boils down to Batman needing to learn the importance of teamwork, family, and hatred.
Hatred? Why, yes. One of the driving forces behind the story is that the Joker's relationship with Batman is metaphorically almost sexual in nature, and it is utterly hilarious!

Part of the joy of the writing of this film is how it is aware of the inherent silliness of Batman, while also crafting an interesting and emotionally engrossing story.
The silliness is also enhanced by factors that make me think of it as a pseudo-sequel to the Lego Movie. Those facts are that Gotham is described as being built upon a delicate platform above a void (i.e. a table) and that when characters shoot guns the voice actors make "pew pew" noises - almost as if it's people playing with toys, but it's not explicit.

There is also an odd fascination with Michael Jackson, having both in your face and subtle references. For example, see the choir of children singing "Yeah, Charmone!"

The only real negative point that I can think of is that some of the jokes don't mix well together. A specific example is a point where Batman excitedly asks if he will work with the Suicide Squad, and then around 20 seconds later says that the concept of bad guys being used to fight bad guys (e.g. Suicide Squad) is a moronic idea.

This is a wonderful, exciting and hilarious film. The jokes are relentless, and are mostly brilliant. It's not as good as The Lego Movie, but is still amazing fun.