This film was funny; this film was campy; this film showcased the wild acting talents of Jack Black... however, due to an over reliance of plot exposition and background history of certain characters, Be Kind Rewind was bogged down and did not have the spontaneity it needed to stand alongside cheap, campy 80s "junk" like Nick Moranis and Dave Thomas' "Strange Brew," (which also relied on cheap film techniques.) In turn, the film had some really weak plot devices to lead up to Jack Black and Mos Def's remaking of famous films. There should have been some funnier and more logical way to erase hundreds of VHS tapes than reverting to the getting-hit-by-lightning routine (which also begs the question: why didn't Jack Black erase the new VHS movies he and Mos Def had created?) Good performances from Danny Glover and Melanie Diaz.
This is one of the better "talking dog" movies I've seen; it is certainly better than Cats & Dogs and its sequel. However, aspects of the plot and the "family before work" theme seems reused, and had been done better by many family films in the past couple decades. I was amazed by how well-trained many of the animals were; while its overreliance on CGI was unnecessary in some parts, many of the effects surprised me for a film this low-key.
I hate Jerry Bruckheimer. No, I mean, I REALLY hate Jerry Bruckheimer, so much that I cringe every time his moving logo of the lightning hitting the tree appears before opening credits. This film puts into play every negative aspect that bothered me with his previous films: twisting history and reality for the sake of more action, convoluted plots, unnecessary chase scenes, the sexist portrayal of women, the over-achieving heroism of men, and (worst of all,) the overly-commercialized cliff-hanger ending that sets up future cash-grabs.
What made "Sorcerer's Apprentice" such a shame to watch was that I actually enjoyed it up to a point. That's right. Act 1 and a portion of Act 2 I actually ENJOYED. The beginning story set-up with the Wizards and the dragon ring and the Grimhold was interesting; there was clever dialogue and situations ("Are you crazy?!?" Nicholas Cage makes a gesture meaning: 'a little.'), and Jay Baruchel's awkwardness was hilarious. (This was the first time I had seen Baruchel in live-action; previously, I was familiar with the guy as simply the voice of Hiccup from "How To Train Your Dragon.") Even Nicholas Cage was entertaining as Merlin's heir Balthazar. However, after the pointless tie-in to Walt Disney's Fantasia involving Baruchel's failed attempt to clean the facility using the untested magic of anthropomorphic brooms and mops, "Sorcerer's Apprentice" spiraled into typical Bruckheimer fare. Explosions abound. Chase scenes ensue. The Grimhold gets tossed around like kids playing a game of hot potato. Women are A) sex objects B) unspeakable evils that must be squashed and/or C) a plot stall. In the end, boy gets girl. Balthazar dies but he doesn't die. Mankind is saved from womankind by cleverness and young guys filling their "old man's shoes." And, of course, there's the inevitable cliff-hanger. While I was not expecting refined drama and excellence from a summer film intended for mere entertainment, Disney should really try harder. With the financial disappointment of "Prince of Persia" and the laughable flop which was "The Lone Ranger," perhaps audiences are getting wiser by avoiding these poor-man-Spielberg movies.
Life of Pi is one of those movies that is wonderful to watch, but would have seemed even more brilliant if I had not read the source material beforehand. As a lover of Yann Martel's unforgettable novel, I found this film adaption leaning too heavily on computer-generated spectacle intensifying the sinking ship, the rolling sea waves, and the initial cat-and-mouse encounters between Pi and Richard Parker. Thank goodness the quality of CG effects was brilliant, as otherwise this film would have felt like a cartoon. Rhythm & Hues, the late special effects studio in charge of the numerous simulated animals and environments produced some of their best work to date; I was truly convinced that Richard Parker was a living, breathing Bengal Tiger after Pi's throat. In turn, the colorful psychedelic sequences of color and light were also a wonder to behold, even though a certain night scene featuring glowing jellyfish and algae screamed "Let's cash in on Avatar's Pandora." Ang Lee did a fine job handling the narration, with the back-and-forth interplay from present to past; Martel's writing was too good to leave out, and the best of the novel's written passages were incorporated into Pi's retelling, down to the spot-on perfect final conversation he has with the two officials from the Japanese Ministry of Transport. This shocking revelation of the symbolic nature of the zoo animals was by far the best part of the film (and novel) and it ended the film in a satisfying and melancholy manner. As far as an emotional ride, Life of Pi scaled back the spiritual and emotional journey of Pi lost at sea; I never got the sense that the boy was stranded on sea for 230 days, as he looked and acted like he was lost for 2 or 3 months. My favorite part of the novel, which was the humorous three-way fight between the Christian, Hindu, and Muslim priests, was left absent. Even more frustrating is the absence of Pi's conversation with Richard Parker; this was a total, complete missed opportunity, as CG could have been used very well to create a talking Bengal tiger. Suraji Sharma, who played Pi, and Irrfan Khan, who portrayed Pi's adult-self, were very well acted and memorable. I wish I could say the same thing about Rafe Spall, whose overly-amazed interjections stuck out like a sore thumb.