Saturday, December 19, 2009

AVATAR - This is Going to Change Everything

I haven't even written my review for the amazing film The Road yet, and it might be too late, because I've just seen a movie that I have to place above it.

My entire life I could only imagine what it was like for someone in May of 1977 who was then the same age that I am now, they go in to see a movie that had a fair amount of hype attached to it, but no matter what they had heard going in, they weren't prepared for what they saw.  No, for what they experienced.

I have always wanted to know what it felt like to step out of that theater having just seen movies change forever.  Having just seen Star Wars.

Now, I think I know.

I've grown up in a world that has always had Star Wars.  It came out before I was born (although my parents saw it while pregnant with me, that probably has something to do with my obsession for everything Star Wars), so I never knew a world without Star Wars.

A case can certainly be made that a lot of what got made because of Star Wars was a waste of time, money, and talent (if using that word isn't being too kind), but there was a magic that happened that day, and there have been magical movies since that wouldn't have existed without the masterpiece that George Lucas gave us just over 30 years ago.

For the first time since that film, movies have been forever changed again.

It is the only way I can explain what I experienced in that theater tonight.

"This is going to change everything."

James Cameron has done what filmmakers have been trying to do for almost two decades now.  He has created a world that it is utterly, totally, and completely real, beyond any doubt in your heart, even if your mind knows differently, and none of it exists.

He created not only totally believable humanoid characters that you could almost swear must exist, he also created an entire world for them that I want nothing more than to visit.  I can't imagine that it isn't there, because it looked and honestly felt so incredibly real.

There are only two things about my feelings on the film that could even possibly be construed as negative, but I'm going to explain to you why I am not taking them as negatives.

First, the story is a bit predictable.  There is no denying that.  I can honestly say that I knew each twist and turn of the story well before it happened.  But I wasn't bothered by that in the least.

The story is, as they say, an age old tale.  I can rattle off tons of movies and books that have told a thematically similar story, and I can even point to one in the history books, Pocahontas and John Smith.  Sure the story has been told before, and in many, many different ways and places, but that is because there is truth to the story.  The story is true, as true as it was when John Smith first laid eyes on Pocahontas, as true as it was the millions of times that it happened before then.

And the world is so extraordinary, that maybe we needed a true and familiar story to draw us in as completely as James Cameron draws us in.  Either way, I have no problem with the story or the fact that it is predictable.  The point of the matter is, it works.

The other small thing I have to say that could be construed as negative is that the perception of the 3D gets in the way a little bit at times, especially early in the military base.  Later in the film on Pandora, it simply immerses you completely in the world, but in the human constructions occasionally it takes you out of the movie.  The reason that I don't think that this is that much of an issue is because I didn't see this film in IMAX.  At least I haven't seen it in IMAX yet.  I saw it on a regular digital 3D screen, and I think that it is clear that this is a film made for and meant to be seen in IMAX.  If it is at all possible for you to see this film in that format, I highly recommend it.

That being said, the magic is still there 110% seeing it in 3D on a normal screen.  And I think that it probably is seeing it in 2D as well, although I don' t plan to find out.

The performances are fantastic throughout the film, and the dialogue is strong, especially compared to Cameron's last epic film which will get no mention from me here (sorry Shannon).  I doubt that it is possible, but I think that Zoe Saldana (who was also spectacular as Uhura earlier this year in Star Trek) should get a nomination for best actress, even though her character was completely CGI'd.  I'm not sure that just anyone could have brought that character to such complete and total life the way that she did.

Sam Worthington did a great job as well, both in and out of his Avatar.  I was actually pretty worried about him because I didn't think that much of his work earlier this year in Terminator:Suckvation, (Hah, get it, Suckvation) but in the hands of a good director, he was very good.

The score which I have been listening to quite a lot on XM 76, Cinemagic this week, was brilliant, right up there with The Road and Star Trek for the best of the year.  James Horner (Braveheart, Wrath of Khan, and Terminator 2 amongst many others) might have done his best work on this film.  It fits the mood and the film so perfectly and naturally.  I will be getting it from iTunes as soon as I finish this review.

Overall, I can't recommend this experience (because that is what it is, it is an experience, not a movie) enough.  Do yourself a favor and see it.  Because, truly...

This Is Going to Change Everything...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Movie Reviews Part Two, Fantastic Mr. Fox

The latest from Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore) is based on the book by Roald Dahl and as such seems a perfect fit for the enigmatic writer/director.  The movie is clearly in the style of Anderson and feels as much like an Anderson film as Tenenbaums, Rushmore, Life Aquatic, and Darjeeling Limited, but unlike those films, this is a kid's movie, with completely evokes the world created by Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach).  Truly this material is a perfect match for Anderson and it is an outstanding kid's movie that will please the adults as much as it will excite and enrapture the imagination of the kids.

The stop-motion animation is the best that I have ever seen.  It is ultra realistic, and the puppets of the animals is so fantastic you literally feel as if you could reach up to the screen and feel the fur of the characters.

The voice acting is all fantastic, featuring George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Anderson regulars Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, while some of the voices are unmistakable due to the noteriaty of those voicing them, the animation and story are so strong it is never distracting.

Another thing that really stood out for this film was it's fantastic score and use of music.  Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Twilight Series: New Moon) does an outstanding job with the original music and Anderson's choices for the other songs used in the movie are spot on.

I also really loved the themes explored in this movie, whether we are able to rise above are baser instincts and become more than simply the animals that we are.  Great stuff.

This is truly an outstanding film for the whole family, fun, funny, and not as scary as the best family film this year so far (Caroline).  This has been a great year for kid's movies that will appeal to adults as well, and Fantastic Mr. Fox is right there with Caroline and Up and way better than the still good A Christmas Carol and Monsters VS. Aliens.

Until Next Time, I'm still working on my review for The Road as I want my review to do the film justice.  I'll try to get it up soon, but Finals and Papers might keep me from getting to it as soon as I'd like!