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Movie: Frank (2014)
Rating: *** out of *****
Notes: A little indie dramedy with a bunch of big name stars, including Domnhall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. A struggling musician stumbles upon and into an experimental band led by Frank, who wears a giant, cartoonish head 24/7, and they spend a reclusive year producing their first album. All the band members are significantly eccentric, leading to scattered eccentric and charming offbeat comedy. But there is a dark undertone that becomes abundantly clear at the film's climax, and the answers under Frank's oversized head are anti-climactic. The only one who really gets their acting chops on is Gyllenhaal, whose moody and dangerous maybe-girlfriend of Frank's is edgy, bitter, and unpredictable. The music that underpins the film is...not accessible, consisting of screeching and atonality that's funny when used for laughs, but bleary when played straight. Fun for its quirk, but the truth behind Frank may disappoint.

Movie: Ragnarok (2013)
Rating: *** out of *****
Notes: Norway catches up to Hollywood of the 00's, creating a generic, all-ages creature feature that feels terribly familiar. An archaeologist takes his kids into remote Russia to explore a newfound viking historical site, but a mythical entity lurks amidst the bones and relics. The CG is excellent, right up there with today's best, but it's used comically sparingly, very obviously presenting threats offscreen at every opportunity. The body count is low and it all occurs out of the picture, similar to Jurassic Park which the film also seems to borrow sound FX from. The concept is the same as almost all recent wilderness gothic horrors, with scenes having the same general setup, kids in peril, etc. Tho the setting does allow for a few new ways of presenting the same thing to keep it fresh enough. It also does a good job of generating suspense with lots of creeping around in the dark or waiting for the thing to inevitably pounce. The ending is so clearly kid-friendly that it's a bit of a letdown, but it would serve just right for a kid's first real monster movie.

Movie: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Rating: ** out of *****
Notes: In this latest remake/reboot/whatever of the TMNT concept, the apple falls very far away from the tree, this being the least recognizable of all the incarnations. In this entry, the turtles are super-strong, bulletproof, 7-foot cousins to Gollum, appearing far more ogre than reptile, and really living up to the "mutant" term. Forget the radioactive glop that spawned them - instead they were April O'Neil's childhood pets and victims of Shredder's corporate animal testing. Speaking of Shredder, his costume is where Michael Bay's really shines, looking like a samurai Transformer with swiss army knives on his hands - seriously, he has five different swords on each hand. The CG is phenomenal and the mo-cap really shines, especially in Splinter whose movements are very close to lifelike. Too bad the character design goes off the reservation - the turtles are deep in the ugly uncanny valley, while Splinter's unappealing facial hair and dead black eyes tread too close to realism to be comfortable. The action scenes are all Bay: frenetic, impossible, unrealistic, and barely comprehensible. Dialogue is laughable and the gritty, lifelike photorealism is conflated with infantile wackiness, failing to marry cartoony antics and lines with Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight aesthetics. It's a total circus to watch and there's an occasional chuckle, but it stumbles badly with an awful script, ugly characters, and Bay at the helm.

Next: The Skeleton Twins, Into The Storm, The Attorney


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2016 04:30 pm (UTC)
I do need to see Frank sometime, if only to find out for myself just how much of the real life story is in there (plus a load more, I know). Quite an odd tale indeed, but he wound up being well loved to the point of a statue being erected in Timperley.

TMNT, needless to say, I had no interest in seeing as soon as the first photos emerged. Reinterpretations are one thing, but they're not easy to get right, as Godzilla showed. (Toho to the rescue this June, yay!)
Jan. 6th, 2016 12:34 am (UTC)
Frank is good until the head comes off. Then it becomes a very different movie.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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