I do not know how, but Disney made a fantastic cartoon mystery about gender, race and law enforcement. Oh, wait, I do know. They made it about animals instead of people, they did an amazing job of fantasy world-building, they got all the plot points in place, and they somehow made the theme explicit without—in my opinion—letting it get sickeningly didactic.
Premise: In a world where anthropomorphic mammals live together in harmony regardless of whether they are predators or prey, a bunny from a carrot-farming family becomes the first bunny police officer in the big city. Her victory turns to ashes when she’s merely made a meter-maid and tricked by a fox who’s as sly as a—well, as a fox. Meanwhile, fourteen mammals have disappeared in the city and no one knows why.
Zootopia is another full-on American movie about freedom of choice, but in this case the “be anything you want” message is tempered with uncannily realistic reminders that nobody—and no melting-pot, not even one with a utopian reputation—is perfect and that people will surprise you in both good and bad ways.
SPOILERS BELOW, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.
Continue reading Zootopia (2016)
It was beautiful and moderately entertaining, but Kung Fu Panda 3 wasn’t great. I think the scenery and stylization was the strongest aspect of the project.
The premise is that an evil former friend of the old turtle character is stealing the life force of all China’s kung fu masters, both living and dead. Po the panda, as the famous Dragon Warrior, is the only one who can stop him. However, first he must figure out the answer to the surprisingly difficult question, Who am I?
Continue reading Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
The other two Death Race movies had satisfying plots. This movie had what could have been a satisfying plot, but somehow it fell short. It just wasn’t really particularly clear what was happening or why, so it was hard to care about the characters and events. Moreover, the dialog was amazingly boring. Take away the drama, and it’s just cars and blood and death. Yuck.
The premise is that the moneymaking prison death race management company gets forcibly bought out by a first class jerk, who tells star driver Frankenstein that he in fact cannot win his freedom from prison by winning a fifth race as promised and that instead he is obliged to travel the world to compete and lose to attract fans across the globe.
Continue reading Death Race: Inferno (2013)
I had never seen Accepted until yesterday, but even without seeing it, I knew how it was going to go. It’s basically Camp Nowhere (1994) with older kids. And yet, it’s not: it’s a critique of traditional higher education in America. And it’s got Justin “I’m a Mac” Long in it, who’s in Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005) as well as Live Free or Die Hard (2007), which I didn’t like.
The premise is that a guy who didn’t get into college rents an abandoned mental hospital and invents a college, which then attracts other ‘rejects’ by means of its all-too-functional fake website. South Harmon Institute of Technology (SHIT) turns out to be the best thing that happened to any of them: they’re finally ‘accepted’.
The two key words—‘shit’, with its endless potential for humor, and ‘accepted’, which conveys a wistful longing for belonging—together perfectly encapsulate the movie’s spirit. The producers are Tom Shadyac and Michael Bostick, those responsible for the enjoyable Jim Carrey comedies Liar Liar (1997) and Bruce Almighty (2003).
Continue reading Accepted (2006)
Point Break (2015) is not a movie, it’s an ode to extreme sports with a plot carelessly grafted on. That being said, parts of it were utterly beautiful. Specifically, the mountainy parts. Perhaps it’s a pity that I didn’t watch it in 3D!
More about this mess of a movie below, with “SPOILERS”, not that there’s really a plot.
Continue reading Point Break (2015)
Edge of Tomorrow is Groundhog Day but with hostile aliens.
I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I love Tom Cruise’s humorous approach and his dedication to the role; the special features talked a lot about how much effort was required to operate in the exosuit and how central the suit was to the portrayal of the main character, whose gradual transformation Cruise made believable. On the other hand, I found the war very real and very threatening.
This review has interesting things to say.
The repetition of certain shots and/or scenes is deftly handled and serves the story without ever becoming cumbersome, gimmicky or overused – which is really a feat in and of itself.
More on what I liked and disliked about the movie, including spoilers, below.
Continue reading Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
This post is part of a series of posts on books and movies about the legend of Robin Hood. It discusses the 2006 television show.
Continue reading Robin Hood (2006)
I’m not an expert, but there seems to be a whole genre of Chinese historical-fantasy-war movies (wuxia). At any rate, that’s what this was. It had a dose of romance in it, too. Big budget. Nice effects. Entertaining. From my standpoint, actually, not that weird. It was good practice for me to listen to the Mandarin.
My husband and I agreed that this movie was okay but not… spectacular. Which is ironic, because of course the whole thing is nothing but spectacle. It’s an amazing, long, fancy, expensive spectacle, and my reaction to it was more or less a shrug.
See below for why. Beware SPOILERS.
Continue reading Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)