If you want the gravy…

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Movie Journal 7/20/15


It's absurd, of course, but not as absurd as the fucking script. (Source)

It’s absurd, of course, but not as absurd as the fucking script. (Source)

Writing full-length reviews for every film you see is no mean feat, and I’m as far behind on reviewing 2015 films as I ever was. (I’d like to get reviews of Inside Out, Aloha, and Jurassic World out soon, but first things first.) Plus, I like to share my thoughts on older films from time to time, but writing full reviews of those is no less a task–especially if you’re dealing with films which have been heavily analyzed before.

Then it hit me.

Why not do a kind of movie diary to simply offer condensed thoughts on everything I see–similar to my cousin’s blog (which, if you’ve never checked it out, you ought to). So shall I do–but whereas he posts after every film he sees, I’ll put up weekly posts covering what I’ve seen over the past week. I can say as much or as little about each film as I please, rather than committing myself to the analysis of a full review.

Also, I can talk about films I’ve rewatched, older or obscure films which don’t necessarily command a full review but ought to be discussed nonetheless. And, possibly, those new films for which I just don’t have a full review’s worth of things to say. Like ’71. What do you say about a movie like that? (I’ll share my thoughts soon, but there’s just not much to say.)

So the plan is for these thoughts to go every Monday morning, which will allow for a discussion of any major weekend releases I haven’t discussed in detail (and even if I have, I’ll still mention seeing them), as well as all the vintage goodies that one sees when one sees them. Hopefully you will enjoy them, and as always, I relish your feedback.

As for this week: it was a slow one. I was out of town at the start of it and not in much of a movie mood for the rest of it, so I only saw two films, one of which I’ll write about at greater length elsewhere.

Tuesday, I and a friend went to see Jurassic World; it was the second viewing for both of us, but it was between that and Self/Less (since he adamantly refused to see Magic Mike XXL), and given that Self/Less‘ reviews seemed to confirm my suspicion that it was a far inferior rehash of Seconds (presumably without the horrifyingly bleak ending of that film), we opted to go for the dinos.

I felt about the same the second time around as the first; it’s a decent piece of entertainment, one that picks up greatly once things start going to hell, but which like last year’s Godzilla doesn’t do enough with the great cast it assembles. Jake Johnson (who’s awesome) and Vincent D’Onofrio get their moments to shine, and Chris Pratt handles a comparatively grounded role with aplomb, but Bryce Dallas Howard really is stuck with an unforgivably badly written character. And it has perhaps the most extraneous subplot of recent times–if you’ve seen it, you can probably guess what I’m referring to.

And yet it’s made $600 million in the US alone–only the fourth film ever to do so. So it goes, I guess. It’s a 72/100 for me, and I doubt I’ll see it again unless the DVD has an extended cut. There’s no real reason not to stick with the original–even the special effects aren’t any better.

KITTY! (Source)

KITTY! (Source)

I also saw The Secret of Kells for the first time. I’ve known about it for years, since it was nominated for an Oscar for Animated Feature, and my friend Mountain considers it his favorite film, and began urging me to see it. After months of failing him, I finally put it on.

You may recall that I saw, and was utterly charmed by, co-director Tomm Moore’s subsequent project, Song of the Sea, which likewise earned an Oscar nomination. So it was hard for me not to compare the two films. On the one hand, I think Kells is the more visually dynamic film. The animation is incredibly energetic and inventive–writing about it elsewhere, I compared it to a Book of Hours animated by Tex Avery (or Chuck Jones). The combination of stylization and energy is thrilling to the eye.

Spoilers follow.

Unfortunately, Kells falls short in terms of story. It deals with a monastery trying to defend itself against the Vikings, and a legendary monk who arrives with a legendary work in progress and a magical cat (Pangur Ban), and a young boy who is held back from the outside world but finds his way into a world of fairies and magic he never knew existed. There are fascinating elements here, but just at the point when the film’s third act should be kicking off, it muddles through a decade or so of time, leaves one of the film’s major relationships totally unresolved, and resolves another quite patly.

Worse, the legendary Book of Iona (or Book of Kells, as it is dubbed) doesn’t really do anything in the film. It neither saves Kells from the Vikings (who are portrayed essentially as inhuman machine-beasts), nor restores it, nor reunites Brendan and Brother Cellach–Cellach has already had his change of heart. So the third act essentially fades into pleasant nothingness. It’s rather frustrating.

The quality of the animation, however, is enough to make it worth a watch for buffs. The voice acting is fine; Brendan Gleeson is as rock-solid as ever as the cold, obsessed Cellach. I liked Brendan–he’s likable from the beginning, while Ben in Song is initially pretty hard to like. I also liked Aisling, though the script kind of gives her the boot after the halfway point. My favorite character was Pangur Ban, though–a thoroughly lovable and very catlike cat, as endearing in his own way as Cú in Song. I’d also like to mention that Brother Aidan seemed to be a dead ringer for Willie Nelson.

"Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be Kells boys..." (Source)

“Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be Kells boys…” (Source)

In the end, while the weak third act let me down, The Secret of Kells is too beautifully made to dismiss. I think 74/100 is a fair score; it may seem low, but when you’ve gotten used to a 100-point scale, you know there are 74s and 74s. Check it out. Show it to your kids–but show them Song as well. I’m anxious to see what Moore does next.


2 thoughts on “Movie Journal 7/20/15

  1. Well, my favorite animated film, and yeah- they could have stretched out the third act by a good ten or twenty minutes, made it a much better film. I should also point out the distinction between favorite and best for me- I can watch Kells over and over again, no problem, which I might not be able to do with other pieces of animation I think are better. Also, that doesn’t include anime, which I judge by different standards (not harsher or laxer standards, just different ones).

    Also, in regards to Jurassic World- The Indominus Rex just lacks the sheer presence of the T-Rex in the first couple of Jurassic Park films- it was genuinely terrifying there. Indominus, despite being much more dangerous, just falls a little bit short for me.

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