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Posts Tagged ‘tween’

Bolt: Some Sizzle, Yet No Spark

Posted by goldwriting on December 1, 2008

bolt Do you know how close that place is to the ocean? Do you realize how much water that is?!

Rating: 6 out of 10

We sometimes cast a wistful gaze back into history and remember all the purely magical moments of our childhoods: learning to ride a bike, dumping out the first bag of Halloween candy after a monster haul, or playing with the first new family pet. All of these things hold a special place in our hearts and right alongside those for most of us is the memory of watching our first Disney film. Whether it was Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Steamboat Wille or Aladdin (had to mention it since it is still my reigning favorite from ‘The House of Mouse’), those magical cartoons had a profound effect on several generations and for that, Disney deserves a certain amount of credit. Yet, today things are slightly different. In the world of animated cinema Disney is scratching for third place on the totem pole, underneath the powerhouse studios of Pixar and Dreamworks Animation. It’s true, it can be argued Disney is on top of the pole since they own Pixar, but Pixar operates very much as a separate company and they gained their early success and prestige before Disney made the purchase. Disney is merely the distribution chain for the wonderment emanating from the minds and dreams of the Pixar creative staff. So the question becomes, does Disney still have the chops to compete in the animation circuit?

Yes, they do, as long as they are satisfied with coming in third.

Disney’s latest contribution is Bolt, the story of a dog who doesn’t know he’s an actor on a television show and ends up lost in the real world trying to find his owner, who was fake-kidnapped on the show. Along the way Bolt captures an alley cat in an effort to force her to lead him to the Green-eyed Man (his TV arch-nemesis) and also picks up a hamster that happens to be a fanatical fan named Rhino. Their cross country journey is full of adventures and mishaps, all in an effort to lead Bolt home and back to his owner. The journey is also an internal one for Bolt as he struggles with the realization that he is a normal, non-superhero type dog.

Bolt is a charming movie and should be enjoyable to most young kids out there, but the modern day marker for true success in this genre is how many adults can you attract without their children in tow? For that crowd, Bolt doesn’t offer a whole lot. The trailer was incredibly well-designed and caught a good deal of the highlights in the film, mainly showcasing the role of Rhino the hamster, who stole most of his scenes and felt light in the overall scope of the film. Boosting up his role might not have fit in the structure of the story, but it certainly would have brought up the laughs. Another point in which I think the movie fared really well was the depiction of the pigeons, both in New York and in Los Angeles. The movements and seemingly spastic thought processes in those birds were amusing no matter what they were talking about. Those animators really captured a brilliant idea of what it could be like to listen to their thoughts. The Los Angeles based pigeons…well, those were hilarious for a whole different reason, which I won’t go into for the sake of not ruining the scene. (The only pitfall here is it might only be funny to people who live out here and work in the entertainment industry. Even so, I’m lucky because I do live here and I did think they were the high point of the flick.) As for the main characters, Bolt made sense throughout the film and always stayed on a strong motivated course, but I just wasn’t endeared to him. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but something lacked in making Bolt stand out amongst the cadre of side characters and he ended up being only a lynch pin instead of driving force for the story. The alley cat, Mittens, played well off Bolt and acted more like the Chorus in Greek and Roman theatre, providing the reactions of the common audience member, since Bolt’s own worldview was so skewed. Mittens continually reminded us that what was happening was more-or-less insane, but in the end also showed us what was most important. Surprising to me, Mittens felt more like the heart or emotional center of the film over Bolt.

With animated features another big hurdle is to find a cast of voices that not only fits the characters, but also doesn’t overshadow the movie itself. John Travolta provided the voice of Bolt and admittedly when the movie began I felt his voice was too old for the character and too aware of himself, but as it went on I felt Travolta settled into it more and became more attuned with the character. On the other hand, Miley Cyrus was not a terribly good choice as the voice of Penny, Bolt’s real life and on-screen owner. She was certainly picked for star power and to further connect the movie to the teen-and-under audience, but Miley’s voice is raspy, bordering on smoky at times and while that might work for her pop star image, it didn’t play coming from the mouth of a young, innocent looking girl.

One last interesting tidbit is Bolt was actually executive produced by John Lasseter, one of Pixar’s creators who now works for both companies. He was brought onto Disney Animation to help bring them back into the forefront of the animation world, but I can’t say I really felt that Pixar spark inside this movie. I have no doubt Disney will continue to move forward and fight their way onwards and upwards, but so far it has been a slow crawl for them.

Recommendation: If you have young children, jump on in, but if you’re heading out on your own, you better be a die-hard fan of children’s movies. Also, this is being offered in 3-D at some theaters, but feel free to skip that option. I saw the 3-D version and there wasn’t anything really worth the hassle of wearing those glasses and possibly fighting off the resulting headache.
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Twilight: Tween Daydream Turns Into Nightmare

Posted by goldwriting on November 24, 2008

twilight

My eyes are shut. Please, please tell me when the crazed fans are gone.

Rating: 2 out of 10

There is not a person in the world who hasn’t heard the rags to riches story of J.K. Rowling and the legendary Harry Potter series of books. Those books, of course, led us to the movie franchise, which has generated so far over a billion dollars with three more movies to go (one for book six, while book seven will be split into two pieces). Yet as quickly as one legend is chiseled into stone, another one comes along, shaking the pedestal to knock down the reigning champion. Stephanie Meyer wrote the first book in her Twilight saga only 3 years ago and she is already hot on the trail of Harry Potter’s coffers. With the release of the fourth book, Breaking Dawn, the series as a whole has sold over 17 million copies and been translated into 20 different languages. So, with the literary world groveling at the feet of the Twilight series, begging for more, it was inevitable the movie world would come knocking. Does such a massive fan base guarantee success for the feature film adaptation?

Financially it always helps, but critically it doesn’t mean a thing. With an opening weekend of over $70 million dollars, Twilight is already a blockbuster and I’m guessing will finish up somewhere in the $400 million dollar range. This will mainly be due to the hordes of tween girls who will go see this repeatedly, like they did with Titanic, driving the box office receipts way past any critical value. Once you look beyond the dollar signs and the pre-pubescent obsession, the reality is this movie is barely watchable.

From the very beginning of the film it is terribly paced, trying to drain each and every sigh and wistful gaze from the moments on screen, which causes it to take over an hour to get to anywhere the least bit interesting. Finally, when that moment comes, it is over incredibly fast and done with such broad, clumsy strokes that banging your head against the chair in front of you begins to seem like a viable option to make yourself feel better. The whole thing drips with teenage melodrama, admittedly perfect for their direct audience, but to make a truly successful film it has to play to more than just a fraction of the populace. I’ve never had a problem appreciating a good movie, whether I was the correct demographic or not (look back on my review of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 if you need proof). The fact remains Twilight drags itself from scene to scene, on top of being badly performed. This is a shame to be added to the resume of normally skilled director Catherine Hardwicke, who I have personally raved to many people about her previous films, Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown.

Rob Pattinson, who plays Edward Cullen, the lovelorn vampire, has already ascended to fill the void left by Orlando Bloom from his Lord of the Rings days, but he has far from grasped what it takes to be an on-screen heartthrob. There is an art to the longing gaze, an inherent skill to the penetrating looks across the room, neither of which he possesses. He ends up coming off more like a borderline sociopath who might be suffering from any number of vitamin deficiencies. He also proves numerous times that opening your eyes incredibly wide doesn’t always emote intensity, some times it just comes off looking like you’re in pain. There are rare occasions when the lead actor can be propped up by the performance of his co-star, but this is not one of those times. Kristen Stewart, taking on the role of the lovestruck Bella, who although powerfully cute and physically perfect for the role, plays way too much with the awkwardness of meeting a boy you like before taking an enormous leap into the deepest love in the world. There is virtually no arc for her romanticism, it just appears instantaneously and is never doubted by either side. Also, without giving away any spoilers, there is something special about her character which draws her to her new vampire boyfriend, but yet again it is never explained or even explored. For the next film, which has already been signed and contracted, it would behoove whichever director it might be to watch Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist to see the correct way how to show two incredibly awkward teenagers fall in love without making the audience want to gouge out their own eyes. The painful and repetitive scenes between Rob and Kristen completely washed away James Van Der Beek and Katie Holmes from Dawson’s Creek, America’s previous winners for “Most Time Taken by a Fictional Couple to Just Get the Hell on with It!”

Not having read the book, and I pray it is better than the adaptation, there are also a number of things changed or altered from the vampire mythos. I’m all for new storytellers taking creative license and trying to make something traditional into their own, but the changes made here just ripped out the heart and soul of these maligned and tragic characters. From their over-romanticized reaction to direct sunlight to the absence of a single pairs of fangs in the film, all the creative team of Twilight succeeded in doing is making these characters the weakest and most pathetic vampires in movie history. I would make a comment about Buffy being able to take care of these poor specimens, but I honestly don’t think she would bother. She’d probably send Xander.

It was glaringly obvious that the movie was made with only one group in mind, the 12-14 year old girls, and if you were not a member of this group, you honestly didn’t matter. This tactic might make for a financially successful film, but the franchise will begin to suffer once its audience grows up between films and they start to be able to do more than just gape at a mysteriously gaunt boy on the big screen. My only hope is the studio learns from the Harry Potter series, which has gotten better and better as the films have gone on and they continue to satisfy the young fans of the books along with their parents and older siblings.

Recommendation: If your hair isn’t currently in pigtails, move along.

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