Category Archives: 2.5

Amour (2012)

This is the most depressing movie I’ve ever seen.

Amour tells the story of an elderly couple, Anne and Georges. Anne is a professional pianist, but this comes to an end when one day she suffers from a stroke. In dealing with the aftereffects of this attack, the couple’s love is put to test.

This film does a wonderful job of using still cameras to their fullest potential. The takes are long, meaning that the actors are truly acting for longer than two seconds at a time, and there isn’t a lot of cutting back and forth from character to character, even in a two-person conversation; there are a couple of instances when two people will be talking, one with his/her back to the camera, with the camera staying in one place the whole time. In an era where the “shaky cam” is all the rage, some still, smooth camera work is nice and refreshing.

As you all know by now, I’m a huge fan of musical scores, but one of the best parts of this movie is that it doesn’t have one. It relies instead on the performances of the actors onscreen to convey the emotion of the story, which is another testament to the talents at work here. The only other film that I can think of that takes this approach is Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 film Cast Away, which doesn’t introduce musical score until the end of the film when Tom Hanks’ character leaves the island. In both situations, it is the lack of music that creates the “soundtrack”…it’s quite wonderful.

A couple of difficult themes are tackled in Amour as well, namely remembering youth, accepting death, and enduring love through it all. These are handled well, but they make the film understandably difficult to watch.

This is a beautiful, heart-wrenching film that is certainly deserving of awards, but it is depressing to the point that I can’t recall a single part that I actually “enjoyed.” In fact, I think that anyone who says they “enjoyed” this film is lying to you; the love shared between this couple even in the hardest of times is admirable, but the circumstances shown in the film are grueling. Overall, Amour is a piece of art, a beautiful example of cinema at its finest, but I would never watch it again for fear that my heart might drop out. This is why my rating is as low as it is…not because it wasn’t a good film, but because its “entertainment value” is, in my eyes, fairly nonexistent.

-Chad

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for mature thematic material including a disturbing act, and for brief language


We Bought a Zoo (2011)

The only Matt Damon films I had seen before this one were the Bourne trilogy and 2010’s True Grit, so it was nice to see him as a less aggressive, more father-like figure in We Bought a Zoo. This film wasn’t one that I ever got excited for, which is why I just watched it for the first time on Blu-Ray, and now, even after watching, I have mixed feelings.

Based on the memoir of the same name by Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo follows a father (Damon) and his two children six months after the mother has died. They’re still hurting and trying to move on with their lives, so it just seems too perfect when the opportunity to buy a zoo rolls around to give them a fresh start. The 7-year-old daughter, Rosie, is filled with wisdom beyond her years, and not just in the “kids say the darnedest things” sort of way; her father literally goes to her for advice or for serious adult conversation more than once in the film. The son, Dylan, is the typical 14-year-old teenager: filled with angst, thinks his father hates him, etc. He is also a talented artist who has recently begun drawing disturbing images, such as a head being severed from the body. Why a dead mother would warrant such graphic drawings, I’m not sure, but, then again, I’m no psychology expert.

In the zoo, there is an aging Bengal tiger who is just about at the end of his life, but Damon’s character, despite the pleas by the lead zookeeper (Scarlett Johansson), insists on doing whatever he can to prolong this tiger’s life. I think that this is supposed to be a metaphor for his relationship to his dead wife and his unwillingness to let her go, but it’s a weak comparison. At least, I certainly wouldn’t equate ending a dying tiger’s struggle for life to a widower’s struggle to move on after losing his wife, but that’s just me. But alas, with the decision to put the tiger out of his misery comes a mended relationship between father and son and a possibility at new love for Damon’s character.

The dialogue was particularly irritating to me at times, mainly because it used “man” constantly, as if this was The Big Lebowski or something like that. It starts with Thomas Haden Church’s character, brother to Damon’s, calling him “man” all the time, but it gets so bad that, near the end of the film, Damon’s character has a yell match with his son, calling him “man” at least 15 times, give or take a few. Its usage does nothing but distracts…it just makes no sense to me! The score by Jónsi was distracting at times as well, sometimes not matching the scene even remotely. However, when it did match the scene, the music did a nice job of sounding the whimsy of the story.

Anyway, while I did have a lot of complaints, We Bought a Zoo worked well as a family film, with Damon’s performance carrying the film and Johansson doing a decent job. Church’s performance felt forced to me, with the fact that he’s supposed to be playing the brother to the main character being nearly completely lost to me; there’s absolutely no brotherly connection between the two of them. Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Rosie will make you smile frequently with her sweet comments and adorable smile, and the story is saccharine and predictable enough to please just about anyone who enjoys that kind of thing. I didn’t dislike it, but it’s certainly not a movie that I would like to own for myself.

-Chad

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for language and some thematic elements


Disneynature: Chimpanzee (2012)

Chimpanzee is the only Disneynature film that I’ve seen. It’s definitely a different sort of movie experience; there’s not any acting or plot for me to praise or criticize because everything we see is nature in action.

That being said, I did enjoy this documentary. The story of little Oscar’s struggle for survival and subsequent adoption by the leader of the tribe is a touching one, and it’s all the more impressive once you learn that this is the first time an instance like this has ever been documented on film.

However, I do have one complaint: Tim Allen as narrator. Now, he wasn’t awful all of the time; he did a fairly good job narrating, and he even managed to make me chuckle a few times. But there were moments throughout when I felt like he was trying too hard. I doubt Allen wrote his own material, which largely consisted of him assigning pointless dialogue to the fit the actions of the apes, so I can’t exactly blame him. Instead, I blame whoever decided to make Allen the narrator in the first place. In my opinion, Tim Allen (voice of Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story films) is too big of a Disney name for something like this. The narrating job should have gone to someone less affiliated with Disney so that the audience could watch the movie more objectively.

Despite my issues with Tim Allen as narrator, like I said, I did enjoy the film and would definitely be interested in watching other Disneynature films…hopefully with a different narrator.

Yay nature!

-Chad

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: G


Bedtime Stories (2008)

I’ve always felt that there is a difference between “good movies” and “movies that people enjoy”; for example, I don’t think anyone would argue with me if I said that Bedtime Stories, starring Adam Sandler, Keri Russell, Russell Brand, and Guy Pearce, wasn’t a “good” movie, but I must confess – I enjoy the heck out of this movie.

I blame my love for this film on the likability of Russell Brand and Keri Russell. Brand has several delightfully quotable lines in this film (“I actually like ketchup on my face because it’s rejuvenating for the skin!”) that never fail to make me laugh, even on repeated viewings. Keri Russell, however, is charming and beautiful; I’ve been a fan of hers since I first saw her in August Rush, and she makes me smile every time she’s on screen. With fun stories told by a better-than-he-has-been-in-his-last-few-movies Sandler, cute kids, and an even cuter Bugsy, there’s plenty to like about this movie.

However, as I said before, this film wouldn’t typically be considered a “good” film. Sandler doesn’t come across as the kind of guy who should be telling kids bedtime stories. The voice-over from Jonathan Pryce is fine at the beginning and end, but there are a couple of instances in the movie when, as the narrator/Sandler’s father, speaks directly to Sandler’s character…it’s the one moment in the film that really irritates me. The story is cliche, the cause of the stories coming to life is never explored, and it is, admittedly, decidedly juvenile as a whole.

But none of that keeps me from chuckling every time Skeeter sees Bugsy’s eyes for the first time or when Rob Schneider makes an appearance as a Native American horse trader or when Russell Brand’s character wakes up from his so-called “sleep panic disorder”. Bedtime Stories is a kids’ movie through and through with some silly slapstick and obvious bits intended to make children laugh, but perhaps you’ll be able to find something to enjoy in it; as the Marty Bronson says in the film, “your fun is only limited by your imagination”.

-Chad

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for some mild rude humor and mild language