Monday, April 30, 2012

Quick Takes: "The Pirates!", "Pandorum", "Up", "Drive"

"The Pirates! Band of Misfits"
Directed by Peter Lord

Believe it or not, there are requisites for an entertaining stop-motion animated offering, the main one being that it has to have a purpose for all its inane musings. "Wallace and Gromit" has been silly as all hell, but it's always found an organic explanation for existence. That's something that "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" lacks, is that through all the weird and zany misadventures of this crew, they never feel gleeful. They simply feel like they're there for the sake of the jokes, which often aren't all that amusing. The villain hates pirates because... she hates pirates. And the best thing about being a pirate is... Ham Night, apparently. The art of claymation gives it a slight leg up in the joy factor, but is it too much to go beyond the true bare minimum of narrative investment?

Directed by Christian Alvart

You may be wondering, what reason did I have for seeing this at all? Well, sometimes it's just there, and fact of the matter is that this is exactly the type of film my father raised me and my brother on. Sci-Fi Horror with no real purpose than to shock, which it really doesn't. We have all the requisite factors. The Earth is a non-factor, dead by now with nobody missing it. The attractive guy who survives with the attractive girl. The zombies, which they may not be since they're just suffering from space mutation, but they're zombies for all we care. They act the same as can be expected. And we have somebody who isn't who we think they are, and we can't say we honestly care either. Except this time, we kind of do a bit, but that's only thanks to a rare strong performance from Dennis Quaid. I was surprised by how effective his work was, but beyond that, this is a lot of the same gruesome nothingness that fails to enthrall much at all.

Directed by Pete Doctor

It's been a while since the last time I sat down for a Pixar flick, mostly because the last one jaded me significantly against the brand. I had to take some time to recuperate, which I did, and now we're cool. Revisiting "Up", the heartbreak value has not diminished, and the first ten minutes are amazingly sweet, and heart crushing even. From there, the film develops a gleeful ambition, because adventure clearly is out there. Carl is simply avoiding that, and that's a lot of where the continuing conflict in the film is, that Carl feels like he has taken opportunities away from Ellie, and that he could never give her the adventure she wanted.

And as we take off to Paradise Falls, we find him positively avoiding conflict because he is safely bound by his own "adventure", to get his house to the falls as planned for. He didn't expect to be carrying Russell as baggage, both literal and emotional. He didn't want to believe that his childhood idol had grown deranged and sociopathic. He felt that this wasn't HIS adventure, which was with Ellie. The third act revelation proves all the more impactful for everything that's come before. And sure, the final battle may prove a bit too perfect, with all the pieces falling a tad too tidily into place, but it's nonetheless filled with adventure, all the stakes included. That's what Pixar should be at its best. Earning adventure through true emotional consequence.

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

I came back around to Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" with a different purpose this time around, as I had been asked to dissect the film for sociological themes within the realm of daily consumption. A bit confounding for this particular feature? Perhaps, but I was rearing to take it on anyway, and my god do the different characters really bring to life strong social situations by barely addressing them at all. The Driver isn't a figure who exists within any specific social or economic stature, and instead chooses to exist above all of them. That's how he makes his job work, by playing any role necessary for him to make it through the night.

And of course he runs into Irene and Benecio, and begins falling contently into this role family member and surrogate father to Benecio. He mingles in the lives of these working class individuals, and decides to use his prowess in the criminal world to help them out. That's when it backfires. We see the rich and upper-class denizens of Bernie and Izzie reaping off of the misery of these working class individuals. We see the Driver saddled with money that he doesn't need, want, or know what to do with. We see Bernie knocking down Shannon's continued attempts to get up there with him, financially. We see Izzie desperately trying to fill a role that seems bound to end him up in a grave. All of these people face deep consequences for the roles they wish to fulfill.

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