Average User Score: 8.2Mar 12, 2014Tangled is unquestionably the funniest animated Disney movie in a very long time, with such deliciously quotable lines as "I'll have you know this is the strangest thing I've ever done!" (spoken while wielding a frying pan in a fight against a horse wielding a sword in its teeth). The writing is some of the most clever I've ever seen in an animated film, though at times this works against the movie: some scenes push past witty into overt self-parody, which seems to conflict with the story's emotional core.
All the same, coming at the end of a near-decade-long Disney slump, with fantastic animation, excellent voice work all around, hilarious writing, enjoyable songs, and a strong story with very likeable characters, it's definitely a return to the same sort of quality we saw in the Disney Renaissance. The biggest problem the movie has is a tendency to act too much like Dreamworks and not enough like Disney, and even that is mostly just a nagging background worry.… Expand
Average User Score: 5.6Jul 4, 2013Here's what's wrong with Alice in Wonderland: it doesn't want to be Alice in Wonderland. It wants to be Narnia. The Dormouse's overhaul into a feisty fencer alone is clue enough, as if everything else weren't already screaming it at you through a megaphone. The problem is that it isn't Narnia, shouldn't be Narnia, and isn't nearly as good at being Narnia as Narnia. Johnny Depp is more annoying in this film than he has ever been before, creating a Mad Hatter who is just confusing instead of remotely endearing, and every other character is roughly him in miniature in this respect. It's not even the good, bewildering kind of confusing that you would expect from the source material: it's just the bad, boring kind of confusing that suggests the filmmakers didn't do their homework, didn't try to create a character with a meaningful identity, and didn't try to make sure their characters had actual purpose and plot relevance. The March Hare is reduced to a one-note side joke. The Dormouse has been marginally elevated...into a slightly DIFFERENT one-note side joke from the one in the book, with slightly more screen time (this time, the joke is that the Dormouse is a Reepicheep clone! HOW WONDERFUL!). The Mad Hatter is the only character from the tea party that seems to matter, but he's just annoying. The Tweedle twins are simply dull and underused instead of funny in any way. The White Rabbit is instantly forgettable, and you'll forget him every time you see him. Anne Hathaway, as the White Queen, hints at interesting character elements...that you will never ever see. Helena Bonham Carter is forced into a heartbreakingly shallow role as the Red Queen that everyone knows she is far too good for.
The only actors with roles that seemed to fit well were Crispin Glover as the Red Knave (and a chilling one at that; Glover, for all the notoriety he gained on Letterman, gets into his characters with an astonishing intensity, even in flops like this), Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat (because he seems to be perfect at everything he does), Alan Rickman as Absolem the Caterpillar (stupid though the name may be, Rickman's voice work is better than anyone could have ever expected, and he brings exactly the right note of condescending mystery that the caterpillar needs to have), and Christopher Lee as the Jabberwock (only two lines, but spoken SO WELL).
None of this is enough to save the movie from the fact that it doesn't want to be what it claims to be. It can never, ever escape this. The Alice trappings are just sort of "there", dangling around it, because it's clear to anyone with eyes that this movie began development after Disney bailed on the Chronicles of Narnia films so it wouldn't have to split the take with Walden Media, as an alternative to Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Lewis Carroll would probably be disgusted.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.6Jul 4, 2013The first film in the series is unquestionably the best. Jack Sparrow is an excellent character, and really carries the movie. It reminds me of the old Marx Brothers films: if not for Groucho, Chico, and Harpo, they would be bland and nobody would care, but thanks to Jack Sparrow who seems to incorporate the best elements of all three the movie ends up fantastically entertaining. Will Turner may be the protagonist by any helpful analysis of story structure, but Jack is the reason you're watching, and he's well worth it.
The Curse of the Black Pearl has a solid, familiar-yet-surprising story at its heart, that never loses sight of where it's going next. This is part of what makes it good: you can guess roughly where it's going next, and have your expectations confirmed, but there's always some surprise complication waiting for you when you get there, so you're never bored. One of the best Disney movies of the 2000s, and well worth seeing by anyone.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.9Jul 3, 2013Dead Man's Chest seems to struggle mightily with what it wants to be. Does it want to be a story about Jack Sparrow's rascally ways coming back to bite him, or does it want to be a story of Will Turner coming to terms with the man his father was? Does it want to be about Elizabeth Swann becoming a pirate and loving it, or Norrington trying to scrape by after an offscreen passingly-mentioned disgrace? The villain, at least, is clear, but little else is.
Speaking of the villain, Davy Jones is a great one. He's scary, he's one of the best-modeled CG characters ever made, and Bill Nighy acts him beautifully. But he's weighed down by the plodding, meandering movie he's in, that can't seem to decide what it's doing, where it's going, or why it exists. It seems to be just sort of...THERE. Because Eisner wanted a sequel. Or something. Overall, the weakest film in the series. That includes At World's End AND On Stranger Tides.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.4Jul 3, 2013On Stranger Tides is really kind of heartbreaking. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush have glorious onscreen chemistry and get to be onscreen together more than ever before...but they can't save the movie by themselves. Ian McShane is a fantastic actor...held back by a weak script. The idea of a cleric and a mermaid falling in love in the side plot is cool...but is executed horribly. On Stranger Tides is trapped between a central cast with several excellent actors and an awkward, clumsy script that has a cringer for every good line (and there are quite a few of each). The film has a distinctly lower budget than previous installments, and it shows: the only naval battle that could have happened is called off due to lack of interest on the part of the Spanish fleet, even though Barbossa (now a British privateer) is rarin' to go.
The worst part of the movie is also its best part: Ian McShane as Blackbeard. Ian McShane delivers the single best performance in the movie, with perfect lines, perfect inflection, perfect everything...and what makes him the worst part is that he's tied to the clumsy wreck that is the rest of the movie, making him a constant reminder of what could have been if only the film had a better budget and a more consistent writer. Jack Sparrow does prove that he can carry a story on his own instead of being the trickster spotlight-stealer to Will Turner, but it's a weak story through no fault of Jack's.
On Stranger Tides is a good movie stuck in the shell of a bad movie, chained to the wall by its inconsistent writing, weak secondary characters, and low budget.… Expand
Average User Score: 5.9Jul 3, 2013Overall, an improvement over Dead Man's Chest. It suffers from somewhat excessive complexity and a rushed, "Return of the Jedi", "oh god we don't have time to wrap up all these loose ends, staple separate plots together and call it a day" kind of feel, but there's a constant sense that the movie is moving towards its conclusion, unlike Dead Man's Chest which seemed to just drift freely in whatever direction it felt like. The huge final battle is excellent, and the film's final third in general is its strongest, but it fails to live up to the first film, even if it beats out the second.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.2Jun 28, 2013It has been a very, very long time since Adam Sandler was funny, if he ever was, but this is one of the first Adam Sandler comedies to realize this and understand how to use that fact to its advantage. By casting him as the clueless mild-mannered straight man and filling the rest of the movie out with genuine comedic talent in strong comedic roles spearheaded by Jack Nicholson we get to see something hilarious: Adam Sandler suffering at the hands of far more talented actors. The greatest Adam Sandler comedy ever is a Jack Nicholson comedy. Who knew? A solid addition to any comedic library.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.3Jan 30, 2013As a movie considered strictly on its own merits, The Lorax is passable but unmemorable, except for its catchy music. The movie maintains a mostly very Seussian art style, much to its credit, which offers a better sense for the whimsy of the thing. As an adaptation, however, The Lorax is almost insulting, misinterpreting the original work's moral of "overconsumption is bad and destroys the environment, which is also in itself bad" into "trees are awesome and corporations are evil". One of the most important elements of any adaptation is the feel of the adaptation versus the feel of the original, and when your adaptation doesn't play fast and loose with the source material there's a need to adhere very closely with your feel, but this movie doesn't even try to succeed at that. It's a very cynical movie, with a cynical sense of humor that is admittedly quite funny when considered on its own merits, but feels mean in context, and with an almost sarcastically naive moral, and yet I feel like all of this was done as a means of playing it safe on the studio's part, which is ironic when you think about it because cynical approaches to childhood classics seem like they would be the opposite of safe. The movie feels like an underachieving teenager, deliberately withholding effort because it's easier to excuse a flop as "I wasn't trying anyway" than to face the possibility that someone might not like your best work. The movie's crippling fear of rejection causes it to lose the earnestness that could have served it so well as a Dr. Seuss adaptation, instead choosing to constantly act like it's too cool for itself. It's a rare thing when all of a movie's flaws proceed so cleanly from a single source, but this really is the wellspring that it all pours from: the Lorax was too afraid you wouldn't like it if it gave 100%, so it decided to only give something like 70%. If you want to see some great art design and hear some fun songs, by all means rent/borrow it, but if you actually want to get the story, read the book or watch the old half-hour cartoon special.… Expand
Average User Score: 8.1Jan 30, 2013The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a movie best described as "unexpected". A decade ago, nobody expected that Peter Jackson would come around and even make The Hobbit. A year ago, nobody expected that Peter Jackson would split it across three movies. A month or two ago, nobody expected that HFR would bring with it a huge dinner party of new problems for visual effects staff. And going into the theater, despite all of the warnings I'd received, I still didn't really expect what I got.
It's not that I didn't LIKE The Hobbit -- I very much did, though many of my friends didn't -- the problem is that strictly speaking, it's not a good movie. It would, however, make a very good TV mini-series.
A movie brings with it certain demands of pacing and condensation; you've got your audience for a set length of time with no intermissions or breaks, and you've got to hold their attention and entertain them for that entire time, which means that the longer your movie runs, the less added fluff you can afford to have in your movie (conversely, shorter movies can afford a lot more fluff, simply because the audience won't get tired of a 90 minute movie unless the whole thing is just unspeakably dull). With a mini-series, on the other hand, you can break the story up into 1-hour chunks, show one a week, move the story along at whatever pace you damn well like and as long as you don't turn into The Walking Dead Season Two you can flesh out the world as much as you want.
Peter Jackson's heart is in the right place with this movie: he wants to show Middle-Earth in all its glory. He wants to show not only what you read in the book The Hobbit, but also everything important that was happening at the same time anywhere in the world, as well as give some of the otherwise-flat dwarves arcs. All of this would be completely forgiven on TV, and it would be hailed as one of the best shows on the airwaves for its dedication to bringing its setting to full, vibrant life. However, doing this in cinema just means that people are going to get cramps in their asses from sitting in the theater seats for three hours straight once a year three years in a row.
The problem with the movie isn't with the dialogue, the acting, the visual effects (though I will be discussing the unexpected technical issues later; I just consider them petty quibbles rather than major problems), the cinematography, the sound, or any of that; the problem is pretty much just the decision to make the movie as incredibly long as it is. All the scenes themselves are individually very nice, and are at the very least atmospheric if not essential to the plot, but at a running time like this, anything unessential to the plot feels like it's wasting the viewers' time and padding the movie rather than actually giving you anything good, which is a real pity because this movie clearly put a great deal of love and work into everything in it. The good news is that the movie's pace ramps up constantly, until it's moving at full steam by the end, and it never slows down once it's gained speed.
If I had to change one thing about the movie to make it better, there's one thing I would do: cut the entire chase scene that leads into Rivendell. Have Gandalf simply browbeat Thorin into going to Rivendell in a three or four minute conversation, cut to Rivendell, and have Gandalf meet Radagast there before the whole wizard council, moving Radagast's conversation with Gandalf to that meeting. It cuts out a huge padded chase scene that isn't nice to watch (it breaks the "only provide the illusion of depth; never pop out of the screen" rule that all 3D movies should follow), adds nothing to the story, dilutes Radagast's character, and introduces the Azog subplot much too early. In fact, Azog and his orcs shouldn't have come into the movie at all until Thorin gets a chance to finally see them at the end; this way, the audience feels his same surprise and the scene has that much more emotional impact. It also shortens the movie, which is one of the things that needs to be done with this movie. Moving Radagast to the Council also allows him to play off the other wizards, giving Sylvester McCoy much-deserved screentime to be entertaining while also giving him a chance to show that his character isn't just an insane stoner in the woods. It's shorter and has a better overall effect.
On the technical side of the movie, HFR is a technology that shows promise, but still has a few kinks to work out. It makes the entire movie look too smoothly animated, like a Final Fantasy XIII cinematic, until you adjust to it, which takes about the first half hour. Once you acclimate, it looks gorgeous, but another problem arises: the greater detail means that costumes (and most noticeably, beards) look less realistic, which means that HFR won't develop further until costuming gets MUCH better. A lower framerate, something like 30, might be easier to work with.
Hoping the sequel will be better.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.5Jan 14, 2013Considered on its own merits alone, it's a passable zombie movie with a memorable opening and epilogue and a blandly forgettable everything else. Only one character that the audience knows or cares about fails to pull through, with all the other deaths happening to the cardboard cutouts that pass for 80% of the characters as an excuse to have gore for its own sake. Lots of interesting ideas that become mere filler due to superficial half-treatment. The movie is good for a few scares here and there, but it pales terribly when compared to the original. Gone is Romero's social commentary, replaced by admirable yet insufficient earnestness, and there lies the film's true failing: it takes itself more seriously than it lets the audience take it.… Expand