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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cody's Film Review: Where The Wild Things Are

Where The Wild Things Are has been one of my most anticipated films since I heard Spike Jonze was attached way back in 2005. Jonze is a director of many talents and I have been a fan of his since his early music video days. I also loved Maurice Sendak's book since I was a little kid, and this book and this director were a perfect fit. I was very disturbed when Universal Studios was unhappy with Jonze version in 2007 and it looked like they were going to shelve it. Luckily Warner Brothers saved it, but after some "disturbing to children" previews it was held for another year until they could "fix" it. When the first trailer was released all of my dreams came true, and this film promised to be everything I wanted. Maybe I built this film up too much, but I was disappointed in the finished product. I am not saying I didn't like it, I just didn't love it like I thought I would. Technically this film is perfect in every way. Lance Acord's cinematography is beautiful and along with the Art Department, this is one of the best looking and imaginative films I have seen in a long time. Karen O and Carter Burwell's music is haunting and fit's perfectly with the subject matter. The most impressive part of the film is the amazing talents of the Jim Henson Creature Shop. In this day and age where ILM and other CGI companies (with the exception of Pixar) have gotten lazy and unimaginative with their special effects it is nice to see that the name Jim Henson is still producing quality work. Henson's Creature Shop have outdone themselves, and along with The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy(2005) they are responsible for two of the best looking SFX films of the decade. They add realism and character to their puppets and you never get the feeling you are watching a cartoon. It's amazing this film cost 100 million dollars less than the last Indiana Jones crapfest, because the quality doesn't even compare. The marriage of old and new technology is the direction Hollywood should go,but unfortunately we seem to be stuck with high cost and low quality gems like Wolverine.For the first time in a long time I had that Jim Henson feeling I felt growing up and, finally twenty year old hipsters have a taste too. The problem I had with WTWTA was mainly the characters and the story. I didn't find anything desirable about the Wild Things land or it's inhabitants. When I was a kid most fantasy films showed a place I wanted to escape to and people/creatures I wanted to be friends with. The Wild Things are negative, surly, and depressing creatures that would cause anyone to want off the island after a hour. Max himself is a daring and selfish person, but he is a kid and that was understandable and exactly like his character from the book. When it was time for Max to leave I felt no sadness that he was leaving friends or a magical world behind. I was relieved when he was leaving, because I feared for his life the moment he set foot on the island. The other problem I had was the voices chosen for the Wild Things. James Gandolfini has a great voice that sadly will always be linked to Tony Soprano, a iconic character that I personally couldn't see past. Lauren Ambrose's voice just didn't seem to fit the character KW and Catherine O'Hara's Judith was also out of place. Chris Cooper,Paul Dano, and Forrest Whitaker at least tried to disguise their voices a little, and attempted to do a character voice. The story was simple and a nice extension of the book. I wouldn't mind a story about Max and the Wild Things hanging out and building forts if I had a invested interest in the characters, but I didn't. Worth seeing, but not the classic it could have been. 3 out of 5 stars

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Keith!

One of the contributers to this blog, Keith Munley, turns 30 today October 12th. Keith shares his birthday with some interesting people and events that are movie related. Born on this day singer Luciano Pavarotti who was in the terrible Yes Giorgio. 80's icon Deborah Forman of Valley Girl, My Chauffeur, and Real Genius fame. Bull Rider Lane Frost, who 8 Seconds was based on. The all-singing and all mutant Hugh Jackman. And I'm not a bad kid I just play one on TV Jesus freak Kirk Cameron. Dying on this day is silent films first major cowboy star Tom Mix. Oh God actor and singer John Denver. Events on this day are the 1953 opening on Broadway, and later great Bogie film, of The Caine Mutiny. In 1979 the release of Douglas Adams The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy is published. And finally today Sid Vicious stabbed and killed his crazy girlfriend Nancy Spungen in the Chelsea Hotel in NYC, and now you know the ending to Sid and Nancy. Congrats Keith you lived 6 years longer than James Dean and have 15 more to catch up with Monty.