Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim can be summarized with one word: BIG. Big robots, big monsters, big characters, big action, big everything. Hideo Kojima (video game maker, Metal Gear) tweeted, “Pacific Rim is the ultimate otaku film that all of us had always been waiting for…”. In many ways, it is. The initial Rim teaser trailer immediately reminded me of a childhood fave, Robot Jox. Let me know if you’ve heard of it. Jox was a cheesy robot vs. robot war flick from the 80s, which borrowed from otaku (anime/manga obsession) and capitalized on the decade’s Transformers craze. Pacific Rim is similar, which turned out as the childhood memory I had always been waiting to revisit. I sat glued to the back of my seat for the next two hours.
Pixar looks to pop-culture fave Revenge of the Nerds, for inspiration in its new animated feature, Monsters University. University may not be original in its narrative, but is raucously entertaining. The film is a pleasant family experience, riddled with bouncy drum lines, offhand humor and inventive characters. In terms of enthusiastic execution, Monsters University excels.
Jack the Giant Slayer is Bryan Singer’s interpretation of the English folktale. There has been an influx of fairy tale movie adaptions in the last couple of years, but Giant Slayer best keeps to the spirit of the original tale. The filmmakers even worked in a “Fi, Fi, Fo, Fum”, a golden egg and harp. From giants to set pieces, Jack is laden with spectacular CGI. The fairy tale landscape is the perfect companion to the computer canvas and the massive giants are very well done, though, with exception to General Fallon (Bill Nighy), are sometimes difficult to discern from one another. Jack does have his shortcomings. The final confrontation between humans and giants isn’t the payoff I had anticipated, it feels rushed and leaves too many unanswered questions. There isn’t much character development. But perhaps the most disappointing shortfall is the 3D….there is none. Do not pay for this upgrade. Jack the Giant Slayer is rated PG-13. Is Jack safe for kids? Well, that depends on the limits you place on violence. There is no blood, gore, or giant’s goo. Violent encounters are mostly suggestive. There is gross-out humor.
Rise of the Guardians is a half-hearted attempt to innovate the holiday-themed film territory, wasting away any originality it may have had. Who doesn’t want Santa and the Easter Bunny joining the Avengers team? For the most part, that’s what you get – plenty of fast-paced fight scenes. It’s the narrative that takes the back seat in Santa’s sleigh. The story just isn’t that interesting.
While slyly poking fun at 80’s slasher films, ParaNorman really capitalizes on the recent zombie craze. There’s a clever duality of cute and disgusting themes constantly running, which works surprisingly well in a childrens film. But somewhere in the middle the film loses its way, choosing to ditch it’s Sixth Sense inspirations, and opting to mirror the plot after The Grudge. A poor choice, in that the film loses its charming creepiness and instead gets full-on frightening and annoying. The sum is a muddied anti-bullying campaign. An increasingly alarming problem in today’s society, but weak execution here results in a message that completely flew by unnoticed. My son does want those zombie slippers and toothbrush though.
Unexpected Journey is the first of three films chronicling the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. Peter Jackson intends to bring every bit of Tolkien’s novel to life in his movie trilogy. It’s very faithful, it’s extremely long winded. This segment in Tolkien’s fantasy-adventure leads Bilbo to encounter a trio of trolls, giant wolves, a goblin king and a chance encounter with the creature Gollum (and his “precious”).