Saturday, July 24, 2010

Review: Lesbians, Sorcerers, and Toys, Oh My!

Going to see a movie in NYC now runs you $12.50, assuming you're not a child or senior, and you're going to the now rather comfortable megaplex-like theater. Needless to say, I don't go to the movies as much anymore, not unless it's to see something I'm very interested in. This month was an exception, as I went to see 3 movies: The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Toy Story 3, and The Kids Are All Right.

Of the three, Sorcerer's Apprentice was the disappointment. It had the potential for being a great fantasy action film, and while the special effects were fine and it had a few intense moments, it became more like a Disney Channel special than an action film. We could have done without the sappy love story, in other words. Drawing on the historical legacy of Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer's apprentice in the animated short first seen in Fantasia (1940), this live-action version tells the story of Dave (Jay Baruchel), a nerdy science geek and NYU student, who becomes an apprentice to the sorcerer Balthazar (Nicolas Cage), himself a former apprentice of Merlin. New Yorkers will be exasperated by the manipulation of the City's urban landscape: the West 4th subway stop, for instance, is not an above-ground station, and there is no way anyone would follow another person on foot from NYU's campus in the Village all the way to the Chrysler Building on 42nd & Lexington and not have caught up to them along the way. If you see the movie, make sure you get there for the opening though, because the backstory in the first five minutes is a bit complex. As for me, I think I'll go back and enjoy the Mickey Mouse version, or Paul Dukas's 1897 symphonic poem, or Goethe's 1797 poem.

I went to see Toy Story 3 on the 4th of July. This is easily a must-see film of the year, even if you've never seen the previous two films. Although targeted to children and followers of Disney's cowboy Woody and spaceman Buzz Lightyear franchise, the movie appeals to everyone (although I'm not sure children under the age of 7 should see it). It taps into every human emotion about growing up, memories of our past, and the ongoing legacy we leave behind for others. If you don't get teary-eyed by the end of the movie, there's something wrong with you. Aside from that, however, it is simply hilarious, with the appropriate amount of double-entendre humor that appeals to adults on a different level. Case in point: metrosexual Ken Doll steals every scene he's in. But like all good fairy tales, there has to be frightening moments and a villain too, and this movie has its share, demonstrating how as lovable and cuddly as some toys are, there are others that are just freaky. The recent craze for 3D movies is getting ridiculous, but in this instance it works because the cinematic experience surrounds you and it doesn't insult you by having things flying into your face. Go see this movie. You'll love it.

Finally, for some witty realistic bantering, superb acting, and a broadening of one's understanding about what defines sexual orientations like straight and gay, go see The Kids Are All Right (image, above, from the movie's official website). This film is about a lesbian couple, Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) who have two children from the same sperm donor. In California, the identity of the sperm donor can be revealed if all parties involved are willing. Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) decide they want to meet their biological father. Enter Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a seemingly leftover hippie, who meets his children and gradually becomes closer to the entire family. Well, almost everyone in the family. The movie has warm humor, thanks to director/writer Lisa Cholodenko and co-writer Stuart Blumberg. These are real people facing real-life relationship issues, and the awkwardness and sexual tension that prevails throughout the movie just makes it all the more true to life. It's rare for American actresses to be willing to reveal all of themselves, without cosmetics, in all their glory, and it's so refreshing to see Moore take this risk throughout the film. It makes her even more beautiful than she already is. Ruffalo repulsed me early on, but as the movie progressed his charm seriously started to turn me on. Bening, however, is superb. It's almost impossible to describe the subtle energy she brings to this role, but it is through Bening's character that the movie takes its very serious turn of events and comes full circle in a way that makes you realize how real these characters are. This movie isn't for everyone (homophobes, closed-minded intolerables, fundamentalist Christian freaks), but for the rest of us who are open to the sheer experience of living, don't miss this film.

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