A Cat in Paris
An impeccably animated French import, directing duo Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol's feline thriller surprised many upon the announcement of its Oscar nomination. Despite not receiving a limited release in the states, coupled with the fact it lacked even a U.S distributor, it usurped mainstream favorites such as Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin, along with the admittedly mediocre Pixar sequel Cars 2, and the sadly underestimated and seemingly already forgotten hand drawn gem Winnie the Pooh. Similar to the situation in 2009, where the also hand drawn Celtic fable Secret of Kells appeared out of nowhere to claim a nomination, many were curious as to whether this absolutely independent outsider of the Hollywood system was of any real quality, or simply the Academy championing a small and forgettable feature for no irrefutable reason. It's because of this that I've been enthusiastically waiting for the film's eventual domestic release; curiosity as to whether it deserves the recognition and slight fame the nomination brought. Now, after having viewed the film, though I'm glad this small foreign feature received its 15 seconds of fame, I'm not sure if it necessarily deserved the nomination. Despite excellent hand drawn animation, the plot is a bit of a mess, and the film is too short (70 minutes) to leave much of an impact. Though I'm glad I finally saw it, after coming from nowhere to become one of my most anticipated films of the year, I'd definitely consider it a disappointment.
Get the Gringo
I usually refrain from including reviews of direct-to-DVD movies on the site, but because of the major star power involved (Mel Gibson), and that the reason the film did not receive a domestic theatrical release was not due to quality, but rather on account of Gibson's own excess baggage from his now notorious personality, an exception is being made for director Adrian Grunberg's slam-bang action flick, Get the Gringo. Before I start to trash the film, let me begin with faint praise: This was easily one of the best, if not the best direct-to-DVD movie I've ever seen. Compared to the similarly titled El Gringo, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, and the somewhat mainstream action comedy Operation: Endgame, it makes Kubrick look like the Zucker Brothers. However, in the context of this review, I'm not going to be treating it as if it's a straight to video release, but rather a conventional action film, and by this standard it's nothing more than a slightly dull, Mexico set, contrived action flick. Gibson is fairly good as the suave and charismatic antihero, but the film surrounding him is the very definition of derivative. Because of the style of its domestic release, Grunberg can at least take some pride in being at the very top of the bottom of the barrel.
After watching Todd Solondz's intentionally painful, slightly surreal romantic dramedy Dark Horse, it's hard to think of another movie where a director and screenwriter, both Solondz in this example, hated their protagonist to the point where the entire story is abruptly forced to take a dramatic left turn simply so that he can die a miserable irony drenched death. This is, without any doubt in my mind, the feel downright terrible movie of 2012, which isn't necessarily a bad thing; it takes certain skill with both the actors and directors to achieve this grim recognition. Though this is a movie I strongly disliked due to the smug, cruel way its characters are treated, Jordan Gelber gives a downright fearless performance as Abe, the 30 year old slacker/subject of Solondz's absolute disdain. Abe is a character who has to be deeply egotistical and completely unlikable while also being a protagonist to root for, and Gelber nails the role 100%. Also very good is Mary Joy, who plays an older acquaintance of Abe who plays many roles throughout his fantasies. Both of them will almost undoubtably be referenced when looking back at the year's best performances come December. Solondz makes the film as mean hearted as possible in just about every way, which, while admittedly the director's style, makes it an almost joyless experience. It's to be watched only for Gelber and Joy's performances, or if you honestly hate yourself.
This grade may be subject to change over the next few days; as the film is dangling right between a C and a C-. Check back soon.
As one of the few people who can say they sincerely enjoyed the widely ridiculed Cars 2, my expectations for Brave were clearly far lower than the rest of the population. Because of generally mediocre trailers, along with the fact that I wasn't expecting a return to the glory days of Wall-e and Finding Nemo because in my opinion, they never really left, Brave looked like a merely okay effort from a studio of which all its films were unanimously excellent. Now, after having watched the film, my opinion really hasn't changed a great deal: it's Pixar's first merely decent film. Despite a few wonderful moments and occasionally stunning animation, the three headed directing team of Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell are never able to reach the exhilarating, lofty heights of the features before it. The film moves at an entertaining, though somewhat rushed clip, and sadly ends before anything particularly interesting happens. What's left is nothing other more than decent, but decent isn't necessarily a terrible thing.
Note: I did not watch the film in 3D, but unless you're an avid Pixar fan there's no real need to do so. Other than a few fight scenes and landscape shots, the 3D wouldn't add very much to the picture.