REVIEW: Fantastic Mr. Fox

30 11 2009

It might not seem odd at first, but soon after being immersed in the world of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” you are bound to notice that all the characters are saying the word cuss, used as a substitute for any necessary expletives, with great frequency.  In a brilliant stroke of ingenious mischief, Wes Anderson finds a way to tone down the movie with dumbing it down.  He takes everything that audiences love about his live-action features – the dysfunctional families, the eclectic music, the geometric shots, the conscious cinematography, and all the quirks – and refuses to surrender to the family movie.  Style intact, Anderson makes a movie that audiences will realize isn’t all that different from his other pictures.

The cast of characters might seem a little bit familiar to fans of Anderson’s work.  Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is a flawed father struggling to accept his responsibilities to his family, and he yearns for his furtive days of hunting.  Trying to rediscover his true self, he embarks on a series of ultimately successful raids on the crotchety neighboring farmers with the wonderfully neurotic opossum Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky).  This is all to the dismay of Mrs. Felicity Fox (Meryl Streep), his caring but somewhat disapproving wife.  Knowing Wes Anderson, the family drama can’t end there.  Their son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), can’t seem to live up to his father’s legacy.  In addition, he begins to feel like second fiddle to his dad when naturally gifted cousin Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) comes to stay with the family.  The classic “hunted become the hunters” story intertwines with the family turmoil as Mr. Fox angers the dim-witted farmers adjacent to their dwelling.  Using their wile, the rodents are able to outsmart and outmaneuver their foes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements




F.I.L.M. of the Week (November 27, 2009)

27 11 2009

Before I went to see “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” I wanted to get a taste of Wes Anderson’s distinct style.  So I took a friend’s recommendation and watched “The Royal Tenenbaums,” which is this week’s “F.I.L.M.” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie).  I am now officially smitten by the quirky, off-beat humor that people love about Anderson.  He has a very cultish, niche audience, but “The Royal Tenenbaums” managed to make a blip on the mainstream radar.  It made a respectable $52 million (attendance comparable to “The Final Destination”), won a Golden Globe for Gene Hackman’s performance, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.  But for a large group of moviegoers who haven’t experienced Wes Anderson, might I suggest renting this?  You’re really missing out if you haven’t.

The film follows a dysfunctional family that has fallen apart, mainly due to the large egos of the three extremely bright children.  Chas (Ben Stiller) is a successful enterpreneur by his early teens, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a skilled playwright who is published by high school, and Ritchie (Luke Wilson) finds great success with the game of tennis.  But for different reasons, they all wind up miserable.  Surprisingly, it is their estranged father, Royal Tenebaum (Gene Hackman) who ends this unhappy spell.  With his eccentric and often manipulative ways, he often infuriates them.  But he has a certain charm that has the power to ease the pain of disappointment and fill the gap he has left in their lives with his absence.

One thing that I particularly enjoyed about “The Royal Tenenbaums” is that I could sense Wes Anderson had as much fun making this movie as I did watching it.  He ornately concocts these bizarre characters that seem so far-fetched, yet they hit home in unexpected and delightful ways.  Anderson makes his presence felt throughout the entire movie.  You can feel it in the cinematography, consisting of deliberately framed geometric shots.  You can feel it in the soundtrack, a mix of folk and rock that really sets the atmosphere for his quirky work.  You can even feel it in the font he uses for the titles.  If you were like me, questioning what could possibly make Wes Anderson so special, watch “The Royal Tenenbaums” to be silenced and completely won over.





What To Look Forward To In … November 2009

7 10 2009

The holiday movie season begins to kick into high gear in the month of November, as does exciting Oscar season.  Accordingly, this post is longer than the previous monthly preview posts.  Brace yourself for movie mania coming your way in a few weeks.  Sit back, relax, and let Marshall guide you through the coming attractions.

November 6

From the mainstream movie perspective, the hot movie of this weekend will be Robert Zemeckis’ adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.”  Shot with the same motion capture technology that Zemeckis used to make “The Polar Express,” the movie will cash in on premium ticket prices from 3D and IMAX 3D screenings.  My main concern about the quality of the movie itself lies with its principal actor, Jim Carrey, who will act as Scrooge and all three ghosts.  I doubt Zemeckis will permit it, but I fear that Carrey will make a mockery of Dickens’ classic novel much in the fashion of Mike Meyers with “The Cat in the Hat.”  Regardless of what critics say, I will probably end up seeing this with the family for some good old-fashioned family fun at the movies.

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” is the first movie of the holiday season to which George Clooney lends his talents.  Here, he plays a a military man in charge of a secret unit that attempts to use psychic powers for military purpose.  One such activity is to attempt to kill goats just by staring at them.  The movie also stars Ewan MacGregor as the reporter who discovers it all; the cast also includes Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey.  The movie is directed and adapted by Grant Heslov, previously nominated for an Academy Award for his work on “Good Night, and Good Luck.”  The trailer seems to show Heslov’s approach as similar to the Coen Brothers who usually provide a fun-filled romp.  Maybe the film will be a bona-fide indie hit, and Overture Films will be able to claim their first movie to gross over $50 million.  But we’ll have to see.

I’ve already written about the Oscar favorite, “Precious,” in a previous Oscar Moment.  I’ll post the trailer here just for the sake of promoting it, but if you want to hear my thoughts, read the post.

Two thrilling movies also open this week.  First, “The Box” with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, seems to have an intriguing premise: if you push the button on the box, you will get a million dollars, but someone you don’t know will die.  However, it looks to be more interested in cheap thrills than exploring moral issues.  The other, “The Fourth Kind,” looks downright scary.  If horror is your thing, this looks like the movie for you.  I saw the trailer at “District 9,” and even if you don’t want to see it, you have to ponder the validity of the “true story” behind the movie.

November 13

Disaster porn reaches its pinnacle this weekend.  “2012,” Roland Emmerich’s apocalyptic film, will have some of the biggest destruction and explosions the world has ever seen.  The trailer was so mind-blowing that I am willing to overlook all vices in the plot to see the world’s greatest landmarks get wiped off the earth.  My only comment is that if John Cusack somehow finds a way to stop the end of the world, I will be enraged.

The other major wide release of the week is “Pirate Radio,” a movie that Focus Features so desperately wants you to see that they changed the title from “The Boat that Rocked” just a few weeks ago to appeal to you. Are you flattered? You shouldn’t be. The movie seems like comedic Oscar Bait, but it didn’t do well Britain, the country of production. Focus scrambled to change their focus from awards movie to popular movie. So whenever this pops into a theater near you, be armed with the knowledge that “Pirate Radio” is merely a washed-up Oscars wannabe. But make the decision to see it for yourself.

New York and Los Angeles get the treat of watching Wes Anderson’s adaptation Roald Dahl’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”  I have the utmost respect for Anderson for not conforming to the growing trend to do all animation through computers.  Anderson’s film uses the stop motion technique, moving an object gradually to give the illusion that it is moving.  Even more exciting that Anderson’s eccentric style in an eccentric medium is the voice cast.  Clooney voices the titular character, the cunning Mr. Fox.  The cast also features Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray.  What’s not to like?  (NOTE: The movie expands on November 20 and enters wide release on November 25.)

For those who like very obscure indies, “That Evening Sun” with 87-year-old Oscar bridesmaid Hal Halbrook has his latest shot at the gold.

Read the rest of this entry »