Monday, September 30, 2013

More September side-reviews: Blackfish, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, & Much Ado About Nothing.

Well, I found some more time recently to get in a few new viewings, and before the numerous films I’m looking forward to finally come into play, I decided to get a few more write ups done. Hope you enjoy reading them!

Perhaps what would make a fitting double feature with Louis Psihoyos’ The Cove, Gabriella Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish is a searing expose of the mistreatment orca whales endure in captivity, with a lot of focus primarily placed on Tilikum, an infamous killer whale known for controversy at the Orlando, Florida SeaWorld, where he has injured numerous people, none the least of which included the death of lead trainer Dawn Brancheau in February, 2010.

While a tad repetitive at times, Blackfish uncompromisingly delves into the harsh psychological effects Tilikum’s life in captivity has created. He’s endured bites from other whales, he’s been deprived of food, leading him to become very aggressive at times. Numerous interviewees, many of which are former trainers of SeaWorld, speak out in detail of numerous instances of aggressive whale behavior (not just from Tilikum) that have been swept under the rug and twisted for the public by SeaWorld’s PR teams. Hearing all of these facts unfold can be quite the fright, none more hard-hitting than the detail of Brancheau’s fatal final minutes, which the SeaWorld Corporation shamelessly covers up as an accident, placing the blame on the deceased, who can’t even defend herself now. Class act…

**** / *****

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2:
In what has been one of the absolute worst years in animation, the worst offender of them all is the sequel to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the delicious surprise 2009 hit. As someone who greatly enjoyed the original film’s charm, sense of humor, and sweetness, I found this one much harder to enjoy. Picking up six months after the end of the first film, inventor Flint Lockwood and his friends have returned to their original home to find that the still active FLDSMDFR has turned Flint’s creations into living creatures, including Tacodile supremes, Misquitoasts, and shrimpanzees.

I will give credit where it’s due. The imaginative animals and the world that the animators create is pure eye candy, however, once that artificial casing is peeled back, you notice the lack of substance beneath. All of the charm that the first film had is stale this go around, especially with the film’s much weaker writing. Almost all of the film’s jokes fall flat, and that is a sad waste of the many comedic talents’ voiceovers. The film’s manic energy and slapstick moments could have generated big laughs, but are so barely used in a natural or compelling way that they instead come off as obnoxious. I’m not gonna act like the first film was a five-course piece of genius, but it was at the very least entertaining. The sequel, by contrast, is so boring. Rather than leave us hungry for more, for anyone who isn’t ten years old or younger, it’ll leave a sour aftertaste…

Food puns! Food puns! Food puns! SEE WHAT THIS MOVIE DID TO ME?!

** / *****

Much Ado About Nothing:
Joss Whedon’s lighthearted, independently produced follow up to The Avengers, Much Ado About Nothing’s modern setting and Shakespearean language may be jarring to some viewers, but to those who can accept its air of silliness, they’ll find plenty to be entertained by. Inspired by some of Whedon’s own experiences with friends reenacting Shakespeare’s stories, Much Ado About Nothing follows a group of numerous characters, all staying at the Messina governor’s house, where much of the focus is given to two pairs of romantic couples.

For what might have come across as a disaster from the get go, for Whedon’s eccentric cast to deliver such dialogue so naturally (especially in a setting where it wouldn’t fit at all) and with such thorough chemistry is nothing short of fantastic. Whedon really knows how to get the best possible performances from his cast, giving them all a chance to shine without another hogging the attention. Among these players include Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker (cast standout), Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, and a hilarious Nathan Fillion. However, on occasion, the script is incredibly faithful to the original story to a fault, especially since it does nothing to change how bland as oats Don John’s motivations are. Nevertheless, this is best enjoyed for the simple, delightfully funny, and endearing burst of joy that it is.

****1/2 / *****

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