26 March 2012

Casa de mi Padre

A scene from ``Casa de mi Padre.''

Will Ferrel hasn’t really been hitting them out of the park lately. I haven’t seen everything of course but those that I have weren’t anywhere near the genius of Anchorman or… it appears that’s the only really good movie of his I’ve seen. Oh well. Anyway, Casa de mi Padre isn’t going to dig him out of the hole he may or may not be in, but it’s definitely a serviceable exercise in oddity.

It’s a Spanish-language movie mocking cheap telenovelas. That’s pretty much it, except there’s a bit more absurdism and borderline surrealism than I think might show up in such things. Laughs go on far too long, characters are often replaced mid-scene with mannequins, ridiculously fake-looking animal puppets give spiritual pep-talks, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much smoking in a movie. In between these moments of hilarity is mostly straight if low-quality drama, almost exclusively in Spanish with the exception of a few lines from the good Nick Offerman of Parks and Rec fame. I kind of enjoyed being able to pick out some dialogue that wasn’t fully translated in the subtitles, although as far as I could tell it was never done for any sort of comedy.

It’s really a lot of fun to watch. I’m not sure what all the middling/low critical praise it’s getting is all about. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets some kind of cult status eventually.

10 March 2012

John Carter (of Mars)

11John Carter

As usual, I haven’t read the book. Or books. I suppose it’s kind of shameful given that Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series is basically the reference for all sci-fi/fantasy that came after it, and I consider myself such a fan of the stuff. I do really like Frank Frazetta’s illustrations of it but that’s not really good enough. I know so very little about the real deal; but that could be for the best, as it made the movie that much newer to me even though everything in it has been tread so repeatedly in other stories.

It’s simple enough I guess. This guy John is a badass, gets accidentally transported to Mars, meets some aliens and an attractive lady, jumps really high and beats the bad guys. As usual the jumping really high part was what appealed to me the most. I didn’t care that much about all the backstory stuff, which includes a shadowy society of immortals who think they control the universe and all that. They were a little interesting but their admitted indifference kind of made them less menacing.

The best aspect of the movie is the visuals. It’s just really well put together. The alien race, the Tharks, while sometimes looking a bit cartoony are really quite believable; perhaps a bit moreso that the blue cat people from Avatar. Some of John’s jumping action is a bit wobbly but it’s still plenty fun to watch. I saw it in 3D, and it wasn’t bad, but I think sitting near the side of the theater degraded it a bit. I was seeing double sometimes.

Next up is the acting; I can’t really find fault with the majority of the cast. There are some damn fine actors in there, including McNulty from The Wire, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony from Rome, and Willem Dafoe as one of the Tharks’ voices. They all do a great job with the dialogue they’re given. Taylor Kitsch is… not great. They could have done better. Lynn Collins as the Martian princess is a much more enjoyable casting.

The dialogue often seems a bit tired, which is to be expected given that the source material has been used so thoroughly already, but I think if the writers had taken it in a different, more pulpy direction it could have been better. I really loved the funny bits, and wish there were more of them.

Reading reviews beforehand may have colored my opinion a bit, but I think the majority is right. It’s a very fun, well-made, but hollow movie.