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Drag Me Up, Brother

We have emerged from the tunnel of action films and entered the wide-open spaces of summer entertainment.  Up until this week, most multiplexes hosted only superhero and science fiction actioners.  Now, Hollywood has laid out a plethora of options for you.  From Pixar’s distilled family-friendliness (Up) to Sam Raimi’s laugh-then-shriek camp horror (Drag Me To Hell) with a whimsical crime comedy (The Brother’s Bloom) in between, if you’re in the mood for a movie this weekend, you don’t have to settle for Governator-shaped evil robots or hairy Canadians with knives instead of knuckles.  Remarkably, critics agree, all the major movies coming out this weekend are cooltacular, funtastic, and radilicious (or in a word: good).  First up, the best of your options Up: Rotten Tomatoes 98% – Metacritic 89%.
UpposterNow before we get to the critics, I want to put the two reviewer sources I use into context.  Rotten Tomatoes looks at reviewer scores and then determines if their ranking is positive or negative (fresh or rotten).  Usually this is easy if the critic uses a star system or a numeric representation of quality.  So, RT does a summary of how many thumbs up and how many down.  Metacritic is an average of every critic’s score.  In general Metacritic scores are lower than Rotten Tomatoes for good movies and higher for bad movies (for example 80% and higher on Metacritic is listed as “Universal acclaim”).  With that in mind, look again at the scores for Up.  Wow huh?  Here are the reasons why.

“Through its writing, direction and execution, Up doesn’t just achieve hipness, it transcends it. With its spirit of fun and adventure, it echoes Raiders of the Lost Ark (only funnier) — it’s a thrill ride, but a thrill ride with heart.” Bill Goodykoontz Arizona Republic

1. It’s beyond hip, has the heart of a thrill ride, and is funnier than Indiana Jones.

“A near perfect feature, a thrilling combination of humour, pathos, action and drama. Utterly original, endlessly inventive, and brilliantly crafted to appeal to old and young alike, it may well be Pixar’s finest feature yet.” Chris Tilly IGN Movies UK

2. Critics use a lot of positive words to describe it.

“You can tell that this film was a labor of love, and that the cast and crew were sufficiently inspired by the material to craft a children’s movie that is destined to be a classic.” Cole Smithey ColeSmithey.com

3. Everyone loved the thousands of hours they spent working on this film, especially the computer programmers.  Okay, enough with the reasons.  How does it stack up against its competition?

Pixar is a Frightmare for other animation studios

Pixar is a Frightmare for other animation studios

“Yet another Pixar film that’s approximately 3 billion times better than almost all other animated movies.” Matt Pais Metromix.com

Thank goodness he was just approximating (~3,000,000,000), I didn’t want to get the wrong idea about his exaggeration.  However, aren’t we past the point where animated movies are judged based only on their success within the genre?  Pixar consistently proves itself to be the best animation studio around, but if their movies can only be the best-animated movie, then Up’s flying house has officially hit a glass ceiling.

“Many a PIXAR film has been nominated for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award. “UP” may finally be the one to snag a nod as Best Picture, animated or otherwise.” Michael A. Smith Nolan’s Pop Culture Review

All right, now we’re talking.  It’s near perfect, an instant classic, transcendentally hip, and it could be the best picture of the year, what could the angriest critic in America possibly dislike about it?

“All this deflated cinema and Pixarism mischaracterizes what good animation can be (as in Coraline, Monster House, Chicken Little, Teacher’s Pet, The Iron Giant). Up’s aesthetic failure stems from its emotional letdown.” Armond White New York Press

Taking a class from Armond would be HELL

Taking a class from Armond would be HELL

Excuse me while I put my head through the computer screen.  Armond, your taste is officially in question if you think Monster House or Chicken Little can hold an animated candle to anything Pixar has released in the last 10 years.  Okay, clearly I’m letting this guy’s negative vibe get to me, let’s remind ourselves of what ~96% of critics are saying about Up.

“A Pixar pinnacle. That may seem like outlandish praise, given the animation studio’s sterling tax record. But when was the last time you walked out of a Pixar movie simply giddy, as if you were high on computer-animated pixels?” Phil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star

It’s been awhile.  Just like it’s been a while since the lowest reviewed movie of a week was at 61%, but that’s what we find with the stylized, but possibly too-sophisticated-for-its-own-good con man movie: The Brother’s Bloom (Rotten Tomatoes 61% – Metacritic 55%).

the_brothers_bloom_movie_poster“This is either going to sound to you like a high old time or a teeth-grinding exercise in forced frivolity, and that might sum up the appropriate range of responses to The Brothers Bloom.” Andrew O’Hehir Salon.com

So the response range could be translated into drinking with friends or being forced to dress up for Hawaiian shirt day at work?  Most people enjoy the former, but the latter drives some people to put their head through computer screens.

“The Brothers Bloom jerks us around without end. The cons and twists pile up like debris. If The Brothers Bloom had one more twist I would have screamed.” Tony Macklin tonymacklin.net

What if they weren’t really brothers?  AHHHHHH!

What if this was the only movie that played in HELL?  AHHHHHH!!

What if this was the only movie that played in HELL? AHHHHHH!!

“It’s all a con, but thanks to Johnson’s way with characters and dialogue, we don’t mind the hustle so long as we’re rewarded along the way.” Roger Moore Orlando Sentinel

Sounds good, as long as the hustle isn’t scamming me out of $10.

“With Brick Rian Johnson got me excited with his storyteller’s tools; with The Brothers Bloom he used them to transport me. I loved being the mark in this con.” Devin Faraci CHUD

Wait, I’m the mark?  I’m beginning to distrust this movie.

“A screwball comedy for the New Depression, “The Brothers Bloom” makes an abundant number of erudite references that mean almost nothing, and, like most con-man movies, it can’t be trusted.” John Anderson Washington Post

Ah ha!  But then again, any conclusion I reach will be disproved by a future plot twist.  So tell us o’ gallery of critics, in a nutshell, is Brother’s Bloom a thumbs up, thumbs down, or a generally inconclusive aggregate representation of quality?

“I’ll take a flawed, yet charming and clever film over a cookie cutter big budget flick almost any day of the week.” Jimmy O JoBlo’s Movie Emporium

Good call.  Finally, we arrive at the answer to what the HELL has been going on with the pictures, the unexpectedly loved horror film from Sam Raimi (Spiderman and Evil Dead): Drag Me To Hell: Rotten Tomatoes 94%– Metacritic 82%.  The biggest name actor in this film is the Mac guy (Justin Long) and the concept is a throwback to the director’s old days when he would load up actors and equipment and drive off to a cabin in the woods to make a movie.  Only now the actors have their own trailers and they have a special effects department instead of a bucket of Karo syrup (used for blood in many cheap horror movies of yore, including Evil Dead).
“I never thought I’d say this. Never. But I have officially forgotten SPIDERMAN 3. I want to hug Sam Raimi. I want to hug him like I did back in the days of EVIL DEAD…Let’s just say that pissing off a gypsy is NOT a good idea…” Jenna Busch JoBlo’s Movie Emporium

Oh yeah, the plot involves gypsy curses.

Hello Mrs. evil gypsy, you don't mind us smirking at your picture right?

Hello Mrs. evil gypsy, are those staples in your forehead?

“Crafted sadism is not held back – it’s a movie Satan himself might have made if he’d got the funding. Raimi’s story weds modern careerism to pagan demonology. The result is a fright-fest with satirical undertones.” Victor Olliver Teletext

And job satire?  However, I’m fascinated by the concept of the Devil making a movie.

“A near-brilliant comedy disguised as a quickie horror flick, Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell is the year’s most frightfully hilarious movie so far.” Rafer Guzman Newsday

The Devil made a comedy?  Well, so long as it’s Devine.

The Devil does his Captain Morgan impression

The Devil does his Captain Morgan impression

“The 99-minute, eye-popping, bowel-twingeing, possessed-talking-goat extravaganza that follows must be one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in the cinema.” Robbie Collin News of the World

If the Devil made this movie, of course there’s a talking goat.  Well, this roundup is bordering on long as HELL, so let’s give the readers a final word and encourage them to enjoy their weekend while they’re enjoying these movies.

“In modern horror there’s always a line they can’t cross. Drag Me To Hell stabs it, sacrifices it, buries it in the back yard, and then gets away with it by giving the audience a wink and a nod.” Joshua Tyler CinemaBlend.com

PDJ winks then nods

PDJ winks then nods

Final note:

  • This is one of the few movies with Hell in the title that I've seen. Yes, it is awesome. And yes, that is a robo-chastity belt around former WWF wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper

    This is one of the few movies with Hell in the title that I've seen. Yes, it is awesome. And yes, that is a robo-chastity belt around former WWF wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper

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