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Did You Panic Nine Crazy Avatars?

Happy almost-Chrismahanukwanzakah internet traveler,

This blog is now officially one year old and has over 200 posts without a missed weekend.  In honor of this small achievement, we get to discuss a movie that’s been heralded as something bigger than a milestone, perhaps a leaguestone (league=three miles) or a parsecmark (parsec = 3.26 lightyears).  That movie is the $300 million dollar action/sci-fi/love story film from James Cameron (Aliens, Titanic, Terminator): Avatar (Rotten TomatoesMetacritic).  The hype on this movie has been running harder and longer than most of the world’s economies and critics, corporations, and the entire entertainment industry want to label it the beginning of a new era for movies.  However, when people have over a year to hear rumors, see previews, and taste Avatar-themed Coke Zero, many moviegoers will have potent feelings about a movie they haven’t seen, and the critics are no different.  Prepare for a Pro/Con-test!

Pro side, you’re up:

“An astonishing, breathtaking masterpiece. Cameron did it! It will easily surpass Titanic’s box office. I think Cameron created a few new colors” Victoria Alexander FilmsInReview.com

Woo hoo!  New colors!  Someone had better tell Wikipedia to add them to the list.  Interior designers, rejoice!  Haters, speak!

“The corniest movie ever made about the white man’s need to lose his identity and assuage racial, political, sexual and historical guilt.” Armond White New York Press

Woo hoo!  Armond left out religious guilt!  Heathens, rejoice!  Supporters, declare love!

“Not since Dorothy’s Kansas farmhouse landed in Oz – 70 years ago – and the screen transformed from black-and-white to color – has there been such a magical, revelatory moment as the emergence of the planet Pandora in IMAX 3-D.” Susan Granger SSG Syndicate

Oz revolutionized film by going from black-and-white to color, and Avatar goes from color to new color?  Did I get that right?

“For all of the talk about how Avatar is going to revolutionize moviemaking and change films forever, the finished product is nothing more than just another movie with lots of stuff going boom.” Willie Waffle WaffleMovies.com

People would be upset if they didn’t get any boom for their buck and it’s a Cameron movie which means there need to be themes of love (familial or romantic), technological dependence, and boom.

“Embrace the movie — surely the most vivid and persuasive creation of a fantasy world ever seen in the history of moving pictures — as a total sensory, sensuous, sensual experience.” Time Richard Corliss

Does the sensuous embracing only happen in 3D?

“If I wanted to hear endless nonsense spewed from something good-looking, I’d watch The Tyra Banks Show.” Matt Pais Metromix.com

Thank goodness Tyra is completely one-dimensional.

“Game-changing – yes. Spectacular – absolutely. Occasional dodgy dialogue and dramatic imperfections – of course. But still – wait for it… – a titanic achievement.” Andy Lowe Total Film

If you need proof of Cameron’s impact on culture, remember that the Titanic used to be synonymous with impending  failure rather than record breaking success. And speaking of impending failure.

In Did You Hear About The Morgans? (Rotten TomatoesMetacritic) two actors try to pull out of a career tailspin by going back to well dug by Green Acres (Urban idiots escape trouble in rural rejuvination).  See also, For Richer or Poorer, Son In Law, or the reverse approach, Crocodile Dundee.  So, like Avatar, I think I’ve already seen this movie from watching the preview, did I miss anything?

“If you are expecting a pleasant evening of escapism, you will be cruelly fooled. The editor responsible for the trailer is clearly a genius.” The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Liam Lacey

The film’s promotional materials would probably shorten that review to just “genius.”

“When the material gets really bad, as it does in the dismal Did You Hear About The Morgans?, Grant’s pinched facial expressions become an inadvertent commentary on the movie he’s making, as if he plainly realizes that his one-liners are tanking.” The Onion (A.V. Club) Scott Tobias

Are people still laughing about this?

“It’s not just the sound of crickets you hear watching this movie. It’s the sound of dead crickets.” Chicago Tribune Michael Phillips

While watching this movie I will hear the sounds of dead crickets?  Spooky, but not panic-worthy.  And that is the clumsy segue into:

Our oddest film this week features three plastic toys (Cowboy, Indian, and Horse) having stop-motion adventures in A Town Called Panic (Rotten TomatoesMetacritic).

“This little gem is best saved for those — both young and old — who prefer to find surprises under the tree.” New York Daily News Elizabeth Weitzman

I like finding surprises under trees.  But only good surprises, not old beer cans or poo.

“A Town Called Panic is an adventure story as fast-paced and exciting as any currently in theaters.” The New York Times Mike Hale

So why isn’t this movie in blow-my-mind/fry-my-eyeballs IMAX 3D?

“If you want more crass parody, and more creative use of action figures, check out Robot Chicken.” Christopher Null Filmcritic.com

Ha, I love that show.

“There’s really very little to say about this film beyond that it’s absolutely brilliant.” The Hollywood Reporter Peter Brunette

Okay then, moving on to the first of our two musically inclined features: Nine (Rotten TomatoesMetacritic).

You might be scratching your head if you’ve never heard of Nine.  After all, it has lots of Oscar-worthy elements (including Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, and Rob Marshall who directed Chicago).  But, it also is a musical remake of Italian Auteur Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical film 8 1/2 about past relationships and writer’s block.   Does this story not translate well into music?

“If a Broadway musical loosely based on Federico Fellini’s 1963 deconstructionist masterpiece “8 1/2″ sounds like a recipe for disaster, it is.” Cole Smithey ColeSmithey.com

If it sounded like Cole Smithy asked a question and then answered it for you, it was.

“Nine represents the kind of colossal misfire that killed the movie musical back in the late ’60s; here’s hoping the genre can survive it.” Alonso Duralde IFC.com

Not only does this week redefine cinema (w/Avatar), but Nine might kill an entire film genre?

“Nine thrashes about in search of “cinema” the way a child thrown into the deep end of a pool flails for a flotation device.” Scott Foundas Village Voice

And now it’s drowning?  What are the yay-sayers saying?

“Director Rob Marshall has come up with something close to an ideal modern screen musical. It is every inch a toe-tapping, show- stopping tour de force that has a big chance of snagging some gold come awards season.”  Robbie Collin News of the World

And speaking of little gold idols, there are plenty of critics saying that Jeff Bridges might finally earn one for Crazy Heart (Rotten TomatoesMetacritic).

If the tagline is true, I have new pity for musicians.  Does Bridges deserve an Oscar for being hard and sweet?

“A compact, economical treat: full of flavor and feeling, wrapped in an unprepossessing package that contains far more than you’d ever imagine.” Marshall Fine Hollywood & Fine

Suddenly, I wonder if we’re talking about candy.

“Ever-youthful in his looks and energy, Bridges now stands as one of Hollywood’s great old pros, incapable of making a false move.” Variety Todd McCarthy

That must be nice.

“Crazy Heart is quiet, gentle, heart-bruised more than heart-broken, and it lingers in the memory after you’ve seen it, like a song you can’t get out of your head.” Drew McWeeny HitFix

That song-stuck-in-head phenomena is called earworm, even though the word reminds me of Star Trek’s mind-controlling ear crustaceans.

“Crazy Heart gets to you like a good country song–not because it tells you something new, but because it tells it well. It’s the singer, not the song.” Newsweek David Ansen

The blogger, not the blog says it’s time to finish this roundup and get on with the merry-making.

PDJ abides


8 Responses

  1. A couple of things: Crazy Heart looks crazy cute, and I will see it even if it means I am sitting in a theater alone with my cookies and Diet Coke. Also, I can’t believe I am gonna see Avatar. I feel like I have already seen it three times, and it isn’t getting any better. Perhaps if I go in with really low expectations, I will be pleasantly surprised. And finally, Merry Christmas!

  2. Your line about Tyra got a good laugh out of me. My fear is that Armond White might actually be right about “Avatar” and that “Avatar” will get all the praise of “Titanic” and leave me wondering if I missed something.

    I appreciate trend-setters and game-changers, but why can’t cinematic innovation be driven by a story we haven’t already seen half-a-dozen times in various (obvious) disguises?

  3. BOOM! Best movie ever. Period!

    That. Just. Happened.

  4. Congrats on the streak.

    When’s your “Best of King-Sheep 2009” episode?

  5. Make fun of Tyra if you want, but she did break some news this year:


    she’s such a relentless truth seeker!

  6. Check out my spoiler free review of Crazy Heart on http://pablochiste.wordpress.com/2009/12/13/the-big-lebowski-part-ii/

  7. Saw Avatar last night. The criticisms regarding its predictable plot are valid, but the film is such a spectacle (especially in 3D), that it should be seen by anyone craving big summer entertainment during the holiday season.

  8. Awesome post this will help me!

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