First up, from the wonderfully unique Wes Anderson comes Fantastic Mr. Fox. I love Anderson's work and I love Roald Dahl's work, so I was highly anticipating this one. I somehow missed it when it was at theatres, so I was eager to receive the DVD from Netflix.
It is undeniably brilliant and it has mis-en-scene coming out of it's proverbial ears, but I have to say, it wasn't as clever as some of Anderson's other movies. Pacing was it's problem. The story lagged at parts, but everything else was superb.
Casting was excellent, it just may be the best ensemble cast performance I've seen in quite some time, and the stop-animation is charming and gives the characters a soul that most animated movies these days lack. When it shows each animal's eyes, they seem alive. It's just wonderful.
The design itself is warm, creative and incredibly detailed. This is one of the few animated features you'll see where the humans and animals seem to coexist perfectly, neither seems overly-cartoonish when compared to the other.
Anderson also excels at selecting music for his films. The soundtrack is almost always the invisible character, contributing just as much to the plot as any dialogue or action might.
The film's tone, about accepting and fighting one's true nature, is dark at times but has plenty of laughs sprinkled over it. Noah Baumbach's presence is felt in the script, and it's refreshing to see him do something besides painfully awkward family-type dramadies.
It's hard to describe the movie because it's unlike almost anything you've seen before. Think Wallace & Gromit meets Ren & Stimpy meets, well, Wes Andrson. Actually very kid-friendly.
And here is where I let my geek flag fly and nerd-out over Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
This is, in my opinion, the best Star Trek movie. It has, by far, the most well thought-out and engaging plot. It picks up after Star Trek: The Motion Picture with James T. Kirk an admiral in Starfleet. He and the crew of the original Enterprise are invited to be on deck of the newly renovated* Enterprise she and her cadet crew embark on their first training mission.
Meanwhile, a remote, lifeless planet is being explored by Starfleet as the potential site of the Genesis project. But they stumble upon a wrecked ship and it's crew. Chekov, a member of the "away team", discovers too late that there is life on the planet- Khan. A genetically engineered human superior in intellect and strength than regular humans, his fellow castaways are similarly blessed. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise marooned Khan there in one of the original series episodes. Now he wants revenge.
And so we're sent on a crazy revenge tale epic as Moby Dick. It has whiffs of Blade Runner, which came out just weeks after this movie. It's as campy as Mommie Dearest.
Ricardo Montalban is sublime as Khan. He loved the character so much he did the movie for far less pay than he was offered. The costume designer created his signature open-chested costume specifically to showcase Montalban's impressive pectoral muscles. It's incredible to know that he and Shatner never read their lines together, as the on-screen chemistry is smoldering for two people who, in reality, were reading their lines to a script girl.
The dialogue itself is brilliant.
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley carry the picture, as usual. James Doohan's Scotty gets substantial screen-time and emotional scenes, to boot.
Granted, you need to know some basic Star Trek before you watch this movie. Basically you need to know the characters and their motivations. If you haven't seen any Star Trek, I'll tell you what you need to know here:
- Kirk- He's a womanizing badass that doesn't believe in no-win situations. Clever, but his emotions usually drive his decision-making. Spock is is BFF. His heroic exploits got him promoted to admiral, but he misses the adventure of being captain.
- Spock- Half Vulcan, half human. He is highly intelligent and driven by logic. Every once in a while an emotion creeps through. He is cool and steady, the perfect foil to Kirk's hot-headed chaos. Kirk is his BFF. Nimoy is from Boston, so big hometown props to him, and this film is one of his greatest turns as Spock.
- McCoy- AKA Bones. He's the ship's doctor, skeptic and wiseass. He loves nothing better than taking Kirk and Spock down a notch. Good at his job and not a fan of screwing around. Loves Kirk, but doesn't trust Spock because he's not a full human.
- Mr. Scott- AKA Scotty. He's the ship's head engineer. He's also Scottish. He's kind of like McGuyver and Stephen Hawking rolled into one. And he's usually shouting about what is and is not working on the ship.
- Mr. Sulu- The Asian helmsman with the velvet voice. He and Chekov are usually the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Star Trek.
- Mr. Chekov- The Russian navigator of the Enterprise. Usually seated directly next to Sulu. Often part of the away team.
- Lieutenant Uhura- The babaliscious communications officer. She knows almost every language spoken in the galaxy.
CORRECTIONS: Kirk was already an admiral *in* The Motion Picture and the original Enterprise was not destroyed, it was taken out o commission. Apologies to fellow geeks, I haven't seen The Motion Picture in a dog's age. Thank you to Ben for pointing out my errors.
The Enterprise in this film is not entirely new, simply renovated.