Movie Reviews – July 2012

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
20th Century Fox
In Theaters: 06.22
When you walk into a screening for a film titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, you need to throw caution to the wind, sit back and let the drool pour out of your mouth. Don’t excessively criticize the subpar dialogue or overly assess the historical inaccuracies, because, remember, you’re watching a film called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter! Based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith (who also authored Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), the story opens with a young Lincoln just before his mother is murdered. Years later, a drunken and vengeful 20-something Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) attempts to kill his mother’s murderer unaware of the fact he’s actually a vicious vampire. Just as Lincoln nearly meets his demise, he is rescued by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), a skillful assassin. Mystified at the realization that vampires are no myth, Lincoln trains in the art of vampire hunting under Sturgess’ guidance. Acting as a store clerk by day and an axe-wielding hitman by night, Lincoln soon realizes he must use his words and the power of the people to overthrow the empire of bloodsuckers in the South. Director Timur Bekmambetov mixes his edgy filmmaking style with brutally beautiful fighting choreography and executes a purposefully preposterous project that presents our 16th President as a beheading badass! The playful tinkering with pivotal moments in our nation’s history sparks amusement, and the uncanny resemblance Walker has to his character adds only more delight to the overall ridiculousness of the entire project. –Jimmy Martin

Brave
Disney/Pixar
In Theaters: 06.22
For over 15 years, Pixar Animation Studios could do no wrong. They were regarded as the organization that mastered creativity and delivered originality. This achievement was true until the release of last year’s undesirable Cars 2. Now, with the release of Brave, it’s a critical period to determine whether or not the studio can reclaim their prestigious honor and mend their legacy. Set in 10th Century Scotland, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is the eldest child of her royal family. While her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), supports his daughter’s admiration for archery and adventure, her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), never lets a moment slip by without mentioning the proper characteristics associated with a princess. As you can imagine, Merida possesses none of these qualities. The heart of the film comes with Elinor’s startling announcement that Merida is to wed a member of one of three rival clans. In defiance of her mother’s assertion, Merida flees and comes upon a witch who casts a spell to change the runaway’s fate. However, the enchantment not only alters her destiny, but her mother’s physical nature as well. Director Mark Andrews (successor to original director Brenda Chapman) offers an unusually dark-toned undertaking for the studio, which works well in some areas and falls flat in others. So much time is spent on the exposition of characters and the plot’s key twist, the remainder of the film feels rushed, leaving audiences needing more time to enjoy the experience. As for uniqueness, the mystical elements feel a tad too familiar, especially when compared to Disney’s Brother Bear. Pixar has certainly recovered from the hiccup of their last release. The animation is stunning, the characters are engaging and the embedded adult humor is much appreciated, but be prepared to continue waiting to see the studio in top gear. –Jimmy Martin

Indie Game: The Movie
BlinkWorks Media
In Theaters: TBD, Available Online
Every once in a while, a documentary will surface that revolves around outrageous characters and a bizarre topic, allowing audience members the opportunity to witness unusual customs while snickering at the odd circumstances. Such is the case with Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky’s Indie Game: The Movie, which follows multiple independent game developers as they feverishly work in their home offices to meet demanding deadlines set by large gaming distributors. The film primarily focuses on the duo Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes as they develop Super Meat Boy and the self-destructive Phil Fish as he attempts to complete the much-anticipated Fez. Pajot and Swirsky embed themselves in exactly the right places at exactly the right times as they capture the neurotic behaviors of Fish, who literally has a public meltdown on camera while damning his ex-business partner’s antics. To make the situation grimmer, Fish honestly confesses his intentions of ending his life if his pending lawsuit is not settled, and you genuinely believe his proclamation. On the lighter side, audiences have the pleasure of witnessing the anxiety of McMillen and Refenes as they receive multiple positive reviews before the official launch of their title, but the pair can only hope gamers will arrive with their wallets open. As light-hearted as the film may be, Pajot and Swirsky have crafted a well balanced production that’s as exciting and fun as it is gripping and distressing. The film is currently making the rounds in independent theaters across the country, but you can watch the entire movie online at indiegamethemovie.com for only $9.99! –Jimmy Martin

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Focus Features
In Theaters: 06.22
What would you do if you knew the world was coming to an end in 21 days? Would you try heroin? Have unprotected sex with multiple partners? Rip the city to shreds? This question and many answers can be found in first-time director Lorene Scafaria’s dark comedy that stars Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as two strangers working together to achieve their last minute goals. Dodge (Carell) is the typical American who lives his life selling insurance and playing by the rules, but when the crew of the Shuttle Deliverance fails to destroy an inbound asteroid, his wife immediately leaves him and he decides to track down the one love that got away. With the help of his quirky British neighbor, Penny (Knightley), who’s trying to get back to her family in England, the two venture into the chaos of a world on the brink of annihilation. Scafaria hilariously focuses the first act on believable reactions to horrific news, which includes both hysterical and depressing outcomes. It’s a pleasure witnessing Carell continue to succeed in the acting department post-The Office with his signature socially awkward persona that appears to work in any situation. However, it’s Knightley who offers the greater shocker by letting loose and actually apparently enjoying herself, which hasn’t been seen in her performances in quite some time. The tale and its characters eventually find themselves in familiar territory in regards to formulaic elements, but Scafaria never holds back and presents a relatable film that will have many moviegoers questioning what their own actions would be. ­–Jimmy Martin

Where Do We Go Now?
Sony Pictures Classics
In Theaters: 07.13
Reading the short synopsis to the film, I thought I was walking into a political war narrative. Instead, Where Do We Go Now? greeted me with comedy, creativity and even song! In a small, secluded village in Lebanon, a group of women mourning their fallen husbands and sons due to the constant Christian vs. Muslim conflict tearing the world apart decide that they will not lose any more of their loved ones to war. Keeping the men of the village away from reports of religious conflict in the outside world, and coming up with creative and hilarious schemes to distract the men and remind them that no matter how each individual worships, they are all neighbors and brothers, these women work hard to salvage peace in their village. Director Nadine Labaki does a wonderful job of stripping down a tragic and centuries-long conflict to what it truly is: ridiculous. From sabotaging the village’s only television in an effort to keep the men from hearing the news to hiring a bus-load of Ukranian strippers, the completely absurd schemes presented in the plot, though seemingly light and fun, are reflections on the absurdity of the war. Though the film is in Arabic, the hilarious back-and-forth banter between the group of women translates well in the subtitles, and the script is interrupted a few times for Bollywood-style musical numbers, giving the film another element of entertainment. Though the film’s execution is light-hearted,  the subject matter is something that people need to take seriously. This film caters to a wide audience, and though it doesn’t contain the horrific and violent images we usually associate with the war-themed films, the result is even more powerful. –Esther Meroño