Friday, July 10, 2015

Lilo & Stitch - 7 stars out of 10

Lilo & Stitch - 7 stars out of 10

“Lilo & Stitch” is a very unconventional Disney film.  It has all of the beauty of the Disney classics as the animators bring Hawaii to life through the unique appearance of the characters and the highlighting of Hawaiian culture; and yet, the main character is a fugitive alien who belches and develops an affinity for the music of Elvis Presley.  It is interesting to look back at the advertising campaign for this film, which focused on how Stitch is unlike any other Disney character.  Four teaser trailers placed him into different Disney films with mischievous results.  The theatrical trailer drew attention to him not fitting into the Disney stereotype.  Even the film poster focused solely on Stitch, showing all of the classic Disney characters looking at him with the headline “There’s one in every family.”  But I believe that Stitch has been completely misrepresented.  This film is drawn together by one important theme: Ohana.  “Ohana means family.  Family means nobody gets left behind.”  Both Lilo and Stitch act out because of their broken family situations but this film goes beyond their defiant actions.  We should remember the Stitch that cries out “I’m lost” when he reads The Ugly Duckling, not the one in the “Stitch’s Great Escape” ride at Disney World.  He isn’t any different than Simba when he runs away or Elsa when she isolates herself.  It’s true that the constant stream of jokes and mischief makes the story feel more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a Disney classic, but the tandem journey of the main characters to find themselves supersedes any of the slapstick comedy.  Like all of the entries in the Disney animated canon from 1999-2008, this film would have been better as a musical.  Several Elvis songs and another called “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” cannot compare to “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea.”  Alan Silvestri’s score captures the important emotional moments for the main characters, but it just doesn’t feel like Disney without those musical numbers.  In the end, you’ll love the jokes (especially anything involving mosquitoes), be amazed by the animation, and your heart will melt once Stitch calms down and reminds you of your favorite pet.  “Lilo & Stitch” may be completely unconventional on the surface but the heart of its story captures the Disney essence.

[Pictured: This is the Stitch that we should remember]

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My Big Fat Greek Wedding - 8 stars out of 10

My Big Fat Greek Wedding - 8 stars out of 10

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is everything that you want from a comedy.  Goofy characters, situational irony, slapstick humor, and a loud, dysfunctional family punctuate the Oscar-nominated script written by Nia Vardalos.  Every joke in the script is delivered to perfection.  Since the script is based on Vardalos’ family and marriage to a non-Greek man, she was the obvious choice to play the lead and does so with absolute sincerity.  A good movie transports you into its setting, but a great movie convinces you that it is truth.  The jokes are fantastic from the main character’s perpetually Greek upbringing to the father’s excessive use of Windex as a household remedy.  Laughing out loud is not an option with this over-the-top cast.  Under the many layers of comedy, the film carries the important themes of embracing family (no matter how weird they are and being proud of where you came from.  I love the tribute to “That Thing You Do,” another film produced by Tom Hanks, by using and arrangement of the song “All My Only Dreams” for the first dance.  It is no surprise that “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is one of the highest grossing romantic comedies of all time and should be approached with the expectation of “extreme giddiness.”

[Pictured: The timing and execution of the physical comedy is spot on]

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Last Stand (2013) - 8 stars out of 10

The Last Stand (2013) - 8 stars out of 10

After a 10-year hiatus, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen was everything that we hoped it would be!  Action movies often focus on the explosions and leave us devoid of emotion, but “The Last Stand” puts the violence into the context of a situation that matter to us.  I was really impressed with this script.  The writers did a really great job of developing the characters so that I truly cared about the town of Sommerton Junction and its citizens.  Schwarzenegger plays the “High Noon”-esque lawman who decides to protect his town instead of yielding to the bad guys.  I never expected this to become one of my favorite of his roles.  The cast list is a bit deceptive, listing Forest Whitaker and Johnny Knoxville at the top even though their roles are much smaller than Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzm├ín, and Eduardo Noriega.  The latter actors deserve more credit as they build our compassion toward the small town and distaste for the villain.  The action is spot on with over-the-top explosions and shootouts that don’t extend beyond reasonability.  The story has a bunch of twists, a great car chase, and the showdown that we all want.  There was actually probably only one thing that rubbed me the wrong way.  “This film was brought to you by Chevrolet…”  The product placement was a bit strong and took me out of the moment a few times even though I tried to ignore it.  Regardless, “The Last Stand” exceeds the level of acting and storyline that typifies the action genre and I will definitely be watching this one again.

[Pictured: Schwarzenegger proves that he isn't too old to be an action hero]