Sunday, October 26, 2014
Cindy Prascik's Reviews of The Book of Life & John Wick
Dearest Blog, yesterday I talked myself into a double bill for which I had zero enthusiasm: The Book of Life and John Wick. Hoping for at least one pleasant surprise, off to the cinema I went.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
First on my agenda was the animated feature The Book of Life.
Torn between his own dreams and his family's expectations, a young man fights for the woman he loves...in the worlds of the living and of the dead.
Dear reader(s), I was pretty excited at the prospect of an animated movie based on the Day of the Dead, anticipating a fascinating tale told with beautiful art. Then I saw a trailer and...um...okay, sometimes a ho-hum trailer isn't really a fair indicator of a movie's quality, right? Unfortunately...
The Book of Life represents one of the worst afternoons I've ever spent at the movies. I can't remember the last time I was this bored with a picture, and if I hoped the art and animation might compensate for some of the story's flaws, well, I hoped in vain. I'm not saying the movie doesn't have some beautiful illustrations and eye-popping colors, but, for the most part, it's sub-par and even ugly at times (specifically, characters with long, warty noses...what's up with that??).
The notable exceptions are the characters who rule over the Lands of the Remembered and the Forgotten, La Muerte and Xibalba, both of which are stunning. The leading voice talent--Diego Luna, Channing Tatum, and Zoe Saldana--all mail it in, none seemingly having even the slightest interest in the proceedings. The alleged humor is puerile and flat, I don't think I laughed even once.
In the interest of full and fair disclosure, I'll admit my experience was not at all enhanced by the mother sitting next to me who texted for the literally the entire movie, and another behind me who allowed her small child to cry and talk loudly throughout, apparently never considering that taking him outside would be more appropriate than letting him ruin the movie for everyone else.
Still, I was bored enough to know I wouldn't have liked this much better even if I'd had the place to myself.
The Book of Life runs the longest 95 minutes ever, and is rated PG for "mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements, and brief scary images." (For my money, the imagery alone is entirely too scary for smaller children.)
Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Book of Life gets one.
If you're looking for some quality seasonal animation to share with your children, please go out and grab a copy of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! or The Nightmare Before Christmas instead.
Next on the docket was John Wick.
Keanu Reeves stars as a former hitman who comes out of retirement to take revenge on those who took what was most precious to him.
Since the John Wick trailer divulges that the baddies kill Wick's dog, a final gift from his deceased wife, that is not a spoiler for purposes of this review.
It does, however, break my cardinal rule of movies and TV, which is: kill all the humans you want, but leave the dog alone. The movie doesn't linger on the event itself, and it is the catalyst for basically everything else that happens, so I'll have to give the filmmakers a reluctant pass on this one.
John Wick is the pleasant surprise for which I'd hoped yesterday, a fun actioner that is smart enough to know what it is and to not wear out its welcome.
Keanu Reeves is, as always, an engaging lead. Nevermind he's kind of a terrible actor, I love him in everything and someone else must too, given the fact that he continues to find regular work. Williem Dafoe has a terrific supporting turn as one of Wick's old business acquaintances, and the movie is so much the better for a brief appearance by the magnificent Ian McShane.
The rest of the supporting cast is a veritable who's who of "that guy who was in that thing"--oh, hey, Mayhem and Sammy Winchester's girlfriend and Theon Greyjoy!!
The action is strong and bloody and thoroughly entertaining. Fast cars and big shoot-em-ups keep the film moving at a slick pace, never leaving the viewer too much time to consider how baddies always wait their turn when they outnumber the hero in hand-to-hand combat. John Wick has all the striking visuals I was looking for in The Book of Life--MAJOR kudos for cinematography, production design, and art direction--and a super score that sets a perfect tone every step of the way.
John Wick is rated R for "strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use."
It may not have been one of the more anticipated titles of 2014, but John Wick is definitely one of the most pleasant surprises. Of a possible nine Weasleys, John Wick gets six and a half.
Until next time...