Frozen (Chris Buck, 2013)

frozenWhat a tragedy: Frozen is good. Not amazing, excellent, brillant. Just good.
I generally go through various phases of hysterical adoration for any Disney film. It takes me a while to see flaws and put them in perspective, so it was fairly worrying that I couldn’t really get excited about Frozen, not even while watching it.

There isn’t one main reason why I was so underwhelmed. Almost everything was good, but not brilliant; it’s like they started on the project and didn’t get the time to develop it properly, leaving some bits in a not quite ideal stage. The trolls are great, Kristoff and Sven are great. Olaf is a good concept, but it doesn’t come out as well; it reminded me of those animations that are put in commercials for children.

Anna looks like Rapunzel and both the male protagonists have something of Flynn Rider – yes! It does mean that they look quite a bit like each other. This might be taken as a uniformity in style on Disney’s side, but it just really looks like they were being a bit lazy.

The story is already full of humour and funny moments, so additions like the Duke shouting and waving his arms seem quite unnecessary. This is especially annoying considering that his screen time could have been Elsa’s — the one character that has been made perfectly in every way. From her storyline to her songs to her style — those tiny snowflakes in her hair! — she is just one notch over all the others.
While the main storyline deserved all the attention it could get, so much time was wasted with silly comedy moments from side characters, which could have been found another way, especially with Kristoff/Sven/Olaf in the scene.

What is great about Frozen is that once again (and surprisingly, considering Brave had been presented as a one-off) it goes against the princess taboo, with everyone giving hell to Anna about wanting to get married to a stranger. I have to admit I really hadn’t seen that coming, and I was really pleasantly surprised.

Here, have the clip of Let It Go and wish that the entire film was like this.

The Kings of Summer (Jordan Vogt-Roberts, 2013)

tkosA few years ago I used to watch anything that had come out of Sundance, exclusively because it had come out of Sundance. After my awakening to all things quirky and the realization that indie films existed, Sundance was like a treasure chest full of insanely interesting documentaries and weird teenagers, in equal parts. While I still adore the documentaries, I guess that the “indie film about an outsider” category got a bit boring for me, not to mention the cinematography copycats that seem to reign in that world.

The Kings Of Summer is brilliant precisely because it took the best out of the genre and mixed it with something new. It isn’t trying really hard to be quirky; the characters are average teenagers, if a bit spoiled. They have actual conversations. There are shots of fields in the golden hour, but they are tied into the story, not just there to be pretty and make the viewer go “oooh”.

Joe and Patrick are in that wonderful age in which one fights with one’s parents for no sensible reason; add in the fact that their parents are actually impossible, and voilà! They decide to move out to the woods and build a house, where they will provide for themselves and become men. Obviously, putting a house together and learning to hunt and live as savages is not easy for middle class boys. What makes The Kings Of Summer amazing is how the narration is true to life, without peaks of drama and insane plot twists for the sake of the film. Even the most absurd events seem realistic.

The situations in which the protagonists put themselves are hilarious, but the nuance with which their relationship with each other, with their friends and their relatives is treated is just perfect. There is no need to overexplain and overanalyze: everything feels genuine, true to life, in particular the complicated ties between Joe and his father after his mother has passed away. While the entire cast is great, it is impossible not to have a particular love for Nick Offerman’s stubborn, wounded Frank; his performance as a dad who just can’t be conciliatory with his whiny teenage son is perfectly in balance between hilariousness and heartbreak.

Another remarkable performance — which I still can’t believe really happened — is Moises Arias playing Biaggio, a weird kid who joins Joe and Patrick in their adventure. Biaggio made me cry laughing, but also terrify me. I can’t imagine what dark, dark corner of writer Chris Galletta’s mind where such a creepy, bizarre character has come from.

I hate the sentence “coming of age story” with ferocious intensity and I find it particularly wrong in relation to The Kings Of Summer; Joe and Patrick still have a whole lot of growing up to do. What their experience in the woods brings out is the fact that they are in fact children, and even they realise that. This film tells the story of a great summer adventure and it is so entertaining and moving only heartless people will fail to appreciate it.

file under: Nick Offerman is a guarantee of quality.
final grade: 5/5
cryfest factor: 3/5 fairly likely.

Trance (Danny Boyle, 2013)

tranceThere is only one case in my history with Danny Boyle in which I didn’t start grumbling half an hour into the film. That case is not Trance (spoiler: it is masterpiece Sunshine). The premise of Boyle’s new endeavour had me drooling for months before its release, which is probably why now I am so disappointed with it now.

Art auctioner Simon has accepted to collaborate with some art thieves to pay for his gambling debts. He helps steal a painting from his own auction house, but when criminal Franck opens the case of the painting, Witches In The Air by Francisco Goya is missing from the frame. The worst part is that Simon, who has received a blow to the head during the theft, is suffering from amnesia and has no idea of where he put the masterpiece. This is when hypnotherapist Elisabeth Lamb is hired to help him remember.

While some films lack any narrative complexity, Trance is committed to surprising the viewer every three minutes. This turns out to be a bit too much. The line between reality and trance becomes gradually more blurry, which is great, but this is done through continuous twists and 180° turns in the plot. By continuous I really mean that as soon as the film seems to make sense, a new element comes in to erase everything that has been said until that moment. At the end of the first hour, I was on the verge of giving up on the entire thing and walking out — not because I am equipped with a small brain, although that could be a factoring element, but because the effort of revolutionizing the plot was taking the film in directions that made it incoherent and weirdly structured.

A proof of this is that one of the main players in solving the mystery in the final act of the film is Rosario Dawson’s pussy. While it’s clear from the beginning that Elisabeth Lamb has something to hide and her part in the events emerges a clever way, the film goes to exaggerated lengths to put her at the centre of the story. We had been taken so very far from where we had started, and the resolution was so outlandish and intricate, that by that point it was hard to still feel involved and not to “meh” at the final sequences.

What cannot be taken away from Trance is that it is a terribly stylish film. Its loud, rowdy soundtrack fully expresses Simon’s state of mind, especially in the first parts; the contrast with the quieter tracks and how it all harmonizes with the development of the story is pure magic (as usual from Underworld’s Rick Smith).
The continuous use of reflections, mirrors, coloured glass once again mimics the intricate mind-play happening in the film. It might be a bit of an obvious choice, but it really does create a specific look and atmosphere that is consistent throughout the film, dominated by oranges and blues and sharp lines.

Some sequences are so imaginative, wonderfully written and shot that they lift up the entire film for me; one of them is the incredible scene with all the stolen and destroyed paintings, in which not only does James McAvoy outdo himself in terms of acting, but all the elements — scenography, lights, dialogue, music — come together so beautifully that only the appearance of yet another iPad can take away the poetry from the scene.

On the downside, I tend to be incredibly annoyed by Danny Boyle’s gimmicks with the camera, so I was quite disappointed when they suddenly appeared after a first half-hour of straightforward filming. Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for weird angles, but not to the point where I feel seasick watching a film that’s not set on a boat.

I have been struggling to summarize my thoughts about Trance in a grade. On one hand, two weeks after watching it I feel that overall I enjoyed it: the overall plot arc, the writing and the execution have many great elements to them. But to be completely honest, my first opinion wasn’t very far from “total rubbish”. Would I want to see Trance again? Ultimately yes, if only to try and follow the ridiculously complicated plot properly, at least the second time around.

file under: sometimes simplicity is key.
final grade: 3/5
cryfest factor: 0/5 unless you’re a Stendhal syndrome habitué.

Pacific Rim (Guillermo Del Toro, 2013)

PRMi ricordo quand’ero antipatica e Pacific Rim non sarei mai, mai, mai andata a vederlo, neanche se mi avessero pagato il biglietto. La me adolescente snob l’avrebbe ignorato. Che bello crescere e cambiare! Che belli, i robottoni che le danno ai mostri! Forse la me adolescente non si sarebbe divertita, ma io l’ho trovato uno dei film più spassosi di sempre.

Tentare di raccontare la trama di Pacific Rim e’ inutile: a parole sembra una cazzata. Ci sono dei mostri rettili enormi che vengono sputati fuori da un tunnel spazio-temporale aperto sul fondo del Pacifico. Gli umani costruiscono dei robottoni giganti per combatterli. Questa e’ una situazione in cui “magia del cinema” vuole effettivamente dire qualcosa: gli effetti speciali, il 3D, le botte da orbi sono quello che costituisce l’intero film. Non ci sono sottotrame, quindi non ci sono distrazioni: Pacific Rim e’ un film con un obiettivo preciso da raggiungere, in cui tutti gli elementi sono essenziali per raggiungere quella meta.

Il 3D e’ tra i migliori che io abbia mai visto; tra le varie cose, e’ perfetto per rendere vive le dimensioni spropositate sia dei Kaiju che degli Jaeger. Il fatto che sia utilizzato in tutte le scene, sia quelle statiche che quelle di combattimento, rende il tutto piu’ omogeneo e realistico, visto che non ci sono stacchi tra le scene vere e quelle ricostruite.

Le poche pecche risiedono nei personaggi. Innanzitutto c’e’ una sola donna con delle corde vocali: per quanto Mako sia fantastica e non si faccia mettere i piedi in testa da nessuno (e anche i capelli della russa non siano male) rimane comunque una sola contro un cast maschile predominante (ne parlo di piu’ qui). Sono piuttosto banali anche gli scienziati, a cui sembra quasi non sia stata data la stessa cura che gli altri personaggi hanno ricevuto: ovviamente vorrebbero essere il comic relief, ma hanno poco della profondita’ del resto del cast.

La mancanza di un cattivo unico – si accenna appena a chi sta dall’altra parte del tunnel – e’ uno degli aspetti migliori del film. I protagonisti vogliono salvare il mondo, ma non per questo vogliono fare gli eroi della situazione e uccidere gli alieni per il bene superiore. Chiudere il passaggio sparamostri basta e avanza. Quello che rende Pacific Rim eccezionale e’ che e’ un film modesto e onesto. La mancanza di fronzoli lascia un film diretto, che riesce a lasciare a bocca aperta senza dover prima distrarre.

file under: Robot vs alieni? Può esserci qualcosa di meglio?
voto finale: 3.5/5
coefficiente pianto 3/5: Cuori deboli come il mio

The Croods (Kirk DeMicco, Chris Sanders, 2013)

croodsUna protagonista che ama le scarpe, ma che sa maneggiare una clava: sì grazie. Una famiglia in cui tutti i figli, al di là del genere, vengono giudicati equamente bisognosi di essere difesi: sì grazie. Un’avventura preistorica piena di animali bislacchi e panorami mozzafiato: sì grazie.

La famiglia preistorica dei Croods (genitori, tre figli, suocera bisbetica) vive reclusa in una caverna, terrorizzata da tutto quello che è all’esterno. Solo quando Eep scappa di casa per andare alla scoperta del mondo e incontra lo sconosciuto Guy, si scopre una cosa non proprio rassicurante: il mondo sta finendo. I Croods sono costretti a fuggire dalla loro caverna e affrontare il mondo esterno di cui erano così spaventati rifugiandosi nella foresta, dove niente è conosciuto o sicuro.

Il film segue, purtroppo, la traccia del “conosciuto e sicuro”: quando la trama potrebbe prendere pieghe più coraggiose, viene sempre riportata sui binari standard. Le battute non hanno doppi sensi per gli adulti, le gag sono soprattutto fisiche. Il film si risolleva di molto grazie al fatto che si muove iper-velocemente: far succedere mille cose al secondo è un buon modo per mantenere una trama lineare ma farla sembrare complicatissima. Di sicuro non è un film noioso: tra le tigri arcobaleno e le clavate in testa, c’è sempre qualcosa che distrae. Il 3D viene sfruttato al meglio, tra lava che erutta e stormi di uccelli che volano verso lo schermo.

C’è un aspetto in cui The Croods crea un preambolo abbastanza serio: il papà Grug ammonisce tutti che qualsiasi cosa non si conosca porterà alla morte. La riprova? Tutti i loro amici di famiglia sono schiattati. Quando arrivano i momenti di tensione, non è semplice stabilire se ci sarà un lieto fine oppure no — sembra essere davvero il momento in cui il film smette di essere noioso e tira una mazzata allo spettatore. C’è chi sarà preoccupato; c’è chi, come me, piangerà disperatamente. Non avevo mai pensato che un cavernicolo doppiato da Nicolas Cage (davvero) potesse farmi commuovere, ma è successo e sono sopravvissuta per raccontarlo.

Essere una teenager, secondo The Croods, faceva schifo anche nella Preistoria. Nonostante Eep non vada un granché d’accordo con i suoi genitori, entro la fine del film avrà imparato una o due cose sull’importanza della famiglia.

Papà Crood è doppiato da NICOLAS CAGE. EMMA STONE Guy (Ryan Reynolds),

file under: ANIMALI BUFFI? I’m in.
voto finale: 3.5/5
coefficiente pianto 3/5: Cuori deboli come il mio