Talking Movies

March 16, 2015

Home 3-D

Jim Parsons lends his voice to a most curious animated feature about an alien forced to team up with a human child on a road-trip.

Home-1

Oh (Jim Parsons) is a well meaning Boov who has an unfortunate habit of making hilarious mistakes. Captain Smek (Steve Martin), the leader of the Boov, has an equally ingrained habit of stealing planets as he leads the Boov in their flight from the vengeful Gorg. Smek’s latest conquest is Earth. Thus Oh is kicking it back in a human apartment. When he sends an email to his best friend Kyle (Matt Jones), a traffic cop whose inability to leave his post subjects him to Oh’s chatter, he accidentally cc’s the entire universe. Including the planet-destroying Gorg… Oh runs away from punishment and encounters Tip (Rihanna), who hates the Boov for kidnapping her mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez) and interning her in Australia with all the other humans. Can Oh and Tip work together to rescue Lucy and un-invite the Gorg?

Yes, the fate of the world rests on cracking Oh’s password and unsending an email. Because, you see, Oh is not like the other Boov; who all follow Captain Smek’s instruction that the password for all accounts should be ‘password’ – to avoid just such screw-ups. Oh is an individualist, because the most important thing, above all, is to just be yourselfzzzzz… Apparently this is the only moral any animated film is capable of containing in this century. Which wouldn’t matter that much except that director Tim Johnson (Antz) and Get Smart screenwriting team Matt Ember & Tom J Astle add almost nothing for adults in adapting Adam Rex’s children’s book The True Meaning of Smekday. And, given that Johnson successfully transposed Woody Allen’s shtick into animated form back in 1998, and that Get Smart had its moments, that’s quite surprising.

Not nearly as surprising though as the relevance of another work of late 90s CGI: Jar Jar Binks. Can you imagine sitting thru a film where nearly everyone talked like Jar Jar? Well, minus the faux accent, Home, courtesy of the jumbled-up English the Boov employ, is pretty much that film. And it grates… Rihanna shamelessly using the movie as a giant music video for song after song is less annoying because it’s explicable. Who thought garbling grammar would be inherently funny? As far as comedy goes Martin has some fun with his vainglorious role (“I admire your cowardice”), particularly one routine with Parsons (“But you might!”), but Parsons curiously stays firmly entrenched in his anti-social Sheldon Cooper rut rather than trying to stretch himself outside his TV show; similar decisions during 24’s run effectively destroyed Kiefer Sutherland’s acting range.

Home is a film for very young children, as its animated slapstick and Rihanna-heavy soundtrack might prove mildly diverting; but for parents it’s likely to be quite a slog.

2/5

September 9, 2009

15 Minutes of Avatar

If Sigourney Weaver wasn’t in the cast you’d have the horrible suspicion that the writer/director behind this film was not James Cameron but George Lucas…

Cameron’s return came with not just a trailer but world-wide screenings of 15 minutes of scenes from the first and second acts of Avatar, chosen to give a taste of the film without revealing spoilers, as he explained in his introduction. They should then give a good flavour of what to expect from the 3-D CGI animation/live-action mash-up extravaganza that is Cameron’s first film since Titanic, but the taste is sweet and sour.

The first scene showcased was a briefing about the extremely hostile inhabitants of a planet the military was trying to colonise (how very Aliens) but as you paid more attention you realised with a shock that this wasn’t bad motion-capture CGI but actual actors, 3-D had somehow made flesh and blood look oddly unconvincing compared to the CGI animation that followed. The next scene where Sigourney Weaver explains the preposterous plot to Sam Worthington improves on that unsettling experience dramatically but most of the film will obviously be the CGI animation adventures of Sam Worthington in his alien avatar body goofing around on the planet. And the plot is preposterous. Worthington, a crippled military hard-man, has his mind inserted into the big blue body of a humanoid alien inhabitant of the planet, and ends up closely resembling Joshua the dog-man from Cameron’s TV show Dark Angel.

Is Terminator: Salvation’s star really the right choice to carry such a huge film? For a long time I thought it was Sam Huntington (sublime as Jimmy Olsen in Superman Returns) who had got this part, which would have made for a funnier contrast between avatar and human rather than the pathos Cameron is aiming for, but arguably also made us root for the hero more. Worthington’s not that charismatic a presence in the footage screened and he’s not helped, as he blunders about shooting at various ill-tempered beasties, by a script packed with very obvious punning which recalls The Phantom Menace painfully at times. Zoe Saldana’s sexy tough as nails native alien love interest comes right out of the Ripley/Sarah Connor stable of Cameron heroines but her accent is right from the Jar Jar Binks School of Racial Stereotyping.

As for the 3-D, if you like seeing shell-casings fly towards you or fronds sweep around as the camera tracks then the 3-D is great, and scenes of night-time phosphoresce are stunningly beautiful. However the action depicted feels very, very familiar – in one scene Worthington has to tame what is basically a pterodactyl and then fly off on it to, oh who cares? And ow! why do my eyes hurt? Avatar has all new glasses for the latest refinement of the technology but (leaving aside the fact that since 3-D’s first appearance in the 1950s an ever-increasing percentage of the population has to put 3-D glasses over glasses) 3-D is still at best a draining experience, and at worst a painful one, which is why most 3-D films in this latest wave have been around 80 minutes long. Avatar will probably march towards the 150 minute mark, and, combined with action that’s distinctly déjà-vu of Jurassic Park, Star Wars, et al, that’s a hard sell…

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