Quick Takes – New Release Edition

I let myself get behind on movie reviews, so I thought I would catch up with one extensive quick take feature. Here are brief thoughts on some of the new movies I have seen this year. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Beauty and the Beast 3D (2012)

Grade: A | 1st Viewing

I have to clarify that when I write “1st Viewing” above, I only mean that it was my first and only time seeing the 3D version of the film. In fact, Beauty and the Beast may be the Disney movie that I have seen more than any other. It is also undeniably my favorite of the many Disney animated musicals (of which I have seen them all) with an infectious soundtrack, likable and hilarious characters, and beautiful hand-drawn animation.

The primary purpose of this quick take is to review the film’s 3-D conversion, but I do want to spend at least one paragraph briefly describing why Beauty and the Beast is my favorite of all animated Disney films. Primarily, Belle and her romantic interest that we only know as “The Beast” are two of the most emotionally complex characters in any Disney movie. There is an intelligent dichotomy between Belle’s two suitors, Gaston and the Beast, who are both so similar except one is redeemed by the simple act of accommodating. It’s smarter than your average children’s movie and even smarter than your average Disney movie with characters who portray actual subtext and a protagonist who is not primarily motivated by the search for heterosexual life partnership.

Now how does it look in 3D? Not great, unfortunately. I wanted to give Disney the benefit of the doubt and say that there was an artistic point to the 3D conversion and it was not solely driven by money. However, with such a rushed through look, I cannot say that. There is no depth to the hand-drawn animation. The 2-dimensional characters just float above the scenery giving the appearance of a pop-up book rather than a fully rendered 3D image. The 3D also made the frequent snowfall become obnoxious. Instead of neatly setting a mood, the snow was so obvious that it distracted from the characters we were supposed to be watching.

If you have the opportunity to see Beauty and the Beast on the big screen, please take advantage of it, and try not to let Disney’s obvious cash grab ruin the experience.

The Devil Inside (2012)

Grade: D- | 1st Viewing

Before heading in to a weekend afternoon screening of The Devil Inside, I was well aware of its general reception. Not only did it receive a paltry 6% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but it also achieved a rare “F” Cinemascore grade, according to Deadline, which means that it did not do well with audiences either. Despite the negative word of mouth, it still managed to finish first at the Box Office in its opening weekend. I kept hearing from people who had seen it that the ending was terrible and that the whole experience was a miserable one.

It might be the case that this aggressively negative word of mouth was the exact reason I felt obliged to see it. I was drawn to this disaster of a film like a fly to feculence. Could the film actually be as bad as reported? Was there a chance it was so bad it could turn into something campy and fun? Would it be a complete waste of time to gawk at the wreck? The answers are yes, no, and hell yes.

The Devil Inside is a nonsensical travesty with no ideas and little originality. It was marketed as a found footage horror film, but it’s more like a faux documentary. Director William Brent Bell seems to flirt with a lot of different styles and genres, but never settles on anything for enough time to gain a sense of direction. The film lacks plot, so it is not very entertaining, and it lacks purpose so there is nothing to talk about when it’s done. Perhaps worst of all, Bell and his team of mostly unrecognizable actors never seem to take things seriously enough to allow us to appreciate the sincerity. Basically, The Devil Inside is not good, nor is it gloriously bad; it’s just vilely and painfully dull.

Haywire (2012)

Grade: B | 1st Viewing

This film was already reviewed in-depth by myself and Tim Kelly on the last Film Misery Podcast, but I will add some thoughts on here. Steven Soderbergh seems to currently be in a place of genre jumping and experimentation. Haywire offers a lot more than a typical January action movie from brilliant casting to a smarter plot. There is also an element of chaos in Haywire that is not present even in Bourne movies. For instance, at one point during a chase scene the protagonist makes a mistake and genuinely hurts herself. During a later chase scene, her car unexpectedly hits a deer. Soderbergh wants to firmly establish his action star’s existence in the real world where there are always elements outside of her control.

My favorite of the many performances in Haywire came from Bill Paxton, who plays Gina Carano’s father. Fully aware of his daughter’s line of work, he struggles with the danger she is always in. He trusts her abilities, but also understands that element of unpredictability and chaos that Soderbergh shows us. I wish that Paxton had been given more screen time, but he does wonders with the little he is given.

What new movies have you seen recently?

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  • You subjected yourself to ‘The Devil Inside?’ Good God, Lemon…

    I completely agree with you on the underwhelming 3D to ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ which ultimately gave the movie the added depth and texture of a pop-up book. Also, I’m mostly on the same page as you are with ‘Haywire,’ save for Carano’s decidedly polarizing performance.

    I’ve been watching a LOT of movies recently too:

    ‘Castle in the Sky’ (1986) | Grade: A-
    I’m doing a self-imposed Studio Ghibli marathon both for a write-up I’m doing. This is Ghibli’s first feature and it is a purely wonderful adventure movie – It’s easily one of their best works.

    ‘Adam’s Rib’ (1948) | Grade: A
    My first Hepburn/Tracy movie, and it is not only fabulously acted and extremely funny, but it also bears a feminist subtext that is so ahead of its time, it almost feels anachronistic.

    ‘Albert Nobbs’ (2011) | Grade: C
    Featuring a great performance by Janet McTeer, but even Glenn Close’s turn here is bogged down by a script and a director who don’t seem to know what they want their movie to be about. Some pleasant moments, but overall disappointing.

    I’ve been terrible about posting content this past week or so. I’ll finally be posting my reviews of ‘Chronicle’ and ‘Pariah’ soon, in addition to some write-ups for our Romantic Comedy marathon.

    • How many other Studio Ghibli films have you seen? If you’re watching a lot of them for the first time, you are in for such a treat. I haven’t quite seen all of them, but every single one I have watched has been amazing (with the exception of “Ponyo”, which was merely good).

      Either way… looking forward to reading that piece.

      • I have seen most of them, and like you, I love them PROFOUNDLY. I plan on watching all the ones I’ve not yet seen (which for now is only ‘My Neighbors the Yamadas,’ ‘The Cat Returns’ and ‘Tales from Earthsea’). I’ve seen every other film in the official Ghibli Canon, and I plan on revisiting as many of those as I can.

        ‘Nausicaä’ and ‘Ocean Waves’ aren’t technically Ghibli “Feature Films” (the former being made before Ghibli was officially founded and the latter being a TV movie, but I plan on catching them if time permits. Unfortunately, I don’t believe ‘Only Yesterday’ is available in the US (not legally at least).

        I’m seeing the new Ghibli film ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’ this weekend, and the goal is to get this retrospective piece out in time for its theatrical release on the 17th. Hopefully it doesn’t disappoint!

  • Calvin

    Certified Copy (2nd or 3rd viewing): A
    Juliette Binoche.
    Midnight in Paris (2nd viewing): A
    This film just keeps getting better each time I see it.

  • Jose

    Double Indemnity, which was a lot of fun
    A

    Gojira.
    I was impressed with this movie, definitely not your typical moster flick. and like i mentioned in Grege’s blog, its so weird how the first godzilla movie was so spectacular and was actually a smart sci-fi movie but not the series is more known as a “monsters vs. monsters” spectacle.
    B+

  • Eric M

    It’s been so long since I’ve seen Beauty and the Beast, that I couldn’t even give you a basic summary of what happens. Ricky Gervais once said that he never watches G-movies because there is absolutely no chance of two people having sex, so clearly Beauty and the Beast isn’t worth my time.

    Melancholia: A
    Take Shelter: B+
    War Horse: B-
    Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: C-
    The Artist: A-

  • “Midnight in Paris” (A-): A splendid and tremendously enjoyable film. Not emotionally resonant enough to be a truly great movie, but still one of the best of 2011.

    “Bound” (A-): A stellar (if not quite perfect) and masterfully plotted neo-noir. Not as great as “Chinatown” or “Blood Simple” (by far the two best films I’ve seen from the genre), but still really, really good.

    “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (A-): A superb action movie. The attempts to offer some sort of emotional and thematic depth to the story don’t really succeed, but it’s still a tremendously well-made and incredibly entertaining film.

    “The Last Seduction” (B): Features a superb performance from Linda Fiorentino, but the film as a whole isn’t particularly great (mainly because of the amount of suspension of disbelief the plot requires). Not bad, but easily the weakest of any of the neo-noir films I’ve watched.

    “Incendies” (A): An exceptionally powerful work, and without question one of the strongest 2011 releases I’ve seen to date (I know it was up for the Oscar last year, but it didn’t get a major release until this year). Not an easy film to watch, but an incredible one.

  • . Anonymous – D+
    . Real Steel – C+
    . Take Shelter – A-
    . Chico & Rita – A
    . The Iron Lady – C-
    . A Dangerous Method – C+

    . Midnight in Paris (3rd watch) – A+
    . The Descendants (2nd watch) – B

  • Raphael

    I really want to find online downloads for Shame, Young Adult, and My Week with Marilyn, good copies. I really feel so left out not having watched Shame!

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