Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dear Charlie:

I'm getting better at writing about a flick right after I've seen it without being overwhelmed by my enjoyment to the point that I can't recognize possible flaws. Oi, that sounded pompous, didn't it?

Lemme put it this way: I just watched both Wanted and Kung Fu Panda, and I can say without hesitation that I highly enjoyed them both, and for vastly different reasons. Were they perfect movies? Heck, no. But where they perfect examples of entertainment?

Oh, yeah.

For once, James Berardinelli and I agree on a movie. Wanted is a totally unrealistic flick that is pure and perfect entertainment. It gives us a completely human character and turns him into more. A guy who has a standing prescription for panic attacks becomes a matchless assassin who can run faster than a speeding train and curve a bullet around a meat shield to reach the target behind it.

What's more fun than that?

There's nothing surprising in this flick. None of the plot twists shocked me. Of course, that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy watching them unfold, and I really REALLY enjoyed the artistry with which the action scenes were filmed. Every moment lovingly crafted for maximum adrenaline output. Every slow-motion bullet flight touched by the CG gods. The storming of the fort was damn near ballet, people. Beautiful stuff.

And...*gasp* had a plot.

It also made excellent use of one of my favorite Nine Inch Nails songs, "Every Day Is Exactly the Same". Damn if I haven't felt that soul-sucking melancholy when I look at my own life in an office nightmare. It sets the mood instantly. Immediately puts you in touch with the main character. Much like Man on Fire uses NIN's "The Mark Has Been Made" to symbolize Creasy's inner torment, Wanted uses "Every Day" to personify the grinding tedium of every day life for the Everyman. Gave me goosebumps, to be honest.

Even Angelina Jolie couldn't ruin this movie for me. The moment I saw her take the stage, I groaned and facepalmed, but she played her part well. She's eye candy, and she knows it. But she's also athletic as hell in her aerobatics. Gotta give her credit for that.

Great good fun in this flick. You don't even have to check your brain at the door to enjoy it. Just keep an eye out for the popcorn rats, and you'll be fine.

And Kung Fu Panda was fun, too.

Before you get to thinking that's damning the flick with faint praise, please remember that, for me, "fun" is what a movie is supposed to be. A movie is entertainment. If you're not entertained, the movie has failed. This flick doesn't fail.

It knows its roots and uses them lovingly. There are plenty of blossoms floating on the breeze. Scads of steps to climb repeatedly to the training rooms of enlightment above. Trials of training to be suffered. Scorn by the masses. Too-high expectations. James Hung and Jackie Chan.

This is an homage to the legend of Kung Fu. Not Kung Fu the movie, but Kung Fu the spirit. And Po, the lowly noodle-slinging panda, feels that spirit stirring in his very soul. It just...ya know...can't get out from under all that fleshly bulk he's carrying around. And, of course, the self-doubt.

The story is lovely and full of opportunities for martial arts movie mayhem, but the animation itself is...well, art. Like the scene where the sun is shining red-orange through the crooked and barren limbs of the formerly lush peach tree. It's just so evocative of the feeling you get from old kung fu. It's glorious. Some of that scenery just made me feel good.

It wasn't appreciation of how far CGI has come. It was appreciation for how much beauty and color and form they kept from the original medium. Jade palaces. Blossoming trees. Ancient buildings. History.

And I just about hurt myself laughing at the dumpling fight scene. I don't think I stopped my silent cackling until it was over. God, that was priceless.

Excellent villain, too. Deep characterization. Hell, they even gave him a background and...*gasp*...motivations. Fascinating.

So yeah. Two very different flicks. Two very different feels. Two very entertaining ways to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

And now, back to the grindstone. The Muse, that bastard, has been drill-sergeanting me mercilessly the last two weekends, and he thinks he's been patient long enough.

I can almost hear the whiplashes. Maybe if he dangled a dumpling....


At 3:39 PM, Blogger Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Oh, yeah, the dumpling scene about killed me. I loved the villain. When he was bound, kneeling, chained...I had goosebumps watching him free himself!

At 7:49 PM, Blogger GutterBall said...

Yes, he was an excellent villain! His backstory was beautiful, and his never-satisfied fury exquisite. Good stuff, there. I can see why you were disappointed by his end, but it's so...kung fu!



At 9:06 PM, Blogger writtenwyrdd said...

I also don't go to movies to be enlightened, but to be entertained. Fun is what it's all about.

I can understand why you don't care for Angelina Jolie; but I really think she isn't a bad actress, and she is truly at her best as an action 'hero' role. Lara Croft rocked because of her skills, especially the first one.

At 9:06 PM, Blogger writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, and I am so glad you liked Wanted. Waiting for it to reach theaters here in podunk.


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