Sunday, November 9, 2008

Programmers 101


You've seen the best now see the rest. It often occurs to me while watching a mediocre film that at least I saw it in a theater. The reasoning being that it would be a waste of time to have bought or rented it on DVD months down the road. Isn't home entertainment supposed to be for top quality fare? Why bring home a second tier cartoon or weak plotted film. I realize that not every film experience can be best picture material but how are you supposed to feel during The Boy in Striped Pajamas when you come to the realization that its a fantasy concentration camp movie for kids.
During WWII a German officer and his wife transfer to the forest near the extermination camp he commands. All the wide eyed son Bruno (Asa Butterfield) knows is he's been told to stay in the front yard and not stray into the woods. There's elements of films as wide apart as Bridge to Terabithia and The Grey Zone only there's no verisimilitude to make the story anything other than a parable aimed at small fry. Son of Rambo, another English made kids film was a pure joy for adults, which is not the case with Boy in Striped Pajamas.
Likewise Madagascar Escape 2 Africa looked great on the IMAX screen and the jokes certainly work better than the original, but this is a movie whose concept makes Kung Fu Panda look good. Animals from the New York City zoo get shipped to Madagascar and in the sequel they escape with the penguins flying, only everyone crash lands on the savannah plains of Africa. In terms cartoon fans will understand, ME2A rates on a goodness scale like some lower effort Aardman Animation film like Chicken Run. ME2A comes from DreamWorks Animamtion and very soon all their cartoons will be in 3-D. If only the lead roles were the vindictive penguins, then the movie would have some grit.
Soul Men would've been much better considering the talent on display if the script had provided the top drawer duo of Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac room to emote instead of mug. A cross country road trip mixed with Blues Brothers moments gets mired in raunchy antics that one expects in some teen road movie. But Mac and Jackson are magic performing together and that's the main reason to see Soul Men. If you make it to the closing credits a short documentary-like excerpt of Mac (probably shot for the eventual DVD extras) talking about his life and performing for an auditorium of extras reminds just how talented the guy was. On eBay the green convertible Cadillac that Mac and Jackson drive in the movie sold for a mere $5,000.


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