Tag Archives: Alan Tudyk

Movie Review: Zootopia (2016)

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Rating: A-/ So, I got to go see a movie in the cinema for the first time in ages the other day. My sister really wanted to see Zootopia and she was afraid her friends at school would spoil the ending for her before she got a chance to watch it. To be honest, I was pretty psyched to see it too, and my dad took us as a family to the movies (except for my mom, who wasn’t feeling well.) And I’ve got to say, Zootopia (or Zootropolis, as it is sometimes called) is a very cute family movie. But among the cuteness and the comedy and the talking animals, there’s a very good message and social commentary afoot. It’s not just a dumb kids film, there’s an emotional and socially conscious core that is rare to find in any family flick, except maybe those that happen to be made by Pixar studios. Continue reading Movie Review: Zootopia (2016)

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Firefly: The Complete Series (2002-2003)

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 Gorram it! How that gosa television station “Fox” could cancel the best show in the ‘verse after one season but keep mediocre drivel like “Family Guy” is beyond me. As someone who’s running the risk of sounding like a major nerd right now, I will say that “Firefly” may not quite be the best show ever (there are definitely runners-up, FX’s “Fargo” among them) but no TV series can compete with “Firefly” in terms of pure rewatchability value and making me care about it’s cast of characters.

In Joss Whedon’s cult space western, the gun-toting action crackles and so does the dialogue as rogue-with-a-heart-of-gold Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) commandeers a ship packed with rapscallions who will take any kind of work, legal or otherwise. The crews’ lives are complicated when they take convict siblings Simon (Sean Maher) and River (Summer Glau) under their wing.

River is a victim of experimentation by the corrupt government; she knows too much, sees things that others cannot, and that makes her dangerous. Simon defied his parents’ wishes and went on a hunch to rescue River and smuggle her into the far reaches of space. The show is focused on the relationships and witty pitter-patter of banter that having a group of people, vastly different and not all easy to get along with, would come along with.

Joss Whedon creates a vivid world that is both futuristic and a throwback to the old Spaghetti Western films of the yesteryears. The entire cast performs their parts admirably, and the character development and backstory building are unparalleled. It’s hard to pick a favorite character (for me, it’s a tie between the cheerful mechanic Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite ) and the smart aleck pilot Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne (Alan Tudyk)) because all the characters are so well done and saddled with great one-liners.

I really like the mix elements of the different cultures featured on each planet. I personally am not vouching for a relaunch of the series at this point (things have changed, including the deaths of two major characters in the movie spin-off, “Serenity,” and the cast has aged considerably) but I am seriously fangirling for the graphic novel follow-up, “Leaves on the Wind,” written by Joss Whedon’s brother Zack. I just hope it is consistent with the quality of the series.

I am not a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s stuff in general (“Dr. Horrible” has it’s moments, “The Avengers” and what I’ve seen of “Buffy” are just okay.) The nerds seem to love him (not that I’m in a position to be calling people nerds, I just got a Wash quote pin at a sci-fi convention not a week ago.) But “Firefly” is enough to make me love him at his best and appreciate his fertile imagination.

I’ve seen “Firefly” all the way through like six times and I never fail to catch little details I might not have been aware of before that increase my appreciation of the show as a whole. I am consistently wowed by the thought put into the depth and psychological nuance combined with the action and humor. The characters are just so well done, from the rough-hewn, wise-cracking grunt of the group (Adam Baldwin) to the very classy call girl (Morena Baccarin) that Mal refuses to admit he has feelings for (in “Firefly”‘s world, courtesans are called ‘companions’ and held in the highest regard.)

There’s also a definite emphasis on female power and badasserie. The lack of alien lifeforms featured and a lowish budget should not deter you from enjoying this great science fiction series. Just realize it’s more about the characters and their relationships than big-time gun and knife fights (though there is some of that, too.) Highly enjoyable entertainment with plenty of humor and verve to spare.

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Beautiful Boy (2010)

Writer’s Note- I wrote this review a couple of years ago and just posted it on this blog now, so forgive me if the writing isn’t up to par with some of the later reviews. Also, I wrote this a little while before the film “We Need to Talk About Kevin” came out.

Within a span of a couple of years, two indie films with very similar premises hit festivals, their names being We Need to Talk About Kevin and Beautiful Boy. I have just seen the latter, a tremendously acted film that deals with the aftermath of rather than the build-up to a school shooting, and concentrates on the grieving parents of the shooter.

The tagline of this movie, “Everything seemed perfect… Everything would change” is grossly inaccurate, as the group in question is not a happy family. Katie and Bill (Maria Bello and Michael Sheen) are trapped in a failing marriage to the point of sleeping in separate beds, while college student Sam (Kyle Gallner) is suicidally depressed and can barely contain his tears as he talks to his parents by phone, as it turns out, for the last time.

Beautiful Boy‘s shooter does not seem to be a psychopath, as We Need to Talk About Kevin‘s promos show their angry young man to be. Rather, he seems to be a deeply unhappy person who irrationally not only wants to die, but wants to take some people with him.

Frankly, I don’t agree with the film’s statement that “it’s nobody’s fault.” Except in some rare cases, people are to some degree responsible for their own actions. If you say it is in no way the shooter’s fault, you’re taking away his role as perpetrator. Should we say the same for rapists? Pedophiles? If you don’t consider the kid a monster, fine (nor do I), but give me something here.

Paired with the son’s seemingly average home life, this makes the film’s act of violence rather puzzling. What really stands out is the acting, Maria Bello, primarily, but also Michael Sheen, Kyle Gallner, and Alan Tudyk (from the great series Firefly) as the concerned brother. The peculiarly named Moon Bloodgood and Meat Loaf are decent too, though not notably so. Some of Beautiful Boy reminded me of Todd Fields’ In The Bedroom, the guilt, the blame-placing, and the grief, without the relentless grimness of Fields film.

One plus is the minimal use of music to make a point, which is always applied with buzz kill in mainstream American films. Beautiful Boy is an emotional film — try to watch the scene where the parents receive the news without your lip a-quivering, and excellently acted, but a certain something keeps it from being an “unforgettable film.”

It may be the sentimentality or naivete placed deep within the script or the fact that, although there are many characters to care about, there are none who blow you away. I’m interested to see what We Need to Talk About Kevin does with the subject matter, and whether it surpasses this in content or style.

Death at a Funeral (2007)

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Frank Oz’s 2007 madcap comedy “Death at a Funeral” is a movie that did not need a remake, in the opinion in yours truly, and the wise move on your part would be to rent this version immediately and avoid the pointless rehash. 2007’s version finds the dysfunction taking place at a British country house, when the patriarch of a well-to-do family dies and friends and relatives cast away simmering tensions to attend his funeral.

Daniel (Matthew MacFadyen) is the dutiful son, perpetually disregarded in favor of his often absent brother (Rupert Graves.) Simon (Alan Tudyk) is the deceased man’s niece’s boyfriend, who trembles at the thought of coming face to face with his beloved (Daisy Donovan)’s disapproving father. Simon mistakenly consumes a hallucinogenic concoction in an attempt to ‘calm his nerves’ and spends the rest of the movie in a midst of a psychotic breakdown. You may think the portrayer of Simon will not be able to consistently draw laughs when handed out such a tough and over-the-top role, but Alan Tudyk (from the terrific TV series “Firefly”) may just win the honor of giving the most uproarious performance in a very funny movie.

The family’s issues are exacerbated by a lecherous guest (Ewen Bremner,) a mysterious and latently homosexual dwarf blackmailer (Peter Dinklage, who certainly showed potential before his breakout performance in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,”) and hallucinogens that get passed away like a game of ‘hot potato.’ During all this the guests attempt to keep a stiff upper lip- perfectly British, but the harder they try to give the dead man a ‘dignified send-off’ the more complicated things become.

This is a ensemble comedy, and even the actors who have somewhat boring roles (as a posed to drug-addled Tudyk and the socially hopeless hypochondriac Howard (Andy Nyman))- like Matthew MacFadyen- are very good with the material they’re given. I can’t think of a single weak spot in the cast. I couldn’t stop laughing at the crazy situations that befell this upper-class family when they were trying to behave like good, impeccably polite Brits. Great use of physical comedy, dark humor, and funny dialogue.

Frank Oz directed the comedy “In & Out” with Kevin Kline in the 90’s- which, despite occasional laughs, can’t compare to this as far as hilarity is concerned. This is not a movie to watch with your grandmother- there’s sexual content, language, mordant humor involving grief and death, and toilet jokes. Still, despite off-color content that might be attributed to American cinema , it’s still extremely British in style. The humor is in the fact that you can sympathize with and relate to the characters’ mortification and embarrassment while still laughing at them and not taking it too seriously.

If you’re not too sensitive about good taste (although I’m probably making it sound racier to the Liberal viewer than is necessary) I highly recommend this farce. The trailer truly doesn’t do it justice. Thanks to this movie, I am inspired to grow up into a old person of Uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan)’s degree of meanness, hitting people with my cane and whatnot. You haven’t really lived until you’ve spent your twilight years being an insufferable ass. Anyway, I really hope my review inspires you to pick up this movie, as it is a riot with an unbeatable cast.

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I, Robot (2004)

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‘Inspired’ by a short story collection by science fiction author Isaac Asimov, “I, Robot” is a fun action movie that owes a lot to Will Smith’s charismatic star power. Det. Del Spooner, an overly paranoid cop with a major case of survivor’s guilt, hates and distrusts all the robots who have become standard servants of man in the near future. So when Del has reason to believe that ‘Sonny’ (voiced by Alan Tudyk,) a highly intelligent and inquisitive robot (most robots are drones that exist only to serve) murdered apparent suicide victim and creator of robots Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell,) he’s all over the case.

Alfred Lanning created a set of rules within every robot for the safety of humanity, but it seems that Sonny, whether a killer or not, has the ability to bend or break the laws of robotics. Smart-ass Spooner teams up with an uptight robotics employee, Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan,) to uncover the plot behind Alfred’s death. Meanwhile Spooner finds himself being attacked by groups of robots, but as an distrusting full-fledged technophobe with a long history of hatred towards our cyborg friends, who will believe him?

“I, Robot” is an entertaining and action-packed adventure that occasionally hints at something more, although it is no doubt not as thought-provoking and pensive as the book on which it was based. People seem to pan the movie for that reason. ‘Why can’t it be more like the book?’ seems to be the common criticism. As someone who hasn’t read the book, I say that “I, Robot” does a perfectly good job presenting interesting ideas, but the result is more mainstream than philosophical.

Spooner isn’t really that far a cry from the other sarcastic action-heroes Will Smith has played, but the upside to this is that the role fits Smith like a glove. Spooner is cocky, very flawed guy with a pretty bad attitude, but you don’t really dislike him. For one thing, he makes you laugh, and for another when you find out his backstory you’ll feel for him. The moments between him and his grandmother Gigi (Adrian Ricard,) who loves him fiercely but absolutely doesn’t take any shit from him, are also poignant.

The special FX are effective, with another strong point being the voice and presentation of Sonny. Things have come a long way since “Star Wars” when R2-D2 was a midget in a blinking metal costume. Sonny is just human enough to be sympathetic while still being slightly unnerving. Props to bringing Susan and Spooner from mutual dislike to respect and possibly, romantic interest without any irritating flirtatious banter or unnecessary sex scenes.

“I, Robot” is a popcorn movie for sure, but it’s a fun, exciting popcorn movie that doesn’t insult your intelligence too much. Quite simply, if you like Will Smith’s “Men In Black” type character with his one-liners and sarcasm, you’ll like this movie. If you like good special effects and a decent story that keeps you guessing, you’ll also like it. People who are looking for excess depth or a totally creditable plot look elsewhere.

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Frozen (2013)

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To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to “Frozen” when it hit theaters. The advertisements offered (as far as I could tell) corny jokes, typical animation, and the antics of an annoying comic-relief snowman. Cynical? Maybe. But that’s the way I felt, until I actually saw the movie and became a convert. Frozen is an adorable movie, and one that children are likely to love. For some reason expected Elsa, the ice queen to be some kind of deranged psycho, but I was was immediately compelled by her story. Even Olaf, a sidekick I’d been thoroughly prepared to dislike, had his moments.

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Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) is hidden like a leper for her volatile magical powers that make objects she comes into contact with turn to ice. Afraid of hurting her sunny and bewilderingly naive sister, Anna (voice of Kristen Bell,) she sits in a solitary room until tings go terribly wrong at the royal coronation and she takes to the wild. Anna, who hitherto wasn’t aware of her sister’s strange powers, goes of to find Elsa, accompanied by  gruff working man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff.) Kristoff loves his reindeer, Sven. Like, a lot. Anthropomorphic snowman Olaf (voice of Josh Gad) comes along, happy for the attention. Meanwhile, Hans (Santino Fontana,) Anna’s recently acquired crush guards the kingdom, and a permanent winter (which Elsa inadvertently caused) looms over the landscape.

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All the musical sequences were delightful with the exception of the ‘fixer-upper’ song performed by a group of mystical… trolls. That one just didn’t do it for me. Anna and Elsa were both well-written, but I was drawn more to Elsa, probably because I dig troubled characters. The animation was beautiful. The humor was a little hit or miss, but more often than not it hit it’s target. I love some of the little details like how Anna’s hair is a rat nest in the morning. Ever since I was a child I’ve been waiting for this- a princess who looked like a real person when she got up in the morning, before she put on her make-up, did her hair, and went out to face the world. Classic Disney princesses always look like they sleepwalked through the meadow to the beauty salon.

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The villain here is a little different as well, not only because he only reveals himself in the later portion of the movie, but because he isn’t the first thing people think of when they think of a villain. He’s handsome, well-groomed, and seems for all accounts and purposes to be quite charming. It’s never a bad idea to remind children that not all villains have moles and wild hair and yellow teeth, and feast on rat flesh in dark, dank dens. This movie isn’t one of the best kids’ films of all time, but it’s appealing, visually stunning, and sometimes even a little emotional. Find an excuse to see it, even if you have to take a friend’s kid to save your pride.

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Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (2010)

“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is a willfully ridiculous, ridiculously bloody, balls-out and slightly touching film that allows the hillbillies to be the heroes for a change.

Tucker and Dale, far from the chainsaw-wielding, pig-raping rednecks we have come to expect from horror movies and West Virginia jokes, are just trying to have a nice time at their vacation home when out of the blue come a group of college kids who also want to have a nice time… but quickly become an incompetent lynch-mob over a series of misunderstandings.

The progression of the plot is super simple — somehow, under various circumstances, these doltheads keep killing themselves all around Tucker and Dale’s vacation home. Meanwhile, lovelorn Dale (Tyler Labine) harbors a crush on one of the college girls (Katrina Bowden,) while Tucker (Firefly’s Alan Tudyk) encourages him to believe in himself.

What really matters here are the jokes, delivered steadily and evoking a lot of laughs. The dialogue is one of the funniest in recent indie horror-comedies. The kills are brilliant in their own way, straining credulity to the extreme while still remaining hilarious and entertaining.

I don’t know how they did it, but I actually found the romance between bearish, backwoods boy Dale and slim, blonde college student Alison (Bowden) to be believable in the context of the movie. Anyway, it’s no less plausible than the college students somehow killing themselves, whether by fire, woodchipper (shades of “Fargo”) or tree branch (WTF?!)

“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” has a big, warm, squishy heart at the middle of it, for all its guts and gore. It also provides a valuable message about not making snap judgments about people, without making the audience slog through the after-school special shit.

Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine give hilarious performances as the two harmless hillbillies at the center of the story, while Katrina Bowden is fittingly likable as the college girl that Dale falls head over heels for. The ending gets a little overly silly, but the movie will have won your heart long beforehand. “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is a awesome entry into the horror/comedy genre.