So it looks like it's going to be a busy movie reviewing season. Once again, the Hollywood studios are churning out lots of stuff that I want to see. On tap for this the next several months:
May 4 The Avengers, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; May 11 Dark Shadows; May 18 Battleship; May 25 Men In Black III, Moonrise Kingdom; June 1 Snow White and the Huntsman; June 8 Prometheus, Madagascar 3; June 22 Brave; June 29 G.I. Joe: Retaliation; July 6 The Amazing Spiderman; July 20 The Dark Knight Rises; August 3 Total Recall; September 5 NFL Week One: Cowboys Vs. Giants.
Several of these movies are indie type movies that I suspect will take some to show up in our area, but for the most part, Sand and I have our work cut for us. I've been thinking that with this kind of schedule, The Piker Press should increase our expense allowance a bit to help cover our costs -- popcorn isn't as cheap as it used to be. However, all our requests to that effect have taken the exact same course through the Press's bureaucratic labyrinth that our expense report submissions have taken. We have been assured that future expense allowances as well as reimbursement checks for past expenses are now being processed by Helen Waite, our accountant, with the predictable instructions for how we might go about expediting the process. I've spoken to my Amalgamated Dysfunctional Workers' Union rep, but she says they can't seem to get anything done about it.
Journalism, as my mother correctly warned me, is hell.
Still, there are perks to my trade. This past Friday, Sand and I found ourselves at a nearly private screening of the new movie The Pirates! Band of Misfits. This is from the creative artists that brought us Chicken Run as well as a long list of Wallace and Gromit titles, all animated features using stop-motion clay animation techniques. I say "nearly private" because Sand and I were two of the six people in the theater for the early showing.
Pirates! is the thoroughly entertaining story of The Pirate Captain, a good natured and inept pirate who aspires to be crowned Pirate of the Year, a prospect that seems unlikely. However, a chance encounter with Charles Darwin (yes, the scientist of evolutionary fame) provides a possible route to the coveted title. The Captain's "big-boned parrot" Molly is more than she seems. Indeed, she is highly coveted by the unscrupulous Darwin and by the pirate-hating and mean-spirited Queen Victoria.
This is a delightful movie. It is well-written, appealing obviously to the young, but with plenty for adults as well. There is the slapstick and general silliness of a cartoon, but the tongue-in-cheek portrayal of Darwin and Queen Victoria as well as cameo appearances by Jane Austin and the Elephant Man play to the adults. It is also a good looking movie. Along with the gorgeous sets, there is something darn near magical about the way the Aardman Studio animators can evoke such depth and range in the clay figures used to portray the characters.
And Pirates! is plain old fun. It is one of those movies where when it becomes obvious that the story is wrapping up, there is a true sense of disappointment, not in the story, but disappointment that things can't go on longer. At 88 minutes this isn't a long movie to begin with, but I would have been perfectly content if there had been another 30 to 45 minutes more.
The Aardman Studios are without argument wizards in the stop-motion arts, probably the best there have ever been (no offense Ray Harryhausen). But their genius lies in the joining of this technical expertise to good storytelling and a great sense of humor. Pirates! is a wonderful film, well worth a trip to theater to see.
I agree with Bernie wholeheartedly, at least about Pirates! This was a film I'd like to see over and over -- there was just too much to it to catch in one viewing.
When the pirates encountered Charles Darwin, I was appalled at first that such liberty was taken with a real historical figure; likewise making the Queen not just a generic pirate-hating queen, but Queen Victoria? Yet as the movie went on, the preposterous-ness of the characters based on well-known people just got funnier and funnier. I won't spoil the gag, but I must admit that one scene with Queen Victoria catching Pirate Captain in his duplicity made me laugh so hard I thought I'd pass out.
Not only will I recommend Pirates! to anyone, but also I strongly urge moviegoers to stay for all of the credits.
Now about disagreeing with Bernie, I am going on record as REFUSING to go see Prometheus. Pirates! is much more my speed.