I had an interesting couple of days of film watching this weekend and I can't think of two more different films to be talking about in the same post. But, let's take things chronologically and start with I Am Legend.
I had little interest in seeing I Am Legend opening weekend. It was something that looked like it could have been kind of cool, but something to see opening weekend? I didn't think so. What drove me to the theatre was the six minutes of Dark Knight prelude footage in IMAX. I've never seen a film in IMAX before and I decided what better time to try it out.
The problem with IMAX theatres is that they're invariably located in the most obnoxious multiplexes on Earth. They should set a cap of four screens to any single movie theatre location and one screen if it's an IMAX. Perhaps movie theatres would once again have personality. And perhaps they wouldn't make one feel as though he's in a goddamned circus.
I thought the footage from The Dark Knight was breathtaking. If this was nothing more than a pitch to go see the film in IMAX, it worked. There was a shot of two Jokers rappelling onto the roof of a fifteen story bank and my heart literally jumped as I thought I was falling. It really did blow my mind. The Dark Knight is in capable hands and I think Heath Ledger is going to pull of the Joker well.
Now, to I Am Legend. A lot of people are going to talk about the special effects in this film. The task of depopulating Manhattan for three years and actually filming it is nothing short of breathtaking. These are the sorts of special effects that you take for granted and almost don't notice and only later do you think about it and say, "How the shit did they pull that off?"
But pull it off, they did.
But the real special effect in this picture is Will Smith. I can't believe how well he knocked this out of the park. He carried this movie single-handedly on his shoulders and actually injected it with so much emotion that I was getting choked up during parts of it. There's a scene of him in the video store talking to a female mannequin that almost makes you want to cry. Seriously, he's that good in this picture.
The film has some problems, but it's too short to dwell on them. It comes to a logical conclusion very quickly and then ends within three minutes of that. I respect and admire that. The film comes in, tells you it's story in a tight 95 some odd minutes and then gets the hell out.
I also love the fact that they had the balls to actually kill Will Smith at the end. Hollywood movies don't dare enough to kill their heroes anymore and this was refreshing.
But, since the time investment for this movie isn't that much and it has genuine, scary and thrilling moments in a tight, competently put together style of filmmaking, it's worth your money to go see. I would also recommend the IMAX experience for it. I've never seen a clearer, bigger picture on a big screen. 70mm film is better than digital at this point, I would have to say.
And now to the second film of the weekend:
Alvin and the Chipmunks.
I was dragged to see this because my kids were begging me to take them and I figured why the hell not? I used to like the Chipmunks as a kid (in fact, The Chipmunk Adventure was on my heavy rotation list as a kid for a very long time) and I figured it couldn't be worse than Garfield.
Indeed it was not. It's not a good movie, but if you have to see something with your kids, this won't get on your nerves too bad and you'll actually chuckle quite a bit. And my kids and nephew were literally on the floor laughing through most of the film.
And the human actors in it (Jason Lee and David Cross) are two of the most entertaining actors in the business, so they were certainly at least mildly entertaining to watch in this fairly standard kids movie.
It had all the beats you'd expect with no real surprises. David Seville (Lee) is a struggling musician who finds the Chipmunks and the songs he writes for them (classic Chipmunks tunes) propel them quickly into stardom. David Cross is the evil manager who overworks them and cuts David out of the picture and they all have to learn what being a family is all about. It did seem to borrow from old Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons though, I don't know if that's good or not. But I don't know how many Chip and Dale cartoons started with someone uprooting their tree and making them fish out of water. And who could forget the WB frog being unable to perform in front of anyone but the guy who wanted to get rich of him, which are both pretty big plot points in the film. But it was fine, I guess...
The only thing I couldn't figure out is why they paid people like Justin Long to voice the Chipmunks. With the processing of the voices, it seems like they could have saved money to have just about anyone do it.
With the box office for the opening weekend, we should all expect to see a sequel to this movie and it could be entertaining to see it more along the lines of the Chipmunk Adventure.
Bottom Line: If your kids are going to drag you to a kids movie, you could do lots worse.