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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer's for Movies

A few weeks ago, M, S, a friend and I headed out to see the last Toy Story on the big screen. We dutifully bought our large bucket of popcorn, over-priced sodas, put on our 3D glasses and sat back to enjoy an engaging tale with the much-loved protagonists now moving into a final and fitting end to their days as Andy's toys, as Andy leaves his home and childhood behind for the challenges of college.
There are fewer large screens with 'stadium seating' and more smaller boxy theatres which can pack twice as many theaters in less space. Luckily, the cinema we went to had one of the larger screens, well worth the price of admission. Nothing like chillin' in the air-conditioned darkness, while the sun blazes in a relentless heat wave outside.
The next (non-popcorn, this was directly after lunch) movie we attempted was the much-maligned "The Last Airbender". My kids and I loved the TV series, which runs in endless loops on Nickelodeon, admiring the spunk and humor of the Americanized pseudo-Asian anime-inspired characters Aang, Katara and Sokka. We opted for the 2D version, since most critics had lambasted the 3-D as detracting majorly from their experience. This ended up being a mother-daughter outing- M sitting with me, while S chose to walk in later with a friend of his, sitting one row and several seats to our right.
My verdict: The movie wasn't great, but it wasn't as terrible as the critics made it out to be.
It had already garnered tons of bad press for its choice of casting (non-Asian to play the lead roles, actors of Indian extraction in a 'villainous' role, not enough Asians, too many Caucasians, not enough Inuits, too many Indians, too few African Americans, too many African Americans, including one playing a monk.... the head spins over the different permutations and combinations.)
The next line of attack was that the moviemakers mangled the series into an incomprehensible collage of expository set pieces. (Ouch, it hurt my head to write that line. This is supposed to be a popcorn movie after all, not a Seven Samurai style cinematic masterpiece. Or was it?) In this case, I suppose, the filmmaker is guilty as charged.
But isn't the book always better than the movie (or the extended series running over several hours on TV)? I hated the shortened movie version of Pride and Prejudice compared with the several-hour long BBC epic. Naturally, one captures all the dialog while the other is reduced to soundbites and precious minutes of staging scenery.  Airbender suffers from the same approach.
The scenery is gorgeous, the  production values were quite fantastic. If only the scripting and acting had been better.

M's verdict :" I give it a C- or 3 out of 5 stars. Because they left out the Kiyoshi warriors. How could they do such a stupid thing!"

S's verdict: "It was Terrible! Only the effects made it tolerable."

Next up, may be Despicable Me. We've been seeing the previews for that for the last six months, every time we visited the theater.

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