Played a bit of catch-up with some of the films I missed in '08. Here's what I saw this weekend.
Bolt - A roadtrip/Homeward Bound-style movie with lots of heart, this one has the makings of Pixar's best, without actually being headed up by Pixar. All the same, it's got John Lasseter's magic touch all over it, and it'll undoubtedly manage to squeeze itself into a timeless status rather a pop cultural one. Cyrus and Travolta turn in decent performances, but it's Susie Essman's Mittens who's the real star here; the uneasy bond of friendship that grows between she and Bolt is great to watch. And Mark Walton's Rhino the Hamster, a character whom I was almost sure would put a crimp on the entire movie after seeing the trailers, is anything but - he's goddamned hilarious, and an awesome supporting character. John Powell turns in a serviceable score, with a likeable main theme that's frequented throughout. I wished I saw this one in the theaters, because if I did, it would've easily earned my animation of the year, preceding even Kung Fu Panda and Wall•E.
Hancock - Hancock definitely makes for a refreshing take on the superhero genre. For most of the first half, the movie played up the trailer's original premise exactly the way I wanted it to be. Yes, Smith's titular character is an "asshole", but he's the kind of asshole that you'd love to despise. He's a vigilante, and the comedy spins best when he's at his most cynical and vulgar; the character study is on the forefront here, with the superhero elements taking a backseat. The story twist is interminably predicable, since it's hinted at pretty much throughout the entire film (though to what end remains under wraps until it happens), and the middle to the beginning of the final act does stumble a bit in its concept and execution. I give an "A" to the first half of the movie, maybe a "C+" to the last half -- kind of like how I would rate I Am Legend. And I also liked Powell's score here; he goes for a heavy blues-jazz sensibility this time, with an overall playful, sometimes soothing feel for the rest. Definitely more subdued in tone than the typical superhero score, which again adds to the overall refreshing nature of the film.
Wanted - As DVD Verdict's review stated, "Wanted is the proud bastard child of The Matrix, Fight Club, and La Femme Nikita." This is a massive orgy-fest of hyperkinetic action, ultra-violence, mind-bending physics, guns, babes, and hot cars. Director Timur Bekmambetov's visual eye is dazzlingly eye-catching, making for one hell of a stylistic looking flick. The whole thing feels blatantly "Matrix" in its delivery, yet infinitely more fun and decadent than that entire trilogy put together. Unlike Hancock, this one feels better paced, what with a longer running time that allows the story twist to effectively segue into a more satisfying resolution. Elfman's score goes for an appropriate gritty-grungy metal-rock flavor, but there's also a heavy orchestral/choir element in several places, which serves the theme of The Fraternity well. (And yeah, the inclusion of NIN's Everyday Is Exactly The Same was quite cool, actually.)
It was a fun weekend. It's not often coming across a trio of flicks that are all immensely entertaining in their own way.