For Your Renting Pleasure

Cowboys and Aliens headerAs the year winds down to an end, I find myself trying to squeeze in a bunch of films that I haven’t seen from the past year, all while rewatching some of the highlight films in order to compile a best of list (Be on the look out for those to start the first week of January!).  Click more to see what I thought were possible contenders and whether or not they failed to live up to the high hopes.

Archer Season 1 (2009-2010)

A spy with an affinity for the ladies!?  Psh… That’s just unheard of.  Yet that is what this show is based on.  Oh the fantasy of it all…

Archer is an animated show that somewhat spoofs the highly sexualized world of espionage.  The title character is a man who is apparently the best in the biz, though you would never guess this from how the character is presented in the show.  He is an idiot and a mama’s boy, so reason goes to show he is basically the best through accident because all I witness is mistake after mistake.  Which is where most of the comedy is for me.  The sex crazed working environment got old quickly and I never understood the relationship between super spy Lana and nerdy Cyril (granted the whole point of it is to probably to show Lana going for someone completely different that Archer).

The animation moves about like paper dolls with pins in their joints if you ask me, but one thing that overcompensates for this is the voice acting from a cast that includes Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler, and Jessica Walter.  At the top of the list is H. Jon Benjamin for his voicing of Archer, and I don’t think I will ever get tired of the way in which he yells “Mother!”

Seeing as I am not one for spoofs, it isn’t unexpected for me to not be completely blown away by this like many others (though I am in no way saying that this relies heavily on obvious mockery of the genre like the Scary Movie franchise or anything).  However, it does have a strong comedic take on this world, so though I don’t always see it, I can completely understand why so many love Archer. (Available to watch instantly with Netflix)

Final Grade: B

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

Two summers ago Cowboys & Aliens was easily one of the films I was most excited for coming out of Comic Con.  Firefly has already proven that sci-fi meets western can be the perfect genre blend if done right; too bad Cowboys & Aliens falls short.

An entertaining film of the simplest form, C&A is one of those movies to put in if you just want to watch something in the background of what you are really paying attention to.  It’s not like you can hear/understand half of what Daniel Craig is saying anyway, not that what he says is probably the best dialog anyway.  The script is actually rather poorly written, with dialog and characters that are ill formed.  Sam Rockwell might get the worst of this, though he does get one of the funniest lines in the film, but the rest of the cast isn’t really given anything better than Rockwell, including Olivia Wilde who must shoulder a lot of the film without having enough character development to make us truly care about her character (other than for being a possible love interest to Craig, as well as the only girl for the majority of the film).

The CGI is done well enough for the aliens, alien jets, etc, and some of the fighting between the aliens and humans is fun enough to watch, but as soon as the movie is over and you actually start thinking about what you just watched the film completely breaks down.  The reasoning for the aliens being here is pretty vague, though what explanation is given creates a rather stupid motive for the battle between Earth and space no matter how well it fits with the time and setting.

Final Grade:  C

The Tree of Life (2011)

I’ll warn you now, if you are not the type of person who will get stuck in front of one of the video screens in an art museum then The Tree of Life may be a little challenging of a film to sit through for you.  Matter of fact, when describing it, “movie” really doesn’t come out as my first word.

Don’t get me wrong, a vast majority of films can be considered art.  For example, The Fall is one of the most beautiful films I have seen, but because of its narrative it is still something I would categorize as a movie first.  On the other hand, with The Tree of Life I would be more likely to describe it as artwork instead of a film because it doesn’t seem to have a place in a movie theater, but in an art show.  Hands down it is one of the most beautiful looking films from the past year, as I jokingly refer to the first 30 or so minutes as one of the best screensavers I have ever seen due to its calming imagery and tendency to push the camera in towards what is the focus of the shot.

Another deciding factor that sets this apart from most films is that I would use the story to describe a film, but art is often described by its concept, which is what The Tree of Life has.  So conceptual in fact that I went on to after watching to read what other people thought the movie was about (I needed a little more than what I ended with, which was “WTF!?”).

Because of this it is impossible for me to sit on a grade because I can’t grade it on the usual scale.  However, if I were in a critique in an art class this would definitely be a piece not to be forgotten.

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