Not really tied because of their aesthetic value, but linked nonetheless thanks to the amazing work by the actors in the lead, these otherwise average films benefit tremendously from the casting choices made. In the former, Michelle Williams literally gets lost in the role of the tragic blond bombshell Marilyn Monroe. Not really an imitation, she manages something even more remarkable - she becomes the future fallen idol. As for Michael Shannon, he takes a tale of impending apocalyptic destruction and turns it inward, making it more about one man’s struggle with sanity than the end of the world. Both performances truly redefine their otherwise ordinary backdrops.
Rango reminds one of how special animation can be. It transports us to a place we’ve seen and experienced before and yet does so with a viewpoint so new and novel that it reinvests our always ripe cynicism with a fresh new coat of hope. It features flawless character design, dizzying narrative fun, a lot of brilliant voice work, and just enough nods to the studio standard type to remind us of why it was made in the first place. It’s a billon times better than any Shrek, more fun than a barrel of minions, and runs rings around Rio and its ill-conceived ilk.
As separate acts, as well written movements meant to completely undermine the state of organized religion today, Red State is mesmerizing. Smith, always known for his witty dialogue and complex screenplays, delivers one of his best here, a rant and anecdote based dissertation which argues for the evil inherent in belief, as well as the misunderstanding of same from the outside. This is no hyperbolic missive meant to paint all Christians as fanatics. Instead, Smith sets-up a situation (a radical sect that believes in literal interpretations of the Gospel, especially when it comes to homosexuality) and then slowly peels back the layers of hypocritical ludicrousness.
That groan you heard a few years back was Nerd Nation kvetching over the concept of another Apes movie. After all, Tim Burton’s bungling of the franchise nearly killed off the cinematic simian saga forever. Now, that cheer you hear is a studio (and sci-fi fanbase) reeling from an amazing, almost miraculous motion picture comeback. All kudos to director Rupert Wyatt for finding the humanity and horror in the standard story of Science playing God. Equally respect to actor Andy Serkis, who once again proved that motion capture technology can turn out an Oscar worthy performance
For all its Hustler by way of Heavy Metal sex fetishism and outrageous action excesses, Sucker Punch remains one of 2011’s grandest experiments (especially in the recently released “Director’s Cut” Blu-ray). Sure, it tried to mesh the Burly-Q with battle and overdid the grrrl power grunt, but this was an amazing visual feast filled with electrifying imagery and inspirations. Did the story make a lick of sense? Hell no! Could that be because of studio interference, suits mandating that movie’s musical (?) numbers be cut for the sake of audience sanity? Perhaps. Whatever the case, we will defend this pick to the death.