Saturday, December 26, 2009

Movie Reviews: Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakuel/ Avatar

One of my holiday traditions is to catch up on a few movies ...

My son has been pretty excited to see two movies: Avatar and Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakuel.

We went to see Alvin and the Chipmunks II on Thursday night.

I rather enjoyed the first installment of the live action translation to the classic animated series of cartoons. It was a well done homage.

This second installment however was lacking the same wittiness and seemed sort of rushed.

I'd give it a 6 out of 10 rating.

General plot:

Alvin, Simon and Theodore (the chipmunks) now famous performing pop stars end up being "chipmunk-sat" by caretaker Dave's 25 year old nephew. The chipmunks take some time out to go to school. On their first day, they find out that the principal, a closet chipmunk groupie, wants the chipmunks to represent the school in a district talent show. Alvin and his two brothers unexpectedly meet their match when a trio of female singing chipmunks known as The Chipettes show up to compete against them.

Next up is Avatar ...

I didn't really have high hopes for this movie, it didn't really look all that appealing beyond the visuals to me. I had an idea that it would be yet another "environmental statement" type movie - turns out, I was right. Avatar lacked uniqueness in plot and instead tried to gloss over the borrowed themes with astounding visuals.

The plot of Avatar:

A paraplegic war veteran, is brought to another planet, Pandora, to acquaint himself with the inhabitants called the Na'vi. The 12 foot tall Na'vi have a unique brain which allows the transfer of thoughts (and actions) using a process called "Avatar". This unique ability has allowed scientists from Earth to grow human/Na'vi counterparts that are genetically linked.

Upon arrival, the soldier finds that "the Avatar project" is mostly about corporate greed. The intention of the program is to supplant or exterminate the "Na'vi" in order to mine for a precious metal - ironically called unobtanium. The soldier gains the trust of the natives of Pandora - only to find himself metaphorically - a puppet. A real bond is made with the Na'vi as they think humans are finally making an effort to understand them. He finds out that understanding the natives is understanding the corrupt nature of the human heart.

I read a short review of this movie that said it was a live action Ferngully. I agree. This plot has been used so many times and seems rather abused by Hollywood as of late.

I'd rate Avatar 5 out of 10.

Avatar ranks as the most expensive movie ever made with budget estimates at upwards of $460 million. That means the movie will have to make nearly a billion dollars just to recoup costs - something very few movies ever do.

Also know that - although this film is being promoted to children via McDonald's Happy Meal toys - there is every curse word in the book in the film - including roughly a dozen times the Lord's name is taken in vain.


I am a lover of children's literature said...

I went to to see Avatar, a movie some are calling the cinematic version of the iPhone, because like the iPhone, it will forever change how movies are made in the future.

I went for the graphics and I wasn't disappointed, and I was so enthralled by them I paid very little attention to the actual plot of the movie.

My impression, however, was that with determination one could overcome unimaginable odds, like the primitive Pandorans overcoming the odds of beating the greedy humans and their superior technology.

Jered Schneider said...

You gave Avatar a 5 out of 10 and Alvin and the Chipmunks a 6 out of 10?


Nearly every story has been told before. This movie is ground breaking and the story is one that has been told, and is told this way very well.

And are you really doubting that Avatar will make a profit?

On the topic of movies rarely making a billion, its true. But the ones that do make that much are movies like Avatar. And this is the first box office mega hit to be in 3D, which makes the profits even bigger.

But if there is someone who knows how to make a ton of money on a movie, its James Cameron. Ever heard of Titanic? (1.8 Billion).
And that story had been told hundreds of times. (A lowly peasant boy meets the rich beautiful girl, and they fall in love. But this can't be! They are from 2 different worlds! But they fall madly in love anyway in the face of all cultural mores of the time. But tragedy strikes and boy dies, leaving the girl forever longing for her one true love. Curtain.)

Not every story can be totally fresh and revolutionary, but they can take an oft told story and make it new and exciting.

For a more complete review, check out mine here

fixyourthinking said...

It may make a billion or two and I'm sure will turn profitable with DVD release and a TV run ... but that's not the point.

Watch it again if you haven't already.

Look what movies it borrowed from ... Aliens ... except this time humans have corporate greed and overburdensome military might going to exterminate a species - oh wait - same plot as Aliens - directed by James Cameron.

Same general types of Mechs.

About the only unique element is the Avatar process - even though that itself is very "plugged in" Matrix-y style.

This element though is VERY overdone to try to make a statement about death - to put one in a coffin so to speak. Good metaphor is subtle.

The whole plot is Ferngully LIVE and I am almost positive there will be national traveling ice skating show.

No one seems to be addressing that this movie is being pitche to kids at McDonald's and during cartoons - yet contains a lot of cursing - about as much can fit into a PG-13 movie.

Titanic was a unique story and an interesting one at that - so was aliens - so was Terminator I and II.

That said, Cameron also produced that pseudo documentary about Jesus not existing a few years back.

Thanks for your comments - I just disagree with your perspective.

roget said...

Saw Avatar in 3D - the visuals were pretty impressive but boy, do those 3D specs give me eye strain....