Weekend Rentals: February 20th

Millions – Dir. Danny Boyle (2004)
It’s so incredibly rare that I see a “family film”.  I suppose if you qualify Pixar’s animated features as family films, I see maybe one per year.  Part of this is because I’m neither a child nor a parent, but partly is because family movies are so rarely made to appeal beyond the youngest audience members.  When asked if he was being too harsh on a kids movie after giving Star Wars – The Clone Wars a particularly bad review, Roger Ebert said that if anything, kids movies should be better than mainstream movies.  And he’s absolutely right.  And that’s why I was so impressed with Millions.  It fits into the “family film” genre fairly easily, and even could be classified as a Christian movie (which are, by reputation, notorious for being creatively and even spiritually lacking), but it has the same level of creative intensity as anything else Danny Boyle has done.  It occasionally does flirt with cliche, but it never relies on it and the cast never overplays their hand.  It’s similar to what he did with Slumdog Millionaire in allowing the scene to inspire emotions rather than just present emotions.  The result is always stronger than a heavy-handed emotional scene, and even with some flaws, Millions is a very strong film.  B+

Waking Life – Dir. Richard Linklater (2001)
I enjoyed A Scanner Darkly quite a bit, and like countless others, really enjoyed Dazed and Confused.  So naturally, I was interested in Waking Life.  It has the same sort of visual hook as A Scanner Darkly.  What it lacks, however, is a narrative structure.  It’s essentially a collection of dialogues about heavy philosophical concetps, and for what it is, it’s about as interesting as it can be.  However, some of the scenes play a little awkward, or aren’t quite as effective as others.  The whole film fully disregards realism, and I can appreciate that, but by the same token, I still find it a little unusual to see an academically-sourced conversation about reincarnation between a couple in bed, especially when the dialogue feels stiff.  When the movie works, it’s very interesting.  The visuals certainly make it more watchable than it would have been if it was filmed traditionally, but it’s not quite as consistent as it could be.  Granted, just due to how outside the norm Waking Life is, it could very well grow on me after multiple viewings, but the first go around left me a little cold.  But it’s certainly more interesting than your average Philosophy textbook.  B-

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