Saturday, November 18, 2017

Rush to Judgment: "August Rush" (2007)

I popped "August Rush" into the player and was immediately rolling my eyes. This story of an orphan looking for his long lost parents using only the universal draw of music was sappy, goofy, and the initial dialogue between the boy's parents was unintentionally hilarious. Soon, however, this weird take on "Oliver Twist" drew me in thanks to great acting by Terrence Howard and Freddie Highmore, and a compelling plotline that continually piqued my interest. The music was good, and the director's swirling camera captured the creative mind brilliantly. I loved how young August could hear rhythm and music in the most mundane urban noises, something any musician, artist, or writer can associate with- letting your mind listen and create something out of essentially nothing. I'm more surprised than anyone at how well the film recovered itself.

I Thought 'Ass' Was Spelled With Two S's: "Astro Boy" (2009) and "Astro Boy vs. the Junkyard Pirates" (2010)

Rumbling around the house one morning after sending the wife and fetus off to work, I was perusing Brea's DVD collection. I had jettisoned most of mine, didn't feel like cranking up a streaming service so soon to going to work myself, so I decided to start in the A section (we alphabetize) and pull the first movie I found that I have not seen. Sorry, Addams Family and its sequel, and "Arthur Christmas" (I once watched the beginning, fell asleep, and woke up in time for the end), and pulled "Astro Boy."

I remember having this movie on once when our niece was over, and I fell asleep then, too...I sense a pattern...so I watched part of it yesterday morning, and finished it last night. Yikes.

Based on a 1960's dubbed Japanese cartoon that I don't remember watching, this misfire had a couple of pretty scenes but little else. The voice cast is full of recognizable names: Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, the odious Kristen Bell, Eugene Levy, Nathan Lane and is usual shtick, Bill Nighy, Charlize Theron, Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Stiles, David Alan Grier, and a few others.

The four or five people who were demanding a big screen adaptation of the manga/cartoon must have been the same people who were demanding the equally bad "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" a few years ago- both films bombed, and didn't spawn any cult followings or franchises. "Astro Boy" boldly tramples into odd areas, sure to pull out some pointed barbs at any Right wingers, but then negates its own Liberal spin with gun and explosion filled battle sequences. The main villain is a war mongering politician who looks and sounds like Richard Nixon, and one of his campaign slogans is something like "WE DON'T WANT CHANGE." Entire subplots are dangled and never followed through, or don't work at all. The Robot Revolutionary Front, another boring subplot that absolutely no child will get, had me doubled over in grand mal cringe. The dialogue sounds like it was written by an ill-equipped fourth grader entering their first rap battle, and the voice work is lazy all around.

I also viewed the "short film" entitled "Astro Boy vs. the Junkyard Pirates." Don't you just love when studios take a rightfully deleted scene from a motion picture, slap it on the DVD release, and then call it a "short film?" View this on its own, without any context to the feature-length "Astro Boy," and it will make no sense whatsoever. If you watch it after watching the almost equally bad "Astro Boy," you'll see why this "short film" was deleted.

This was the first film I've seen in months. I might challenge myself to watch other DVDs from my wife's collection, avoiding the stuff I know I'll hate because of who's in it- Ellen Page, Mark Ruffalo, I see some of your films collecting dust and promising a good time, but I'm mentally stronger than my own need to be entertained. On the other hand, "August Rush," you might be next.

(From my blog Awoke Enrightened)