Monday, September 12, 2005

Good Movies with Small Audiences

In the last couple of weeks I finally made it to Sky High and The Brothers Grimm. Both are last-Summer releases. Sky High did ok at the box office but should have done better. Brothers Grimm did really bad and should have done well. Here's a few thoughts on them (with spoilers).

In many ways, Sky High was what Mystery Men and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen should have been (good). All three feature a mix of people with second-rate super powers who have to band together to save the world/city/school.

Sky High is sort of a cross between the X-Men and Harry Potter, with the Incredibles thrown in.Will, tThe son of the world's two greatest superheroes is being sent to a school for young heroes. Everyone has high expectations for him.

The trouble is that he has no powers. He is quickly relegated to "sidekick" status (also known as "superhero support) along with a couple of his friends. He hides his status from his parents for a while - how can you tell your dad that you have no powers when he just gave you the key to his sanctum?

But, not long after, Will is in a fight and suddenly discovers his powers. Like his dad, he is strong. Will is reassigned to hero classes and starts hanging out with a pretty senior, turning his back on his sidekick friends.

Things come to a head at the homecoming when one of Will's parents' old foes attacks the school.

The heroes are turned into babies. Only Will and the sidekicks remain. Each sidekick gets to contribute. This part is a bit contrived. Some of the sidekicks have limited but useful powers such as the kid who can melt. Others were shoe-horned into the script (one guy glows weakly so he lights their escape through the ductwork). Plus, we already knew that Will's buddy Gwen was powerful and that she was with the sidekicks as a conscientious objector.

While some of the movie is predictable, there are some genuine plot twists. It is also tightly constructed. I don't remember any plot holes.

My wife thinks that was better than the Fantastic Four.

On to the Brothers Grimm. This is the latest movie by Terry Gilliam. The brothers are con artists taking villagers' money in exchange for ridding them of a supernatural horror. They are apprehended by Napoleon army and given a choice - someone is stealing children from a nearby town, possibly using trickery similar the Grimm's. The Grimms can end this or be executed out of hand.

Of course they agree. They are escorted by a sadistic Italian named Cavaldi and a local woman named Angelika. It quickly turns out that there are real supernatural events taking place. Jacob Grimm tries to solve them but his brother Willhelm is an unbeliever. Plus Cavaldi keeps threatening them and Angelika with imaginative deaths.

I haven't been to a Gilliam movie since the Fisher King. I found that one to be mainstream and depressing. This movie is a return to Gilliam's earlier works like Time Bandits. The plot mixes the light and dark. The heroes are less than heroic and evil turns out to be all-powerful. (Also, both movies have Napoleonic soldiers.)

I suspect that this movie will have a long shelf life on DVD.

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