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Archive for February, 2005

Review: Tuck Everlasting

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Tuck Everlasting falls squarely into the “nice movie” category: it has a nice story, some nice acting, some nice moments, some nice cinematography, though very little about the movie stands out as excellent. But I have to be honest and say that Tuck Everlasting fits into another category as well: movies that are far better than I’d though they’d be.

The story, based on the novel by Natalie Babbitt, centers on 15-year-old Winnie Foster (Gilmore GirlsAlexis Bledel, who couldn’t possibly look any more pure and winsome) and her discovery of a family of immortals, the Tucks, living in the woods on her family’s property. Winnie meets the youngest Tuck, Jesse (Jonathan Jackson, who will always be Lucky Spencer to me), and the two of them of course fall in love and be pretty and do pretty things together. The serious stumbling blocks in their relationship, of course, comes from the fact that Jesse will be seventeen forever and Winnie will not (unless she drinks from the spring that granted the Tucks their immortality in the first place). There’s also the problem of a mysterious man in a yellow suit with really horrible hair (Ben Kinglsey) stalking the Tuck family, determined to become immortal himself, but honestly, his part of the plot (the only place were any real action comes into the story) doesn’t feel like anywhere near as important as the decision Winnie has to make.

Tuck Everlasting (2002)
Grade: B
Directed By: Jay Russell
Written By: Jeffrey Leiber James V. Hart
Starring: Alexis Bledel Jonathan Jackson William Hurt Sissy Spacek Ben Kingsley
Studio: Disney

If while reading that last paragraph you hit the words “Ben Kinglsey” and said to yourself “Hey, what the hell is Ben Kinglsey doing in this movie?” then I’m with you. Tuck Everlasting has a surprisingly good batch of actors in the adult roles. In addition to Kingsley, the movie’s got an effectively understated William Hurt as the Tuck paterfamilias and a not-quite-so-understated Sissy Spacek as his wife, plus AliasVictor Garber and Amy Irving as Winnie’s folks. That’s some impressive acting chops for a Disney family flick.

And for being a Disney family flick, Tuck Everlasting deals with some fairly weighty issues, most notably the discussion of what it truly means to live. If a person can’t age, can’t die, can that person truly be called living? The Tucks themselves are permanently stuck–they can never have any meaningful, lasting relationships with anyone except each other. Even if Winnie stayed with Jesse for the rest of her natural life, “lasting” to her could still only ever be “temporary” to Jesse. Angus Tuck tells Winnie that dying is part and parcel with living–she shouldn’t be afraid of death, only of not living her life. Pretty heady material from The Mouse House but one that might hit home with the teen and preteen girls at which this movie’s aimed.

(And no, I’m not a teen or preteen girl…my watching this movie is a direct result of my wife getting her own Netflix queue.)

The one big problem I had with Tuck Everlasting was the voiceover narration, provided by Elizabeth Shue. It wasn’t Shue’s reading of it but rather that the narration was there at all: it didn’t say anything that we couldn’t get from simply watching the movie. Removing the narration altogether would have made the movie stronger.

Written by Allen

February 3rd, 2005 at 10:25 pm

Review: Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days

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Writer: Brian K. Vaughan Pencils: Tony Harris Inks: Tom Feister

Ex Machina is not a super-hero story. Yes, the lead character was once a super-hero known as The Great Machine (so named after Jefferson’s view of our country, we’re told), but this isn’t The Great Machine’s story. It’s the story of the man inside the suit, Mitchell Hundred, who’s parlayed his notoriety as a hero into being elected mayor of New York City. The real-world setting of Ex Machina–and it seems very much to be the “real world,” plus the introduction of one super-hero–allows Vaughan to play with some interesting ideas we don’t normally see in the genre (though the ideas are one that have also popped up most notably in Mark Millar’s The Ultimates).

We see in flashbacks that the cops of New York didn’t like or trust The Great Machine not because of some innate distrust of vigilantism, but because he makes their job harder (causing a ten-car pileup while catching a bank robber). And we catch some of the political side of that schism, too, after Mitchell becomes mayor: “don’t use your powers to do something we cops can take care of or you’re going to hear it from the union.”

The “real world” and how Mitchell has affected it come through most clearly on the last page of the first issue of Ex Machina, the first page in any comic in quite a while to actually take my breath away with its power. Vaughan and Harris are able to show in one single image exactly the impact that The Great Machine had on his city–and exactly why a complete political unknown was elected its mayor. We don’t get much insight into the origin of Mitchell’s powers in these first few issues. We get the what and the how but certainly not the why, though I’m sure that’s coming in later story arcs.

But we don’t need those questions dealing with The Great Machine answered yet since, as noted earlier, this isn’t his story. (Let me qualify that last statment with a “yet”–it feels like The Great Machine will be forced into un-retirement at some point later in the series. Vaughan has certainly set up the fact that not everyone is happy with Mitchell’s taking the suit off and has implied future threats that might need his powers.)

The artwork by Tony Harris and Tom Feister (with J.D. Mettler’s colors) is fantastic. Harris brings to Ex Machina the same strengths that made his long run on Starman so memorable: realistic, grounded characters living in a realistic world where unrealistic things can and do happen to them.

Ex Machina has received some comparisons to The West Wing, which is only natural as both present back-room views of the political machinations involved in running any governmental body. But the comparison to WW is also valid in that Ex Machina presents something of an idealized view of the people if not the process. Not only is Mitchell Hundred a former super-hero (this world’s only super, btw, or at least that we’ve seen so far), but he’s strong-willed, compassionate, leans to the left and genuinely wants to make his city better and feels a sense of personal responsibility for it. But Mitch isn’t perfect, either: he’s also a little hot-headed and not above using his extra-normal abilities (or at least the threat of them) as means to an end.

Written by Allen

February 1st, 2005 at 10:20 am

Posted in Comic Books