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Tim Hill

Hop

directorsthop-2011-hindiTo be fair – this one didn’t interest me.

I don’t know what it was…the commercials did nothing for me and it felt like it was just a holiday cash grab- I’m still not entirely certain it wasn’t.

Nevertheless, my kids wanted to see it and my wife was interested so we eventually made it out to Amherst Cinema for the movie.

I’m surprised at how much I liked it. Hill is doing what he does best here – he’s taking a simple slackers-find-their-purpose story and infusing it with heart. The CG Easter bunny character should not work nearly as well as he does, but there’s something about him that just resonates. It makes me wonder how much time Hill spends with the animators, if he’s there in the room looking over their shoulders as they create these characters because I can feel his fingerprints in their DNA.

This ended up being a surprise hit in my family, and gets pulled out every year at Easter time. It may not be a buy, but if you’ve never see it, this is definitely worth a watch.

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Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever

directorstajr5plnqpznga8cmjsq8ckjharuI wanted to like this one way more than I did.

From IMDB : “Grumpy Cat is a lonely cat living in a mall pet shop. Because she never gets chosen by customers, she develops a sour outlook on life…until one day during the holidays, a very special 12-year-old girl named Chrystal enters the pet store and falls in love with her after realizing she is the only person who can hear this unique cat talk. As the two develop a close friendship during the holiday rush, Grumpy reluctantly thwarts the kidnapping of an exotic dog she dislikes, and on Christmas Eve rescues Chrystal after the mall closes. Through her adventures, will Grumpy learn the true meaning of Christmas? Or will it be, in her words, the “Worst. Christmas. Ever?”

Here’s the problem…this is a lifetime movie. While Tim Hill was definitely the logical (even inspired) choice to make a movie about Grumpy, I don’t think he quite understands how to make a lifetime movie – and it shows. It’s a different sensibility, a diffrent kind of humor and Hill feels tied up by the unnecessary requirements of the network to appeal to a very specific demographic.

He’s hindered further by the very fact that he’s been given a flimsier premise than usual – we’re basing this movie on little more than an internet meme with a dash of forced holiday cheer (holiday cheer being incomprehensibly the antithesis of the main character). Add a fairly poor choice in Aubry Plaza as the voice and we end up with a funny, but somehow unsatisfying movie.

It’s not a complete disaster. I still watch it during Christmas and for Hill to make a Lifetime movie that I’ll even deem to watch at all is nothing short of miraculous. I’d like to see this character tackled again but with less studio interference and a better voice actress.


Alvin and the Chipmunks

directorstalvin-and-the-chipmunks-2007Unlike characters like Garfield, I didn’t grow up with Alvin and the Chipmunks. I mean, they were around…I might skip past them while searching the cartoons on Saturday morning and I know I heard the Christmas song, but these guys were not part of my childhood.

I actually went into this one partially because I saw Tim Hill’s name attached. I was happy with what I found.  Hill has managed to make the Chipmunks hip and relevant again, while at the same time delivering a hilarious critique of the crass commercialization of the music industry. He even manages to slip in a cautionary tale to the talent who gets sucked in. Bleneded together, it works. It tells the origin of the Chipmunks and genuinely engages.

Hill also manages the budding romance in the background between Dave and his old girlfriend particularly well. It’s something you might have noticed in his Garfield movie as well – even as he’s dazzling you with the CG antics up front, hes playing with a touching rom-com in the background and it works.

Like the last couple films I mentioned, this one is another buy. We’ve enjoyed the Chipmunk films in general, but a real hats off to Hill for reigniting the franchise and kicking this series off so well.


Garfield

directorstgarfield-a-tail-of-two-kitties-2006-medium-coverThe Garfield films get a lot of hate and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s just the normal backlash at the kids films with CG characters….I don’t know. What I do know is that when the first Garfield film came out, I was hooked. I’m a lifelong fan of the character and I loved what  Iwas seeing. It was funny and sassy and it really FELT like Garfield (apparently a lot of people disagred). My main complain was that the dog Odie, was real and not CG (not enough budget for him to also be a cartoon apparently)

I was shocked when I heard there would be a sequel.

Hill has taken a lot of the critisisms from the first movie and addressed them. Odie is still not a cartoon, but there’s WAY less of him. Garfield dosen’t dance (except for a goofy bit at the end) and there’s more of him. Twice as much in fact.

It’s a stimple twin swapping story, Garfield takes the place of one of the royal cats of England, trying to save the family manor. Our villian, in a brilliant bit of casting, is Billy Connally who manages not to die in a film for once.

I kind of feel bad for Hill on this one, because while he crafts a funny and entertaining film, this one seemed doomed from the start with the bad press fro mteh first and Bill Murry’s reluctance to come in for the voice – I think the studio expected this to do meger numbers. The movie deserves better. Hill treats the material with respect and is more than just a hired gun on this one. Seriously, if you have good memories of watchign the Garfield holiday specials on TV, you should check this out – especially if you have kids!


Muppets from Space

directorstmuppets-from-space-1999-medium-coverThe Muppet Movie is absolutely my favorite of all the Muppet films. It’s the perfect dead-on take on Henson’s creations. But it might surprise you to know that Muppets From Space is a fast second place – none of the others even come close.

In the era after Henson’s death until the time Disney finally bought the property, the Muppers kind of meandered, not sure how to proceed. We had a couple half hearted sequals – adaptions of Treasure Island and a Christmas Carol, as well as the ill-fated Muppts Tonight show that ABC never gave a chance (yanking it after only four episodes).

I like Muppets from space because it features the Muppets just being themselves- it’s thier downtime, thier personal adventures – soemthing I always found more interesting than the skits themselves. I find the story of Gonzo discovering that he is infact an alien to be a brilliant revelation, and the journey to find his alien tribe to be hilarious.

It’s also here where we see Tim Hill’s skill in making the inanimate characters lifelike. He understands how to shoot them so you believe it…and he gets the heart of the characters.

Don’t just stream this on Netflix by the way, find this on DVD if you can. It features Hill, along with Gonzo and Rizzo commenting on the film MST3K style and is one of the best riffs ever.


Tim Hill

directorsttim-hill-sliceThis time around I feel like I need to do a little introduction before diving into this director’s spotlight…in the past we’ve covered genre directors and more familiar names, but Hill isn’t quite the household name as some.

Over the years I’ve frequently heard him referred to as a hack director. I’m not sure I can argue that. I don’t know.

What I do know is that Tim hill consistently puts out family films that I genuinely enjoy…enough that I seek his name hop-image-tim-hill-james-marsden-600x400out and go out of my way to catch his movies. If he’s a hack, he’s MY hack,  and he’s tackled some of my favorite franchises, showing skill and a wicked sense of humor. He’s one of the driving forces behind Spongebob which give you an idea of his humor, but it’s his live action work I want to explore.

That’s why I want to spend a little time looking back on his work – to shine a light on a director I really enjoy and perhaps even to mount a bit of a defense against the popular opinions.

We’ll be back next time with our first look at hill’s movies!a8efcdbc06391747e048372136139339ebf493528400b236b557f1a28ecac44b