Infinitely Polar Bear

July 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky
Directed by: Maya Forbes (debut)
Written by: Maya Forbes (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days”)

With a movie title as cutesy and sappy as “Infinitely Polar Bear,” a play on the fact that the main father character is living with bi-polar disorder, one could’ve imagined this independent drama falling under the disease-of-the-week umbrella where audiences would be subjected to a series of melodramatic scenes edited between unimaginative montages and glossed over to fit the standard indie film festival mold.

Such is not the case with “Polar Bear,” a charming and heartfelt albeit occasionally shamelessly sweet drama that rises above some of the weaker parts of the script with a fantastic performance by two-time Oscar-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”), In in the film, Ruffalo plays Cameron Stewart, a manic depressive father living in Boston who is entrusted to take care of his two young daughters (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide) while their mother Maggie (Zoe Saldana) goes to graduate school in New York so she can make a better life for her family.

Shot with grace and brimming with humor, what makes “Polar Bear” memorable is not only Ruffalo’s impressive take on the role, but also the way his character interacts with his daughters during the course of the year and a half their mother is back and forth between cities. Cameron is not a perfect father. He can’t take care of himself much less a pair of rambunctious kids. The family dynamic director/writer Maya Forbes presents is unique as we watch daddy and daughters try to find a way to coexist. Forbes does this without including all the usual clichés about a dysfunctional family trying to survive. The material feels new.

Some messy plot development aside, “Polar Bear” warms the heart and feels very personal. It’s easy to see that Forbes, who bases the film on her own experiences living with a father who was manic-depressive, isn’t just making a movie. She’s sharing intimate thoughts and feelings and doing it in a way that makes the narrative feel significant and never false.

Monsters vs. Aliens

March 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie
Directed by: Rob Letterman (“Shark Tale”) and Conrad Vernon (“Shrek 2”)
Written by: Maya Forbes (“The Rocker”), Wallace Wolodarsky (“The Rocker”), Rob Letterman (“Shark Tale”), Jonathan Aibel (“Kung Fu Panda”), Glenn Berger (“Kung Fu Panda”) 

As 3-D technology becomes more and more visually satisfying with each retina it deceives, screenwriters are still kicking up dust trying to keep up.

I’m not talking about gimmicky offerings like the “Hannah Montana” concert movie or “My Bloody Valentine in 3-D,” which were a waste of perfectly good pairs of custom shades. Instead, it’s the animated family film that has been getting majorly digitized over the last couple of years. The latest of the bunch, “Monsters vs. Aliens,” is reasonably elaborate but falls under the same rating system all 3-D films should be judged. Ask yourself this: If you take away the 3-D graphics, can the movie carry itself on its own?

While “MvA” doesn’t fail as terribly as other recent 3-D animations like “Chicken Little” or “Fly Me to the Moon,” there’s quite a bit lacking in original ideas and overall story to make it anywhere close to out of this world. Think of this as a less-interesting version of what Guillermo del Toro was probably dreaming of when he was in pre-K.

In “MvA,” human existence as we know it is threatened by a ruthless alien named Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson), who plans to take over the globe with countless clones. To defeat Gallaxhar, the U.S. government recruits a band of monsters they have imprisoned over the years and sends them out as Earth’s last hope. The group is led by Susan AKA Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon), the newest of the monster clan who is transformed from a mild-mannered bride-to-be to a woman the size of a skyscraper.

Coming along for the epic battle: Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), the Missing Link (Will Arnett), and last but definitely not least B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a one-eyed shapeless mass of blue goop who, along with the voice work of Stephen Colbert as the U.S. President, keep the laughs from dying out altogether.

Taking classic films like “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” “The Blob,” “Frankenstein,” and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” and churning them out for kids who thought Pixar’s “Monster’s Inc.” was scary, “MvA” is harmless fantasy sci-fi with a few attention-grabbing graphics wasted on some joyless (excluding B.O.B.) characters.