Today, here are quick mini-reviews for two single-word title films: Mud and Epic.
Directed by: Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey (The Lincoln Lawyer), Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life), Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line) and more.
Rating: Rated PG-13 for language, violence and sexual content
Synopsis: “Mud is an adventure about two boys, Ellis and his friend Neckbone, who find a man named Mud hiding out on an island in the Mississippi. Mud describes fantastic scenarios—he killed a man in Texas and vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him. He says he is planning to meet and escape with the love of his life, Juniper, who is waiting for him in town. Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone agree to help him. It isn’t long until Mud’s visions come true and their small town is besieged by a beautiful girl with a line of bounty hunters in tow.”
Mud follows the story of two best friends, tough kids, in Arkansas along the Mississippi river and the events that transpire upon meeting a transient fugitive with an attractive charisma and character unlike any they had ever encountered before and who tells stories so unbelievable that they want to be true.
Meet Ellis. A fourteen year old kid who, inside his hardened shell, is a hopeless romantic and wants to believe in love but sees it falling apart all around him. With parents falling out of love and even his own adventures and experiences in love not going as planned, he still wants to believe in it. So, imagine his intrigue when he and his best friend Neckbone come upon a fugitive with a tale of love lost and asking for their help to regain the love of his life.
The weathered and resourceful fugitive (McConaughey) becomes a welcome distraction from the troubles at home. Ellis and Neckbone naively strike a deal and decide to help the strange man, a bit reluctantly, providing him food and other precious supplies after they discover him living in a boat abandoned left high up in a tree as a result of a flood on a deserted island. It turns out that while he may be in search of love and life, others are in search of him and the adventure takes more dangerous turns than expected.
I very much liked this movie. A lot. As a fan of boyhood coming of age movies (Stand By Me, Goonies, The Sandlot, etc), this coming of age story has ushered its way into my list of favorites. It really is all about Ellis and Neckbone and their adventures helping MUD who is literally stuck, although, the undertones of love, life and family run mightily through the film like the current of the Mississippi river itself. Love doesn’t make the film sappy, but makes it stronger, as it is the motivation that can drive and shape a man. The three quintessential characters are phenomenally portrayed by the cast…and the supporting cast is not to be ignored. Sam Shepherd, Michael Shannon and Reese Witherspoon add to the film, although they didn’t necessarily have to be. The film isn’t bothered or hurt by their presence but almost anyone could’ve played their parts. I like to think they were a part of it because of how much they like the story and the director. (Shannon has worked with director Jeff Nichols on all of his directorial efforts.)
Mud keeps you guessing and the turns the film takes help make the film interesting and exciting. Character driven, it’s emphasis on each of the believeable characters and the growth they all must make keeps the story on a level that is real, acceptable and gripping all throughout. It is one of the best stories of 2013 with some of the best performances to boot. Definitely worth a watch! No, it’s not loaded with explosions, car chases, spaceships and superheroes. It’s loaded with real people, plausible events and amazingly shown character.
Mud: a surprisingly touching story of friendship, feelings, following and fun. A must-watch.
SCORE: (5/5 stars)
Directed by: Chris Wedge (Ice Age)
Starring: The vocal talent of Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Beyoncé Knowles and more.
Rating: PG -for mild action and scary scenes
Synopsis: “From the creators of ICE AGE and RIO, EPIC tells the story of an ongoing battle between the forces of good, who keep the natural world alive, and the forces of evil, who wish to destroy it. When a teenage girl finds herself magically transported into this secret universe, she teams up with an elite band of warriors and a crew of comical, larger-than-life figures, to save their world…and ours.”
To quote a phrase a friend of mine told me about the film: “Epic is epic-ly mediocre.” And I have to agree. Kids will enjoy this colorful backyard adventure that shows more resemblance to the Lord of the Rings mixed with Avatar than it does to Fern Gully as initial suspicions may lead you to believe. But, I will say…you HAVE seen this movie before.
When a film divides its attention between two worlds, the biggest obstacle is in giving the audience a reason to equally care about the events in both worlds. Epic fails in this aspect but hangs on to both and attempts to tie them both together in an effort that serves as more of a frustration than anything. Once the tale of the “small world” gets going it truly is a neat spectacle to behold. The imagination of the creators and the uses of things often overlooked is pretty ingenious and impressive. But that is where the good impressions tend to end. (Exciting and interesting at the beginning…and then…bleah)
The vocal talent…isn’t. Serving more as distractions, the voices don’t blend with the characters and thus detract from the movie. Perhaps I am looking at this through the eyes of an adult and should attempt to put on my “kid glasses,” but…too bad…that’s not happening. 😀 Kids will have fun watching this in 3D as flying through the field on the back of a hummingbird at highspeeds can be pretty exhilarating I’m sure, but there isn’t much else to speak of in this movie.
It’s attempt to blend the line between two worlds and two audience age groups is simply a disaster of mediocrity. Beautiful? yes. Boring? also yes. I had hoped for more, given that I am not a fan of Ice Age series, I wanted to have a reason to revisit them. That’s not happening anytime soon as Epic reminded me of all the reasons I don’t like the Ice Age franchise.
Epic (Score: 1/5)
(Remember, to read this review of mine and over 200 more, check out THE ARCHIVE of movies I have reviewed anytime. Know before you go…or rent…or buy!)
Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!
–T, The Focused Filmographer
up next: Trailer Time Thursday!