The Princess and the Frog (2009): I wanted to see this when it first came out, but seeing Tangled last week made me want to see it all the more. I liked it a lot. It reminded me of Beauty and the Beast in a lot of ways. Visually, the animation style is very similar, which I appreciated because I like that more "realistic" style of hand-drawn animation. They both take place in fictionalized versions of real places, they both have interesting and well-developed heroines, love stories that develop over time (though not a lot of time in the case of PatF), and catchy music. I didn't like The Princess and the Frog as much as I like Beauty and the Beast, but I first watched Beauty and the Beast with the eyes of a child, and it's so idealized and iconic in my mind that probably nothing will ever surpass it. I did think that Princess and the Frog moved slowly at times. I liked most of the music, but I thought a few of the songs slowed it down unnecessarily, as did the scene where they stop their quest to make gumbo. That scene did serve to help develop the relationship between Tiana and the prince, but at the time I was like, "You guys are seriously going to stop the action so you can mince mushrooms? Is that absolutely necessary?" I was also a little bit uncomfortable with the whole voodoo thing, for many reasons, but mostly I thought that all the voodoo imagery was really scary even for me as a grown woman, and if I'd been a little kid watching it, I don't think it would have set well with me at all, so I think that a PG rating might have been called for rather than G. With that said, it's been so long since I've seen an NPDA villain who was more scary than funny, and it was so refreshing to see an NPDA villain play up the menace rather than the jokes for once. Also, one of the sidekicks was killed! I don't remember the last time I saw that in an NPDA movie (if ever), but it really added some emotional depth to the story. Bottom line: I thought that this was a very well-executed modern fairy tale that addressed, in a positive way, a lot of the criticisms that people have made of NPDA movies over the years.
Alice in Wonderland (2010): Watching Sweeney Todd last week reminded me that I hadn't seen this one yet, and I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. I should say that I've never read the books but I have seen several other film versions and they're all kind of frustrating to me, and I think it's because, in those previous film iterations, everyone that Alice meets seems antagonistic towards her (or she antagonizes them, depending on how you look at it) and she doesn't befriend anyone while she's there and even though she said she wanted to live in a world of nonsense, once she gets there she does nothing but complain about how nonsensical everything is. It's exhausting at best and infuriating at worst. In this version, Alice actually forms emotional connections to some of the characters she meets and is much more likable for it. To me, this movie had three highlights: the Mad Hatter, the White Queen, and the visuals as a whole. Johnny Depp's portrayal of the Mad Hatter was completely different from any previous version that I've seen, but I never liked any of those versions so I appreciated the differences. I was doing a little background reading and came across a conjecture that the Alice books may have partly inspired The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (a book I love, by the way), and in that framework Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter is sort of like an amalgam of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman and Cowardly Lion in that he is Alice's one faithful friend who believes in her and encourages her no matter what. Although, now that I think about it, the White Queen would meet all those criteria as well. I ADOOOOOOOOOORED Anne Hathaway as the White Queen! I loved the way she swept around striking melodramatic poses as though she were in a silent movie or an opera. I've now decided definitively that if there is ever a movie based on my life, I want Anne Hathaway to play me.
The Incredible Hulk (2008): I wanted so much to like this movie, but I didn't really. For one thing, it dealt with the Hulk's origins mostly in flashback, but the whole movie was kind of an origin story about The Abomination, who I believe gets killed at the end (I wasn't paying that much attention at that point) so that seems like kind of a waste of time and narrative. For another thing, maybe it's just me, but I just didn't find the CGI Hulk believable. I don't know why. Maybe if the Hulk existed in a mostly CG environment like the one created in Alice in Wonderland it would be more believable, except that if you were going to do that, it would almost defeat the purpose of making a live-action Hulk movie at all. And then Robert Downey Jr. shows up at the end as Tony Stark and says something cryptic about putting together a team, and I was like, "Has this whole movie basically been a two-hour commercial for upcoming Marvel movies? Because that's not cool." The highlight of this movie for me was that Ty Burrell, who plays my beloved Phil Dunphy on "Modern Family," had a small part as Betty Ross's boyfriend, and he had an awesome scene in which he stands up to General Ross and calls him out on his bullshit, and I was like "Yeah, go Phil!"
Sherlock Holmes (2009): This one didn't leave a huge impression on me, but for the most part I liked it. I didn't like to watch people getting hit/beat up in slow motion (although Holmes' analysis of the prognoses was pretty cool), but I liked the mystery and the banter (although I had to turn on the captions to follow it) and the fact that Dr. Watson was more of a peer to Holmes instead of a toadying lackey. I haven't read the Sherlock Holmes books either, but watching the movie made me appreciate how much the murder-mystery shows I love, like Monk and Psych and Castle, really owe to Sherlock Holmes, so maybe I should read them.