I realize that a walking, talking full-grown cougar is a rarity in your eyes.  But to me, there’s nothing odd about animals carrying on with their daily lives just as you humans do.  We non-humans live lives that are just as full and interesting as your own.  Frankly, it seems a little odd to me that you guys manage to make it through the day without the aid of natural defenses like hard exoskeletons or weapons like claws.

I thought I would explore that a little this month with our movie selections.  First up, let’s look at the idea of the everyday life of non-human animals with a film that came out just a few months ago, Zootopia.  Then, we’ll move on to the idea that you humans manage to survive the craziest of things despite being disadvantaged in natural defenses with last year’s Hardcore Henry.

Zootopia (2016) [PG]
Zootopia posterDisney movies are hard for me.  I want to like them.  I really do.  They are usually fun, breezy, entertaining affairs that start to push a point just a little too far, and then the whole thing falls apart and starts to feel patronizing.

It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I approached Zootopia.  The story revolves around a young rabbit named Judy who dreams of being the first bunny police officer in the metropolis of Zootopia.  The first half of the movie plays like your standard Disney fair.  Don’t give up on your dreams, no matter what.

But that message isn’t over served to viewers because, as we learn from watching Judy explore the city, her dreams don’t match her reality.  The city is not as welcoming and accepting as she had hoped.  The filmmakers introduce questions about identity and discrimination through the actions of animated animals.  I’m not sure if the metaphor is too subtle for children, but it certainly works for adults.

Because it’s a Disney movie, I’m sure you know how this ends, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an enjoyable ride.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that this is my favorite Disney movie (excluding Disney-owned Pixar films) in the past 15 or so years.  It’s smart.  It’s funny.  And it works for all age groups.  Plus, despite blowing the joke on the trailer, that sloth bit still made me laugh.

8 paws out of 10

Hardcore Henry (2015) [R]

“Collin, enough with the action movies,” you say.  I know we had two last month.  Don’t worry, this is the last one for a little while.  I’ll wait on reviewing that new Bourne movie with Matt Damon looking all jacked in the trailer.

The thing is, Hardcore Henry almost feels like an experimental film to me more than an action movie.  Oh, there is pretty much nothing but crazy action in the film.  Look at that poster to the left there.  That’s honestly what the movie looks like.

So let’s get the gimmick out of the way first.  Yeah, the movie is shot entirely in first-person.  Watching the trailer, I was pretty sure I couldn’t make it through the movie without throwing up.  While Hardcore Henry is not the first movie to be shot this way, filmmaker Ilya Naishuller does use the idea to his full advantage.  It’s rough at first, but you’ll get acclimated to the crazy first-person point of view pretty quickly.

Naishuller’s previous job was working as a writer for a first-person shooter action game.  Shocker, I know.  And Hardcore Henry does play with the idea of being a video game.  The action is as wild, intense and unbelievable as any you’d see in the Fallout series or Halo.  There are characters that come back to life.  There is a guy who can levitate.

But all of this is window dressing for Naishuller’s main product, the camera rig the stunt men used to film the movie as Hardcore Henry.  Having the stunt men actually wear the camera at eye level means that you aren’t just watching someone hanging from a rope attached to a helicopter, you feel it too.  It’s a breathtaking point of view which, fortunately, few of us will ever experience ourselves.  And for that alone, I can recommend giving Hardcore Henry a chance.  Just be sure you have some Dramamine around, you know, in case.

6 paws out of 10

As always, if you have a movie you think I should check out or you want to talk further about one of these reviews, drop me a line at collincougar@collin.edu or leave me a message on Facebook.