I always manage to catch a movie or two over the holidays, and this year was no exception. Avatar and Up were this year's selections. I was pleasantly surprised by Avatar and very pleased that Up surpassed my already high expectations.
Avatar didn't blow me away, but it surpassed my admittedly meager expectations. Even though I don't get too excited about CGI effects, seeing it in 3D definitely made the experience more immersive and enjoyable. Avatar may have been the first movie I've ever seen in 3D. It's probable that I saw at least one 3D movie as a kid, but I can't think of any off of the top of my head. The story in Avatar isn't much to write home about, though it's not completely by-the-numbers. I was surprised to see how unsympathetically the paramilitary organization protecting the mining interests of the humans on Pandora was portrayed, given that they were a very thinly veiled stand-in for the American armed forces. This recent AV Club posting goes into more detail about the politics of the film. There's not much nuance, but it's a less conventional than I would have expected.
While I'm on the topic, did anyone else who saw Avatar find Sam Worthington's accent horrible? I'd never heard of the guy before seeing the movie, but an IMDB lookup confirms that he's from England and started his acting career in Australia. His Anglo and/or Aussie roots were very apparent, at least to me, during several of his dialogue sequences. You'd think for $250 million they could have gotten a decent accent coach for him so his character could have a believable middle American accent to go along with his working-class vocabulary.
Up is one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen in a while. I also liked Pixar's last outing, Wall-E, but I thought Up was even better. While Up is animated, it is not a kid's movie, but I'm sure that I would have loved it as a kid. I really enjoyed the period details and Carl, the main character, reminded me of my grandfather a little bit, but it's still a really good movie even if neither of those things hold true for you.