April 29, 2011
Hunky Dory (and Hanna)
A couple of weeks ago I went to see Hanna, after reading this interview with the director, Joe Wright, who had previously been known for more arty fare, such as Pride and Prejudice. The conflict between a tense spy action movie and a coming of age drama struck me as intriguing. As it turns out, I enjoyed the movie very much. Saoirse Ronan is striking and has great stage presence. The supporting cast seemed perfect. And, the jumps between action and long, contemplative passages where Hanna revels in the new world, are very appealing.
However! There was one scene which tormented me for the last couple of weeks. In it, Hanna has 'stowed away' in a family's van as they drive across Europe on holiday. The scene is meant to show how she is exposed to the casual love and playfulness of a family, so unlike her own boot camp relationship with her own father, played by Eric Bana. But as the family is playfully mucking about, with Hanna observing from her hiding place in the laundry box at the back of the van, a whimsical tune is playing. I knew I had heard this tune many times, but just could not place it.
Well, I tried to look up the song in the soundtrack credits, but they don't include it. The soundtrack for sale is just all Chemical Brothers (the electronica duo responsible for most of the music). Okay, they are fun, but this was not what I wanted to know. No matter how I rephrased my search in Google, it always turned up Chemical Brothers. Wrong!
I had given up.
So tonight, for some reason, I'm browsing album samples on Amazon MP3. I come across an old David Bowie album, Hunky Dory, which I remember listening to in early college years (it had already been out perhaps five years by then). And what a surprise, Kooks is the damn song I was looking for! Interesting synchronicity there, as the song was written by Bowie for his son, whom I knew for years as Zowie Bowie, but whose full legal name is Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones. He is now a well regarded director, responsible for the lovely scifi film Moon (starring Sam Rockwell), and the more recent scifi puzzle/thriller (echoing Philip K. Dick): Source Code.
Anyway, I'm thrilled to uncover this when the Internet failed me. So I'm logging it here in case anyone else is going through the same struggle I did.
May 30, 2010
Started season two of The Wire, and it continues to satisfy.
Yesterday, we finished Dead Man, a fifteen-year old movie by Jim Jarmusch. This is one of his good ones.
May 16, 2010
On DVD, Jean and I watched Pirate Radio. It's a bit of a light comedy, and relies heavily on it's soundtrack for goodwill. Speaking of soundtracks figuring heavily, we followed up with Grosse Pointe Blank, which I'd seen before, and was of course willing to see again as it is a very fun movie. Jean enjoyed it too.
Streaming, I watched the original A Nightmare on Elm Street with Renee, since I had never seen it and reviews of the new remake said it was "not as good" as the original. Given how corny and disjointed the original was, I don't think I'll see the remake. Funny thing is, even though Renee was alternating between ignoring the movie to play with her DS, and laughing outright at the bad acting, she said she had nightmares that night.
A second movie we streamed together was A Scanner Darkly, which is based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. I'd read the novel and remember it as one of his better books, dark, gritty, weirdly humorous, and sad. The movie manages to capture a lot of that, but Linklater's decision to use the 'Waking Life' animation technique was mostly just a distraction. Except for the scramble suits, the entire movie would have worked just as well with normal cinematic film techniques.
April 27, 2010
Men Are From Hollywood
Yesterday I wrote how Jean puzzled over how I could enjoy Sholay, but it's more far reaching than that. We just finished streaming The Big Lebowski, one of the handful of Coen brothers movies (along with Raising Arizona and Fargo) to explore the dark side of human nature.
All during the movie, it was clear that Jean was struggling to stay awake, and when I laughed, she stared. Comments like "it must be guy humor" were sprinkled liberally throughout the viewing, which, again, was staged over several sessions. In the end, Jean had just gotten nothing from it.
Now I don't expect Jean and I to harmonize on every film, for each and every cinematic experience to have the same emotional impact. Gods no! This is just another example of how Jean and I can be so different and yet harmonize so well. In this case, I was trying to explain to her what I found so satisfying about this movie. To me it is not just a movie populated with goofy characters. It is an homage to Raymond Chandler, and The Dude is a marvelous sideways rendition of Philip Marlowe, that imperfect knight, if he had become a disillusioned, burned out post-protest druggie slacker. The menagerie of characters from rich California dynasties is a clear shout-out to Chandler.
Anyway, I've made my case, admittedly somewhat incoherently, and Jean sums up her frustration thusly: "It's like The Three Stooges for High Cinema." And then she punctuates this with a frighteningly bad imitation of Curly poking the air with forked fingers, "Aagh! Aagh!" Seriously, it was like watching a Martian try to imitate Curly Howard!
So I love her for who she is, and accept that there will be movies which I seriously, seriously dig, Man, which, you know, are like so complicated, that not everyone will get them. But The Dude abides. The Dude Abides...
March 29, 2010
Departures is a Japanese movie about a concert cellist who has to find another job when his orchestra is disbanded. He returns to his home town and ends up getting a job preparing the dead for burial. I found it very emotional, and recommend it.
A Serious Man is another Coen brothers movie, a fairly grim drama with no happy endings in sight. Maybe on a day when you're looking for something to confirm your pessimism.
It turns out that all those people who have been talking up The Wire were not mistaken. This is a pretty damn good show about the cops and drug dealers in Baltimore. Jean and I are watching it between movies.
January 14, 2010
Jean and I went together to see Up In the Air, and were mildly disappointed.
We tried to watch the DVD Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, which was an HBO production, but while it tried to be multi-narrative, it was just disjointed.
I tried to watch a movie from my childhood, How to Murder Your Wife, and Jean gamely tried to watch along. It's rather dated, misogynistic humor, but Jean said the real problem was that it was so predictable. I only saw this once before, when I was nine years old, in the back of my parent's station wagon at a drive-in in Washington, D.C., and the parts I remembered were the kid-fun parts, where Jack Lemmon acts out the stories of a super-spy. Figures.
And, last weekend, as a solo outing, I went to see Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which felt a lot like the early, imaginative, vibrant Gilliam.
January 01, 2010
Two More Movies
Today put two more movies under my belt. Streaming from Netflix, I watched Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which is one of three films by Chan-wook Park on the theme of vengeance and how people get trapped by it, and how it affects them. While I'm sort of glad I finally watched this film, let me say that it is more or less unrelentingly bleak. Not much happiness for anyone. There were moments of humor, and quite a few of surreal oddity, but mostly bleak, bleak, bleak.
The other movie I saw was in the theater with my family: Sherlock Holmes. While they took some liberties with the characters, I felt most were in harmony with the originals. The story was similarly sinister to those of previous film adaptations, the setting was rendered very believably, and the music just felt right (thank you Hans Zimmer). There are a couple of scenes foreshadowing a follow-up movie, and given the panache with which the first was delivered, I can't say I would mind seeing the second. Guy Ritchie turns out to be good at mass-market escapism.
December 24, 2009
Recently on Netflix:
Julie and Julia. Jean and I agree that this was half a good movie. All the Julia was interesting, and all the Julie was annoying.
49 Up. I've never watched any of the earlier installments in this documentary series, but this one was very interesting.
I'm just about finished watching Stephen Chow's kid's movie, CJ7, which is corny, but has a bit of the strange cartoon sense of humor Chow is famous for.
December 13, 2009
Jean and I watched the streaming version of Good Night, and Good Luck, which tells Edward R. Murrow's story of confrontation with Senator Joseph McCarthy in a rather compact narrative. It was good, and David Strathairn was great as Murrow.
Jean and I have sporadically followed the career of Jim Jarmusch over the years. It seems that after his initial spurt of creativity, he had trouble settling on a reliable voice for his stories. Night on Earth was somewhat pretentious and uneven, for instance. Save me from Roberto Benigni being boisterously Italian! So it was with mixed feelings that we queued Limits of Control, his current movie. Well, it was once again a bit of a pretentious muddle.
I offered two 'explanations' for this movie to Jean, neither of which jibe with his public statements regarding the movie, which involve a lot of name-dropping of European directors and citations of early surreal detective noir from the continent. No, my two explanations, either of which satisfy me better are:
- He had recently read a collection of Jerry Cornelius stories, which were about intrigue and far-flung locations, and always featured bizarre characters with obscure motives.
- Jarmusch had recently acquired a desire to visit Spain, and conceived of this movie as a low-effort knock-off that would allow him to write off the trip on his taxes.
On my own, I've gone to a few movies in various genres. I recently saw 2012 to fulfill my "go-boom" quota for the month. Then I decided that a stop-motion animated feature written and directed by Wes Anderson based on a Raould Dahl story sounded just weird enough, and attended The Fantastic Mr. Fox (which was actually pretty fun).
Finally, this weekend I went to see The Princess and the Frog, which was a very nice return to the classic forms of hand-animation for Disney. The music was pretty good too. They grabbed me right in the beginning with Dr. John setting the scene with New Orleans spirit! It almost felt like that singular elation that I had in the opening moments of The Little Mermaid!
It looks like Randy Newman (You've Got a Friend in Me) is the standard go-to guy at Disney now. He's very different from Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, but still very good, and appropriate to the optimistic tone of Disney animated features.
November 27, 2009
The Fall (and music)
So as noted, Jean and I watched The Fall. I was intrigued by the trailers and the opening credits which are online, and folk like Roger Ebert recommended it highly, so I decided to inflict it on Jean.
Short summary: a stunt man breaks his back during a stunt and ends up in a hospital, where he meets a little girl. She asks him to tell her a story, which he does. It is a fantastical story of a quest for vengeance, and we are treated to the child's imagined images of the story.
It's pretty simplistic on the surface, and a bit juvenile, but I nevertheless found it very entertaining, and beautiful. No details, just that you should see it.
The opening credits are online. Here's one version. If that alone doesn't intrigue you, then maybe I should give up. But the music in that trailer is the next item I want to address. It is Symphony No. 7 in A Major: II. Allegretto, by Beethoven, and I for one think it makes for a beautiful flow with the images. I grabbed this version off of eMusic.
November 15, 2009
Men Who Stare At Goats
I just realized that I forgot to mention that Jean, Renee and I went to see this movie together yesterday. It was a hoot. As Jean pointed out, it too was about redemption, though not nearly as grim as The Machinist.
Oh, and big experiment coming up in the Netflix queue: The Fall. I'm interested primarily for the rich imagery, but hoping the story is good too.
November 14, 2009
I don't think The Machinist is quite as involved or intriguing as Memento, but it was a good movie, if a bit heavy handed in retrospect. Jean and I both had it tagged as heavily inspired by a certain Russian novel before we were halfway through. Still, it was fun. I'll be reflecting on it for awhile.
October 08, 2009
Lars and the Real Girl
Jean and I watched Lars and the Real Girl this week, and like Kitchen Stories, it crept up on us. Once again, a winter story with much of the acting conveyed by expressive looks. The premise sounds sketchy, but it turned out to be very touching and kinda funny. I recommend it.
September 07, 2009
In addition to finishing up Black Books (highly recommended), Jean and I recently watched Mr. Death, an Errol Morris documentary on Fred Leuchter, who made a living renovating and testing execution equipment, and stumbled pretty naively into the controversy of Holocaust denial. Jean was lukewarm on this movie, but I loved it. Fascinating character.
Today we finished watching Kitchen Stories, which I'd seen reviewed when it was in theatres and thought would be an interesting movie. Turns out it was damn good. Jean ranks it among the highest she's seen via Netflix.
July 10, 2009
Another Pedro Almodovar movie has passed through our house. This time, it was significantly better than the last one. Still given to a touch of "wha?" here and there, but when Almodovar sticks an irrational element into his plot, you should generally just go with it. Much fun.
June 15, 2009
Recent Netflix Movies
Jean and I watched Pi: Faith in Chaos, by Darren Aronofsky. It is a bit heavy-handed and overwrought, but fun in a soapy, art-house way.
More recently, we watched the Pedro Amodovar movie Live Flesh. We've really enjoyed a lot of his films over the years, and expect to catch up on a number of his works through Netflix. But this one was kinda dark and pessimistic, somewhat off the path from what we've come to expect from him. As a result, we rated it a little lower than others of his.
May 31, 2009
I kinda skipped over the last few movie experiments at Netflix, but it occurs to me that I should record the failures along with the successes, so here goes:
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge - This Bollywood film was one of a batch I queued in response to Jean's curiosity regarding the field. I got it by scanning best-of lists and picking a few. Unfortunately, while the plot was familiar (arranged marriage, love on the way), it seemed dated and trite, so Jean was unable to overcome her resistance to musicals to plod through the movie. I didn't really want to see it without her, so fail.
Chop Shop - This was a streaming offering, another film by Ramin Bahrani, who did 'Man Push Cart', which was bleak, bleak. This one seemed to have a slightly more upbeat mode, but there were clouds on the horizon, and we couldn't bring ourselves to watch to the finish, given how MPS ended, abruptly and ugly.
The Science of Sleep - This is a movie written/directed by Michel Gondry. He co-wrote 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' with Charlie Kaufman, and directed that film too. We loved ESotSM, but it seems that without a collaborator, Gondry is prone to wander all over the map. TSoS is a jumble, meant to capture the dream life of the main character, and how his fantasies bleed over into his reality. In fact, while I had little trouble determining when his mind was overwriting reality, it still seemed like a buncha 'just because'. And the ending was entirely too WTF for my tastes. We watched the whole thing on the strength of the previous movie, even while asking ourselves if it was worth continuing. I'd have to recommend against it.
On the bright side, I've been streaming Red Dwarf, which I watched on PBS in Ohio a couple decades ago. Very fun, silly British Sci Fi comedy.
May 17, 2009
I failed to note the last Netflix movie Jean and I watched. It was Young @ Heart, a documentary about a senior choral group which sings pop songs including punk rock. It was very good.
The other movie I should mention was not viewed with Jean. I was over at Tom's last night for the monthly gathering (more like quarterly for me), and he was gracious enough to screen his copy of Chandni Chowk to China, a Bollywood version of a Hong Kong martial arts movie. It was laugh out loud hilarious, replete with most every cliche from martial arts movies past. Thanks, Tom!
May 08, 2009
This morning I went to the IMAX showing of the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek at Bridgeport Village. I took the morning off as vacation time to give this to myself as a birthday present. How could I resist since the Friday opening hit on my birthday exactly? I don't usually do anything to celebrate on my actual birthday, preferring to combine my and Jean's celebrations on her birthday, since it is so close to mine.
In any case, this was a fun movie, no question. I'm not sure it is really Star Trek, but if you just think of it as a fun, busy, explodey scifi movie, then you'll be fine. I'll probably see it in a theater again (without the IMAX premium), but I'm already looking forward to where they take the franchise after this reboot.
The Visitor, another story of immigrants facing hard luck in America. This one was a Netflix streaming movie. I give it three stars.
April 25, 2009
Jean and I used Netflix streaming to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Man was that a good movie. Rich characters, tough story, imaginative visuals, intricate interlocking puzzle pieces of life. I'm tempted to give it five stars, but I'm holding out now in case a night's sleep makes me change my mind. Very good movie directed Michel Gondry and co-written with Charlie Kaufman.
April 24, 2009
Run Lola Run
A decade ago Tom told me that this was a good movie. So with Netflix I finally got to watch it. Jean and I both liked it. Thanks Tom!
April 19, 2009
Man Push Cart
Our latest Netflix experiment was Man Push Cart, about a Pakistani immigrant pushing a coffee cart around New York City for a living. It was unrelentingly bleak. Nasty enough that I'm reconsidering watching Chop Shop, which is his other movie, available for direct streaming.
April 12, 2009
Our Netflix experimental film this weekend was Memento, a film by Christopher Nolan, who went on to reimagine Batman starring Christian Bale. Read the link for a spoiler-laden recap of the film, but suffice it to say that I'll be remembering this movie for some time. Very good.
April 05, 2009
This will be an omnibus post, as I just want to jot down some notes while I think of them.
Jean's been encouraging me to get back into cooking, and this weekend she selected a recipe for me to try. It was from an older copy of Cook's Illustrated, so I can't link to the online recipe (it's behind their paywall). Instead, I'll just include a generic link to Chicken Tikka Masala. We modified the recipe, substituting plain yogurt in the masala sauce for the cream in the recipe. Verdict: definitely very good.
Mid-last-week, I began an experiment with Netflix. I got the minimal subscription, with one DVD at a time. I really wanted to try out their instant streaming, as we are now using Hulu to watch a number of television programs, and I hoped that we might be able to do the same with some movies. I was skeptical, as most posts seemed to complain about quality at higher bandwidths than we get. It turns out that some movies are watchable, but not all.
I tried watching Banlieue 13, a French action movie with a lot of stunts based on parkour. The stream paused and even skipped, every few seconds. This turns out to be a bad thing for a movie filled with physical stunts.
On the other hand, we watched a movie recommended by one of Jean's co-workers, Monsoon Wedding, and it was not too jerky. The movie itself was great.
Finally, our first actual DVD from Netflix arrived this weekend, and we watched it today. It is called Bride & Prejudice and is a Bollywood-style musical based on Jane Austen's novel. It was produced by Indian, British and American companies and was mostly in English. I love musicals, and have a weakness for Bollywood musical romances and comedies, so this was a real treat. Jean seemed to enjoy it too.
Coming up in our queue next will be Memento.
January 01, 2009
Let the Right One In
My New Year's holiday movie was Let the Right One In, a Swedish movie about a bullied and neglected boy (Oskar) who makes friends with a strange girl (Eli) who has moved into the apartment next door.
It won a slew of film festival awards, and I have to say they are deserved. A one-sentence summary of the story could leave you thinking that it is a generic genre film, but it is not. It is touching and evolves at a leisurely pace. The ending was happy, and charming, and only after looking at the IMDB summary did I fully understand it.
P.S. - The title apparently comes from a song by Morrisey, Let the Right One Slip In, which ends with the lyrics:
Let the right one in
Let the old things fade
Put the tricks and schemes (for good) away
Ah ... I will advise
Ah ... Until my mouth dries
Ah ... I will advise you to ...
Ah ... let the right one slip in
And when at last it does
I'd say you were within your rights to bite
The right one and say, "what kept you so long ?"
"What kept you so long ?"
December 27, 2008
DOA: Dead or Alive
When DOA: Dead or Alive first came out, it was only at a theater far from where I live. I figured it was an early release and would go general later. Wrong. It never went wide release anywhere near where I live. So this holiday weekend, in the spirit of cheesy martial arts movies I enjoy so much, I watched it.
I don't understand why this movie got yanked so quickly. It's bad, sure. But I've seen far worse (Uwe Boll, I'm looking at you) last a regular theatrical run. Silly, fun, dumb dialogue and even dumber martial arts choreography, but fine for a long weekend afternoon.
December 09, 2008
The Secret Life of Bees
I'm in the eye of the hurricane for now, so I guess I'll catch up on a post or two. First, I found time to go see The Secret Life of Bees with Renee. Totally a chick flick, which is not to say it was not good. I was deeply moved to see at one point that Renee was crying (chick flick!). I felt good that I could be there to share a shoulder.
May 26, 2008
Jean took me and three proto-teenage girls to see Iron Man today. Thanks to Alan, I knew to wait through the complete credits for the Easter egg at the end. Much fun. Thanks, Jean, for the movie. Thanks Alan, for the heads up.
May 25, 2008
Saw the new Indy with Tom and Alan last night. It was a satisfying return to the franchise. The movie ends with a tease of the audience: will the 'crown' be handed on? No! Just kidding folks. And thanks for that!
Afterwards we had dinner at Rose's Deli, and the conversation was fun as always. I learned that Adam, who I see very seldom, as he lives in Washington, is now planning to get married. After I got home, I discovered that he'd sent me an email with that very same news. Needless to say, I'm very happy for him. Good wishes go out to him!
December 08, 2007
The Golden Compass
I took Renee and her friend Alexandra to see The Golden Compass this evening. I sat across the theatre from them, to give them their space. All told, as the first installment of a franchise, I think this shows a lot of promise. I hope it does well enough at the box office that they give it a second round.
Just an observation, but the folk comparing this to the launching of the Harry Potter franchise mislead a little. It's nothing like the Harry Potter books, apart from some talking non-humans.
November 28, 2007
No Country for Old Men
Now that it's several days after the holiday, I suppose I should mention that I saw the Coen brothers' new movie on Sunday. I try to see all the Coen brothers' movies, as they usually manage to produce something that's entertaining, and often manage to rise above that minimal requirement.
I knew I definitely had to see this one, as it's based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, an author whom I've read before. He's actually a bit of work to read, at least for me. I've heard him compared to Faulkner, and while that may be an unfair comparison, it is true that Faulkner is also a writer whom I've found requires work, but is worth it in the end.
Years ago I read Suttree, more or less picking it at random from McCarthy's ouvre. Turns out now it is considered one of his watershed works, and it really moved me when I finished it. Since then, I've only take stabs at his work, and have hesitated to read, for instance, The Road, as it seemed to be hyped in a weird sort of way, and I didn't know if I'd enjoy it (as much as one can enjoy a gloomy post-apocalyptic drama).
Now I know I must make time for "No Country for Old Men", as the movie was awesome, and I can only believe that the book will be even richer.
October 20, 2007
Holiday Fare (Early)
Renee and I went to Bridgeport Cinema this afternoon to see the 3D rendition of A Nightmare Before Christmas. The three-dimensional rendering was quite good. I for one was in heaven, as this is nearly a perfect movie for me. Lovingly crafted armature animation, a great musical, and one screwy story. What's not to like?
September 30, 2007
I categorized this post under Music, but I will add Movies as well, as this is a note about one of my two remaining acquisitions for September from eMusic:
- La Dolce Vita - Nino Rota
It is the soundtrack album for the movie of the same name by Fellini. Nino Rota, along with Ennio Morricone, is one of the primary Italian popular composers that I've enjoyed over the years. This is a great album, and will be background music for many programming sessions.
July 08, 2007
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
After watching the first two Pirates movies in close succession, Renee and I agreed to see the final one this weekend. This is a good thing, as it looks like the movie is shuffling off the screens, having only two matinee showings today at our local theater.
We went, we saw, we enjoyed. A benefit of having seen the rerun of Curse of the Black Pearl on television, then renting Dead Man's Chest the following weekend, is that all the characters, subplots and MacGuffins that link the three movies were fresh in our minds. I won't enumerate all the little things which held this triptych together. But they definitely enhanced my enjoyment tremendously.
In fact, bother the critics who have trashed each sequel successively. I disagree heartily with their opinion. This trilogy is, for me, the best popular entertainment trilogy I've seen since the original Star Wars trilogy (that's IV, V and VI in case you're too young to remember). There have been other very nice ones, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There have been others that started out very promising, such as the Matrix, which then fall flat. The Pirates win this one.
July 05, 2007
The Third Man
I mentioned this yesterday. I decided to watch the first half tonight and finish it tomorrow, but I couldn't stop myself from watching it straight through. This is such a wonderful movie of the period. For the picture of living on the edge I'd rate it as at least the equal of Casablanca. I'm really happy I tracked it down again.
July 04, 2007
Been through a recent batch of movies, and have some pending, so I thought I'd just mention a few:
Ratatouille - I went to see this last weekend, and my was it marvelous. I like cooking, and I like animation, and Pixar generally does a good job of the latter. They've also been pretty good at bringing a specific environment to life, and this was no exception. Their representation of a working kitchen felt pretty right to me. This is written and directed by Brad Bird, who created Iron Giant and The Incredibles. Recommended.
Knocked Up - I saw this one today with Jean. She picked it out. When I initially heard of it, I thought it was going to be a drama, and a tedious and depressing one at that. Then I heard it was going to be a comedy. "Good luck with that," I thought. After all, it's about two strangers getting hit with an unplanned pregnancy. But Jean mentioned it, and then I heard it was by the guy who did The Forty Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow). That was funny in a totally irreverant way, so I was more willing to give this a chance. As it turns out, it was pretty funny, with some laugh-out-loud moments. The characters were all note-perfect as well. There was a cameo by Harold Ramis, and I couldn't help wishing he did more acting. He has great screen presence. So both Jean and I liked this one.
Recently, those television moguls have been showing multiple screenings of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Gee, I wonder why? Anyway, Renee caught a chunk of it out of the corner of her eye while working on the computer and insisted on watching the ending. So I recorded one of the multiple repeats, and we watched the whole thing together. Last weekend, we rented the second movie, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm thinking that this coming weekend, we'll go to the theater and see the third. Suits me, as I enjoyed the first two quite a lot.
Finally, in the queue for me alone, is a repeat viewing of The Third Man, which I saw years ago and really enjoyed. I've just recently gotten a strong hankering to see it again, and it was available at the library, so I'm going to be watching it in a day or two...
December 14, 2006
I got Near Dark from the library after reading that it was an original take on vampire tales. It takes place in modern-day Oklahoma and surroundings, and relates the story of Caleb Colton, a young farm boy who falls for a young woman who turns out to be a vampire, and is abducted by her 'family' after she inadvertantly turns him.
Trailer trash vampires? Yeah, it got more than a little silly here and there, but it was a fun movie. Cale was played by Adrian Pasdar, who is now, some nineteen years later, playing budding politician Nathan Petrelli in the television series Heroes. I knew I'd seen him somewhere the whole time I was watching the movie, and about midway through figured it out. Funny.
November 17, 2006
Okay, it's over six hours later, and I still can't get over Casino Royale. I took the day off to rest after getting hit hard with a cold, and I decided to go see the new Bond flick.
From the opening graphics (and the great pop hit blending in with the action, Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name"), I was settling in for at least a decent treatment. I'd tried not to get my expectations too high, after reading repeated assertions that this was a return to roots. Even to the extent of trying to be more faithful to Ian Fleming's original story. Well, it's been way too many years since I read that book, so I can no longer remember the details, but the spirit is there.
This movie, like Batman Begins, returns to the origin of the exceptional individual. Fleming's Bond is both clever and brutal. As is fitting, we're introduced at the act that transitions him from, what? No past, just a mention by M that maybe he wasn't ready, but here he fulfills the criterion, to become a 'double 0'. I know that sounds a bit incoherent, but I don't want to give away plot points.
The first chase scene is classic. No helicopters, no speedboats, not even, to begin with, an Aston Martin. This was a footrace. Fast, brutal, athletic. If you've never heard of Parkour, this sequence is as good an introduction as any. Much of the movie is like that, pure, basic animal energy. Daniel Craig is disgustingly fit, and seeing him put on a full-on sprint like a cheetah rushing to bring down a gazelle, well, it's just spooky.
Another thing I can appreciate is that the pace of the movie varies so widely. First quiet, then frenetic, then conversational. Several portions of the movie center around a high stakes poker game (Casino, duh!), and for most of those scenes, it's light dialog, hooded stares, no action. And they let it happen.
Are there gadgets? Sure. They pop up when needed, and in service to the story. We don't have a curmudgeonly Q introducing a raft of exploding household appliances and every accessory a sports car nut could ever dream of. Don't get me wrong, in the Connery days, those sequences worked. But over the years, the gadgets have come to overshadow the story. I like the Bond who moves effortlessly between the country club and the dark alley, and the clear indication that any person he meets is a potential enemy. Cold war psychosis distilled.
How about explosions? Yes, they have them too. And fast cars. And plenty of fights. But somehow it all seemed just enough, rather than more, more, MORE! And in most cases, the fights felt like a guy who really felt like they were for keeps. Brutal, and pretty short. Not glamorous. Not 'manly'.
Fleming's Bond is both more and less than human, a bit of a sociopath, but maybe a bit of a Da Vinci as well. Daniel Craig carries that mantle well.
It says something that tonight I've been thinking of Dr. No and Goldfinger, two of my favorite Bond movies of all time. Some time must pass, I'll have to see this on DVD, on the telly late at night, juxtaposed with other pop culture. But I think it'll pass the test of time.
October 29, 2006
Icons of Fantasy
I've watched most of the movies of David Cronenberg, and there was a time in my life when I read everything I could get my hands on by J. G. Ballard. I also spent many years very impressed and somewhat disturbed by Ridley Scott's Alien. I knew that it had originally been shopped around to different directors, so finding this pastiche, the result of a contest in Interzone magazine, was a little gift from Heaven:
David Cronenberg's Alien (novelization by J. G. Ballard) (the true author of the pastiche is Lyle Hopwood)
August 19, 2006
I actually took vacation time (Flexible Time Off) to enable me to see Snakes On A Plane yesterday. All I will say is that the movie was exactly what I was expecting and did not disappoint me in the least. The only thing that could have improved it is if I had attended with my old movie crew from NOVA. We've gotten out of the habit of doing movies together, but this would have been the perfect serving of cheese.
July 03, 2006
Jean got her shift cancelled again this Saturday, so I was able to attend another NOVA meeting. Of course it was the Fourth of July weekend, so there were only about six people total attending. I sat and talked for awhile, browsed the web on my laptop, and eventually hooked up with a friend to go out and see a movie. We went up to Beaverton to see A Prairie Home Companion, Robert Altman's adaptation of the Garrison Keillor radio show, based on a script written by Keillor.
This is an interesting cross-product of the typical Altman ensemble movie with Keillor's wry, sometimes wicked sense of humor. I still listen to A Prairie Home Companion, after all these years, though now it is more often in the car, 'on the way', than deliberately arranged. Decades ago I made a point of tuning in, while working at a bookstore in East Lansing, or later, doing my weekend cleaning chores in our apartment in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It's hard to believe that this show has been on the air for over thirty years, and knowing this makes the movie's plot more sensible. The angel of death walks the stage, and even by the end, it's not clear if she came only to claim a cast member or the very show itself.
Garrison is great, in his deadpan sort of way, and I finally got to see many of the regular musicians I've listened to over the years. Of course the cast is filled out with many actual actors, but they manage to fit into the Prairie Home mentality pretty easily. If you don't care for PHC, the movie won't change your mind, but if you like it at all, you should enjoy the movie as well.
June 30, 2006
As it was the beginning of the Fourth of July weekend, I took some vacation time and went to an early showing of Superman Returns before going down to work. I don't think I had any expectations to speak of, so I hope my reactions were mostly unbiased. I enjoyed the movie, liked Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor, and felt that they were mostly faithful to the general concepts of the comic character. It's also nice to get the taste of Superman III and Superman IV out off my mouth after all these years. Now I can just pretend they were a bad dream.
Still, all the while I was watching it, I felt less like I was watching a sequel than a review. It felt like we were being given an overview of the principal characters to remind us of what we were supposed to know. Sort of as if this was a dry run, and that the franchise will really take off with the second movie starring Brandon Routh. Assuming they get the box office response I imagine they will, I'm sure I'll find out in about a year...
As if that were not enough, when I got home this evening, I decided that I wanted to watch something on my den television, as I'd had such a good experience watching Koi...Mil Gaya. So I dug through my pile of Asian movies I keep in store for re-run season, and pulled out the DVD I bought on Max's say-so: Bayside Shakedown. The supplied link gives a fair assessment of the movie, so I won't repeat all the same info here. Suffice to say that I enjoyed it plenty, and thank Max for the reference.
April 26, 2006
Another Movie List
This list has been going around the web logs I read for the last few days, so I finally took a look at it.
Jim Emerson, posting on Roger Ebert's movie site, listed the 102 Movies You Must See Before... Before what? He says "They're the common cultural currency of our time, the basic cinematic texts that everyone should know, at minimum, to be somewhat 'movie-literate.'" So before you can talk credibly about movies.
I went over the list and sorted them into two, seen and not seen. On the seen list are movies I recall clearly, and movies I know I've seen but barely remember. On the unseen list, I'm pretty sure I've not seen one of these. Perhaps I'll have to make a project of checking them out (over the next few years). Then I can talk 'meaningfully' about the movies I've seen.
- "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) Stanley Kubrick
- "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) Richard Lester
- "A Star Is Born" (1954) George Cukor
- "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) Elia Kazan
- "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (1972) Werner Herzog
- "Alien" (1979) Ridley Scott
- "Annie Hall" (1977) Woody Allen
- "Bambi" (1942) Disney
- "Blade Runner" (1982) Ridley Scott
- "Blowup" (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni
- "Blue Velvet" (1986) David Lynch
- "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) Arthur Penn
- "Bringing Up Baby" (1938) Howard Hawks
- "Carrie" (1975) Brian DePalma
- "Casablanca" (1942) Michael Curtiz
- "Chinatown" (1974) Roman Polanski
- "Citizen Kane" (1941) Orson Welles
- "Dirty Harry" (1971) Don Siegel
- "Do the Right Thing" (1989 Spike Lee
- "Dr. Strangelove" (1964) Stanley Kubrick
- "Duck Soup" (1933) Leo McCarey
- "E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982) Steven Spielberg
- "Easy Rider" (1969) Dennis Hopper
- "Fargo" (1995) Joel & Ethan Coen
- "Frankenstein" (1931) James Whale
- "Gone With the Wind" (1939) Victor Fleming
- "GoodFellas" (1990) Martin Scorsese
- "Halloween" (1978) John Carpenter
- "Intolerance" (1916) D.W. Griffith
- "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) Frank Capra
- "Jaws" (1975) Steven Spielberg
- "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) David Lean
- "M" (1931) Fritz Lang
- "Mad Max 2" / "The Road Warrior" (1981) George Miller
- "Metropolis" (1926) Fritz Lang
- "Modern Times" (1936) Charles Chaplin
- "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975) Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam
- "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) George Romero
- "North by Northwest" (1959) Alfred Hitchcock
- "Nosferatu" (1922) F.W. Murnau
- "On the Waterfront" (1954) Elia Kazan
- "Psycho" (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
- "Pulp Fiction" (1994) Quentin Tarantino
- "Rashomon" (1950) Akira Kurosawa
- "Rear Window" (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
- "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955) Nicholas Ray
- "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
- "Some Like It Hot" (1959) Billy Wilder
- "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) Billy Wilder
- "Taxi Driver" (1976) Martin Scorsese
- "The Big Sleep" (1946) Howard Hawks
- "The Crying Game" (1992) Neil Jordan
- "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) Robert Wise
- "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) Irvin Kershner
- "The Exorcist" (1973) William Friedkin
- "The General" (1927) Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
- "The Godfather," "The Godfather, Part II" (1972, 1974) Francis Ford Coppola
- "The Graduate" (1967) Mike Nichols
- "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) John Huston
- "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) John Frankenheimer
- "The Night of the Hunter" (1955) Charles Laughton
- "The Seven Samurai" (1954) Akira Kurosawa
- "The Third Man" (1949) Carol Reed
- "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948) John Huston
- "The Wild Bunch" (1969) Sam Peckinpah
- "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) Victor Fleming
- "Touch of Evil" (1958) Orson Welles
- "Vertigo" (1958) Alfred Hitchcock
- "West Side Story" (1961) Jerome Robbins/Robert Wise
- 2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) Stanley Kubrick
- "Double Indemnity" (1944) Billy Wilder
- "The Big Red One" (1980) Samuel Fuller
- "The Searchers" (1956) John Ford
- "8 1/2" (1963) Federico Fellini
- "All About Eve" (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
- "Apocalypse Now" (1979) Francis Ford Coppola
- "Breathless" (1959 Jean-Luc Godard
- "Children of Paradise" / "Les Enfants du Paradis" (1945) Marcel Carne
- "Days of Heaven" (1978) Terence Malick
- "Fight Club" (1999) David Fincher
- "It's a Gift" (1934) Norman Z. McLeod
- "La Dolce Vita" (1960) Federico Fellini
- "Nashville" (1975) Robert Altman
- "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968) Sergio Leone
- "Out of the Past" (1947) Jacques Tournier
- "Persona" (1966) Ingmar Bergman
- "Pink Flamingos" (1972) John Waters
- "Red River" (1948) Howard Hawks
- "Repulsion" (1965) Roman Polanski
- "Scarface" (1932) Howard Hawks
- "Schindler's List" (1993) Steven Spielberg
- "The 400 Blows" (1959) Francois Truffaut
- "The Battleship Potemkin" (1925) Sergei Eisenstein
- "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946) William Wyler
- "The Bicycle Thief" (1949) Vittorio De Sica
- "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972) Luis Bunuel
- "The Lady Eve" (1941) Preston Sturges
- "The Rules of the Game" (1939) Jean Renoir
- "The Scarlet Empress" (1934) Josef von Sternberg
- "Tokyo Story" (1953) Yasujiro Ozu
- "Trouble in Paradise" (1932) Ernst Lubitsch
- "Un Chien Andalou" (1928) Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali
January 02, 2006
This is the final movie in my holiday viewing schedule. Really, there aren't many others I'd care to see which are out, so it's just as well.
Munich is based on the book Vengeance, by George Jonas. It is about vengeance, about a state sanctioned vendetta designed to inform the world that Israel is not a soft target. If Clausewitz said that war was an extension of diplomacy, then this story is about an extension of war.
I'll be thinking about this movie for some time, but I don't think I want to write about it. It was worth seeing, but very dark.
December 31, 2005
Can't remember now whether this was Thursday or Friday, but I went to see Syriana. This is one seriously bleak movie. It is entirely credible behavior by a series of bad actors chasing wealth and power. Fascinating and depressing all at once.
As if that wasn't enough, I'm going to try to see Munich before work starts again on Tuesday.
December 30, 2005
Wednesday saw Jean, Renee and I attending The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I thought this was an excellent adaptation of the book, and that it captured the spirit of the characters and story quite well. The temptation to get all saccharine must have been overwhelming, but in truth the sentimentality was limited to the areas where it was actually called for.
Tilda Swinton is fast becoming one of my favorite character actresses. She was in Constantine, as the archangel Gabriel, and here plays the White Witch with a great sense of detachment, contempt and suppressed fury. The voices of the various animal characters were appropriate, and James McAvoy, as Mr. Tumnus, was almost exactly right. His character was the one I was most worried about, as there would surely be a temptation to turn him into the fluttery children's book stereotype that pops up so often in fantasy movies. Here he gave, in just a few brush strokes, a performance that evoked a living person, with flaws, that I could actually believe in.
When Renee was five and six (and still Kelly) we read all the Narnia books together (me doing most of the reading) and they are etched in my memory. Now there is a movie of the first book, and I'm quite comfortable with their stewardship. Let's have another!
December 29, 2005
Scanning over the last several posts I've spotted a pattern. Odd posts are about vacation cooking, even posts about why I haven't played my videogames yet. Either I'm suffering from seizures of deja vu, or I really have very little to say. So with that in mind...
The Producers. I can give no better review for this movie than the linked one by Roger Ebert. I've been a fan of the original Mel Brooks movie for decades, watching edited reruns on television every few years. Seeing this rendition now makes me want to purchase the DVD and see the original in all it's unedited glory. When I first heard that The Producers was being adapted as a musical, I was both excited and sad, because I knew I'd never get to see the stage version, but loved musicals and hoped they would create a movie version.
And they did, with the original Broadway stars, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane (reprising the roles of Leopold Bloom and Max Bialystock created by Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel). I knew I was going to see this, by hook or by crook. Monday, the day after Christmas, having taken the day off, I drove to Bridgeport Village, only to get trapped in a parking lot traffic jam. Finally finding parking, I walked to the theater, and there were massive lines. It became apparent that I wouldn't be able to get into the theater in time for the show, so I gave up. I thought about going in anyway to see a showing of Munich, which started later, but it is a longer movie, and Jean would probably have wondered what happened to me, so I just went home.
I tried again on Tuesday. I went to the 11:05am showing, and Bridgeport Village was only sparsely populated. The parking garage was nearly empty, and the theater was populated only by helpful staff. Happy day! I settled in and watched the film, a silly grin on my face at least half of the time. I'll grant you I am a special case, but if you like Mel Brooks and musicals, then you will almost certainly enjoy The Producers.
I'd decided that the holiday crush I saw on Monday was over. But emerging from the theater, I saw a crowd that was maybe two-thirds as large as the post-Christmas logjam. Once again, cars filled the avenue leading to the parking garage, and though the crowd in front of the box office was maybe half the size it was on Monday, it was still surprising large for a weekday lunch hour. I guess more people take off the week between Christmas and New Year's Day than I had thought. With that in mind, I shot off an email to my friends, whom I was meeting that evening to see...
King Kong: The 1933 version that started it all runs an hour and forty-five minutes. It is a silly romp with a jerky stop-motion animated monster that at the time was state of the art, supplied by Willis O'Brien (who tutored Ray Harryhausen). The story divides naturally into three parts. The first establishes the human players and briefly sketches their reasons for going on their fateful journey. The second part reveals Kong on the fantastical Skull Island, and the third part returns to New York for a fateful finish.
This modern remake by Peter Jackson is architected along the same general lines. Only now it takes three hours to get there. Does Jackson really need three hours to tell this tale 'better' than the 1933 original? Sadly, the answer is no. I enjoyed the film, and to judge by Alan's vigorous rant during the credit roll, it held a bit more pleasure for me than him. But looking at this film with an editor's eye, I'd have to say that an hour and 45 minutes, or at most two hours, would have been quite enough.
The action scenes were very exciting, until they clearly decided that more is better. James asked Alan if he enjoyed Kong more or less than National Treasure, a clunker we all saw which was filled with egregious ten minute chase scenes (more than one) that had me waving my hands in a 'get on with it' gesture. Alan said he enjoyed them about equally, which is to say, not much.
I'd say that the aspect I enjoyed most was how Jackson attempted to turn the relationship between Ann Darrow and Kong into a mutual one (much like the 1976 version with Jessica Lange). Instead of being a sacrifice inexplicably given a prolonged reprieve, Darrow (played by Naomi Watts) becomes a willing accomplice after a series of incidents on the island. I'm tempted to call this the most extreme example of Stockholm Syndrome ever depicted, but of course Jackson is striving for more than this, and Watts generally succeeds in elevating her interactions with the imaginary beast.
Overall, I'm not ready to join the critics who give this version top marks. It's too long, too heavy-handed and just too wearying. But I'm glad I saw it, especially with a gang of like-minded friends.
This post has run on for quite a bit, so I think I'll be taking a break. I'll post about my family viewing of the Narnia flick separately...
August 08, 2005
I gave Jean a laughing fit tonight. I was coming up from downstairs, where I'd been watching Firefly, now a guaranteed recording on my Replay (after all, they're setting the scene for the movie, Serenity, due out in late September). I rounded the corner into the living room, where Jean was reading and watching television. There on the screen was a very young Sean Connery, in light garb, in a typical room for the period. Somehow I just knew which movie it was, and remarked, "oh, Dr. No!"
Jean started cracking up right away, and it took me a moment to figure out over what. "You just walked in, and it was literally two seconds! He's alone in a room, no villains, no window view, and you name the movie!" My inner geek is showing. Really, I just got lucky. But we both found the unconscious remark pretty funny, in a pathetic sort of way.
August 03, 2005
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Monday, before they left, Dad and Bette joined Jean, Kelly and I in attending Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton's rendition of the book by Roald Dahl. Kelly and I read both Willy Wonka books when she was six or seven, and as much as I recall, this movie does a wonderful job of capturing the story. Burton injects a bit of his own ideas (Willy Wonka's father, the dental practitioner, for instance), but in toto, this was a wonderful movie version. It makes me want to rent the Gene Wilder version to remind myself what that one was like.
May 18, 2005
Okay, I'm not standing in line for tonight's midnight showing, and in fact hadn't planned on seeing it before NOVA this Saturday. But it looks like I'll be taking a long lunch tomorrow to see Revenge of the Sith, gratis. My friend Burr, who works in customer support, is going on a junket with his crew, but his boss can't make it, so she offered to give it to me.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:14 AM
April 10, 2005
I felt good enough in the afternoon that Kelly and I went to see Robots. It's not the worst animated feature I've seen, nor is it the best. It was just perfect for an outing with Kelly, though, and we had a lot of fun together. I decided not to push my luck, and had zero theatre food/drink. That turned out for the best, since I was feeling less than stellar by the time we got home. But a treat was waiting for us, Jean was home! Yay!
I forgot this until I was telling Jean tonight. They showed the Star Wars trailer before the movie. Lots of scenes of Palpatine at his slimy best luring Anakin to the dark side, lots of action, hints of characters to come, until the end, which closes with a shot of the full Darth Vader rig.
Kelly leaned over to me in the silence between trailers, and whispered "Darth Vader ... returns!"
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:10 PM
March 13, 2005
Fiddler on the Roof
It's been years since I last saw this movie. Jean and I finished watching it last night, after 'the news'. It's a wonderful musical, with lots of great numbers. I hadn't remembered the more unrelentingly depressing aspect of it, but it doesn't gloss over the history of the period.
So I guess as a counterbalance, I'll have to break out my copy of Singin' in the Rain!
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:53 AM
January 03, 2005
Jean and I saw Napoleon Dynamite when it was in theatres, and really enjoyed it. Now it's out on DVD, so we bought a copy, and watched it over the holiday break. It's just as funny and engrossing the second time around.
There are extras, including deleted scenes, which make it clear to me, at least, that they made all the right cuts. The extra scenes are nice, but they don't add anything to the movie. Also, the parts of the commentary I listened to were fun, but I actually preferred my own interpretation of events to the director telling me who the woman on the bike was.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:58 PM
December 28, 2004
Phantom of the Opera
Wowser. The kindest critics really dislike this musical, if not the movie made from it. After having sat through it, I suppose I can understand that. You have to like Andrew Lloyd Webber a lot to start with, as this is not his best musical. I do like him a lot, having gotten started back in high school with Jesus Christ Superstar, and taking samples over the intervening years.
The critics were mixed in their response to Evita as well:
That's Roger Ebert, one of the fans of the film adaptation of Evita. I liked it enough to buy the 'repetitive' soundtrack, and I still listen to it. 'Phantom' is not as memorable. Maybe two songs stand out, including the title song. But I was entranced while watching it, and glad that a movie version was made, since I'll never get to Broadway.
Posted by dpwakefield at 04:30 PM
December 27, 2004
Can you tell I'm taking holiday time right now?
Today I took Kelly to Christmas Camp at the YMCA, and then I decided to treat myself to a movie. I went to see Ocean's Twelve. I'd seen the previous movie as a NOVA movie, I think, so I was prepped for the premise.
This movie, like the previous one, rests more on the banter than on the high tech heist flummery that is also liberally strewn about. I won't pick favorites as it is an ensemble cast and that's what makes it work. I laughed out loud several times, as did the couple who were sitting next to me in the theatre. If you've seen the first, this is more of the same, but if you liked the first, you won't be disappointed with the sequel.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:07 PM
December 13, 2004
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:47 PM
November 08, 2004
Saturday was NOVA, and also the premier weekend of The Incredibles, so naturally, we had to take a crew to see it. Sunday I was telling Jean about it, and Kelly piped up "I wanna go!" So it looks like I'll be racking up the viewings.
This is the first Pixar movie which was not helmed by John Lasseter. According to reviews I've read, he was concerned that Pixar would become stale, retelling the same successful stories for years on end, like a certain animation company Pixar has worked with. Instead, he asked Brad Bird to create a movie, giving him complete creative control. Bird is responsible for another cool movie, The Iron Giant, and as a result, I was looking forward to seeing The Incredibles.
Well, I wasn't in any way disappointed. While this movie has many of the earmarks of a Pixar film, it also is new, having a viewpoint that appeals more to the adult eye. Family quarrels, boring work and ungrateful people populate this movie. Bad guys don't just get knocked down and look humiliated ("and I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for you gosh darn kids!"), they die. And there are no musical numbers at all!
There are clever references to other icons of pop culture. One was a tribute to the speederbike chase through the forests of Endor from The Return of the Jedi, only done better. The villain's lair is straight out of the most extravagant Roger Moore era James Bond movie. And subtle details are constantly flying by.
I was trying to explain it to Jean, and this is the best I could come up with: It's as if they filmed the entire movie with live actors on location, with a tremendous budget. Then they sat in a theater and watched it over and over. Each time they noticed a little detail of light, or some bug moving in the background, or the way an actor stumbled when turning a corner, they wrote it down. Then they animated the entire thing. And added more stuff that can only be done with animation or CGI. It's that full of detail. Detail that happens in the background, not waved in your face, "look at me, look at all the cool stuff I can do!"
The writing is also a lot of fun. Now I did a lot of comic book reading both growing up and when I should have known better, and I still watch the usual superhero and scifi movies. So maybe I'm more steeped in the conventions than the average viewer, and can more easily appreciate the way this movie has fun with them. But I suspect that most folks who enjoyed Finding Nemo themselves, and just used their kids as an excuse to go see it, will enjoy The Incredibles as well.
October 27, 2004
Heads Up, Tom!
A new Audrey Tatou movie on the horizon: A Very Long Engagement. From the same director who brought us Amelie.
September 19, 2004
Yesterday evening was NOVA. It was also time for the annual election of officers. I ran for Veep, just to give Chris Arneson some competition. I didn't seriously think I'd win, since Chris is younger, personable, and invested with more energy than I. Nevertheless, I got elected, by a narrow margin. This makes the second time I've been an officer. I was Veep for a couple of years when the founder of the club, Jeff Milburn, was Prexy. I don't expect the office will require any real work, but I'll help where I can.
Afterwards we all flocked to Tigard Cinema to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This movie, like Lucas' Star Wars films and Spielberg's Indiana Jones epics, was inspired by the adventure serials of the 40's. It successfully aped the genre, the period and even made a nod to black and white film with it's sepia toned color scheme.
There's a danger in aping the original too closely, though, as this film proves. The beginning imagery is very muddy, and somebody put the interns in charge of vaselining the lens, 'cause it's pretty blurry there for the first half hour or so. The pace is not so much rapid as telegraphic, as the creators try to cram the first five chapters of Saturday Morning Serial Adventure into twenty minutes.
There was some good. The sensawunder was occasionally able to rise above the conventions, and while the dialogue was usually by-the-numbers, there were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. I'm happy I saw it, but I'm glad I didn't sneak in a Friday lunchtime viewing before the Saturday outing, as sitting through it twice in quick succession would have been tedious.
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:48 AM
August 13, 2004
Yesterday evening, Jean and I watched Pieces of April, a nice understated family comedy which wasn't afraid to touch on mortality a bit as well. I suppose in the minds of the creators, mortality is what makes family special.
Today, while my work group was out jet boating the Willamette, I went to see Alien vs. Predator. They have pretty well put the torch to any sense of continuity to these films, but then I never cared for some of the continuity anyway. And hey, so long as you admit this is a movie about scary monsters and things that go boom!, then you're in the right place. Better than I expected.
Posted by dpwakefield at 05:15 PM
July 23, 2004
Jean rented Bad Santa Wednesday. I remember when it came out that I gave it a deliberate miss, as I figured it was another one of those sappy spiritual transformation stories. You know the sort. Loser with no self-respect is brought out of his nosedive by the innocent trust of a cherubic child.
Well, that's the generic plot outline, except that the loser hardly ever gets the chance to climb out of the gutter, more or less stumbling into redemption. While recognizing some good fortune has come his way, I wouldn't say he ever decided to straighten out his act. This one is unrepentantly low-rent.
In other words, fun to watch, if you don't get turned off by swearing, of which there's copious amounts.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:49 PM
July 04, 2004
Tom lent me Bubba Ho-tep to watch between meetings, and I finally did. Really cute movie, very small-scale. It's sure to be a midnight cinema classic. I was pleased to discover it was based on a story by Joe R. Lansdale, who's known for quirky horror stories, among other things.
I liked the legal wordage in the ending credit roll:
"This is a protected work and violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and maybe the wrath of Bubba Ho-tep."
Posted by dpwakefield at 05:43 PM
July 02, 2004
Does Whatever a Spider Can
My office was slow, and my development environment was kinda messed up, so I gave myself a holiday treat and took a long lunch to go see Spiderman 2 today. Was it worth it? Sure, I thought so.
The first movie was a lot of fun, true to the spirit of the original story, with casting that seemed to ring true. It may have suffered a bit due to needing to introduce the characters, introduce (or remind us of) the superhero conventions (secret identities are important to protect loved ones, for instance), and get the origin out of the way. But it was still a great romp.
This movie finds Peter Parker developing a reputation for unreliability, since he can't very well tell his friends, family and teachers that he sometimes needs to step out and save the world. I'm not sure, but I think the pace was a little faster, even a little smoother than the first one. But it had many Raimi moments, something that tickled me.
It's been several hours since I saw the movie, and I'm pretty sure I'd sit through this one again. I was sitting in the living room telling Jean about one particular attribute I enjoyed, and I could feel the geek excitement in my voice as I described it. So, yeah, anyone at NOVA wanna go see it, I'm there.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:57 PM
June 24, 2004
Fog of War
This is another movie Jean and I watched before hitting Disneyland. It's a film by Errol Morris, who is a great documentary film-maker. I've had the pleasure of listening to him talk about his craft on Fresh Air, and I've read a brief interview with him about tools he invented to facilitate his theories of interviewing, and I have to say he's damned clever.
Two other films of his I've seen that I also recommend are Fast, Cheap and Out of Control and A Brief History of Time. Sometime in the near future I expect I'll rent Mr. Death, centered on the inventor of the electric chair.
June 22, 2004
Talk To Her
I watched this movie with Jean before we left on our Disneyland trip, and it met all my expectations. I've seen several of Pedro Almodovar's movies, and all I can say is, pick any of them for a unique trip into an alternate world where strange things happen but nobody seems to think them so. Sort of a magical realism for my generation.
Posted by dpwakefield at 04:39 PM
May 10, 2004
Sunday, Jean put Kelly in charge of a movie outing for Mother's Day. Kelly had to pick a movie that Mom would like, line up the time, buy the tickets and sweets (with money supplied courtesy of Mom & Dad, Inc.) and then watch without fussing. We went to see 13 Going On 30, which was a predictable little comedy. I had fun, and got to eat popcorn again.
So two movies next week? I doubt it seriously.
Posted by dpwakefield at 07:36 AM
May 01, 2004
Jean rented Winged Migration yesterday. It's a really cool sorta-documentary nature film following the migratory flights of many species of birds. The photography is spectacular. Most of the movie is just the images with music overlaid. It's slow, contemplative, almost hypnotic.
Tonight we watched the included 'making of' feature. This was like seeing a second entire cool movie. The lengths they went to to create their movie were fantastic. I kept wondering where the hell they found all the money it must have taken to do the stuff they did, for four years!
Verdict: rent it, watch the movie one night, then the 'making of' feature the following night. Even Kelly gave it two thumbs up ("awww, look at the cute little duckies!").
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:34 PM
April 26, 2004
I forgot to mention that yesterday I was priviledged to take Kelly and her friend Emily to see Ella Enchanted. It's a slight movie, funny, irreverant without being snide, anachronistic in the way that so many television mythology shows have become (Xena, anyone?). Overall, I quite enjoyed it.
Funny thing is, just recently I watched Grosse Pointe Blank, recorded off the telly, and I was remarking to Jean that I hadn't seen Minnie Driver anywhere of late. What happened to her? And there she was, in a middling supporting role in Ella. She looks the same as she did seven years ago in GPB. So I looked her up in IMDB, and she's been in a lot of things. Things, I've never heard of, true, but she's working.
Jean suggested that she may be taking work that doesn't require her to travel, so that she can stay near her family. Makes as much sense as anything else, since I think she's a credible actress, not needing to bottom feed, as it were. Still, interesting coincidence.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:55 PM
April 18, 2004
Kill Bill, Volume 2
I went with the gang after NOVA to see Kill Bill, Volume 2. It was a great big hoot of a movie. It felt like a different genre from the first volume, and had a whole different pacing. I just recently bought some Sergio Leone music, so it was neat to hear all his music overlaid on a Quentin Tarantino picture.
Another treat for me was sitting through the credits at the end of the movie. Credits were rolled for both movies, and I saw a credit for the first movie that I didn't expect. It appears that Lucy Liu's stunt double was Michiko Nishiwaki, whom I've mentioned here previously. Along with Yukari Oshima, she is one of my favorite female martial artists. Like Yukari Oshima, she's got a patchy film career, with only a few movie credits worth mentioning, often as a villain. I guess in those days, female martial artists were not respected too much.
So now I have to buy the DVD of Volume 1 and look for those stunt double scenes!
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:40 PM
February 22, 2004
Jean rented a couple of movies this weekend, one of which she watched alone as I'd seen it in the theatre. This was Lost In Translation, which I liked quite a bit. Jean wasn't so impressed, liking Bill Murray's role, but saying "I'm glad I rented it instead of seeing it in the theatre."
Jean and I both watched Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore's movie about the Columbine High School shootings and what might have led to them. My verdict, the movie is about 30% documentary, and 70% editorial. Moore can be funny, but his attempt to play deadpan comic to people he is harrassing just annoys me. Still in all, I found the movie interesting and was surprised in a couple of places.
Finally, I managed to squeeze in Returner, watching it in chunks over the course of Sunday on my computer. I can see how some say it's a mixed bag, and it is surely inspired by a raft of other sci-fi movies, a large number of them Hollywood blockbusters. But I still think it is it's own movie, and for me it was definitely worth watching. I want my buds to watch it too, but they weren't all that impressed with Versus, another movie I liked quite a lot, while acknowledging that it too had flaws.
So Kylanath, I agree this is a fun movie, but I need you to push Tom to watch it, or he won't believe me!
February 16, 2004
Presidents' Day is good for one thing, and that's renting movies. Jean rented two, which we watched on Friday and Saturday. In order:
The Whale Rider. This is an inside look at the lives of modern descendants of the Maori, and their quest for tribal pride and identity. Keisha Castle-Hughes is a striking child actress, both in features and presence. She plays the granddaughter of a Maori chief who was expecting a grandson to carry on the unbroken line. He is hard on her for this, but she persists in quiet and courageous way, until she wins her grandfather and her tribe. This movie reminds me in a sideways sort of way of The Fast Runner, another movie Jean picked up. It's great, rent it.
American Splendor. It's been so long since I read any Harvey Pekar, that I had to ask Jean if I'd gotten her into his stuff, or if she'd gotten me into it. She says I did it, back when I was still collecting comics. In any case, this movie stars Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar, a file clerk in a V.A. hospital in Cleveland, who writes stories about is ordinary life and becomes (somewhat) famous when they are illustrated in comic book form. I really enjoyed this one, and liked how they'd cut between the actors and interviews with their real-life counterparts. Very nice.
I feel like I'm missing one, but that's all for now.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:41 PM
December 31, 2003
December 30, 2003
I took the afternoon off, and Jean and I went to see Big Fish together. I'm a fan of Tim Burton's work, so I was looking forward to it. It was interesting and colorful, as are all Burton's movies, but it certainly wasn't one of his best. I'd rank it around Edward Scissorhands, which was a colorful movie without a lot of direction, full of imaginative imagery, that stalled out by the ending.
Posted by dpwakefield at 03:58 PM
December 19, 2003
Return of the King
I took the afternoon off to see Return of the King. At three hours and twenty minutes, I'm uncertain that I'd get to see it as a regular NOVA post-meeting outing. The earliest we'd get to see it that way would be 10pm, which after trailers, would let out around 1:30am, and I'd be lucky to get to bed by 2am, which nowadays is a bit too much for me.
So I went. It was excellent. If you've seen the first two, you're probably going to this one anyway. If you didn't see the first two, then nothing I say will make you see number three. But it was a great culmination of the series, and within the framework of a movie trilogy, this is as close as we are ever going to get to a faithful realization of Tolkien's books.
There. Go see it.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:56 PM
December 17, 2003
Okay, I know I made fun of this 'reimagining' before it ever came out, but the SciFi Channel's miniseries of Battlestar Galactica wasn't half bad. The preoccupation with sexy Cylons was pretty stupid, but overall, the characters were more believable in four hours than the originals were in several seasons.
There's been talk of extending the new version, either as a series or with more miniseries. I wouldn't have a problem sitting through another four hour block, but I think a series is a bad idea, as it would eventually devolve into the same sort of clunky mess that the original did.
Okay, one 'innovation' I do have to make fun of: Star Battle Shakey-Cam!
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:18 PM
November 30, 2003
Punch Drunk Love
Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed Punch-Drunk Love, which debuted at Cannes and earned him the Best Director prize. I don't think I've seen any of his other movies (which include Magnolia and Boogie Nights), but after this one I'm gonna have to look into them.
This is one of those small movies which is just about perfect in every way. Jean chose it when she picked up The Fast Runner, so she scores twice in one round. Anderson apparently called it "an art house Adam Sandler film", which is true, but only part of the story. I've seen a few of Sandler's films, and I never knew he could do such an understated, nuanced acting job. His character is messed up, sure, but not the frat boy loser he so often plays.
Emily Watson is wonderful, again in an understated way. The visuals are perfectly united throughout the film, and the arty transitions make the picture more surreal.
I have to close by noting that I must get the song "He Really Needs Me", which was written by Harry Nilsson for the musical movie Popeye and sung by Shelley Duvall. I don't think I'm ready yet to buy the entire Punch-Drunk Love soundtrack to get this one song, so maybe the iTunes Music Store will stock it someday soon. I really like that song.
Posted by dpwakefield at 06:08 PM
November 29, 2003
Wednesday, I left work early and went to see Timeline. It's based on the book by Michael Crichton. It's a measure of the studio's confidence in this latest Crichton vehicle that when I searched for an official website, I couldn't find one (not in the top Google picks, anyway).
Like most Crichton movies, you can read the book and feel like you just saw the movie, or watch the movie and feel like you just read the book. I did both, and after reading the book, I knew the movie was going to be one of his lighter efforts. And I was right. Just the right size to fill out a holiday afternoon, no greater impact.
Yesterday evening, Jean and I (with occasional participation by Kelly), watched The Fast Runner. This is a movie I wish I'd seen in the theatre, but as I've griped before, Regal Cinemas does not see fit to show many art/independent/foreign films in the 'burbs. And I find it difficult to make it to downtown Portland for the few they show there.
The Fast Runner seems a not to distant cousin to Italian for Beginners, another film Jean introduced me to through video rental. This was, you might recall, a Dogme 95 film, one of a collection of movies made by directors who have bound themselves to 'The Vow of Chastity'.
The Fast Runner had the same sparse presentation, intimate concern with everyday lives, and generally simple production values as Italian for Beginners. It departs from Dogme 95 in that there is occasional music overlaid onto a scene which is not produced by the characters themselves (very infrequently), and there are one or two video effects. But it otherwise felt very much like a Dogme 95 film, including the effort needed to absorb the story.
Timeline requires no effort, and in fact is fed to you with such eagerness that at several points I was shaking my head wondering who their target audience was. The Fast Runner requires your attention and doesn't talk down to you. It is a very absorbing film, and I'm glad I saw it.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:09 AM
October 14, 2003
One of the things that makes watching a Tarantino film so much fun is his tendency to sprinkle it with pop culture references, and to not limit himself to the pop culture of one country. Kill Bill is no exception, and I'm really looking forward to watching it.
I have watched a lot of Asian movies, from Shaw Brothers classics to modern Hong Kong flying people movies, but apparently not nearly as many as Quentin Tarantino, who would watch one or two of these movies a day while making Kill Bill.
Anyway, I found a neat interview where he talks about all the movies which influenced and are paid homage to in Kill Bill. Check it out!
I know one Director's Cut DVD set I'm gonna buy, just for the director's commentary track!
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:44 PM
September 01, 2003
At the Drive-In
Last night we took Kelly to her first drive-in movie. It was at the Newberg Drive-In, the only drive-in in the Portland Metro area (if you call a half hour drive south of Tualatin part of the Portland Metro area). It turns out Oregon has quite a few drive-ins. This one was small, compared to ones I attended in my childhood and youth. One innovation I was unaware of is that they now use a radio transmitter, instead of the old speakers on posts.
We got there around 6:50pm, as they said on their website that parking spots would get crowded after that. Unfortunately, it wasn't until 8:30 or so that the movie started. Lots of other people around us had brought chairs, coolers, and what-not, and were making an evening of it. I saw lots of 'trailer picnics' and at least one portable television.
The movie we saw is the current retread of Freaky Friday. This version starred Jamie Lee Curtis as the mom, and Lindsay Lohan as the daughter. It was actually pretty fun. Not 'Finding Nemo' fun, but a painless way to spend an evening with our daughter. Both Kelly and Jean were disenchanted with the whole drive-in experience. Too much waiting around, long walks to the bathroom, and long lines once there. I had the good end of that stick. There was never any line at the guys' restroom. Overall, I think I enjoyed it all much more than either of my gals.
I tried hard to think when the last time was that I hit the drive-in, and I think it was in East Lansing, Michigan sometime in the early 80's. The movie was Roger Corman's Galaxy of Terror, which I saw with a housemate at the time. I remember that he got drunk during the movie, and I had to drive him home (though I didn't have my license with me). I tried to hide his keys from him when we got home, but he found them anyway and went for a drive when I wasn't looking. The cops nailed him within a block and threw him in the drunk tank overnight. Those were the days...
Before that, the only drive-in experiences I can remember hark back to my childhood in Washington, D.C. I seem to remember seeing Fistful of Dollars at a drive-in, and I have quite vivid memories of seeing Reptilicus there. I remember that one as I bawled through half the movie. My dad was really annoyed with me. Assuming we saw this first-run, I had to be four or five years old! I didn't think I had any memories from that time!
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:27 AM
August 17, 2003
Before today, I'd never seen a Freddy movie. I've only seen one Jason movie, and I only saw it because it seemed like a parody of itselt (this was Jason X, Jason goes to SPACE Space space! ...). That was every bit as cheesy and stupid as I'd hoped. Some of you remember me raving over the silly camp holodeck sequence and the great line as one character gets pulled out an airlock after Jason traps her ("this sucks on so many levels!").
Well, everyone at NOVA was chuckling when Freddy vs Jason started showing up in trailers, so I decided that I wanted to see it, and trundled off to the theatre today after we returned home.
I think Jason X was a lot more fun and silly, despite this one being directed by Ronny Yu. I had fun, don't get me wrong, but overall, it seemed sorta paint-by-numbers. Another one I really needed to see with the NOVA crowd...
July 29, 2003
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:27 PM
July 18, 2003
Santo Contra La Invasion de Los Marcianos
Okay, I hope by now that all three of my readers realize that I have strange and eclectic tastes (mostly strange). Let this be a shining example of that credo. The other choice item arriving in the mail today was the titular movie, in English called Santo vs. The Martians. This is one movie out of probably hundreds made in Mexico celebrating the masked wrestler that is part of that culture. It was made in 1966, and probably manages to be a tad more entertaining than it's B-movie soulmate, Santa Claus Versus the Martians (only notable for the debut of seven-year old Pia Zadora as a Martian child).
What is this movie about? Well, a masked wrestler preventing the Martian conquest of Earth by sweating and grunting. Virility alone, it seems, is sufficient to repel aliens with bad intentions. In fact, this is probably a better movie for young women, as it is filled with muscular men grabbing each other and grunting. Okay, some guys enjoy that too.
My weirdness bone was tickled, but I did actually get tired of the endless scenes in which wrestling appeared necessary to advance the plot, such as it was. I'll offer this movie to friends, but I won't inflict it on them. Not without a warning, anyway.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:34 PM
July 17, 2003
I have no problem seeing two Quentin Tarantino movies in the space of a few months, and in fact this will probably make it easier for me, since catching a three hour movie with the post-NOVA crowd is a non-starter. Still looking forward to this one, folks.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:21 PM
July 09, 2003
28 Days Later, Buzz Buzz
I really enjoyed The Blair Witch Project when it first came out, though most of my friends who saw it were disappointed. I enjoyed the unconventional home video approach, the minimal cast, the ambiguity. Yes, it had absurd elements, and was frail in the light of day (lost in the woods? Climb a tree and look around, dudes!). But it had a sense of style, and leveraged minimal equipment and budget to great effect.
But I couldn't be bothered to see the sequels/spin-offs. What is the point of taking something so original (at least I felt so) and bleaching out every last vestige of color, lather, rinse, repeat? True, I see sequels every day, but then I'm not seeking originality of voice. In these cases it's more about branding, comforting familiarity, I'd guess. Kinda like the decision to eat at McDonalds in a strange town, rather than try that intriguing Thai restaurant over there...
This meandering monologue is my way of introducing yet another review of 28 Days Later, an assuredly flawed movie that nevertheless struck that note of indie vitality I felt in Blair. This review is by John Shirley, probably best known for City Come A-Walkin', though I remember him best for his quirky 'horror' novel, Wetbones.
Another quote, more about the business of film making than the film in question:
July 08, 2003
28 Days Later
A brief but interesting review of 28 Days Later written by a renowned virologist:
"However superficially soothing, there is something troubling about this comfortable conclusion. It implies that we might be better off with epidemics that can end abruptly and definitively than we are with the insidious plagues that now afflict us. Wouldn't it be simpler if we had clear knowledge of who is infected and who isn't? Or if we could eliminate the long incubation times that allow foreigners and strangers to carry their unannounced pathogens to us on planes and boats? Wouldn't it be better if we could confine AIDS and Ebola to Africa and SARS to Hong Kong, and then return to repair society once the microbial damage was done — done, of course, to others and not to us?"
What can I say? James Cameron could have made a better movie, had he been so inclined. Even some of the more talented 'franchise' directors would probably have been able to top this version, directed by Jonathan Mostow, whose last theatrical outing was U-571, about a fictional mission by U.S. sailors to steal an Enigma machine from a German U-boat. That was a rather annoying movie even after discounting the blatant removal of historical fact.
Big bangs, generally uninspired car chases, and weak attempts at humorous self-reference (see the bar scene, for instance) lead me to believe that even the NOVA gang would have had one or two nappers during the viewing. I don't feel cheated, after all I only spent six bucks, but I don't feel rewarded either.
Hoping Sinbad is better...
Posted by dpwakefield at 06:59 PM
May 19, 2003
If I haven't lived up to the title of Uber Geek before, I did it this weekend, going to see The Matrix Reloaded twice. I went once with Tom and Alan on Friday, then again with Alan, James, John, Lisa, Bo, Dan and Heather on Saturday after NOVA.
I was entertained just fine, and amused by the fanboy gripes and mainstream criticism of the movie. The parallels between the second Matrix movie and the second Star Wars movie (excuse me, the fifth Star Wars movie) are striking in this regard. After seeing the first movie a bajillion times, fans had imprinted the universe on their brains, filling in the gaps with their personal visions of what lay at the periphery. Then the second movie came out, and the director's vision intruded on that sacred image. Much complaining ensued.
Secondly, the follow-up is not a self-contained movie like the first, leaving our heroes hanging, having had their butts handed to them, or at least being told that everything they knew was wrong, and all they know and love is about to be kicked to Flinders. Now they get to wait several excruciating months to resolve their pain...
The replacement actors were actually quite good. Jada Pinkett Smith as Captain Niobe was given an abbreviated role, but did with it much better than I imagine Aaliyah would have done, judging from her performances in Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned. Aaliyah of course died before shooting on MatrixII started, so we got Jada.
More interesting to me was the role of Seraph. This role was originally offered to Jet Li, but he turned it down since it conflicted with several movies he had lined up, including Cradle 2 the Grave (ho hum) in the U.S., and Hero in Hong Kong.
So instead we got Sing Ngai (billed as Collin Chou). He was pretty good, given his brief screen time, and I hope he gets more in the next movie. Amusingly enough, many of his screen credits are in Hong Kong movies starring Jet Li.
I could babble on for ages, but I'll cut this short so I can get ready for work. Suffice to say that this was just as much fun for me as the first movie. I'm looking forward to The Matrix Revolution.
Posted by dpwakefield at 07:39 AM