Archive for the ‘ another day. another movie. ’ Category

movies. [five things, 10.17.11]

Some movies I’ve been loving lately, during the last few crazy weeks. I can’t wait to get back into movie watching more regularly again.

1. The Lion King (on Blu-Ray)

Still awesome, after all these years. Among other things, a smorgasbord of metaphors for understanding our own identity development, how we run from our callings, how fear holds us back from being what we can be, etc.

I really wish I had my own Rafiki.

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2. Jane Eyre

I’ve never read the book. It’s just another classic on the long list of books I own but still need to read. So very many books, and so little time. It’s sad.

This means I had no idea what to expect when watching the film. I was actually on the edge of my proverbial seat watching this love story unfold. Great performances, stunningly beautiful cinematography, and solid direction make a splendid film.

Also, I love Michael Fassbender so much!

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3. To Catch a Thief

Oh, Alfred. My sweet, sweet Alfred. You created so many wonderful films in your life. To Catch a Thief  was like a balm to my story starved soul. After circumstance limited me to only three movies in September, this film made things better. Some of the sexiest chemistry ever, and yet all with silly innuendo and firework metaphors instead of the blatant sexuality we have all grown so accustomed to.

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4. Plan 9 From Outer Space [Invasion/Visitation Movies #7]

The consensus worst movie of all time. It  really was awesomely bad. You should watch this, and then watch Ed Wood to see the story behind the man behind the movie.

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5. Kung Fu Hustle

Stephen Chow is amazing. He’s the type of star that only exists in a few forms for each generation. There are those folks who write, choreograph, act, etc. etc. etc. In many ways, this movie is Stephen Chow as today’s Gene Kelly. The martial arts and dancing of Kung Fu Hustle tells a large part of the story. We learn who characters are, we see martial arts that are hilarious as well as those that are exciting. It’s certainly nothing in the jaw-dropping ‘how’d he just do that’ variety. However, that’s mostly because Chow’s sense of humor takes things so far over the top that most fight scenes are filled to the brim with CGI assistance.

When I say that Chow’s sense of humor takes things over the top, I really mean it. This movie is part homage to movies, part martial arts dance party, part Bugs Bunny cartoon, with a little bit of Buddhism thrown in for good measure. I loved it. It was pure good time movie watching.

five things. 8.10.11

There are so very many things I should be doing right now. None of those things is blogging on RtM. Yet, I miss it so very much. Thus, here I am anyway. I’ve been falling behind in every conceivable way, because my body just wasn’t made for the sort of schedules I’ve been working lately. This week is a really light schedule, but starting next Wednesday I work ten days straight, and twice in that ten days I work until between 9 and 11 at night and then wake up at 4 the next morning to open. For a depressed insomniac, that’s a recipe for disaster. And so, things like reading, RtM, and Trigger Fiction have fallen by the wayside. I hate it, and I hope to use the next few days to get back in action. So, there you have it, a bunch of information about my life, in case anyone cares.

Now, on with five things I’ve been enjoying during these woeful pauses; again, just in case anyone cares. On with the show!

1. Wye Oak, live at the world famous Crocodile Cafe!

Let me tell you, folks: See this band live when they come near you. They. Rock. So. Hard.

Just two people. Her, with several guitars and an effects board. Him, with a drum kit, a keyboard (which he plays simultaneously with the drum kit), and an effects board. Per person, they create more sound each than anyone I’ve ever seen live. They play so well together, they showcase each other really well, and I want each of them to be my friend.

So epic.

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2. A Dance with Dragons

A lesson I learned reading this book: Don’t start reading a 1,000 page hardcover book and a new job at the same time. It took me nearly a month to get through this book. It’s hard to tell, because there are more words on a page in a first edition than in paperbacks, but it could be the longest book in the series so far. It’s definitely longer than A Feast for Crows. 

Now, I love the world that Martin has created in these books. I love the characters, I love the way he develops story. Yet, that just makes it hurt all the more when he unceremoniously kills off main characters. There will be NO spoilers here, aside from the reality that Martin is willing to kill off main characters. Many of you have seen the HBO series now, so you are well aware of his willingness to kill off characters who would be untouchable in any other serial storytelling.

There are times when he has spent so much time and so many pages developing a character and events, and then kills them and erases it all. It’s difficult to take after you’ve spent soooo much time investing in that character.

In the world of George R.R. Martin, no one is safe. That’s good, but also irritating. Sometimes it seems like he is killing characters just because he can. Is there actually contempt for the reader at work here? I sure hope not, and I could just be angry since the wound is still fresh.

Though I may bitch, I’ll still be pre-ordering the next installment however many years from now it is released. I’m addicted to Westeros.

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3. Attack the Block [Invasion/Visitation Movies #6]

OMFGLASERS!!! Ahem.

This movie was amazing. I didn’t laugh as much as I expected to, although it was definitely hilarious. I also bet I’ll laugh more on my second viewing, since I won’t be on the edge of my seat quite as much.

Instead, the movie was a huge amalgam of elements that all added together to create one kick-ass package. Believe me, people, this movie kicked all kinds of ass. Laugh out loud jokes, characters that were lovable without being flimsy and 2-dimensional, awesomely over the top aliens, genuine social commentary, and brilliant performances by all involved (especially the young actors).

I was going to say that, sadly, a few of my favorite characters died, but on second thought I think all of the main characters were favorites. The deaths were also really important to the plot: for the journey of our protagonist, as part of the poignant social commentary I mentioned, and to create tension.

I want to go see it again today. I won’t, but I want to.

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4. Watch the Throne

I never, ever use iTunes to buy music anymore. Thus, I had no idea that Watch the Throne came out earlier on iTunes than it did on Amazon’s mp3 store. Then Brian told me, and I bought it right away. I am still on my first listen, not all the way through yet, but so far so wonderful!

“Otis” has already been playing several times a day, and I know I’ll be listening to this album a lot over the next few days/weeks.

Oh yeah, and Jay-Z is back.

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5. Cowboys & Aliens [Invasion/Visitation Movies #7]

With a 44% on Rotten Tomatoes, most people don’t like this movie. I respectfully disagree. Sure, the movie had plenty of weaknesses, but it had everything I hope for in a fun summer film.

Daniel Craig was a fucking badass as a cowboy.

Olivia Wilde was scaldingly hot.

The aliens are refreshingly original, and although they are somewhat evolutionarily suspect, they are still pretty awesome biologically. Also, instead of the silly flying saucers they could have easily gone with in a genre/cliche mashup like this, they instead had really great UFOs that flew in legit formations and combat maneuvers.

Keith Carradine as a cowboy. Always wonderful.

Sam Rockwell. Period.

In the saddest fall from grace in history, I was genuinely disappointed that Harrison Ford was in this movie while watching the trailers. All for nothing. While his character has some glaring development flaws, this is still his most enjoyable character on screen in at least a decade.

forbidden planet. [movies in space – #7]

Going into this movie I only knew a few things:

1. A young, pre-slapstick Leslie Nielsen starred in it.

2. Everyone says it heavily influenced Star Wars.

3. It’s hailed as pulpy 50’s sci-fi at its best.

4. Richard Castle and Kate Beckett on Castle love it.

I wasn’t sure if I was more likely to enjoy watching it because it was unintentionally funny, or actually good. The answer, it would turn out, is ‘actually good.’

I loved this movie. It definitely had its share of 50’s camp shortcomings. Weak dialogue (although not nearly as bad as I anticipated), a robot who doesn’t make any scientific sense whatsoever, no believable relationships. Yet, what the movie lacked in many areas, it more than made up for in sci-fi brilliance.

I never expect to see smart sci-fi in a movie from the 50’s. For example, they arrive on Altair IV, which has enough oxygen to support them without life support systems, but as they fly over and land there are no plants. So, while I expected as much, in my head I’m chuckling that oxygen isn’t just something that sits somewhere indefinitely. These humans, as well as the original colony they are searching for, would breathe said oxygen, exhale carbon dioxide, run out of breathable air, and die. Yet, they find living people, and these people have set up homes surrounded by gardens and trees. They brought an eco-system with them to turn their carbon dioxide back into oxygen. In a cheesy sci-fi movie today, they would mention this in dialogue, in a really overt fashion. In Forbidden Planet, they NEVER talk about it. It’s just legitimate science, in the background. WHAT?!? It’s awesome.

The movie is full of stuff like that. For all its weaknesses, the narrative is tight and strong, keeping you guessing the entire time. It’s much more like a Asimov novel than a silly sci-fi movie in premise and plot. The scope once you start seeing more of the forbidden planet is also really amazing. This remarkably huge subterranean world I wasn’t anticipating.

I also think people undersell this movie when they simply say “Star Wars was heavily influenced by this movie.” It’s very true, but watching the movie I was reminded of what makes me love sci-fi. About two thirds through, as I was starting to love the movie in earnest, I was struck (almost emotionally so) by how important this movie has been in the history of film. All of the movies I love in the sci-fi realm may exist because of this film. I thought, this movie came out in 1956 and is capturing my imagination now; how much more so was that the case when a 12 year old George Lucas, and a ten year old Stephen Spielberg were watching this for the first time, or the tenth time?

Forbidden Planet planted an imaginative seed in the brains of folks who have been making smart, wonder inspiring movies ever since. I’m so glad to have finally been a witness.

Oh yeah, and Leslie Nielsen was sci-fi pulp movie gold.

super 8. [alien invasion/visitation movies. #5]

I’ll keep this short, because it’s a busy week writing-wise, but I really did want to write briefly about seeing Super 8. 

I loved this movie. It certainly wasn’t perfect, without spoiling things I’ll just mention that parts at the end were a bit overdrawn, and there were some key moments in which there was emotional growth that made no sense based on the events in the movie. Those things will probably keep the movie from finishing the year as my favorite film of 2011. Still, I really did love it.

It was so beautifully reminiscent, as an homage should be, of Spielberg’s work in the late 70s and 80s. Close Encounters and ET, with a bit of The Goonies (which was co-written by Spielberg) thrown in for good measure. Youthful yearning for adventure, rooted in a deep desire for community, feelings that were aroused by movies like ET when I was young, came rushing back into me. That’s actually a likely part of my disappointment with parts of the end of the film, a comparison to ET will often leave a film lacking, because I think ET has one of the most perfectly crafted final acts in the history of film.

A few of my favorite elements of Super 8 were:

1. Satisfying contents in the mystery box. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard tell many times of a talk Abrams has given when he discusses his ability to create an atmosphere of mystery and anticipation and wonder. He talks of the mystery box, and how our anticipation of what might be in the box is always more satisfying than what is actually in the box. I was reminded the other day (by the lovely and talented Rebecca Canlis) of a really good example of a mystery box with really disappointing contents : Signs. I still like Signs much more than most people, but those aliens were so lame and disappointing. In large part, that was because the CG wasn’t prepared for what M. Night wanted to do with aliens, but it’s come a long way since then. The alien in this was really awesome looking and imaginative.

2. Amazing young cast. Finding young actors who don’t suck is really, really hard. Directing them well is just as hard. This movie has got the goods. The kids played off of each other really naturally, they were likable, they cared for one another in believable ways, and Elle Fanning was nothing short of a revelation.

3. It reminded me of falling in love with movies. One reviewer who had a snippet on a commercial I saw for the movie mentioned something along the lines of Super 8 having everything that made us love movies to begin with. I whole-heartedly agree. The scope, the relationships, the sense of adventure, the impossible seeming truly possible… Super 8 really did remind me why I fell in love with movies in the first place. Sure, that love is deeper and richer now. I love movies for different reasons than I did when I was 11 and could imagine nothing better than going to the movie theater, or renting six movies from Blockbuster and watching them all within like 30 hours (Okay, so, minus the Blockbuster part, I still can’t imagine anything better than that). In Super 8, Abrams offers the world exactly what Spielberg was once the master of, a well-crafted adventure story full of delight, wonder, friendship, and young love.

the black hole. [movies in space. #6]

This movie was just silly. Perhaps it was intentionally trying to embrace the sci-fi B-movie vibe. If it was, they nailed it: bored acting, half-assed story, the waste of a great premise. Also, for some reason, when getting close to the black hole it turns out black holes are actually big magma storms. That is, until they went through the hole, then there was some sort of twist ending where they decided to get philosophical/theological and enter heaven and hell territory. Weird.

The good part, unlike the robots in Silent Running, the robots in The Black Hole were enjoyable for the most part. They were just as impractical, or almost, but they talked, which at least added a bit of charm.

 

 

silent running. [movies in space #5]

Well, they can’t all be winners. This review has spoilers, so if you ever plan on watching this one you should look away.

The story of a guy who works on a space station designed to house forest ecosystems since there are no longer any trees and such on earth. The call comes from earth that orders the destruction of all the tree space stations. So, our guy goes rogue to save his forest from being nuked.

This movie is pretty awful.

The acting was terrible, which wasn’t helped by terrible writing. The dialogue was so bad that it felt like it was improvised by people who had merely a passing knowledge of the english language. No one involved in making this movie seemed to have much desire to pay attention to peripheral things like science, logic, or realistic human motivations.

The movie did have one thing going for it. There was a scene early on with literally the fattest squirrel I have ever seen. It was massively fat. His belly dragged on the ground when he ran. I’m not kidding, this was a fat fucking squirrel.

Bruce Dern’s performance is apparently praised by some, but in my opinion it was terrible. His attempts at playing intense and passionate came across as insane, unstable, and sulky. He didn’t ever feel like a hero saving something worthwhile, he felt more like an ecoterrorist bent on doing whatever he needs to do to save the trees without really ever sharing a compelling reason as to why. You’d think it would have been fairly simple to come up with compelling reasons for trees to exist… you’d think wrong. The best arguments he ever makes, check that, the only reasons he ever gives are that melons taste good, and it’s really sad for little girls to grow up in a world where they will never hold a leaf. Also, the events of the film make it impossible for the forest on his space freighter to ever go back to reforest earth, thus the killing and such that he does are done just to save the forest based on principle and an inability to let go, as opposed to any actual future good. He kills three men, and later himself, so that the forest will exist out in deep space, with no way to track or find it at a later date.

It also bothers me that when they designed the robots, no one seemed interested in something even remotely plausible. If you look at the way they operate, they use as much energy as possible, don’t function based on even a layman’s understanding of how computers or mechanics work (even a 1971 computer), and a very loose grasp of physics would make it clear that they would never be capable of completing any of the jobs they do in the movie. Couldn’t they have just asked a robotic engineer or two what robots might look like in the future? As industrial design goes, they get a great big F. Seriously though, I’d challenge you to come up with less efficient robots, and I bet you’d be hard pressed.

They also never explain why these man made eco-systems would exist in space. The only reason we have is that the story wouldn’t have worked otherwise. Why not build them in the desert? On the ocean? Under the ocean? Anywhere cheaper than outer fucking space? Meh. Also, no reason is given as to why they suddenly decide to destroy the forests.

I could keep going on for a while about dumb shit in this movie, but I’ve made my point, so let that be enough.

solaris (1972). [movies in space #4]

Tarkovskiy’s 1972 film about a mission to a space station orbiting the fictional “planet” of Solaris. Weird stuff keeps happening on the space station, and scientist Kris Kelvin is sent there to decide whether or not the Solaris project would continue. Once there, the frayed minds of the other scientists aboard the station, as well as the presence of some unexpected guests, make the mission much more trying than he thought. Will he ever get back to earth?

It wasn’t difficult to tell that this was by the same director as Stalker. Lots of slow, sweeping shots; very deliberate pace where ideas are more important than story; unique take on film that most people would have trouble sitting through. I think a combination of Tarkovskiy’s skill as a director, combined with excellent acting, make the end product quite rewarding and enjoyable. I really do love the heady way Tarkovskiy liked to roam around in philosophy (and religion when he could get away with talking about God while pretending not to talk about God… he was making films in the USSR after all).

I liked Stalker more, but I’m not sure why yet. Maybe I never will know why, since Tarkovskiy made films you experience and live in as much as watch. He’s up there with Bergman and Kurosawa as guys who pushed the medium of film firmly into the realm of art.