Another stop motion. Kinda boring at first, but they do some cool things with the foreground that make it worthwhile.
May 26, 2009
May 25, 2009
May 24, 2009
Terminator Salvation – Now that’s a good damn movie! It was great! I couldn’t help but spend the whole time comparing it to star trek. I’ve been slightly annoyed that everyone loves star trek so much. In retrospect, it really was a fun but soulless movie. It didn’t have any interesting themes or structure, it was pure story. Now that’s still a fun movie, but it is ultimately forgettable for me. Terminator isn’t fun, I mean it’s action fun, but it’s not funny fun. It’s not lighthearted, so you can’t really compare the two, but they do share that “remake”ness, and they both did it well. Terminator had a number of nods to the first two (there were only two, ps!), almost all of which worked great. Once they messed it up w/ cheesy music, and one thing they did one too many times, but besides that I liked them a lot. But it really shared a common sensibility with especially the second movie. More than just “that other guy used to say that line!” nods, it had a theme and some plot devices that perfectly echoed the older movies without being dorky. There are only really minor annoyances with it, little bit of product placement, really bad CG when Marcus first gets to LA and middling CG with the T-800 (but fantastic CG everywhere else), some crappy acting from the extras, some really stupid tech/science things. But those were 30 second annoyances. Star Trek had movie-long annoyances when it came to 5th grade humor and permanent retinal damage via lens flare. So instead of enjoying the rest of star trek (which is really good) as much as I should, I spent half the movie being annoyed. Terminator didn’t annoy me, it was cool and actiony and a good summer movie. The filmmaking is actually really good, the first half is done very quick and confusing, which normally I hate but it mostly fit. They did overuse it a bit (I don’t need steadycam on john connor’s face, for instance). But the helicopter scene (is it just me, or would I be scared of helicopters now if I were connor?) in the beginning was really cool. The plot wasn’t anything surprising, but it did it’s job and we saw lots of cool terminators. The humanoid terminators do still fight like morons, but they always did, whatchagonnado. Overall I’d say this is the winner for the summer so far (I’m just assuming wolverine isn’t very good, I haven’t seen it yet). Then again, rotten tomatoes would tell me star trek is 95% and terminator 34%, so clearly I’m smoking a whole different kind of crack than most people.
Donnie Darko – One of those classics/cults I never got around to seeing. It’s a weird ass movie, on purpose. I can’t think of anything intelligent to say about it. I do know that I liked it, but I don’t know why. It’s weird and random and doesn’t seem very cohesive. The artifice of the movie doesn’t really hold up, for me. It kind of wanders some and feels pointless, but then it seems to have a point by the time it gets to the end. I’m not sure, I do like it, I just can’t exactly say why. I don’t like time travel, so that’s a minus, but it’s not really time travel, it’s just a plot device. It’s not a mechanism that I feel needs to be understood except in its most obvious form. Good, I guess.
Black Book – Hm, I was into this movie for at least half of it. It’s another WWII movie (sure have seen a lot of those, and I’m pretty excited for Inglorious Bastards too). It’s set in Holland, among the resistance and a jewish woman who (kind of) spies for them. It’s fairly well done, acted and written and such. And though it wasn’t exactly exciting or edge of my seat, it was a good movie for a lot of it. It starts relying a little too much on coincidence though, becomes too melodramatic. It’s got sort of a mystery to wrap up, so it has to twist and turn for that, which was completely unnecessary. The whole last bit is pretty unnecessary. She just experiences too much and just happens to get here and there and things happen to happen and it gets old. The front half feels pretty honest about a really horrible situation (obviously) and her finding a place in it all. But then it feels… I guess too Hollywoody, it gets cheesily structured, plot-wise, and becomes sort of ridiculous and it becomes a much lesser movie. It’s still not bad, but it went from pretty good to kind of annoying in about 20 minutes.
Abel Raises Cain – Hulu had this on its front page and it’s really pretty cool. It’s about this guy named Abel who made a career of tricking the media. An unkind description would be a career as a prankster or hoaxster. That’s a thing for me, cuz I don’t like pranks at all. Whether its Punk’d, or a hidden camera show, I don’t like them, they are stupid and cheap. You can trick anyone if you put enough effort into it, and anyone would be tricked, so it’s just stupid. So this guy could be on my bad side, because once you give someone permission to be a trickster, it’s up to their own character whether they do it right or are dicks. Kind of like how the daily show could be considered pranksters for giving interviews in character, when they are mocking their interviewee, but I love them. I actually love this Abel guy. The media is his target, his tricks reveal their laziness. He creates fake protest organizations, or scandalous causes or groups, and the media buys it. The film shows local news after local news after NATIONAL news report of his bullshit. They don’t check into his story, they don’t do any research, they just put him on the air because people will watch a news story about an organization that wants to clothe indecent animals. It’s really genius. Some of his antics are childish, but they generally still reveal an idiocy of media. When he goes on the talk shows is odd. Of course jerry springer (well, the 70s equivalent) is stupid and scandalous and probably fake. The movie claims that his fake talk show stories are what started the trend of them being so fake now. That rather than expose their ridiculousness, it merely ushered them into an acceptance of “anything for ratings” Don’t know if it’s true, hard to say. That’s an interesting point, by the way, this whole movie could be fake! I don’t believe it is, but it could be, and I’d be sitting here typing about it as if it were real, and it could be the biggest lie. That’s why it’s hard to ever be on the side of a liar, he could be lying to you too. Also interesting: this shit wouldn’t fly as well nowadays with the internet. For all the tricksters there’s as many debunkers. But I’m sure you could still pull it off, you’d just have to be better. Anyway, it’s a very interesting movie about an interesting subject, and it’ll only cost you an hour and a half.
American Gun – This is a little indie type movie. Made as a reaction to columbine type shootings, it’s about youth, mostly school, violence. There are several stories, completely disconnected from each other. The brother and mother of a school shooter, a girl who works in her grandpa’s gun shop, a principle of a high school, and a kid who works nights at a gas station in a bad neighborhood. It’s four different perspectives on the issue. Unfortunately the movie doesn’t really have a strong impact. It’s got good actors in it, marcia gay harden, forest whitaker, a couple kids I recognize. They do fine, but I’m missing some connection with this movie. It might be that I’m uncomfortable with media coverage of the subject. I suppose i ought to be more afraid, as someone who is close to a soon-to-be teacher, but I’m just more annoyed with the coverage. school shootings are an incredibly rare way to die, it’s like being scared of terrorism, so coverage of it can’t help but feel exploitive or manipulative. I can’t seriously say art shouldn’t be allowed to examine it, but I can say it doesn’t work for me. The perspective of the brother/mother is certainly the most interesting, I don’t know how you keep living that life. The grand daughter is uninteresting, the gas station kid is handled too lightly, the principle is interesting, but can only go one of a couple ways and nothing insightful happens, it’s just sad. It’s the kind of movie that you probably read as an actor and say wow this is really powerful and interesting, I should do this. But then it ends up kind of boring and simplified with a few good moments but mostly not getting where it was aiming.
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles – I’d never seen this little bit of the 80s! Supposed to be one of those great movies, maybe if I saw it growing up I’d agree, it was just okay. It had funny parts, a few out loud laughs, but I wasn’t rolling. It’s no Uncle Buck, or Parenthood, just a kinda fun, in the end sweet 80s movie. Nothing much else to say.
Stranger Than Fiction – This movie was surprisingly charming. It has a style - the narration, and the diagrams, and will farrell’s purposefully bland acting - that could easily have annoyed me, and I kept wondering when it would. But it didn’t, it stayed charming and heartfelt. Love stories can be cheesy or feel right, and this one was the latter. I didn’t like the lady playing the author, but that’s ok. Will Farrell did a good job, he can be non-manic, though he did go to the opposite extreme, hard to say if he could safely act the middle ground. But it’s a sweet and likable movie, worth it’s time.
Ikiru – This is one of those old timey foreign movies that does not hold up for me. It’s very strange, likely due to its age and its culture, and doesn’t work. It’s a Japanese movie about a man who finds out he’s going to die, and tries to find a way to make his life satisfactory with the time he has left. Pretty simple moral, but it works. The first I’d say half of the movie is monotonous, purposefully (I think) plodding and tedious. It’s really boring to watch. That and the fact that it has subtitles and I was tired basically was putting me to sleep. The acting from the main dude is horrendous, he just makes this pained, drawn, bug eyed groaning face for the whole movie and i hated it. It wasn’t subtle, it didn’t make you feel for him, it didn’t make you connect with him, it was just ugh. Maybe that’s a culture thing, hard to say. With 45 min or so the movie starts to get good. After the big event it jumps back and forth in time a bit in a really effective way. It’s mostly at this point about bureaucracy and people being assholes and it does it well. Unfortunately even this is far too drawn out and beaten to death, and it gets old and frustrating again. The end works really really well, it bring the moral back to the forefront, instead of the red tape stuff. The last 5 minutes, at least for me, are pretty touching. But it’s really not worth it to go all that way, it was just too long a journey for maybe a total of 25 minutes worth of goodness.
The Ruins – So I forgot to talk about this (and the next two) for a week, I’m not sure how much I’ll remember (the whole point of these damn things is to make me remember). I remember thinking it was surprisingly decent. Nothing amazing, but I liked the different kind of enemy (I also liked that the podunk brown people were NOT really the enemy and actually smarter than the dipshits). The flow of the movie is pretty good, though it gets all rushed at the end. I wish the cast wasn’t so standard, two white couples, and their European friend. BORING! But it was a halfway decent way to watch a scary type movie, if yer into it.
Lakeview Terrace – Meh. I didn’t really expect it to be anything, but it was kinda standard. Samuel Jackson is unsurprisingly a good intimidating asshole. The race issue was neither effective nor particularly obtrusive, just there. It’s one of those annoying stories cuz you are tempted to say what would I do, but it’s also out there enough that there’s no satisfying answer to the question. Overall very average, nothing much to say.
Let The Right One In – This one gets super points for being different. I guess it’s been a while since I saw a vampire movie, I realized as I watched this. 30 Days of Night was the last, unless you count I Am Legend. And I’m not part of the true blood / twilight / vampire chronicles revolution because it all looks silly goose. But this was more the solo vampire, interaction with a person type movie, not the monster action movie. More Interview with a Vampire than Blade. It’s swedish, so it’s kinda strange. Swedish people are kinda creepy. Blonde haired skinny little swedish boys are very creepy. It’s a cool take on it, though. I wouldn’t say it’s an amazing movie, just that it was an interesting way to go about it. Somewhat uncomfortable in a few parts, but worth watching for its differentness.
May 22, 2009
May 12, 2009
May 9, 2009
Star Trek - I'm kinda torn about this one. I hate to say it, I heard such good things the past week, I had pretty high hopes, and it fell short. It's a very fun movie, it's a good summer movie, it certainly has mass appeal, the casting is spectacular, the effects are beautiful. Believe it or not, I'm totally on board with the method of the "reboot" even though it involves, gasp, time travel! I didn't necessarily need a reboot, I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with the star trek universe. You can make shitty movies in a universe of any quality. Besides the fact that this is before everything except Enterprise, so how burdened are they by the mythos? But, whatever, they wanted to reboot, JJ Abrams wanted to stamp his little feet and make his mark and it's a new universe - fine. I actually like the way they did it even though it has stupid fucking time travel and I'm fine with going forward from here. A friend described it as Marvel's Ultimate line, which I find to be spot on. It's a different time line (the movie went out of the way to obnoxiously point this out to the droolers) with its own share of stories to tell. Granted, this isn't comics, if we go with this one we have to leave the other one be for a while or for good. Nonetheless, it's a good analogy and I like the universe they've set up. I hope it stays limited to TOS times though, I don't need to see a slightly altered Voyager where 7 of 9 is 5 of 6 and Chakotay has a vagina. So the movie is fun, the casting really is great, Simon Pegg kind of steals the last bits. But the movie has a lot of little faults. The "science" pushes it even for star trek. The faults with star trek, as always, aren't when they do things and just expect you to accept it (no one defends warp drive or phasers), it's when they try to explain things and it's dumb (a supernova that destroys the galaxy? you are stupid and fired and stupid). That and just common sense things that take you out of the movie. Just because it's star trek doesn't mean you can be dumb. But whatevs, star trek is silly, it has time travel and happy magic lands (the nexus), and heisenberg compensators, nothing new. My biggest problem with the movie, honestly, is that it's just so... plebian. The humor, fully 50% of it, is slapstick cheesy bullshit. There are truly clever moments (again, pegg is great), but so much of it is just shit comedy. An short little alien sidekick? really? hitting your head on the bulkhead? seriously? hands accidently on boobs?! come on! It just had so much stupid amateur shit jokes for the masses. If this is what it takes to make star trek palletable for the mouth breathing Dance Flick attendees, fuck 'em, I'll keep star trek in my nerdy corner that will never see any real or sustaining success. This crap is what's wrong with the latter star trek movies and the star wars prequels (though it did spare us the puns, thank you jesus). I expected a lot more from JJ Abrams and from the critical response I've heard so far. It's not a bad movie, it's a good movie, it's a fun movie, I hope they make another. But I hope they fire the half of the writers they borrowed from According to Jim and give more money to the other half. Also: why do romulans design their ships based on that quake 3 jumpy level? also also: why does everyone in the future have slanty sideburns? also also also: did the lens flare button get stuck down or something? seriously, we get it, the bridge is glowey, now cut it out.
Frost/Nixon - Finally my Oscar movies of 2008 are pretty much complete. There's gaps, but the main ones are finally seen. Perhaps more than any other of the movies, I was really anticipating this movie. The subject matter, or the buzz around it, I was very excited to see it. That might be why I was slightly disappointed with the movie at first. Not that it was bad in any way, there's no real faults, but there is a lot of set up. A lot of stuff I didn't know would be in the movie, I had this idea that it would be much more play-like, and almost entirely focused on the interview itself. The first half is setting up Frost, and some insight into the social form of Nixon, but it was just good, mostly unamazing. The best part of the first half was Michael Sheen. He had such a fantastic permanent veneer on his face. An eternal facade, pretending to be something he clearly wasn't. The dread and insecurity and fear of failure all but bursting around the corners of his smile and the tip of his eyebrows. It was really quite good. Unfortunately, that was all the first half held for me. All the other actors do a very good job, though, Bacon in particular is perfect. The other guys on the Frost team are good. But as soon as the interview started, wow. Sheen is once again on point, for the first three interviews just cringing under the dominating Nixon presence. You could see him wilt and crack and try to play it off as okay, it was great. Frank Langella as Nixon in the first half was kind of boring. A good job, but just being a boring droning storyteller, which can only be exciting. But when he became impassioned, he was a force on screen, I can only imagine what it would be like in person in the play. During the late night phone call, and during that last interview, Langella is just a master, completely captivating. It may have been a long way to go, but the interview is so great, it makes the movie great. I think this movie and Doubt are a perfect pair. Plays made into movies characterized by two masterful performances. Sadly, neither have the resonance or lasting effect as what are still my favorite 2008 movies, the Wrestler and Slumdog. But still really good movies.
M - What a fascinating movie! This movie has a lot of history. It is made by Fritz Lang, later a nazi propagandist. It was his first "talkie" after (I'm told by the commentary) strong resistance to sound, as he was one of the founders of german silent films. It's also considered the first serial killer movie. It also stars this guy Peter Lorre, who I didn't know the name of, but certainly recognize from these old movies. So that's the framework, I kind of expected it to be interesting for it's cinema history importance, but not really much beyond that. But it really was very good in several ways. There are lots of themes, most of which I got, and symbols and motifs, much of which I did not (hearing them in the commentary). The movie covers a lot of social issues (it is essentially a statement movie). It covers mob mentality, mass media, mass fear/hysteria, police procedure, capital punishment, subjective morality, governmental control, and more. It covers a lot of ground, mostly pretty well. It all has a lot of resonance today, for me, espeically with all the swine flu bullshit lately. It's hard to cover that much and do it well, and each issue has probably been done better since with 80 years of cinema as practice. Yet in the end I'm pretty blown away by how effective it is. I do have a big problem with the movie, which is its final social message "Protect the children!!" It's not a failing of the film to deliver its message, I just don't like that message. It's surprising, with all the commentary on mass media leading to mass hysteria, I was on board, I thought the point was that it maniuplates and controls us, that we needn't be so afraid of that dangerous evil out of sight (or off screen, in this case). Then it has this plea to the audience to watch our children, that punishing criminals (or not, it's not perfectly clear) will not protect them, only our vigilence can. I have a big problem with this culture of fear and control through fear, and it seems like the film gives in to that at the end, and I'm confused.
Stop-Loss - Well, this movie was average. At first I thought it had a good chance. It wasn't amazingly acted, or written, or filmed. But, believe it or not (produced by MTV!), I felt like it had the angst of a young person. That rather than slick as shit killers, or archetypical place holders, or plain ole dumbshits, the soldiers felt like actual kids and more importantly the story was being told as if an actual kid was making it. That's not totally a good thing, but it seemed perhaps a bravely appropriate thing. But it doesn't really last, it becomes a fugitive story and a depressing story and a generally average story. An so in reflection I think maybe the perspective was just trying to appeal to kids, not an honest attempt to give insight. So the movie loses me, not a bad movie, maybe the right movie for some, just ok for me.
Downfall - Oh man, really good movie. It's about the end of the WW II in Germany, Hitler and the generals and his secretary and how the last few weeks played out. I've never seen this part of the story. I suppose there is no lack of movies about it, but I havne't seen them. Every WW II movie I've seen ended where this one starts. And the most amazing thing about it is that you almost feel sorry for the nazis. You know they are murderous evil bastards, but at their end, you feel pity. And that only succeeds because of the wonderful way this movie is framed. You never see the murder or the evil. You only see the generals and their maps, making plans, sending troops this way or that. You don't see the troops dying, you don't see the civilians suffering, you sure as hell don't see the jews, polish, gypsies, or others being round up, gassed, or tortured. And that is exactly the point. This movie is nominally from the perspective of Hitler's secretary. It's not first person, it's not narrated, it's not only what she sees, but it's the kind of things she sees. The movie is bookended by footage of the real woman, near the end of her life, reflecting on her choices. The point is she didn't see any of the evil, she was just doing her job and seeing the day to day. Of course we all agree that isn't enough, that you can't be blind to it, but the movie does such an amazing job of only showing those things, that it allows for that inch of pity to work it's way in. As I'm typing it it's hard to beleive I felt that way, but I know I did. The movie also shows the way different nazis dealt with the failing of their world, which was equally amazing. Some held on to glory, or to duty, or loyalty, hope, family, politics. They each had a thing they clung to as the russians came crashing down upon them. And then each of them gave it up in some way, also different for each person, though often with the same result. Tragic choices, despairing excuses or justifications. It was really fantastic. I suppose everything I've talked about is plot/script related, but everything in the movie stood up and supported that script. The acting was perfect, from a truly insane hitler to the naive devoted secretary, the actors had to carry a lot of weight to express all these attitudes. Such a fantastic movie.
Vicky Christina Barcelona - So.... people like this thing, eh? I have a fear that I'm prejudging it, as I've never seen a Woody Allen movie, yet I'm pretty sure I don't like Woody Allen movies. Still this movie seems like what I wouldn't like about his movies. It seems so self-involved and narcassistic and pointless. The narration, which I at first thought I would really like, became annoying, intrusive, and at times literally telling me what I was watching happen and didn't need description of. The investigation of love and relationships seems cliched and uninspired. The characters have a simplistic view of relationships, on both sides of the debate. If I'm kind, the movie just isn't for me, but it will speak to some people who will find insight in these silly relationships. If I'm unkind, Woody Allen really wants to be that sexy guy who can swoop in and steal a taken woman off to another place and fall in love with her.