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Archive for the 'Movies' Category

Movies I Want to See

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

I don’t usually have such a backlog of interesting-sounding movies.

  • V for Vendetta, already out so don’t spoil me.
  • Slither, a silly creepy-crawly movie due out tomorrow.
  • Lady in the Water, a mermaid story from M. Night Shyamalan, due out in July.
  • Idiocracy, a pessimist’s take on the Rip Van Winkle story, from the producer of Office Space. According to Wikipedia, production is stalled because the movie is just too funny for prime-time.
  • While I’m at it, I really need to see Office Space, too.

Sin City

Thursday, April 7th, 2005

Backpedal of the day: BBC Apologizes to Who Star - it sounds like a whitewash to me.

I came, I saw, I wasn’t even squicked. The most disturbing part of “Sin City” for me was its failure to disturb. The violence against eyeballs was minimal, the maimings numbing, and the many messy castrations more calculated to disturb the male half of the audience than yours truly. I’ve seen both volumes of Kill Bill and I found them more squicking, probably because I actually cared about the characters. With “Sin City” I spent most of the movie wondering who was who (except for the cool traitor, who had character to spare).

I did enjoy the comic-noir language and black-and-white atmosphere, and I thought the vignettes were good individually. But I spent too much mental time trying to figure out how each one was connected to the last, considering that the answer turned out to be “very loosely.” In the end I didn’t feel that the movie came together, either emotionally or plot-wise.

The Incredibles

Sunday, November 28th, 2004

The Incredibles was lots of fun. I highly recommend it, especially for Edna Mode, Seamstress to the Supers. I still have 8% of NaNo to go, so I’ll just point you to this Objectivist review of the movie.

The Grudge

Saturday, October 23rd, 2004

I suppose it could have been worse… Veronica is responsible for our seeing this remake. I thought the slow revelation of the mystery surrounding the cursed house was interesting, though the monster/poltergeist/thing was sorely lacking in magic rules. Magic rules are what make supernatural or magical things believable. This thing could do whatever it wanted; the poor stupid people never had a chance.

I did appreciate the Japanese “we’re all going to die anyway so quit your whining, white girl” passivity. Only the setting made the movie as bearable as it was.

Update: SciFi.com has a review that claims Japanese audiences don’t mind the gaping plot holes the way Americans do.

Lost Horizon

Monday, October 4th, 2004

To amuse me while I amused the cat I’ve been catsitting (not Veronica’s extra-large Kitty, but Dr. Deb’s extra-small Siamese), I watched the restored version of the 1937 Frank Capra film Lost Horizon on DVD. The Film Site has a spoiler-filled review, but suffice it to say that this is a standard utopian tale in which everyone is good and happy merely because everyone is good and happy, and the answer to all the obvious objections Our Hero raises is a naive “why?” from Our Heroine.

But it’s pretty for 1937, and Our Hero (Robert Conway, played by Ronald Colman) manages to enliven the dull talky parts with his awestruck gazing and general sense of wonder. The action scenes at the beginning and end were also helpful.

The alternate ending wasn’t a big change, but one of the other DVD features described the original framing sequence and the experience of filming at 24°F in a huge refrigerator (because Capra wanted to see the actors’ breath). One thing I didn’t learn from the extras was that Our Spunky Supporting Actress was supposed to be dying of consumption. A little coughing and six months to live says lung cancer to me.

Lost Horizon was not a success, and is remembered today mainly for its stupendous budget and the loss of the original print due to our oppressive copyright laws. It was based on the book of the same name by James Hilton, which is remembered mainly for allegedly being the first paperback ever published (Ballantine, 1939?). It’s still in print.

I, Robot

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

Jay Severin thinks Bush will win the debates just because expectations for him are so low that all he needs to do is show up and speak English for people to think he did well. On the other hand, Kerry needs to pull off a miracle to win this election, so the bar is so high that an excellent yet non-supernatural performance from him will seem like a disappointment.

I, Robot was kind of like that. I’d heard only bad things about it, but Dr. Deb insisted on seeing the robo-action on the big screen. I walked into the matinee expecting Plan 9 from Outer Space and I got a movie that, while almost entirely unrelated to the source material, was still moderately entertaining.

It goes like this: Detective Spooner (Will Smith) of the Chicago Police Department is the only person on Earth who doesn’t like robots. You’d think there would be more of a Luddite movement going on if robots are taking people’s jobs away, but no, it’s just him. Later in the movie we find out why he has this grudge; for an angsty, misunderstood cop, he’s a funny and well-developed character.

One of Det. Spooner’s character quirks is his passion for relics from the year (you guessed it) 2004. While appropriately reactionary, this personality trait led to confusion in the opening scene, where Det. Spooner is in his 2004-style apartment with its turn-of-the-century furniture, wearing his turn-of-the-century clothing, and waking up to the buzz of a turn-of-the-century alarm clock. I’d challenge the reader to decorate her apartment completely and flawlessly in the style of 30 years ago, on a policeman’s salary.

Once he goes outside we see the robots and the self-steering cars, but when he visits other people’s homes (the victim’s, the love interest’s) they don’t have appreciably more tech than Our Luddite Hero. The overall feel is that of 2004 with robots and fast cars.

That’s a minor point beside the tired plot of a conspiracy that only Our Hero knows about, cares about, and is willing to stop. The paranoia is straight out of Minority Report. Some actual Asimov content about the three laws relieves the monotony, and the Scientist Babe has some nice scenes with Our Robot. The sequence of events at the end, however, didn’t make much sense plot-wise, nor did I buy the solution to the murder mystery.

The big offense against Asimov is the Luddism, but it plays well in Poughkeepsie. Imagine the challenge of getting the audience behind Asimov’s pro-robot views. I, Robot was what it had to be, under the laws of Hollywood. Rent, do not buy.

The Return of the King III.a

Monday, September 6th, 2004

I’ve reviewed the movie The Return of the King two and a half times already—once for the first time I saw it and noted all the plot problems, once for my second viewing where I appreciated the scenery, and half a time when I discussed M. Garcia’s opinion that heroic fantasy is becoming unfilmable.

I saw the movie again tonight; I think it was the final Noreascon event, though the con officially ended at 3pm. Some of the major plot changes still bothered me, especially Theoden’s “what has Gondor done for me lately?” line, the absence of Sam’s moment of decision over Frodo’s jaundiced body, and Denethor’s overdone insanity. I also had problems with Jackson’s horror style in the flaming palantir scene, the rotting, glowing green Dead scenes, and the unexplained pillar of light over Minas Morgul.

On the other hand, I thought Shelob was great. The “As you know, Smeagol” scene between Slinker and Stinker (Gollum’s two personalities) amused me as infodump, and I thought Gollum came off very well. I’ve heard that Elijah Wood can act, so I’m transferring blame for the failure of Frodo as a character from the pretty face to the script and the director.

But the little glimpses of the unfilmable heroic fantasy that wormed their way into the movie outweighed all the problems. Theoden’s “Death!” speech and Aragorn’s “not this day” speech are lovely. Even Gandalf’s speech to Pippin about heaven (which, in the LotR universe, he’s actually seen) is nice, mainly because those lines were stolen from an actual description of the way to Aman. Mainly, though, what appeals to me is the fighting and dying for a hopeless cause; the world is coming to an end and honorable men (not to mention the occasional honorable shieldmaiden and shield-hobbit) go out there and fight the overwhelming hordes of orcs and trolls and oliphaunts despite the futility of the endeavor. In fact, the Rohirrim seem to be enjoying it because it’s hopeless.

Hope is for wimps.

The Village

Monday, August 2nd, 2004

I’m a huge M. Night Shyamalan fan, so I enjoyed “The Village,” but I also understand why it’s getting mixed reviews. I saw it with Dr. Deb, who loved it, but I was torn for most of the movie. I’ll try to keep the spoilers down, though I’ll need a few to make my point. Please see the movie before reading any further.

(more…)

The Prisoner of Azkaban

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

Warning: spoilers ahead.
Note: this is a wallaby-free zone.

Veronica has been found, so we went to see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Thursday night. As I’d expected, the movie was visually stunning but a bit weak on the plot side. Since I’m pretty much the only one in the blogiverse who hasn’t read the book, I’ll be tossing spoilers right and left. Don’t make me say I warned you…

I can see why people say this movie is darker than the previous two, but I wouldn’t put it that way myself. I would have said that the Potterverse is getting more unjust. This is a separate moral inadequacy from the one I noted in The Sorcerer’s Stone and HP as Star Wars - Harry is still a problematic character, but he’s overshadowed now by a problematic society.

The movie begins with Harry being excessively cruel to his aunt - the proper response to snark is snark, not helium. It’s understandable as a spell of passion, but even in his post-meditation Harry has no regrets. Maybe he’s never regretted abusing his abusive guardians, but now that his power over them so obviously exceeds theirs over him he seems out of control - and yet the magical authorities are surprisingly disinterested in this offense.

Next up we have the discombobulators (pardon me for munging the technobabble), who try to suck the life out of Harry at every opportunity. The trouble here is that they’re supposed to be helping the good guys. Instead they’re a nightmare of quis custodiet ipsos custodes? With friends like these… but more on them later.

Hermione is clearly up to no good being in two places at once, even before she goes for Draco’s throat and nose. But breaking the laws of physics is a minor offense in the new lawless Potterverse. I’m more interested in the cruelty to hippogriffs. Poor Mr. Ed did nothing wrong - certainly he did no more damage to Draco than Hermione’s right hook, and with more provocation - so why the death sentence? Why the exceedingly baroque reprieve, in lieu of simple justice?

Next in the hit parade, Harry takes down Snape for no good reason, indirectly allowing the escape of Bubonic Pete. At this point I suppose he has good reason not to expect a fair hearing for godpapa from Dumbledore, Slayer of Innocent Beasts, but he doesn’t handle the situation any better himself. By the time the moon comes out - oops - the whole situation has degenerated into farce…

…relieved only by the return of the discombobulators, in force. Again I have to ask, what use are guards who attack only the good guys? What kind of people would hire them to watch a school full of defenseless children? And who uses vicious demonic creatures to carry out cruel and unusual death sentences on criminals…

…never mind on innocent men? The most disturbing bit of PoA is that godpapa has been locked up for twelve years with the discombobulators despite his innocence, and even though Dumbledore knows it he’s sentenced to death by discombobulation. The great Oz needs a couple of children with a souped-up pocket watch to set an innocent man free - another exceedingly baroque reprieve - and even then his name isn’t cleared. He and Mr. Ed are fugitives from injustice.

If this is the wizarding world, Harry was better off with his inflatable guardians. Better life under a staircase than Azkaban. I’ll have to read the book to see if the world is really supposed to be this out-of-whack. Someday.

Unfilmable

Wednesday, January 28th, 2004

Mac program of the day: Unison, a newsreader

I found the first issue of The Internet Review of Science Fiction while I was catching up with the rasfc newsgroup with Unison. Usually I refuse to read articles that you have to register to see, but I really wanted to know what Peter Jackson and the Denial of the Hero by M. Garcia was all about. So, some excerpts (a fair use):

As the trilogy of films unfolded, it became evident that Jackson had fundamentally rewritten the characters and their motivations, and in so doing, had quite stripped the essence of heroic fantasy out of the story. In the film trilogy the heros are weak and hesitant, while most of the villains are denuded of their tragedy. […]

It might seem that all of Tolkien’s character development involves the acceptance of destiny, depicted in (sometimes overwrought) mythic language. But an even more curious reversal takes place in the person of Frodo. Frodo alone of all the major characters in Tolkien’s work chooses his destiny. […]
Jackson portrays Frodo as a lost creature through the last leg of the journey. He is so burdened by the ring, and so baffled by Gollum’s tricksy talk, that he even turns against Sam.

M. notes that a pivotal Frodo scene is omitted from the movie, the one in which Frodo binds Gollum with the Ring: “If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom.” Which, of course, he is. There’s no mention of the Faramir or Denethor character assassinations, but if you thought Gandalf and Aragorn were (at least occasionally) heroic this article will set you straight. There’s no room for heroes in Jackson’s world:

Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings remains unfilmed and, since it seems increasingly unpalatable to contemporary sensibilities, probably unfilmable.

I wonder, did Peter Jackson see the real story and revise it consciously, or was he, like the literary critics quoted in the article, unable to read the story as it was intended to be read? Are there stories that cannot be told because the audience just can’t see them? It’s a disturbing thought, since those are probably the stories I’d want to tell.