30 April 2011

28 April- "I don't want to be one of those things. Walking around without a soul"

Resident Evil (2002)
dir. Paul W.S. Anderson

Milla Jovovich (Ultraviolet, 2000)
Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, 2009)
Eric Mabius (Cruel Intentions, 1999)
James Purefoy (A Knight's Tale, 2001)
Joseph May (Fairy Tale: A True Story, 1997)
Heike Makatsch (Love, Actually, 2003)
Stephen Billington (Braveheart, 1995)

So, this movie was based off of a video game, right? I don't know anything about that, but I can imagine how the disjunct plotline would lend itself well to a video, with one boss needing to be defeated before moving on to the next series of challenges.

I liked the beginning. I liked how the hero woke up with amnesia and I was able to tell she had amnesia without her saying something chintzy like "Where am I? Who am I?"

I like Milla Jovovitch. Unfortunately all her movies are awful science fiction fare, with The 5th Element clearly rising to the top of the pot. I wonder when this is, maybe she just can't hack a heavier role. But if I'm going to complain about an actress it's going to be this girl:

Is anyone else totally tired of Michelle Rodriguez? I find myself resenting her very existence because she is written into every single science fiction movie as this caricature of a strong female and a pale homage to Private Vasquez in Aliens.
Is this what you're going to base your career on, Michelle? A Jewish woman in brownface? Is a token Latina any better (worse?) than a token Black Man? And like that counterpart, Michelle Rodriguez always dies before the movie ends.

On the other hand, it's cool that woman are increasingly being cast in parts that aren't distinctively "feminine" (i.e. Rain Ocampo was essentially gender-neutral, and could have been played by a man or a woman, where previously this sort of role would have only been played by a man as women wold only be in movies as mothers or sex objects) and for this the Michelle Rodriguez "character" should be lauded, because here we have a role model showing that is perfectly acceptable for a female to have a story arc that doesn't involve a man as a protector or a love interest.

Of course, the whole point of of casting more women in gender-neutral roles is undermined if you give all of the parts to Michelle Rodriguez. And that's why I made that sort of uncouth reference to Pvt. Vasquez (Which I regret a little, because Pvt. Vasquez was awesome). While Michelle Rodriguez is not overtly racialized in her roles (you know, like getting all up in your face with the Spanish slang) I know that part of the reason she keeps getting cast is that the movie execs want a minority female in their movie, and I get it, and it's important to represent, but if the Hispanic woman keeps getting cast as stereotypically violent and impulsive, it's problematic.

First of all, it's saying something very essential and wrong about Latinas (If you fuck with her, she will cut you), and second of all, it's saying that a white woman, or a black woman, and especially not an Asian woman or an Indian woman or (God, help us) a Mid-Eastern woman could ever fill that kind of role because it's too aggressive and too dominant and too uncontrollable and it would make the (predominantly white male) audience uncomfortable.

So I meant to talk about Resident Evil and movies based off of video-games, and then I decided to rant about this instead. I think it's important to keep in mind that even the shitty movies are trying to tell you something about yourself--maybe especially the shitty ones, since they are so willing to pander to cultural norms and appeal to the lowest common denominator--and it's in the details, the side characters and subplots, where the broader narratives are played out. So yeah, Milla whooped some zombies, and looked hot doing it, but why did we want to see a movie about zombies in the first place?

17 April 2011

16 April- "They throw a great party for you on the one day they know you can't come"

The Big Chill (1983)
dir. Lawrence Kasdan (French Kiss, 1995)
Tom Berenger (Born on the Fourth of July, 1982)
Glenn Close (Air Force One, 1997)
Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, 1993)
William Hurt (Tuck Everlasting, 2002)
Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda, 1988)
Mary Kay Place (Being John Malkovitch, 1999)
JoBeth Williams (Jungle 2 Jungle, 1997)

My mom picked this out at the Borders when she came to visit me. She said she doesn't like "funny" movies, and can I say, she really hit the nail on the head. More than anything this reminds me of a poor man's St. Elmo's Fire (1985), which is odd because you can see it predates that fine film by two years.

Just like in The First Wives Club (1996), this movie begins with a group of estranged college friends being reunited at a funeral. They proceed to hang out for a weekend, hashing out issues of sexual tension and lost idealism.

Mostly angsty with several attempts at comic relief, some of which are successful. Jeff Goldblum is the funniest by far, and Kevin Kline does okay. The ditzy girlfriend of the deceased is also good for some laughs, she also seems to be the most contented of the group, pointing out, "I don't like to talk about my past as much as you all do."

15 April - "They can never take our freedom"

Braveheart (1995)
dir. Mel Gibson (Apocalypto, 2006)

Mel Gibson (What Women Want, 2000)
Brendan Gleeson (Gangs of New York, 2002)
Brian Cox (The Bourne Identity, 2002)
David O'Hara (Hotel Rwanda, 2004)
Peter Mullan (Children of Men, 2006)
Gerard McSorley
James Cosmo (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, 2005)
Alun Armstrong (The Mummy Returns, 2001)
Tommy Flanagan (Gladiator, 2000)
Malcolm Tierney (Great Expectations, 2012)

I haven't seen Braveheart since the first time I saw it, which was in the movie theater, back when I was...small.

I remember complaining afterward about the ending. Everyone dies? What kind of chicanery is this? What type of message are they submitting? How could they make a movie where the hero dies and then all of his friends die too?

I guess I was accustomed to classic children's fare of the day. Perhaps I was unaware this was loosely based on a true story, maybe my mom didn't tell me because at that time I was certain that, at least in the movies, good always triumphs and the hero always wins and if he doesn't get to be with his true love, well, then at least he could have married that French princess.

Of course, William Wallace... (for the sake of simplicity, let me emphasize at this moment that what I know about William Wallace and this time period is general is exclusively derived from this movie and a romance novel I nicked from my mom once called Outlander about an English lady doctor who travels back in time and falls in love with a rugged highlander only to be torn asunder by the ravages of old-timey war. Therefore, all references to historical persons living or dead, but especially dead, are to be understood as referring to the fictionalized film characters and not the real historical figure bearing the same name)

So, of course William Wallace didn't really love that French princess. I mean, he thought she was okay, but he never stopped loving his wife that was slaughtered by English soldiers. So when he was being tortured and killed, Princess Isabelle was totally sad, because William Wallace was probably the love of her life and forever and ever she'll pine over his death, but as he was being tortured and killed, William Wallace was thinking about his dead wife (which made me very teary, akin to the death scene in the wheat field at the end of Gladiator) and I'll bet that the princess did not cross his mind even ONCE. Which sucks for her, you know?

BONUS! Here's a picture of me dressed up as Braveheart:

05 April 2011

5 April- "But you did not persuade me, Nicolas! You did not persuade me!"

The Last King of Scotland (2006)
dir. Kevin Macdonald

Forest Whitaker (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982)
James McAvoy (Atonement, 2007)
Kerry Washington (Fantastic Four, 2005)
Gillian Anderson (Princess Mononoke (voice: American version), 1997)
Simon McBurney (The Golden Compass, 2007)
David Oyelowo (The Help, 2011)

Holy shit! I watched a real movie with a REAL SERIOUS plotline that's BASED ON REAL LIFE and it's not a comedy, there's no science fiction OR fantasy OR animation at all.

It's been a while, gang. I guess the last one that counts for all that is Dirty Pretty Things, which I watched a whole month ago.

Why do we like movies about Africa? The first reason is the soundtracks, and I will call out shenanigans if you say different. The first reason is the soundtracks and so here is John William's "Dry Your Tears, Afrika" from the movie Amistad, you may play it while you enjoy the rest of my writing here.

The other reason, I'm pretty sure, it what one of my more advanced colleagues today called "Poverty Tourism" and that has to do with the catharsis we (and I apologize if I am incorrectly categorizing you with myself) get when we someone doing worse off than us. I think that analysis might be applicable to The Last King of Scotland, especially because while Forest Whitaker is on the DVD cover, the protagonist is young and pale James McAvoy who keeps us all grounded in this adventure of African politics.

I may watch this movie again someday and pay particular attention to the portrayal of the English in this movie. The filmmakers were quite right in remembering that you cannot talk about African politics without referring to the legacy of colonialism and reminding us how difficult it is, to paraphrase Audra Lourde, to use the master's tools to unmake the master's house. Those English guys are smarmy folks, we are introduced to Simon McBurney's character when he tells the protagonist that a firm hand is all the African understands. As Amin's true fearsome characters becomes gradually revealed, the English, however, quickly appear to be the lesser of two evils, but evil nonetheless. McAvoy goes to the Englishman Stone to ask for help fleeing Uganda, and Stone tells McAvoy that he has to murder the president, leading to a series of events culminating into the climax of the film.

So who's the real villian, is it Stone representing the patriarchal colonial powers meddling in affairs that shouldn't concern them, or is it President Amin, a soldier placed in a position of authority consolidating his authority through a regime of terror? Can one exist without the other?

I think what we are meant to understand is that Amin is very bad guy, unfortunately, he never had a chance, and if he had resisted the power and the corruption someone else would have taken that role anyway. I think what we are meant to understand is that these dictators are inventions of historical context and colonialism, no different from the invented countries and the invented tribes that they terrorize.

04 April 2011

April Movie Wishlist!

1. Hanna
Saoirse Ronan as a child assassin.

2. Scream 4
zomg yes!

4. Super
Promises to be humor combined with balls-out violence. A dark take on the superhero genre. Also featuring Kevin Bacon.

5. Meek's Cutoff
About pioneer's lost on the Oregon Trail

6. Water for Elephants
I didn't read the book. But I've read the back cover a few times. Can Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon play a convincing couple? Can I watch Robert Pattinson without thinking about glittery-skinned Edward?

A) Your Highness
There's a slim chance that this movie, directed by David Gordon Greene of Pineapple Express, and starring many of the same dudes, will be funny. But I'm willing to bet it's just a string of codpiece jokes.

B) Rio
Again, maybe funny. Maybe just a stream of bird poop jokes. Definitely at some point someone will ask "Polly want a cracker?"

C) Arthur
This plot seems so tedious. And I'm was sick of Russell Brand before he even got started.

D) Born to be a Star
This one's a little risky. I'm a Christina Ricci fan and maybe Adam Sandler is due, right? That's how it works, right?

E) Hop
Is a bunny!

03 April 2011

2 April - "This is your one shot, so make it count"

Timer (2009)
dir. Jac Schaeffer
Emma Caulfield
Michelle Borth
John Patrick Amedori (Unbreakable, 2000)
JoBeth Williams (The Big Chill, 1983)

I think I've proven a few times over that there are high-quality and worthwhile "chick flicks" and "rom coms" out there. You just never find because the marketing types would rather shove Jennifer Lopez or Kate Hudson mincing gimicks and making cheap pop-culture referencing jokes into your face for forty seconds than spend the money on making a movie worth watching. Instead, here you've got that chick who played Xander's girlfriend on Buffy trying to communicate something insightful.

The premise is silly, I guess you could call it Sci-fi, but that's not the point. You've got this technology called a "TiMER" and they implant it in your wrist and it starts a countdown for the day you meet your soul mate, or true love, and it's different for everyone. The main character, Oona, has a problem wherein her timer hasn't started ticking yet, which means whoever her true love is, he hasn't gotten a TiMER of his own. Her younger brother gets his implanted on his fourteenth birthday, and he learns he's going to meet his soul mate in three days, while Oona's sister, Steph, who I guess is in her 20s or something, isn't going to meet her's until she's forty-something. And there's a lot of other characters who have their own quirky variations on the theme and I guess the moral is supposed to be something like that life (or love, I guess) is not a race to the finish line, but the important parts are the detours you take along the way, the mistakes you make and whatnot.

But it's funny! The TiMER stores reminded me of nothing so much as an apple store. Emma Caulfield is very genuine to watch and she scrambles about trying to find the few rare men who haven't gotten TiMERs yet, and the sister has these scenes where she's working at a nursing home and, you know, crazy old-timers.

The interactions between Oona's mother and her housekeeper, Luz, are also hilarious, without giving too much away, Luz's family is invited to Thanksgiving dinner and they have no idea what is going on Oona's stepfather is mashing guacamole with a pestle and it's silly. It's all very silly.

Way to go, netflix recommendations.