27 August 2011

22 August - "The way out is through love, and you are just horny and lonely"

Twelve (2010)
dir. Joel Schumacher (St. Elmo's Fire, 1985)

50 Cent
Ellen Barkin (Drop Dead Gorgeous, 1999)
Gregg Bello (G.I. Jane, 1997)
Chace Crawford
Rory Culkin (Signs, 2002)
Zoe Kravitz (It's Kind of a Funny Story, 2010)
Thomas McDonell (The Forbidden Kingdom, 2008)
Erik Per Sullivan (The Cider House Rules, 1999)
Emma Roberts (Aquamarine, 2006)
Charlie Saxton (The Happening, 2008)
Kiefer Sutherland (voice) (Stand By Me, 1986)
Everything about this movie was like reading the diary of an angsty, self-indulgent teenager. I'll bet it's on the favorites list of many a depressed 15 year old, and I bet at least one of them has written a poem about it.

Like a lot of the really crappy movies I've seen, I can tell that at one point there was a lot of potential in this script. Some of the narration by Kiefer Sutherland was honestly insightful. I think the major downfall was the tedious angst pouring out of the main character.

I am a huge fan of movies with the Grand Hotel theme-but they're hard to pull off well. In this movie, very few of the characters received the depth of treatment they deserved. The main problem was the main character, played by Chace Crawford --who is so conventionally handsome that I'm having trouble stomaching this poster I'm looking at. This guy has a shit backstory, his mom and so he's really dark and doesn't talk about feelings and is the dreamiest drug dealer (???) on the mean streets of whereverthehellthisis. Losing moms is way sad, don't get me wrong, but I don't think it justifies a whole movie of the protagonist acting like a tool. I much preferred the bitchy prom queen character, who has one brief moment of self awareness and vulnerability when she confesses to a guy that she doesn't really like the person that she is but nevertheless dies thinking about how nobody will ever stop talking about how cool her death was and how much they'll wish they were there to see it. Insight like that is wicked, it makes good movies.

Depression very rarely makes a good movie. That's because in the real world nobody gets to wear their hearts on their sleeve. Steve Carell can play a depressed guy pretty well (Little Miss Sunshine, Dan in Real Life), and that's because pulls off the necessary degree of black humor. He plays depressed guys who are nonetheless coping and that makes them admirable characters, characters we feel good about watching. This White Mike character sucked because he wasn't coping, he was wallowing-and that's when I said this movie was self-indulgent, because wallowing is self-indulgent. Watching it didn't make make me feel better about anything. It made me angry, not sympathetic.

The next movie I watched is really good, way better than this crap, I promise.

25 August 2011

21 Aug - "I'm not saying Uncle Sam can kick back on a lawn chair, sipping on an iced tea"

Iron Man 2 (2010)
dir. Jon Favreau (Cowboys & Aliens, 2011)

Robert Downey Jr. (Back to School, 1986)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Hook, 1991)
Don Cheadle (Traffic, 2000)
Scarlett Johansson (Eight Legged Freaks, 2002)
Mickey Rourke
Samuel L. Jackson (Goodfellas, 1990)
Clark Gregg (Magnolia, 1999)
John Slattery (Traffic, 2000)
Garry Shandling (Doctor Dolittle, 1998)
Paul Bettany (voice) (A Knight's Tale, 2001)
Kate Mara (Brokeback Mountain, 2005)
Leslie Bibb (Private Parts, 1997)
Jon Favreau (PCU, 1994)
Evgeniy Lazarev (The Onion Movie, 2008)

How am I finding time to watch all these movies while simultaneously beginning my second year of grad school, you might be wondering? Well, I'm paralyzed into near inaction on almost everything resembling productivity, therefore I abuse my drug of choice in the pusuit of the sweet release into transcendance: cinema.

I enjoyed Robert Downey Jr.'s performance in Iron Man because I thought he portrayed an asshole billionaire very well. Iron Man 2 was more of the same and a little less exciting for it. As is usual for a superhero sequel, a potentially wonderful supervillain was underdeveloped. Here he is in the opening credits giving vodka to a cockatoo.

That's hilarious! I want more Vanko/Cockatoo relationship development. And more Sam Rockwell! Gwyneth Paltrow spent the whole movie acting like an overwhelmed harridan. I think there was supposed to be something resembling sexual tension between her and Iron Man, but I wasn't feeling it. Scarlett Johannson was an oversexualized agent of SHIELD - I think there needs to be a movie law that a character can't have more KOs than he or she has speaking lines (exceptions for actor/director combinations that are actually talented). I think there was a TV movie called Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D but I don't know anything else about that.
If you haven't figured it out already, I'm not a Jon Favreau fan. All in all, Iron Man 2 was unexceptional; I'll probably forget all about it in a few days.

24 August 2011

20 Aug- "I hate most people"

There Will Be Blood (2007)
dir. Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, 1999)

Daniel Day-Lewis (The Last of the Mohicans, 1992)
Barry Del Sherman (Independence Day, 1996)
Paul F. Tompkins (Tangled, 2010)
Kevin Breznahan (Alive, 1995)
Jim Meskimen (Magnolia, 1999)
Ciarán Hinds (The Tale of Desperaux, 2008)
Kevin J. O'Connor (Peggy Sue Got Married, 1986)
Hans Howes (Seabiscuit, 2003)

A Professor once told me that it would be possible to construct a fairly complete history of the United States using Daniel Day-Lewis movies. I have not attempted to validate his point at this time, but I will say than DDL spends a lot of time dressed in period costume.

This story, though, is very applicable in these times of exploitation by the energy industry, and industry in general. This movie is about Daniel Plainview, a turn of the century oilman who amasses a great fortune but nevertheless ends up bitter, angry, and alone. Plainview lies to the people of the community, tricks them out of their natural resources, and profits from the land they live on. There is an antagonistic relationship between him and the town's preacher, suggesting maybe that religion and business are irreconcilable (there's something about a camel and the eye of needle, dig it?). However, the preacher, Eli Sunday, never seems like a very nice guy, either, and by the end we learn that he has squandered his money, become destitute. He tries to convince Plainview to buy the very last piece of untapped land in the community.

The scenes between Eli Sunday and Daniel Plainview are the very best in the movie. The first happens when Plainview is getting baptized to gain the trust of a community member. The second occurs when Eli visits Daniel at the end of the film. Both of these scenes are highly emotional and intensely physical - you can tell they are throwing their whole bodies into it, and it was at this point that I decided that Paul Dano is a good actor, and not just the awkward-looking teenager in Little Miss Sunshine.

The emotional aspect comes from the anti-hero's inability to create a familial bond. Despite an obvious yearning to do so, he consistently destroys every loving relationship he creates. The first is with his adopted son, who he sends away only to call back, but then disowns him at the end of the movie. The second is with the man who impersonates his brother, who, although deceptive, we can only assume was genuine in his desire for a fraternal relationship. Finally, when Eli Sunday makes the claim that he and Daniel are "brothers," Daniel loses control entirely. For this reason he ends up alone, a loser.

20 August 2011

18 Aug - "Grace doesn't try to please itself, accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked, accepts insults and injuries."

Tree of Life (2011)
dir. Terrence Malick (The New World, 2005)

Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading, 2008)
Sean Penn (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982)
Irene Bedard (Pocahontas (voice), 1995)
Michael Showers (Traffic, 2000)
Michael Dixon (Cashback, 2006)
Jessica Chastain

What I said to my buddies at Happy Hour is that Tree of Life isn't something that you watch, it's something that happens to you. It was two hours long but it felt like three and I watched the whole thing and I feel obligated to tell you all about because under no circumstances would I recommend this movie to any who is not fully prepared to appreciate film as an art form rather than a form of entertainment, because Tree of Life was heavy on the former and unproviding on the latter.

There are a few dinosaurs, though, that was honestly and truly my favorite part.

What really got my goat though were these four bitches sitting in the row in front of me -you will have to excuse me for being uncharacteristically vituperative- giggling and texting and acting like blonde bimbo pieces of shit and they are certainly lucky that they got up and left 30 minutes in or else someone was going to get some choice words from yours truly. I am above fisticuffs but I will not shy away from a biting repartee.

So - the hard part now is that I have to tell you what this movie is about, and if you ever get around to seeing it you'll realize that this isn't a easy task. The movie begins in a way that sort of sets the scene. There is a father and mother reacting to the recent death of a son. Sean Penn plays the adult version of the eldest son, and we visit with him in the future from time to time. Having set the scene, the movie resets at the origins of the universe, the biblical separation of lightness and darkness. We see the formation of galaxies and the origin of our planet in fire and boiling oceans. We see the origin of life, simple organisms up to jelly fish and sea slugs and then a wounded plesiosaur gazing mournfully at the blood ebbing from its side. At this point I decided that Malick was trying to set up an allegory. The movie begins with the epigram from the Book of Job, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" In the grand scheme, one death is of very little importance, and yet simultaneously it is the most important thing that ever happens. Nobody loves life less because he or she is small and unimportant. When the movie gets back to the part about the family, it is well before any death occurs. It seems like the story of a rather uneventful summer. It concludes with a return to grown up Sean Penn, who comes to terms with the pain of his loss, reconciles with his inner child and the rest of the painful and confusing childhood memories in a moving beach scene. Try not at this part.

You might say that Tree of Life is trying to answer the big questions. Why are we here? Why do bad things happen? We are here because we are the inevitable result of a story that began at the inception of time. We are here to accept with grace our role in this story. Bad things happen because, like the Earth itself, we are born from violence and destruction. Mountains are ground to nothing so that there is a flat earth for us to walk on - of course bad things happen!

I think that's the best I can do, and I am by no means claiming authority on the subject. Sitting through this movie was a chore for an antsy girl like me - but I feel a little better having seen it. I feel like I deserve some street cred for having seen it and being willing to talk about. Plus, every single other person who I've asked, "Have you seen any other Terrence Malick films?" has been totally clueless. So there's that. :)

18 August 2011

17 August - "Tea can do many things, Jane, but it can't bring back the dead"

Death at a Funeral (2007)

dir. Frank Oz (The Indian in the Cupboard, 1995)

Matthew Macfadyen (Grindhouse, 2007)
Andy Nyman (The Brothers Bloom, 2008)
Ewen Bremner (Black Hawk Down, 2001)
Alan Tudyk (Knight's Tale, 2001)
Kris Marshall (Love Actually, 2003)
Rubert Graves (V for Vendetta, 2006)
Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent, 2003)

One thing I'd like to point out because it deserves to be an example for the whole entertainment industry, is that while Peter Dinklage, who is a short person, was cast in the role of the deceased's gay lover, this role did not require an actor of any specific height, nor was any humor explicitly derived from the fact of his shortness. The character's height was only referred to in reference to his appearance - no one ever said anything like, "ZOMG a gay dwarf is at this party!" Which is good, because we all need to get over shit like that. If you remember the similar rant I had about whenever Michelle Rodriguez is cast in a role - it's like affirmative action, which sucks. I want to skip the affirmative action bit and get straight to the part where diversity is a thing that happens without such a fucking big deal.

So much was happening in this movie and it was really very hilarious. You'll like this if you enjoyed The Royal Tenenbaums, A Fish Called Wanda, and movies of that ilk, a big emphasis on ludicrous situational comedy and everything going awry. It's one of those movies where everyone's got some sort of drama going on and they are all getting in each other's way trying to resolve it.

16 August 2011

16 August - "I don't want to die like that French Poodle!"

Sólo Con Tu Pareja (1991)

dir. Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, 2001)

Daniel Giménez Cacho (Cabeza de Vaca, 1991)
Claudia Ramírez
Ricardo Dalmacci

It amazes me how different the cultural standards for sexuality in cinema. In this movie, there's one scene where three children running through the woods stumble upon the protagonist making noisy love with a soon-be-bride, and one of them squirts them with a water pistol. It's hilarious, but Americans would never stand for it. In America, children aren't supposed to know that sex exists, only that males and females have a tendency to pair off and somehow or another offspring consequently occur.

Another thing that sets this movie apart is that it's about a man who realizes that he's pretty much a slut, and feels bad about it. The initial plot is that Tomas isn't happy with the person he has become. He keeps screwing around with these girls and saying alternatively that, "This isn't really me," and, "a leopard can't change it's spots."

The best part is when Tomas has to "entertain" two ladies at the same time, by climbing in and out of the windows of two apartments. However, on each trip he is riveted to the window in between the two apartments, where a third woman lives, the one he is actually in love with. This woman has a man, though, and she doesn't need to play the same tedious games that Tomas is engaged in. That's what makes her so attractive and untouchable.

So one of the ladies gets wind that she's been tricked, and since she's also Tomas's nurse, she falsifies his lab results and makes him think he's got AIDS. So he decides to do the suicide thing, except then the unattainable girl finds out her fiance is sleeping around, she decides to die, too, and so both of them are going to jump off a building together, but they fall in LOVE and Tomas figures out he's not infected after all. The end.

14 August 2011

13 Aug - "It's like when people see Jesus in a pancake or something"

Devil (2010)
dir. John Erick Dowdle

Chris Messina (You've Got Mail, 1998)
Logan Marshall-Green
Jenny O'Hara (Matchstick Men, 2003)
Bojana Novakovic
Bokeem Woodbine
Geoffrey Arend (Super Troopers, 2001)
Jacob Vargas (Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, 1997)
Matt Craven (Timeline, 2003)
Joshua Peace (Lars and the Real Girl, 2007)

So, Dowdle, who I've never heard of, was the director of this movie, but M. Night Shyamalan did the story. Poor M. Night, I think he's having trouble getting directing gigs since all of his movies made so little money. Personally, I think he's a fine director, it's his stories that are too heavy-handed with the symbolism. Devil certainly has the key characteristics of a Shyamalan film, beside the fact that M. Night himself is not in the picture. First off it is set in Philadelphia, home to both M. Night Shyamalan and myself. Secondly, it's got that final act revelation that really clearly spells out how everything else in the movie is interconnected, because you wouldn't want anyone walking away after the first viewing with any misunderstanding, and that's what kills me. Signs, The Village, even The Sixth Sense had these pandering endings where they flash back to all the relevant bits and hit you over the head with this grand revelation and I'd much rather than the filmmaker give me a little credit as a thoughtful human being and let me put the pieces together on my own. That's the difference between a great film, one that demands review and reinterpretation, and a dumbass one that makes fools feel clever. It's a soft pitch, M. Night, and that's why you weren't drafted into the big leagues.

Apart from that, though, Devil was a pleasurable psychological thriller that kept you guessing for a good long while.

13 August 2011

6 Aug - "You're altogether a human being, Jane"

Jane Eyre (2011)
dir. Cary Fukunaga

Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, 2010)
Michael Fassbender (300, 2006)
Judi Dench (Chocolat, 2000)
Jamie Bell (King Kong, 2005)
Tamzin Merchant (Pride and Prejudice, 2005)
Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, 2008)
Jayne Wisener (Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2007)
Simon McBurney (The Last King of Scotland, 2006)
Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later, 2007)

This was a good pick to watch last night with my Mom (Kiefer was hanging out too, but I think he spent most of the time playing some Clone Wars game on his PSP). I never read Jane Eyre, generally because eschew novels of that period where most drama consisted of Lord So-and-so being impeded by good etiquette in his courtship of Lady Such-and-such who is rightly engaged to Lord Whatshisname and awaiting the transfer of her rich dowry and I can't really bear it. Maybe I should try harder because I liked the gothic heinousness of Lord Rochester keeping his mad wife locked in a secret room. I liked the scene in the beginning where the evil aunt locks Jane in a haunted room that has no apparent bearing on the rest of the story other than maybe to make you think that there's a ghost in the Rochester estate rather than a crazy lady.

I've just moved into a new apartment with my 17 year old cat, Patton, and he's not coping well with the change of venue. I barricaded him into a little area in the back and walks around in there - it reminds me of crazy old Mrs. Rochester locked up in the attic. So I guess that makes me Mr. Rochester, which begs the question, who would like to be my Jane?

09 August 2011

4 Aug - "I don't know much about boats, but I would say that one's upside down."

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
dir. Jon Favreau (Elf, 2003)

Daniel Craig (Elizabeth, 1998)
Harrison Ford (Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, 1977)
Olivia Wilde
Clancy Brown (The Burrowers, 1986)
Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, 2006)
Chris Browning (3:10 to Yuma, 2007)
Adam Beach (Smoke Signals, 1998)
Ana de la Reguera (Nacho Libre, 2006)
Noah Ringer (The Last Airbender, 2010)
Toby Huss (Vegas Vacation, 1997)
Walton Goggins (Shanghai Noon, 2000)
David O'Hara (Braveheart, 1995)
Raoul Trujillo (Black Robe, 1991)
David Midthunder (The Burrowers, 1986)
Charlene Adams

One thing that I decided during this movie is that Sam Rockwell has got to be my #1 actor crush, which seems silly when there's a whole bevy of Adonises to choose from but, Lord help me, I've got a thing for character actors and Sam Rockwell always plays that clueless and sort of sleazy guy and it just kills me. I'm silly.

On the point, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Cowboys & Aliens, but it also failed to meet many of my expectations, and to be sure I had a lot of expectations going into this movie.

My first thought was that the core concept was very clever, because western films encapsulate the idealized values of the perfect American citizen. Independent, hardworking, honorable, etc. I firmly believe that in our (white American) hearts, we all desperately want to be cowboys because it represents a human of higher quality than we see ourselves to be (City Slickers in particular made a profit off this theme). Alien movies, on the other hand, are about xenophobia, protecting the interior from frightening and strange external forces and entities. Who better to protect America from scary aliens than the ideal American everyman/hero?

To this effect, I expected Cowboys & Aliens to use more of the motifs and thematic elements typical of the traditional western narrative. There was some of that: the decaying mining town, the impotence of official law enforcement, but this was also a very modern movie, especially in the development of relationships.

I was reading some internet articles about the movie and I have to say that they made some good points. The first thing is that the pairing of Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig should have overwhelmed us with the glorious union of their manliness, but the dynamic between the two actors fizzled. They didn't actually share very much screentime. They didn't work well together, and what should have been a friendship didn't really feel very fraternal at all. Big fail on that.

Also, I don't think Olivia Wilde's character should have been in the movie. Her presence as a love interest was unnecessary, and detracted from the emotional weight of Jake's wife's death via abduction, which was actually a very disturbing scene. Wilde's brief backstory was outlandish (in a science-ficiton movie, no less) and I don't really need to know where the aliens came from or why they are on Earth or why they are kidnapping and killing humans (to learn our weaknesses? Really? We are soft meaty bodies. Is it necessary to know more than one way to skin a cat?)

Part of the advantage of the old west setting should be that the audience can engage in the bafflement of the characters. Bright lights? Flying machines?? Are they demons?

On the other hand, old time people had to confront insane levels of novelty all of the time. What if you just saw a giant anteater walking around one day, and nothing you had ever experienced you before had prepared you for the experience. They are crazy looking and you would just have to deal with that. You want to know why old timey people believed in monsters? It's because they saw monsters all of the time.
So I think that Jake Lonergan and Corporal Dolarhyde would be a lot less interested in learning about who the aliens are and what they want, than figuring out where they live and how to kill them. I think we would have been better served with a little mystery than a naked Olivia Wilde explaining how she took human on this planet to make certain the invaders would not destroy the earth as well.

08 August 2011

4 Aug - "I'm gonna strip away this mystery and expose it's private parts"

Rango (2011)
dir. Gore Verbinski (Mousehunt, 1997)

Ned Beatty (Back to School, 1986)
Gil Birmingham (Eclipse, 2010)
Abigail Breslin (Zombieland, 2009)
Johnny Depp (Dead Man, 1995)
Isla Fisher (I Heart Huckabees, 2004)
Charles Fleischer (Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (voice), 1988)
Beth Grant (Flatliners, 1990)
Alfred Molina (Dead Man, 1995)
Joe Nunez (Superbad, 2007)
Timothy Olyphant (First Wives Club, 1996)
Stephen Root (Ghost, 1990)
Harry Dean Stanton (Alien, 1979)
Ray Winstone (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, 2005)

Good Lord! Finally I see a computer animated movie that I actually like! I feel that Rango had an interesting and compelling plot that was both intensely amusing as well as attaining a level of emotional depth that I thought was appropriate for the material. The character development was tangible and neither the thematic element nor the humor insulted my intelligence. Kiefer was so pleased when we chose this off the On Demand that he gave me a long tight hug, so clearly it was a hit with the younger audience as well, proving my long-standing assertion that you don't need to dumb down the material to make kids happy. Let's treat children like clever and insightful individuals and, God willing, they may become such.

This was fun for me last time, so I thought I'd do another brief interview with my little brother, Kiefer.

P: Can you tell me what Rango was about?

K: Well, it started out from a lizard, or should I say, whatever you want to call it, a chameleon. Is that right?

P: Yep.

K: The chameleon, also known as Rango, who's told from a armadillo that he found outside of Rango's little box in the car--he didn't have any real friends until that armadillo showed up with little tire marks on him...

P: Hang on, Kief, you don't need to give a whole play-by-play, you can just sort of sum it all up.

K: It's kind of hard to tell because it's a long story. I don't really remember most of it but I do think it's a good movie.

P: Did you like Rango better than Gnomeo & Juliet or Tangled?

K: It's kind of hard to say 'cause they're all animated, which is equal. And they're all different kind of comedies, that's equal. I can't really compare it because they're almost the same and equally divided, and they're all comedies. So I don't really know what would be better, because they're only movies and they're all animated and they're comedies and they're all, like, journeys.

P: I don't know if Gnomeo & Juliet was really a journey.

K: I said sort of like a journey.

P: OK, sorry. Did you like the way the characters talked in Rango?

K: Yeah, you could say, but I don't understand why that would be a question because different people talk in different ways. But I also wonder if all the voices are done by the same person like Looney Tunes.

P: Did you think it was harder to understand than Gnomeo & Juliet?

K: No, not really.

P: OK, one last question. What do you think is the most important thing for a really good movie?

K: Most of the time I think it would be the thrill or a journey that takes place. Or something happens to someone really poor or really alone with no friends and ends up to be in a journey for life and death, just like Jane Eyre.

Last night Kiefer and I and our Mom watched Jane Eyre On Demand. So I guess that's why he stuck it in there at the end. I guess if you think of it that way, Rango is a little bit like Jane Eyre, minus the madwoman locked in the attic. I suppose what we could glean from this is that kids don't really know what they're watching, so there's no reason the adults have to be utterly bored and maybe some of those big words are penetrating the subconscious. In conclusion: Rango = more like this please.

07 August 2011

31 July - "the first week of summer, a strange and breathless time"

Tuck Everlasting (2002)

dir. Jay Russell (Ladder 49, 2004)

Alexis Bledel (Sin City, 2005)
William Hurt (The Big Chill, 1983)
Sissy Spacek (Carrie, 1976)
Jonathan Jackson
Scott Bairstow
Ben Kingsley (Species, 1995)
Amy Irving (Carrie, 1976)
Victor Garber (Sleepless in Seattle, 1993)
Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, 1995)

This movie definitely tends towards the sweet and sentimental. I might pop it on the shelf next to A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, but of course this can't really approach the special place I've got in my heart for those two treasured classics. I never read read the book, but I think I might like too. The plot is endearingly simple. The main character, Winnie, runs away from her strict parents and discovers the fountain of youth in the forest and a family of immortals. Winnie has dual conflicts, first to protect the Tuck's secret, and second to decide whether or not she should drink from the fountain and join them.

There is also a very sinister villain known only as the Man in a Yellow Suit. I think I would have liked to know more about him. There's one scene where he's sitting in a graveyard, perhaps contemplating his own mortality, and the priest comes by to say hi or something and the man in the yellow suit starts talking like what would you pay to live forever and the priest says, "You speak blasphemy," and the man in the yellow says, "fluently." I would like to know what makes that guy's heart so dark, and it was clever to make him wear such a lively colored outfit.

The immortality trope begins to wear thin, though. I mean in other movies like those ones about vampires or whatever and the people are always complaining about what a drag it is. But there's that awesome element to it as well, like, all the benefits. So what it there was a magical fountain that would allow you to live for, say, 500 years? or 1000? Would the negative aspects of immortality be tolerable if you knew there was an expiration date? Because the benefits seem pretty sweet. Not that I'm trying to provoke a Faustian deal or anything. Maybe I had better stop talking about it.

But the Bible talks about lifespans that were many times greater than we have here in reality. Methusalah, Noah, those types lives like 300 or 400 years or something. I guess they had to live that long to get about the business of populating the earth. Which reminds me of something else that been bothering me and has nothing to do whatsoever with Tuck Everlasting (which is an entirely compelling movie but I think I've grown bored with the topic and so I'm going to talk about the Young Earth Creationism instead). I met a gentleman a few months ago who told me that he did not believe the Earth to be much older than 6000 years. I don't have a problem with that standpoint but I do have a problem with the underlying logic. Archbishop Ussher was the first guy (I say that, but he was probably preceded by some lesser known Hebrew scholars) to calculate the age of the Earth to be about 6000 years old (he proposed the exact date of creation to be Sunday, the 23rd of October, 4004 BC). He did this by very carefully reading through the Old Testament and calculating the passage of time by the number of generations, because the Bible is really specific about who begat who and suchlike.

But if the Bible says that Noah died when he was 950, then obviously we can't be throwing around assumptions about the length of generational time. Ussher was throwing a crap shoot. And I read that the reason that all those ages are so big is because the Sumerian number system wasn't translated correctly into Greek, so Ussher wasn't even working with accurate sums!

So I say that it's cool if you're into literal Biblical interpretation and want to believe that fossils are red herrings buried underground by Satan to test your faith and that the uniform growth rates of coral reefs are something that you just ignore. But I don't think that the Young Earth Hypothesis, as based upon 17th century mathematical data, has any grounding in accurate Biblical interpretation whatsoever, and so the support of such data should in no way be considered the duty of any good Christian.

That chick was in Gilmore Girls.

06 August 2011

28 July - "Why must you wear a blue hat?"

Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)
dir. Kelly Asbury (Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron)

James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland, 2006)
Emily Blunt (The Wolfman, 2010)
Ashley Jensen (How to Train Your Dragon (voice), 2010)
Michael Caine (Zulu, 1964)
Matt Lucas (Shaun of the Dead, 2004)
Dolly Parton (Steel Magnolias, 1999)
Maggie Smith (The Secret Garden, 1993)
Jason Statham (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, 1998)
Ozzy Osbourne (Moulin Rouge! (voice), 2001)
Stephen Merchant (The Invention of Lying, 2009)
Patrick Stewart (The Plague Dogs (voice), 1982)
Hulk Hogan
Jim Cummings (Castle in the Sky (voice: Disney English version), 1986)
Julie Walters (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 12010)

Another pick by Kiefer! You can probably imagine the plot setup, red gnomes v. blue gnomes, and, no, there isn't a tragic ending. There are some cute one-liners and I liked the pink lawn flamingo. The take home message was that feuding is wholly unproductive, on the other hand, there was absolutely nothing creative about this movie, and nothing was accomplished by its existence. I wish the entertainment industry would get its act together and stop shoving bullshit down children's throats, because movies like this, while they are a little bit funny and have a transparent moral and lots of bright colors, aren't teaching them anything and are utterly uninspirational.

I think maybe it could have been saved if the Romeo and Juliet thing was less literal. We love the forbidden love theme. We loved West Side Story. Instead someone barfed out the sparknotes version of Shakespeare and tacked on a happy ending instead.

However, they did manage to make a movie that Kiefer liked. So I decided to interview him about it.

P: Kiefer, what did you think of Gnomeo and Juliet?

K: It's the same thing except there's red and blues and they're gnomes. Except they don't die at the end. I think it was pretty good. I don't know why it's good. I just seem to sort of like it.

P: What do you know about Romeo and Juliet?

K: I don't really know exactly because it's hard to remember all of it. At the Renaissance Fair the tale was told, but that was a week ago. I don't really remember. All I know is that at the end Romeo think Juliet is dead and so he sacrifices himself and then it was just a drink that made her go to sleep and so she killed herself.

P: Do you like happy endings or sad endings

K: No, I like both.

P: Why?

K: Why? Because no matter what ending it is. If it's a sad or it's a happy ending, it either turns out to be one thing or the other.

P: That's the truth. Having seen Gnomeo and Juliet, are you more interested in reading Shakespearean literature?

K: Well, it doesn't really make me interested because I don't really have the time. Because I'm reading a book right now in a series I really like, Percy Jackson series, and then I have to start the Redwall books. I might, but I'll probably take a little more time. I might get interested when I'm older if I get history class.

P: What did you learn

K: I just wanted to watch it. I didn't really learn anything because I heard the tale at renaissance camp. I just heard a different version, with gnomes. They just turned the Montague blue and the Capulet red. It's just kind of confusing to have different things like red, blue, Montague and Capulet because there's four different things, red, blue, Montague and Capulet. In the gnome movie they only have one Montague and one Capulet. In the real version they have a whole family of Montagues and Capulets. It turns out to be almost the same in a more gnomeo version.

P: But what about how fighting tears people apart, and the importance of forgiveness?

K: Well if you just understand it won't turn into violence, but then if it gets a little bit rough violence will turn into more violence. But it could just lead to being more ashamed of your own self.

P: From the mouths of babes...

05 August 2011

27 July - "I am already grown up. I just get older."

The Professional (1994)

dir. Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, 1997)

Jean Reno (La Femme Nikita, 1990)
Gary Oldman (Air Force One, 1997)
Natalie Portman (Heat, 1995)
Danny Aiello (2 Days in the Valley, 1996)
Michael Badalucco (Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985)
Robert LaSardo (Waterworld, 1995)
Adam Busch (Sugar & Spice, 2001)
Jernard Burks (The Hangover, 2009)
Peter Linari (Men in Black, 1997)
Maïwenn Le Besco (The Fifth Element, 1997)
Don Creech (The Island, 2005)

What a wonderful movie - this one is tops. I added the "Favority Favorites" tag - because that's for movies that I think are high caliber. First: Gary Oldman as the villain = genius. And he does this thing where he takes drugs or something before he did anything really evil and it was just so totally Oldman. He's tops, my favorite actor, I think.

Natalie Portman is also awesome, she's like ten or so in this movie and you can really tell that even at that point she was a skilled actress. Jean Reno, the star, is also fabulous, but unfortunately his entire career is pretty much the one role. In fact, I usually just refer to him as "that French actor" and people usually understand who I mean.

The Professional is the movie which, for me, at least, defines the older man-younger girl relationship theme. Natalie Portman's character isn't just looking for a father figure - she's clinging the best family she's ever known with the least likely candidate, the hitman who lives down the hall.

For me, the most moving scene in the movie is when Leon goes to see his boss, played by the quintessentially Italian Danny Aiello. At this point we see that Leon isn't exactly the brusque tough guy that we imagined him to be, and certainly not the untouchable tough that other hitmen movies present with their characters. Aiello dominates Leon, he can barely get a word in edgewise. We learn that he is illiterate, let's the Italian manage all of his money. Leon is afraid to ask for what is his. He's meek. The girl gives him something to stand up for. She gives him something to live for. It's phenomenal acting, there's a vulnerability in both the protagonists that is all too rare in this sort of movie. Because it's an action movie and ostensibly there's no room for emotion, but that's wrong. The subtlety of the emotion is what makes it work.

04 August 2011

26 July - "What happened to the rabbit, Valerie?"

Red Riding Hood (2011)
dir. Catherine Hardewick (Twilight, 2008)

Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, 2004)
Gary Oldman (True Romance, 1993)
Billy Burke (Eclipse, 2010)
Shiloh Fernandez
Max Irons
Virginia Madsen (Sideways, 2004)
Luke Haas (Witness, 1985)
Julie Christie (Fahrenheit 451, 1966)
Christine Willes (The Wicker Man, 2006)
Michael Adamthwaite (New Moon, 2009)
Dalias Blake

The name of the game, apparently, is fairy tale reinterpretations. I was hoping this movie about Little Red Riding Hood would be like Snow White: A Tale of Terror, but this was so much more like bubblegum pop-drama with pretty teenagers than a Grimm fairy tale horror.

As in Twilight, the heroine's desire to run away with the boy she likes is the primary concern, but she has a few reservations concerning a werewolf. Valerie's life outside of Peter, the bad-boy (he's always wearing black!) orphan woodcutter and Henry, the nice-guy her mother wants her to marry, is virtually nonexistent. She has two friends without personalities, and one of them turns out to be kind of mean. The big mystery is that we (with help from Gary Oldman, who is lovely and hyper-talented as always, injecting some character drama into this shallow movie) have to figure out who the werewolf is, and what its connection to Valerie is (the revelation will shock and surprise you!). What do I think? Swing and a miss.

03 August 2011

26 July- "Let's just assume for the moment that everyone in here doesn't like me"

Tangled (2010)
dir. Nathan Greno, Byron Howard (Bolt, 2008)

Mandy Moore (The Princess Diaries, 2001)
Zachary Levi
Donna Murphy (Spiderman 2, 2004)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy, 2004)
M.C. Gainey (The Haunting, 1999)
Jeffrey Tambor (Flypaper, 2011)
Brad Garrett (A Bug's Life, 1998)
Paul F. Tompkins (Magnolia (voice), 1999)

So much for a summer filled with catching up on all the high-culture cinema I missed in the theaters the first time around. Instead I've pretty much been caving whenever my little brother wants to pick the evening's movie (he's 8!). Yesterday my Momma went to a dinner party or something, so it was a Kiefer-Paris day. I asked him what he wanted for dinner in advance, and he said chicken wings. So I made some really nice wings roasted with garlic and sweet onion, and then Kiefer helped me make a honey-mustard sauce. We also had cucumber salad and coconut-mango-strawberry smoothies. Am I the best big sister?? Preliminary polls suggest that yes, I am the best big sister. Then we took Timber to the dog park and Kiefer practiced catching with his new lacrosse stick, and then we came home and Kiefer asked if we could watch Tangled. And so we did.

I think this would have been really cute if it had been animated for realzies (I mean with pencils and shit) but as it was it was still okay. It seemed like there had been a half-hearted attempt to add in some musical numbers in the style of classic Disney animated motion pictures, but these songs were sporadic, unmemorable, and sort of awkward to sit through.

Rapunzel is such a familiar story I'm surprised it hasn't been interpreted into a movie already, but it has and I just missed it. I suppose the reason for that is that it's sort of an uneventful story. How much can you elaborate on a girl trapped in a tower? It would seem to follow the formula of the older Disney movies, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, passively waiting for their princes rather than much more dynamic characters like Jasmine, Ariel, and Belle, who are adventurous and gutsy. This movie solves that problem by giving Rapunzel and MacGuffin-sort-of-goal, to see the floating lights in the sky on her birthday, which are in fact lanterns released by her royal Ma and Pa mourning their missing princess. In ths way, while Rapunzel is fearful of the world and utterly naive, she also has a determination which allows her to conquer her conflicts. Flynn Ryder, her roguish love interest, is more often in need of Rapunzel's assistance than the other way around.

But in my opinion, this story omitted the most compelling part of the Rapunzel story, which is the beginning, when the pregnant mother, in the intensity of her hormonal cravings, demands that her husband steal the rapunzel growing the neighbor's garden, and when he is caught, the punishment is that the parents must give up their child to their neighbor, who was a witch. In this way, the parents weren't blameless. They were greedy and so they lost their kid. In this movie, instead of craving the rapunzel plant, the mother is very sick and requires a magic flower hidden by the witch, which she uses for everlasting youth. I think the key is that the witch uses the flower sustainably, while the royal family destroys the flower while using it to save the queen. The princess is born with the remnants of the magic flower, which gives her hair healing properties as long as it is uncut, at which point the power is lost, and so the witch conspires to keep Rapunzel in a tower and never cut her hair, so the witch may continue to use the magic to retain her youth.

So the parents are portrayed as blameless and the witch as greedy, but really they are the same, because if such a magic flower exists, it should be used to help many people, and not just one person. The Queen destroyed the magic flower because she thought her life was more valuable than the witch's or anyone else's, but they don't talk about that. This is a good vs. evil story.