31 December 2011

Dec 30 - "What is this new devilry?"

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
dir. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002)

Sean Astin (The Goonies, 1985)
Sean Bean (National Treasure, 2004)
Cate Blanchett (Robin Hood, 2010)
Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown, 2005)
Billy Boyd (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, 2003)
Marton Csokas (Timeline, 2003)
Ian Holm (Alice Through the Looking Glass, TV 1998)
Christopher Lee (Return from Witch Mountain, 1978)
Ian McKellen (X-Men, 2000)
Dominic Monaghan (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 2009)
Viggo Mortensen (Appaloosa, 2008)
Craig Parker (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, 2009)
John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981)
Andy Serkis (13 Going on 30, 2004)
Liv Tyler (Empire Records, 1995)
Hugo Weaving (Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (voice), 2010)
Elijah Wood (Back to the Future Part II, 1989)

I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended edition, obviously) with my little brother over the course of three nights around the new year. He kept interrupting to ask whether or not a certain scene was "extended edition" or not. I said, "no, I think this was original" or, "yeah, this seems new and different."

Watching this movie reminds me of when I was just a little kid, maybe around Kiefer's age or maybe younger, and my older brother & I sat in my mom's big bed whie she read us The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I don't know know how far along we got in Tolkien's great trilogy--I'm also certain we never finished it--but I always rememer how I scared I was at the part where Frodo is leaving the Shire for the first time in his whole life, and the Black Riders are chasing him and he and Sam and Merry and Pippin are all hiding under the embankment on the side of the road and the Black Rider is right on top of them but somehow they manage to escape anyway. That was a very scary scene.

I also remember the par to of the book where Frodo tries to give the ring away to Galadriel, and she becomes a very scary and terrible version of herself and tells him that if she were to have the ring she would become as terrible as Sauron, that "all would love me and despair" but then she sort of wilts back to her normal self and declares that she had always wondered if she would be able to pass the test that Frodo had just put to her, and since she had she would herself begin to fade away.

Of course there are dozens of great nuggets to pull out, but it's hard for me to say that The Fellowship of the Ring really works well as a movie. It's too episodic, like three movies crammed into two and a half hours. First Frodo and his pals have to flee the shire, the threat of the black riders is introduced, then they meet Aragorn, who escalates the action, then they have to fight the black riders at Weathertop and Frodo is wounded, then they have to race to Elrond's place to heal Aragorn. That would be a movie in itself, but they the romance between Aragorn and Arwen is introduced, we meet Boromir and his impending doom is foreshadowed, the Fellowship is finally introduced and the gang sets off with high spirits to Mordor. They have to change routes twice and finally decided on the scary route through the mines of Moria. They have to fight a lot of goblins and ogres and orcs in the mines and Gandalf dies. There's another little narrative arc for you, but THEN there's still another forty minutes in which the gang reaches Galadriel's kingdom and some more foreshadowing ensues. Boromir gets darker and darker until he finally tries to roughhouse Frodo who runs away with Sam, meanwhile the crew is attacked by the Uruk-hai (which are introduced at some point prior as hybrid super-soldiers, also it's established that Saruman is a bad guy with a vendetta against trees and I forgot to mention the part where Gandalf rides an eagle) and Boromir dies and Pippin and Merry are captured. I think that's how it ends but I'm sure there's even a bit of denoument tagged onto that.

So you see as a saga it's very engaging, but as a movie the storyline isn't tight enough. There are too many highs and lows. That's not to say I demand an easily digested plot that doesn't make me think too hard, but even so there's only so much time I can spend sitting still. Trying to get it all into one movie was a worthy effort, luckily I think the next two movies did much better.

30 December 2011

26 Dec - "humans don't like smart ape"

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
dir. Rupert Wyatt

Brian Cox (Braveheart, 1995)
Tom Felton (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, 2010)
James Franco (Never Been Kissed, 1999)
Leah Gibson (Eclipse, 2010)
Jamie Harris (Princess Caraboo, 1994)
David Hewlett (Where the Heart is, 1990)
Chelah Horsdal (On Strike for Christmas, TV 2010)
Adrian Hough (X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006)
Tyler Labin (Zack and Miri Make a Porno, 2008)
John Lithgow (Skrek (voice), 2001)
Ty Olsson (Lake Placid, 1999)
David Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland, 2006)
Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire, 2008)
Dean Redmond (2012, 2009)
Jesse Reid (Watchmen, 2009)
David Richmond-Peck (The Day the Earth Stood Still, 2008)
Sean Tyson (2012, 2009)

I feel like this movie has already been reviewed to death and since I'm clearly a latecomer to this game I'll keep the report necessarily brief. Yes, the CGIed Ceasar had a lot of attitude. Yes, you might say the moral of the story is that 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'

Maybe this is because I was sort of in&out for the first twenty minutes or so, but I don't understand why James Franco's character didn't send baby Ceasar to a wildlife refuge immediately, that seems totally irresponsible. Anybody who knows anything about chimpanzees knows that they are accidents waiting to happen. Ceasar attacking the neighbor with a bad attitude wasn't just an unfortunate misunderstanding, it was practically inevitable. Chimps are awfully smart, but they are also meeeaaan animals.

The other point I feel compelled to point out (and this is nit-picky) is that they wouldn't have been doing medical experiments on chimps, they would have been doing them on rhesus monkeys. And finally, if the virus makes chimps super-smart but kills humans, it doesn't seem likely that the virus would have the same effect on orangutans as it does on chimps, because orangs have much less in common with chimps than humans do, which is to say that we are all almost identical, but orangutans are slightly more differentiated than the African apes (which are chimps, gorillas, and humans)

That being said, there's plenty of room for a sequel (a sequel to the prequel), which I have no doubt will be forthcoming. How does a pack of multi-species apes expand from a small home base in the California redwood forest to world domination? What do they eat in the redwood forest? Pine needles? Does their group even include females? Are female super-intelligent apes capable of demanding equal rights from their male counterparts or do the baser ape instinctive social order still apply? SO many questions have been left unanswered...

My last point is that is was pretty cool when Cesar NO! to Draco Malfoy, but I wasn't into it when he said "Cesar is home" to James Franco at the end. Apes don't have the physiological capability of speech. It makes a sort of sense that this ability could evolve in the thousands of years it takes until Charlton Heston arrives on the scene. But within a lifespan? Impossible. "No" is not a particularly difficult syllable. If they can teach a Siberian Husky to say "I Love You," I can believe that a super smart chimp can shout a mono-syllabic protest. That scene was very exciting, it was like I wasn't quite certain I had heard correctly until he repeated himself. And I was scared because it was unearthly and just wrong. But they that final scene detracted from the earlier climax. Not only was it unbelievable, but I think even if a super-intelligent ape learned to speak English, he wouldn't talk like Tarzan and he would know how to pronouns. I think it was a mistake.

29 December 2011

22 Dec - "Are you so naive as to think that they won't battle their own extinction?"

X-Men: First Class (2011)
dir. Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, 2010)

David Agranov (Just Married, 2003)
Kevin Bacon (Planes, Trains & Automobiles, 1987)
Randall Batinkoff (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1992)
Jason Beghe (Thelma & Louise, 1991)
Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids, 2011)
Matt Craven (Devil, 2010)
Don Creech (The Professional, 1994)
Tony Curran (The 13th Warrior, 1999)
Michael Fassbender (Jane Eyre, 2011)
Brendan Fehr (A Christmas Kiss, TV 2011)
Jason Flemyng (Spice World, 1997)
Edi Gathegi (Twilight, 2008)
Demetri Goritsas (National Treasure: Book of Secrets, 2007)
Michael Ironside (Desert Blue, 1998)
Corey Johnson (Kick-Ass, 2010)
January Jones (Love Actually, 2003)
Zoe Kravitz (Twelve, 2010)
Olek Krupa (Burn After Reading, 2008)
Jennifer Lawrence
Morgan Lily (2012, 2009)
James McAvoy (Gnomeo & Juliet (voice), 2011)
Glenn Morshower (The Crazies, 2010)
Oliver Platt (Love and Other Drugs, 2010)
Sasha Pieterse (Good Luck Chuck, 2007)
Ludger Pistor (The Informant!, 2009)
James Remar (Pineapple Express, 2008)
Rade Serbedzija (Middle Men, 2009)
Lucas Till (Hannah Montana: The Movie, 2009)

I love the X-Men. I think they're a hoot and a half, but the problem with a movie like this is you're sacrificing character development for the insertion of a panoply of characters which are already beloved in the canon. So they say, "Oh, more people will see the movie if it has Emma Frost, Havok, Sebastian Shaw, etc., plus the characters we liked best in the other movies, like Mystique" and then you've got all these characters bumping around and it just muddles up the story. My favorite movies have small casts. Another problem was that the development of the conflict wasn't very well thought out. The main story should have been about Sebastian Shaw and his cronies attempting to incite war between the U.S. and Russia (Although even now I'm sure exactly why this was the case except a vague Magneto-esk desire to assert Mutant superiority). This challenge should have been faced and overcome by Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, and framed in the development and then demise of their friendship. Instead we get all sorts of identity issues from Mystique and Beast and a bunch of other young mutants thrown in for zazzle without actual depth and relationships. The episodic unraveling of the plot made me feel like the story lacked clarity and cohesion, so while there were good elements and good scenes, I couldn't say with confidence that this is a good movie.

28 December 2011

24 Dec - "When I grow up and get married, I'm living alone"

Home Alone (1990)
dir. Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, 2001)

Mark Beltzman (Employee of the Month, 2004)
John Candy (Canadian Bacon, 1995)
Kieran Culkin (The Cider House Rules, 1999)
Macaulay Culkin (Saved!, 2004)
Hope Davis (The Matador, 2005)
Matt Doherty (Ghost World, 2001)
Bill Erwin (The Land Before Time (voice), 1988)
Angela Goethals (Spanglish, 2004)
Larry Hankin (Vegas Vacation, 1997)
John Heard (Desert Blue, 1998)
Sandra Macat (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, 1992)
Michael C. Maronna (Slackers, 2002)
Catherine O'Hara (Where the Wild Things Are (voice), 2009)
Jim Ortlieb (A Mighty Wind, 2003)
Joe Pesci (8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, 1997)
Peter Siragusa (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (voice), 2009)
Daniel Stern (City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold, 1994)
Ray Toler (A League of Their Own, 1992)
Alan Wilder (A League of Their Own, 1992)

Believe it or not, this was the first time I saw Home Alone: original flavor. I was surprised that I liked Lost in New York slightly better, but that did not detract from the pleasantness of this Christmas classic. Something about the extraordinary amount of punishment these two crooks can endure without permanent injury is amazing to me, and thoroughly enjoyable. I guess I haven't seen enough slapstick in children's comedies.

I also liked the counter-narrative of Kevin's mother, which isn't as strong in the sequel. The irony is that in her desire to return home as quickly as possible, she has to resort to a variety of planes, trains & automobiles (helped out by good Samaritan John Candy, of course!) but in the end she only arrives moments before the rest of the family, who waited in France a few days before catching the next available flight home. But the important thing is that she worked for it, right? Sometimes when I'm caught in traffic I'll take a much longer alternative route, even though I'm not certain if I'm actually saving time. The illusion of movement gives purpose to the journey.

27 December 2011

17 Dec - "You done burned every bridge there is"

The Help (2011)
dir. Tate Taylor

Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life, 2011)
Viola Davis (It's Kind of a Funny Story, 2010)
Becky Fly (The Last Exorcism, 2010)
Bryce Dallas Howard (Eclipse, 2010)
Dana Ivey (The Addams Family, 1991)
Allison Janney (Piccadilly Jim, 2006)
Ashley Johnson (What Women Want, 2000)
Brian Kerwin (27 Dresses, 2008)
Ahna O'Reilly (Nancy Drew, 2007)
David Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland, 2006)
Sissy Spacek (Tuck Everlasting, 2002)
Octavia Spencer  (Never Been Kissed, 1999)
Mary Steenburgen (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993)
Emma Stone (Zombieland, 2009) 
Cicely Tyson (Fried Green Tomatoes, 1991)
Mike Vogel (Cloverfield, 2008)

I watched The Help with my Aunt Holly and my stepmother, Sarah, back on our trip back to Philly from Athens when winter break started. Aunt Holly said that watching a movie together was our new tradition. Luckily, this movie was a lot more family-friendly than the last movie we watched together.

The Help was interesting for me to watch because I sort of empathized with Emma Stone's character as an a sort of anthropologist. In fact, what I was most afraid of about anthropology was that it meant i would become a person who takes things away without giving anythign back in return. Which was the big risk that the main girl was taking. Her informants, the maids, had everything to lose, while the writer had everything to gain. There is still a power differential there even if Emma Stone's character is still super well-meaning and nice.

Of course, in the movie everything works out for the best. The maids are not lynched and they get a portion of the book profits and the snooty white socialite is thouroughlly chagrined, even if she doesn't actually reflect on her ways. This is very rare in reality, where the rule of unintended consequences almost always reigns supreme.

26 December 2011

16 Dec - "Nobody likes a finger pointed at them"

Middle Men (2009)
dir. George Gallo

Luke Wilson (Scream 2, 1997)
Giovanni Ribisi (SubUrbia, 1996)
James Caan (Elf, 2003)
Jacinda Barrett (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, 2004)
Kevin Pollak (Wayne's World 2, 1993)
Laura Ramsey (She's the Man, 2006)
Terry Crews (Terminator Salvation, 2009)
Rade Serbedzija (The Saint, 1997)
Kelsey Grammer (Anastasia (voice), 1997)
Robert Forster (Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, 2003)
John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop, 1984)
Jason Antoon (Minority Report, 2002)
Martin Kove (The Karate Kid, 1984)
Claudia Jordan (S1m0ne, 2002)

I never really like this kind of movie, so I don't know why I keep coming to them. I guess because other folks are into it and I always respect the opinions of others and those of random articles I read on the internet. I'm just not that interested by bureaucratic drama, and that makes the AHA! moment at the end sort of anticlimatic, because I'm not that excited by Luke Wilson writing the wrong date on a document and wheedling his way out of criminal charges. That's not very heroic, in my mind.

Since it's been almost a whole month since I actually watched this movie (sorry about being ridiculously behind on my posting again) I'm gonna leave it at that. Upcoming reviews: Home Alone, War Horse, and the LOTR trilogy!

25 December 2011

15 Dec - "Life is lonely, boring, and dumb"

The Doom Generation (1995)
dir. Greg Araki

James Duval (Independence Day, 1996)
Rose McGowan (Devil in the Flesh, 1998)
Cress Williams (2 Days in the Valley, 1996)
Margaret Cho (Face/Off, 1997)
Johnathon Schaech (Poison Ivy II, 1996)
Nicky Katt (The 'burbs, 1989)
Parker Posey (Blade: Trinity, 2004)

I can honestly say that this is one of the better movies that I've seen recently, and I'm going to stick it at the top of my list of movies about disaffected teenagers. The writing was phenomenal, I liked a lot of the one-liners and I had a hard time picking one to title this post. Here are the runners-up:

"That guy has the intelligence of a stool sample"
"Ever felt like reality is more twisted than dreams?"
"'I love you' can mean a lot of things, like, 'you'll do until someone better comes along,' or, 'I don't know how I feel but this is what I'm supposed to say,' or, 'shut up, I'm watching TV'"

So basically you've got these three kids, Xavier, the one on the bottom, kills a convenience store clerk and Amy and Jordan get implicated and all three go on the lamb together. Jordan is naive and optimistic, Amy is enraged and hateful, and Xavier is batshit crazy. But Amy really loves Jordan, even though she starts sleeping with Xavier, too, and Jordan always forgives Amy whenever she does anything awful to him. I guess the point is that the kids are apathetic about the world because the world is apathetic about them. They don't think about the future, only the present moment. There's symbolism in this movie, albeit unsubtle. Everytime they stop at a convenience store the total is $6.66, and Amy keeps getting misrecognized by strangers who call her Sunshine, Kitten, etc., and their rage at Amy's refusal to be recognized is homicidal.

Sometimes I've got to watch this kind of nihilistic movie just to make myself feel sane again. It's a road movie with no MacGuffin, and then at the end they just keep driving onwards without a destination, like it doesn't even matter if they get there or not.

24 December 2011

14 Dec - "I was just hoping for more of an old-fashioned Christmas"

A Christmas Kiss (TV 2011)
dir. John Stimson

Elisabeth Rohm (Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, 2005)
Brendan Fehr (Final Destination, 2000)

I missed the first few minutes of this Christmas TV movie, and from what I gathered from the subsequent dialogue, they were the most important part of the movie. You see, Wendy is an aspiring interior decorator working with the bitchy socialite Priscilla Hall (as in, 'deck the...' Sometime during the beginning of the movie, Wendy kisses a strange man in the elevator for some reason, but UH OH! It's actually Priscilla's fiance (but he doesn't recognize Wendy later?), but she doesn't really love him, she just thinks they are a good match in social status, and also SHE HATES CHRISTMAS!!!

Because Wendy is in charge of designing the Christmas party at Adam's house, she spends an awful lot of time there with him alone, and eventually they bond over their mutual love of Christmas and holiday spirit. Unfortunately, Adam is the thickest male love interest ever, and he takes forever to figure out that Priscilla had nothing to do with the design plans for the Christmas party, and basically just does whatever she says. Wendy is a worse protagonist than Fanny from Mansfield Park , all she does is whine about how scared she is of losing her job with Priscilla and how she's too scared to tell Adam that she's the one he kissed in the elevator and it's so obvious that they're meant to be together. Ultimately, she takes no assertive action to secure her own happy ending.

23 December 2011

13 Dec - "Obviously, doctor, you've never been a 13 year-old girl"

The Virgin Suicides (1999)
dir. Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2003)

James Woods (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (voice), 2001)
Josh Hartnett (The Faculty, 1998)
Kathleen Turner (Peggy Sue Got Married, 1986)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)
Danny Devito (Romancing the Stone, 1984)
Hanna Hall (Forrest Gump, 1994)
A.J. Cook (Final Destination 2, 2003)
Robert Schwartzman (The Princess Diaries, 2001)
Kirsten Dunst (Elizabethtown, 2005)
Hayden Christensen (Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones, 2002)
Giovanni Ribisi (voice) (That Thing You Do!, 1996)

This movie is one of those surprising examples of how Kirsten Dunst can act pretty damn well when she's cast in the right role. In fact, this movie was surprising in a lot of ways, and it was better than I anticipated. It was sort of like a mystery movie, as you know when the movie starts that these girls aren't going to make it, and you keep watching as you're guided through the film by a third-party narrator, studying their words and their faces to try and figure out what was so wrong with life that these five pretty sisters decided it wasn't even worth trying anymore.

I think there are two ways you can look at it. One the one hand, you might think that the girls are a bit narcissistic, and that the drama of strict parents and boys who don't call back (am I right?) was the only impetus for them to make some grand gesture indicating that they were simply fed up with all the bullshit. After all, they were too young to know actually misery. They had nice parents and a nice home and everyone liked them. Right?

But I think that theory doesn't really add up under a closer scrutiny. At least, not in a poetic, cinematic world. I think maybe the girls were suffering from a severe case of ennui, and having briefly tasted love, adventure, etc. were frustrated to discover that this was all life had to offer, and decided to opt out for lack of anticipation. Peter Pan style: "death will be an awfully big adventure."

But the movie was intentionally unclear. Our narrators adore and admire the sisters from afar, intimately collecting the details of their lives, but never actually try to befriend the girls discover what they really are. And so there's also an tone of loneliness to the movie. I suppose that's the nature of loss. Never knowing what lies at the core of someone else's heart, then suddenly that person isn't there anymore, and you're never certain why she left or how life could have been different.

22 December 2011

12 Dec - "I hear that you don't believe in me, Reverend"

The Last Exorcism (2010)
dir. Daniel Stamm

Patrick Fabian (Must Love Dogs, 2005)
Becky Fly
Victoria Patenaude

I've read a lot of articles about The Last Exorcism already, so I'm going to try and not repeat any of those critiques. However, I don't think that will be too hard because nothing I read about The Last Exorcism prepared me for the actually movie, which pleasantly defied expectation.

So what I heard was that this movie was about an exorcist who really doesn't believe in demonic possession and just provides a cathartic performance to superstitious rubes. Of course, in this last case all is not as it seems, and it starts to become difficult to figure out who is playing who, and what are the motivations. I guess you could say it was a twist ending, but it was the clever kind that I like. Looking back, I think the biggest tell was the suffering girl's brother, when he told the preacher that he saw the trick that made it look like the water was miraculously boiling, and that meant the preacher was "alright in my book."

See, he was in on it the whole time. And I know the father was genuinely trying to save his daughter, but I can't decide whether the girl was a willing sacrificial lamb or not. At times it seemed like she genuinely wanted to be saved, but at other times she appeared to be putting on her own "show" of possession, acting like a parody of Regan MacNeil (oblique reference!) and lying intentionally about where she had gone and what she had done. But on the other hand, she had moments of precognition which at first seemed to reveal sinister intent, like a picture of the preacher and his film crew being slaughtered, but may have also served as a warning. Maybe she wanted to protect the exorcisors? This may warrant a second viewing.

20 December 2011

11 Dec - "All the way to the top is the safest place"

Skyline (2010)
dir. Cloin Strause, Greg Strause

Eric Balfour (America's Sweethearts, 2001)
Scottie Thompson (Star Trek, 2009)
Brittany Daniel (Joe Dirt, 2001)
David Zayas (The Interpreter, 2005)
Donald Faison (Uptown Girls, 2003)
Tanya Newbould (Cyrus, 2010)

Unfortunately, this alien invasion movie brought alarmingly little to the genre. In fact, so much money was invested in the special effects in the last 30 minutes, all that could be managed in the previous hour were our five vapid and charmless protagonists hanging out in their penthouse acting scared and fighting about whether they should go outside. Given that so little time was given to the rising action, you'd think we might at least get some character development, but that was unforthcoming as well. The only intriguing part of this movie was the absolutely last scene, in which the male lead becomes some sort of alien-human cyborg monster but, unlike all the other alien-human cyborg monsters, he retains his own mental agency, and so he crouches protectively over his woman and then it's over.

13 December 2011

8 Dec - "Easy to date. That's been my fate, since the age of ten"

Mad About Men (1954)
dir. Ralph Thomas

Glynis Johns (The Ref, 1994 )

This was a pretty silly old movie. It's about a slutty mermaid who switches places with a prudish schoolteacher, which they are able to easily do because they share a common ancestor and so look and sound identical. The mermaid, Miranda, wraps her tail up in a blanket and pretends the schoolteacher had an accident so she can sit a wheelchair. A bunch of times guys pick her up to move her around, but none of them notice the lack of legs. The ridiculousness is how many innuendos Miranda makes and how everyone just goes along with her crazy mermaid habits because she's pretty, I guess.

Miranda soon discovers that the schoolteacher's fiance is a pretty awful guy, so she decides to catch a better man. It ends up being a choice between this pretty smarmy dude who's already engaged, and another guy who is dashing and wealthy. Unfortunately, the moral seems to be that men love women who are stupid and easy like Miranda, and don't like uppity ladies like the schoolteacher. At the end, when she hesitates to kiss the wealthy fisherman, he's like, "What's wrong, you seem like your old self" and she's all, "Oh, sorry, I'll never be like that again," with a knowing glace back at Miranda. So, 1950s chicks, don't be yourself, the boys don't like that, be easy and undiscriminating.

11 December 2011

4 Dec - "What happened to all the celestial fire?"

Don Juan DeMarco (1994)
dir. Jeremy Leven

Marlon Brando (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951)
Johnny Depp (Rango (voice), 2011)
Bob Dishy (Jungle 2 Jungle, 1997)
Rachel Ticotin (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, 2008)
Stephen Singer (The Happening, 2008)
Faye Dunaway (The Rules of Attraction, 2002)
Tommy 'Tiny' Lister (The Fifth Element, 1997)
Tom Mardirosian (Lady in the Water, 2006)

This is one of those relative reality movies like Big Fish or The King of California (now that was a good movie). Our hero Don Juan, played by Johnny Depp, is probably crazy, but he also has these occasional moments of self awareness that suggest he consciously prefers the illusion to the reality, and then of course there's little snags that suggest the merest possibility that he's actually telling the truth, but no, that would be impossible. So this guy Don Juan, who dresses like Zorro, has to undergo a ten day psychological evaluation to determine if he will be committed. His psychiatrist is  retiring in exactly ten days, and is determined that Don Juan should be cured in that time. The primary narrative focus is Don Juan's self-reported life story, his sexual exploits and the loss of his one true love. We also get a sub plot of Marlon Brando's character battling with his own life's expectations and making a mad grab at the sense of drama and romanticism that Don Juan represents. I guess the point is that life is what you make it, and if you are unhappy with reality as it is working out, just do something different.

10 December 2011

3 Dec - "Being prepared for matrimony by a hatred of home, by the misery of disappointed affection"

Mansfield Park (1999)
dir. Patricia Rozema

Lindsay Duncan (Alice in Wonderland, 2010)
James Purefoy (Resident Evil, 2002)
Frances O'Connor (Piccadilly Jim, 2006)
Embeth Davidtz (Thir13en Ghosts, 2001)
Alessandro Nivola (Face/Off, 1997)
Anna Popplewell (Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, 2010)
Sophia Myles (Underworld: Evolution, 2006)
Jonny Lee Miller

I don't know why I watched another Jane Austen movie. I guess there's just a dearth of good romance films and so I'm dredging up the oft-ignored corners of my Netflix recommendations. At least I liked Mansfield Park a little better than Emma.

The main character is Fanny Price, who leaves home at a young age to live with the rich side of her family, but they aren't super-nice to her. There are some marriages and some love triangles, a few misunderstandings, but it works out in the end. What's notable is that Fanny isn't a heroine in the same league as Emma or Elizabeth Bennett. She's much less adventurous and outspoken. She's timid and idealistic without actually taking action. Very passive. It works out for her, too, though, but only because cousin Edmund finally gets over the flashy lady he was really into.

09 December 2011

2 Dec - "you can give up, let yourself go, or grit your teeth and hang on like stupid people do"

Biutiful (2010)
dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu

Javier Bardem (Collateral, 2004)

I watched this the other night with a fella I've been seeing briefly but I'm not certain at all it was the best choice for a date night (I have a bad track record with picking movies to watch with guys I'm interested in). It was too sad in all sorts of ways. It's about this guy who's got cancer in a bad way and his family is all messed up and he's trying to make it right and there's some human trafficking going on as well. I think it was trying to get at this relationship between Beauty and Ugliness and Love and Hate and sometimes you really really hate someone but at the same time you love that person and it sort of tears you up inside.

I guess it has something to do with that idea that every person you love is going to break your heart someday.

I don't mean to wax sentimental, but due to the circumstances I didn't have the opportunity to be emotional when the feelings hit me the first time around. There's a lot of little details to reflect on in this one.

01 December 2011

1 Dec - "I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control"

Emma (1996)
dir. Douglas McGrath

Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 2, 2010)
James Cosmo (Braveheart, 1995)
Alan Cumming (Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, 1997)
Jeremy Northam (Amistad, 1997)
Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, 1999)
Kathleen Byron (Saving Private Ryan, 1998)
Ewan McGregor (The Men Who Stare at Goats, 2009)
Juliet Stevenson (Bend it Like Beckham, 2002)

The problem with having seen Clueless so many times is that it totally ruins Emma for me. I kept trying to figure out which old-time English socialite characters were analogous to which preppy teenager characters and getting distracted from the nuances of the plot. I guess the story's gimmick is that, despite all of her conniving ways, Emma totally sucks at trying to pair off her less cool friend and is kind of lousy at trying to pair herself off too. Other than that, the story was kind of uninteresting. I've never been into the Jane Austen stuff, but seriously, what's the big deal? I sort of get Pride and Prejudice, because there's class struggle going on there too, and family expectations. But the worst thing that ever happens to Emma is that Mr. Nightly is disappointed in her manners, but he quickly forgives her, anyway.