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One-sentence reviews of movies I have seen lately.

For most of these, this would have been an improvement.

Children of Men — The nativity crossed with the apocalypse, of course i loved it.

Monsters vs. Aliens — AWESOME! (no really, that’s it, it’s not even an ironic “awesome!”)

Coraline — Gaiman’s version of Alice in Wonderland, gorgeous and life-affirming in that way Gaiman always is, but that you never really expect him to be.

Watchman — Took an original work and stuffed so much of it onto the screen that it TOTALLY RUINED IT, mostly because it got the spectacle, but missed the heart. (and once again, sorry, Honey!)

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian — about what you would expect; Amy Adams as Amelia was a lot of fun.

Up — can’t comment. still. bawling.

Star Trek — Squeee! But I feel kind of dirty about it.

Race to Witch Mountain — The most boring story about aliens ever!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs — Cute story, fun characters, animation kind of didn’t work for me, not sure why.

Charlie Bartlett — You had me at, “Meet the principal, Robert Downey Jr.”

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra — This is the kind of movie in which one character, without apparent irony, utters the exclamation, “Damn! That ninja’s fast!”

9 – Bury my heart at Joe-Ann’s fabrics.

Bride Wars — This spot sat here blank for a while while I thought about it, which I guess is it’s own review, isn’t it?

X-Men Origins: Wolverine — I’m glad I read so many negative comments because by the time I actually watched it, I found I really enjoyed it. Huh.

27 Dresses — Shouldn’t say this out loud, but I kind of want to be James Marsden when I grow up.

Fool’s Gold — Out of all the movies I’ve seen this year, this was one of them.

I love You, Man! — Relatable in a way that made me deeply, deeply afraid.

And that’s about all I can remember right now. Others, like HP:HBP I’ve already commented on, and there were many I meant to see, but haven’t yet (Terminator, 2012, Jennifer’s Body, Zombieland, Avatar, etc). And I guess that’s my “The year in cinema” post you have to write so you get your card stamped or they throw you out of the guild.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2009 in culture

 

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Guilty Pleasures #1(of a series)

Stupid movie of the Summer (meaning stupid movie of all the ones I watched this summer which did not include Transformers 2, which I have not seen and do not plan to): The Happening
the_happening_movie_poster_m__night_shyamalan
Otherwise known as “Ooohhh, scary trees” which would have been a better title than what they came up with. The Happening. Really? That’s what you got? Something’s …. happening? Perhaps we can distract you from the awfulness of our title with this shot of wind through the trees? No? Well, how about this close up oon Zoey Deschanel’s eyes, looking like she’s ready to cry … ok now? Ok? Good …

The story is stupid. The trees want to kill us. And they do it by making us kill ourselves. M’k, I guess I can accept that as the plot of a B movie. At least the title told us that this movie was wearing the stupid as a hat, not trying to hide it. And the thing that really sells this movie is Mark Wahlberg’s “acting.” He’s ok running, ordering other people to run, and watching sad things, like people laying down in front of lawn mowers (yes, really). The talking? Um … obviously, he knew he was playing a science teacher, and he was channeling every too-hip-for-the-room high school teacher on network television in 1985.

Now, I like M. Night Shyalaman. I even liked The Village and Lady in the Water. This one? I actually kind of love it, but it is a really, really bad movie. At no point in this movie do you ever look at anything any of the characters do and think to yourself, “yeah, that makes sense.” Look, people, when nature’s trying to kill you, do not seek shelter by running away from the room into a forest-ringed meadow. That’s just asking for trouble. And please, if you know suicide is the major risk, you might want to make sure no one has a firearm, like, oh, the soldier who is carrying the firearm right in plain sight.

And when Betty Buckley shows up as the crazy lady who’s lived alone in a scary house for years with no contact with the outside world and does not know what is “happening?” It just goes waaay so far out the stupid end that it circles back around and ends up at awesome, which is an amazing feat, and I’m sure, not really what they were intending.

And that’s the thing. Shyalaman thinks he’s making a serious movie with an important point. I have the feeling Wahlberg does too. John Leguizamo is cashing a paycheck. Zoey Deschanel is … you know, Zoey is awesome no matter what she does so I am not even going to fault her, except to say I think perhaps her extreme vegan/no soy/gluten allergic diet may have started affecting her brain.

But it entertained me. And I am tempted to put it on my “to own someday” list. There’s a lot going wrong here, but I think enough went wrong that it all came together as something horrifically, gloriously, right.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2009 in culture

 

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oooooh boy … Watchmen

I first read Watchmen just after the original mini-series finished up its run in 1986. As a country kid, I didn’t live close to a comic shop, so summer vacations to California, and the occasional foray to Indianapolis, were the only places I could get comics that I couldn’t get at our local Haag’s drug store (yes, kids, they used to sell comics in spinner racks at drug stores. That was just after I waved goodbye to my uncle and my cousins when they left for Oregon in a Conestoga wagon).

And Watchmen, being part of DC Comics’ direct-only initiative (which removed Teen Titans and Legion of Super-heroes from my world, but that’s a rant for later) was not available at the Haag’s drug.

This was probably good for many, many reasons.

So when I was in Cali, visiting what is still my favorite store of all time: Fact, Fiction, and Fantasy in Livermore, California, I found all issues of Watchmen in the back issue bin,  and used my saved up money to purchase them all. I think they were $1.25 apiece. Again, this is depressing.

I should mention I was 13 years old at the time. If you’ve read Watchmen, or seen the movie, you will understand a lot more about me now.

Needless to say, I loved every panel. I was young enough that a lot of the deeper meaning went over my head, but have loved it even more as I got older and those other layers revealed themselves.

So when the movie ads started running,  I started annoying my wife about it ( i was not stupid enough to think the kids were going). She probably would have smothered me in my sleep except that my fanboy squeeee was audible only to the dogs.

She was in … it looked interesting. She’s always tolerated my geeky side, and likes a good movie if it’s a good movie, no matter what it’s about.

So we went …

I have been given a probationary period of 365 calendar days before I am allowed to pick the movies again.

It was … well, the core was there. The first ten minutes were some of the most incredible moments of cinema I’ve ever experienced. The last supper pastiche with Sally Jupiter at the center, Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis discreetly off to the side … it was … wow.

And I liked the movie at a very basic, visceral, level. It seemed right. Everything but Malin Ackerman anyway. It worked.

An aside: how awesome would Amy Acker have been as Laurie Jupiter (yes, Juspecyk, but the movie didn’t get into that)?

My wife has a very low tolerance for gore, but if it’s necessary to the story, it’s not a big deal. I used to think I had a high tolerance to that sort of thing. I’ve never said a movie was too gory …

This movie was just too, too gory. Yes, this is a world punctuated with moments of sudden, horrific violence. That’s appropriate to the story, necessary. Everything in Watchmen’s 1985 is kind of hyper-real, ramped up.  But in this movie, it was constant, it dulled you to it, which made it less effective. It was like a super-hero movie made by a thirteen-year-old, all shock, no context. It even made some horrific scenes from the original more gory for no real reason. I’m thinking of Rorschach in the child-killer’s house. That’s not how he killed him in the original, and the original, the fire, the coldness, was much more effective than this hot rage. That cold dropping of the match, the walking away, THAT was Kovacs breaking and Rorschach emerging. Not the raging,  gore-porny, hatchet/skull montage.

This movie really got the story in a lot of ways, but in a lot of ways did not. The one moment of gore from the book, that slow pan of the bodies in Times Square … absent. The one really grim moment we needed to linger on … not there.  I mean, I understand going with nuclear attacks instead of the big giant squid, but the apocalypse was mundane, which it absolutely should not have been.

I wanted to love it. I couldn’t even really like it very much. I probably would have known what to expect if I’d seen 300, which I hadn’t. I don’t want to now. I don’t want to see a Snyder movie ever again.

It’s too bad. It could have been amazing (I need the first ten minutes by themselves).

Zach Snyder doesn’t get it, really. He got most of it. The look and feel, characterizations (one notable expection already mentioned), were all spot-on. But it went waaaay over the top and undercut its own point.

Now, J.J. Abrams …please don’t screw up Star Trek…

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2009 in culture

 

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