Archive for November, 2010

Stop killing the dolphins/stop documentary propaganda: The Cove

November 30, 2010 1 comment

Who doesn’t love dolphins?  And who doesn’t love spy thrillers?  Well, documentary “The Cove” combines both in a bloody, moving piece about annual dolphin hunting in Taiji; what could be wrong with that?

I have become more and more disgusted with documentaries lately.  Similar to “Waiting for Superman”,  “The Cove” presents its case through heart-wrenching footage of dolphin slaughter, juxtaposed with cute shots from TV-show “Flipper!” – it is a masterful work of propaganda, and it is so one-sided that I am hesitant to trust any of it.

Ric O’Barry was the man who captured and trained the dolphins who starred in “Flipper” – he blames himself for starting the dolphin-fad that has since resulted in the capture and killing of thousands of dolphins.  He has been arrested countless times, banned from conferences, and is now a full-time activist against dolphin-captivity.  He is eccentric, driving around Japan fully masked so as not to attract attention of authorities, who all know who he is and what trouble he brings.

O’Barry, along with director Louie Psihoyos, gather what they call an “Ocean’s Eleven Team” of volunteers, including champion free-diver Mandy-Rae Cruickshank, kids from “Surfers for Cetaceans” (includes Hayden Panettiere who cries when they get arrested), and professional camouflage artists to hide high definition cameras in rocks, to get hidden footage.  Using heat-sensitive cameras, and going to the cove in the dead of the night black ops style, the documentary momentarily transforms into a Mission Impossible styled film, with the divers running for their lives when fishermen show up with flashlights.

The film portrays locals quite negatively – there is one specific man referred to only as Private Space because “those are the only words he knows in English”; fishermen are shown harassing the cameramen and blocking filming with signs, hats, and their bodies.  The film makers are smart enough to cast blame onto the government however, casting these fishermen as “misinformed” and “lied to” – they instead focus on politicians at International Whaling Commission meetings.  The director is intelligent; he knows that an audience is hesitant to blame regular people, and so even goes so far as to interview people on the streets of Tokyo, who claim to know nothing about the dolphin catching activities at Taiji, nothing about the toxic mercury levels in dolphin meat, which are going into schoolchildren’s’ lunches.  The film portrays the activities as a conspiracy, with a complex cover-up.

I’m not saying we should kill dolphins; everyone loves dolphins – they are intelligent, interactive, and cute!  To be fair, there was a great deal of unexpected and applaudable cooperation in this movie – people were brought together, united by a common cause.  At one point, one member of the team set up some DNA analysis equipment in a hotel room; pretty snazzy.  But everything was over-exaggerated, there was so much hand-holding, as if the audience couldn’t make their own decisions and opinions.  When a Japanese magazine and news show accused crewmembers of antagonizing locals in order to get good, angry shots, Psihoyos immediately claimed these were due to fear of profit compromise.  Since acquiring the footage, O’Barry has walked around with a TV taped to his chest on several occasions – he even entered a conference on the whaling industry and was immediately escorted out by security; at the Academy Awards, he even had a banner that said “Text DOLPHIN to 44144”.  (What is it with texting as the new thing?)

Despite controversy surrounding the portrayal of Japanese officials, “The Cove” did screen in Japan.  And of course, it screened to great success in the US, snagging the Sundance Audience Award, as well as the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

You can watch it on Netflix or read the script here ( and decide for yourself.



Ponyo on the Cliff!

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment

In classic Miyazaki fashion, “Ponyo” is a story about children.  Specifically, a young boy named Sosuke finds a fish-girl and names her Ponyo.  The film is magical and wondrous; echoes from “The Little Mermaid” are passed through a Miyazaki filter and loaded with his visual visions.  As always, the film is visually striking – Ponyo’s father has an underwater castle with rainbow colored magic; Sosuke’s mother drives through a storm where waves are literally reaching towering heights.  I imagine the movie through the eyes of a child – no one knows really how they must view the story.  As a kid, I thought how silly adults were and promised myself that when I grew up, I would certainly set things straight.  Alas, I have forgotten all details, remembering only the desire to change, and none of the changes themselves.

I don’t know what understanding or explanations a child would have for some of the questions I had about the movie (next time, I must try to find someone young to watch it with, so I can interview him or her afterwards).  I ended up accepting things in the movie as they were, letting go of hesitations and uncertainties.  Again, I loved how accepting and trusting the adults in Miyazaki’s films are: Sosuke’s mother believes all the magic that happens to Sosuke from the beginning, stopping her car immediately when Sosuke sees a little girl running on top of the ocean waves.

Drawing from a star studded voice cast, the film’s English version was not bad.  Tina Fey voices the mother, and Matt Damon the father; we have little siblings Noah Cyrus and a Jonas brother as the children.  Cate Blanchett and Liam Neeson are Ponyo’s ocean dwelling parents.  It seems like everyone has a soft spot for Miyazaki films; either that or Disney’s getting bigger budgets for their voice actors.

There’s not much to say other than I have always loved the textures of the ocean: “Finding Nemo” did an especially good job handling the depictions of liquid substances.  This movie was closer to the lovely childishness of “My Neighbor Totoro”, rather than the “Mononoke”-esqye complexities I prefer.

Overall, 4/5 – “Ponyo” is adorable and sweet.  See it under a childish state of mind!

❤ Apple

Juno – Orion’s Take

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

A sweet treat that manages to avoid being saccharine with a deft sense of humor and just plain weirdness, this is one film that kept me captured all the way through.  Those that know me know that when I get emotionally involved in a movie I will often stop and pause the movie because I’m concerned about the wellbeing of the characters involved and sometimes I’ll even yell at the screen.

Such was the case in this well-spun story about a 16-year-old girl’s struggle to understand herself in the midst of an unwanted and unexpected pregnancy.  Juno (Ellen Page), who is named after the Roman queen of the gods, decides on finding an adoptive home for her child and spins through the world with an attitude that is hard to describe.  A mixture of wide-eyed astonishment, cynicism and hope, she is a bundle of contradictions that somehow presents a likeable character: though Juno is rude and sometimes foolish, she can get away with it.  In one scene Juno remarks, rather callously, to a woman who cannot get pregnant, that she would never want what is happening to her.  We, as viewers, can see the pain flash across the face of Vanessa (played masterfully by Jennifer Garner), but can forgive and even love Juno.

The interaction between a woman who longs to be a mother and an expecting mother who has no idea what she wants is engaging.  Jennifer Garner manages to capture the desperation and joy that her character feels throughout the film with elegance, never overdoing it, just putting her heart and soul into showing this flawed but loving woman for who she is.  And it works.  Her character is one of the best in a film filled with many great characters.

Each character is portrayed with a special eye for their quirks, which makes them all the more human.  Juno’s father works with heaters and air conditioners, her stepmom is obsessed with dogs and works at a nail salon, her best friend has a “thing” for older, bearded teachers, and her not-really-boyfriend-or-lover runs track and rubs deodorant on his thighs.  The support of her friends and family through the film changes Juno in inexplicable ways, and is very sweet.  I especially liked the father, who, while living through a father’s worst nightmare, never raises his voice at his daughter (which is not to say that he never gets angry)  and keeps his good humor and down-to-earth nature all the way through.

This is a movie that is so filled with awkwardness that I felt right at home.  The movie, in the words of my partner Apple, is “super cute.”  I have to agree.  Whether it was the sight of Juno’s cheeseburger phone, or the way her stepmother stands up for her, something got to me when I watched this film.

5/5 Waffles

With love,


The trailer we saw at “Deathly Hallows”…

November 28, 2010 2 comments

Daniel Craig + Harrison Ford; at first this seems to be something quite different from what it ends up being…

When we saw the title, everyone in the theatre was all like WTH?

Categories: Previews

Why are there so many movies coming out in December?

November 27, 2010 1 comment

Check it out:

There are so many of these movies that I want to see:


Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Fighter (CBale + MWahl)

The Tourist (JDepp + AJolie)


Somewhere (Sofia Coppola, ’nuff said)

Which ones do you want to see?  Vote on the poll!

Categories: Polls

The Illusion of Prestige

November 27, 2010 1 comment

I remember two very similar movies coming out around the same time a while back, in 2006, both about magicians in the 19th century.  I watched “The Illusionist” (which featured a surprisingly well-cast Jessica Biel) relatively soon, but didn’t get a chance to see “The Prestige” until last week.  I think I’m starting to develop a dislike for Christopher Nolan.

“The Prestige” is a movie about two rival magicians, once friends, who will do anything to outdo the other.  Their lives are dedicated to magic, to the extent that as the audience, we are continually asking, “is it worth it?”  To Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), the answer is undoubtedly “Yes”.  There are countless parallels in this film – both men dress up and sabotage the other’s show, both men lose someone priceless to magic, both men have unexpected explanations for their tricks.

Both actors did a great job, as did supporting cast Michael Caine (Alfred!), Rebecca Hall (from “The Town”), and Scarlett Johansson (in a “Girl with a Pearl Earring” type act).  The story is also a great one, with good magic – Orion especially appreciated this, having always loved magic tricks, and doing a few sleight of hand ones quite well.

There is a twist at the end of the movie, and I think it is this that both delights and bothers me the most.  The twist puts small oddities in place, as a good twist should (see “The Sixth Sense), but at the same time, seems so out of place that it could never have been guessed (see “Evelyn Salt”, “Book of Eli”).  A true master could put something in front of viewers, with everything being just one step away from the audience’s grasp, and then reveal it at the end.  That is true prestige.  To play a trick the audience has no chance of solving is just unfair, in my opinion – it’s no trick at all, just showing off.



Categories: Movie Reviews

Yet another Batman arc: Under the Red Hood

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve always loved “Batman”.  I remember Saturday morning cartoons in my childhood, waking up extra early for ‘older’ cartoons – mainly, “Sailor Moon”, “Batman”, and “Superman”.  Also, “Batman Beyond”.  That was good stuff.

The only thing I don’t like about the Batman franchise is just how massive it is.  I read the wikipedia pages for everyone’s favorite dark knight for a whole afternoon, and still wasn’t done with all the different story arcs by all the different authors and artists.  Characters die, are revived, die again, are revived again – it gets tiring after a while.

But back to Batman!  He is my favorite superhero!  “Under the Red Hood” was a look into his relationship with the second Robin, how he took his death, how he dealt with it.  The Joker was again a main villain, and I never seem to get bored of how he is everything we don’t expect.  I think I’ve discussed this with several people – the Joker represents the ultimate villain.  He is dangerous, incredibly so; his madness knows no bounds.  How is the villain in “Dark Knight Rises” going to stand a chance following Heath Ledger’s legendary Joker??

Overall, the movie wasn’t bad, although Orion protested nonstop through our viewing that “everything was different in the comic”.  It at least provided a short, pleasant respite from the other heavy dramas I’ve been perusing.

It’s available on Netflix, so all you netflixers out there can check it out!

3/5 – Apple

Categories: Movie Reviews