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Archive for March, 2011

The good, the bad, and the horrible: on Hot Fuzz and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

I suppose neither of these are technically “classics” and thus are inappropriately catalogued under “Classic Capsules.”  However, neither is exactly new either; I would call them “classic” in the way that Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle is a classic – the people who value them, they’re great, and to the people who don’t they’re not.  Simple, right?

Hot Fuzz is Simon Pegg’s parody movie of cop movies.  It tells the story of a super policeman who gets reassigned to a quiet town of slacker cops because he’s made everyone look bad with his sheer awesomeness.  Orion describes the humor as dry, but for some reason, I found this movie hilarious.  It is chock-full of homage’s to ridiculous action flicks, ranging from Point Break to Bad Boys II.  The sheer outrageousness of every situation, as well as the attitudes of the townspeople, makes it a very fun (though somewhat forgettable) ride.  3.5/5 – check it out for Pegg’s great deadpan expression and his partner, Nick Frost’s boundless enthusiasm and love for awesome cops.

 

 

Orion loves Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.  Having seen Joss Whedon’s musical Buffy episode, I was somewhat prepared for the sudden burst into song, a la traditional Disney movies.  They were short and cute, but that’s about it; I don’t think the movie will be winning any music-related awards anytime soon.  That being said, Neil Patrick Harris was great as Dr. Horrible, a “supervillain” aspiring to enter the Evil League of Evil.  Nathan Fillion (Firefly!) was similarly great as superhero and arch nemesis Captain Hammer.  The setup reminded me a little of Megamind, where we followed the bad guy as our protagonist, who doesn’t turn out to be all that bad, and who is in love with the superhero’s girl.  Except that Dr. Horrible isn’t a children’s film, and so doesn’t get a children’s film’s ending.  After the movie finished, I was left shocked and thinking, ‘Is that it?!’  4/5 – a clever and quirky piece; mediocre singing, but a great ending!

 

Best regards,

Apple

 

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April 2011 Movies:

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Hop: the teenage son of the Easter Bunny goes to Hollywood to pursue dreams of rock stardom.

Your Highness: James Franco and Natalie Portman, in a knight’s tale.

Hanna: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, assassins!

Rio: A domesticated Macaw (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) on an adventure to Rio de Janeiro!

Water for Elephants: Circus story based on the NaNoWriMo novel, with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson.

Categories: Previews

Bred’n buttered: on true grit in Winter’s Bone

In some ways, this is a very similar movie to True Grit.  Both feature tough female leads, with absent fathers and subsequent hunts.  However, while “True Grit” was filled with earth and dirt, “Winter’s Bone” is filled with cold, stark landscape and a washed out palette of greys.  Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a seventeen-year-old girl who takes care of her depressed mother, little brother, and little sister.  Her father is not only absent, but has put up their house for his bond, and is known for cooking crystal meth.  If Ree doesn’t turn him up, she will lose the house and her family will be torn apart.

Winter’s Bone is such a beautifully filmed piece of work – set in the Ozark mountains of Missouri in wintertime, the landscape is dreadfully pale and cold.  There is very little background music in the whole movie, and so all sounds feel heightened.  The dialect of the town is mumbled, with its own sort of slang, and everyone speaks it a little differently.  I wrote my final paper for class about this movie, and in it, I focused on the setting as the strongest part of the movie.  It is filled with seemingly random shots of children playing amongst bales of hay, people gathered in circles with instruments on a cold night, and countless pans across trees and frozen grass.

Winter’s Bone was nominated for Best Picture this year, and I can definitely see why – it’s a polished piece of work, and from the beginning, we’re on Ree’s side.  We can’t help but admire her strength, her fearlessness and sheer tenacity.  When she goes around asking dangerous people for help, she is sharp with her words.  Everyone around town looks similar, and it appears that they’re all related in some way.  Similarly, word travels around this town ridiculously fast; it feels that almost as soon as one thing happens, everyone knows about it.

While writing my paper, I came across some furious comments in the NYTimes review (check it out here: http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/movies/11winter.html).  One reader seethes, “But many reviewers comment on the film’s “fighting of stereotypes” and “haunting authenticity.” I’m left wondering…how? The portrayed impoverished hill people are: dirty, mean, uneducated, violent, misogynistic, strung-out, gun-totin’, rabbit-eatin’, and dog-infested” (fifth comment down).  I’m loving this string of adjectives, but the comment itself frustrates me.  I really liked the community in Winter’s Bone, how tough and rugged everyone seemed, but it looks like I just fell into the stereotype trap.

4/5 – hopefully, the actual citizens of the Ozark mountains can forgive me for liking this movie, because I thought it was gripping, stark, and beautiful.

Best regards,

Apple

 

On The Godfather Part II and Eyes Wide Shut

March 24, 2011 1 comment

Although its reputation certainly precedes it, The Godfather Part II is nothing short of excellent.  It deserves a full review, but having just written a long paper on it, I will beg forgiveness and just capsulate it.  This second installment in the trilogy of my favorite of the three, mainly because of Robert De Niro’s remarkably restrained performance as the young and rising Vito Corleone.  As Michael struggles with his burdens as Godfather, Vito cheerfully puts things together, making friends and killing enemies; the two timelines are intertwined and cut back and forth from each other.  The movie runs rather long at 2.5 hours, but it is so beautiful in a quiet way that time slips by in the manner of being absorbed in a great story.  5/5 – everyone should see this movie.

 

 

We watched this erotic-thriller for class, and also read more than a dozen reviews of it.  At the time Eyes Wide Shut was being filmed, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise were still married, and their casting as the husband and wife in the movie was apparently big news.  The movie starts off with a few dramatic deliveries by Kidman, who, though heavy handed, dominated the scenes with her monologues.  After that, Cruise unfortunately takes over and feels passive and unsure of himself – part of this is undoubtedly part of the story, but part of it felt genuine in an unpleasant, weak sort of way.  His character discovers a sexual, religion ceremony, which includes some scandalous scenes.  Rather amusingly, digital figures were edited into these scenes to lessen the explicit nature of the movie, something every reviewer seemed to remark upon.  To top it all off, director Stanley Kubrick (of 2001 and A Clockwork Orange) died right after making the film.  2/5 – without having experienced all the drama surrounding its release, the movie felt remarkably plain, boring even.

 

Best regards,

Apple

 

Apparently, you can have your cake and eat it too: on immorality in The Adjustment Bureau (1/5)

March 21, 2011 1 comment

There is a moment in The Adjustment Bureau when Thompson, one of the elderly “adjusters” traces the light and dark periods of history in terms of the Adjustment Bureau.  “We tried to give you free will,” Thompson says, “and you gave us the Dark Ages….Humanity just isn’t mature enough to take care of itself.”  This little tidbit was so convincingly executed that I can imagine the entire story stemming from this one little observation: the writer, at his desk, reading history, perhaps, and envisioning a group of men in suits – modern day angels or something – who take care of people.  This evolved into a Bureau, because that sounds more sophisticated, and in order to keep people interesting, a male and female lead were introduced.

If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know that The Adjustment Bureau is about David Norris (Matt Damon) as a rising politician who meets and falls in love with a dancer, Elise (Emily Blunt).  Unfortunately, they are not “meant” to be together because it is not in “the plan” that is written by “the Chairman.”  Thus, even though they feel such passion for each other, they cannot be together, and the adjuster caseworkers will do anything to keep them apart.

Damon and Blunt seem to do the best that they can, with the limited room this convoluted script has given them.  Orion and I had planned to see this movie a while ago, but were warned against it by our friends, Feifei and Brian.  Having just seen it with my family, I have to thank them for their warning, because everything they said was true.  The Adjustment Bureau is filled with disgustingly arbitrary limitations and rules: for example, adjusters must wear special hats in order to travel through a teleporting-door network, and have their powers dampened (no pun intended) by the presence of water.  The story tries to play on the Matrix-esque idea of the illusion of free will, only it fails to live up to anything of the broader themes it contains.

Not only all of this, but the characters are terribly simple.  Elise’s dancing is great – her practice and performance are perhaps the only visually arresting scenes of the film – but that’s all that’s great about her.  She’s described as a loose cannon, and to me, seems pretty much like a weak incarnation of a manic pixie dream girl.  For several scenes, she inspires a crazy side of Damon’s character by throwing his Blackberry into his coffee, hiding in the men’s bathroom, crashing weddings, etc.

Unfortunately, in later scenes, when things get serious, Elise completely falls apart.  She can’t handle the idea of the Adjustment Bureau, as anyone would expect, but goes along with David anyway; he literally drags her by the hand through teleporting doors, running from agents.  Her character supposedly feels a connection to David, but never once reaches out to him; we see David think about her every day, riding the same bus for three years in hopes of running into her, but Elise just goes along her own way.  When David vanishes from her life, she takes offense, rather than assertively attempting to seek him out.  Is this the kind of pathetic female lead audiences go for?   What weakness!

But that’s not the worst part of this movie; in fact, it could even be overlooked were it not for the very base of the movie being corrupt.  In this movie, David is trying to fight against people telling him what to do: in one scene while he is trying to outrun adjuster agents, the taxi he hails crashes, leaving two people injured.  But David doesn’t care – he doesn’t care because he’s in love, and he’ll do anything to find the girl on his dreams, even if it means throwing all his work out the window.  I suppose the writers wanted this to show the magnitude of his love, but all it shows is David’s immaturity.  This individualist attitude is ridiculous: the Bureau has a larger plan, written by a Chairman (implied to be God), but David just ignores it.  Even later, when it is revealed that by being with Elise, David will ruin her dreams as well, he still can’t let go – he is selfish enough to try and see her still, despite all the warnings he has been given.

So what, then, are we to make of The Adjustment Bureau?  The action wasn’t even that good – it’s a lot of running around more than anything else.  Damon and Blunt have some cute conversations, but that’s it; besides the campaigning, Damon’s acting feels misplaced, and the same goes for Blunt.  Of course, the movie has a happy ending, in so rewarding the selfish, individual and telling the audience, you can have your cake and eat it too!

Overall, 1/5 – it’s clear that this movie was thoughtlessly crafted, and lazily written.  It’s convoluted in an attempt at sophistication, but not even Brooks Brothers suits can conceal the disordered plot.  Elise is an example of everything weak in a female lead, and David is an example of everything selfish in a male lead.  In case you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty disappointed with the state of movies right now.

Best regards,

Apple

 

Hooray for birds with Tiny Wings!

(See original tips post here.)

Categories: Misc Tags: , , ,

Here, put this bandit hat on: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Previously, on Apple and Orion…  At the rental store, Fantastic Mr Fox was playing, and I actually got really into it, completely didn’t realize that we were leaving. I never looked closely at Fantastic Mr Fox, except to notice the interesting casting of George Clooney as the main character. However, after seeing the unique animation style of the film, I was instantly drawn in. A review will soon follow! (August 14, 2010; Dead Snow Review)

Let’s just say I don’t really have a sense of humor.  I mean, I thought Mean Girls was boring.  However, I thought Fantastic Mr. Fox was freaking hilarious.  The humor feels a little dry, and is both childish and not.  The stop-motion film had great texture for each of the animals, and I loved the unexpected cuts.  The titles for each “chapter” were adorable, too.  Did I mention I thought the film was awesome?

I remember reading Roald Dahl books as a kid and loving him.  It is always weird to see movie adaptations of childhood favorites, and I originally avoided seeing this movie for exactly that reason.  Does anyone remember James and the Giant Peach?  Yeah, I hated that movie.  But Fantastic Mr. Fox is something entirely different.  Director Wes Anderson, known for work like The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, is not normally a children’s filmmaker, nor an animator.  Perhaps for that reason, Fantastic Mr. Fox feels like neither – its scenes are a little too sarcastic, dry, and choppy to have been made by a classic sort of storyteller.  That’s why it’s so refreshing!  For example, rather than swear, the characters use the actual word “cuss,” as in, “why the cuss didn’t I listen to my lawyer?”

For anyone who has read the book, yes, Mr. Fox is alive and kicking, stealing chickens, ducks, turkeys, squabs – you name it.  Yes, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean (one fat, one short, one lean!) are the three farmers who are sick of being robbed and team up to go up against Mr. Fox.  The movie adds a few themes about family, teamwork, and what it means to be a “wild animal” but nicely stays faithful to Dahl’s original material.  Thanks, Wes, we appreciate it!

The voice acting is superb: George Clooney is Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep is Mrs. Fox, and Jason Schwartzman plays their son, Ash Fox.  Everything feels natural, and the animation blends very nicely.  The foxes look like little toys, with wiry fur and little pointed ears, and it’s all ridiculously adorable.  I don’t have much else to say except that this movie kept me entirely entertained, for the entire 87 minutes; I wasn’t even tempted to doodle or start on my review.  I can easily see myself watching this again and again.  Seriously, 5/5.

Best regards,

Apple