30 December 2011

War Horse


If you read my last post, you’ll note that Tintin gave me hope for Spielberg’s continuing career. I included the note that it may have been because of the inclusion of a large number of awesome people. After seeing this movie, I think that was probably the case.

War Horse is based on a children’s book that was later adapted to a stage play, neither of which I’ve read or seen. It covers several moments/periods of time with several characters during World War I, centered around a horse with magical powers. It’s meticulously engineered to pull on your heart-strings and inspire you and all that bunk.

The problem here is that I’m a cynical person who doesn’t love horses. If I were the opposite of that, I’d be all over this thing. There are too many moments of the “Spielberg Face” without really justifying it in my eyes, and it’s all just so damn wholesome. Not a drop of blood is shed, even when a large number of people are gunned down, a horse gets run over by a tank, and our hero the horse runs through several fences of barbed-wire. Except for that last bit pretty much everything that could be at all off-putting happens off-screen. Yeah yeah, it’s a family movie, whatever.

As I said too, the horse is magical. It seems to understand human language without much difficulty, has an incredible grasp of empathic situations, and keeps doing things that everyone insists are impossible for him to do. This would be a bit more affecting if there were a reason for it, like he was born with the soul of a dragon or something. Also I think it would have been cool if the movie was actually all filmed from the horse’s perspective and we didn’t get all this extra stuff with the humans and whatnot.

It’s a pretty movie for sure. It is an odd look though; many scenes kind of gave me the impression of a green screen even though it probably wasn’t used, I guess it was just the lighting. Just kinda weird.

So. Bottom line, bad movie for cynics. Probably good for wide-eyed horse-loving children.

28 December 2011

Buncha Movies

I’ve been busy, yo.

Young Adult

Charlize-Theron6-Young-Adult I liked Juno. Haters be damned. Up in the Air was good. This movie is better than those movies. Charlize Theron plays an evil woman who used to be the most popular, prettiest girl in high-school, and now she keeps living in a fantasy world of entitlement and superiority while the rest of the world has moved on to boring but healthy reality. She decides to rekindle a flame with her “soul-mate” who happens to be happily married (although she doesn’t think that’s really possible, since they’re soul mates). Patton Oswalt’s broken but awesome character tries repeatedly to tell her she’s an idiot without much luck. It’s a pretty tragic movie, and the it’s neat that Charlize isn’t really an antihero here, just a messed up human. Oswalt is really what made the movie great though.

Mission: Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol


Needs more colons. I remember watching the first one twice in a row, way back sometime around THE YEAR 2000 in my youth pastor’s trailer-home with the rest of the youth group, trying to figure out what the hell was going on in it. I think I watched it later on and didn’t have that much trouble, but it definitely left an impression of being an enjoyable mind-game sort of action movie. I’m pretty sure I saw the second one but I must have blocked it out mostly. Maybe I didn’t. I haven’t seen the third though, so a bunch of the stuff that happened in this one didn’t really make a whole lot of sense, although I think they did a good job of recapping the important bits without sounding too expository. The story here is that a bomb exploded in Russia and now Tom Cruise and co. are no longer employed by the US government but have to stop the bad guys or else everyone will die and they’ll be labeled terrorists. Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Paula Patton do very actiony things while being funny a lot, and Michael Nyqvist plays a boring, detached villain without really doing a bad job of it. Cruise proves he can still actionate with the best of them in several very impressive scenes. It’s a really preposterous, enjoyable movie. Go Brad Bird.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows


The last one was okay. Wasn’t a huge fan but whatever. This one gets more into the story that most people know (I’m not claiming to be knowledgeable on this stuff though), what with Moriarty playing a major role, represented by that British dude from Mad Men. However, it’s still a ridiculous action movie rather than the cerebral venture I think the subject matter is more suited to. Of course it’s been done a hundred times but this is still just unnecessary, especially with so much going on all the time it’s hard to even grasp what’s happening. There were at least three scenes I thought were the climax. It’s nice to see Noomi Rapace in something, and I’m definitely looking forward to Prometheus, but she didn’t really help the movie much. Guy Ritchie has made some good stuff; his visual style is very evident here, and it’s often nice to look at. I think it was fun enough altogether, there was just too damn much of it.

The Adventures of Tintin

13cp_tintin_the-sec_834868f I had a Tintin book a long time ago. I don’t remember a whole lot about it other than it was quite captivating, and that one dude was drunk a lot. With that as my basis, I can say that this film realized my idea of it quite excellently. It also showed that Spielberg can still bring it, although that might be largely influenced by the inclusion of so many awesome people in the making of this wonderfully warm and exciting adventure. We’ve got Andy Serkis, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Steven Moffat, Peter Jackson, and probably a bunch more I forgot about to make sure it doesn’t suck. Thankfully George Lucas is not on the list. It’s just a thrill to watch these lovable characters and colorful villains battle it out happily over such gorgeous CG sets whilst spouting humor left and right. Tintin himself brings to mind so many characters from books I read as a child, all those boy-genius detectives like the Hardy Boys or Encyclopedia Brown, always coming to the right conclusion on minimal evidence without making it seem implausible. I think the greatest triumph here though is the use of 3D; as it isn’t live action it’s not that much of a feat, but there are several instances where it’s used to show depth so much more than just popping things out of the screen, and it looks utterly fantastic. The visual style aside from that is just very pleasing to the eye anyway so it’s win-win. Great movie.

11 December 2011

Hugo and The Descendants


I haven’t seen that many Scorcese films. I know that he’s very highly respected though, and the movies I’ve seen of his make a good case for that respect. This movie is a new breed for pretty much everyone though, being that it’s Martin’s first “family” film and also made in the dreaded 3D. It was made at the behest of his daughter, who really liked the book that I haven’t read. None of that stuff matters though, because it’s Scorcese.

It’s about a kid who’s parents are dead, like Batman, but instead of kicking bad dudes’ asses all the time he gets all mopey, is forced into clock maintenance, and tries to fix a robot in order to find an expected final message from his dead dad. This indirectly leads to him meeting Sir Ben Kingsley and Chloe Moretz and having an adventure of educational heights.

The trailers gave me the impression that this might be sort of a fantastical movie, like The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus or Pan’s Labyrinth in some respects, but it’s really not. A little suspension of disbelief is required for some bits but for the most part this is just a vehicle for the praise of film and its earliest champions, specifically Georges Melies, who made that moon-face-bullet thing. There’s a section somewhere near the middle in which the scary gambler from Boardwalk Empire narrates a beautifully architected lesson on the guy’s history, in which we learn that he made a ton of movies and then lost them all and got really sad. The objective then becomes to make him happy again.

It’s definitely a good movie. I wasn’t too crazy about Asa Butterfield or even Chloe Moretz’ performances the whole time, but they had their moments. Sacha Baron Cohen was pretty entertaining, and Ben Kingsley is just a great actor whichever film he’s doing. The 3D nonsense worked quite well from time to time, but whenever there were quick cuts or fast movements I just couldn’t deal with it. I think the latter issue would be much less of one if it were filmed at a higher framerate, like The Hobbit is going to be. Still, Scorcese’s great at making stuff look good and he used the technology pretty much as well as anyone could.

the descendants

The last Clooney movie I saw was The American, and it was awesome. I just recently saw Sideways for the first time, and that was pretty cool too. Good signs. Figured I’d give it a shot, and since Young Adult wasn’t showing at the theater I was going for, this was the next in the stack. Too bad I can’t really stand Hawaiian music.

George Clooney is the trustee of a bunch of land on a Hawaiian island and his wife’s in a coma. He doesn’t know his kids well and they know more about his wife than he does. He finds some crap out about her that makes him angry, and he has a hard time concentration on the fact that he has to decide what to do with this land he’s got before his cousins go all apeshit on him. I guess that’s the gist.

It’s a tad boring, but not bad. There are some funny/awesome bits, mostly involving something of a side-character named Sid, and Clooney’s older daughter is quite attractive. The buzz this one’s getting is all for Clooney’s performance though, which is good, but I don’t think it really stands out that much, and he will most likely not get an award for it unless there’s some political thing going on that I don’t know about. Not as good as Sideways or The American.