Posts Tagged ‘Movie’

World War Z mini-review

Posted: June 21, 2013 in Movie Review
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So we saw World War Z and I actually liked it. I read the book about a year ago (maybe more, hard to tell these days) and I liked that too. I recognize that the movie is not the book though, it’s sort of inspired by the book.

It’s not a bad little zombie movie, but it’s only tangentially based on the book of the same title. That didn’t bother me, because if they really did exactly the book, it would be either an anthology of stories, or a Ken Burns Documentary. Either of those could be interesting, but would fail to catch the summer blockbuster crowd. I did miss the Battle of Yonkers, and some of the more interesting concepts and ideas went the wayside. I think they want a sequel, and if they get one they’ll do some of the later half of the book stuff. It really felt like someone wrote a global zombie movie, then someone pointed out the book existed, and they bought the rights to the book to cover their butts. I say this because some five writers (including Brooks) are credited in the opening titles. It felt like this went through a LOT of re-writes, and the internet says I’m right about that one.

Shall we do bullet points? We’ll try for spoiler free…

Forget the book, this isn’t the book. If you can divorce yourself from the book, you might enjoy it.

The family story didn’t work for me after the first act, but it didn’t hurt things either.

The movie made running zombies interesting to me for the first time.

The suggested solution to the whole zombie thing is… actually pretty interesting.

Oh man, then you sort-of kind-of tried to set up for a sequel, and I’m not sure that’s gonna work babe.

Because of a scheduling issue we saw it in 3D, which is… whatev. Didn’t hurt, didn’t help.

Can I be the only one who heard that speech about Mother Nature being a serial killer and perked up thinking “Oh! So some of what J. Michael Straczynski wrote made it to the screen!” as that speech was unraveling? I can’t say that was for certain his work, but it sounds like him.

Also, alternate title for the movie – “Ain’t Shit Gonna Go Right For Brad Pitt Today.”

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Noir Needs Context

Posted: June 19, 2013 in Article, Movie
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There is a genre, called Film Noir. It’s awesome stuff. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either a shooting style filled with shadows and somewhat stark camera work, or it’s a story style. As a story style, its hallmarks are usually agreed to be crime, moral ambiguity, social isolation, the attempt to be a good person and a search for some kind of justice. There is also something about women in the form of femme fatales, and the corruption of authority figures, but we’re going to get to that at a later date. Go watch The Dark Corner or The Big Sleep some time, you’ll see what I mean. Or maybe you won’t, because I’ve noticed that a lot of people who make another connected genre haven’t seen the awesome or are unable to replicate it. They clearly see the good man in a hard world and nothing else. See, there is a genre called Neo-Noir, and it kind of sucks. Technically, neo-noir is just later day stuff, made after a completely arbitrary cut off date.

There are problems with Neo-Noir though, and for me they’re pretty big. Problem number one is context. See, most of these movies were made in the post war era of the 40s and 50s. So, they exist in a world where Doris Day was tearing up the charts and blowing up the box office. America was kind of exuberant about having punched Hitler in the face and won World War II single handedly with just good old fashioned Know-How! We were busy having Technicolor romantic comedies, and an economic boom, and white picket fences, and everything was rosey and there would never be hippies, or punk rock, or even a president who wasn’t so white he was practically phosphorescent.

Now of course, a lot of that wasn’t true, and some people knew it. They rejected, or simply weren’t allowed to be part of this new world. That world existed, but they couldn’t have status in it. And you kind of have to understand that Doris Day was doing her thing while these movies were being made. When Humphrey Bogart was playing a detective who leaned alone and unloved in a doorway, he was existing in the same movie world as Doris Day was, he just didn’t get more than a moment in the light. Social Isolation is a big part of the classic film noir, but you need a connected world to be isolated from. There is also a world of art, of beauty, of light haired girls tripping lightly through fields of wildflowers and having nothing worse happen to her than a bit of a grass stain when she and her lover go for a tumble on the ground. These are all things that exist in that world, they just don’t exist for the hero of a film noir.

That’s one of the major problems I have with Neo-Noir, they often lack context. The make the detective the everyman, instead of the outsider. Watching Bladerunner, Momento, Year of The Dragon, Miller’s Crossing, Se7en, or Bound (that list can go on and on) you are never given to understand that this isn’t the entire world. There is no art, no music, no theater, that isn’t slave to the dark, gritty, greasy aesthetic that’s being manufactured. There is quite frankly, no outside for our hero to be looking in from. Everyone lives in Gotham City and it’s horrible all the time, filled with awful people who are mean spirited and/or weak. Even with long form TV shows like Deadwood and Game of Thrones, it’s just horrible people, living in a horrible world, where all sorts of horrible things happen to everyone, all the time because it’s all so horrible and if that pretty girl I mentioned earlier tried to trip through the daisies in one of these shows she’d have been raped and murdered by now.

It’s odd, because the makers of these movies seem to have grasped the emotions behind the isolation, but without the context of the brighter world it makes them just another cog in a terrible world. Failing to understand that Sin City is a funhouse mirror, they seem determined to come as close to reality as they can. The problem is that a seedy underbelly has to be the underbelly, it can’t be everything or your world makes no sense. Most of it comes off as posturing, the image of the tough guy shot through a child’s filter, through lack of understanding why people need to be tough. It’s as if they understand so little of how the world works, that they imagine it must all be corrupt and awful, which is why they’re childish fantasies about monye and power haven’t become true yet. Maybe that’s what they’re going for, to show that the whole world is awful and you have to be an awful person to contend and get along.

If I may posit an objection, that is utter, complete, and total bullshit.

It’s nothing more than a bullshit attempt at the same sort of mass-marketed ultra-conformist non-conformity garbage that they tried to feed us in the Post-Grunge era of the 90s and it was bullshit then and it’s bullshit now. Only now they’ve added a layer of sleaze to let the people who are taken in by this crap to believe they’re somehow clever and seeing past the glitz and understanding the world better because instead of fighting and trying to rise above the mud, they’re slamming themselves in face-first. There is art and light and joy in the world and if you raise your head up from your attempts to sink deeper into the mud than your neighbor (because the good mud is at the bottom), you will notice a whole world of light and beauty and joy.

That’s not to say that there isn’t good Neo-Noir out there. Brick is a masterful example of showing the real world. A segment with one of the few adults in the movie trying to find something for the hero to drink while he eats some cereal is both funny and contextual. Veronica Mars is another good example. The context of the real world is often see on the edges of the show, even though the show itself focuses on the dark side of the world they’ve built for obvious reasons. Both those products contain the social isolation, they contain the mistrust of authority figures, the world having a seedy underbelly, the moral ambiguity, and the good person looking for justice. They also have an understanding that there is more to the world than this little patch of dark and shadow, which is important because otherwise you can’t go on.

Context is always important to me, I will always look for the context of the world a story exists in. If the world contains no good, it is has no possibility for the good guy to win, then it’s no more interesting than a world where you know the good guy will win no matter what. Neither situation works for me. The world where we will always fail is as bad as the one where we always win.

Maybe one or the other story works for you, maybe you get into the constant loss or the constant win. Maybe you like the predictability of it all. I don’t, it doesn’t work for me. When I can predict things before they happen on the screen/page, I tend to get angry. I’m usually already bored, which is why I’m thinking and predicting what’ll happen next. We’ll talk more about that next time.

1
Goyokin 1969/ Toho/ Dir. Hideo Gosha

For reasons of my own, I was watching some heist movies. I like a good heist flick, and there aren’t enough of them. There are lots of heist flicks, but only a few good ones. I had gone through the usual line-up of movies, and after I had exhausted my supply I still felt the need to go once more into the heist film vault. So what I did was examine what you need for a good heist movie. That led me to this Japanese samurai movie set in the 1800s. As opposed to a French samurai movie set in the 1460s I guess? Well, some samurai movies are set during the 1600s, that seems to be the two times we generally get. During the early days of the Tokugawa shogunate or just before the Meiji Restoration, which is the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. Soooo, during the Tokugawa shogunate. You know what? Forget this part! I’ve already said shogunate way too many times.

Why do I call this a heist movie and not a samurai movie?
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1
The Black Cauldron (1985/ Disney/ Dir. Ted Berman & Richard Rich)

The Black Cauldron made basically no splash when it came out, much to Disney’s dismay. Also, to the dismay of people like me, who sort of wish Disney had kept up with what it was doing. If you remember, the early 80s were a period of interesting experimentation for Disney. Granted, most those experiments were box office flops, but they were at least interesting and some of them were even good. This is an example of one of those experiments that was actually sort of good. Not great, I didn’t say great, but it is good and it contains things you rarely saw at the time.

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I liked Wreck-It Ralph, let’s talk a little.

1. I thought the opening short was too good. I thought it might diminish the feature. It didn’t, but it was an utterly charming little bit of animation.

2. Going to have to buy this on DVD so I can catch all the little jokes and references they threw in.

3. “She has the most tragic backstory of all time.” That line killed.

4. They did their homework. Even if the people who worked on this are all about my age and as such are gamers from when I was gaming, they did their home work. There are a lot of gags, references, and an overall understanding of how video games work here. These guys knew what they were doing.

5. Most the jokes were funny, most the characters were interesting, most the story works really well.

6. Some of the characters move like their video game counter parts would move. They have no middle animation they just go from their hands out, to their hands raised, just like 8-bit.

7. The one human gamer we really see was a girl… BUT GIRLS DON’T GAME! my mind=blown!

Now, below there will be spoilers. (more…)

1
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944/Warner Bros./Dir. Frank Capra)

A little while ago, I posted a list of movies that you can watch at Halloween that aren’t horror movies. When I posted that, I “missed” one important movie. I put missed in quotes because I didn’t miss it so much as decide that I would rather do a review on it. While not a perfect movie, nor even a perfect comedy, it is enjoyable and it does work as a film. It’s one of m favorite Cary Grant performances, and that is really saying something. And hey, it takes place on Halloween!

Here’s the thing though, the best thing to do would be to go into this movie totally blind. I’m going to spoil some things about this movie, but one of the biggest spoilers is on the back of the box. For best results, don’t read anything and just go watch it. As of right now, it’s on Netflix Streaming (but who knows what tomorrow might bring, right?) so just go watch it. Seriously, don’t even bother reading this review because you should just go see it.

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5 Non-Horror Halloween Movies

Posted: September 20, 2012 in Holiday, Top Lists
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I like Halloween, a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. Syd also loves Halloween. The problem is, Syd doesn’t like horror movies. It’s a little hard to watch movies during the Halloween season if you live with someone who doesn’t like Horror movies. So I decided to put together a list of movies that don’t have to be classed as horror. That way, I get to get into Halloween, and Syd gets to sleep without nightmares. So as a result, I’ve got something that isn’t scary. Now, there aren’t rules to this, there isn’t any science, I went by feel. The only explanation I can come up with, is an after the fact examination. Each of these feel Autumnal to me. They take place during the fall, or have strong themes of the supernatural. That’s all I got. I like watching these during Halloween.

NOW! Allow us to, for a moment, start with the honorable mentions. Someone suggested The Nightmare Before Christmas while I was putting this list together. Syd had a complaint, “It’s a Christmas movie.” and with that, it sort of had to go. It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown was rejected on the grounds that Syd can’t watch old Chuck get another bag full of rocks. She just can’t take the bullying of Charlie Brown. The Godfather is something I always find myself watching during autumn, but it’s not Hallow’een-y enough. Likewise, Ghostbusters was also suggested, but it just felt wrong. Yeah, it felt wrong, I go mostly by feeling on this sight, quit trying to imagine that I use any kind of science behind this. There is no science, no chart, no weighing of evidence. Feeling, gut, emotion. We went through a few others, but in the end I landed with these five.


1. Clue
A classic comedy, that didn’t get the kind of love it deserved back in the day. Yes, it’s based on a board game, but this movie is SO MUCH MORE! Clue is truly one of the funniest satires of both the mystery genre and the McCarthyism of the 50s. I’m not sure it actually takes place during the autumn, but it feels like it does. Also, most the characters are inside and the whole thing has a lovely warm feeling that I admire. There are few movies that are as much fun as this one. When I reviewed this a while ago, I was ready for it to have not held up, but it did. And it has the most manic dénouement in history with Tim Curry running around explaining the murder like mad. Ya gotta love that!


2. The Crow
Another movie I’ve reviewed, and still watch. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this before, but about 90% of the time I review a movie I have this feeling of “Well, I don’t need to watch that again.” that washes over me. And maybe 85% of the time I never do watch the movies again. Or at least, I don’t feel an urge to watch them. This one, however, I found myself wanting to watch after the review. I went into the viewing, with the idea of watching it for a review, with the idea that I was going to sink myself into a crappy earl 90s nostalgiafest of not holding up years later. Strangely, not only did it hold up, but there were things I found that I appreciated about the movie that had never struck me before. Of course, by issues with depression didn’t start until my 30s, so some of the things in that movie wouldn’t have struck me until later. Since that review, I’ve pulled it out every Halloween Season and watched it at least once, if not twice. Yeah, I didn’t much talk about the movie here did I? Aw well, click the link up there and read the review.


3. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Okay, so this is a midnight movie that plays on Halloween. What do you want from me? If you don’t know what Rocky Horror is… I honestly can’t help you. No, wait, I’ll try. It’s part sci-fi homage, part lunatic comedy, part polyamory romance, part exaltation of the joy of being yourself, part surreal examination of the sexual awakening of America, it’s a musical and Tim Curry is in it. Again. What more could you possibly need? There is a lot more story than what ends up on the screen, so you’ll need to watch four or five hundred times to get the full understanding. If you’re a fan, you will have done this. Not sure why I’ve never actually reviewed this one. I’ve thought about it. I think I probably like it too much. There is a list of movies that I love, that I think I’ll probably never actually review. I might, some day, which is why I’ve never done a “Movies I’ll NEVER Review” list, because three days would go by and I’d find myself deciding to give Raiders of the Lost Ark the love it deserves. It’s such an unrecognized classic! Seriously you have no idea how close to rhapsodizing it I was after seeing it on the IMAX screen last week. Only exhaustion stopped me. What was I talking about? Oh, right, Rocky Horror. Well, all that I said about Raiders also applies. I like it too much, I would just say things you’ve heard before.


2. Interview With the Vampire
Again, I’m not sure how Halloweeny this is, but I watch it at this time of year. Again, we’ve got themes of depression, the supernatural, and (oddly) polyamory. Huh, note to self, collect a list of movies that feature polyamory. This is another movie that I have watched each Halloween since the review. I actually haven’t watched the Corman Poe movies that much since I reviewed them, and I think they all got much higher reviews than these two I’ve admitted to watching a lot more. Interesting that. I’m not sure what it says, but I do watch it. Probably because the movie is ridiculously beautiful, being more of a drama with a bit of supernatural themes than really a supernatural film. Everyone I have asked about this says it’s not a horror film, that they’ve always felt it to be a dramatic period piece first and a vampire movie second. Oddly, I have real problems with the book. I tried to read it once, got the heavily abridged audiobook, and it’s kind of terrible. Try cutting what, according to my unabridged audiobook, is a book that takes fifteen hours to read and squish it down to three hours. I’m only reading the whole thing for the first time right now. Interestingly, I don’t find Louis as whiney as everyone else. I never found him whiney exactly, just ineffectual. I think he’s supposed to be clinically depressed, but written by someone who either hasn’t suffered from depression, or can’t articulate the feelings very well. The movie is fantastic though, and you should probably watch it again for the first time.


5. Legend
Tom Cruise and Mia Sara fight TIM CURRY? What the shit? How many times is Curry going to turn up in this list? Well, as this is the last entry, it should be the last time. Again, the autumnal feeling is questionable, but I allow it because the only times I’ve ever felt like watching this movie is in the period between September 1 and November 30. So, I’m going with it. The supernatural is well represented, and there is a force of evil that has to be conquered. There is a lot of darkness, a great deal of glitter, and Tom Cruise in a mini dress. I don’t know, it feels right, and it has Tim Curry in it! Has Tim Curry ever steered us wrong? I mean BESIDES McHale’s Navy! And CongoAddams Family Reunion, Oscar, Charlie’s Angels, FernGully: The Last Rainforest… You know what? Never mind! Look, when he’s good he’s VERY good. You may be wondering why I don’t mention The Shadow. I actually sort of like that movie. I’ve been thinking of a review for it. I like to defend the indefensible after all. Also, would have been a good one for this list. Another movie I associate with fall and Halloween.

Wait, I didn’t put The Immortals in here? That actually takes place ON Halloween. Of course, it’s also not a very good movie. That’s probably why I didn’t put it here. And yet, I have, so work out that little pair of ducks on your own.