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Category: Movies

May 12, 2010

iRon Man 2 Summary

**spoilers**

Steve Jobs Tony Stark creates the iPhone arc reactor, which brings about world peace. He triumphantly greets his fans at WWDC Stark Expo.

His competitors desperately try to clone this new device, while secretly the CEO is stricken ill with a life-threatening condition. Gizmodo The US Air Force steals a prototype of a new iPhone 4G Iron Man suit from a drunken employee, and Apple Stark Industries uses legal threats to attempt to get the device back.

Steve Jobs Tony Stark creates a magical new iPad element, is miraculously cured from his life-threatening disease, and is able to use his new invention to fight off his enemies (for now).

May 11, 2008

Movie: Iron Man

ironman.jpgI saw Iron Man last night and enjoyed the movie. All jokes about Robert Downey, Jr. and how he didn't have to act aside, lets think about the boldness of the movie's construction for a second.

Most hero origin movies (Spiderman, Batman Begins) spend the early part of the film having the protagonist become the hero and then you get a bunch of bad-guy-butt kicking to fill the rest. Almost the entire Iron Man movie consists of Tony Stark building the Iron Man suit. The bad guy fights are essentially debugging. I can just see the writer/producer meeting now:

"Fans love superhero origin movies. Let's make the entire movie about Tony Stark building his suit."

"I dunno, can we really fill two hours with him building his suit?"

"I know! We'll have him build two suits!"

Kudos to Robert Downey Jr., who as a result of this writers' decision shares most of his screen time with robotic arms (whose last roles were suicial GM-car-building robots) and a cellphone. Even Gwyneth Paltrow takes her acting cues from the robotic arms, dutifully holding items for Tony Stark while he shouts orders at her.

But really, it works somehow.

Before Iron Man was the Incredible Hulk preview. It's the only movie I can think of where a remake was justified by how bad the previous movie was. Another Marvel property, The Punisher, comes to mind, except that I don't think that anyone expected either version to be good.

April 1, 2008

April Fools you actually want

IGN has a pseudo-April-Fools prank: a well-done trailer for a Legend of Zelda movie. More fun to watch than the movie probably would be, much like the Batman: Dead End trailer.

June 26, 2007

Chubbs!

One-eyed gator pulls golfer into pond

Chubbs: Back in 1965, Sports Illustrated said I was going to be the next Arnold Palmer.
Happy Gilmore: Yeah? What happened?
Chubbs: They wouldn't let me play on the Pro Tour anymore.
Happy Gilmore: Ah, I'm sorry. Because you're black?
Chubbs: Hell no! Damned alligator BIT my hand off!
Happy Gilmore: OH MY GOD!
Chubbs: Yeah. tournament down in Florida. I hooked my ball in the rough down by the lake. Damned alligator just POPPED up, cut me down on my prime. He got me, but I tore one of the bastard's eyes out though. Look at that.
Happy Gilmore: You're pretty sick, Chubbs.

May 4, 2007

Spiderman 3 suuuuuucks

I didn't expect it to be as good as the second -- I just wanted it to be as good as the first. But it's just bad. The whole audience bonded together as we struggled to make it through to the end.

February 6, 2007

Seven Kurosawa

1) Why didn't I know that Rashomon is public domain? I love that movie.

2) After finding out (1), I did a Google search and found out that Sanshiro Sugata is also public domain and on Google Video. There's a whole bunch of 1940s Kurosawa films I've never seen, including this one. All Japanese movies pre-1953 are public domain, so now its just a matter of finding them.

3) Regardless, I love my Criterion Collection restorations (even if I end up buying the Seven Samurai from them twice).

4) parakkum sent me the Seven Samurai Drinking Game, which is good if you subtract out references to exact scenes (e.g. Kambei "gets shorn bald" is a silly drinking game rule, but "Has to remind himself he's bald by rubbing his head" is a good rule).

5) Speaking of which, I finally scanned in the painting I had Scott Morse do at APE 2006. Morse noted that he's a bit sadder in this painting than he was in the movie:

Scott Morse - Kambei - Seven Samurai

6) It goes well with my Yojimbo Comic-Con '05 commission

Scott Morse - Yojimbo

7) Tacked onto the seven like he was in the movie, Kikuchiyo, from Comic-Con '03:

Scott Morse - Kikuchiyo - Seven Samurai

December 25, 2006

Movie: Seven Samurai, Criterion Collection Re-release

d and I were watching A Bug's Life a couple of weeks ago, which naturally for me brought up the topic of Seven Samurai -- A Bug's Life = Seven Samurai + Three Amigos. Amazon must have been psychic because it was not long after the Seven Samurai Criterion Collection re-release popped into my recommendations window and then seconds later was one-clicked into my possession.

Akira Kurosawa has been a popular director for The Criterion Collection's restorations. Seven Samurai was the second movie that Criterion released* and now, 320+ movies later -- about 12 of them Kurosawa -- they have decided to revisit one of their first restoration efforts with an expanded, 3-disc re-release. This re-release is still labeled Criterion Collection #2, but the original Criterion release looks like a joke in comparison. The most noticeable improvement for me was the reduced flickering, which had bothered me in the original release. Another improvement was the beautiful new packaging, which contains small booklet of essays and stills from the movie. There were clearly other areas of improvement, but I wasn't sure exactly how much better it was. It had been awhile since I watched the film and the new release still has scratches, problems with fades, and other sorts of aging issues.

I popped the original release back in and I felt like I was watching the YouTube version. There were chunky artifacts everywhere and all the details were blown out: expressions on faces, details of costumes, backdrops, all were trash in comparison. The original release was clearly over-compressed to fit on a single disc, which was fixed with the new two-disc version, and the clearly the 320-or-so movies that the Criterion Collection since their original Seven Samurai release has taught them a thing or two about restoration. The only bit of restoration I'm on the fence on is the new opening title sequence. I rather liked the old, faded title sequence of the first release, which set the mood well for an old samurai film. The new title sequence features crisp white-on-black lettering, which is probably closer to the original intent.

To be clear, don't be expecting it to look like the movie on release day: the original master was lost. Have no doubt, though, you will notice the difference if you own the original Criterion release. This is not one of those things were videophiles point out that you can count more hairs on Aragorn's beard.

If you don't own the movie, perhaps you want to give it a shot. At least it will give you a chance to recognize where movies like A Bug's Life and The Magnificent Seven are drawing from, or what Lucas is referencing when Yoda rubs his head in thought. The samurai characters of Kambei, Heihachi, and Kikuchiyo are among my favorites that Kurosawa has created and the tension between samurai and farmer plays out so well in the movie, showing you shades of gray in good and evil that many movies ignore. The good thing about being a newcomer to this film is at least you won't be troubled by the $30 you already spent on the previous release ;).

* A little factoid: Jean Renoir is another popular director for The Criterion Collection. Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion was the first movie released under that label. Renoir's and Kurosawa's versions of The Lower Depths were later released as Criterion Collection #239.

November 23, 2006

Movie: Casino Royale

casinoroyale.jpgI went to the Spy Museum in DC, which I thought would be good preparation for Casino Royale, but as it turns out, it wasn't. The new 007 flick is less spy-gadgety and much more blunt assassin who's not much for covers. With this latest reboot of the 007 series, the producers decided to do away with the Pinky-and-the-Brain-world-domination schemes, Swiss Army cars, and overly cute dialog, instead delivering something more realistic: a bad guy who's just trying to make a paltry $100M. Even Dr. Evil wouldn't be blown away. The bad guy does have one ridiculous trait -- crying blood -- but you can almost believe that all of this all of this is happening as we speak. It is perhaps for that reason that the new Bond feels more violent and dark, as every punch is more believable. Or perhaps it is the fact that even the opening credits do away with the female silhouettes, instead treating you to scene after scene of silhouettes being murdered.

Daniel Craig plays this Bond role well: a gentleman in a suit with a psychopath beneath. Well-adjusted human beings don't go around murdering people in bathrooms. The psychopathic elements remind me of Frank Miller's Batman and the more realistic spy drama reminds me of Rucka's Queen and Country, but at its heart you still feel that you are watching a Bond movie, albeit stripped of some of its more silly trappings.

A lot of the reviews have been billing this as a origins-style movie, ala Spiderman and Batman Begins, but that seems to be misplaced in my opinion. Bond is still learning in this film, but that is not the nature of this film.

I'm a bit surprised by the sky-high 95% Rotten Tomatoes score, which you generally see for movies that are more well executed than this. I attribute it in part to lowered expectations from previous films, as this movie is not without its faults. It is a very long 2 hours and 24 minutes, the pacing is a bit off with some really rough cuts, and my mind still hasn't made chronological sense out of the cuts in the casino scene. But is a good action film, assuming you like something a bit darker but still PG-13.

August 3, 2006

You've got snakes

Snakes on a Plane continues to have an entertaining Internet marketing campaign. It has been mostly due to people on the Internet parodying the concept, but they've been wise enough to play up the parodies and remixed them into a video they showed at Comic-Con, where they also displayed this hilarious safety card promo poster. The latest addition to the marketing campaign are customized Samuel L. Jackson phone/e-mail greetings. You select from a variety of options to customize the greetings, and I found myself wasting plenty of time seeing what kind of messages you could get. They really know their audience. When you select a hobby for the person you are sending to, among the options are both "smoking cigarettes" and "smoking other" (Samuel L. Jackson will implore them to "stop smoking that whacky tobacky.")

March 23, 2006

One Cars review in

and it's positive. I skimmed the review so as to reveal as few spoilers as possible, but the reviewer was gaga for it. I guess this would give it a RottenTomatoes score of 100%, if RottenTomatoes had worse methodology. I'll maintain a no-hope stance until the real RT scores start coming in.

June 22, 2005

Movie: Batman, the IMAX Experience

I don't know if I need to add my voice to the chorus of parakkum, ln m, and o.t.a., so I'll try at least to be short.

I saw Batman: The IMAX Experience at The Tech, which has a dome-style IMAX screen. Very early in the film, when there's this wide shot of Himalaya-ish mountains, I thought to myself, "Now THAT's IMAX!" Later on in the film, I started to get a little twigged at the fact that one eye on each actor's face was always bigger because of the fishy effect of the dome (we weren't seated dead center). There were also problems following the fight scenes. It was just too big and too close. I thought this was the fault of the IMAX projection, but from the reviews, it appears that even on a normal screen you really can't tell what's going on.

Overall, I thought this was the best of the Batman movies, though they definitely emulated the Spiderman model. Batman Returns still has the best villains, but this felt like the better story.

May 27, 2005

Movie: Madagascar

honeyfields got us into a screening of Madagascar, Dreamwork's latest animated film. This is the first time I've seen a feature film where there was someone involved in the making (Rex Grignon, head of the character animation department) answering questions afterwards -- it was like having your own abridged post-commentary track there in the theater, without having to wait for the DVD.

Rex talked about how they wrote some new software for this film to try and make the CG rendering more cartoony -- i.e. unlike Shrek, where the characters had skeletons that followed natural laws, animators in this film were able to stretch, bend, and distort as needed in order to get more dynamic poses and motion. For example, if a character moved quickly, they could stretch out the hands/fingers and pop-out the eyes a bit to give a sense of faster motion.

Rex also mentioned some of the footage that ended up on the cutting room floor, a lot of which probably features Ali G's/Sascha Baron Cohen's improvs. Cohen's character Julian role was rewritten after the first recording session during which Cohen would turn a single line into an extended riff. One of these riffs, in which the Julian joyfully proclaims "spanking machines for everyone!" didn't make the cut; after a test screening with mothers and children: 1. The children found spanking machines frightening 2. The mothers didn't find hundreds of lemurs dancing to spanking machines entertaining either

As much as I enjoyed having this live commentary, though, Madagascar is not a good film. It seems that someone was aware that the story wasn't very good because nearly every shot has to have a gag; they are so afraid of people paying attention to the story that some gag has to be going on in the background, or some story-stopping movie reference has to be thrown in. Granted, many of these gags made me laugh and chuckle, but a good film has to know when not to tell a joke.

May 19, 2005

Good, but...

... Yoda and Obi-wan conspiring to kill all the Jedi and frame Anakin, who goes undercover as Vader so that he might one day undo all the damage done by R2-D2's death ray, which then gets stolen by the Emperor to put in the Death Star... it was just too much to handle. And that imagery of Ewok's riding Wookies into battle as if they were horses -- that ain't right, it just ain't right.

January 17, 2005

Movie: Million Dollar Baby

Short, two-sentence review in the extended entry.

Continue reading "Movie: Million Dollar Baby" »

November 17, 2004

Never learn

[click for PVP comic](http://www.pvponline.com/archive/2004/pvp20041116.gif)

After watching the new Star Wars trailer (who knew Alec Guinness would be in Episode IV?) and listening to the thunderous applause, I turned to zealot and said, "They saw the first two and they're still cheering."

November 12, 2004

More Incredibles

First note: The Incredibles was good the second time around as well. Can't wait for that to come out on DVD.

Second note: It was amusing the listen to Sarah Vowell, voice of Violet, on This American Life talking about her father and guns.

November 6, 2004

Movie: The Incredibles

The Incredibles is awesome. The only common complaint I heard: it was too hard to hear certain parts because people were laughing. It's a wonderful homage to the Fantastic Four with a touch of James Bond super villain-ry, and there's plenty of action, comedy, characters, and story to carry you through.

My favorite character by far was Edna Mode, but I still can't believe it was Brad Bird doing her voice.

October 17, 2004

Zombies and Puppets

I saw both Shaun of the Dead and Team America this weekend. Shaun of the Dead was 3/4 good, i.e. it started off well, but as the movie progressed, it seemed to forget the element of satire and became more of an actual zombie movie -- there are long sections of the movie, which, if shown by themselves, would be indistinguishable from a zombie B-movie. Still, as zombie movies go, its definitely worth watching for both the opening and ending.

As for Team America, I thought it was more of a South Park movie than the South Park movie was. I don't mean that as a compliment -- the movie reuses the same jokes, songs, celebrity mocking, and Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer parodying as the South Park TV show, but, as the ratings taglines say, "all featuring puppets" and with more crudeness. If you like the TV show, then you'll like the movie, but you may ask yourself why you paid $10 to see it.

October 13, 2004

Because they haven't sucked enough

Not only have they put Toy Story 1 and 2 DVDs out of print, Disney is going to further wreck the series by making not one, but two sequels (apparently Disney gets the rights once they split).

September 22, 2004

Movie: Sky Captain

09-22-04.skycaptain.jpg(SPOILER NOTE: I don't discuss any plot specifics, though any critique of a movie will tend to affect the way you view a movie, so if you wish to see the movie with virgin eyes, read no more). There's something I find amusing about Sky Captain in that they spent $70 million to on CGI to make a movie that looks a lot like Citizen Kane. That's not entirely true of course -- Citizen Kane didn't have gigantic robots for one -- but in many ways, from the characters, to the lighting, to the framing, I felt like I was watching an Orson Welles movie. There's also a bit of comic book style to the flick, and some Indiana Jones.

It was fun seeing a movie based in 1930s/40s mechanical sci-fi fantasy. With modern sci-fi busy exploring the takeover of mankind by computers, a nostalgic look at where we thought science and technology were taking us is refreshing. The dashing aviator and heroine reporter were also fun to see back on the big screen.

With all that said, I don't know if I would recommend Sky Captain or not. As adventure plots go, I thought it was poor. There are times where suspension of disbelief was not enough for me to cover-up contrived plot elements -- there was a certain element of, "Oh, we're under attack? Lets wait until they start blowing stuff up before we react," sort of logic to the whole movie that was off-putting. The movie also failed to build up dramatic tension for me -- the save-the-world story flow was so formulaic that it took itself for granted and didn't seem to bother trying to invest the viewer in itself. The characters act so non-chalantly in the face of danger that the viewer has trouble feeling any suspense on their part.

On the other hand, the visuals/style were beautiful. The CGI style reminded me of something Dave McKean said with regard to Mirrormask. He said that many people view realism as the goal for CGI, which seems silly, because with CGI you have entire realm of possibility outside of realistic (illustrative/dream-like). Sky Captain exemplifies some of these possibilities in ways that may echo through future movie productions.

Verdict: I dunno. See it as a matinee and split the difference :). You'll probably have fun, but you'll probably have more fun watching the new Star Wars Trilogy DVDs.

September 4, 2004

Grayson

grayson image

zealot sent me a link to the Grayson 'trailer' over at Untamed Cinema. Its one of the few trailers you want to give away a lot of the plot, seeing as the actual movie doesn't exist. Fun stuff.

July 31, 2004

Movie: The Village

When I saw the headline on CNN, 'The Village' Shyamalan's best film yet, I had high expectations going into the film. I should have read Ebert's review instead. I haven't seen Signs yet, but both The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable were far better movies with far better stories.

The Village starts off promising, and thirty minutes into the film you believe that Shyamalan might have something interesting setup. Then the pieces start falling into place, but you see each one coming ahead of time, because they fall in obvious and boring ways, and I myself am obvious and boring, so it took no incredible leaps of imagination. I thought of a reorderings of scenes that could have changed the movie entirely and made it much more twisted, but I cannot speak of them here, as to do so would obvious spoil the movie for those who persist in seeing it.

June 28, 2004

Movie: Fahrenheit 9/11

fahrenheit.jpgI'm not sure I know anybody who isn't going to see this film, and judging from the huge line that we stood in for a 9pm Sunday night show, the Bay Area will generate a huge amount of revenue for this film. Both of these are good things.

The movie brought back a lot of bad memories for me. At the start of Desert Storm I lived on a military base where many of the soldiers on the base were being deployed to fight. I remember the school offering counseling to those who had fathers sent off to fight. I remember the entire community wrapped in yellow ribbons. I remember everyone glued to the television awaiting the latest news of the war. All of my friends were lucky and their father's returned to them, but Moore's film shows that the ultimate fear in that situation -- that they don't come home -- does come true, and using a Bush clip to ask the question, "I can't imagine what it's like to lose a loved one," Moore allows one mother's words to answer Bush and describe the pain for all the audience to feel.

The film also takes the audience back to September 11th, first to the sounds, then the images of the reactions of the New Yorkers on the street. I remembered back to that day and the days that followed, knowing that the Pentagon had been hit right in the new Navy Command Center, and the families that I had shared dinner tables with may have lost a loved one. Many of us experienced a similar fear, in slightly different, personal ways, whether it be an officemate who got a call from a friend on the streets around the WTC that got cutoff, or a friend of yours that you know takes the PATH, or any other degree of connection to one of the sites of attack.

I talk about these memories of fear because that, at its heart, is what Fahrenheit 9/11 is about: the fears that we as a nation shared on September 11th; that same fear that was manipulated into pushing the nation into Iraq; the fears of the Iraqi civilians caught in the crossfire of their liberation; the fears of the families and friends of those sent off to fight. There is also those in the film whose actions are framed without fear, those for whom Moore presents evidence that 9/11 and the events that followed were profitable: Bush Jr., Bush Sr., James Baker, Halliburton, Saudi Royal Family, Cheney, and others.

The evidence isn't damning, and for those that follow the news it's not even new. Even many of the humorous clips have already been well delivered by the Daily Show over the previous two years. Untold revelations weren't expected, though. My memories of Desert Storm and 9/11 weren't new either, but they had been dormant.

What this film also brings to light is that in this day of questionable evidence, the case for the relationship between the Bush family, Saudi royal family and bin Laden family is made as strongly, if not more strongly, than the relationship between Hussein and terrorism, and that the Bush family had far more to gain from Hussein engaging in terrorism than Hussein did. From investments in Bush Jr. business ventures, to the close relationship of Bush Sr. and Saudi Arabia, to the protection of Saudi interests by deflecting attention on Iraq instead of the 15 Saudi suicide bombers of 9/11, to the transport of bin Laden family members out of the US on 9/13, to Bush and Karzai's private interests in a trans-Afghanistan pipeline prior to 9/11, to Cheney's relationship with Halliburton and its award of no-bid contracts, to the 5-10x salary that private contractors make over the soldiers who have to stand and protect them.

Much has been speculated as to how much this movie will effect the upcoming election, with most believing that it will be preaching to the choir. I hope not; there's much in the movie to motivate the vote, from images of black representatives, one after another, opposing the disenfranchisement of the black vote in Florida in 2000, to interviews with poor residents of Flint, Michigan, who have family and friends fighting in the military, juxtaposed with video of military recruiters being sent to the poor mall in town to recruit more. With 80-90% of voters having already made up their mind (one recent stat I heard), it will be the remaining 10-20% that will make this election interesting, as well as the extra 10-20% that wasn't planning on voting, and this movie seems well targeted at those votes.

Update: In light of pqbon's comments, I will offer a clarification of one of my points. If you have been reading non-mainstream news sources, including the numerous anti-Bush books (e.g. House of Bush/Saud), then there is probably very little new information in the movie (the only fact I had not heard was the profiteering conference attended by Microsoft). In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some of Moore's research consisted of reading blogs and watching the Daily Show. However, if you have been following only mainstream news sources, then nearly everything in the movie was probably new. For most Americans, their knowledge will fall somewhere inbetween, and the movie will certainly play well in that gap.

June 14, 2004

Movie: Prisoners of Azkaban

posterOf the three Harry Potter films, this one has the worst character development and worst pacing. If you don't know who the characters in the film are, then the film isn't going to help you, and most of the staple characters (e.g. the teachers) have about as much screen time as the extras. As for pacing, the movie tries to create and maintain so many threads that by the time they all pull together, the bang they create is rather weak. The Sirius Black plot, in particular, feels frequently neglected, despite being the main thrust of the movie.

It feels contradictory to assert this, but despite having these two major flaws, this was by far the best of the Harry Potter films. The previous two Harry Potter films offered their biggest rewards in the way they visualized the "big things," from the sorting hat ceremony to the monsters to quidditch. The problem with this, I found, was that the trailers were about as rewarding as the watching the movie, and the first two movies placed a premium of special effects over story, which moved along in an excruciatingly undeviating manner.

Azkaban, on the other hand, was rewarding in its holistic visualization of Hogwarts, from the well-designed segues that firmly establish the Hogwarts scenary, to a humorous interludes and gag jokes, to the flattened/colorized photography that presents a slightly modified reality that befits the Potter universe. I was especially impressed by the amount of humor, setting, and story that could be gained from segues of the Whomping Willow.

If only the movie had about another 10-20 minutes, so that tension regarding Sirius Black could be maintained, and so that we could see how the characters have grown since the previous year, and so the Marauder's Map is given its due, but perhaps thats too much to ask with such a short gift of time. A large narrative debt has being created and passed onto the next movie, though, and I wonder whether its going to be delt with, or cast aside as an incentive to reread the books.

June 13, 2004

Evil Dead the Musical

Speaking of Bruce Campbell flicks (Bubba Ho-Tep), a visit to the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival will get you a chance to view Evil Dead 1 & 2 - The Musical.

May 8, 2004

Movie: Van Helsing

van helsing posterThis is a brief review for those of you thinking of watching the movie; there are no spoilers here. I would give this a 2.5-3 out of 5 stars. Roughly, this means that I would watch the movie again (for free), but I certainly wouldn't buy it. The story had a lot of potential, and I liked the way that they merged the Dracula, Frankenstein, and werewolf myths into one cohesive mythology with a lot of homage to its predecessors, but there are several moments in the story where the movie falls on its face. It's frustrating, because mostly its a good movie. Van Helsing and Frankenstein, in particular, I thought were good characters in the movie.

One person I watched it with summed up one aspect of the movie well: it's as if they want to show you everything, rather than leave parts to the imagination; I would also add that what they show you, often wasn't as good as the imagination could come up with. The werewolf character is overwhelmed with special effects and takes away any presence the creature might have, as are many of the monsters in the movie.

The movie was better than it's Rotten Tomatoes score might indicate (hovering in the 20% range now), but this is a movie that I would save money on and watch as a rental instead of shelling out $10 for a movie ticket.

April 21, 2004

Movie: Musa

MusaIMDB users think that Musa is fantastic, but personally I thought this movie sucks. It's probably also fair to say that parakkum, honeyfields, and meta all thought it sucked as well. I picked this up in Chinatown with the help of rcp (who complained about not wanting to have to watch a movie with Chinese subtitles :) ) and I expected big things from a $60M war epic -- Hero was good, right?

Musa is a Korean war epic that takes place in China, where the band of Korean warriors struggle the make it safely back home. Along the way it manages to become a protect-the-princess flick, and then after that a confused mish-mash of other epics, like Seven Samurai. There's also probably more blood and dismemberings in this film than Kill Bill Vol. 1.

Instead of defining itself as an epic with its own character, Musa instead felt like a bunch of other epic movies edited together with Asian actors substituted in. The flow of the story is disruptive, the characters inconsistent, and suspension of disbelief becomes difficult when the character motivations are so thin.

As I mentioned at the start, though, apparently other people liked this movie, so if you want to borrow it from me, feel free; I don't think I'll be watching it again soon ;).

April 19, 2004

Movie: Kill Bill 2

04-19-04.killbill2.jpgThis movie was a lot of fun and continues the theme of sadistic punishments visited upon Uma Thurman. The Bride is a heroine that gets beat down again and again -- you have to wonder how she isn't a lump of scar tissue by now -- but Tarantino manages to make it highly entertaining, with plenty of black comedy and fun action.

Vol. 2 isn't as stylish as the first volume, nor is it nearly as bloody, but you get all the reward of the setup from the first movie as Tarantino reveals each of the plot secrets one-by-one. Judged as individual chapters, my favorite chapters were in the first movie; judged in their half-wise entirety, I thought that the second volume has the most to offer.

At Comic-Con, Tarantino mentioned that in some countries they might experiment with releasing the movie as individual chapters instead of two volumes. I think that this would have been very interesting and enjoyable, though I would have dreaded that many trips to the movie theater.

Side Note: One of the trailers was for "Tarantino Presents... Hero." Woohoo. I'm not sure I'll pay more to see the movie now that I already have it on DVD, but it's such a fun movie.

Update: saw this quote in the NYTimes: "Miramax is planning to release a half-dozen different DVD editions related to "Kill Bill." Ugh.

April 16, 2004

Movie: Punisher

Brian's Books hooked me up with a free screening pass, so me, bp, and pqbon all went to go see it. The free pass was good, because I really wasn't planning on paying to go see the movie, but I did want to see it in the hopes of washing the previous Punisher movie from my brain.

This Punisher movie was neither good nor bad, kinda lukewarm mediocre. It didn't really know what it wanted to be. It spent a really long time doing the whole origin story, and then it drifted for a really long time through a series of cheesy campy scenes where the Punisher doesn't really punish anybody (well, he does punish three people, but he wasn't actually seeking them out).

He sits around a bit, meets his dorky neighbors + one hot Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and tries his best to annoy John Travolta. It didn't help that I think John Travolta is a terrible villain. Everytime I see him in a role like this, the movie automatically feels cheesy. For further reference, watch Broken Arrow. The movie also tried to throw comedy in during this long part, but it was the type of comedy that was of the "look at this funny goofy guy" sort, which I was puzzled to see in a Punisher movie.

The final paragraph is a semi-spoiler, don't read of if you've read enough or don't want more of the movie structure revealed.

Continue reading "Movie: Punisher" »

April 12, 2004

Movie: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

eternal-sunshine.jpgI knew I could count on metamanda to post first on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and do a better job of it than I will here. There are no spoilers here; I don't really discuss the themes of the movie, either. Mostly I'm just pointing out why I like this movie. If you want to find out about the basic premise and themes of the movie, I would suggest reading meta's entry first.

I liked this movie a lot. In terms of screenplay, I would rate it above Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, which are the only other Kaufman films I've seen. Both Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine plunge the depths of the mind as separate subconscious worlds, but I felt that Eternal Sunshine took this plot device to much greater levels of mastery.

The scenes in the movie come across as having so much depth: within a single scene Kaufman will blend in elements from the conscious and subconscious storylines, bouncing seamlessly between the two and even having the two storylines co-exist. This interweaving builds both storylines simultaneously and creates so much interconnection that when dramatic points do occur, they feel very convincing and rewarding rather than conventional and predictable.

As for the other elements of the movie (i.e. the acting), I wouldn't nominate anyone other than the director for an award. The movie is presented by the director so well that I really can't conceive of trying to do it differently. The acting, though, is nothing to criticize nor praise. Carrey and Winslet are convincing in their roles, but nothing they did particularly impressed me.

February 15, 2004

Movie: Lost in Translation

movie posterI saw Lost in Translation awhile back, and I was surprised to find that I didn't actually write an entry for it. I'm not going to take the time to write a full review right now, though maybe I will when the DVD arrives from Amazon, but I will take this opportunity to post this comment I left on Joi Ito's site on asianmediawatch.net mobilizes against "Lost In Translation". The thread brings up the topic of rascism in Lost in Translation, and a petition by asianmediawatch to ask that Academy voters vote against it.

I spent half my life growing up in Japan and the other half in America. Thoughout I've been an American, struggling to understand and partake in the Japanese culture and ancestry that I share as a half-Japanese American.

I don't see LIT as racist. From a pedantic point of view the division is cultural, not racial. From a personal point of view, the disconnect that the main characters feel with the Japanese culture, and the lack of identification that Mimi cites, is one that I personally feel, despite the many years I have spent in Japan. My struggle to connect with the Japanese culture doesn't mean that I denigrate the culture, or that I have a condescending view of it. Similarly, portraying this disconnect that others and I naturally feel in a movie isn't automatically racist, nor does it display cultural elitism.

The important distinction is that, while stories like LIT can take the opportunity to portray one culture as being superior, LIT doesn't. If LIT had a scene where Bill Murray's character returns to America, and the American culture is elevated on a pedestal and portrayed as being superior, then I would change my opinion. Instead, LIT is filled with scenes such as Scarlett Johansson's character visiting Kyoto that are respectful, and it's clear that the characters' problems will not evaporate when they return to America.

I don't feel that my feelings are racist/cultural elitist, and I welcome movies that portray emotions that I personally can identify with. Petitions like this make me imagine a world where every movie is a tourism video instead of a story, a politically correct whitewash without any honest emotion or portrayals.

December 17, 2003

Movie: Return of the King

I'm going to keep this review short for three reasons:
1) Some of my friends haven't seen it yet, and anything I might say could be construed as a spoiler, such as the scene where Saruman reveals to Frodo that he is in fact his long-lost father, and that he was hidden with Bilbo in order that some day he might learn to use the ring and restore good to the universe.

2) I had very little sleep, as a result of the fact that the movie ended at 4am.

3) Related to (2), I don't think I enjoyed the movie as much as I would have had the climax of the movie not occured ~3:30am, after I had been at the theater since 10pm.

My current impression is that I liked the movie, though I think I liked TTT the best. TTT has the benefit (or detriment to some) that it occurs in the middle, so it isn't burdened with all the setup of FotR, nor does it have to wrap up every loose end of the story. It is also the first movie in which we get to know Gollum, so all the beautiful surprises of his character are revealed in that movie, whereas in RotK his character is very familiar.

At least until I see the movie again, I think this will be my current theory on the trilogy: TTT best, RotK second, FotR third, all great movies, and will all have honored positions on my bookshelf in their extra long extended versions.

December 16, 2003

More reading prep for tonight

This reminded me of a performance of "Spectacular Spectacular" (Moulin Rouge) done up LotR-style for Comic-Con:
A Lord of the Rings and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Musical Adventure: index.html

Tonight

gollumYes, I found it I did. A secret way into the theater. Orcs don't use it, orcs don't know it. They go round for miles and miles. Come hobbitses, quick and swift like shadows we must be.

gollumPervy hobbit fancier. Phhfftt!!!

December 15, 2003

One day

gollumOne movie to rule to them all

gollumOne more night to find them

gollumOne really long line to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

December 14, 2003

Two days

gollumtwo terrible days of waiting, it burns us, it burns us

gollumTwo tricksy hobbitss... I betss they taste juicy sweet!

gollumtwo towers on two DVDs --

gollum--Stupid special features with that stupid turd Serkis taking credit for us, *cough*, *cough*. Talentless hack stunt double!!!

December 13, 2003

Three days

gollumThree days...

gollumStop me if you heard if you've heard this one. Three men walk into a bar, an elf, a man, and an orc--

gollum--Yes, yes, all dead and all rotten, elves and men and orcses. What's your point?

gollumoh, you're no fun. we hates you. we hates you.

December 12, 2003

Four days

gollumFour days left. We should strangle them in their sleep

gollumno... no... too risky... unless...

gollumWe let 'her' do it... yes....
(dedicated to honeyfields for getting us tix)

December 11, 2003

Five days

gollumCold be heart and hand and bones, cold be travelers far from home...

gollumFive more days we have to wait in this stupid line with these stupid, fat hobbits. Give us our precious tickets!!! Ah!!!!

gollumthey do not see what lies ahead when sun has failed and moon is dead!

December 10, 2003

Six days

gollumsix more days and they'll give us our precious oscar

gollumWe wants it raawwww.... and wrwrwriggling

December 9, 2003

Seven days

gollumSSSeven more days.... Yeeesssss.... Our preciousss will be oursss....

gollumnot listening. not listening.

December 8, 2003

Eight days

gollumeight more days. nobody hitting on me. cannot cope.

gollumIf we bites off Master's finger and steal Ring, he will haves dinner with us. Yes.... Yes.... Will just have to figure out how to get around Sam first.

gollumsam will kill us if we try.

~*~ Secret Diaries ~*~

November 26, 2003

Reading prep for Return of the King

gollumSomeone took a whole lot of time to create an encyclopedia of Tolkien's works. Think Silmarillion, but summarizd and highly cross-indexed.
The Encyclopedia of Arda

November 17, 2003

Movie: Master and Commander

Saw Master and Commander with metamanda over the weekend. I pretty much agree with her review. The movie starts off with an exciting chase, then it descends into these small events with minor characters in the movie that you can barely tell apart. I understand the sequence of events that the writer was trying to get in order to show the progression of the main characters, but the way they were represented in the story just didn't feel smooth to me. Also, why in the world would you put doldrums into a sailing movie? Doldrums, by definition, are boring.

Overall, a good movie, I just wish that the middle was rewritten to focus on the main cast, with less side plots.

November 14, 2003

40 best directors

...according to a British publication. I've seen films by 16, though this isn't really a counting list I guess.
Guardian Unlimited Film | Features | 40 best directors

November 6, 2003

Movie: Matrix Revolutions

metamanda hated it, rottentomatoes was tracking it at 38% approval, so how did I feel?

I liked the middle part of the movie, hated the first part, and had lukewarm reaction to the last part (more detailed breakdown in the extended entry). It's not as bloated as Matrix: Reloaded as is a better movie, but I think everyone already agrees the first was the best. If they combined the second two into a single self-contained movie, it probably would have been a lot better, and fit more naturally as a complement to the first movie (I listed some example cuts in the extended entry). Instead, the second and third installments feel disconnected from the original storyline and try to beat it in quantity rather than quality.

** SPOILERS FOLLOW **

Continue reading "Movie: Matrix Revolutions" »

November 5, 2003

Movie list online now

In the spirit of using MovableType as an all-purpose leatherman, I now bring you:
KWC's Movie Management System (KMMS)

read on if you want to know how it's powered

Continue reading "Movie list online now" »

October 19, 2003

Movie: Matrix Reloaded

I just picked up the two-disc DVD for the Matrix Reloaded. I noticed something that I had never seen before. At the end of the movie, when Neo reaches into Trinity's chest and massages her heart to bring her back to life, you see an X-ray image of Neo's hand on her heart on the computer screen on the Nebuchadnezzar. After we had seen the movie the first time, we were going for the whole matrix-in-a-matrix theory, and this just seems to throw more credence to the idea.

October 13, 2003

A Top 100 list that I can do a little better on

AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies

I scored a 42 on this one. I guess I can set a goal for myself of getting to 50.

Cool Matrix Trivia

Agent Smith's license plate is IS 5416. If you look at Isaiah 54:16 you get the following:

Isaiah 54
16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.

(via Fark)

September 10, 2003

Celebrity Look-alikes

photo photo
The Daily Show had a hilarious segment on last night showcasing the latest debate for the Democrat Presidential candidates. The debate was quasi-bilingual, as the questions were first asked in spanish, then translated into english. This required, of course, that each of the candidates do their best to butcher a spanish phrase of their choice. Lieberman's attempt at spanish was absolutely horrible, and he gave this look that just reminded me of Gollum during the memorable Gollum vs. Smeagol scene in the Two Towers. But rather than trust my opinion, why don't you decide?

Update: If you want to see Lieberman's muchos spanish skills, On Lisa Rein has posted the segment (it's about a minute or so in).

July 27, 2003

Movie: Hero

While we were leaving Comic-Con for the day we noticed a vendor selling Chinese copies of Hero (Ying xiong), so we felt compelled to pick up our own copies.

If you took Rashomon's structure and Ran's colors, and then threw in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fight-direction with much more vividness in the scenery, you would start to get an approximation of this film. The most important aspect of this film is definitely the visuals, and alone they are worth watching the film for.

The story preaches a strong message, but the structure makes it easy to predict. Also, the story is so strongly encoded in the colors/visuals that you could probably turn off the subtitles and understand most of the film. This isn't necessarily a criticism of the film - it goes with the type of film that this is.

July 10, 2003

Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean

movie posterI second Amanda's review of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. You'd think a movie that's (a) a Disney movie, and (b) named after a ride at Disneyland would have a lot of strikes against it, but Holes shows that Disney can get a non-animated flick right even in this day and age, and The Haunted Mansion will probably have more than it's share of badness to spread around.

Johnny Depp's drunken pirate performance single-handedly made this movie worth watching, and there are enough tweaks in the plot to keep it fun instead of predictable. The other actors turned in good performances, but their characters lacked the originality and flair of Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow.

June 9, 2003

Short Rounds

Cool use of QuickTime VR to see the site from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Petra the Treasury

Article from Ain't It Cool News on a Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-for-shot remake by a group of teenagers.

June 1, 2003

Movie: Finding Nemo

movie posterJust saw Finding Nemo tonight. It's a really well done movie and I liked it a lot. If anything, my only real complaint is that the previews give away a little too much. Not that the ending is in any doubt, but I felt like I already knew exactly what each character was going to do (except Dory, who's character was a hilarious surprise). Don't be surprised if I start talking in whale when you see me next. Iiiiii'mm aaaalllllll eexciiiiiiiiteeed toooooo seeeeeeee Piiiiiixxaaaaaar's oooofffiiiicce nnnnnoooowwwwww...

April 28, 2003

Movie: Bend in Like Beckham

movie posterI saw Bend it Like Beckham today. I enjoyed it much more than I thought it would given the type of movie that it is. I'm partially biased perhaps because I find humor about conservative Asian families especially humorous. The mentioning of Santa Clara was also fun for the audience cheers.

My favorite line of the movie was probably "Jess: She called me a Paki, but I guess that's something you wouldn't understand. Joe: I'm Irish."

My only disappointment with the movie is that I thought that the tension meter between Jess and Jules felt swung back and forth without feeling very realistic. It seems like the writer thought that it was necessary to create the appropriate transitions in the story, but didn't render them fully.

April 27, 2003

Movie: Holes

movie posterI saw the movie Holes today. I actually thought we were going to go see Bend it Like Beckham so I pleasanty surprised to see a well constructed movie that I had absolutely no preconceived notions about. In fact, if you do get the urge to see the movie, I suggest not reading anything about it as it will probably make the movie more enjoyable. I will say that it's a Disney movie based on a Newbury award-winning book.

April 21, 2003

Movie: Legend of Suriyothai

I saw The Legend of Suriyothai at the Castro theater with Amanda, Adam, Josh, and Gesara. Among the notable attendees were the director/prince, Peter Coyote (identified by Gesara, the rest of us had no idea who he was), and Danny Glover (only seen by Adam). The movie seemed good, but it was clear that it was hastily cut to shorten it (though it was still a very long movie). There are many, many scenes and many characters that have to be followed over a long time frame, and to add even more confusion to situation, the actress that plays the young Suryiothai also plays Suryiothai's daughter later in the film.

After the movie we visited the Odeon Bar where we got to experience "It's Christian Karaoke night here at the Odeon." We didn't stay for the whole show.

As the movie was very hard to follow, I've tried to transcribe an outline below that will (hopefully) remember what happened.

Continue reading "Movie: Legend of Suriyothai" »

January 4, 2003

Two Towers Two

Saw Two Towers for the second time. Man, I can't wait for the DVD.

December 18, 2002

Movie: Two Towers

movie posterTwo Towers (imdb) was awesome, even better than FotR. I'm not going to say much more, other than Smeagol/Gollum is best CGI character I have ever seen ("not listening, not listening", "Stupid, fat hobbit!").

August 22, 2002

Forum: Star Wars

PARC Forum
Digital Environments And Costumes In Star Wars: Episode II
Ari Rapkin
CG (computer graphics) Software Engineer
Industrial Light + Magic

Star Wars Forum Poster

Continue reading "Forum: Star Wars" »

March 12, 2002

Book/Movie: Black Hawk Down

book image

Finished this a week or so ago. A great book, a fantastic book. It's amazing that so much detail could be extracted from an event that had to be so chaotic for those involved. Bowden covers a lot of material, from the mundane day-to-day monotony of preparing for missions that will be cancelled, to the spiritual conflicts involved, to the consequences of bad decisions made on the battlefield. It's easy to see why the author has been popular among members of the military, because the book accurately captures the nature and experience of armed conflict.

The Movie:
It bothers me when I see criticisms of the movie (not the book) that harp on the fact that it doesn't have a central plot structure like Saving Private Ryan or other war movies. Those types of criticisms seem to miss the point, at least to me. The movie is the first big screen portrayal of modern war that I know of, a type of war that isn't fought above the ground inside of airplanes, or behind a television monitoring a smart bomb, or a war that's fought in a remote jungle. Black Hawk Down was urban warfare, fought by American ground soldiers, where our technological superiority was made vulnerable by sheer numbers and innocents didn't have time to get out of the way.

The movie isn't important because it tells a good love story, or because we personally identify with a lead character's troubles. Instead, it reveal our vulnerabilities. It shows the difficulties of executing good intentions and America's ineffectual role as a nation builder. It shows us the consequences of our decisions to use force in carrying out foreign policy.

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