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Guardians of the Galaxy — I'm not sure what you guys liked about this. I liked the first one better; the action seemed more human-level, while 2's CG felt like it dominated the entirety of the movie. I'll watch it again at some time that is not 2AM on a fucking long flight. I really wanted to like this more; maybe the second time's a charm?
F8 of the Furious is the cinematic version of what I visualized when playing with Hot Wheels and action figures in my youth, plus the realistic family drama of a Mexican telenovela. Adolescent humor, girls in hotpants, and plenty of destruction to go alongside the vroom-vroom races. It's fun, but nothing else. 
Ghost in the Shell was MUCH better than I'd expected. The visuals are better than the writing, a pretty common occurrence lately, but I was surprised how much of GitS comic style, attitude and basic theory they managed to put into this new work, while deftly avoiding Shirow's tendency toward UTTERLY FUCKING OPAQUE political subtext. I'll probably buy this just to watch the purdy pictures.
Unlocked stars Noomi Rapace, one of my current favorite actors, alongside a surprising appearance by Orlando Bloom. I had no idea this movie existed, so was completely open for whatever it delivered. It's a good, possibly overly convoluted spy movie, where Rapace plays an interrogation specialist for the CIA (they do some hand-waving about her birth and accent) who is on psychological leave of absence, but is called in for an emergency job. Things get hairy quickly. It was good, not great. 
Kong: Skull Island is a fun action movie with just the right amount of social/ecological commentary. I enjoyed that they placed it in an earlier era, and against the backdrop of a war which we more clearly lost. They could have put it up against our successful but lackluster Desert Storm, or the ill-advised GW Bush follow-up, but by putting it in the era of Viet Nam, it was clear what kind of dilemma the military had been facing, and why they might long for a black-and-white struggle against which to pit themselves. 
Also saw Jeepers Creepers with my family, and was pleasantly surprised. I'd heard it was a good movie, full of surprises. It has snappy dialog, good twists, and reinforces my belief that no-one should ever visit rural Florida. Ha ha, Justin Long.
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The Girl with All the Gifts — This film had me enrapt from start to finish. This is a sterling, fresh and fascinating take on the zombie genre. If anything, this is an altered perspective on the statement made in the novelette, I Am Legend. I was never sure which way the story would go, and in the end I was fascinated with the varied and complex emotions it instilled in me. There are a couple of odd continuity problems in the story, but nothing ruinous. The girl who played the lead is going to be huge.

Swiss Army Man — The Daniels, as they credit their shared writers/directors effort, do a passable Michel Gondry imitation, including sweded films, makeshift scenery, and the volume of fully three films' worth of twee intimacy. Along the way they leap gleefully past every limitation of good taste to indulge in fart, shit, vomit, and boner jokes, as Hank (living but emotionally dead) and Manny (dead but emotionally alive) collaborate to rescue each other from their predicament, finding the meaning of love or at least true compassion along the way. It's never clear if we're actually dealing with a man who was stranded on a deserted island, or if it's simply a figurative one. The ending is fantastic, but does nothing to clarify the so-called reality of the film's preceding scenes. 
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I have rarely been more disappointed in a movie than Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom. I learned afterwards that it is based on a comic book, which has a significantly different art style. The movie clearly wants to be similar to a Laika film in its character depiction. The designs are very similarly proportioned, the shots' framing are sometimes similar, and the general tone is clearly aping Laika. However, I've seen Laika films, I know Laika films, and this is no Laika film. The entire movie looks like it is made from the pre-viz work that would go into a real movie. The lighting, textures, pacing, editing, etc. are all waiting for an editor to have their way with them before being passed to the people who will film the actual content.

My first thought was that it was older. We've all gone back and watched the original Toy Story and been shocked at the image quality – how it seemed amazing at the time, and now it's just weak sauce. So I figured this Frozen Kingdom maybe had been made in 2010 or 2005 – that might have explained it. – Nope, it's a 2016 film. Or at least that's when it was released… maybe the initial work was done much earlier, and it was shelved while waiting for a release?

It just feels like I got suckered in. The cast has Ron Perlman, Christopher Plummer, and Jane Curtain. It seemed like it would be a legitimate production!

It was not.
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I guess in celebration of the movie coming out, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter audiobook was on sale for US$5.95 on iTunes.


I should have known better, I really should. To some degree, it may have been better if it had not been an audiobook. For instance, I've been looking for audiobooks read by Alan Rickman or Tim Curry. Instead, whomever was reading this book would break halfway into a "Pepperidge Farm remembers!" tone of voice for Abe whenever something had to be read in character.

But, more than that, the book makes poor use of a couple of decent ideas, either by glossing over them, or bringing them to bear too late.

I'd started off pretty excited about the movie, and now I'm not particularly hopeful there.
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I watched the Watchmen, the Director's Cut even. Thanks, Weezie! Your care packages save my life. Pros:
  • almost slavishly faithful to the comic, save the end -- and the end is more comprehensible than the comic's was.
  • casting seemed spot-on for all the characters, except Owl-Dude who was good, but seemed like a handsome guy playing a dork.
  • Rorschach. Wow. Perfect, start-to-finish, makes Bale's Batman look ham-fisted and overly well-armored.
  • The Comedian, surprisingly. I had no empathy for the character in the comic; he's still a horrible person in this movie, but the larger sociopathic ethos makes more sense in the context of his environment. Or maybe it was just the actor. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, holy shit that guy is going to be big, if he isn't already. I am stunned to see that he was in PS: I Love You, which I watched the other day. I could -not- remember where I'd seen him previously.
  • it made me want to re-read the comic, which I've not in ten years; the time before that was probably college, and the time before that was when it first came out in its original run of singles. Which I have somewhere. I think.
  • gorgeous cinematography, almost to the point of being distracting from the story. nearly too pretty, too luscious in its grime and saturation
  • um, yum, latex.
There are some serious shortcomings though:
  • the acoustic soundtrack was weirdly noticeable and somewhat jarring, and the licensed music choices were all cliché; they were the kind of choices I'd make, sadly. All Along the Watchtower by Hendrix, Koyanisqaatsiby Philip Glass, these all speak to our own timeline, so they seemed out of place in the Watchmen '80s timeline.
  • and what's with keeping the movie in the '80s? the comic was set in the modern age of its time; not updating it makes it a more accurate depiction of the comic book, but does it say anything valid about our current era, or is it only making the same statement about the '80s?
  • The last scene at The New Frontiersman felt trite and out of place. Not the story twist, but rather the acting, in some lame mockery of Perry White and Jimmy Olsen, or J. Jonah Jameson. "It's a comic book movie! Make the newspaper editor a caricature!" Lazy shorthand, where so much of the rest of the film had some nuanced characters, even for cameos like Silhouette and the original Nite Owl
  • Knot-Tops - the "samurai" gang; these felt out of place; there's no real nipponophile tendencies shown anywhere else in the movie, so these quasi-bushido gang members felt out of place. Were they in the comic? Was the Nite-Owl II and Laurie alley tussle in the comic? I felt the whole sequence was gratuitous, more so since it was clear they were looking for an excuse to get in a fight. It felt like a sequence from The Director of 300 more than a scene from an Alan Moore comic.
  • the aging makeup prosthetics for Sally Jupiter and the guy playing Nixon were distractingly bad.
  • the natural dangling motion of Dr. Manhattan's meat-and-two-veg was distracting, and better portrayed than ANY of his lipsynch animation.
  • why re-work the artwork for The Black Freighter comic in that world? Why not use the original. Better yet, since the sequence isn't portrayed in the movie except for ONE SHOT, why shot it at all? What does it tell the audience who hasn't read the comic? It's an in-joke for comic geeks.
Overall, this is one of the best comic book movies out there, but it doesn't transcend its roots like the original elevated the world of comics into grown-up entertainment. This is a work for fans, and as one, I'm thankful.


Dec. 11th, 2009 05:18 pm
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All of the hype for this movie built me up a little too much. I was ready to love it, but I thought it was only OK. Superbad-meets-Shaun-of-the-Dead is pretty much spot-on, esp. since Superbad is another movie about which I was a little too hopeful and turned out to be merely OK.

This type of lead character, these neutered, post-ironic hipster, corduroy-wearing twigs, they are some kind of offshoot of the Harry Potter "make the losers and geeks in your audience comfortable by showing that they'll win" school of thinking.

The beginning of the movie was badass. The opening credits were fucking fantastic, the Rules of Survival and accompanying montage of the fall of civilization were perfect. So it was disappointing that though movie begins by setting up its own level of realism, it ever-more-indifferently ignores those rules as it progresses. The Tallahassee moment later in the film was... difficult; they'd set the man up to be a cartoon character, and provided lots of support for that, then they give him an actual moment of pathos. Then right back to Savage Steve Holland levels of comicbook laffs and violence. Gah, I'm arguing realism in a movie about zombies. A comedy about zombies. Please someone offer this thought process the double-tap.

All I can say is that I own the special edition of Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and even Resident Evil (!!!) but this one won't make it into my collection.
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D23 lures Disney fans - Entertainment News, TV News, Media - Variety:
Disney also used the confab to unveil Double Dare You as a toon production label with Guillermo del Toro to produce scarier animated pics; "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" as the title of the fourth swashbuckler in the franchise, to bow in 2011; "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" for the return of the Muppets on the bigscreen; and a 3-D revamp of the "Star Tours" ride.
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Yesterday was Mom's Day here in Japan, so I did everything for the entire day... cooking, cleaning, looking after the kids. This was more because The Wife is still down with something that was on its way to becoming pneumonia than it was about "tee-hee, see daddy try to do what mommy usually does!" -- we have a reasonable split on household duties.

In the evening we went out to see a movie; I think we may have managed this one other time in the last year's span, but the occasions are all too rare. We decided on Burn After Reading, because she likes Clooney and Pitt, and I had heard it was a comedy.

I didn't know it was a Coen Brothers' film until the end credits, but that single fact explains SO MUCH about the movie, in retrospect. I'm a pretty big fan of the Coens, having started with a first-run viewing of Blood Simple back when I was a junior in h.s. Raising Arizona is one of my favorite films. I'm not as hung up on the Big Lebowski as many are, and I've missed the last couple of their films. Can't even name them.

This movie seems about oblique and meandering as Barton Fink. When the end is reached, there's closure, but I'm not sure what the message was. In Barton Fink, it seemed to be about entering a personal hell when one sells out personal artistic goals folar widespread recognition or money. 

The Wife and I spent an hour or so discussing the movie afterward, always a good feeling to have enjoyed a movie and thought enough during it to engender discussion, but we were really unable to come to any solid conclusion. Is it a treatise on the lack of responsibility and misplaced sense of entitlement in American culture? Is it about the danger of following through on someone else's Really Bad Plan? 

I'd like to discuss this with those of you who've seen the movie, so those who care to comment but haven't seen the movie, there will probably be spoilers galore, beware.


Dec. 22nd, 2008 02:52 pm
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This week's Sunday night movie with dinner was Cars. I'd not seen this, nor Ratatouille, which came to DVD a few months ago here. I loves me some Pixar, and Cars was absolutely gorgeous, but it wasn't nearly as exciting as The Incredibles or Monsters, Inc. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for superheroes and monsters in a way that NASCAR can never hope to reach.

The animation on the cars was really impressive; I didn't expect them to have so much varied personality and movement, and I did enjoy that I knew what the rally-style trick to navigating the dirt track's corner was from the outset. The kids liked it a lot, and we'll probably watch it again this week; maybe I can even put it in English this time and watch it with the always-exceptional original Pixar voice acting.
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I'm listening to Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, and admiring Felicia Day's pipes; there's something almost liquid about her voice; syrupy maybe, but definitely flowing and beautiful. I wonder how many other roles she's had that have allowed her to sing. Not many, I expect, unless we're talking community theater.

This led me to wonder about my personal pick for best action hero of this generation, Jason Statham. Whenever I see him in a movie and he doesn't get to show off his martial arts, I'm gravely disappointed. It's like eating cereal without milk.
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Reuters: U.S. to announce $1 billion aid for Georgia: official : I'm so US-centric that at first I thought, Did the state of Georgia get hit by a hurricane?! Or is this to address the report that they rank 41st out of 50 for "smartest state"? Then I remembered it's not the only Georgia in the world, and I felt like a clod.

Then again, it's also a brand of canned coffee here in Japan, so I could have done worse, and assumed that the US is trying to get itself really high on caffeine and sugar.

And just to maintain the rambling tone: During my trip to the USA, I found a copy of Max Max WITH The Road Warrior new for 10 bucks, American greenbacks. I have been sour on Mel Since he started made that romantic comedy with Helen Hunt, and she'd hinted in the PR tour that Mel's an abhorrent human being, and then much later he did that "sugartits/jew" thing in Los Angeles, confirming that he's bad... BUT IT WAS THE ROAD WARRIOR! I bought it, watched it while making tonight's dinner (before going to work), and it turns out to be 1 DVD, two-sided, and pan-and-scan 4:3, and a miserable transfer to boot.

Epic. Fail. I gave Mel Gibson 10 dollars, and didn't even get what I want.
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Saturday, I saw Star Wars, which was prettier than it was good. It was better than Episode 1, maybe better than Ep.2, but most suprisingly it had more laughs in it than anything since Empire. Lots of fun moments and guffaws. But most suprising is the visual language; it was just gorgeous. Dark, but very painterly and lush.

Story-wise, I tried really hard but was unable to get past the damage that Lucas did to the franchise with the prequels. There is just no getting past the bad-ass Jedi being constantly unable to see the Sith Lord RIGHT in front of them. That may be the Siths' ultimate ability, but it's never explained in the movies, which otherwise go out of their way to over-explain anything else.

It's impossible for me to like the Old Republic troopers. They're stormtroopers. They're mass-created clone warriors who are fundamentally wired to betray those Jedi who have been fighting alongside them for the entire war against the secessionists. They're never cast as tragic in this regard; it's just a switch in their head, and as such it's impossible for me to feel like they're deserving of empathy or support.

And lastly, Anakin himself, who was supposed to have been "seduced" by the Dark Side, who was supposed to have had a gradual, one-bad-choice-after-another slide into darkness, but instead basically does a big flip-flop at the most critical juncture in the story, and suddenly becomes the world-destroying analog for Hitler and Satan or whatever, he's the most difficult of all to feel any sympathy for.

He gets a charming, plucky Padawan, Asohka, with major attitude and skills to back it up, and he has to learn how to deal with being a teacher. Handled a little more skillfully, the story might have shown how this was another chance for Anakin to avoid sliding into the Dark Side, and then give a nudge or hint as to why it wasn't ultimately effective in changing his ways, such as the padawan being injured or killed, and that experience would further distance Anakin from emotional attachment or taking others into his care.


Anyway, it was fun. I will probably buy the DVD, which I should have waited for to begin with.
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Today I took The Girl to see the latest Pokemon movie, Diamond and Pearl, Platinum: Guillotina's Flowerbed in the Sky; or something like that. Anyway, toward the end, there is a moment when a famous Pokemon is dying, and the newest pokemon suddenly evidences a previously unannounced ability, reviving it, bringing it back from the edge of death: AROMATHERAPY.

I was the only person in the theater laughing.
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WARNING: Only watch this if you have no interest in the movie, or have NO CARE of spoilers. Most of the explosions, characters, and plot points (as well as reveals) appear to be in the trailer.

That said, I'm still hyped to see it. I like rollercoasters, even though I can see where the tracks go.


Feb. 15th, 2008 12:33 pm
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I watched this on my iPod during my commute last night and on the way in today. The way it started off got me thinking that this was going to be another disappointment, like Garden State: too posed, too precious, and with little or no point in the end. Instead I ended up trying not to cry just as I'm arriving at work. Ellen Page is charming without guile, and Michael Cera plays a track / academic geek that is readily accessible to any guy who has liked a girl and felt awkward about it.

The soundtrack, I think, is what got me wary. About 1/3 of the songs featured really resonated; I picked up Sonic Youth's cover of  The Carpenters' "Superstar" on iTunes due to this movie. However there is a bunch of music that just feels like "oh, hai! we're analog and off key! isn't that precociously endearing?!" No, it's just annoying.


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