cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Just got back from seeing all the Best Picture nominees (been a while since I spent that much time in a theater), so I'm about as informed as I'm going to get. So here goes:

Documentary: Man On Wire is likely to win, and of the two I've seen it would get my vote.

Animated Feature: Wall-E, hands-down. Still the best movie of any kind I saw last year.

Visual Effects: All three of these are good, but I'd give it to The Dark Knight.

Sound & Sound Editing: My vote would be Wall-E for Sound and Slumdog Millionaire for Sound Editing, but Dark Knight will probably collect at least one of these.

Song: "Jai Ho" from Slumdog. It made for the most enjoyable credits sequence of the year, and is up against a less memorable song from the same film, and a good but not great Disney tune.

Score: Curious Case of Benjamin Button if they play it safe, otherwise Slumdog.

Makeup: Benjamin Button. Dark Knight stretches credibility toward the end, and if they were going to reward the Hellboy makeup they would have done so in 2004.

Costumes: I haven't seen The Duchess, but if anything beats Benjamin Button, it will.

Art Direction: I'd give it to Changeling, but it's close between that and Benjamin Button.

Editing: Slumdog and Dark Knight are both excellent in this category, but I'd give the slight edge to Slumdog.

Cinematography: The Dark Knight has a good shot at a lot of the technical awards, but this is the one it should easily walk away with. I don't think there's been a better-shot movie in quite a while.

Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog should and probably will win.

Original Screenplay: In Bruges gets my vote, but I'd put my money on Milk as the only Best Picture nominee in the category.

Director: With the possibly exception of Gus Van Sant, everyone in this category has made better movies than what they're nominated for, but I think Danny Boyle will take it.

Supporting Actress: I would give it to Taraji P. Henderson, but I think the smart money is on Penélope Cruz.

Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger.

Actress: I think Kate Winslet will win it, although it's far from her best work. I would actually give it to Angelina Jolie.

Actor: If I were picking it would be a toss-up between Richard Jenkins and Frank Langella. Chances are it will go to my third choice, Mickey Rourke.

Picture: Slumdog. It's won every other award it's been up for, and of the nominees, it's the strongest, with Benjamin Button a close second. Not my first or second pick for best of the year, but those aren't on the list.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Not a lot of surprises this morning. The major categories are mostly the "prestige" pictures that open at the end of the year specifically to win awards. I'm just going to do bullet points while I organize my thoughts and wait for the categories that weren't announced on television to show up online.

Very happy to see In Bruges and WALL-E up for screenplay.

The lead vs. supporting distinction occasionally baffles me. Philip Seymour Hoffman has top billing in Doubt, but is nominated for Supporting, while Kate Winslet wins a Golden Globe for The Reader, and is now up for Lead Actress with the same role.

Looks like only the two categories where I've seen all the nominees are Sound Editing and Song.

Not surprised to see The Dark Knight up for a lot of technical awards, just would have liked to see it and WALL-E in more of the major categories.

Kind of surprised Gran Torino didn't get any nods; the Academy usually loves Eastwood. Changeling is up for a few, but none for him (and most of the reviews I've read say it's the weaker of the two).

That's about all the insight I have this early in the morning (and typing while holding a wiggling infant is getting to be a challenge), so I guess we'll see what happens a month from today. Maybe I'll get a chance to catch a couple more major nominees between now and then, and have some more informed opinions.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
I haven't seen enough of the contenders to make a lot of predictions, but here are a few things that would make me happy early tomorrow morning, in descending order of likelihood:

Almost certain
Slumdog Millionaire for Picture, Director, and Screenplay.
WALL-E and Kung Fu Panda for Animated Feature.
Mickey Rourke for Actor.
Heath Ledger for Supporting Actor.

Possible
The Dark Knight for Picture.
Man On Wire for Documentary.
The Fall for Art Direction.
In Bruges for Screenplay.

Unlikely
WALL-E for Picture.

Like I said, I haven't seen as many of the movies that are likely to be nominated as I have in the past, so not making a complete list. That and it's kind of a moot point since I didn't get around to this until 11:00 at night, so unless you're reading this in the next seven and a half hours chances are I've already posted again on the subject, this time with reactions.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 39: Slumdog Millionaire
An Indian game show contestant is accused of cheating (because the authorities cannot believe that someone from the slums would know so much trivia), so he recounts his life story to explain how he knows the answer to each of the questions. As a framing device it's interesting and entertaining, but not nearly as much as the story he tells about growing up in the slums of India and his search for a lost love from his childhood. The movie is unflinching in its portrayal of the hardships the characters go through, but for every heart-wrenching pain there are several of infectious joy that are all but guaranteed to put a smile on your face. This is on my short list of the best films of the year, and if you get a chance I highly recommend seeing it.

DVD 75: Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
So the story behind this is that Donner and screenwriter Mario Puzo wrote the first two Superman movies as one long story in two parts, and were shooting both of them simultaneously. To meet the deadline for the first film's release date Donner had to put the sequel on hold with about 80% of it shot, and before he could resume the studio decided to get a different director for Superman II, it was rewritten and almost entirely reshot, and that's the version that was released. Twenty-five years later, some editors got ahold of Donner, found the vaulted footage he'd shot, and cut together his version of the movie as best they could (some of the replacement director's shots had to be used, as well as a screen test between Clark and Lois). Now I liked Superman II, but the tone seemed much lighter and more comedic than the first one, which distracted from the story at times. This version puts all the concentration back on the story, more closely matching the original's tone and filling in some plot holes, making for an even better movie.

DVD 76: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
From the advertising this looked like a heist movie, not the family drama it turned out to be. Which would have been fine if it were a more interesting family drama. Instead it's a bunch of miserable people getting more miserable because of their own mistakes, which isn't really that fun to watch. It starts with a lot of promise and has an ending that could have been much more effective, but everything in between is too weak to sustain interest in the characters.

DVD 77: Monty Python's Flying Circus season 1, disc 1
While it's less polished than their later work, it's still consistently funny in its absurdity. Looking forward to the other 15 discs of the set we picked up at a great price.

DVD 78: Man on Wire
Incredibly interesting documentary about Philippe Petit, a high wire walker who snuck into the World Trade Center one night in 1974, secured a wire between the two towers, and walked back and forth between them above a crowd of onlookers the following morning. Jumps back and forth between the act itself and Petit's life story, including other high wire stunts and the long planning process. Aside from being a fascinating story in its own right, the filmmakers make excellent use of reenactments, archival footage, and interviews to convey what was going on in the minds of Petit and his cohorts, as well as capturing the sense of awe that someone would actually do something so crazy ant impressive.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
DVD 68: El Orfanato
If more horror movies were like this, I might be a bigger fan of the genre. Instead of trying to startle or gross out the audience, the filmmakers made a compelling ghost movie that never sacrifices the quality of the story for cheap scares. Watching this, you are right there with the heroine, concerned for her sharing in her drive to find out what forces are at work in her home. What really impressed me as the pieces came together at the end was how some of the seemingly supernatural occurrences actually had mundane explanations, but when they occurred in the film there was enough else going on that there's every reason to suspect anything but the haunted orphanage is behind them.

DVD 69: Grave of the Fireflies
This is another of those movies that I've heard references to, but never knew much about beyond its reputation as a great film. I knew it took place during World War II, but until I pressed play on the DVD player that was the extent of my knowledge. So I had no idea that I was going to be sucked in by the story of a Japanese teen who is left to care for his little sister after they lose their home and get separated from their mother during a firebombing. The lengths they have to go to just to survive are tragic, but despite that there are beautiful moments of joy throughout the film. I would highly recommend this to anyone - it's one of the most moving animated films I've ever seen.

DVD 70: WALL-E (with Pixar "Geek Squad" commentary)
Since I've already posted twice this year about the movie itself (still in my number one spot for the year), so let's talk about the disc instead. The commentary track I watched was four people who worked on the movie (three animators and a producer, I think) talking about all the various science fiction references and in-jokes they'd worked into the movie. Although they had a tendency to go off on tangents (especially about Star Wars and Star Trek), it was still interesting and entertaining to hear their influences and banter. The other high point of the disc (at least what I've watched so far) is BURN-E, a hilarious short film about one of the other robots on the ship whose job is indirectly made much harder by WALL-E.

DVD 71: Dark City Director's cut
I already thought this was a great movie, but the improvements made in this director's cut are icing on the cake. Like other noir-influenced science fiction, the elimination of the opening voiceover is an immediate improvement; it gives the audience more time to figure out what's going on without having the answers given to them right off the bat. The other notable change is that William Hurt's detective is given more screen time, fleshing out his character and giving more insight to how the story looks to someone on the outside. Even in it's original state (both versions are included on the disc), I have trouble thinking of a more original science fiction film in the last decade.

Book 16: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
Although it starts off a little slow, once it picks up this is a welcome continuation of the Thursday Next series. As is expected in Fforde's books, there are a number of disparate problems thrown at Next, which intertwine in unexpected ways that sometimes help and more often further complicate things. Laced throughout are the usual literary references, social satire, and good bad puns. I don't think it would work as an introduction to the character, but if you've read the other Thursday Next books you should enjoy this one.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 38: The Wrestler
It’s a good movie, but nowhere near the level I’ve come to expect from Darren Aronofsky. There are hints of his unique style, but for the most part it looks like anyone could have directed it - there’s not enough to visually distinguish it from any other indie film out there. That said, the story and acting are both good, and I can’t recall any other film taking a serious look at the ups and downs of pro wrestling - there’s a lot there that you don’t really think about, especially what happens when the spotlight fades. But it’s just not quite enough to make the movie stand out.

DVD 66: Battle Royale
I love that the movie doesn’t take too much time to justify its premise of adults being so afraid of student protests that they start pitting teens against each other in 3-day death matches on a remote island. Instead it jumps right in, using the fight for survival as an extreme version of high school cliques and social drama. While it’s at times disturbing to see violence visited on youth, for the most part the absurdity of the situation and the fact that few of the characters are seen as helpless make it removed enough from reality to serve as an entertaining hyperbole.

DVD 67: House of Flying Daggers
The difference between the film stock and the CGI is at times distracting, but for the most part it’s a fun stylish action movie. I especially like how much the battle that will determine the future of the titular organization is built up for the whole movie, only to be overshadowed by the much more interesting love triangle.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 37: Burn After Reading
A fairly funny comedy based on throwing a bunch of extreme personalities together and watching what happens. Lack of any really likable characters keeps this from being on par with the Coen’s best comedies, but it’s entertaining throughout, which makes it better than Intolerable Cruelty or Ladykillers.

DVD 59: The Third Man
Easy to see why this is considered a classic film noir, and why Orson Welles’ character is often named among cinema’s top villains. He’s not as menacing as some others, but his speech on the ferris wheel alone demonstrates a chilling indifference toward hunan life. Interestingly enough the movie starts like a lighthearted comedy, which makes it that much more effective when things start to go downhill.

Book 15: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
A very interesting take on the post-apocalyptic dystopia, in that no explanation is given for why civilization has collapsed. Instead we follow a man and his son as they struggle to survive, seeing how the inability to trust anyone else affects them. Bleak throughout, the combination of suspense and poignancy make this easily the best book I’ve read all year.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 36: Tropic Thunder
It's uneven, but the funny parts are funny enough to make up for the parts that lag. As an industry parody it works largely because of people and companies willing to break type or self-deprecate.

DVD 49: The X-Files: Fight the Future
Satisfies on a few levels: It's entertaining, intricate enough to stay interesting after multiple viewings, and a big enough story to warrant a movie. The most satisfying thing though is that it helped get the taste of I Want to Believe out of my mouth and reminded me of why I liked the show.

Book 13: The Children of Men by P. D. James
An interesting read, especially after seeing the movie. It's a great example of very different takes on the same story that both work well for their respective mediums. Characters are switched around, the emphasis is on the main character's relationships (mostly with his cousin, who runs the country) rather than the action, and the pacing and endings are completely different, but neither is really better than the other, they both work wonderfully in their respective mediums.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
DVD 47: In Bruges
I saw this advertised earlier in the year and thought it looked amusing, but didn't go out of my way to see it. Had I known it was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, the man behind 2004's Six Shooter, I would have caught it opening weekend, and I wouldn't have been let down. What could have been a standard fish out of water comedy about hit men hiding n a small Belgium town after a job gone wrong is elevated by the characters, who are well written and excellently portrayed. Most interesting is the fact that the most likable character is a genuinely bad person - beyond the killing and violence he is downright offensive throughout the movie, while the "villain" is a dedicated family man who strictly adheres to a moral code. And those are just two among an ensemble that doesn't have a single weak link, in what turns out to be one of the funniest movies I've seen in a few years.

D48: The Fountain
This continues to be one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. Odd to say so little about it after being so verbose on the previous movie, but that's really all there is to say: It's a thoroughly beautiful film.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 33: WALL-E
Upon a second viewing, this one has cemented its place as best film of 08 so far, edging out...

M34: The Dark Knight
Might not have seen this again if the heat wave hadn't driven me to seek air conditioning. Still holds up, but not quite as well as Pixar's offering.

M35: Pineapple Express
There are enough laughs and Tarantino references to keep me entertained, but the story and characters don't seem like they'd endure enough to justify a DVD purchase. It's refreshing to see James Franco not brooding for two hours, but he and Rogen needed a better script.


DVD 44: Les Diaboliques
What starts as a fairly straightforward story of a man's wife and mistress plotting his murder takes the first of many sharp turns about halfway through and becomes one of the most suspenseful films I've ever seen.

D45: Interstella 5555
Basically a series of music videos strung together to form a (somewhat) coherent story. Unfortunately this means the quality of the sequences varies with the quality of the songs, and like many albums the standouts were the ones I'd already seen outside of the movie.

D46: The Golden Compass
Watching this I could see a few things: One, it seemed like it would be a better book than a movie - a lot of the dialog and plotting felt like something that would work better on paper than on screen. And two, because of the translation issues the other two parts of the trilogy probably won't get adapted. Which is just as well, because one of them is titled "The Subtle Knife", and there was absolutely nothing subtle about this movie.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 32: The X-Files: I Want to Believe
I really liked Fight the Future; it was entertaining, interesting, and had a big enough story to justify the transition to the big screen. I Want to Believe has none of those things. The story feels like a leftover script from an episode that never got made unnaturally expanded with repetitive scenes hashing over Mulder and Scully's involvement with the case and each other. There are brief moments of fun, but they are so rare as to actually seem out of place with the rest of the movie.

Book 12: Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
OK, I see why this is so popular. The alternate history is well-handled, the characters are interesting and well-developed, and the story is what people are talking about when they argue for the legitimacy of graphic novels.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 31: The Dark Knight
Saw it again after the last post, and thought I'd do a move in-depth reaction. Some of this gets into plot developments late in the film, so I'll put it behind a cut )
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 30: The Dark Knight
A few weeks ago I named WALL-E as the best movie of 2008 so far. Now that title might have to go to The Dark Knight. Just about everything in this movie works, and the few minor quibbles I had are vastly outweighed by the rest of the movie. It’s a little more than two hours, but there’s no wasted time in there - everything that happens moves the plot along. The fact that most of it is visually impressive or has a strong emotional impact only serves to further elevate the movie. Of course everyone will talk about Heath Ledger’s Joker, and rightfully so. He steals every scene he’s in, creating an absolutely terrifying yet fascinating villain. But he doesn’t dominate to the point of detracting from the other characters. In particular Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent is very well realized, and actually has the most interesting arc of the movie.

OK, I’m rambling, and most of you were probably planning on seeing it anyway (if you haven’t already). So I’ll just say that in a year flooded with comic book movies, this one stand alone as a great film that happens to be based on a comic book.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 28: Hancock
This one was getting terrible reviews, so I was a little cautious. Luckily I had a free pass, so it didn’t cost me anything to find out that it’s actually not that bad. The main problem with Hancock is that you can see the makings of a much better movie in there, but it just never finds its direction. I’d be interested to see how the version that ended up onscreen differs from the original script, which has apparently had several false starts over the past decade and was probably tweaked at every stage.

M29: Hellboy II: The Golden Army
The second Hellboy movie, on the other hand, is satisfying and entertaining from start to finish. Unlike most sequels the action is actually a little toned down from the first movie, but a lot of the battles become more meaningful through the development of characters and relationships. These were all likable characters to begin with, so getting to see them grow adds to the enjoyment while giving more weight to their decisions. Plus del Toro seems to have been given more to work with following the success of Pan’s Labyrinth, so the visuals and creature designs are endlessly interesting. A good, fun summer movie.


DVD 39: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Wow this was a great movie. A battle between geeky middle aged guys over the high score on Donkey Kong doesn’t sound like it would be very entertaining - in fact it sounds more like a comedy then a heartfelt documentary - but I was constantly on the edge of the couch with excitement. It was like watching a really good sporting event, but instead of hoping my team scored, I was watching to see if Steve Wiebe managed to get to the next level. It all works so well because the filmmakers show us that these are real people, not just a bunch of video game fans. They have the same concerns about family, work, and the rest that we all do, they just also happen to take 80s arcade games more seriously than most of us. And when you see their passion for getting that record score, you can’t help but get excited yourself.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 24: Get Smart
There are a few really good laughs, and the casting is as good as any TV to movie conversion I've seen, but in the end I'll take any episode of the show over this movie. It probably would have worked better with competent editing, but there are only so many pointless cutaways you can get away with, and this movie exceeds that number early on.

M25: The Fall
I like a movie that actively tells its audience not to worry about the story and just enjoy the visuals. There's nothing exceptional about the main story of a girl befriending a stunt man in a hospital, and the story he tells her to entertain her has little to no continuity because it's being told by someone who's making it up as he goes. But the look of that story within the story is incredible, and there are enough great ideas that the stories themselves are only there to support the design, and in that they serve their purpose.

M26: Wanted
I've been a fan of Timur Bekmambetov's Russian films, and he continues to impress as a director of stylized action spectacles. There's enough plot to hold the set pieces together, and the characters are more interesting than most mindless summer action films, in particular the protagonist's transformation from doormat to skilled assassin. Yes, the chases and shootouts are ridiculous and the reasoning behind them is paper-thin, but it all works.

M27: WALL-E
I just scrolled through the other posts I've made this year, and it's official: WALL-E is the best film I've seen in 2008. It's a serious contender for best Pixar movie yet, and that's going up against a pretty impressive body of work. A lot is being made of the fact that the first act is almost entirely without dialogue, but the reason that works is what makes the entire film great: the animators are able to create fully-formed personalities and incredible emotion in these robots without relying on speech or traditional facial features. When the humans do enter the picture, we actually connect with them less than we do the robots. I cannot recommend seeing this movie enough; you'll be glad you did.


DVD 36: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Upon repeat viewing, the middle lags a bit when the movie gets caught up in the convoluted plot and forgets to be funny for a while. By the end it still hasn't gotten back to the level of its first act, but as a whole the self-referential humor makes it a fun watch.

D37: Persepolis
I was hoping for a more unified story, but even as a series of vignettes this provides an incredibly interesting look at life in Iran during the 70s and 80s.

D38: Shoot Em Up
You know the stylized action I was praising in Wanted? That's the kind of thing this movie is going for and failing completely. The characters are uninteresting, the dialog is terrible and not self-aware enough to be funny, and the stunts that should be impressive are too heavily edited to enjoy. It would mark a low point in the careers of some very talented actors if it weren't so forgettable that no one will remember it in a few years.


Book 11: Falling Sideways by Tom Holt
The title is a good description of how it feels reading this book about clones, witches, and super-intelligent alien frogs. It seems like every chapter completely changes the rules by saying, "You may have thought you knew what was going on, but this new bit of information changes everything!" This could easily hurt the book, but Holt manages it with enough skill that everything still makes sense and enough humor that even if it didn't you'd still be laughing. This has just become an author whose other work I'll have to seek out.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 21: Speed Racer
It’s absurd and mindless from start to finish, but the visuals are impressive enough that I’m glad I saw it on the big screen.

M22: The Incredible Hulk
I liked Ang Lee’s movie better. The main selling point of this one is that there’s less of that pesky story and character development between the action scenes, but some of us like to have a reason to care about the people involved.

M23: Kung Fu Panda
This was a lot better than I expected. I’d gotten so used to Dreamworks pumping out Shrek knock-offs that it was a nice surprise to see a story-driven action comedy that didn’t substitute pop culture references for humor. Plus, this had the best animated action sequences I’ve seen since The Incredibles.

DVD 30: Mystery Science Theater 3000: Godzilla vs Megalon
I’ve heard people complain about licensing costs holding up DVD releases of the Godzilla episodes of MST3K, but after seeing this I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. This is early on in the show before they really established their rhythm, so the humor is uneven and often repetitive.

D31-33: Battlestar Galactica season 2.0, discs 1-3
Not as strong as the first season, but it’s still keeping my interest. The political parallels got a little heavy-handed towards the end, but in doing so managed to introduce a new angle to the story without seeming contrived, so I’ll overlook it (along with the stupid “half season” trick, because I’m netflixing these and don’t have to wait while they try something weaker in the timeslot).

DVD 34: Meet the Robinsons
Not one I would have sought out, but I heard good things so I queued it up and was pleasantly surprised. The plot twists are predictable and it lags a little in the middle concentrating on how wacky the family is, but it’s funny enough throughout to stay entertaining.

DVD 35: Soylent Green
Too often this one gets boiled down to the ending, which is a shame because it really is a great movie from start to finish. Knowing where things are going doesn’t at all detract from the path the story takes getting there, and the dystopia is not only well-conceived but still fairly relevant 35 years later. Easily the best movie in this post.

Book 9: No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
This was adapted to one of my favorite movies last year, very faithfully as it turns out. Everything I liked about the story of the film comes straight from the novel, which is well-written with interesting characters providing compelling points of view for the action. It actually weakened the movie a little for me, because some of the places where the film faltered (such as the clumsy transfer of emphasis from Llewelyn to Sheriff Bell) were handled more effectively in text than onscreen. He’s definitely an author I’ll want to read more of.

B10: Dust by Elizabeth Bear
The concept of a ship getting stranded in orbit for enough generations that it becomes a self-contained world is handled well, as is the story of manipulation and intrigue, but would have liked more time spent on the characters. It’s apparently the first in a series, so I may get that later on, but Bear’s other series-starters (Hammered especially) were much stronger when it came to characterization.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
DVD 27: Raiders of the Lost Ark
It goes for all three of these movies, but after probably dozens of viewings over the years this still holds up. Even when I know everything that’s coming, the action sequences are still exciting, the humor is still funny, and the characters are still interesting.

D28: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Often called the weakest of the Jones movies, and if this is the worst they have to offer that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Sure, some of the comic relief falls flat, and the story doesn’t flow as well as Raiders or Last Crusade, but the movie still works and continues to be a classic with a great villain, tons of memorable scenes, and one of the most exciting chase scenes I’ve ever seen.

D29: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Raiders is usually considered the better movie, and with good reason, but this is my favorite of the series. Aside from being the first one I saw on the big screen, it’s by far the most entertaining, largely due to the way Ford and Connery play off each other. Almost two decades after I first saw it, I still spent the entire two hours grinning because watching this is just that much fun.

Movie 20: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
It has its flaws. The look is more polished than any of its predecessors, a lot of the CG seems out of place, and the shift from religious mythology to science fiction took a little getting used to. Most of this came to mind after the fact though, because sitting in the theater, watching the old-style Paramount logo dissolve into an in-movie peak, only one thing mattered: I was watching a new Indiana Jones movie. And as an Indiana Jones movie, it works. It’s fun, the action sequences are exciting, and the movie never takes itself too seriously. Unlike the Star Wars prequels, this is a film that fits with the rest of the series, and I look forward to many repeat viewings.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 19: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Not as epic as the first one, and strayed more from the source material, but still a very fun and entertaining movie, and if they continue at this quality I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of the series adapted.

DVD 26: Hogfather
A clearly low-budget adaptation of a book from the middle of the Discworld series, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. But it does very well with the limited effects available, and only has a few misses throughout. It’s 3 hours long, broken up into two parts, but for fans of Terry Pratchett’s work it’s worth checking out. The sole bonus feature of the DVD, an interview with Pratchett, has a couple good bits, but the whole thing is so poorly put together that its hard to watch.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 16: Iron Man
Entertaining superhero movie with a strong cast. The climactic battle isn't as engaging as it could have been, but the rest of the film holds up well enough to make the whole experience worthwhile.

M17: Leatherheads
Apparently I'm part of this movie's target audience, which wasn't large enough to make it much money. It did a great job of mimicking the style of 1930s screwball comedies. There were a few weak points (i.e. the out-of-nowhere plot point thrown in to get the two main characters on opposite teams for the big game), but they are few enough to keep the movie fun.

M18: Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Not nearly the gem that the first movie was. There are some really funny bits, but they are weighed down by the rest of the film, which trades the subversive wit of its predecessor for blunt, obvious racial humor.

DVD 15: The Darjeeling Limited
This movie starts with Bill Murray, a Wes Anderson regular, running to catch the titular train and just missing it. For the next hour and a half I found myself thinking about how much better the movie would have been if he'd been on the train. Darjeeling lacks the depth, both of story and characters, of films like Rushmore and The Royal Tannenbaums.

D16: Ninja Scroll
I'd heard good things about this, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. It's a series of cliche-ridden battles without a strong story to hold them together. Amidst the bloodshed is a strong misogynistic streak that made the film that much less watchable for me.

D17: Southland Tales
There are a lot of interesting ideas here, and most of them don't make much sense. Granted, a good deal gets explained toward the end, but not enough to make the story work. Oddly enough, the narrator only tells us things that are obvious from the action - nothing that adds to the plot.

D18: Futurama the Movie: Bender's Big Score
There's a pretty easy litmus test for this one: if you like the series, you'll like the movie.

D19: Walk Hard
The musician biopic isn't really a large enough genre to warrant this kind of parody, and the whole thing plays as a sub-par Will Farrell movie that runs too long.

D20 & 21: The Muppet Show season 1, discs 3 & 4
Other than the episode with Twiggy, the series continues to be strong and funny.

D22-25: Battlestar Galactica season 1, discs 2-5
Honestly, while the story and characters are interesting and entertaining, what I'm really getting into with this series are the technical aspects. There's very clever use of camera work, lighting, and editing to enhance the verisimilitude and ground it in reality (as much as a sci-fi series can be).

Books 7 & 8: My Boys Can Swim by Ian Davis & The Caveman's Pregnancy Companion by David Port and John Ralston
Two guides for fathers-to-be written in a humorous style. Caveman's is more in-depth, but in the end they both give a basic outline of what to expect while constantly repeating one important piece of advice to the reader: "Be nice to the pregnant woman."
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 10: The Spiderwick Chronicles
Quasi-interesting story, but the CG effects didn’t blend with the filmed action, and there was never really enough investment to get me excited. When I am more entertained by one of the trailers before the movie than the movie itself, there’s a problem.

M11: Doomsday
I’m starting to like Neil Marshall. Sure, his movies aren’t great works of art, but they’re consistently fun and entertaining, and he tends to use women in leading roles that would normally default to men, without turning them into sex objects or having them be motivated by motherhood. The movie itself is a retread of Mad Max, Escape from New York, and other post-apocalyptic fare, and is utterly unapologetic about it. Plus, the Scottish setting is used in a clever divergence from other films in the genre.

M12: The Bank Job
This one’s being called a heist movie, but I’m not sure that fits. Sure, there’s a bank robbery, but the focus of the movie isn’t the ingenious way they pull it off. In fact, it’s a very basic plan that works more because of luck than skill. Where the movie gets interesting is after the robbery, when it seems like half of London is after the heroes because of what was in the safety deposit boxes they raided. The reason this movie works is that the criminals aren’t smooth professionals, they’re small-time crooks in way over their heads who are just trying to bluff and improvise their way through.

M13: Stop-Loss
Kimberly Peirce doesn’t make many movies (this is her first since Boys Don’t Cry nine years ago), but there’s something to be said for quality over quantity. Stop-Loss succeeds where a lot of Iraq movies have failed by not trying to condemn the entire war, but rather focusing on how one policy affects a few specific individuals. Strong performances throughout really make this movie, especially Ryan Phillippe, who makes it easy to understand the difficulty of his situation and the decisions he has to make concerning himself, his family, and his fellow soldiers.


DVD 9: Lust, Caution
Typical Ang Lee fare, which makes it one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. This story of WWII intrigue is what Paul Verhoven’s Black Book wished it could be. The lengths that the characters go to are incredible, and the payoff is incredibly moving. Unfortunately it didn’t get a very wide release due to its NC-17 rating. It deserved the rating (although the title card before the movie said it was just for sex, no mention of the graphic violence) - this was definitely a movie for adults, but not the stigma that goes with it. And to completely change gears, on a minor note, I wish I knew more about Mahjong. I’ve played it a couple times, just enough to realize the action in the games were reflections of the how the characters related to each other, but not enough to completely grasp the subtext.

D10: American Gangster
By-the-numbers mafia movie. A couple interesting twists, but not enough to elevate the movie to anything more than a typical gangster movie.


Book 5: Above the Line: Conversations about Movies by Lawrence Grobel
Transcripts of interviews with filmmakers in the mid-90s. The interviews are interesting in how they form a picture of the producers, directors, actors, and critics profiled, but the concentration was more on personality than profession for my taste. There is a certain amusement factor in reading a decade later how big a star Van Damme knew he was going to be, and seeing the very real spite between Siskel and Ebert is interesting, but things like that are the rare gems in an otherwise dry read.

B6: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
This would have made a good movie. Heck, if the WIll Smith film had just kept the ending of the novella it would have been exponentially better. As it is, the title story in this collection is the best in the book. The rest are hit-and-miss, often being more about the supernatural process than the characters involved - making for ideas that never really develop into stories.

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Chris

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