Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Another Set of Good Ones

Man I've not updated for a while again. 

How to Train Your Dragon

Hiccup:[voice-over] This is Berk. It's twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death. It's located solidly on the Meridian of Misery. My village. In a word? Sturdy, and it's been here for seven generations, but every single building is new. We have fishing, hunting, and a charming view of the sunset. The only problems are the pests. You see, most places have mice or mosquitoes. We have...Dragons!

How to Train Your Dragon is delightful.  It has well developed, unique characters and really does a good job of being understated with its themes and doesn't try to shove them in your face.  I also really liked all the different kinds of dragons; I can imagine it was a very fun movie to animate.  A well deserved 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Hiccup: Astrid, if something goes wrong, just make sure they don't find Toothless.
Astrid: I will. Just, promise me it won't go wrong!


David Frost: Are you really saying the President can do something illegal?
Richard Nixon: I'm saying that when the President does it, it's *not* illegal!

While I do have my doubts about Ron Howard sometimes (eg. "A Beautiful Mind" was a fine movie.  I enjoyed watching it but at times, that movie really felt like it was pushing the whole "triumph of love and the human spirit" angle too excessively), I like that Frost/Nixon was more understated.  An inebriated Nixon calling Frost was a bit over the top, but otherwise, it's a generally solid political movie.  It's not as memorable or brilliant as "All the President's Men," but it's smart and terse. 

 On an unrelated note, perhaps an actor's acting abilities should be judged by the range that they have.  I find it amazing that Michael Sheen can go from David Frost to Wesley Snipes of 30 Rock. 

In the Mood for Love

Chow Mo-wan: In the old days, if someone had a secret they didn't want to share... you know what they did?
Ah Ping: Have no idea.
Chow Mo-wan: They went up a mountain, found a tree, carved a hole in it, and whispered the secret into the hole. Then they covered it with mud. And leave the secret there forever.

I watched this movie (once and then again) twice a while ago and wish I'd written a review of it sooner.  "In the Mood for Love" is a great movie.  It's artistic, beautifully filmed, and deeply romantic-Maggie Cheung looks gorgeous throughout the movie in her many qi paos.   

The Hurt Locker

Sergeant JT Sanborn: I'm ready to die, James.
Staff Sergeant William James: Well, you're not gonna die out here, bro.
Sergeant JT Sanborn: Another two inches, shrapnel zings by; slices my throat- I bleed out like a pig in the sand. Nobody'll give a shit. I mean my parents- they care- but they don't count, man. Who else? I don't even have a son.
Staff Sergeant William James: Well, you're gonna have plenty of time for that, amigo.
Sergeant JT Sanborn: Naw, man. I'm done. I want a son. I want a little boy, Will. I mean, how do you do it, you know? Take the risk?
Staff Sergeant William James: I don't know. I guess I don't think about it.
Sergeant JT Sanborn: But you realize every time you suit up, every time we go out, it's life or death. You roll the dice, and you deal with it. You recognize that don't you?
Staff Sergeant William James: Yea... Yea, I do. But I don't know why.
Staff Sergeant William James: I don't know, JT. You know why I'm that way?
Sergeant JT Sanborn: No, I don't.

I can't say if it really did deserve an Oscar for best picture, but I think it's a well-made film (although some people would say it's cliched and like a lot of other war films out there). 

Michael Clayton


I have to guiltily admit that it actually took a few tries to get all the way through Michael Clayton, which isn't really commentary on the quality movie but more commentary on our attention spans and on how busy and how overworked us grad students are.  The problem was that it takes a bit of time to get into the movie and it doesn't start to become compelling until ~30 minutes in.  While there are some elements of Michael Clayton that seem contrived, George Clooney as a jaded company man who has family issues (he's distant from his family and he's also short on money b/c of a failed business venture) and previous gambling problems, the movie, on a whole works very well as a taut, neatly plotted and well acted thriller.  And while most thrillers are loud and action packed, this one distinguishes itself by being generally quiet.  (*mild spoiler*  even early on, when Michael Clayton's car explodes, there's an explosion and just that- Clayton doesn't escape his car at the very last minute; he's already out of his car, looking at these horses on the side of the road.)  There are few over the top dramatic outbursts (granted Arthur Edens has a few outbursts but he is mentally unstable) but even the fantastic concluding scene, is quiet and restrained.  With solid performances from George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, it's a very good, solid movie- an intellectual thriller so to speak.    

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs isn't really on the same level as a lot of the really great animated films like the Pixar movies, but it doesn't try to be.  It's funny and borderline ridiculous at times, but overall, it's generally a fun movie to watch.   

Children and scaredy cats be warned: contains ratbirds! (possibly one of the worst hybrid animal combinations ever right behind mouse-a-roaches) and scary implications regarding the American diet 

There Will be Blood


The infamous milkshake scene lives up to its hype; it's ferocious and everything you expect it to be, but given the sparseness of the film...I think given the back of the DVD summaries, I was expecting more plot?  More events?  DVD summaries seem to place a huge emphasis on the rivalry between Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis) and Eli Sunday (Paul Dano).  And while that was indeed a critical piece of the movie, it certainly wasn't the main thread of it...it was more of Daniel Plainview's degeneration as a human being as he became more and more successful.  The movie's oftentimes too quiet, too empty when it's just Daniel Plainview.  I found Paul Dano's performance as Eli Sunday particularly affecting...you don't like the priest very much at all and there's something slithery, something that disturbs you, makes you uneasy about him that you just can't quite describe.  While the milkshake scene is one of the crowning points of the film, I really liked the baptism scene more (second part of the clip) which really tilt the Plainview-Sunday rivalry (b/c you know that Sunday, honestly, doesn't really have much of a chance in the end).

I recall listening to a podcast or something where the three main Washington Post movie critics were saying that the movies (the year that There Will be Blood was contending for Best Picture at the Oscars) nominated were all really strong and having finally seen them all I'd have to agree (maybe not Juno though...personally just wasn't a big fan of that). The movies for 2008 (fyi) were: No Country for Old Men, Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, and There Will be Blood. 


Norm Gunderson: They announced it.
Marge Gunderson: They announced it?
Norm Gunderson: Yeah.
Marge Gunderson: So?
Norm Gunderson: Three-cent stamp.
Marge Gunderson: Your mallard?
Norm Gunderson: Yeah.
Marge Gunderson: Oh, that's terrific.
Norm Gunderson: It's just a three-cent stamp.
Marge Gunderson: It's terrific.
Norm Gunderson: Hautman's blue-winged teal got the 29-cent. People don't much use the three-cent.
Marge Gunderson: Oh, for Pete's sake. Of course they do. Whenever they raise the postage, people need the little stamps.

While a lot of people talk about how much they like the dark humor mixed with really gruesome, horrific images and of course, the "Minnesotian" accents, I'm surprised by how little people talk about the soundtrack b/c it's a really great soundtrack.  Generally, I liked the movie, especially how cold and remote the scenery is. 

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes: You've never complained about my methods before.
Dr. John Watson: I'm not complaining. How am I complaining? When have do I ever complain about you practicing the violin at three in the morning, or your mess, your general lack of hygiene, or the fact that you steal my clothes?
Sherlock Holmes: We have a barter system.

Sherlock Holmes is a less actiony movie than I expected.  Well it is as actiony as it probably gets for Sherlock Holmes and perhaps too actiony if we're considering Sherlock Holmes from the books, but it's a fun movie.  I'm a big fan of character-driven action movies as opposed to the usual non-character driven action movies and I was expecting it to be more of the later. I think my favorite part of the movie has to be the Holmes/Watson relationship and even though I do like Robert Downey Jr.'s Holmes a lot (he's insanely brilliant but flawed and needy), I liked Jude Law's Watson a lot more b/c he's the stable, sane tolerant one in the relationship and I wish that they'd focused more on the Holmes/Watson relationship rather than other ones.  I was pleasantly surprised by how they handled Watson's engagement with Mary and how they resolved how she fits in with the duo.  I also really liked the soundtrack and thought it went well with the movie.  (although initially listening to the soundtrack, having not heard it while watching the movie, I found it quite odd.)

Holmes isn't a very good movie for you to watch, though, if you are looking for a good mystery that you can solve alongside- I think the movie did a fine job of establishing a mystery and I'm so glad there wasn't anything supernatural involved, but the general clues are probably just shown briefly in a few scenes, mainly the laboratory scenes and all very chemistry based- that it would probably be quite difficult to try to solve the case alongside Holmes.  And I wasn't a big fan of the Holmes/Alder interactions...while I liked Alder's introduction, her plot line was rather cliched and I would have liked that time to have been dedicated to more entertaining purposes like more Holmes and Watson moments.