Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Tangled *Some Spoilers* 

Flynn Rider: Alright blondie.  
Rapunzel: Rapunzel. 
Flynn Rider: Gesundheit
 On paper, Tangled sounds ridiculous.  It's the retelling of the Rapunzel story except that this time around Rapunzel's hair glows and  has magical healing powers.  But somehow, despite all the odds, Disney makes it work.  Really well.  It's a pity that Disney wants to back away from its princess and fantastical image b/c Disney does epic, ideal fairy tales so remarkably well.  Tangled is funny, has likable characters, and a smart, complex villain, Mother Gothel.  (When Gothel finally says, "Fine, I'll be the villain", I'm almost reluctant to see it end that way.)  

I know that a lot of reviews have said that Tangled reminded them of Beauty and the Beast, but Tangled reminded me most of A Hunchback of Notre Dame, a happy fairy tale version of it.  One of the most fascinating parts of the movie is Rapunzel's relationship with her mother.  Gothel is in many ways like Frollo, except she's seemingly much kinder to Rapunzel, showers her with love and teaches her that the outside world is a wicked place and won't tolerate, in Rapunzel's case, how special she is.  Rapunzel's relationship with Gothel almost up to the end, is complicated and I'm glad that they depicted it as such.  Rapunzel herself is beautiful, naive, and at her very core, a dreamer as all Disney princesses should be.  I do really appreciate the fact that they played up her naiveness since she really hasn't seen the world at all.  Mandy Moore and Zachery Levi both do a fabulous job voicing Rapunzel and Flynn.  My main qualms with the movie were the music.  Moore, while she's a fine singer, somehow lacked that signature Disney singing voice.  I may be biased though b/c I've heard quite a lot of her other music (when she was a pop singer).  Donna Murphy (Gothel) and Levi both have it though.  It's also such a pity they didn't have Levi sing more b/c he's really got a fabulous singing voice.  Rapunzel is magical, delightful and goes to show that Disney hasn't lost it at all.    

October and November Movies

Shutter Island *Spoilers* 

Shutter island is about US marshal Teddy Daniels who is sent to investigate the disappearance of a patient who's gone missing on Shutter Island, the location of an asylum for the criminally insane but he finds more than he bargained for.  
Teddy Daniels: Which would be worse, to live as a monster, or to die as a good man? 
The central question at the heart of Shutter Island although it's not quite apparent until the very end is the quote from Teddy Daniels above.  It's a very sympathetic look at why people choose to indulge in their delusions and fantasies.  It's also certainly a fascinating question, and to an extent, I wish Shutter Island somehow focused on this question, this conflict rather than the mystery of what was going on in the asylum.  It's a bit sudden really when everything is revealed- we get hints certainly that something is really off w/ the whole situation but not really enough information so that we could have conceivably realized that Teddy was really just deluding himself about everything.  I could see how he could have deluded himself into thinking conjuring up an escaped patient who killed her children (as his wife did in his real life), but it's a stretch to add Andrew (his real self) as the arsonist who killed his wife (when it was his wife who set the apartment on fire).  Memento utilized a similar technique but somehow, the pieces fit together better in the end.

  Shutter Island is a fine, solid movie, although it doesn't quite have any distinguishing features that make it memorable like other movies in its genre: Memento had its reverse chronological story telling, Inception draws you into a new world and makes its ambiguity work wonders, and Fight Club has that whole other theme of rebellion.  Perhaps if Scorsese had employed more of his trademark touch to the film...it would have been more memorable.  Shutter Island has some eerie scenes like Daniels's flashbacks to his war days, his nightmares, and his visit to Ward C and some really truly beautiful scenes like his dream of his wife evaporating into ash.  I'm not sure what to make of the music.  While I loved "On the Nature of Daylight," I disliked the main theme and how it blared through the beginning- the introduction to the island wasn't too creepy and the obviously menacing music didn't really help it.

Where the Wild Things Are 

Based on the beloved children's book, Max, an angry, rebellious boy, travels to an island with monsters- the wild things, where he's made their king.  
Max: There were some buildings... There were these really tall buildings, and they could walk. Then there were some vampires. And one of the vampires bit the tallest building, and his fangs broke off. Then all his other teeth fell out. Then he started crying. And then, all the other vampires said, "Why are you crying? Weren't those just your baby teeth?" And he said, "No. Those were my grown-up teeth." And the vampires knew he couldn't be a vampire anymore, so they left him. The end. 
Where the Wild Things Are has a very unique feel to it.  Its trailer really depicts the feel of the movie well-not super plot driven but a series of scenes paired with music; I personally really liked the trailer, one of the best ones I've seen in a while.

As for the movie, I like how from the beginning we see just how *wild* Max truly is.  He wears his wolf costume at the beginning and engages in a savage biting fight with his dog.  I was really surprised by how emo everyone was in this movie.  Each of the Wild Things has a personality and they fall just short of being likable or sympathetic because each of them are just too down on themselves and life; they're like stuffed animals that have been neglected and beaten up too many times.  Carol, KW, and Judith, in particular stand out.  Carol for his temper and his special friendship with Max, KW for her gentleness, hopelessness, and resignation, and Judith for her direct bitterness.  I did like how the wild things on the island talk about issues that people avoid  like favoritism.  Overall, Where the Wild Things Are is fascinating visually but character-wise and mood-wise feels very constrained because everyone is so damn emo.  

Chungking Express

He Zhiwu, Cop 223: We split up on April Fool's Day. So I decided to let the joke run for a month. Every day I buy a can of pineapple with a sell-by date of May 1. May loves pineapple, and May 1 is my birthday. If May hasn't changed her mind by the time I've bought thirty cans, then our love will also expire. 

I really liked this movie, especially it's light hearted tone and how in spite of its somewhat dark themes of two policemen getting over breakups and officer two being especially sad about his breakup to the point that he hilariously goes around his apartment comforting his objects, the movie maintains a humorous tone.  It's not for everyone, it's a bit on the quirky side, but it has memorable, likable characters, that you end up really caring and rooting for.

Date Night

Phil Foster: He turned the gun sideways! That's a kill shot! 

When I was taking a short story writing class in undergrad, I remember my professor told me that the narrator of one of my stories was the most reasonable, level headed character he'd read in a while.  I wasn't quite sure what he meant at the time because aren't there a lot of reasonable narrators out there?  But after watching Date Night, I think I know what he meant.

On the surface, Date Night isn't really that unique of a movie.  A couple, the Fosters (Claire and Phil), masterfully played by Tina Fey and Steve Carell, go out on a date night in the city, take another couple's restaurant reservation when they can't get one, and then are chased by the mafia or some crime organization who think they're the other couple.  What makes this movie special are Fey and Carell's performances because they do such a good job of making the Fosters seem really reasonable- the most reasonable, down to earth characters I've seen in a movie in a long while, and it's refreshing.  When they're out eating, they make up conversations for other couples and they get star struck like we would if we saw a celebrity dining in the same restaurant.  I especially like Fey in the movie.  There's one scene when the Fosters are talking in the car and she says what she fantasizes about is sometimes drive somewhere to be alone and quiet and Fey injects a sort of shyness into Claire that makes that believable for her character.  Go watch Date Night for the performances- it's funny and down to earth.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I *SPOILERS*


     Just came back from the midnight showing of HP7 part 1 and I wanted to jot down some quick thoughts about it.  More movie reviews to come shortly since I've watched quite a few movies in the last few weeks but just haven't had time to write up things about it.  Overall, HP7 was all right.  It was a faithful adaptation of the book-I could find myself retracing the book chapter by chapter, but it didn't blow me away and it didn't add anything new to what was already in the books.  HP7 seemed to lack heart, unlike the first part of the book which was actually so full of feeling and emotion that it's a pity the movie didn't take advantage of that.  It's not critical to the plot but I just remember how heartbreaking it was to read that letter Lily wrote to Sirius, thanking him for Harry giving him his very first broom and Kreacher's story of how RAB stayed in the cave and commanded Kreacher to go home with the locket.  I'd also hoped that they'd given us more glimpses of hope like the people writing notes to Harry along Godric's Hallow and since they had Ron listening to the radio that we'd at least get a few glimpses of the radio broadcast that the Weasley twins made to give hope to the Resistance.  I keep thinking back to the 6th movie, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, which was such a strong adaptation, where not only did it make the plot more coherent intersplicing Draco's story with Harry's, but it took out weaker parts of the book and made them more stronger somehow.  The raising of the wands to clear out the dark mark (such a beautiful scene) instead of an elaborate funeral for Dumbledore and Hermione and Harry talking about what it's like to have the person they love like someone else come to mind.
     I was excited to see that at the beginning they show Hermione casting the oblivation charm on her parents but was mildly disappointed that we didn't get to see Harry's last good bye to the Dursleys, which in the book was flawless.  I couldn't imagine really how Rowling could have handled their last good bye b/c although they've never liked each other, they're still family at the end of the day and she captures that sentiment well.    The gathering of the 7 potters was funny, one of the few lighter moments in the film and it's interesting which characters are well cast and which characters I pictured vastly differently in my head.  Hagrid, McGonagall, Luna, Fred and George, and Snape - I don't really question b/c they fit the roles so well.  On the other hand, Mad Eye and Voldemort...they were vastly different in my head but the actors do such a good job of portraying them that I don't question their interpretations of the characters.  In particular, I always had a hard time picturing how someone with a soft-spoken, high-pitched voice could be terrifying and Ralph Fiennes does a fantastic job with that role.  Weaker characters include Shacklebolt (who I had hoped would be more Mace Windu-like), Lupin, and Tonks.
     Finally, some quick thoughts on the movie:
-The director does such a good job with ghostly images.  I liked the ghost of Dumbledore and the dementors but I was disappointed with the Bathilda Bagshot scene- her whole house and how it smelled like death and when she melts into Nagini is one of the creepiest images in the HP series and it wasn't very creepy at all in the movie.
-I still can't decide if I liked how they used animation to do the Tale of the Three Brothers.  It's a fine tale and I liked the haunting illustrations but I wonder if it should have been at the beginning of the movie before they cut to Harry to really establish this tone that the end of the series is about death.
-I was not ever a big fan of Harry and Ginny's romance in the books, since Ginny, as a character really wasn't well developed so I enjoyed how brief and to the point their moment was in the movie...but again, I feel like the movie missed it's opportunity to really make the movie more emotional.  As much as I wasn't a big fan of Ginny/Harry, I did like how he'd stay up and look at her dot on the Maruder's map.  
-The Harry and Hermione dance scene was painfully awkward.  And while I appreciated the movie trying to give a lighter edge to some pretty dark moments camping, it didn't really come across that way.  But I do appreciate how Daniel Radcliffe does such a good job of portraying Harry's overall awkwardness.

     Overall, I'm looking forward to the last movie and hoping that they make that last battle absolutely epic.  I'm hoping that they fill in areas of the book that we didn't get to see like getting more glimpses of what Hogwarts was like during Harry's 7th year.