Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Update

I've seen quite a few movies this summer, some older, some newer.  I've wanted to write more about them, but they've either remained as drafts that I never ended up posting or ended up as very short blurbs. Anyhow, I've decided to consolidate them into this one entry.

The Fall

I haven't seen a movie like Tarem Singh's The Fall in a long time.  The Fall reminds me of one of those stories you'd read in English class that would pleasantly surprise you- it's one of those stories that you wouldn't ordinarily seek out, but having read it, you really end up enjoying it immensely.

The Fall isn't exactly the type of movie I'd seek out but having watched it, I really liked it.  The Fall is about a young girl Alexandria and her friendship with a very depressed paraplegic Roy Walker (Lee Pace).  It jumps between real life and Roy's fantastical epic adventure story.  The movie is told from Alexandria's perspective so it takes a while to learn what's really going on.  I liked that Alexandria was a fully believable kid and not some sort of overly precocious child who makes all the right decisions.  

I also liked that The Fall was unabashedly epic in many regards.  It reminds me of the 90s (The English Patient, Titanic) when it was okay to have movies that were sweeping epic romances.  The Fall is also one of the most beautiful movies I've seen in a very long time.  Alexandria lets her imagination run wild and there are just so many scenes that are breathtakingly gorgeous.  

Battle Royale 

Battle Royale really is the original Hunger Games.  It's grittier, rougher, unapologetically violent, and fantastic.   Battle Royale follows a class of Japanese high schoolers who have been selected to participate in the Battle Royale initiative- they're trapped on an island and forced to kill each other.  It's grim but there's also this great undercurrent of dark humor.  e.g. Everyone is given a weapon or tool at random to use- our protagonists are unlucky and given a pot lid and binoculars.

I'm sure the original manga goes into more detail on each of the students but I wanted to learn more about each of the participants.  We get to catch glimpses of some of their pasts- Mitsuko, one of the main antagonists, as well as the protagonists' Noriko and Shuya's, all had particularly haunting pasts.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is an absolute delight.  It's quirky, funny, and heartfelt.  After Mr. Fox (George Clooney) starts a family with Mrs. Fox (Meryl Strep), he promises not to go back to his past stealing ways.  Mr. Fox learns that it's hard to do so especially when you have three human neighbors with lots of food.  The animation is strange and it takes a little bit to get used to but give the movie a few minutes- it'll grow on you and in a lot of ways, the zany animation really contributes to the fast paced storytelling.  It's a fantastic, entertaining story with memorable humorous characters and really more of an animated film for more mature audiences.   


Rango's another quirky animated film that I really enjoyed.  Rango is a chameleon who finds himself in the desert town Dirt, which is short on water.  It's a Western and full of homages to many other movies including Chinatown.  Rango also comes with a very amusing (Greek style) chorus of singing owls.  Rango reminded me of one of my all time favorite Simpson episodes El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer or the one with Johnny Cash where Homer eats the hallucenegenic pepper.  It starts off funny but at the end of it, you find yourself in more serious territory and genuinely moved.

Movies Worth Watching 
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is about British espionage during the Cold War.  I think that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy definitely merits a second view.  I appreciate that the director and writers assume the best out of their audience- that we are intelligent and watching the movie with our full attention.  However, I did find myself confused especially about which character was which, what was everyone's motivation, and whether the timeline is all in the current time (it is for the most part) for a good portion of the film.  It wasn't until the end that everything fell into place and started to make more sense.  I was extremely impressed by Tom Hardy's performance as Ricki Tarr in this movie.  It wasn't until Ricki Tarr's story that I felt myself engaged or even caring about what was actually going on.  He was so charismatic and really brought the movie to life- I can't wait to see what he does with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.  My movie buddy describes this as the ultimate movie about introverts, and I think he's right for the most part.      


I wanted to like this movie a lot more than I did but it's still a great movie, definitely worth checking out.  It's a very quiet movie (it has more silences than dialogue) and has a really neat retro feel to it.  Drive is about the mysterious unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling) who works as a stunt driver during the day and as a getaway driver at night.  It starts off with a wonderfully tense car chase- one of the best chase scenes I've seen in a long time.  I was hoping the whole movie would have the mood of that first chase scene, but it doesn't ever reach those heights again.  I know many people raved about how great Albert Brooks as a mobster was but I really enjoyed Bryan Cranston as the Driver's limp boss- you really felt for his character.


50/50 is another movie that I'd heard really great things about and I was really hoping to like this one more than I did.  The performances are great and it does a good job of balancing humor and drama.  50/50 is about Adam (JGL) who gets diagnosed with cancer in his 20s and how he and his family and friends (Seth Rogen) cope with it.  I like that it never really becomes melodramatic and maudlin.

I think that one of the problems I had with the movie was how polished it felt and how it tried to tie everything in a neat package at the end.  Mainly, I had issues with the movie making Adam's therapist (Anna Kendrick) a love interest.  I enjoyed their rapport and budding friendship but steering their relationship towards a romantic one felt odd (she's his therapist!) and awkward.

Movies to Eventually Check Out on a Slow Day 

Brave is Pixar's latest venture.  It is about Scottish princess Merida and her relationship with her mother.  Merida and her mother butt heads when it's time for her to get married.  Merida really doesn't want to get married (at least not yet) and would rather go on adventures in the forests.  

Brave is cute but as a whole it really felt like a story that was churned out of a formula (Come on Pixar we know you can do better!).  Not all of the pieces fit well or flowed together and there's too much exposition in some parts of the story, especially when Merida flat out makes a long speech about the main points of the movie somewhere near the end.  At some points of the movie, it seemed very much like "oh it's time for humor- let's insert Merida's brothers doing something amusing or her father for comic relief."  I did enjoy the animation- it's top notch and the scenery in this, all the forests are lush, green, and gorgeous.  

IP Man 1 and 2
I did enjoy the Ip Man movies and if you are in the mood for a martial arts film, these are great movies to watch.  They're well made, have really awesome fight scenes, and they still retain more meaning than the average  mindless blockbuster.  They, however, feel highly simplistic and are filled with one-dimensional characters with the exception of Ip Man himself (Raymond Wu) who plays Ip as an old school humble, honorable martial arts grandmaster who really believes in Spiderman's mantra "With great power comes great responsibility".  The Japanese are the evil villains in the first one, while the British are the evil villains in the next one.  The first Ip Man works a bit better than the second one (where there are a number of fight scenes that just feel a bit tacked on and excessive).

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