Sunday, January 22, 2012

Best actors from the last 40 years.

This is interesting ...

If I had to pick a favorite actor, right now it would be either Matt Damon or Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise would be runner ups.   I thought about trying to rent more of their movies.

Why the First 'Star Wars' Is Still the Best 'Star Wars'

- I disagree. I think that The Empire Strikes Back is the best movie
I have ever seen. The last 40 to 50% of "Star Wars" is nothing but
action making it more video game like, and therefore it explores the
characters less. It does do a great job of exploring the characters
in the first half, but the movie starts out slow; it takes 15 minutes
before we even meet the main character, Luke. We are half an hour
into the movie before Luke decides to leave Tatooine.

The Empire Strikes Back is a little slow in middle when Luke is
training with Yoda on Degoba, but it is a necessary part of the
character development leading up to the confrontation between Luke and
Darth Vader. Everything else in the movie is rich with action, but
that action in most scenes seems to exist for the purpose of revealing
more about the characters. This makes the movie high art.

(IMHO the few extra special effects that Lucas added in 1997 only
serve as a distraction from the original movie.)

Both movies will still be around a hundred years after they were made.

Speaking of which, we are not that far off from the hundredth
anniversary of Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights". Although not great by
modern standards, it certainly was great when it came out. It is my
favorite silent film.

'Moneyball': The Very Good Feel-Bad Sports Movie of the Year

Friday, January 20, 2012

Another Earth. Rating: B+.

The 400 pound gorilla in the room when watching "Another Earth" is that it is a low budget science fiction movie.  You know that you aren't getting Star Wars, nor 2001 A Space Odyssey nor anything closely resembling those movies.   This movie has far fewer special effects than the low budget "Monsters", but it is much more effective as a personal drama.  As the trailer makes clear, this movie is about how people react to the impossible premise that a mirror Earth, identical to our Earth in almost every way, would suddenly appear in the sky.  This is, of course, impossible, even if you talk about quantum physics and parallel dimensions, but the impossibility of the movie is not really important.  This is a human drama about emotion, redemption, and second chances, all of which the movie does really well.

The movie starts somewhat predictably with a tragic car wreck that costs the life of a boy and his mother.  The person at fault,  Rhoda, finds her promising life ruined and she is wracked with guilt.  She is very pensive.  At one point she tries to kill herself.  Things improve for her when she meets the widower of the family that died.  His life is in shambles.  He doesn't know who she is.  She tries to introduce herself and apologize, but she loses her nerve and lies to him instead.  Then she makes up an excuse that allows her to help him out, and gradually the two become friends.  At some point she has to tell him the truth.

I expected a movie about another Earth in the sky to eventually show us what is on that other planet.  Although the payoff is not what I hoped for, the ending is remarkably clever in the way that it lets us know what is on the other world.  What happens next is left up to our imaginations, although maybe a more well funded movie could have explored this premise a little further.

The movie proceeds at a slightly slow pace, but I found it very compelling.  It is very smart film that doesn't hit us over the head with a lot of explanation.  The film is minimalist in every way, but it knows how to emotionally draw us into the story.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Children of Men. Rating: A

In a bleak chaotic future in which humans can no longer procreate, a government civil servant, Theo, agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to sanctuary.  Initially she is traveling with a violent rebel group that wants to use the baby to promote their cause.  This group has no qualms about killing anyone who might get in their way, and eventually the group starts an armed rebellion against the British government.

Initially the film presents us with a dystopian future which is depressing to look at.  This might serve as a warning of things to come.  We can only hope that the future is better than what is depicted in this movie.  However, when the bullets start to fly and the main characters try to escape a war zone, the movie turns intensely violent in a brilliantly executed extended action sequence.

Michael Caine has a strong supporting role as an old hippie, which is counter to his usual roles, but completely believable.

The movie does a great job of exploring post 9-11 themes, as well as religious themes.  The pregnant woman is essentially the mother of the entire future human race.

I had to turn on closed captioning to understand some of the British accents.  The movie never slows down to explain anything, but assumes that you are smart enough to follow along.  I paused the film in places to read some of the billboards, many of which give interesting insights into this future world.

The movie is rated R for violence, language, and brief nudity.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The first minute of this video is from the original Bambi movie, and is IMHO one of the best parts of the movie...

... the last 30 seconds are from Bambi II, which is a direct to video movie made in 2003.  This part seems less interesting.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bambi (rating: B)

The movie Bambi repeats the same pattern over and over again: 30 to 120 seconds of cute animation on a flat impressionistic background, accompanied by symphony music, which is then followed by some brief dialog.  Walt Disney made a decision to try to carry the movie with animation and music while keeping the dialog and plot to a minimum.  Not only is the plot thin and slow, I found myself wondering if this was some sort of exercise to get us to listen to symphony music?  The foreground animation is excellent, but for the first 53 minutes, the flatness of the background and slowness of the pace never cease to remind us that we are watching an animated film.  Fortunately the last 16 minutes of this 69 minute film are intense with action.  Only then did I really feel caught up in the story.

It is what it is.  Bambi is part of our American culture.  I suppose that some people would consider the movie to be high art.  Seventy years ago audiences probably thought that this was one of the greatest movies they had ever seen, and they were probably right.  But if this movie were made today, it would need three times the dialog and three times the plot.

The only time I was really impressed with the animation was when the movie uses multiple layers to zoom in and out.  For brief moments, the movie breaks out of its 2D mode to give us a good illusion of 3 dimensions. It happens so seldom that it contrasts too much with the rest of the movie.

Children might fall in love with all the cute animals, but then again they might get bored.  I found the story to be barely adequate, but I also thought that some of the characters, like Thumper with his delightful voice and one tooth, were fun to watch.

On the DVD, the documentary about how the movie was made is just as entertaining as the movie.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Queen to Play (Rating: B)

Just watched "Queen to play".  The movie is a metaphor about chess representing both social mobility and seduction.   Check out the trailer here:

One pleasant surprise is how accurate the chess games are in the movie.  Some of the chess moves are brilliant but only on screen for a couple of seconds.  You have to have a sharp chess eye to follow the chess games.

 However, some of the actors move the chess pieces like they are afraid of them.  Real chess players move with confidence.

Kevin Kline is an English actor, but in this movie he speaks nothing but French.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

FW: Source Code 2011 SF movie

From: Robert


I watched “Another Earth” another SciFi over the weekend.  Interesting movie, and like Code 46, not typical SciFi.




Tuesday, January 3, 2012

FW: Source Code 2011 SF movie

From: Robert


Source Code is a 2011 American science fiction-techno-thriller film directed by Duncan Jones, written by Ben Ripley, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Russell Peters and Jeffrey Wright. The film had its world premiere on March 11, 2011 at SXSW,[4] and was released by Summit Entertainment on April 1, in North America and Europe.


I was pleasantly surprised.  I liked it.  No anticipation because I never saw any of the trailers.  I had not much of an idea of what it was about or that it was even considered science fiction.  And the best surprise of all was when I found out it was directed by Duncan Jones who directed “Moon”.  I didn’t discover that until I was watching the DVD extras.  Just like the main character in “Moon”, our hero is very very screwed!


BTW:  Most current Netflix CDs have all the extras removed now.  I’m not sure which studio is doing it the most but it’s very annoying.  If the disk even has any extras listed if you select any it gives you a nice little annoying message about how this cd is for rental purposes only and you need to go purchase the blu-ray version.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Help (Rating: B)

The Help is a new movie about racial bigotry in Jackson Mississippi around the beginning of the civil rights movement..  It is also about the friendship between a young white author and several black maids, and her determination to publish a book about their experiences.

There is an unbelievable scene in the middle of that is disgusting, but funny.  I sometimes have a low tolerance for things like this, which is why I never watched American Pie, because I know what the title really means.  I will eventually get around to watching it.  Likewise, in the movie Crash, which is another movie about racism, there is an unpleasant sexual assault by a police officer that soured me on the whole movie.  I wondered if such a scene was realistic, or if movie was forcing a distorted view to fit an agenda.

The movie The Help and the book by the same have been the subject of much controversy.  They have been criticized for not being historically accurate, whitewashing the true history, and for the way it portrays white and black characters.  It has also been praised for its great performances and willingness to address racial issues.  Since one of the things the movie is about is the publication of a 1963 documentary book called "The Help", the film gives us the false impression that the movie is completely based upon real events.  Actually the book is fictional and published in 2009.

Accurate or not, the movie knows how to tell a great story.  It hits all the right buttons and works from beginning to end.  The cast and the acting are great.

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