Tuesday, June 25, 2013

FW: Cloud Atlas on DVD

From: Witmer, Robert C.

I watched it 4 times now.  It’s a bit too complex to take it all in on the first viewing.  It’s an awesome story.  I’m trying to get the 2-disk Bluray version because they must have extra content maybe a commentary track.

Compared to any movie I’ve seen in the theaters lately and it blows them all away.  Shame on the Academy for totally ignoring it.

Bob Witmer

Ebert did a review!

Oz The Great and Powerful * * *

Oscar "Oz" Diggs is a small time magician and part time con man working in a traveling circus.  He dreams of becoming a great man.  He inadvertently flies a hot air balloon to Oz where he is greeted as the prophesied wizard savior.  He schemes to work this to his advantage until he learns that he must battle the evil witch.  Promised a fortune in gold, he decides to battle the witch even though he has no real power.

Oz The Great and Powerful is the kind of movie that creates huge expectations, falls way short, but barely manages to entertain anyway.  The movie is visually impressive, but the story feels like great opportunity missed.  Given that this is the 11nth most expensive movie ever made, I think that they should have worked the story more.  (What would George Lucas have done with this film?  It would have been fantastic beyond belief.)

What made the biggest impression on me was the little girl made of "china".

She is damaged and the "wizard" uses glue to fix her which allows her to walk again.  This bookends a scene from the beginning of the movie where a girl in a wheelchair (played by the same actress) asks the magician to help her walk again and he is exposed as a fraud.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Man of Steel * * * 1/2

Seven years ago we had Superman Returns which was a good film that just didn't click as well with audiences as it did with me.  Superman Returns tried to continue from where the previous Superman movies left off while at the same time being overly reminiscent of the first Superman Movie.  I think that it is a pretty terrific movie that didn't get enough attention.

Man of Steel reboots the franchise with a forgettable title, a new face and a few new twists on the Superman story.  The story is already familiar to everyone, but this remake adds enough to the mythology to make it fresh and interesting.  Unlike all the bad remakes I have seen recently at the movies, Man of Steel made me glad that I bought a ticket.

The multiple teaser trailers led me to believe that this going to be a brooding film.  It is anything but.  I thought that the regular trailers gave away too much of the story, but they don't.  What surprises me about Man of Steel is how hard it tries to a science fiction film.  Superman is, after all, an alien from another world, but previous films aren't as interested in this fact as this movie is.  We see a lot of hardware in this movie and this film gives a greater sense that aliens have invaded this planet.

The last 30 minutes have been criticized by some as being all action, but I think that it works.  I liked it much better than the mind numbing last 30 minutes of The Avengers.  The last half of Star Wars was nothing but action and that worked pretty well.  For me the key to any action sequence is what it reveals to us about the character(s).  If the action sequences advance the story while giving us insight to the people involved, then you couldn't ask for anything more.

You can't make a good superhero movie without a good villain, and General Zod in this movie is a complex character who in his mind has honorable intentions.

I am surprised and disappointed by the 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  This is a better film than that.  Like the previous Superman movie, it seems that it didn't click with everyone.

Given the intensity of the last 30 minutes, which had enough action for at least a couple of movies, it is hard for me to imagine how they would make a sequel without going over the top.

I have a theory that Superman is a modern day Hercules and perhaps inspired by this myth or other ancient mythology.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wreck-It Ralph * * * 1/2

A video game character, Ralph, is tired of being the bad guy in the arcade game Fix-it Felix. He journeys to other arcade video games in an attempt to prove that he can be a hero. In the racing game Sugar Rush, he befriends the sassy Vanellope, who is an outcast because her character is "glitchy." All is not well the in the Sugar Rush kingdom because King Candy is trying to delete Vanellope, who instead should be the star of the game.

The main problem, and the only problem with this movie is the suspension of disbelief.   We are talking about video game characters after all.  How hard or how easy is it to root for a video game character?  How likely are we to believe that a video game character could have a personality and feelings?  On the other hand, how believable was Toy Story?  In that movie we were expected to believe that toys could have personalities and emotions.  The story of Wreck-It Ralph is really not much different than the story of Shrek in that an unlikely hero goes on a quest to do something good.  It also shares qualities with Alice in Wonderland.  What Toy Story and Shrek had going for them was a combination of great characters, interesting villains, great animation, good humor along with some interesting mythology.  Wreck-It Ralph has all of these characteristics in spades although not quite at the same level.

Rather than depend upon a wise cracking donkey for humor, Wreck-It Ralph gets its humor from pop culture references, mostly from classic video games.  This is one place I fear that movie might go over most people's heads, as not everyone is familiar with 30 year old video games.  I wonder how many people under the age of 20 have heard of Q-Bert or Qix?  There are a ton of 1980's video game characters is in this movie, but I happen to love classic video games.  So humor is the one area where the movie could have been a little bit better.  What Wreck-It Ralph lacks in humor it makes up for with good characters and story.

I am impressed that the Konomi Code is part of the story.  (Talk about your pop culture references.)  There is a point in the story where King Candy uses a cheat code to hack the computer program of the Sugar Rush video game.  This is a pretty interesting scene because it is portrayed as going into a deep vault with thousands of connecting pieces of computer code.  This serves to remind the audience that videogames are after all computer programs.

With the fast rate at which technology is advancing, maybe someday computer video game characters will actually be smart enough to have personalities.  This I find easy to believe.  The trend has started.  Already I can have a primitive conversation with my iPhone.