Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I was impressed by Sherlock Holmes. It was much better than I thought it would be. I was imagining a steampunk Tony Stark. But Robert Downey, Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes is just as he should be- all head and not heart. Well, almost no heart. Rachel McAdams is the albatross 'round this movie's neck. She's awful. Just so devoid of charm and depth that it's impossible to see how her Irene Adler interests Holmes at all, let alone keep up with him.
The chemistry between the real couple, Holmes and Watson, is just as it should be. Buttoned-up Victorian bromance at its best.
Mark Strong, who I mentioned was the sole strong character in RocknRolla, is fantastic as Lord Blackwood. Strong has a voice you could get lost in. I hope to see him in lots more movies, where he will hopefully get to explore his depth as something other than total sinister bad-ass.
Ritchie seems very comfortable in the Blockbuster director role. This film shows a lot of restraint and even-handedness from him. Like Britain's enfant terrible director is all grown up now. And it's wonderful.
The story is smart, and very faithful to the books. The only thing I would have liked to have seen was the film given as a narrative from Watson, like the books. But, given Ritchie's failure with narrative-framing in RocknRolla, I guess I'm wishing for the moon. The mystery is good. It was not predictable or confusing. Dan and I had a good time guessing how Blackwood was pulling his "magic", to see if we could deduct like Holmes. And we were pleasantly surprised to have guessed wrong.
Holmes and Watson have tracked down and arrested Lord Blackwood, a man in Parliament who engages in ritualistic murders. He's sentenced to death- but death is just the beginning of this mystery-thriller.

I also took a delightful sail down memory lane with Jason and the Argonauts, which is available to view instantly on Netflix.
I loved this movie as a kid. And it's a great movie for kids. The stop-motion effects may look a little hokey, and the acting is a little campy- but the story is great.
Wicked Pelias murders his way to the throne of Thessaly. Jason, son of the murdered King, is prophesied to take back the throne. He is favored by the Gods, and they aid him in a search for a golden fleece- said to bring peace to any land.
It's a classic adventure film. Without movies like this, we would have never had Indiana Jones or Star Wars.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Strange creatures

District 9 is really unlike any movie I've seen before. The only thing that even comes close is Alien Nation, but District 9 has more action.
This isn't really a movie about aliens. It's a movie about apartheid. Only aliens are the subject of discrimination and oppression, and being very insect-like, the things done to them are slightly more horrific.
So, I'd heard some things about this film. I'd heard the documentary-style camera-work could leave you feeling slightly dizzy. I don't agree with that assessment. The majority of the meat of this movie are not filmed in that style. The parts that are documentary style are, for the most part, pretty steady. It's the action sequences that are sometimes shaky, but not in a way that was disorienting or distracting. For me, anyway.
Besides the similarities to Alien Nation, the story is very unique, very solid, and very entertaining. I was hooked from the first few minutes and on the edge of my seat for the rest of the film. There are some very disturbing scenes, and lots of violence. There is one particular scene early-on regarding the destruction of alien eggs, and I found it particularly hard to watch.
An excellent plot with good main characters. You've got some cartoonishly sketched minor players, but their dialogue isn't too bad.
The acting is very good. Sharlto Copely, who plays the main character Wikus, is very engaging and touchingly human. He's not the sort of person you'd expect as the main character of an action movie. He's not exactly a hero, either, but you root for him just the same. He's your average guy caught in the middle of a very bizarre and disturbing situation. And Copely makes it easy to sympathize with him. Jason Cope, who plays the true hero, the alien Christopher Johnson, did the herculean task of making a CGI insect-like alien seem full of emotions. His performance is great.
The effects are practically seamless. I was impressed by that. The alien ships are by far the crowning glory. The weapons as well.
The ending begs for a sequel, but I sincerely hope no sequel will be made. At first I was hoping for some great resolution about the ways in which the aliens are treated, but to try and put a nice Hollywood-type bow on the end of such a harrowing tale would be too saccharine. But the movie does avoid a completely tragic ending. That was a relief.
It's sad to say, though, that in real life instances of segregation, ghettos and apartheid, there's rarely some deus ex machina that swoops in to give people hope.

I also just watched Eraserhead. To try and describe David Lynch's pioneer work is an effort in futility. Rich in metaphor, this 1977 cult classic seems oddly timeless. It imparts a deep sense of foreboding, isolation, and desperation. Layered with dream sequences and surreal, well, everything, it is difficult to discern what is really happening. Then again, this is David Lynch. Nothing is really happening. It is a movie in the strictest sense. A moving picture, all plot and imagery, story is an afterthought. Lynch has called it his most spiritual work. Morality plays a large part in this film.
*Disclaimer- this film is very slow-moving for being only 88 minutes long. But, try and power through it. If you're not the art-film type, you might want to skip this one.

Monday, April 12, 2010

From Hell's heart I stab at thee!

I watched two fabulous movies recently.

First up, from the wonderfully unique Wes Anderson comes Fantastic Mr. Fox. I love Anderson's work and I love Roald Dahl's work, so I was highly anticipating this one. I somehow missed it when it was at theatres, so I was eager to receive the DVD from Netflix.
It is undeniably brilliant and it has mis-en-scene coming out of it's proverbial ears, but I have to say, it wasn't as clever as some of Anderson's other movies. Pacing was it's problem. The story lagged at parts, but everything else was superb.
Casting was excellent, it just may be the best ensemble cast performance I've seen in quite some time, and the stop-animation is charming and gives the characters a soul that most animated movies these days lack. When it shows each animal's eyes, they seem alive. It's just wonderful.
The design itself is warm, creative and incredibly detailed. This is one of the few animated features you'll see where the humans and animals seem to coexist perfectly, neither seems overly-cartoonish when compared to the other.
Anderson also excels at selecting music for his films. The soundtrack is almost always the invisible character, contributing just as much to the plot as any dialogue or action might.
The film's tone, about accepting and fighting one's true nature, is dark at times but has plenty of laughs sprinkled over it. Noah Baumbach's presence is felt in the script, and it's refreshing to see him do something besides painfully awkward family-type dramadies.
It's hard to describe the movie because it's unlike almost anything you've seen before. Think Wallace & Gromit meets Ren & Stimpy meets, well, Wes Andrson. Actually very kid-friendly.

And here is where I let my geek flag fly and nerd-out over Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

This is, in my opinion, the best Star Trek movie. It has, by far, the most well thought-out and engaging plot. It picks up after Star Trek: The Motion Picture with James T. Kirk an admiral in Starfleet. He and the crew of the original Enterprise are invited to be on deck of the newly renovated* Enterprise she and her cadet crew embark on their first training mission.
Meanwhile, a remote, lifeless planet is being explored by Starfleet as the potential site of the Genesis project. But they stumble upon a wrecked ship and it's crew. Chekov, a member of the "away team", discovers too late that there is life on the planet- Khan. A genetically engineered human superior in intellect and strength than regular humans, his fellow castaways are similarly blessed. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise marooned Khan there in one of the original series episodes. Now he wants revenge.
And so we're sent on a crazy revenge tale epic as Moby Dick. It has whiffs of Blade Runner, which came out just weeks after this movie. It's as campy as Mommie Dearest.
Ricardo Montalban is sublime as Khan. He loved the character so much he did the movie for far less pay than he was offered. The costume designer created his signature open-chested costume specifically to showcase Montalban's impressive pectoral muscles. It's incredible to know that he and Shatner never read their lines together, as the on-screen chemistry is smoldering for two people who, in reality, were reading their lines to a script girl.
The dialogue itself is brilliant.
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley carry the picture, as usual. James Doohan's Scotty gets substantial screen-time and emotional scenes, to boot.

Granted, you need to know some basic Star Trek before you watch this movie. Basically you need to know the characters and their motivations. If you haven't seen any Star Trek, I'll tell you what you need to know here:

  • Kirk- He's a womanizing badass that doesn't believe in no-win situations. Clever, but his emotions usually drive his decision-making. Spock is is BFF. His heroic exploits got him promoted to admiral, but he misses the adventure of being captain.

  • Spock- Half Vulcan, half human. He is highly intelligent and driven by logic. Every once in a while an emotion creeps through. He is cool and steady, the perfect foil to Kirk's hot-headed chaos. Kirk is his BFF. Nimoy is from Boston, so big hometown props to him, and this film is one of his greatest turns as Spock.

  • McCoy- AKA Bones. He's the ship's doctor, skeptic and wiseass. He loves nothing better than taking Kirk and Spock down a notch. Good at his job and not a fan of screwing around. Loves Kirk, but doesn't trust Spock because he's not a full human.

  • Mr. Scott- AKA Scotty. He's the ship's head engineer. He's also Scottish. He's kind of like McGuyver and Stephen Hawking rolled into one. And he's usually shouting about what is and is not working on the ship.

  • Mr. Sulu- The Asian helmsman with the velvet voice. He and Chekov are usually the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Star Trek.

  • Mr. Chekov- The Russian navigator of the Enterprise. Usually seated directly next to Sulu. Often part of the away team.

  • Lieutenant Uhura- The babaliscious communications officer. She knows almost every language spoken in the galaxy.

CORRECTIONS: Kirk was already an admiral *in* The Motion Picture and the original Enterprise was not destroyed, it was taken out o commission. Apologies to fellow geeks, I haven't seen The Motion Picture in a dog's age. Thank you to Ben for pointing out my errors.

The Enterprise in this film is not entirely new, simply renovated.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Dear Hollywood,

It's your old friend, Noël, here. Remember when we used to bond over action and adventure flicks? When you gave me corny-yet-lovable movies like The Rock and Lethal Weapon? Remember Mad Max 2 and Total Recall? Those were good times.
But we need to talk. I'm concerned that you're no longer content with remaking and rebooting every movie I've ever loved. You seem now to be in some sort of sado-masochistic self-destruct pattern. It's almost as if you're trying to destroy my beloved memories of these films, revelling in your own failure, and you enjoy watching me squirm while I try to endure it. And Clash of the Titans has made me realize that this relationship just isn't working for me anymore.
For one thing, $16 for a movie ticket is larcenous, plastic glasses or no. For another, how could you remake a movie- loved simply because it was so campy and bad- and somehow make something so much worse?
You could have kept the story, reworked the dialogue, and cast anyone else but Liam Neeson to fill Sir Laurence Olivier's shoes. We all like Liam, but he's no Sir Laurence. We know he tries, but that's just it. He tries too damned hard. He's never met a line he couldn't deliver just a little too seriously. There's a reason "Release the Kraken!" became an instant catch phrase once the trailer premiered. It was like Samuel L. Jackson's "I've had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" yet, it lacked the winking self-awareness.
Clash of the Titans was all over the place. It went through a lot of trouble explaining certain plot points and left us to wonder about others. The pacing was awful. Slow, then fast, then slow, then fast again, like it had no middle gears to shift to.
Character development? What's that? Clearly you don't know anymore.
The acting was terrible. There were two solid performances: Ralph Fiennes as Hades, who was the only one who seemed to get the tone of the movie, and the witches, who were very Guillermo Del Toro (who should have directed this movie) and successful because they seemed to be from another, better, movie. Everyone else was painful to watch.
The dialogue was hacknied. Characters asking each other loaded questions in an unnatural manner, and the other characters responding in a cringingly pre-scripted way.
I thought after G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, that remakes couldn't be any worse. But you impressed me with your ability to fail, Hollywood. Rise of Cobra was at least unintentionally funny, but I don't think even MST3K could extract a chuckle from Clash. And releasing such an awful movie while 300 so fresh in my memory, shame on you.
The effects were good, but in a few years they'll look dated and coarse.
The stop-motion of the original has a more enduring quality. Sure, it's obviously fake, but they made those creatures with their bare hands and love.
You should sell shirts that say "I survived Clash of the Titans." So that we, the shocked victims who took in this travesty, can find comfort in knowing we're not alone. It's clear we're all in an abusive relationship with you and we keep going back because we remember the good old days.
So, Hollywood, I'm ending this friendship. You'll get one chance to win me back with TRON Legacy. God help you if you mess that one up, too.
Sincerely -- Noel
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick

Sunday, April 4, 2010


As you may or may not know, I wear high heels. I wear them a lot.
This is easier said than done. And in Boston, where most of the sidewalks are brick, cobblestone, or peppered with grates and large cracks, it is especially trying.
But I persevere. Because I love heels, I love the way they look and I'm a slave to appearances.

But, there are times where my lifestyle choice seems foolhardy.

There are the times when I step onto a metal plate on the ground,
And I feel it buckle and sink under my weight,
And I have that moment of panic and think "Today is the day I lose a leg because of my heels."
(Because when you walk in heels, your entire weight shifts from one leg to the other, it's never evenly distributed between the two)
And then the metal heaves up in reflex.
And I bounce forward unscathed.
I click clack my way into the sunset.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hippity hoppity

Easter's on its way, so here are recommendations of movies featuring

Harvey- Jimmy Stewart at his best. The heartwarming tale of a man who claims he has a 6ft invisible rabbit friend. A true classic.

Watership Down- The amazing adaptation of the classic book. Serious and at times disturbing, a group of rabbits search for a new home when violence uproots them. This movie haunted my dreams as a child.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?- Film noir meets farce in this movie. Cutting edge (at the time) technology allowed hard-boiled private dick to team up with a famous cartoon star when a conspiracy threatens to wipe out all cartoons. Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, and Kathleen Turner's performances are stellar.

Donnie Darko- The cult classic that made us unable to quit Jake Gyllenhall. He gives a performance beyond his tender age as a high school misfit who life is upturned by a series of strange, fateful events. Patrick Swayze steals some scenes.

Bambi- One of my favorites. One of the few early Disney classics where animals don't sing, yet the songs are beautiful. A young deer struggles to survive in the ever-shrinking wild.

Eat lots of candy.

-- Noel
Sent with love from my T-Mobile Sidekick