Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Get away

Oh my, time flies when I'm not blogging! I've been so busy enjoying the last days of summer and watching movies that I've been neglecting my blog. Well, back to work.

The Great Escape is a fantastic heist film that tells the true story of a group of WWII P.O.W.s who escaped from a Nazi prison camp specifically designed to hold escape artists. The great thing about this film, well one of the great things, is that the escape itself is the plot. Most heist movies have another plot line running and the heist serves to simply move that other plot line forward. Not so in The Great Escape.
We get some lovely character and plot exposition right in the beginning with the Nazi officers discussing the prisoners repeated escape attempts and how this new camp will thwart any new attempts at getting out. We see a few foolhardy attempts at escape right off the bat, but then the big scheme begins to brew. Steve McQueen is the obligatory American bad ass. James Garner brings his real-life P.O.W. experience to his role as The Scrounger. Charles Bronson is the meaty Eastern European Tunnel King with a soft heart. But the shining star in the ensemble cast is Richard Attenborough. If you're like me, you know Richard from Jurassic Park. But here, he's the slick, crafty and much-hyped leader of the Great Escape, Big X. Part of his character development is all the men discussing how they can't wait 'til he gets there and how great he is, so when he finally struts into camp, you're already all-in with this guy. He's like James Bond and Winston Churchill rolled into one.

The set for this movie is an exact replica of the actual prison camp. Produced less than 20 years after the real escape, the filmmakers tried to be as true-to-life as possible and hired several P.O.W.s to act as consultants to ensure authenticity. Some of the facts are fudged, there were many P.O.W.s from countries other than the U.S. and U.K., and the role of the U.S. prisoners are greatly exaggerated, but the rest is all true.

It has everything you want from a heist film. Suspense, action, excitement, and the complicated escape plan is genius. Obstacles are encountered and overcome. The ending, however, is bittersweet. I won't give it away, but suffice to say, this ain't Ocean's Eleven, it's war.

This film didn't win any awards. It wasn't critically acclaimed after its initial release, but its growing popularity has finally given it some well-deserved recognition. If it has one drawback, its that the characters are not very deep. They serve their function as military men committed to their cause, but they don't seem to have many emotions beyond that. We get hints with The Scrounger and The Forger, but that's about it. But it doesn't make the movie fail. It just serves to make them seem brave and larger-than-life.

The Great Escape is a great movie, and clearly influenced many heist movies that followed it. Had it been based around American characters, my guess is that it would be a basic cable staple, but since it's primarily a British film, most Americans haven't gotten the chance to see it. You should.

A song in my heart

I love documentaries. And if you like documentaries, you should see Young at Heart, aka Young @ Heart

This critically acclaimed documentary tells the story of a senior citizen chorus in Northampton, Massachusetts. Their director chooses diverse song selections from Jimi Hendrix and James Brown to Coldplay and Sonic Youth. While their vocal ability might not rival Mariah Carey or Michael Crawford, their passion and delivery will floor you.

What is most incredible about this is that, on the surface, nothing that extraordinary is occurring. It's a group of 65-98 year old people singing songs. But what moves you is their dedication, and how much this organized activity enriches their lives. When it all comes together in the final performance,e you see why this group sells out shows around the world.

Society so often marginalizes the elderly. We push them to the side, resign them to a role of non-contribution, and very rarely give them a chance to express themselves. This is partly out of our obsession with youth and fear of old age, and death which immediately follows it. But these remarkable, ordinary, people show us that old age is nothing to be afraid of. You can still have fun, you still have something to contribute, and you're not done living until you die.

My favorite scene is when the chorus performs at a prison. The reaction of the inmates is palpable and amazing.

Their director, Bob Cilman, is a visionary. I don't know how or why he came up with the idea to organize this chorus or selects the songs they perform, but it's genius. It's ground-breaking. It makes you wonder why you haven't seen it before and don't see it more often.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Greatest Show On Earth

I recently finished watching the two seasons of the show "Twin Peaks" and the movie that followed it.

I must say it was one of the best television series I have ever seen. It was like nothing that came before it and so many of the shows I know and love probably were obviously influenced by it. ("Six Feet Under", "Carnivale", "Picket Fences", "The X-Files", "Dexter"- pretty much every lauded TV series owes some thing to "Twin Peaks".)

Charming, haunting, and refreshingly weird and campy, "Twin Peaks" is one part "Twilight Zone", one part soap opera, one part film noir and one part crime drama. All shaken together with a cast of characters that you'll never forget.

The show centers on the small town of Twin Peaks, Washington. The homecoming queen and popular local teen Laura Palmer is found murdered. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper is sent to investigate the murder. The eccentric and compelling townsfolk each have a part to play in the plot as the mystery slowly unfolds.

The story and direction is just fantastic. There are so many themes and metaphors, it's one of the most stylistically sophisticated I've ever seen. The look of the show is just gorgeous. The women look like they just walked out of 1940, the men are rugged, and everyone is a little mysterious. The costumes say so much about the characters. Dramatic lighting, dynamic camera angles, and symbolic imagery are constantly showing up on the screen. The other character in the show is the forest surrounding "Twin Peaks". It is almost always dark, foreboding, and hiding secrets.

The acting is just incredible. Kyle MacLachlan (you know him from other Lynch work such as Dune and Blue Velvet) is smooth, cool and the consummate professional as Special Agent Dale Cooper. Sherilyn Fenn is the perfect Lolita as Audrey Horne. Lara Flynn Boyle channels a Hitchcock heroine as Donna, Laura Palmer's best friend. And Sheryl Lee, oh Sheryl Lee. The image of her face, playing a corpse wrapped in plastic, will never leave my mind. She is so powerful and magnetic when she is on-screen that it's no wonder Lynch found another role for her in the show. And in Fire Walk With Me she brings down the house. She's a natural talent. The entire cast create a community populated by true individuals. The cast brings the town of Twin Peaks to life in a way few casts ever do. It seems like a real, living community that you're observing. The way they interact with each other is just perfect. You will never forget Catherine Coulson as the infamous Log Lady (see picture above). She is so delectably weird. When you watch the DVDs you must must must watch the Log Lady intros. The Log Lady will tell you what to look for, what to remember and what to know. It adds a whole new layer to each episode.

The dialogue is, at times, very cliche. But this is intentional. It ties into the real-life-soap-opera atmosphere of the story and place. it was this obvious soap opera style that, at first, turned Dan off to this show. After a few episodes, when the mystery starts to become deliciously complicated, he became as hooked as I was.

This show is addicting. And now that I've seen every episode and watched the movie, I'm experiencing the crash after the entertainment high. I'm sad because I know as hard as I try, I won't experience anything quite like it ever again. I am also extremely disappointed that the show had to leave off where it did. It was cancelled, so the last episode is not a series finale. It leaves off where the creators intended the third season to begin. Only there was no third season. The movie answered a few of the questions, but there's still a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction. On the other hand, the many mysteries of the show, in a way, are better when left a mystery. We are left to question, to draw our conclusions, to invent explanations, and to interpret them in any way we wish.
The last episode was, by far, one of the scariest things I've ever seen. No one knows how to capture the look and feeling of a dream like David Lynch.

The movie Fire Walk With Me is a whole different animal. This is a David Lynch joint. It is surreal, disturbing, and the perfect end note to the series. It's not as soft and charming as the show, but that's a good thing. It allows us to glimpse at the dark underbelly that was only hinted at in the show. When I say dark, I mean ten times as dark as the show ever was. Plus, David Bowie is in it! So, you know it's worthwhile and the best kind of bizarre.

The only things I suppose I will truly miss about Twin Peaks, besides the high level of entertainment it provided, are the characters. Each and every one was so alive, so unique. Being from a small town myself, it somehow reminded me that all small towns have their characters, their mysteries and their indisputable charm.

Pass the coffee and pie.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kicking and screaming

It's very hard to make a good super hero movie. It's even harder to make a good superhero movie about regular people trying to be superheroes. Plus, it's been done before, so you can't even rely on the novelty factor.

Kick Ass is a valiant effort to make a super hero movie about real people. It falls a little short because it relies too much on flashy action sequences that defy the whole "real people" concept.
I really loved director Matthew Vaughn's prior work, Stardust and Layer Cake. And the problem here unfortunately is the direction. The script isn't all bad. The characters are believable. Satisfactory development and "real life only a little better" dialogue. But the look of this film, and the action sequences, are so stylistic and cartoony that they overpower the charming characters completely. The colors are bright and garish, the movements and explosions exaggerated and often defy physics.
This wouldn't be so disappointing if the characters weren't so likable. They have good motives, sad backgrounds and are constantly reminding you that this is supposed to be the real world. They seem totally out of place in this bright, Hollywood world. I wouldn't have been so bothered by it if the characters weren't frequently mentioning that "this isn't a movie", then something explodes or the bad guys burst in, and you see that it is a movie. So don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining, Matthew Vaughn. Don't tell me "this is real life" then show a foul-mouthed little girl whirling through the air with two guns blazing. You can do one or the other, but not both at the same time. It's annoying and distracting.

Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse- all the actors are very good. They did what they could with what they were given. I think I would have liked Big Daddy and Hit Girl to have the movie all to themselves, as they were the only two characters who seemed to walk the line between reality/movie well. It was also a shame that Mark Strong didn't have more to do. He's fantastic when you give him a role he can sink his teeth into (See Sherlock Holmes and RocknRolla)

And it's a pity that the action sequences don't match the concept of the plot, because they're awesome. I mean pure awesome. I mean you could easily watch this movie and just skip the parts between the action sequences and be really, really entertained. I just wish the stuff between the action sequences and the action sequences could have happily co-existed somehow, but with a script like that, Vaughn should have known better. I would have even preferred if everything that happened outside the costumes was differed visually than the in-costume parts.

So, I was left wanting more, but not in a good way. On one hand I wanted more action superhero flick, on the other I wanted more "real people try to be superheroes and this is what happens"-type of movie. The balance between the two can be found, see Batman Begins, Shaun of the Dead (not super hero, but supernatural at least) or Boondock Saints. Zombieland had similar issues.

Can we please quit making these "I'm a regular dorky white guy who fights zombies/bad guys/vampires/the mafia" movies? At this point we're beating a dead horse and playing into the very cliches these movies first sought to spoof.

I'm not entirely sure if I can recommend you watch this movie. I'd advise you wait until it plays on some basic cable channel and watch the action sequences. Or just read the comic books, because this looks much better than the movie:


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thank you Mr. Murray

Ever since I watched Zombieland, I've had an insatiable craving for Bill Murray movies, so the Roman Polanski posts have been put on the back burner for the time being.

Caddyshack is easily one of the most quotable movies ever. It's also a sports movie that doesn't require you be the least bit knowledgeable or interested in the sport. All you have to do is enjoy the unbridled goofy awesome-ness that is Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield.

Danny is a blue collar kid from a huge family who's working at the local country club trying to scrape together enough money to pay for college. Chevy Chase is the resident eccentric golf ace, Bill Murray the eccentric groundskeeper, and Rodney Dangerfield plays a visiting rich, eccentric developer whose money has bought him the ability to do whatever the hell he pleases.

In fact, Chase and Murray's characters also seem to do whatever the hell they please and that's what makes them so funny. Yeah, there's a plot, but it's of little consequence. The real point of this movie is to bask in the comedic genius of these three performers. I feel it's Dangerfield's best performance in a movie. This is mostly because he's not required to act, he's only required to deliver lines in his signature style. His scenes are so delightfully absurd that they never fail to make me laugh out loud, even though I've seen this movie about 100 times.

The visual style is classic Lampoon. Bright colors, and the camera is always playing into every sight gag.

If you haven't seen this movie, you're missing out on an important cultural touchstone. It's almost always available on TV, so the next time it's on, just sit and watch it. Although I heavily recommend you see it unedited for time and content.

Murray's character doesn't have a lot of screen-time, but he steals this movie.

Ghostbusters is such a well-written movie that it puts most modern comedies to shame. Also just as quotable as Caddyshack. The characters and plot are so well-developed and truly unique that it's no wonder that it was so wildly successful. Visually, it's a little dated, but for a comedy as old as I am, it's jokes are still just as fresh.

Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, who also star, bring us the story of three scientists who start a ghost extermination business just as New York City begins to experience bizarre supernatural events.

This is my favorite Bill Murray movie. He plays the (comparably) straight man to the goofy science nerds played by Ramis and Aykroyd. He comes off as so suave and clever, it's just incredibly. He's a magnetic charmer, and it's impossible to not like his character.

The entire cast is very strong. Ramis and Aykroyd's mix of genius and geek is spot-on. Rick Morranis is able to give us a super-dork without going over-the-top. Sigourney Weaver is amazing as well. She shifts from damsel in distress to possessed temptress effortlessly and the transformation is amazing. Her entire body moves differently. Her chemistry with Murray is very good, and that's an important part of the movie.

The effects look cheesy now, but they were pretty cutting-edge at the time. Still, I wouldn't trade those claymation demon dogs for all the CGI in the world. They are an integral part of the movie's charm.

The theme song to end all theme songs. Whenever anyone anywhere says "Who you gonna call?" there is only one answer.

And to top it all off, this is an excellent family movie. The kids will like the more obvious jokes and the action, adults love the clever dialogue and nostalgia.

Then came Ghostbusters II. With a bigger budget and the entire cast returning and Ramis and Aykroyd writing the script, the sequel does not disappoint. We pick up with our poltergeist poaching heroes a few years after the events of the first movie. The paranormal activity has plummeted and their legal expenses soaring, they're forced to play at kids' parties and work other jobs for cash. Except for Venkman (Murray) who hosts an unpopular TV show about psychics. That is until poor Dana Barrett (Weaver) again begins having spooky experiences, this time centered mysteriously around her infant son, Oscar.

Hilarity and sci-fi ensues. Watching Venkman, Egon and Ray interact with the slime, and the city straights, is simply priceless. The climax, involving a famous NYC landmark, gets me every time. It's just such a fantastic concept that I don't care if it's plausible. I'm having such a good time that my disbelief is completely suspended.

Visually, this film is more sophisticated than the first and the effects are much better. Few sequels can live up to the potential of the first movie, but this one does.

This one's a little scarier, so kids might cover their eyes or shy away from parts. Adults being possessed and a killer marshmallow are less terrifying than evil slime and a demonic sorcerer trapped in a painting that wants to kidnap a baby.

I could go on and write about all Bill Murray's wonderful movies, but three's the magic number, so I'll stop here and cover the rest after I finish what I started with Polanksi.

So thank you, Mr. Murray. Thank you for being you.

I just watched Kick-Ass last night, so I'll be writing about that in a day or two.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

If you want something done...

you'd better do it yourself!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In the ghetto

The next time you have a bad day and find yourself wondering "How much worse could things get?", watch Precious to get a swift kick off of the self-pity train.

Precious is one of those films that breaks your heart and then fills it back up again. The story of a girl in the worst possible circumstances that rises up the second she is given the chance.

More than that, this movie is the story of the other America. The one that most of us don't know about, don't want to know about, or forget is there. Where people have to make choices and do things the rest of us would never dream us. Hard knock does not begin to describe it. Precious is stuck where she is because she cannot afford anything else. It is only after someone helps her that she is able to really start to live her life. It makes me realize how badly some people need help, and how it seems there will never be enough social workers, there will never be enough caring teachers, and there will never be enough brave neighbors. Precious is lucky, but so many other kids, at this very moment, are falling through the cracks. And our world is poorer for it.

I don't know how the Academy passed over Gabourey Sidibe for Best Actress. She disappears into the role. Gabourey shows us a teen who is beat down, but somehow not completely broken. We see her emerge from the armor she has built around herself. This has to be one of the best
performances I've seen from a young actress. Physically and emotionally, she inhabits the character. Her narration is flawless, and Gabourey gives each facet of Precious' personality a nuanced and believability rarely seen. Too bad Sandra Bullock won the Oscar because she's popular, bankable and skinny pretty. I really cannot wait to see more from Miss Sidibe, and I will be most upset if she is cast as someone's chunky sidekick. She is a star who deserves to shine. This movie rests squarely on her shoulders, and she carries it with ease and care.
Monique deservedly won for Best Supporting. She contorts herself into Precious' monster of a mother with astonishing deft. She is, in turns, horrible, terrifying, vulnerable and pathetic. This will be a role that will go down in cinema history, referenced for generations to come as a
courageous display of pure talent.

The direction sets a perfect tone. Precious' reality is cold, dark and bleak, but her imagined world is vibrant and glossy. Things begin to lighten as Precious finds places to be safe. The viewer sees how Precious has created an inner world to escape the pain and abuse of her reality.
The book on which the film is based starts off with phonetically spelled words and a limited vocabulary, and progresses to show what Precious has learned and how she and her perception of things are changing. The cinematography does its best to mirror that technique, and does it

If you liked Mommie Dearest, Rudy, Monster, or The Breakfast Club, you'll like Precious.
Please don't miss this one, it is powerful and inspiring.

-- Noel
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick®


Playing by the rules

After watching Zombieland I went to its IMDb page to read the trivia, as I so often do after watching movies. I found out the writer was inspired to write it after seeing Shaun of the Dead. Unfortunately, Zombieland isn't nearly as brilliant, but i give it an "A" for effort.

It is incredibly funny and I love the gory zombie-killing in it. The performances given are admirable and overall the film ranks pretty highly on the awesome scale.
We meet Columbus, a young man who has successfully survived the zombie plague thus far because he lives by a set of rules. He soon joins up with Tallahassee, Woody Harrelson in the kind of role he was born to play, and sets off to navigate his way across the zombie-infested country to find his family. And find his family he does, but not in the way he thought he would. It's a hell of a ride, so it's a good thing that seatbelts are on Columbus' list of rules.
This movie is effortlessly funny, and the running jokes and the gags are very clever.

Visually, it's a lot like Shaun of the Dead. Bright colors, sharp contrast, and the zombie blood is almost black.

Really, the characters are so likable and plot so novel that I really hate to nitpick and point out the gaping plot holes. So, if you haven't seen this movie yet, read no further. Watch it an enjoy it for what it is: a comedy zombie movie where Woody Harrelson kicks ass, a white kid is awkward and funny, and Bill Murray is the best thing ever.


- Gaping plot hole #1 that drove me insane: How in the hell is post-zombie-apocalypse America still enjoying an electricity supply?
Powerplants need to be actively operated by people, and I'm sure that a few utility boxes, poles and/or cables were damaged when virtually all people became the rampaging undead. The fact that the power supply was the sole (albeit inexplicably) untouched man made system in "Zombieland" bothered me a great deal.
- Gaping plot hole #2: Columbus readily abandons or violates his own rules when convenient but takes them up again when the plot decides he should. He readily trusts Tallahassee, Wichita and just about everyone except Bill Murray. After the encounter with 406, you'd think he'd be less
trusting of girls, yet he and Tallahassee follow Wichita into a dark and secluded storage room without properly accessing the risk of doing so.
Double-taps are skipped unless they serve as a punchline. He limbers up only once in spite of the fact we see him enter several potential-zombie-bearing situations. He only once secures an exit before proceeding into a room.
Helpful hint to writers: When you point out rules in order tell the audience that they are important plot points, be sure to follow them.
- Gaping plot hole #3: No one ever stops for gas. I'm interested to know how gas stations were still in operation after the zombie apocalypse. Maybe they're run by the same people who run the power plants.

Other stuff that annoyed me:
- Tallahassee frequently abandoning his weapons after using them once.
- Columbus not taking any food or water from the grocery store.
- We see someone use a bathroom only once in spite of the important bathroom rule. I would have liked to know how they managed the whole bathroom issue, especially on a long road trip.
- It is very easy for a fit adult male to grab a gun away from a waify 19 year old, it's even easier for him to grab a gun away from a little girl. Yet Tallahassee fails to realize this until halfway through the movie.
- Why would Wichita and Little Rock only bring one gun each and no ammo into the amusement park?
- How do you operate amusement park rides without having to stand at the controls?
- Why would you run into a fun house you've never been in before when you have zombies chasing you, being that funhouses are confusing and treacherous?
- Why was Tallahassee the only one who ever geared up to enter zombie-full places, even though a munitions supply was available to everyone?
- Why would you purposefully strand yourself at the top of an amusement park ride with no food, water or back up ammo supplies?
- How does Wichita manage to keep her white tank top- the only one she wears through the entire movie- so clean? No blood-spatter? No sweat-stains? No visible signs that she's been wearing it everyday for God knows how long?
- How does Wichita keep her makeup so fresh? We never see her apply it, yet she and Little Rock even discuss their lack of showers. Is it tattooed on?

This movie failed to rise above most other zombie movies. We are left yelling at the protagonists through our screens and wondering why they have momentarily abandoned all logic. Shaun of the Dead was a game-changer because it avoided that same pitfall by adhering to common sense- what would a regular person do during a zombie plague? Zombieland misses that mark because it strives too hard to be glamorous, but is still very entertaining and worthwhile.

-- Noel
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick®


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bad vibrations

Oh, how I wanted to love The Other Guys. But I did not.

Don't get me wrong, it was funny. I liked it. Will Ferrell was fantastic, Michael Keaton (thank you God for Michael Keaton) was just everything I wanted and more, Eva Mendes was brilliant (I never thought I'd write, think or say that phrase), Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock were pitch-perfect... but Mark Wahlberg, oh Marky Mark Wahlberg...
I cannot for the life of me understand why, after his hilarious turn in The Departed, Mark Wahlberg falls so flat here. Perhaps because the chemistry between him and Will Ferrell is non-existent. You don't get the feeling that they were cracking each other up between takes or ad-libbing for the purpose of trying to one-up each other. It just seemed like they were delivering funny lines. And they do a decent job, it just doesn't feel organic and there's no magic.

The plot is pretty good, not that it really matters. I liked Step Brothers a great deal even though many people did not. The chemistry between the actors was enough to carry an otherwise ridiculously absurd movie. I wish The Other Guys had been more absurd, that it had been as cartoony and out-there as Anchorman, Step Brothers and Talladega Nights. But it just wasn't.

This was a movie in desperate need of a straight man. Someone, anyone, to be the normal person who stands by in astonishment at the melee unfolding. Instead, Ferrell, Keaton and Wahlberg take turns as the straight man, and it doesn't work.

Still, it is still very funny, hilariously funny at points and definitely worth renting, especially if they release an R or unrated version. (Why PG-13 McKay? Why???) The action scenes are incredible.

I feel sad. What could cheer me up? Ah, I know:


The shape of things

I love when a movie sneaks up on me. This time that movie was Triangle.

It starts off like any other horror movie you've seen. Strange things are happening and the lead actress is troubled and you don't know why. The acting seems sub-par and you wait for the point when her and her friends are tied up and being tortured by some faceless maniac.

But then the plot starts to twist. And it's such an innovative and intriguing concept that it starts to win you over. You begin to try and guess what will happen, going off of what you've seen in other movies in this genre... but all your guesses are wrong!

This is the kind of movie M. Knight Shyamalan still wishes he could dream up. It is chilling, and while the body count isn't that high and it's not as bloody as it could be, it is all the more terrifying because the concept itself is where the horror lies. A concept so terribly wonderful you will have to tell yourself "This could never really happen."

All no-name actors (unless you know who Melissa George is) and helmed by a writer/director that I've never heard of, Christopher Smith, but hope to see more from!

If you liked Memento, Inception or The Sixth Sense you will LOVE LOVE LOVE Triangle.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Holy Cow!

So I was checking my analytics and saw that over 600 people came to my little corner of the interwebz via my awesome freind Eve's featured seller interview on Etsy.

So I'm scratching her back. Eve has the Etsy shop
Thimble and Acorn. The clothes are modern, unique and devastatingly stylish.
A lot of them look like they belong on Holly Golightly, Edie Sedgeiwck or Twiggy. I really can't love on them enough.

Here's one of my favorites:

The Cafe Dress -
Can't you just see Audrey a la Funny Face romping around paris in this one? In a big brimmed sun hat and glamourous sunglasses, no less!

Wild thing... make my heart sing.

Last night Dan and I curled up on the couch to watch Where The Wild Things Are. I'd heard varying opinions on it, ranging from "great movie" to "very disturbing".
Suffice to say, no reviews I'd read or heard did it justice. It's not like any movie I've ever seen before. Not just aesthetically, but even the style of the plot defies labels. To describe it as a coming of age tale or a kids' movie to to do a disservice to both the film and its viewers.

This is a surrealistic romp into the volatile mind of a pre-teen, Max. At 10 years of age, he is not quite a child, but not quite an adolescent. And that is very strange place to be emotionally and physically.
This world we see is a beautiful interpretation of that limbo that exists within each "tween". It's a place that is both beautiful and scary. Friendly and wild.
Max finds this world after running away from home after throwing a tantrum. The creatures that live there give Max a unique perspective on what it is to live in that place, that limbo that exists.

Spike Jonze is gifted and a truly unique talent. Had anyone else tackled adapting this treasured childhood book, the results would have been nothing like this. While he diverges from the plot of the book, he captures the emotion. This film is evocative and exists not in the head but in the heart. It does not try to be clever or intellectual, it simply makes us feel. And it becomes a living, breathing, warm, fuzzy creature in its own right. It makes you feel all of those times when you were scared or angry that things were changing, that you were no longer a child and the feeling of "everything is going to be okay" became harder and harder to find.

Max Records brings a perfect innocence and accessibility to Max. He is not a heroic figure, he is just a 10 year old boy, and he is charming.
The Wild Things are played with adept skill by Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker, and Lauren Ambrose (who we don't see enough of in films, she was my favorite in "Six Feet Under"). They are unpredictable, tempestuous, and perfectly embody every emotion in a way that is palpable and immediately recognizable. They are just big kids themselves, trying to find their place in their world.

Visually, this movie is everything I wish Alice In Wonderland had been. It is bizarre but believable, and the characters are not cartoonish. It has grit, it has soul. It is the place we all went when we played in our backyards or playgrounds. It is that place inside of us all. It is weird and wonderful. It is just strange enough to be a dreamworld, but not beyond our wildest dreams. It's fantastic, but not perfect.
Jim Henson's Creature Shop made the suits for the creatures, and they add something that no fancy CGI ever could. They are real things made from real stuff, not pixels and codes. They are tangible.

Some critics felt it was too dark for children. I disagree. It is honest with children. It makes no illusions about growing up being fun and Max's problems aren't all solved at the end. The entire plot serves to teach Max one lesson: Everything doesn't have to be okay, and you can't make everything okay. Just do the best you can with what you've got.
And I don't think that's something we should shield kids from. the longer we create the illusion that everything is all happy-ever-after and singing animals, the harder it is for kids to adjust to reality. Things aren't always going to be okay. Things are going to suck sometimes. Things are going to be hard sometimes. Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to. Sometimes we lose things. Sometimes the people we love can hurt us and make us angry.
If we never tell them these things, how are we to prepare them for life?

So take the trip with Max to Where The Wild Things Are, bring the kids, and let the wild rumpus into your heart.

-- Noel
Sent from my T-Mobile Sidekick®


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I don't care if I'm in Rome...