Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Movies for Travelling: Ratatouille, Airplane! & Tootsie (and don't go see Thor)

All right- No excuses, apologies or promises this time as it's clear they don't do me any good. I'm just going to blog. Let's do this thing!

Now, I've mentioned before that I have an iPad. I love my iPad. Real love. If it were to break, be stolen, or get lost, I would mourn it like a dear friend. Okay, maybe more like a beloved hamster. I'd be inconsolable for a few days, then probably get a new one.
But that's beside the point.

I've spent a lot of time streaming movies on my iPad, but only recently have run into the difficult situation of buying and downloading a movie onto my iPad. Dan was leaving for Chile and wanted to bring the iPad. I told him I'd buy a few movies so that he could watch them on his long plane ride, seeing as though streaming movies on public WiFi is never reliable.
Little did I know that deciding which movie to download onto the iPad was a far more complicated process than I imagined. It's something like this:
And that's all assuming the movie you want is even on iTunes and you can know exactly what you're looking for. The browsing process in iTunes is maddening. It basically assumes that all anyone cares about is what's new or popular. Anyone who knows anything about movies knows that you're going to have a pretty ho-hum selection if you stick to what's new and popular.

So here are the three movies I currently have on my iPad:

I really do love all three of these movies. I could watch them over and over. They were priced appropriately, and none of them causes a reaction so extreme as to bother anyone sitting around me.

Let me tell you why:

This is, perhaps, the best movie about food and cooking that I have ever seen. Pixar really hit it out of the park on this one. The animation is incredible, the textures and movements are so rich that you get easily sucked into this wonderful, virtual Paris.

Yes, the plot itself is incredibly far-fetched, but the wonderful characters, the wacky humor and the smart dialogue help you forget about that. But the real star of this film is the food. You can practically smell it right through the screen. The way the characters talk about food and handle food is romantic. This film always makes me hungry, and it makes me want to cook something. I have gotten up halfway through it to make ziti with alfredo sauce. I am a picky eater and a reluctant cook, and this movie makes trying something new seem fun and exciting. And you actually learn a lot about food and cooking during it.

Another reason I find it easy to watch is that it's fun, light and short. The perfect recipe for a travel movie.

Now, if you haven't seen this movie before, you probably shouldn't watch it on a plane. You'll laugh too much. It's one of the funniest movies ever made and many of its lines have become phrases everyone knows. The most famous of which is:
Striker: "Surely you can't be serious."
Dr. Rumack: "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley."

Of course, I'm not sure how you can live in the U.S. and can not manage to at least see part of this movie. It seems to always be on television. But trust me when I tell you that the best parts were edited out for time or lewdness.

The jokes come one right after another. Sight gags, puns, wisecracks, running gags- all these and more. Each just as funny as the next. It's the screwiest of all screwball comedies. For its time, it was one of the most daring spoofs. The comedic performances are flawless. Even actors that deliver only one or two lines are funnier than half the so-called comedians you see on t.v. or the big screen these days.

Is it a high budget film with perfect execution? No, but I find that's part of its charm. It's scrappy, it's playing it fast and loose. You can watch it over and over, it's appropriately priced, and you never have to think too hard about it.

I know this is kind of coming from left field. But again, screwy movies are the best kind of movies for travel. And Tootsie is actually impeccably written for having such a weird concept as the foundation of it's plot. This film was a pet project for Dustin Hoffman after he worked on Kramer vs. Kramer:
"Dustin Hoffman first got the idea to do this film while working on Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). He felt his character in that film had to be both a mother and a father, so he started thinking about how to play a man and a woman. Several scripts, several writers and a few directors later, this was the result."

Honestly, most leading men couldn't pass for women, but Hoffman's small frame, small features (except for that nose, but girls have big noses too!), and the mannerisms he adopts to appear feminine are so believable that it's not such a stretch to think he could pass as a woman.

The dialogue is fantastic and most of the performances are fantastic. I think Jessica Lange is a bit of a weak link, but it could be that her character is simply written to be so weak and vulnerable that I can't help but dislike her. But I can tolerate it with ease because she's never on screen without Hoffman, who is simply sublime.

This movie is also funny as hell. All of Bill Murray's lines were improvised, and they are hysterical. The great thing is that there are just as many laughs generated by the reaction shots as those garnered by the punchlines.

The ending is really not so great, so I give you permission to stop it right after the kooky hospital scene ends, which I sometimes do, but the beginning and the build to the climax are so incredibly worth it. Worth it to the point where I'll watch this movie many many times.


I did go see Thor the weekend it came out. It was utterly ridiculous and kind of irresistibly campy. The thing I kept thinking while watching it was:
"Anthony Hopkins couldn't have possibly read this script. He must have heard the words 'Kenneth Branagh' and 'Zeus' and signed on without thinking."
At least that what I tell myself to help it all make sense.
The worst part about all of it is that the Norse myths themselves are so awesome and easy to understand, and the explanation given in the film about Asgard and the old gods is so ingenious that there's really no excuse for how they patched it all together.

Thor, Loki, Zeus, Asgard- all of their back stories and origins are botched. I don't really know much about the Thor comic books (I know, I know, I call myself a geek and I don't know this) so perhaps they were following that cannon, but I grew up with the old stories. My dad and uncle loved vikings, and read us books and told my brother and me the old Norse legends that are so damn entertaining and awesome that I really can't respect anything else.

Odin didn't lose his eye in a battle with the Ice Giants. He sacrificed it in exchange for infinite wisdom. Loki is not Thor's brother. No explanation is given as to why or how Thor has a Japanese man in his group of warriors in this film. Granted, Tadanobu Asano is fucking awesome and was the star in Ichi the Killer, which is about 60 times better than this movie, but he's still out of place in this movie. In fact, instead of wasting any more of my or your time telling you about the truly forgettable Thor, I will simply tell you to take that $20 you were going to spend on a ticket to see Thor and spend it on a Netflix subscription and put Ichi the Killer on you queue.

So, there.
Til árs og frí ar!