Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ronin finally coming on Blu-ray, but...'s barebones. Single-layered disc, too, which means a potentially lower bit-rate for a 2 hour movie.

Ronin is one of my old favorites. I saw it in the theater with a friend in high school, and have loved it ever since. The pacing, the action, the characters -- everything is great. I'd love to have it in hi-def, but I'm not shelling out $35 for a disc that has fewer special features than the VHS (which at least had an alternate ending after the credits, if I remember right).

MGM, why you gotta make me hit you?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Superman Returns (2006)

(I wrote this review back in 2006. Since then, I've seen Superman II: The Donner Cut, which actually changed my opinion of a few things. See the end of this post for those reflections.)

Ok, so I liked it. I keep making the same mistake of reading reviews before I go see it so all I can think about is "Is this too long? Is Kate Bosworth that bad?" and I don't focus on having a good time at a movie. Oh yeah, and there were about 5 nerds behind us in the theater impressing each other every 10 seconds with Superman trivia and MST3K comments. I shushed them, I told them "Save it for the internet!", my roommate shushed them, but they wouldn't shut up. Go to your friend's house and download it if you want to talk during the whole flippin' movie. Then you can eat your Cheetos and Mtn. Dew and cast Magic Missile all you want. I love nerds as much as the next guy, and God knows I was remembering all the Superman trivia as I watched it ("OOooh! I know why he's doing that! He gets his powers from the SUN!") but I didn't whisper it to my friend next to me hoping he'd be impressed and make out with me. FEH.

Back to the movie. Brandon Routh did a great job as Superman. Had the right amount of confidence and charisma. I thought he was fine as Clark as well, though I'd like to hear why Curtis wasn't as satisfied with him in that regard. Perhaps it's because I haven't seen any of the original Superman movies in a long-butt time, and don't have Christopher Reeves' performance to compare to, I dunno.

Lex was great. Crazy ol' Lex. Not as vicious as I would have imagined him. I kept thinking, "Oh man, Kitty's gonna get slizzapped!" but she never did. Why does a maniacal super-villian willing to kill billions not smack around an annoying lackey? I guess I'm used to Bond villians who always demonstrate their ruthlessness by killing an incompetent underling. Lex, by contrast, surrounded himself with imcompetent henchmen and even paused for two seconds when they got squished. Geh wheh? Is that in keeping with the Lex from previous movies? Anyhow, Kevin Spacey is good. I loved when he met Lois on the boat in his bathrobe with toothbrush in his mouth.

Speaking of Lois, who watched Blue Crush and thought, "Eff yeah, Kate Bosworth! She's totally Lois!" She actually wasn't as bad as I thought she was going to be (she's a decent actress), but as Curtis pointed out, she didn't have much of a personality beyond "I'm a bitter independent woman who is still in love with Superman." She was almost feisty, but not in any really entertaining ways.

Why did Kal Penn get cast as a henchman? That was weird. "Hey, remember that funny guy from those funny movies? Yeah, we got him to play a henchman! ... I dunno, he stands around mostly. Why?"

Oh yeah, and Superman has a kid? He and Lois got it on? Disregarding any Mallrats-like discussions of the mechanics of such a feat, isn't that against the all-American mid-west ideals he was raised with? Now we really know why he left for Krypton for five years: he could hear Lois conceiving! Also, where in his morals is it cool for him to try and steal Lois back from uber-nice-guy Cyclops? That is contrary to his morality as well.

Superman never super-punched anything! I guess he didn't have any nigh-invulnerable super-villians to knock around, but I think that's the only "move" of his they didn't feature in the movie.

That wasn't anything like a review. Those were my nerdy observations that had nothing to do with story. I thought the story was pretty good, actually. A good plot for Luthor, as Curtis noted.

**end original 2006 review**

Having seen a Christopher Reeve Superman movie (the second one) more recently now, I can understand Curtis' objections to Routh. I had forgotten how great Reeve was. He was charming and affable, really felt like a kid out of Kansas, and brought great character to his performance, especially as Clark, where Routh was lacking. I dismissed all the Reeve love that went on for a while after his accident and death as mere pity, but now I know what they were on about: he truly was great in that role. Comparing the two performance, Routh's Clark didn't feel like a real guy with real history. He felt like a guy who showed up and played a part for two hours.

Margot Kidder also brought a lot more to the table than Kate Bosworth did. The rapport between her and Reeve felt more believable.

Of course, I also had forgotten that Superman and Lois knocked boots in number two, and that they had explained how that was possible.

The Devil's Backbone (2001)

(This review was originally written for BUBBS back in 2006.)

After reading an enthusiastic review of Pan's Labyrinth that ranked it "up there with his two other masterpieces, The Devil's Backbone and Cronos," I found a copy of the former at Blockbuster. And what do you know, it is indeed very good. Del Toro just nails everything that should be nailed. Great cast (the kids are really good), good direction (maintains several themes without disrupting the overall mood), good use of special effects (the kind you mostly don't notice), great cinematography. And, of course, some very striking and imaginative imagery (the bomb in the courtyard, the fetuses in the jars, Santi's ghostly wound and haunting ground).

Next up is Cronos, and then (hopefully) Pan's Labyrinth. I can't believe I'd only seen Blade II and Hellboy and liked del Toro; Devil's Backbone is a much finer film that demonstrates deeper talent.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Further notes on Rio Bravo

I picked Rio Bravo (on Blu-Ray, of course) for last week's movie night with the Prices. It was the second time I'd seen it all the way through. I posted some thoughts a long while back, but it was only a few sentences, so here are my further reflections.

- I don't know if it's because we watched it with friends and it was getting late, but it struck me as a little long this time. I think it could have been trimmed a bit.
- I'm still impressed with Dean Martin. I haven't seen anything else of his, but he did a wonderful job bringing a unique character to life and making him sympathetic and believable. Great performance.
- The opening scene is still fantastic. No dialogue for quite a while. The story is introduced via pure physical acting.
- Ricky Nelson's performance isn't very good. It makes it seem like he only got the part for the musical duet scene with Martin, and maybe for his teenage-girl drawing power. His line delivery is stiff and unnatural sounding.
- Angie Dickinson is still has a unique beauty and edge to her, though the games she plays in the movie would drive me nuts, and it's weird seeing her end up with Wayne, who must have been 30 years her senior.
- Viewing the movie as a companion piece to High Noon is fascinating. Hawks made Rio Bravo in response to High Noon; he disagreed vehemently with the idea of law enforcement seeking civilian help. Each little comment Chance the sheriff makes about getting help sounds like Hawks himself yelling at Zimmerman. It's also worth observing the fates of each of those who do get involved, and how they go about doing so. Chance waits a really long time to finally accept Colorado's help, and even then, it's only after he's fully warned him and Colorado has proved that he knows what's at stake. Hawks makes it clear that civilians who get involved with the Law's business are at great risk and shouldn't be doing so.

Screen-caps from two great Martin scenes:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another concussion

Last Thursday I got another minor concussion. This time it was skating with a couple of friends at an East LA skatepark (in Belvedere). They hadn't adjusted the timers of the lights for Daylight Savings yet, so they went off early at 8pm. We could still see a bit by the lights of the surrounding soccer fields, so I kept rolling around a bit. I fell doing something really simple, and for some reason did not fall well. Whacked the back of my head.

While it wasn't as bad as the last time, I did have some weird memory issues the rest of the night. I watched The Office with Amy and I kept thinking that one of the characters on the show had had a concussion.

Helmet from now on at the skateparks. Kind of a "duh" thing, I know, but when almost no one else wears a helmet there, and you haven't had any bad falls yourself, you feel like you'll be all right.

Recent movies - Army of Shadows, Get Smart, Another Thin Man, How the West Was Won

Army of Shadows (1969)

An impressive film. Oddly paced at times (I was interested, but puzzled, by the inclusion of the lengthy night drop sequence). I took special notice of the sophisticated camera movements, which seemed innovative to me for a 1969 film (perhaps someone with a decent knowledge of cinematography can tell me whether or not Melville and his team were doing something ahead of their time). Despite the fancy camera work, the acting and mood of the film was subdued and objective, though there is a scene early on that forces the viewer to watch via several close-ups. I was reminded emotionally of a similar scene in The Wind That Shakes the Barley. The color palette was interesting as well. As you can see in the above screen-capture, everything has a tinge of blue and brownish purple.

Get Smart (2008)

Fun. Had enough funny parts to make it worthwhile. A couple groaners (David Koechner and Alan Arkin had all the worst lines, for some reason). I still anticipate a day when Steve Carrell's style will stop being funny to me, but for now, I still enjoy him. Anyone else notice that Anne Hathaway's voice gets a little nasal and nerdy-sounding sometimes?

Another Thin Man (1939)

Same enjoyable formula. New to the mix was The Baby. Notable scenes include an elaborate gun trick that is begging for a segment on Mythbusters, a couple brief appearances by Shemp Howard, and an impressive dance.

How the West Was Won (1962)

Really impressive visuals, really forgettable story-lines. Enough beautiful vistas to make John Ford jealous. The effort Warner Bros. put into restoring and cutting together the three separate images for the Blu-Ray should be loudly applauded. The image is spectacular. For those unfamiliar with the film, it was shot for Cinerama theaters, meaning three separate cameras were used to film each scene simultaneously, and the image was then projected by three different projectors onto a curved screen that simulated our field of vision that was a bit wider than the regular movie screen. I wish I could have experienced it. On Blu-Ray, the image is flattened into a very wide and a bit distorted picture. For the most part, it's not distracting, but occasionally characters on the sides of the frame will not appear to be looking at the characters in the center.

The plot concerns a bunch of different characters and their individual stories concerning westward American expansion. They all interweave eventually, but none of them were all that interesting, despite the impressive cast. My favorite was George Peppard's story towards the end, mostly because of a spectacularly staged shoot-out on a moving train with Eli Wallach's gang. There were some really impressive stunts! My favorite was a guy falling off the train and knocking over a giant cactus.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Movie Reviews, Alphabetically

Since I like this feature on so many other sites I read, I decided to make a permanent post that I will update as new reviews come in. (This is the sort of thing I wish I had for Jeri's, Nobody's, and Nate Bell's blogs! When I finally get around to seeing a movie they have discussed I have a heck of a time remembering who wrote it and then finding it.)

I'm not going to link to every post that mentions a movie; these will all be actual reviews or at least discussions about a particular aspect of the movie.

3 Days of the Condor (1975)
3:10 To Yuma (1957)
3:10 To Yuma (2007)
The 400 Blows (1959)
Adios Sabata (1971)
The Alamo (2004)
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Amazing Grace (2006)
Another Thin Man (1939)
Appaloosa (2008)
Appleseed (2004)
Army of Shadows (1969)
Avatar (2009)
Bad Company (1972)
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Batman Begins (2005)
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
The Big Country (1958)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Black Dynamite (2008)
Blast of Silence (1961)
Broken Arrow (1950)
The Burrowers (2008)
The Call of Cthulhu (2005)
Castle in the Sky (1986)
Cemetery Junction (2010)
Changeling (2008)
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Conan the Barbarian (1981)
Cop Land (1997)
The Court Jester (1955)
The Cowboys (1972)
Dan in Real Life (2007)
Darjeeling Limited (2007)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Deja Vu (2006)
The Devil's Backbone (2001)
District 9 (2009)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Duel (1971)
Eastern Promises (2007)
Fire in the Sky (1993)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
From Russia With Love (1963)
Galipoli (1981)
Get Smart (2008)
The Good The Bad The Weird (2008)
Gremlins (1984)
Gunga Din (1939)
Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)
Hellboy II (2008)
The Hit (1984)
The Hour of the Gun (1967)
How the West Was Won (1962)
How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
The Hurt Locker (2009)
I Am Legend (2007)
I Love You Again (1940)
Ichi (2008)
Inherit the Wind (1960)
The Invention of Lying (2009)
It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Junebug (2005)
Juno (2007)
Kill! (1968)
King of Kong (2007)
The Kite Runner (2007)
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
La Strada (1954)
The Lady from Shanghai (1948)
Lake Placid (1999)
The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride (2009)
Layer Cake (2004)
Legend (1985)
Lifeboat (1944)
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Logan's Run (1976)
Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
Man with the Gun (1955)
The Matador (2005)
The Meaning of Life (2005)
Mon Oncle Antoine (1971)
Moon (2009)
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
No Name on the Bullet (1959)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
The Outsiders: The Complete Novel (1983)
Pale Rider 1, 2 (1985)
Paranormal Activity (2009)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Payback: Straight Up (2006)
Ponyo (2009)
Predators (2010)
Public Enemies (2009)
The Public Enemy (1931)
Quantum of Solace (2008)
The Quiet Man (1952)
Ratatouille (2007)
Red River (1948)
Red Sun (1971)
Redbelt (2008)
Rescue Dawn (2006)
Rio Bravo, 2 (1959)
Role Models (2008)
Rooster Cogburn (...and the Lady) (1975)
Samurai Rebellion (1967)
Serpico (1973)
Shane (1953)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Speed Racer (2008)
Stardust (2007)
State of the Union (1948)
Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (2002)
Sunshine (2008)
Superman Returns (2006)
Surf's Up (2007)
Sword of Doom (1966)
Taken (2009)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
The Thin Man (1934)
The Thing (1982)
The Tin Star (1957)
To Be or Not To Be (1983)
To Catch A Thief (1955)
To Live and Die in LA (1985)
Tom Horn (1980)
Treasure Island (1950)
Troy (2004)
The Wages of Fear (1953)
Wall-E (2008)
Warlock (1959)
Watchmen (2009)
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Withnail and I (1987)
The Wrestler (2008)
Young Guns (1988)
Zodiac (2007)
Zombieland (2009)