Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yes Man

Yes Man (Single-Disc Edition)I loved it. It's almost 1:00 a.m. so I'm not entirely coherent about this film, but I really did love it. The music was brilliant, the themes were engaging and sophisticated, albeit unrealistic. The acting did nothing to detract from the script, and the script flowed smoothly. It wasn't particularly flowery, but it wasn't distracting either, except maybe that final scene. And it was funny.

The colors and filming were delightful. I enjoyed the jogging scenes especially, and the sunrise. And the motorcycle.

I'm surprised the critics thought so badly of it. General consensus is positive. The critics seem to like Jim Carey and not everything else, but Carey was only one positive thing among the several I've already mentioned. I appreciate how his acting has become more natural. He still has that gift for filling a character with life that he started with, but now he seems to fill them with soul too. I appreciate that in both this movie and his other more recent work.

Top critics call the movie "predictable" but although as a Romantic Comedy we're pretty sure the guy and the girl get together, there were moments that had me truly on the edge of my seat. There were times when I knew Carl should say "no" - sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't, but I waited every time to see if he would. I cared about the character. I laughed at the coincidences, whether I saw them coming or not. I really thought the female lead was well-written (and naturally, well-acted. I'm a Deschanel fan). Allison behaved naturally, and yet positively, for the most part. She kissed Carl spontaneously, but wasn't a slut about it. They both knew and did the kinds of things that benefited the community. They were characters written refreshingly unselfish. It felt good.

I noticed some little complexity involving Carl's job at the bank. He seemed uncomfortable with his new, higher corporate rank, but I think his experiences with Stephanie and Allison should give him the emotional equipment to deal with that issue when it starts pinching. I feel content with that ending. I hear the ending chord resolved. Isn't that what a good romantic comedy should do?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

9

9I seem to be developing a thing about voice-acting. In this film, I continued my skepticism, but otherwise ADORED this movie. Acknowledging that Tim Burton wasn't the whole movie, despite the posters, I can cast aside my Tim Burton adoration and just focus on the movie. Shane Acker did a wonderful job, especially visually.

I must acknowledge moments where the micro nature of the world made the framing of the action shots a little disorienting. Suddenly the characters (very small), were swinging from something, or using a piece of technology or something mechanical that hadn't previously been in the audience's view. We knew there were things around (the audience had to assume), but the nature of those things surprised us.

The techno-post-apocalyptic thing really worked for me, especially when it became clear that the apocalypse has graduated from nuclear warfare to biological weapons. I loved the random, though well-disguised, corpses that littered the countryside. I liked the human-like figures that the characters had - I get tired of models. American television seriously begins to chafe.

The soul-plot seemed thorough, but simple. The ending reflected this, although to be honest, it was the only explanation that would fit all of the facts. The dolls were too simplistic to reflect artificial intelligence, and the symbols signaled something more arcane, although they did not have inherent meanings, which seemed odd considering that the rest of the world seemed to connect directly to current culture. I mean, the dolls all knew their numbers and used them like names, and we presume they could read letters, but the symbols weren't letters in either the latin or greek alphabets, and they didn't look terribly Cyrillic either. I could be wrong.

Anyway, I liked it. It's a darker film, but obviously toned down for small children. Rottentomatoes.com doesn't like it (only a 57%), but I'd be a disagreeing vote.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa of the Valley of the WindHayao Miyazaki directs some wonderful images, although in a few brief moments, one is unsure if there is an excuse for bad framing in an animated feature.

Miyazaki continues several major themes through most of his works, and two of them present themselves in this work as well. Both environmentalism (post-apocalyptic) and anti-war propaganda sprout up now and again and flash their rotting fangs.

It's nearly impossible among the current political rhetoric to be either anti-environment or pro-war, but that fact simply makes subtlety more necessary. There's no need to get so heavily didactic to someone who already agrees, and really, I can't see anyone disagreeing with anything as beautiful as that mouldy forest.

Artistically, though, the images in this film are wonderful and terrifying. The color palette seems to have been more pastel than is typical of anime. Pastel orange, whole scenes in blues and greens, and skies populated by darkening clouds fill the whole experience. The insect creatures can be a little nauseating for the arachnophobe, but they're made more soft and helpless with shading and color as well as characterization. The evil creatures with sharp edges and colors all turn out to be people, in Miyazaki's pessimistic anticipation of post-apocalyptic moronity.

In summary, it's not exactly the script of the century, but the images were well worth seeing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tammy and the Bachelor

Tammy and The Bachelor [VHS]This film (not reviewed on rottentomatoes.com) apparently launched Debbie Reynolds's career. I've seen her in several great movies that came out previous to it, though, including Susan Slept Here and The Tender Trap. I certainly prefer the former of these to the latter, but both seemed in a similar vein with less attractive leading men.

Leslie Nielsen's a babe. I say that with the utmost respect for his extensive and widely varied career, and despite (maybe because of?) his amusing role in the Sci-Fi/Shakespearean Forbidden Planet (1957, a year AFTER Tammy and the Bachelor, according to IMDB, but 1956, same year, according to rottentomatoes (who, incidentally, give Forbidden Planet a shocking 95%)), seen unfortunately as a precursor to Star Trek's Captain Kirk. Oddly, both actors (Nielsen and Shatner) seem to have turned to comedy in their advancing years.

I think the only real smudge I must give this movie comes from its musical leanings. After having seen Songcatcher (Aidan Quinn, Emmy Rossum, Janet McTeer), Debbie Reynolds's primitive attempts at the sophisticated sounds of white, southern singing seems to move in correct directions, but still land squarely on popular music of the period. Where Emmy Rossum's voice catches the essence of Appalacian folk singing, Debbie Reynolds's voice emerges sounding well-trained and ready for an LP, rather than raw, the way it would sound if she'd spent her first seventeen years practically alone on a houseboat near Louisiana. Minus points for lack of realism.

The character Tammy is also disturbingly young. Her emotional development, though well-founded, doesn't seem to have progressed far enough for her to react any better than a ten-year-old, though she does take her few social gaffes in a very stable stride. That her beau currently sees a woman who appears nearer thirty-five, does nothing to alleviate the slight ick factor brought on by the age difference. I say this as someone who can watch Harold and Maude without blinking, so, you know, I'm going to lose this particular point.

See the movie, if you like nostalgia. It's cute. It's classic. It ends well.

The sequel, Tammy and the Doctor, stars Sandra Dee and Peter Fonda. It's in my queue for next weekend, so we'll see how that goes. Like most sequels, I expect little of it.

Easy Living

Ray Milland became a rather more sinister figure in later movies than he played here. Easy Living, written by the brilliant Preston Sturges, featured one of his more adorable performances. Incidentally, this film scored a shocking 100% on the tomatometer.

These old, light comedies didn't exactly call for any deep acting, but the way Edward Arnold and Ray Milland exchanged some of the fastest lines since His Girl Friday (three years later, ironically) floored me. Mr. Sturges's lines could only have been pulled off by accomplished comics. These two did just fine.

Unfortunately, Jean Arthur landed the blondest of blonde roles. Not only does her character refuse to see the simplest reason in an argument of mathematics with a banker, but she actually makes a very basic social mistake in accepting an $58,000 sable coat (during the Great Depression) from a married man, and then compounds the mistake by accepting a matching hat. Perhaps movies were becoming more liberal, but even now that kind of gift carries a very disreputable connotation.

Because of the format of these earlier movies, I had no difficulty seeing where the movie was headed, but since it was always going somewhere amusing, that didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of this film. I'd recommend it to anyone who doesn't have a problem with B&W flicks.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Gnome-Mobile

A terrible movie. The children had already proven themselves in The Three Lives of Thomasina and Mary Poppins, so I must admit that they did quite well. Ed Wynn played an amusing character part. "Jasper" was cute. Really, though, that's all this movie has to recommend it.

Disney have created some delightfully imaginative and profound movies, including Thomasina, but these gnomes lacked a soul. It displayed the outward trappings of conscientious environmentalism, of humanistic optimism, but failed to achieve any emotional or philosophical depth. I'm certain that was as intended, but without that depth I see no reason to watch, unless you really like bubbles.

The plot leaked like a sieve with little or no coherence between elements. Major ending conflict appears within the last ten minutes, while other major conflicts reach a visual but not theoretical conclusion. The "bad guys" who want to put the old man who sees gnomes into a mental institution crash their car, but unless they are completely dead, may certainly return to report D. J.'s erratic behavior AND produce competent witnesses. A psychologist has already examined the man and declared him unstable.

The circus guy hanging from his own antlers, unless rescued, might actually come to harm. If he does not, what's to stop him from chasing down more gnomes? The threat is not eliminated, merely postponed long enough for that ancient rolls royce to move the plot to the next segment.

Pass on this one, guys. Watch The Three Lives of Thomasina instead.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

New Moon

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Two-Disc Special Edition)This is going to be another rant.

My favorite thing about this movie are the jokes my little brother made about semi-Cullens and haggis. Seriously.

Jennifer said I should watch for the eye candy. She meant the yellow Porsche.

"Bella! Take your shirt off!" - hey, we were all thinking it. Even me, and I'm straight.

MST3K is just waiting for this one to ripen on the vine.

"Face Punch?" really? "Love Spelled Backwards is Love!?" I don't write this lightly. W. T. F. !?

The Nightmare Before Twilight. We were waiting for the holiday-shaped doors.

Oh, the psychoanalysis. This is a love story of profoundly maladjusted personalities.

John says it's the start of a new film genre called "awkward drama."

I'm not sure if the really bad acting is truly the actors' fault, since they really didn't have much of a script to work with. Seriously, though, when you're just looking around for someone to blame for the mess, it's time to stop blogging.

Bounty Hunter

The Bounty HunterIt impressed me. Okay, when the car rolled and not a single flame spouted anywhere I thought I was in love.

I'm NOT a Jennifer Aniston fan, but when she came out in that ultra-thin look, with the heels (well, except the wedges. I hate wedges) and the self-conscious business-woman/hardass thing going, I totally believed it. I watched her and I thought, "I know someone like that." I don't say that in romantic comedies very often. Ever, really. Movie writers seem to think that hardass business women have that soft underbelly. They even tried to say so in some dialogue in Bounty Hunter, but the audience isn't fooled for a second. She's a hardass, he's a hardass, and that's what works. Under all that emotional constipation, they seem to portray two people who just do what they do. Unusually realistic.

I saw the seedier, the more realistic side of New Jersey, and I felt something solid under everything, but there were still layers of fatty romance tissue, and I really don't think Gerard Butler should have an American accent. His mouth doesn't form the words naturally, and I think he could give a much stronger performance if so much of it weren't based on that low-level skill.

I guess accents and dialects aren't really a low-level skill, but they're not nearly as essential to character; I mean, they seem frivolous compared to deeper, psychological acting. I have heard theories about how speech affects brain patterns, so maybe an accent will change how a character behaves, but it doesn't seem to make a difference to me.

Anyway, if you can see through the fluff and survive the nasty scenes in the strip-club, this movie has some merit.