Archive for the ‘Movie-A-Day’ Category

Prometheus is a fun movie with just a bit too much baggage. I can definitely say it was scarier to me than Alien, but it quickly turned away from the horror and delved into action movie territory. I suppose that’s what people want out of science fiction these days, which is a shame. Regardless, the movie was also held back a bit by the constant references to the Alien franchise, as if to try and keep the audience interested by reminding them how cool that previous series was. Despite a lot of really fun performances and some very memorable scenes, Prometheus cannot really ascend much higher than a basic popcorn flick. Fun for a night in, but better sci-fi, horror, and action movies are out there.

Movies about time travel are a tricky thing to get right; there are endless possibilities of things getting too confusing, too convoluted, too full of plot holes and fridge logic. But when done right, there are just as many endless possibilities for contemplation, cleverness, and fantastic stories. The animation wonder team at Madhouse gets it right with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Taking the form of an almost too typical anime high school romance, director Mamoru Hosoda doesn’t really look to break the mold on stories about first love, but the characters are fun and interesting, and the story feels like a genuine peek at an ordinary girl surrounded by extraordinary circumstances. Like many other Japanese love stories, it’s cute and sweet and ends on a completely ambiguous but hopeful note.

I can count on one hand how many video games over the years have had a deep and emotional impact on my life, and Minecraft is definitely at the top of the pack. I started playing during the Beta testing stage, and have been a loyal member of the community ever since. 2 Player Productions first caught my eye when they created a twenty-minute sample of the Minecraft documentary, looking for Kickstarter support to finish the rest of the movie. Released on Christmas 2012, it’s clear that they did not disappoint. 2PP takes us through the complete whirlwind journey from Mojang’s rise from internet whispers to global phenomenon. The sheer magnitude of the Minecraft community since its earliest days is captured in all of its staggering glory in this film, and no one seems more surprised than Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of the game and founder of Mojang AB. Minecraft: The Story of Mojang is a beautiful, poignant, and very human tribute to an unprecedented success story in the new internet culture.

MAD 09: Lincoln

Posted: January 15, 2013 in Movie-A-Day
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It’s difficult to think of the right words to describe Spielberg’s Lincoln, which is perhaps the most interesting film I’ve watched since starting this project. He is perhaps the most famous of what can only be a handful of directors identifiable by only his last name, a name often associated with words like “blockbuster,” or “record-breaking.” Say what you will about his work, the man knows how to put movies together. And with this historical biopic, it does seem like he’s looking to branch out, to try new and more daring directions. Specifically in this case, a story about congressional politics designed and told like a heist movie. Together with marvelous set and costume design and a solid cast, Spielberg avoids a bland re-telling of how our 16th president inspired a nation, and instead focuses on how through charm and wit (and even a little political underhandedness), Honest Abe was able to accomplish the impossible. Daniel Day-Lewis breathes life into Lincoln in a way that both humanizes and aggrandizes him. From his soft-spoken rural twang to his inexhaustible library of stories and anecdotes to his deep set sorrow masked behind a stubborn will to keep going, this feels like the man himself in his own time. Mention must also be made to the variety of other roles revolving around the central performance. Impressive work from the likes of Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Lee Pace, and dozens of others abound, all adding up to one of the best historical films I’ve seen in quite a while. I’m not certain it will earn Best Picture at the Oscars this year, but it certainly deserves to be up there.

One of the benefits I’d hoped to reap from this Movie-A-Day project was to open myself up to films I normally would have had no intention of watching. Even though I generally appreciate all genres of stories, I do have a tendency to prioritize action and geek fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, etc). I know what I like, but it can sometimes get in the way of a good movie experience. Today, that movie experience would have been Silver Linings Playbook, a romantic comedy-drama by David O. Russell, a huge contrast to the last film I watched of his, 2010’s The Fighter. But I did go watch it, and I am glad I did. Russell has such a knack for portraying flawed characters with such grace and humanity, revealing their vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a way that makes you understand and sometimes even identify with their pains. With a remarkable cast at his disposal, not a single actor goes underutilized this fairy tale love story about two lost souls. From the wonderful leads of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence to Robert DeNiro, everyone has their moment to shine. Even Chris Tucker (who literally hasn’t done anything but Rush Hour movies in about 15 years) was able to bring some humanity to what could have been just a bit part.

I don’t usually go for romances in general, and the kind of nice and neat happily ever after endings are usually an instant DQ from my list. But Russell knows his craft, and manages to make it all work without ever making it seem cheap, cliche, or childish. I walked into Silver Linings Playbook expecting a formulaic chick flick, but walked out with a new take on life, mental health, and what it means to find the one.

MAD 07: Les Miserables

Posted: January 8, 2013 in Movie-A-Day
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I never watched any stage production of Les Miserables, but I am familiar with the original novel by Victor Hugo, and it’s unfortunate that the film adaptation cannot compare to the nuance and depth of the source material. This is hardly surprising, of course, since this is almost always the case with adaptations from literature. But whereas other adaptations like The Hobbit still make a determined effort to convey the original story, Les Miserables felt incredibly rushed to the point of confusion. Had I not read the book, I believe I would have an incredibly difficult time trying to understand what was happening, or who these people were that I was supposed to relate to. With only a few notable exceptions, the characters all felt incredibly flat and cartoonish; limited only to a single defining emotion or motivation. Again, I can’t speak for the staged musical, but as far as films go this was a waste of the high caliber talent in the cast.

Speaking of the cast, I do admit that the musical performances themselves were simply phenomenal. The decision to record the soundtrack live was perfect, and gave Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks in particular fantastic moments to act while singing and vice versa. Contributing to at least some of the impact of their solos was the use of a long single take to film their respective numbers. It looked as though they filmed a great deal of the performances with long takes, but multiple performers required editing to get everyone on the screen. That is about the extent of their successes with experimental camerawork, however. So much of the movie is shot far too tight on the actors, often with a very wide lens, distorting the image in rather strange ways. I’m not entirely sure why they chose to shoot it so differently from other movie musicals, especially when there is such a strong history of them in Hollywood. I missed the large dance numbers and I missed the creative use of location and sets. Doing the solos in long takes was a nice touch, but other than that the film was just not pleasant to look at. Les Miserables is definitely worth getting the soundtrack to, but watching it in a theater might only be worth it for the most musically inclined.

MAD 06: Rush Hour

Posted: January 6, 2013 in Movie-A-Day
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It’s strange how much nostalgia can affect our perceptions of films. I guess not really that strange, but strange enough to lead to disappointing re-watching of older movies. I only ever watched the first Rush Hour when I was a kid, and haven’t seen it since then. After watching it today, I feel a bit cheated. I didn’t remember all the terrible jokes, the poor writing, or how annoying Chris Tucker can really be. I didn’t even remember the action being so boring. There were perhaps two fight scenes that still seemed pretty good, but even those didn’t seem nearly as glamorous as I pictured them before I started. I suppose it did well enough in theaters, and more or less gave Brett Ratner his entire career. Rush Hour 2, thankfully, has been replayed on television a number of times since its release in 2001, and remains not only easily the best in the trilogy, but also one of my favorite Jackie Chan films.