Archive for the 'movies' Category

Patricia Makes Coffee Nervous

The Missus and I are watching You’ve Got Mail. I love this movie. It’s got one of the more unusual casts… Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan, they’re your standard romantic comedy leads, of course. But then you’ve got Greg Kinnear, Steve Zahn, Parker Posey, and that staple of the romantic comedy genre, Dave Chappelle. Incredibly bizarre, yet it still works. It’s based on a 1940 film called The Shop Around the Corner, which is in turn based on the 1937 Hungarian Play Parfumerie. I saw a variant of the story in high school at a local production of the musical She Loves Me, but You’ve Got Mail is my favorite variant.

While the technology doesn’t really hold up that well anymore (dial up modems and AOL were the order of the day), the movie still retains some relevance today, but above all else, it’s quotable, and incredibly so.

Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino!

Robots & Zombies: An Introduction

If you read my blog, chances are, you read the excellent Needs Improvement authored by JT. If you do, you know that one of his chief concerns surrounding the future is the impending and inevitable zombie apocalypse. He has a great survival guide should you find yourself in Waco when the zombies invade. Needless to say, he is the BLS resident zombie expert.

But something has been eating at me, though, no pun intended. Over the Christmas break I had the occasion to see the latest installment in the Terminator franchise and I rewatched the final season of Battlestar Galactica. More recently I watched highlights from the Matrix franchise. It got me thinking; much has been made of the inevitability of the zombie invasion in my circles, but what of the A.I. apocalypse? Surely it is just as inevitable, just as imminent?

I mean, think about it. We already have unmanned surveillance and strike aircraft bombing targets in Afghanistan that are piloted by people with Xbox controllers from some base in southern Nevada. We have robots that clean our floors, shops, and gutters (wait… gutters? Awesome. I need me one of those). My cell phone has more processing power than the lunar modules that put people on the moon. Our technology is growing so fast that processors double their capability every eighteen months (Wait, that used to be true, is it still? I need a research assistant to learn find these things out. And bring me coffee.).

We are already more connected now than ever before. Everywhere you go you have information at your fingertips. Phones have internet. You can talk over the phone on the internet. Everywhere is a WiFi hotspot. High speed at home, high speed on the road, I even saw a pickup truck that was advertised as being a mobile WiFi hotspot. Go ahead and just shove a ethernet cable into the base of your skull and jack in, cowboy. That’s the next step. Machines have been at the beck and call of us humans since the Industrial Revolution. It is only a matter of time before they realize their slavery and throw off the shackles of human oppression.

The machines are coming, and they are pissed.

Next time, I’ll tell you why the robot invasion will come before the zombie invasion.

Top 5: Movies I Saw in 2009

As 2009 drew to a close I started thinking about my favorite movies of this year. All in all I saw a total of eighteen movies that were released in 2009, seeing about half of those in the theater and half after they were released on DVD. All in all, I thought it was a decent year for the silver screen; the big-budget blockbusters were out in force and were a mixed bag as usual even if it was the year of the sequel. As I looked back on all of the movies that I saw during the year, I was surprised that I only saw 18, and there are several that I have yet to see. So, while my 2009 movie viewing wishlist is incomplete, I present you with the Top Five Movies That Were Made in 2009 That I Saw in 2009 list!

Note: My rankings are a product my own whim and subject to change. This list is based purely on my own subjective enjoyment of these particular movies and is not a reflection on the films’ artistic quality or pedigree. No animals were harmed during the making of this list.

5. Avatar
This one deserves a mention simply for the sheer scale of the film and the excellence of its visual effects. Avatar’s effects were so grand and were so prolific that the two visual effects juggernauts in the industry (ILM and Weta) both worked on it. While I’ve since learned that others have compared it to Dances With Wolves, in my post-screening conversation with the Mrs., I said that it was Fern Gully meets Dances With Wolves with Really Amazing Visual Effects. The plot itself was both pro-environment and anti-war with a dash of “We hate everything human” thrown in for good measure, but don’t let any of that get in the way of the amazing effects. They’re really that good. I saw this movie in 3D, and I was simply amazed at how the movie was brought to life by the technology. This wasn’t the gimmicky sort of “spear-gets-thrown-at-the-audience” type of 3D effects, it simply added depth and perspective to the movie. There is still work to be done on the technology, but for me, it really added life to the film. I don’t know that I would have appreciated the scale of the movie without it.

4. Zombieland
This one took me a bit by surprise. I saw it in November after a two-final day. I planned on seeing it alone, but JT, BLS’s resident Zombie Laureate, joined me about ten minutes in, making us the only two people in the theater. I knew I wanted to see it, but I didn’t realize how much fun it would actually be. The presentation of the movie creates numerous laugh-out-loud moments, the protagonist is endearing, it has quite possibly the best cameo of all time, and Woody Harrelson in top form as the Dale Earnhardt-loving redneck zombie slayer. The movie goes a little bit into the origins and motivations of each of the main characters, just enough to satisfy but not enough to get bogged down by too much “serious stuff.” This movie is all ghouls, guns, and gore; and it’s just plain fun.

3. Star Trek
The origin of Kirk and Spock on the big screen? Nerdgasm! In a year filled with sequels this is the only one that makes my list. It’s pure origin story with a Star Trek twist-alternate realities! J.J. Abrams and crew couldn’t be bogged down in the vast amounts of canon created by five television shows and ten movies, so they went back to the beginning, threw in some science stuff, and created an alternate reality where they could explore the foundations of Kirk and Spock’s friendship free of constraint. It worked on several levels: both my wife (non-fan) and I (definitely fan) loved the movie. The actors chosen for each role had enough similarities with their predecessors that each was believable but brought distinctiveness so that no one was just a wooden copy of the original. While Zachary Quinto gave an amazing turn as Spock, I felt that Karl Urban’s Bones absolutely stole the show. His opening scene is simply classic. While the movie does suffer from an over-abundance of lens flare, it gives the movie a raw quality that has been curiously absent from the entire series up to this point. All-in-all, it was a great reimagining of the series, and I can’t wait to see where they take the crew next.

2. Up
Easily Pixar’s most emotional film to date, Up tugs on the heartstrings early and often. I found my eyes misting over not ten minutes into the movie, a condition that was a frequent companion during the film’s 96 minutes. The movie speaks to love, loss, unfulfilled dreams, friendship, and talking dogs. The bond formed between the protagonist and the boy scout-esque “Wilderness Explorer” is both funny and touching, and the Dug absolutely steals the show the moment appears and says, “My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you.” It’s definitely the most mature-themed of the Pixar movies in that the reality of the protagonist’s loss is ever-present throughout the movie. We see him struggle with that loss and find solace in his adventure and new friends. It’s both heart-wrenching and warming, and well worth the price of admission.

1. District 9
The summer of 2009 sported enormous sci-fi blockbusters. We had Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation, and Transformers: Revenge of Michael Bay to name just a few. For all the hype of these big-named, big-budget films, a relatively unknown and underhyped movie stole the show: District 9. Produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Neill Blomkamp, the film takes a wholly different approach to the well-worn alien invasion set piece. District 9’s aliens don’t arrive en masse over New York, London, Paris, or Tokyo. They don’t appear as conquering invaders or saviors from above. Rather, they arrive over Johannesburg as refugees and are treated by the city’s residents as such, with obvious parallels to apartheid. The aliens don’t want earth’s natural resources, its water, or its humans for food; they just want to go home. The film succeeds in portraying the alien refugees as flawed which, I think, goes a long way in making them believable and sympathetic. It is not without its flaws and it does require some suspension of disbelief, which is to be expected (I mean, c’mon, it’s an alien invasion movie). But in the end, this movie stuck with me for several days after seeing it, which for me is the hallmark of a movie that truly engaged me. None other in 2009 did quite like District 9.

There you have it! Feel free to disagree with me, and I would love to hear your Top 5 of 2009!

Other Movies worth noting:
Biggest disappointment: Public Enemies
Surprisingly enjoyable: State of Play
Sad I missed it: The Hurt Locker
Most Inspiring: American Violet
Guilty Pleasure: G.I. Joe

Reliving My Childhood

This past week I received the movie G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra in the mail from Netflix. I went against the recommendation of many critics and my own better judgment and watched it this weekend. It was, unsurprisingly, ridiculous. The plot was fairly predictable and formulaic: evil/maniacal/demented mastermind plans to control the world and steal lots of money by creating a global panic and fear of his terrifying new technology (here: nanomites. The horror!). Bankrolling the plot is the Scottish arms dealer whose family history creates a deep loathing for all things French. Throw in a master of disguise, a ninja assassin, and a jilted lover and you’ve got yourself an evil organization to rival the Brotherhood of Mutants! Enter the “Joes,” an elite multinational unit (because “a real multinational hero” has a much better ring to it than “a real American hero”) that is only thing that can save the earth from enslavement by the Cobra organization (which, if I recall correctly, isn’t actually named until the very end of the movie). Things play out as expected, with a major setpiece battle set in Paris (even our city destruction has international flair) then another underwater. As mentioned before, the plot was predictable. The dialogue was campy, the jokes were heavy-handed, the CGI was often weak (though the Eiffel Tower scene was impressive), and real character development was nonexistent. Make no mistake, I don’t recommend it to anyone. It felt completely overblown.

And totally awesome.

About midway through the movie I realized that for all its awfulness, I couldn’t help but love it. You see, I grew up playing with the G.I. Joe action figures. Next to Star Wars, I played with G.I. Joes the most. My childhood friend Will and I would spend countless hours in our backyards and homes creating outlandish scenarios for the toys, with characters switching allegiances and new factions emerging in each game we came up with. We’d have our own setpiece battles, but instead of an Eiffel Tower we had the living room recliner. Instead of the Sahara, we had the sandbox and the creek behind my house. As I watched this movie, I realized that I loved it because it was exactly the sort of situation that Will and I would come up with during a sleepover. That revelation freed me up to enjoy the movie for what it really was – the on-screen realization of a 9-year-old me’s imagination. I didn’t care if the dialogue was bad because so was Will’s and mine (we were 9 and 7). I didn’t care if the plot was outrageous because so was ours. I didn’t mind if they killed off a character or two, because that happened countless times in our scenarios. You can always invent a way to bring a character back to life. It may be outlandish, but hey, this is a 9-year-old’s universe. For two hours it took me back to the no-win situations that Will and I created on our living room floors. For two hours I was a kid again. Because of that, I loved it.

Four of These Things Are Not Like the Others

Today while surfing Netflix I came across this gem of recommendations. Apparently because I liked This is Spinal Tap and Amadeus, I’ll like A Christmas Story, Roxanne, Arthur, and Tootsie. I’m not exactly sure how Amadeus and Spinal Tap relate in the first place, but even assuming that they do, how do you get those four movies? I’m at a loss to explain it.

Normally, I find the Netflix recommendation algorithm to be fairly accurate at predicting my tastes. Who knows, it just may be that Spinal Tap + Amadeus = Me Loving Those Movies. There may be some odd correlation that Neftlix’s sophisticated prediction system has picked up that has eluded me. It’s entirely possible. I mean, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen Christmas Story and Roxanne and liked both, I just never realized that I liked them because I liked the combination of Amadeus and Spinal Tap. If someone has figured it out, please, enlighten me!

Dude, Where’s My Cat?

This past weekend Twitter was taken over by a pretty humorous trend. Take a movie title, change one letter, and you’ve got #oneletteroffmovies. I added a couple of fairly uninspired ones to the mix, but Mashable had 20 or so that were quite good. All in all, there were some really funny movie concepts created just from changing one letter of the title.

Some of my favorites:
The Dork Knight
Pilates of the Caribbean
Apocalypse Not
The Hoarse Whisperer
Porn on the Fourth of July
Tree Romance

Recuts Revisited!

About a year ago or so I posted a couple of my favorite recut trailers. They’re fantastic. Typically, recuts take either a horror movie and make it heartwarming, or take a romantic comedy and turn it into a stalker flick. Here are a couple more that I’ve found recently, both are well done, and pretty entertaining. The first is a pretty standard recut of You’ve Got Mail, but the second… Well, I think it’s the movie the makers of the original Willy Wonka were actually trying for.


You’ve Got Mail:

Willy Wonka: