Movies You Watched in October 2012
Being a Lions fan is a gift...
...and a curse.
I've always been a big-time fan of the New-to-You geeklists that Grimwold puts together. It's just awesome to hear people talk about the games they have discovered. I'm also a big-time fan of movies, so this is a list where we can have similar discussions about films. But I won't limit you to just talking about movies that were new-to-you, in case you didn't manage to watch any this month. This list is simply for you to talk about Movies You Watched in October.
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Being a Lions fan is a gift...
...and a curse.
I imagine critics and other members of the film intelligentsia will rip this movie to shreds. It is far-fetched, it delves into some gross-out humor, and the plot is predictable to anyone over the age of 10. What those wonderful people will fail to mention is that, despite all of its flaws it is extremely entertaining. For some reason Kevin James just clicks with me. Maybe it's the fact that I'm a bigger guy and I somewhat empathize with other big guys, but his portrayal of the loveable loser is great. At the beginning of the film his character has lost all ambition. He stopped caring about his career, his body, pretty much everything. However we find quickly that underneath that uncaring facade is a man with a good heart. If you are unaware, the basic premise is that he is a teacher and the school board decides they will have to eliminate some extracurricular programs. He is unwilling to see this happen so he decides to raise the money for the school to maintain the programs by fighting in mixed martial arts.
They try to make this realistic by specifying that he used to be a wrestler and, perhaps most interestingly, he plans on losing. So we're expected to just go along with the fact that, even at an advanced age for MMA, he has enough physical ability to at least take a beating. It's still a little far-fetched, but that's acceptable in this kind of film. His journey is actually pretty engaging. I'm not a fan of MMA , boxing, or wrestling. Yet somehow they bring the audience in at the very ground floor of the sport, teaching basic defenses and holds. Amazingly it all makes sense and is quite interesting despite the brutality of the sport. The laughs help with that, and surprisingly Kevin James provides less of the comedy than you'd expect. It is actually the series of ridiculous characters that come into his life because of this journey (particularly Niko played by Bas Rutten) who create humor by their silly actions. In fact James almost becomes the straight man of the cast. Sure some of the jokes are cheap and sophmoric, but that doesn't mean they aren't funny. Sometimes it's okay to laugh at a guy getting kicked in the groin.
The biggest problem with this movie is that they overloaded it with a few too many little subplots. It's like Adam Sandler had an outline of the standard zero-to-hero script he uses and felt the movie would only work if every one of those elements was included. So they include a love interest, which is good for a few chuckles but felt completely unnecessary and out of place by the end. Perhaps the most useless characters are the protagonist's brother and his family. There were already enough ways we would see the hero redeem himself in this film, so helping his brother was completely superfluous. It felt like they sandwiched that story in there and all references to it probably should have been left on the cutting room floor. Still, despite all these little things they needlessly put in, the movie was just plain fun. It's like watching a Three Stooges film, it may not be high-brow humor, but that doesn't stop it from making you laugh. If you are capable of shutting your critical brain off for awhile, this movie should provide you with a few hearty guffaws.
I still haven't seen the original film, but my friends prepared me in advance of seeing this sequel by summing up the entire plot of the first film. "Don't mess with his family." Shockingly, that was indeed enough to get on board for this sequel, and it appears they didn't change up that formula much. To sum up the entire plot in only one sentence: The relatives of his victims from the first film want revenge, and plan to take it out on him and his entire family. It seemed that not much added information was needed because the movie followed a classic formula we have seen in dozens of other action films that involve one special agent versus many bad guys. The best part of this film was the anticipation. They nearly had me on the edge of my seat holding my breath just waiting for the moment when the bad guys would strike. You knew it was coming, but they delayed the inevitable like someone slowly inflating a balloon past its normal size. My first disappointment, though, was how anticlimactic it felt when that "balloon" finally popped. There was nothing sudden about the abductions, they actually became extended chase scenes.
Before I go any further let me say a few words about the cast. Liam Neeson is physically menacing, but I'm not entirely sure I bought him as the ex-CIA type. His acting felt a little flat, to the point where it almost felt like I was just watching Qui-Gonn Jinn all over again. And his fighting scenes were less than impressive. It looked like a 60-year-old taking on someone half his age, which of course it was, but I guess I want my action heroes to be more young and agile so that I am more easily convinced he can best his foes. Famke Janssen barely had a part in the film, she was basically the damsel in distress, and spent half the movie drifting in and out of consciousness. When her character was fully conscious, her acting was fine. I enjoyed Maggie Grace in her role as Liam's daughter, but it felt like they were trying to pass her off as someone much younger. She looks like she is in her late 20s (which she is) and so it just seemed a bit odd to have her written almost like a teenager. All the bad guys were so one-dimensional they don't even need mentioning. It's like Jackie Chan's crew of stunt men, you could just recycle them all into the next film and no one would notice because they barely even have a face to the audience, they're just there to add to the body count.
The movie did have some good action sequences, and gave you those emotional highs and lows that you should get with this kind of movie. It had me sucked in, and I was happy to watch the whole thing. However, it didn't feel like the movie delivered much in the way of originality, particularly in the plot. I could have been watching one of any number of different action films. The chase scenes were exciting, but didn't feel unique in any way. They had a number of cliches, like tieing up the hero in a dank room filled with rubble which just happened to contain plenty of sharp edges for him to cut his bindings. These kind of convenient improbabilities are classics in action movies and were sprinkled throughout this one. They even openly discussed the setup for the next film in the series, which I always find a little corny. Overall it was definitely a fun action film, but it was the same fun action film I could find on at least 3 or 4 DVDs I already own, and probably with a little more plot development than what this one offered. If you like this type of action movie, and don't need much story getting in the way of your action, then this is one I will highly recommend.
If anyone tries to argue that nostalgia doesn't affect our opinions, I'll just point to this film. Looking at it with the objective eye of an adult I can readily see this is far from one of the great comedies of all time. And yet every time I start watching all I can do is giggle at the silly jokes like I did as a kid. There is a very short list of comedies that I can watch dozens of times and still laugh out loud, but this one makes the grade. It has a great blend of mistaken identity, fish-out-of-water, and slapstick comedy. Watching these three idiots thrown into these very serious situations never fails to make me chuckle, but even when they're not on the screen there are some great one-liners that the rest of the cast dishes out (like a certain conversation about the word "plethora.") As a result it is hilarious from the opening credits to the closing credits. They even manage to make a good action-packed story as well because the plot is accentuated by goofiness, not replaced by it.
Back in the day this was definitely seen as an all-star trio to star in a comedy. Casting 3 legends of Saturday Night Live was great, and they didn't even need to make a spin-off of their famous acts from TV. Steve Martin gets top billing as Lucky Day, arguably the brains of the Amigos (although that's not saying much.) I notice some similarities between this sarcastic, born-loser type of guy and other characters Steve has portrayed but it hardly matters since he is excellent filling that role. Chevy Chase plays the completely brainless Dusty Bottoms. He gets a lot of the funniest lines, and delivers them with his well-honed comedic timing. Finally Martin Short steps in as Ned Nederlander, the heart of the group. Ned almost feels like the sidekick or pet, which I think was intentional on Short's part, and it only adds laughter to the closing scene. I could keep going because Alfonso Arau, Tony Plana, and Patrice Martinez (just to name a few) are also brilliant, but I'll save you the entire role call.
One of the great bonuses you get in this movie are the 3 Randy Newman original songs. "The Ballad of the Three Amigos" is a great tone-setter for the film because it seems so genuine and sincere, but then they hit that high note and hold it for 14 seconds. Suddenly you realize that, although there is a real story here, the laughter will be at the forefront. "My Little Buttercup" creates the funniest scene of the whole film. It is a perfect overly sweet, downright feminine song for them to sing in a rough and tough saloon. Finally "Blue Shadows" is reminiscent of songs that you might have heard back in the days of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. And, just when you think it's going to be a sweet simple lullaby without much of a joke...the animals start singing along. Yes I could write out nearly every single moment of the movie and tell you how it makes me laugh. It's one of those that I fell in love with as a kid, and still appreciate now as an adult. You may not like it, but at this point you're not going to shift my opinion that this is a comedy gem.
Mi cabasa esta muy verde
Et in Vantasia ego
Human Centipede just for the lulz.
It was dumb. I knew what to expect as one of my colleagues is a big horror buff and he'd already given me the low down - plus reading MMMs famous thread which I am too lazy to find and link to.
I'd give it -1 stars.
Then because I just hadn't filled up my quota of dumb for the month I watched and Uwe Boll masterpiece:
I pretty much choose this BECAUSE it was Uwe Boll and I wanted cheesy horrible. Y'know, besides Michael Madsens utterly lifeless wooden acting this wasn't THAT bad. I sort of enjoyed it! Ha! fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me, You can't get fooled again!
(not that horrible!)
Elk Grove Village
I don't watch many movies, but will still contribute here.
Battle: Los Angeles - Had this one on the DVR for quite a long time. It actually pleasantly surprised me a bit. I am a fan of the action/adventure genre and this one always just looked pretty cool in the trailers I saw on TV. If you go into it expecting action/adventure and not wanting 100% realism, then it will be enjoyable. There is enough of a plot line for you to like the characters, especially the Marine just trying to retire as this battle starts.
The Vow - Watched with the wife. A story about a man whose wife goes into a coma and he has to get her to fall back in love with him. Based on a true story. Not too bad for a "chick flick" or romantic movie.
I watched Psycho again for the first time in several years. Really enjoyed it of course, and was struck as always by the brilliance of Bernard Herrmann's strings-only score. Strange, given how iconic the shower scene music has become, that Hitchcock's original intention was for it to be without music. The extras on my DVD show the scene both ways. Admittedly, there is something awful about the music-less version, especially since you can more clearly hear the slashing of the knife. Still, it's even better accompanied by its famous shrieking music (thankfully Herrmann made his case well, and Hitchcock was flexible in his thinking).
Two other observations:
1) I was struck this time by how most of the men Janet Leigh encounters--her boss, the business man, the policeman, the car salesman--are sinister to varying degrees and potentially predatory. Of course Norman Bates ultimately takes the prize.
2) The "clinical" explanation at the end is too long and too pat--it nearly ruins the movie. Luckily the long final shot of Bates with voice-over narration saves the day.
Board Game: Argo
[Average Rating:6.40 Overall Rank:5790]
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I'm kind of surprised that no one else has posted about seeing this movie yet. I went with some friends who were really gung-ho about seeing it (I was less so, but willing to (a) see a movie and (b) hang out with friends), and really enjoyed it. I get the feeling that a lot of the events were heavily dramatized to make for some good tension, but it was a good movie. I'll admit that I didn't expect much from a movie directed by Ben "Daredevil and Gigli" Affleck, but it came together very well. I was also surprised by the amount of humor that was in the movie, but it worked within the context of the story, and took a lot of tension out of some otherwise tenable moments. And the cast was really fantastic ("Look, it's Walter White!"); they worked well together on screen, and were convincing (with major props to John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the studio "execs"). I hear a lot of Oscar discussion about this movie, and while I thought it was a good film, I'm not sure that it was that good.
Other than that, I didn't watch much. The broken foot has limited my desire to get out a whole lot, and while I did catch up on some TV shows on Netflix ("The Walking Dead" and "Spaced"), I didn't see any other movies last month.
Melting souls with cuteness since 2007
I'm an old Aliens fan and i didn't get to watch Prometheus when it was in theaters.
So i watched it now that it's out on DVD.
It's... ok i guess. I feel like they just redid the first Alien's scenario without adding much more to it.
Go to unknown planet... inspect derelict alien structure/ship... random person gets infected by an alien... have problem trying to get the infected crewmember back on the ship due to quarantine procedures... spend the rest of the movie fighting the threat... one lone woman survivor at the end.
They also seem to completely remove the AvP movies from that universe... which is a shame IMO. They were not the best movies, but they definitely were not the worst. I'd put the first AvP over Aliens: Resurection at least...
New to Me
Source Code is a sort of Quantum Leap for the big screen... and a bit of a cross between Groundhog day, The Matrix and Final Destination...
Jake Gyllenhaal is an air force pilot who wakes up on a train to Chicago in another man's body... he has 8 minutes familiarising himself with where he is before the train suddenly blows up.. whereupon he regains consciousness and finds himself in a decaying yet futuristic capsule, where he is debriefed by some unknown agency via a videolink... he is asked about the bombing and whether he identified the bomber, and when he is unable to provide the information he is sent back to the train to re-live those same 8 minutes again.
As the movie progresses we find out that by some "Hollywood Science" this agency is able to create a simulation using the last 8 minutes of memories from one of the victims on the train and use it to explore the events further.
It's an interesting concept, reusing ideas that have cropped up particularly in Quantum Leap, but also in episodes of shows like Stargate and in other movies too.
There's plenty of action, and some decent character development, as we get to know the girlfriend (Monaghan) and the other passengers on the train. While Gyllenhaal does a good job portraying the confused airman forced on a mission that he does not understand for an agency he neither knows nor trusts.
Overall a good movie worthy of a 4 with a decent ending... that unfortunately comes about 20 minutes before the end of the movie! And for me that coda, which presumably is necessary to provide the requisite Hollywood Happy Ending, spoilt the movie, and is the reason I'm only rating it 3.
Pixar's latest animated feature, in which we follow Princess Merida, the first-born daughter of King Fergus of Scotland as she tries to change her mother's mind about an arranged marriage.
The plot is typical Disney fairytale stuff dressed up in a pretty Pixar outfit. The voice acting, however, was very good and I especially enjoyed Billy Connolly as King Fergus, but also Kelly MacDonald as Princess Merida, and Emma Thompson as Queen Elinor... not to mention Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson and Kevin McKidd.
I'd say this was underpar for the studio that brought us The Incredibles, Monsters Inc and the Toy Story series, but still a decent animated feature.
Live Free or Die Hard
I'd never seen this instalment in the Die Hard franchise, so when I got together with a couple of friends we decided to give it a try. We all certainly had a good laugh at the movie as a lot of it was so contrived and far fetched.
The plot is sort of interesting, but a bit unrealistic. Also, having seen Dark Knight Rises recently I realise how similar some of the ideas are even if the villains' motivations are different.
Bruce Willis reprises his role as veteran NYPD detective John McClane with familiar style, ending up covered in blood and broken glass by the end of the movie, while Justin Long (Dodgeball) is not bad as the young computer hacker.. and it's nice to see Cliff Curtis (Sunshine and the series Trauma) as an FBI Deputy Director.
If you don't mind checking your brain at the door before watching, it's a fun and enjoyable action movie.. just don't think too much.
An average action thriller starring Nicholas Cage as a Las Vegas magician who can see into the future, but only if it pertains to him, or the girl he is destined to be with. Naturally the FBI develop an interest in him and want to bring him in to help prevent a terrorist nuclear explosion.. but sick of being experimented on as a kid he goes on the run, but ultimately has to co-operate to save the woman of his visions.
The film makes a lot of use of that stalwart of old Saturday morning serials.. the "what really happened", where scenes are replayed, often several times, with various outcomes before Cage's character decides on the proper course of action to get out of the situation... this was slightly confusing to begin with, especially if you're not paying full attention, however it just got predictable after a while and you knew when a scene was going to replay itself.
-- spoiler warning --
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
We borrowed the complete set of Harry Potter movies on blu-ray and started watching them with a view to getting them all in within a few weeks...
This is the first instalment, and a pretty decent movie... the cast of British Thespians and character actors is truly amazing, whilst the youngsters in the leading roles do an admirable job. The story is an interesting fantasy tale and naturally foreshadows events to come in later movies.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Continuing our watch through of the Harry Potter series of movies, we picked up with the second movie, Chamber of Secrets, after a hiatus of more than week...
The second instalment is another decent fantasy film, with the same great cast of British stalwarts of stage and screen... the child stars are starting to grow up, but still turn in believable performances in the lead roles. the plot is interesting, but suffers from being predictable (even for someone who has not read the books) and there's a definite sense of Deus Ex Machina. The effects are once again brilliant, as are the sets and the props/makeup etc. I was still disappointed that the elf looks more like a cross between a goblin and a hobbit than the traditional Elves... plus the fact that the Basilisk is just a giant snake instead of the more traditional walking lizard was of some consternation.
Overall a pretty decent fantasy movie, but not as good as the first, or the next in my opinion.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The third movie in the series, and probably my favourite of the early movies as there's an interesting time-travel portion and it features Gary Oldman (as escaped convict Sirius Black) and David Thewlis (as the wolf-like professor Remus Lupin - like I couldn't see that one coming!!).
Great cast... a decent story with some twists, though still suffering a bit from predictability.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Forth of the Harry Potter series of movies, and one of the slightly weaker ones in my opinion.. not as good as Prisoner, but probably on a par with Chamber.
An interesting story, that of course suffers from predictability... This time Harry finds himself entered into a dangerous Wizard tournament and... surprisingly wins... aided of course by the suspicious mad professor who is this films "Defence against the Dark Arts Teacher". Of the new cast, Brendan Gleeson is excellent as Mad-eye Moody, whilst David Tenant has a last minute cameo part as the sinister Barty Crouch Junior... we also finally get to meet the Big Bad himself in the form of Ralph Fiennes.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Fifth instalment of the Harry Potter series, and a much darker movie in my opinion. It is nice to see Gary Oldman back for a bigger part, and Imelda Staunton does a great job of making you loathe Dolores Umbridge the corrupt minster for magic who takes over running of the school. Helena Bonham Carter is also particularly creepy as the mad witch Bellatrix Lestrange.
It's worth saying that the core cast... Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Mark Williams, Jason Isaacs.. etc. etc. are absolutely brilliant from film to film and definitely deserving of a mention.
The plot is interesting, though it's clear that a good portion of backstory is missing from the books, as is true of all the films really. And it does of course suffer from the usual predictability, even for someone like myself who has not read the stories.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
In this the sixth instalment of the Harry Potter series, Harry finds a book on potions annotated by the Half-blood Prince (who turns out to be long-serving Hogwart's teacher Severus Snape) and becomes (even more of) a wunderkind. This impresses returning professor Slughorn (the most excellent Jim Broadbent) and allows Potter to find out more about the past of the Big Bad, Lord Voldemort. The plot also foreshadows the task ahead of Harry in finding and destroying Voldemort's horcruxes - the artifacts that prevent him from truly dying.
Excellent performances from the returning cast.. an interesting plot, but with the usual predictability and use of Deus Ex Machina to bring Harry to his final confrontation in the last two movies.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
This movie is the first of two parts that cover the final book.. and the slower of the two films. There's a lot of back-story of Harry and Voldemort's shared past, and clearly a lot still left out from the books.. It also feels like there are a lot of new characters thrown in, but none of them are really pivotal to the story.
Harry and the gang are searching for the missing horcruxes that prevent Voldemort from truly dying.. and like with Frodo, Sam and the one ring, tensions run high between Harry, Hermione and Ron as the powerful evil of certain of the objects begins to affect them. Meanwhile, unable to battle Harry with his original wand, the Big Bad is on the hunt for the most powerful wand in the world, part of a set of 3 magic objects that are called the Deathly Hallows - one of which, the invisibility cloak, Harry has had from the very start.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
The explosive climax to the series.. as Harry finally does battle with Voldemort, while destroying the remaining Horcruxes to ensure he is defeated once and for all. There are some interesting plot twists, but not really anything that couldn't be predicted much earlier on... while the ending is once more a feat of Deus Ex Machina.
Still the plot is pretty good, and the cast is amazing as usual... not sure if/when we will ever see the likes of a Best of British cast like this again.. too many Actors and Actresses to mention. There are also plenty of fireworks, as the army of evil wizards attack the school, defended by Harry, the gang, and the remaining teachers.
Having watched all 8 films in very quick succession, it's kinda sad that we don't have any more tales from the Potter universe to watch.
and everything under the sun is in tune
NEW TO ME
The Twilight Samurai (2002)
This was on my Netflix instant queue, and I have no idea why. It was well-made and enjoyable but also kind of forgettable.
White Dog (1982)
A strange but gutsy film that tries to get to the heart of racism in America, specifically how it is taught and whether or not it can be untaught. The deceptively schlocky outward plot deals with a young woman who adopts a German shepherd that, unbeknownst to her, has been trained to attack black people. The movie is both frightening and heart-wrenching; I felt quite shook up afterwards. Anyway, it was definitely the most memorable movie of the month.
Pierrot Le Fou (1965)
I watched this one because it was on the recent Sight & Sound poll of top 50 films of all time. I found it false and tiresome.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Clever and cool, but the persistent, self-conscious in-jokiness of it undercut the mood for me. I want to believe in the story when I watch a movie, but this movie was so clearly about other horror movies that I just felt like I was having a late-night nerd conversation. Also, maybe I've just become a wimp, but I found the scary bits just a little too scary.
The Return of Frank James (1940)
The sequel to a movie I haven't seen. I got this one because it was directed by Fritz Lang. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly interesting, either.
Tokyo Story (1953)
Another movie I rented because of the Sight & Sound poll. I ranted a little about it here.
The Tales of Hoffman (1951)
Powell & Pressburger's film of the Offenbach Opera. Not sure how to rate this one; I'm not an opera fan, but I love the perverse weirdness of it. It's like they wanted to sucker a bunch of culture snobs into the theater and then give them nightmares. There's nothing remotely like it, and that has to be worth something.