Children of Men

“One of my greatest regrets movie wise is that I didn’t take Children of Men seriously when it was released in theaters, and didn’t see it until some time later. Okay maybe regret’s not the right word, but I’m still kicking myself over it. It came out just as I was starting to ramp up my movie going, so I was there often, but not a weekly appointment. The trailers focused on the infertility storyline, which didn’t really appeal to me. What I didn’t know was what a beautiful piece of cinema it is, story aside.

Directed by then future Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuaron and featuring the camera work of then future Academy Award winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, this film is visually awe inspiring, and considered one of the masterpieces of the 21st century. It seems like others (like me) also discovered this film later down the line as opposed to during it’s initial release. Honestly, I don’t know that I could have appreciated it back then. I probably would have picked up on some of the long tracking shots, but there’s still so much I would have missed.

Just reading thru IMDB trivia for the movie, there’s so many delicately calculated details that are easily missed. But they all add up to something truly special. And that story that didn’t particularly interest me is in fact the least interesting part of the film, in that it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of everything else that Cuaron accomplished.

Mad props to Clive Owen for carrying this film. This should have propelled him to a very deserved superstardom, and he did experience a few years of something approaching that. However, he seems to have faded a bit in recent memory, so here’s hoping he find something to propel him forward again soon.”

Poltergeist

“I grew up in a pretty sheltered lifestyle. There were so many things I wasn’t allowed to do for various reasons, although the main reason usually traced back to some variation of it not agreeing with my parent’s extremely Christian sensibilities. Needless to say, horror movies were towards the top of the deny list. I’m pretty sure the original Poltergeist was the first true horror movie I ever saw.

I’m not sure how old I was. Maybe somewhere around 10? I know I was old enough to have a firm grasp on reality and not get truly scared by something like this. I wanna say I started watching this because my Daddy was, but I don’t remember for sure. I just know he was somehow involved, and he okayed it since he was a fan. He often ignored the rules for things he liked. I remember it was on tv, and for some reason I started watching it in the family room and then had to move it into my room, but I still don’t remember how the whole ordeal started.

But now, approximately twenty years later, there’s still some images from the movie that are absolutely vivid in my mind. I never watched it again since it had stuck with me pretty well (better than most movies I’ve only seen once). I remember things like the stacking chairs in the kitchen, the bones in the dug out swimming pool, the punchline with the hotel TV, the crazy little psychic lady, and the snow show constantly on the screens. And of course, I remember “”Go towards the light, Carol Ann””, a line that occassionally makes its way into my day to day slang. So why would I even want to watch the new remake? Especially when the trailer indicated that Carol Ann’s name was changed to Madison (I didn’t even know I was watching the trailer for this movie specifically because of that). Excuse me, “”go towards the light, Madison”” is not the same.

To be honest, it was mostly by default. It was one of two new wide releases in a long weekend, so I kinda had to. However, the main reason it really made the list was the cast of Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt. Seeing as how Rockwell had the lead role in Choke, one of only two Chuck Palahniuk books that have been adapted for screen (although I’ve heard talk of a couple others in the works now), he’ll forever have a special place in my heart. He was also one of my first Broadway stage door meets, although since it was one of the awkwardest (my fault, newbie mistakes) it’s the one I’d most like a redo for. That’s neither here nor there.

I actually kinda liked it. I don’t think it improves on the original, but it kept some of the same spirit and made for a fun watch. Does it need to exist? Probably not. Still, there are worst ways to spend two hours.

The story played out about the same as I remember it, with some creative differences. Instead of chairs stacking, it was comic books. The snow show TV was now a shiny HD flatscreen. There was a different punchline at the end that conveyed the same feeling as the first. And some winks to the original, such as when saying the development was built on a cemetary, someone said something along the lines of “”at least it wasn’t a native American burial ground””

I realized partway thru that yes this is considered horror because of the level of suspense and the supernatural element, but for me, this feels more like scifi. I’m pretty confident my home was not built on a cemetary, so the odds of this happening are highly unlikely. Yes there was a lot of chills and suspense, but not the kind that’s going to make me double check the locks on the doors or keep the light on. Looking at it as science fiction however, it’s fascinating. Instead of learning about an alien or mutant creature, we’re learning about ghosts. I even realized at one point that I think my favorite episode of Sliders, “”The Alternateville Horror”” seems to have been based on the original (even though it’s named after a different horror flick). Even further driving the scifi point home was that the team who initially came to help sort things out were scientists. It all made sense.

I did get the feeling like they were trying too hard to be scary with some of the earlier sequences. There was a quick escalation instead of a slow burn. For the record, I was at a 3D showing, but I wore my 2D glasses and I don’t think I missed out on anything. And again, I don’t think this necessarily adds anything to the original, but it’s worth a watch if you’re insistent on seeing a movie and you’ve already seen everything else. Am I the only one that happens to?

Poltergeist – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Tomorrowland

“Sometimes, because I go to the movies so much out of habit, I’ll be sitting in the auditorium as the opening sequence starts to play and I’ll have a moment of dread. “”Why did I want to see this one, again?”” I’ll think, as I try to calm and convince myself as to why a movie was deemed worthy. I had that feeling with Tomorrowland. All I could come up with was “”It seems cool; I like George Clooney; it’s the big release of the week; Disney?”” I should have thought thru it some more.

This young science geek of a girl finds a mysterious pin whose touch teleports her to a secret futuristic world. She sets out to learn what it is, how to go back, and how to save it. Sure, that sounds okay, but the truth is, I was bored senseless, which is heartbreaking considering that the wonderful Brad Bird directed and wrote the screenplay with Damon Lindelof.

I can’t believe I’m actually going to describe a movie like this, but it was too Disney for me. I didn’t even know that was possible. It’s just that the whole dream-it-do-it type of mentality was a little much. Everything came back to being a dreamer and the hokey optimism that goes with it. Not even Clooney and his sexy wry humor could rescue this.

I think our leading lady annoyed me too much, which is where things started to get off on the wrong foot. If you can’t get behind your protagonist, especially when they’re in every scene, you’ve got a problem.

The futuristic world was pretty cool visually, but also a bit too cheesy. Oh and then there was the confusion of them specifically saying they were at World’s Fair in NYC, but then clearly getting on It’s A Small World at Disneyland in Anaheim. I couldn’t wrap my head around that early scene and it was all downhill from there.

The one near saving grace would be Hugh Laurie, but his few scenes weren’t enough. The 2 hour ten minute run time was more than enough. By a lot.

Tomorrowland – \m/ \n”

Primer

“The other day I saw a notice posted online that the last video store in town was closing. I felt sadness for the end of the era, especially since this was an independent and locally owned store. But at the same time, I was excited to go check out the inventory they were selling off. And oh my it was like Disneyland. I spent some time there walking thru their massive selection, cherry picking some stuff of my wishlist (because yes, I have a wishlist I can easily access for such emergencies). I’ll certainly be going back over the next few weeks as the assortment gets smaller (thus easier to pick thru) and cheaper (easier to go nuts buying), but I was really happy with my first set of purchases.

From their giant wall of independent movies, one of the discs that I picked out was Primer. I’d recently seen it featured on a list of the 25 Best Scifi’s of the century. I’d seen 19 of 25, and Primer was one of the ones I’d missed, coming in at number 7. Best Buy didn’t seem to carry it, so I snatched it up when I found it on the shelf at this video store. Later that afternoon, I was showing off my loot to a coworker, who got really excited about this film. He praised it up and down, particularly pointing out that it had a very low budget charm, in the way that makes you appreciate the efforts of the film. (I followed up with suggesting he watch El Mariachi if he wants a similar experience). I’d already picked out a stack of movies to blog for the weekend, but for the first night at least, those would be put aside. I had to watch this movie.

I gotta stop watching new movies on Fridays. The movie doesn’t even run an hour and a half, and I was fighting to stay awake thru the end. That could explain why I just didn’t get it. This low budget indie is about some guys who accidentally create a time travel device, and then proceed to use it for varying motives. The way they would go back and redo timelines and such was just confusing to me. I have a hard time getting my head around time travel as it is, but I couldn’t keep all the branches of their actions straight.

I did enjoy the small indie feel, as it made for a more intimate and realistic film experience. Well, as realistic as you can get for a scifi such as this. Exposition is minimal, which adds to the mystery as well as the confusion. I think I’ve just gotta watch this again sometime later when I’m more alert. I do see the potential in this humble little film, I just want to be able to appreciate it more.”

Smokin’ Aces

“Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Andy Garcia, Ben Affleck, Alicia Keyes, Taraji P Hensen, Nestor Carbonell, Jason Bateman, Ray Liotta, Chris Pine, Joel Edgerton, Matthew Fox. I’m sure you recognize a bunch of those names. So why don’t you recognize the movie? Unclear. For one, this was released in 2006, so some of those names (Carbonell, Pine, Hensen) weren’t as well known at the time. And this was before Jeremy Piven’s infamous mercury poisoning that somewhat killed his career, and would have been reason for the producers to want to hush this movie. So what’s the excuse for the rest of it?

Okay this is kind of a hot mess. Basically everyone I mentioned is trying to get to Jeremy Piven for some reason or another. They’re in groups of various size and motive. That’s a lot of people to keep track of, and they’re not seeming to do too well a job of juggling in between shots of Piven engaging in some type of self destructive behavior.

Chris Pine is cracking me up because he is not the Prince Charming we know and love him for now. Instead he’s a crazy redneck with a grill and ink and a strange hairstyle. Clearly I never expected him to become the star that he is today, seeing as how I didn’t even remember him from here. Oh man, that alone was worth the rewatch.

Alrighty so the movie continues and the characters start to converge in on each other until a giant bloodbath. Despite the shootout, I wouldn’t consider it much of an action flick. It’s just violent, gratuitously so. That doesn’t bother me per se, but I do like a little more substance or flair with my blood. And so, Smokin’ Aces fades back into obscurity and out of my memory.”

Hot Pursuit

“I have this sorta rule about movies and trailers. I may have explained this before. As much as I can help it, I try not to seek out trailers online. Reason being that since I go to so many movies, I catch most of them before the feature. Unless I’m really crazy excited about seeing it (read: it involves someone like Tarantino or Eli Roth or it’s a new addition to the Marvel Comics Universe), I can usually wait until I inevitably see it over and over and over again in the coming weeks. If we’re getting close to the release date and the trailer still hasn’t been shown in theaters, well that tells me something there. It often means that the studio doesn’t have enough faith in the film to heavily market it, which indicates the quality. Or it doesn’t jive with my typical movie choices (since to some extent previews tend to be targeted) and that indicates I may not like it. What usually happens for me then is if I’ve got other prospects for it’s opening weekend, and there’s nothing that has sold me on it just on paper, then I’ll skip it. If that’s pretty much my only choice, then I’ll YouTube the trailer.

With Hot Pursuit, I’d heard about the pairing of Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara months ago, but it was otherwise crickets. The occasional mention in a summer movie preview article, but not much else. That didn’t bode too well. However, given the current state of women in films, it was important to me to support this. I looked up the trailer and wasn’t too impressed. I then started catching it during DWTS commercials in the last couple weeks (which makes sense since ABC is also home to Vergara’s Modern Family). Even if it wasn’t particularly funny to me (at least from what I’d seen), we don’t have very many female led films that aren’t romcoms, and buying a ticket was my way of telling Hollywood, that I want more of these. IMDB just informed me that it also has a female director, so even more reason. Although since most of my ticket was paid for with AMC Stubs rewards, I don’t know how loud that message was. Thought that counts. Besides, I was really interested to see Reese go the comedic route, and I also don’t get very many opportunities to see Sofia, whom I love. Dismal reviews and unimpressive previews aside, I had to do it.

I think the expectations were set rightfully low, which meant that every moment that landed was a delightful surprise. It had a bunch of good elements and pieces, they just didn’t all jive together very well. The plot wasn’t too exciting. Witherspoon is a very by the book cop, who takes her job too seriously to the point where she’s an outcast on the force. She’s given a seemingly simple task of accompanying an FBI agent to transport 2 witnesses to trial. When her partner and one witness are killed, she’s left trying to keep the other safe (this is where Ms Vergara comes into play) and get her to her destination on time. Really, it’s all just an excuse for Reese and Sofia to play.

I’m actually rather impressed with Witherspoon’s comedic chops. I mean, I shouldn’t be too impressed since she is an incredible actress (and has much of the awards hardware to prove it), but this isn’t in her typical wheelhouse. Speaking in comedy terms, I guess she’d be more of the straight player, but even then she was a little zany. With a thick southern accent and more earnest determination than I’ve seen in a while from any character, I loved her.

Vergara *momentary pause while I start searching Youtube for clips of her because she’s so funny and I love her so much* was everything I hoped she’d be. I just find her absolutely hilarious and charming. Since I don’t watch Modern Family, I don’t get many chances to see her, so this was a real treat. Yes, she was a bit over the top, which was one of the things that didn’t quite mesh, but I would never in a million years dream of asking that girl to pull back. I’d prefer to try to kick everything else up to her level. Like her in Machete Kills. That was about right.

So the plot was thin, the tone was off, and the pacing was strange. I kinda didn’t care. Reese and Sofia made a wonderful wacky duo, and I for one would like to see them do more together. Hopefully with a little better writing behind them.

Oh also, bonus points for getting some of the Texas details right. Reese was based out of a San Antonio precinct and was trying to get Sofia to Dallas, so lots of Texas stuff in there (even if it was filmed in Louisiana). In particular, they get points for showing news clips from KSAT 12, which really is the ABC network in San Antonio. I know this because we get it down in Laredo. Having a SA based station meant I got lots of Spurs updates. The more you know.

Hot Pursuit – \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Last Five Years

“A good size chunk of my musical theatre geek friends _LOVE_ Jason Robert Brown. For some, you can’t go five songs into their ipods without finding one of his. Or others can’t walk past a piano without sitting down to play some JRB. So even though I haven’t seen The Last Five Years, I knew exactly what it was about and I prolly knew more of the songs than I realized.

Confession: I actually don’t care too much for JRB. He’s simply not my style. The very mellow piano heavy thing isn’t my thing, and while I appreciate some of his more contemporary lyrics, I don’t like songs that basically narrate the action. The less you’re likely to tell a song is from a musical, the more likely I’ll dig it. So if I don’t like the guy, why did I still wanna watch his movie? I was intrigued by the premise, and I thought maybe in context the songs would win me over. Spoiler alert: A few of them did, just not to the die hard levels of others I know.

The Last Five Years tells the story of Jamie and Cathy, from dating to wedding to divorce. Oh but it’s not a spoiler that I’m telling you the relationship ends. You see, Cathy starts at the end of the story and works her way back Memento-style. Jamie starts at the beginning and proceeds chronologically. They meet to marry in the middle (which on stage would be the end of act 1) and play out their stories to their ends. Gimmicky, sure, but unique and intriguing.

For the movie version, Jamie and Cathy are played by Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick, two actors well known and loved by the theatre community at large. They alone were reason enough for me to want to watch. So I got the BluRay as soon as it was available, and on a Fri night, after getting back from yoga and some quick gaming to unwind, I sat back to watch.

I thought it was great. Now that musicals have become more widely accepted, they tend to be these big lavish productions. This small and intimate one was a nice reprieve from that. Jordan and Kendrick did not disappoint, and yes, in the context of the story, the music made more sense to me. Some of it was still a little too I-am-singing-at-you-what-Im-doing, even if it wasn’t directly narrating action, but I still found myself anxiously awaiting the next song.

My one complaint is that the timeline got confusing. I knew the whole backwards criss cross thing, but once we crossed, I couldn’t figure out what fit in between where. There were some visual queues to guide that, but I think it made it even worse for me. I do get the sense that on stage it works better, since you really would have to depend on the words to establish the setting. THey tried to skirt that on film and it just got a little muddled. Maybe I just need to watch it again.

Oh and for some added musical theatre geekery, there’s a scene where Cathy is auditioning for a show. I was looking at the scenery behind her and I thought “”hey that kinda looks like it could be the Avenue Q set”” (seeing as how I’d directed a production of Avenue Q two years ago, I should know what the set looks like). Sure enough, IMDB trivia cofirmed it for me.”

Pitch Perfect 2

“In what must be the oddest double feature pairing, and yet the most appropriately me, possible, I followed up Mad Max with Pitch Perfect 2 (after a quick froyo run). Odd, yes, but it did make for one of the best and most exciting movie days I’ve had in a while.

After the sleeper success of Pitch Perfect a few years ago, it’s no surprise they made a sequel. And knowing that it was in demand, nothing was held back, and it was aca-mazing. Mega bonus point for Elizabeth Banks stepping up to make her directorial debut with this one. I am very much in favor of supporting women in film and was more than happy to pay my 10 dollars for this.

Three years after the Barden Bellas win the national collegiate acapella championship, an unfortunate incident leaves them on the brink of being disbanded, and some admittedly flimsy reasons mean that the only way to save their group is to win the world championship. We don’t really care about the plot though, we care about the music and the humor. In other words, it’s the Mighty Ducks with acapella.

This has to be one of the most quotable comedies to be released in a while. So many snarky one liners delivered by a diverse cast of characters. I was discussing this with my movie buddy afterwards, but we realized that there isn’t just one brand of humor. Each character had their own style, all of which blended as well as their harmonies. Sarcasm doesn’t do it for you? Wait two seconds for some bathroom humor. Not your thing either? Don’t worry, there’ll be an off the wall nonsequeter shortly. Think about it. That set up actually mirrors real life since you likely don’t run with a clique of clones, but instead have more of a mix. They also gain points for the racial diversity in the group too, which also adds to the array of comedic styles and realism.

My screening was a Saturday night show in an area that was currently hopping with some community events, so the place was very packed and very alive. It was a lot of fun hearing the energy bouncing around the room, but the nonstop laughs were almost too much. I missed countless rapid fire follow up jokes because I couldn’t hear them over the laughter (particularly from the chick behind me who found every frame hilarious and had an exceptionally loud giggle).

Besides the impressive one liners, I love these movies for the music. The mashups are genius and filled with wonderful throwbacks. The obligatory rif off was the scene I was most excited for, and that didn’t disappoint. And their skillz were all top notch. I can be picky about what acapella I like (basically I don’t like it when I can hear the individual syllables being sung) and this was the good kind, where you can’t even tell that there are no instruments.

So the Bellas brought the party yet again. Sometimes it’s nice to just lose yourself in a silly movie for a night.

Pitch Perfect 2 – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Mad Max: Fury Road

“I think this is the movie I was most looking foward to this summer. Hopefully that doesn’t mean we peaked really early, but rather that the rest of the summer movie season is filled with some great surprises. Now that I’ve seen this, I can’t get it out of my head. It’s so unlike anything else I’ve ever seen in the action genre that I love so much.

I was excited for this because from the trailer, it looked utterly insane. Just completely mental, off the wall bonkers, high on action and adrenaline, low on sanity. And Max delivered. Especially in some of the early scenes, it was non stop insanity. Max is put thru some extreme physical situations while having nightmarish hallucinations interrupting him. I didn’t think it could keep up that pace for the whole movie, but for the most part, it did.

As an action movie, it did keep up the pace. The majority took place on the run on the road, centered around the big rig that Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa drove. All sorts of baddies with wheels would attack, people would be crawling all over the outsides of vehicles, things would be exploding everywhere, and we just kept on driving full throttle. I read that the storyboards for the film were drawn up before the screenplay, planning out all of the stunts and sequences in a film that would end up with minimal dialog. Even better, the majority of the effects were practical rather than computer generated. The few that were CGI were maily around Furiosa’s prosthetic limb and removing wires and such that aided the stunts.

From my crash course in Mad Max last week, I’d noticed that I had a hard time getting into them because they were minimal on dialog and had endless driving sequences. Fury Road fit right in with that, and as I predicted, I was able to focus in on it much more easily when in a darkened theater free of distractions. There were some early ones that I thought may have gone on too long, but once the story and the purpose started rolling, it was easier to roll along with everything.

The action is all well and good (moreso even) but that’s not why this movie is sticking with me, or at least not the only reason. I found so much substance and layers in what was on the screen. It wasn’t just action for action’s sake, but we had developed characters with tangible intentions. The best of which was Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa.

In the week or so leading up, I’d been hearing that Furiosa was an incredible character. Much more substantial and fleshed out than most characters in this genre, especially for a woman. In fact, she’s such a strong independant woman, that there’s been a minor backlash from some backwards thinking anti-feminists out there. All the more reason for me to want to see her. And she really was all that I was hoping and more. This woman needs to be remembered alongside Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, and Buffy Summers.

And she wasn’t just a token woman in there to fill a quota or pass the Bechdel test. There were a few other gals with great potential, and they each had something to differentiate them. It wasn’t just one lead girl and some silent followers, but instead all of them had moments to shine in the spotlight. And I’ve never seen an action movie pass the Bechdel test with such flying colors, or at least I can’t think of one right off.

I actually found it quite interesting that for a film named Mad Max, Max didn’t do a whole lot. I mean, he did, but Furiosa’s part was at least equal if not superior to his as far as size and focus. I applaud George Miller and team for not trying to cater to the uninitiated in all things Max and not trying to rewrite/reestablish history with backstory. Instead we just dove right in to the here and now.

Seriously, I am still so in awe of this movie. I hear that Tom Hardy is signed on for 3 more, and I can’t wait to see them. If this was just the beginning, I can’t even imagine where we’ll go next

Mad Max: Fury Road – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Mad Max Trilogy

“The next summer movie I’m crazy excited for is Mad Max:Fury Road. The trailer looks insane and messed up, just how I like my movies, and how I really like my action films. Except I’ve never seen the originals. Now I trust that like most far removed sequels/reboots/remakes/whatever, this won’t rely on prior knowledge. Except I really wanted to get to know Mad Max. The first film had been on Netflix for a while, and a couple months back I tried watching it. I got about halfway before realizing I hadn’t paid any attention, so I gave up and waited for another day. Sadly, it was taken off streaming recently, but that gave me an excuse to buy the whole set. I was so excited to watch them this weekend in anticipation of the awesome of the next.

Except, I still can’t seem to get into it. I’m writing up Mad Max and The Road Warrior together since I had basically the same experience with each. Hopefully I can get into Thunderdome enough to write up something coherent, but I’m taking a gamble on that. And it’s not that I’m doing tons of stuff on my computer while I watch, or at least not intentionally. As my mind keeps wandering, I do drift off to internet world. There’s just more visuals than plot, and if I’m not in a darkened theater with no other choice but to pay attention, it’s tough. My mind wanders, and I look back to see more driving or another flashback or something else that I can’t place in context.

It does remind me a lot of an episode of Sliders titled Desert Storm, that clearly was based on Mad Max. It has to do with them landing on a world where water was scarce and there was desert and dune buggies and bad guys and pretty much looked like the world of Mad Max. It’s also a sadly infamous episode as the lead non-regular actor for the episode was killed during filming in a dune buggy accident.

Anyways, I tried Mad Max one night and Road Warrior the next, with pretty much the same result. I’ve since replayed Max a couple times while gaming or doing other things, but I still can’t piece together too much. Just from the visuals, it seems like Fury Road draws more from Road Warrior, but we’ll see how that goes. It’s likely there’ll be winks and nods and inside jokes that just go over my head. So maybe I’ll just need to revisit these after I see the new one. If that film goes the way I expect, I’m sure I’ll be more than happy to live in this twisted world a little while longer.

Later that day…

Okay so I just finished Thunderdome, and I think I’ve gotta just tack it on to here. I was with it for more than the others, even though it was sillier and more out there. The battle in the dome was pretty cool, with the bungee cords and such. Then I space out for a min and suddenly there’s all these kids everywhere? It never quite got me back after that. I do see even more of the gonzo vibe that’s being promised for the next one, so even though these originals didn’t quite do it for me, I’m still insanely excited to see the mayhem on screen. One way or another, it’ll be epic”