Category Archives: movies

sunshine

Sunshine
after a tragicomic series of mishaps, elaine and i finally managed to see Sunshine, the latest effort by director Danny Boyle (Millions, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later). i was a huge fan of both Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, and so have been very eager to experience Boyle’s take on the sci-fi genre.

and so, after all our trials and tribulations with seeing this film, was the wait worth it?

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walk the line

Walk the Line
i didn’t know much about Johnny Cash before seeing Walk the Line. i was familiar with some of his more famous songs (e.g., Ring of Fire), and had heard a great interview Cash did with terry gross on fresh air a few years before he died. oh yeah, and that he covered a nine inch nails song on his last album. that was about all i knew. pretty sad, given his status and importance as a country singer and music icon of the 20th century. i wanted to see the film to fill in the gaps, and it did a great job.

in a nutshell, i’d say the man in black walked a line, and spent a fair amount of time on the wrong side of it, consumed by addiction and self-destructive behavior. it makes for an interesting story, given the historical import and the impact the characters had on music, and the film told it well. joaquin phoenix and reese witherspoon both turned in fantastic performances, and created a believable depiction of a complex drama between two talented performers. the story wasn’t totally unexpected, and the film didn’t break any moviemaking ground, but it was very entertaining and completely evoked the time period in which it was set. definitely recommended if you have any interest in the man or his music.

the motorcycle diaries

the motorcycle diaries
i think i’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that my knowledge of history is a bit spotty. weak. you might even say terrible. for some reason, i just checked out in history classes, which when combined with a bad memory for such things, leads to the sad state of affairs i find myself in. as a result, when a movie like the motorcycle diaries comes along, i find myself lacking the historical pillow on which to rest my head.
let’s ignore history for the moment and talk about a movie.

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the corpse bride

the corpse bride
the corpse bride is tim burton’s latest foray into the world of stop-motion animation, and it’s a fantastic foray, indeed.
tim burton is one of my heroes. in an adult world, he manages to remind us of what it’s like to have fun, to have a childlike sense of wonder while retaining one’s adult capacity to laugh at the absurdity of it all. on top of that, he makes beautiful and funny films, capsules that takes you away for two hours, only to return a happier person (despite subject matter that might seem grim).

there are no perfect characters in a tim burton world. they all have weaknesses writ rather large, and we get to either snigger knowingly or identify with them. he always pulls out the characters you love to hate; in the corpse bride, it’s the officious housewife with a 4-foot-tall beehive hairdoo, the soulless husband in her grasp, the preacher mired in a world of endless rules and rituals. he paints each and every one of them in a way that magnifies their absurdity, while still retaining a twinge of believability. his heroes and heroines are flawed, insecure, and yet admirable and strong in their own ways. i can’t speak for others, but i’ve always felt i could see pieces of my imperfect self in his characters.

aside from great storytelling, the corpse bride is visually stunning, with animation that never ceases to amaze. plus, it’s got lots of musical numbers with corpses. how could it go wrong? watch it and judge for yourself.

underworld : evolution

underworld evolution
it’s interesting to watch a movie (like underworld evolution) that most everyone else thought sucked, and yet somehow you enjoyed. it makes you wonder, not necessarily about the intrinsic quality of the film, but about perception and enjoyment.

i’m not going to waste the bytes to review it. you can check out the synopsis somewhere else (google or find your own trusted source). in fact, i’m not even going to say why i liked it, because most people would probably either disagree or deride me for it.

i will just ask, how can some people enjoy a movie that others hate with a passion? how is it that people whom we trust can recommend films, and yet they fall flat for us? i have many movie-going friends whose judgment i trust for the most part, and yet sometimes, they find foam-inspiring films that make me yawn. and vice-versa, of course – sometimes, the films that i really enjoy, for one reason or another, put other people to sleep or make them want to throw things.

film (or movies) are an impossible combination of things. they are a simulacrum, and yet they can transcend simulation into the space of fantasy. they combine the visual and the auditory with storytelling and performance. they take ideas and smash them together like a celluloid collider, hoping that some new particle is created. sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. it seems to depend on the viewer.

so the next time someone recommends a movie to you, and you watch it and think it’s terrible, think twice before you discount their next recommendation. when it comes to movies, you never know…

solaris

Solaris
i finally got around to seeing steven soderbergh’s remake of solaris this weekend. i must admit to enough reservations to fill a hotel, but after recommendations from trusted cinematic advisors, i decided to take the plunge.

the original solaris, directed by andrei tarkovsky, is considered a true (cult) classic, not just within the science fiction genre, but in general. it’s profound, beautiful, frustrating, very long, and ultimately completely mysterious. in other words, it’s a great russian film.

so how does soderbergh’s version compare? or does it?
[spoiler alert]

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snakes on a plane

snakes on a plane
elaine and i saw snakes on a plane last friday with a big group of friends and extended acquaintances. under normal circumstances, i might try to write a review, but given that the new york times alread did it for me, i’ll save myself the trouble.

i will say that it was a crazy movie-going experience. i haven’t seen a crowd as rowdy and excited since the last star wars film. this crowd was probably worse, actually, since there seemed to be a few people in the audience who’d just had their first beer. there were rubber snakes, stuffed snakes, snakeskin outfits, paper airplanes with snakes (ha), costumes, people pumping their fists in the air at snakes sinking their fangs wherever possible, screams, shouts, endless laughter. it was total mayhem. people are going absolutely nuts over this movie. there’s already a participation script, and its only been out for a few days.

so why the feeding frenzy?

i think snakes on a plane is a celluloid pressure-release valve. it’s a way of escaping from the news (grim and grimmer) and of laughing at some post-9/11 fears that people just keep pouring gasoline on. you know how it’s gonna end before it even starts, and maybe that’s part of the appeal. it’s big, loud, silly, and a whole lot of fun. in an unpredictable world, its relative predictability, combined with snakes on crack, is a welcome diversion. any movie that can bring smiles that big and make you forget about the world for 2 hours is worth $10.

sequel anyone? (snakes on a train, snakes on a bus, snakes on a ship, snakes in outer space, snakes snakes snakes….SSSSsssss).

march of the penguins

March of the Penguins
life is a precious thing. we all struggle to preserve it, whether or not we realize this truth. march of the penguins, a french documentary, illustrates the point that no matter how hard you think your life is, the emperor penguins have it much, much harder.

when i was a kid, i consumed anything and everything related to nature: jacques cousteau, national geographic, audobon society books, camping and hiking around southern california. i’ve always been a sucker for anything related to the natural world, so it stands to reason that i should fall for nature documentaries.
this one is different.

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hero

Hero
i was skeptical about zhang yimou’s film hero. i’m not entirely sure why. maybe it was because i thought that, after several other films that looked to be of this ilk, another director was trying to capitalize on the “kung-fu art film” phenomenon in America (e.g., Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

ok, maybe he was, but he did a brilliant job of it (despite his less-than-stellar follow-up house of flying daggers, a visually stunning tale that hewed just a bit too close to its dragon-born antecedent).
hero is not just visually stunning; it’s also a powerful historical tale fueled by romance, deception, and betrayal. the performances are amazing, the action choreography is excellent, the cinematrography is superior…i’m stumbling over myself to find more superlatives.

nightwatch

nightwatch

imagine dostoevsky huddled with the brothers quay in a dark, back-alley moscow bar. angelo badalamenti plays on the jukebox as they discuss the matrix and blade, and the never-ending human fascination with tales of good vs. evil, with immortality and the mystical. they decide to make a movie to explore these themes, something wholly russian, yet not constrained to being wholly original. their conversation is gradually drowned in stolichnaya, and their temporary fascination in a movie wanes as they drift off into other philosophical territories. as they move on, so do the two huddled forms at the table next to them, heading out the door and to their desks… Timur Bekmambetov and Laeta Kalogridis won’t let those ideas go to waste.

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