Sunday, July 13, 2008

Movie Catch Up Post

So, if you haven't noticed, I've been way behind on putting up posts. Yeah, I don't have an excuse. No, I don't really feel like coming up with one. Just assume that it means I started having some semblance of a life or something (which, of course, is entirely false, but that's what I'd like people to presume in general).

Anyways, I have still been seeing movies. Lots of them in fact. And, per normal, I've had opinions about them, although not especially strong opinions about some of them. So, I'm going to just start going through the various I've seen since Iron Man and saying whatever I can remember that I think about them.

Alright, let's begin.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (that is the title right?), I enjoyed it. I admit I had really low expectations. Also, I admit that I hadn't watched an Indiana Jones movie in at least 10 years, probably closer to 15. So, to be honest, I could barely even remember what I should be expecting. Keeping that in mind, I found it to be very fun. The beginning was totally fun. I really liked the escape in Area 51 and I thought the refrigerator scene was brilliant (even if everyone else thought it was stupid).

I especially liked the set up to it. The initial warning signs saying to stay away (which initially meant that he couldn't expect to find help, but then came to mean something else). I had fun with the entrance to the model neighborhood and the initial hope that he's safe, until the realization that everything is fake. Then the rushed search for safety as the countdown comes. And in the final seconds as we see the fridge and in your head (well, my head at least) you're screaming, "Go to the fridge, Indy! The fridge!" And finally he opens the door and it says that it's lined with lead, so you know this means he'll be perfectly safe in there. Just an excellent sequence in my mind.

The rest of the movie was less cool. It's hard to really like Shia's character (or care about him at all, for that matter). You can't help but like William Hurt (or is it John Hurt, I always get their names confused), but that's life. I thought the whole driving off a cliff and onto a tree was completely stupid. It would have been awesome except Marion did it on purpose. You're not allowed to do things like that on purpose. It's supposed to be the kind of luck that only the good guys can possibly have.

So, yeah, it was enjoyable. It made me go back to the old movies and realize that they're really not very good. I mean, obviously Raiders of the Lost Ark was pretty good and The Last Crusade does tons of stuff right, but I couldn't even sit through Temple of Doom. I'd put Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at least on par with Last Crusade, which isn't bad.

Let's see, next is Kung Fu Panda. I really enjoyed that. The opening dream sequence did a great job of both setting my expectations for the movie and just making me smile. I can't help but quote Jack Black's response to the people's desire to repay him for defeating the bad guys: "There is no charge for AWESOMENESS!"

The fight scenes in it were totally cool. They were actually really imaginative, which is really hard to believe in an animated movie. I mean, the big advantage that animated movies have is that you can do cool camera angles and cool weightless stuff and things like that. The result is that people have done the vast majority of the cool things you can really do with animated fights (I blame anime for this). But Kung Fu Panda pretends it's a live-action kung fu movie and so actually comes up with some cool fights that aren't really focused on the advantages of animation (keep in mind that the bad guy's escape from prison is an exception). Watching Po and Master Shifu duel for the last dumpling with chopsticks is easily my favorite part of the movie, and it's primarily because of the fight choreography, not the camera angles or the impossible moves. And I think that's totally awesome.

I also really liked it's final Zen message as well. I won't spoil what the scroll says, but I love that it contains the same message as Po's father. The wise turtle reached nirvana through training his mind and body in the martial arts and Po can't help but worship him for it. But, in the end, we learn that Po's father discovered nirvana in his work at the noodle shop. I think that's really beautiful. Both of these authority figures in Po's life are men of genius, and in the end, Po realizes that and finally respects his father.

So, yeah, it's really a great addition to the American tradition of kung fu movies. It's definitely better and more intelligent than The Forbidden Kingdom.

Let's see, I guess next would be The Incredible Hulk. I had actually watched a fair amount of The Hulk on TV since they had been playing it all the time to get people excited about the new one (which seems like the type of strategy that would backfire, since nobody liked it, but that's not important). It's interesting that upon rewatching the first one (in HD), I actually don't think it's that bad. I mean, it's still ridiculous and weird and confusing, but there's some good stuff about it. Like Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly and Nick Nolte. I mean, it's got a weird focus on psychology and repressed memories, which don't really fit in an action movie, but visually I found it really exciting. I mean, Ang Lee had a vision for The Hulk and I think he delivered it. The fact that nobody liked it might not be that relevant. But, whatever, this movie is pretending The Hulk never really existed so I'll stop talking now.

And, I was impressed by this one too. It definitely had some cool stuff in it. Edward Norton was a very good Bruce Banner, so I totally respect that. Liv Tyler was actually perfect as the girl, so I really totally respect that, too. Maybe it's just that she didn't have very much to do, but I thought she was really very good. She was absolutely devoted to him and he was to her. Their relationship was definitely a highlight of the movie. The general, as played by John Hurt (or is it William Hurt, I always get them confused) was not very good. I mean, I know he's the bad guy, except it seems like he's not supposed to be the bad guy forever. As an audience member, I want him to make peace with his daughter and realize the Bruce is not the property of the U.S. Government and that he should treat him like a human being. But, well, he refuses to do that. And it's frustrating because it just makes him an ass. And, it's hard to like asses, unless they're funny and clever.

Let's see, most of the fight scenes were pretty cool. I like that the Hulk isn't particularly intelligent but has just enough of Bruce to use the scenery as weapons and armor. For example, turning two cars into weights for his hand to kick more ass. That's pretty cool, but it doesn't make him seem like an especially intelligent creature, just intelligent enough to win even when he's not the strongest.

Lastly, I didn't like Tim Blake Nelson's character either. It seemed like they wanted us to view him as a good guy who's going to eventually turn bad, but he just seemed like a bad guy. See, that's what is commonly known as a distinct lack of subtlety. Obviously, all the comic fans already know he's going to be a bad guy, but you still have to actually make him seem good. I mean, after the way he spoke to Bruce, Bruce should have just walked out and said destroy all these samples of my blood. Then come back as the Hulk and make sure they're really gone. There's no way he should be trusted with that stuff, but the people are oblivious because they think he's good. I'm not sure who should be blamed for this, but it's a problem.

Think of the professor in the Spiderman movies. He's missing his arm and working on the science to one day regrow it. Someday, in a Spiderman movie, he's going to turn into the Lizard or something like that, but right now, as far as we're concerned he's a good guy who Peter trusts and respects. This will make their fight cool and interesting (but kind of exactly like Spiderman 2, so maybe they won't bother with the Lizard, but they at least have the option if they so desire). Alternatively, think of Harvey Dent in the upcoming Batman movie. Clearly, he's going to become Two-Face, but right up until he does, he's going to be a good guy. I think that's a much better way to introduce bad guys before they're bad guys (or you can be like Star Wars, with Emporer Palpatine, who I thought was developed really well as a semi-secret bad guy the whole time.

Well, after The Incredible Hulk would be Get Smart. I knew next to nothing about the TV show prior to seeing this movie. All I knew was from the couple of scenes they had shown during advertisements for ordering the entire series on DVD. This meant I knew that it was related to Mel Brooks and that it featured a guy using his shoe as a cell phone, in the days before cell phones.

At this point, I'd like to give an apology to Anne Hathaway. Dear Anne, you really are hot. I'm sorry I didn't properly admire you when I saw The Devil Wears Prada and The Princess Diaries. From now on, I will agree with people when they say that you are hot. Um, I guess that's all...and don't ask why I saw either of those movies when I didn't think you were hot (and definitely don't ask why I've seen Devil Wears Prada three times at this point, while never thinking you're hot).

Anyways, this movie was interesting. It's really odd that someone made the decision that Steve Carrell should play a totally competent spy. It's a little weird, to be honest. I mean, you go into this movie expecting Steve Carrell to bumble around and have Anne Hathaway pick up the pieces for him, but that's not what happens at all. Basically, they both compete to be the most awesome spies. I have to admit that it worked fine and was very funny, but it meant that there wasn't nearly as much slapstick as you would expect (and when there was slapstick stuff, it was often really bad and unnecessary, which is kind of annoying).

So, yeah, it was populated with some fun characters. Hiro plays a nerd working at the base and is quite funny. The Rock is totally cool too. Lastly, I just want to say that the Steve Carrell/The Rock kiss was amazing. I loved how the filmmakers telegraphed it so that I was already laughing just knowing it was about to happen. That was really ingenious.

Um, I guess that's all I have to say about Get Smart. Up next is Wall-E. Now, to be honest, I kind of feel like a bad person because I liked Kung Fu Panda more. I mean, Wall-E definitely a better movie, but Kung Fu Panda spoke to me much more than Wall-E. I don't think I had realized coming in that Wall-E is a love story first and foremost. But it definitely is. Every single thing Wall-E does after meeting Eve is either for her or to be with her. And, well, in the end he saves the human race. For her. So, yeah, it's a really sweet love story, but I must not have been in the mood for a love story or something, because I wasn't really into it.

The opening 30 minutes or something features effectively no dialogue as we simply watch Wall-E, and then Wall-E and Eve, existing. We watch their lives so far. The routines they follow, and the quirks they add in. Wall-E's collection of cool garbage or Eve's flying dance prior to getting to work are special.

Thinking back on the movie, there was a lot of really interesting things to like. I liked that the fat, lazy, pseudo-humans were still looking for love and companionship. I liked that when they were shown that their lives could be more meaningful, they wanted it. These people were brought into this life and needed someone (or something) to show them another life. There was no desire to stay coddled in the ship forever. When they realized there was more than that, they wanted it. That's a really positive view of humanity. I know most people think Wall-E is primarily a negative commentary on the American people, but it finishes with a positive and hopeful belief in us (as opposed to Idiocracy, which is definitely a negative commentary and has no such hope that the masses can be inspired to return to a meaningful way of life once it's lost to them).

It seems like everyone loves Wall-E's fellow rebel robots, but I'm a little more mixed on them. I do like MO, the cleaning robot, because he's the one we get to watch give up his meaningless routine and directive to do what he believes his job is. I think that one decision right there summarizes both the movie and Wall-E's effect on those around him. But, the other robots don't have any such realization. I mean, they're broken. They're in there for repairs because they're malfunctioning. I didn't really like that they were happy to be free or that they followed Wall-E because of it. It didn't really fit the idea that they're robots very well. Wall-E does his job, but has quirks, but these robots have allowed their quirks to take away they're ability to do the job they were built for. This is not the same to me.

Whew, last movie. Hellboy II: The Golden Army. I was really excited for this movie. I had enjoyed the first Hellboy, but it had seemed anti-climactic to me. The final giant Lovecraftian creature Hellboy fought went down really easily and was kind of a letdown. Otherwise, I had thought the movie was really cool and I totally thought Ron Perlman was ridiculously awesome as Hellboy.

Since that movie, I had gotten really into Guillermo del Toro's work and had become something of a fan. I liked Cronos quite a bit, but thought The Devil's Backbone was just okay. I'm probably really weird, but I was thoroughly impressed by Mimic. I mean, it sounds stupid and terrible, but it is neither stupid nor terrible. That impresses me. Obviously Blade II was the best in that series and I blame Guillermo del Toro for it. Also, Pan's Labyrinth was a work of art unlike anything I could have possibly imagined. So, yeah, I like Guillermo del Toro's work.

So, the previews had me really excited for it. I mean, here is what Guillermo and his team can come up with with a big budget and the desire to just blow your mind. Every flash of creature I saw in the previews just made me want to get to stare at the creature designs in wonder. And, well, the movie totally delivered that.

My favorite creature, hands down, was the Angel of Death creature. He looks like something out of a nightmare, but he doesn't come across as evil at all. He just is. He has power and he gives the characters choices, warning them of the consequences of their choices, almost certainly knowing what they will choose in any case. We know when the consequences come, it won't be by his hand. I love that idea of the Angel of Death. He isn't the cause of death, he's merely the bearer of bad news. He didn't make the decision, but you'll have to live with it (pun intended).

Also, watching Abe and Hellboy get drunk together was totally awesome. Also, I had forgotten how much love William Hurt (or is it John Hurt? Aargh, these guys were busy this summer) until I watched him read Hellboy a bedtime story. Also, Johann Strauss was a totally cool addition to the team. I was impressed with that.

Of course, the overriding theme of this movie (and the last movie, for that matter) was that Hellboy has to pick a side. He keeps picking the human side, primarily because of Selma Blair, but the Angel of Death's words can't help but make me wonder if Hellboy will always pick that side. In the first movie, he had to choose between the destiny he'd been created for and the purpose he wanted for himself. In this movie, he has to choose between the the side that can accept him, and needs his help, and the side that has no desire for his help at all.

It's never an easy choice for him, and Ron Perlman does a great job of capturing that. And delivering the line "Awww, crap." I love that line. I also love that they use it profusely, but it doesn't get old. They know just when to use it and how. The result is that it really feels like his immediate reaction phrase. So, when we get the slow, extended, classic delivery it feels even more right.

Man, I really want to see the next Hellboy movie. It'll be awhile, though. A very long while. Stupid hobbits stealing Guillermo's attention from what I want to see him working on.

Alright, that's everything I've seen so far this summer. Phew. Now I just have to wait a few more days till I watch The Dark Knight. That'll get it's very own post, of course.

That is all.


PS - Darn it, I got William Hurt and John Hurt mixed up, so, um, read the name in the parentheses, not the name ahead of the parentese, because I'm stupid. Darn.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

its = it's

they're = their = there


...oh wait, no.