ranuel: (Mini Me)
ForbiddenKingdomPoster
When I picked this up at the library all I knew about it for sure was that it stared Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Being so completely unspoiled for it turned out to be a bad thing because frankly, the opening of the movie did not encourage me to want to spend the time to watch the rest.

We start with a really bad fight sequence in which a character in fantasy makeup leaps around mountain peaks while taking on a large group of opponents. The wire work is awful. There is no attempt to make it seem at all like the improbable leaps are the result of anything but a flying harness. Then it turns out to be a dream sequence and I'm willing to forgive it.

Jason Tripitikas, the kid having the dream,  is completely obsessed with kung fu movies. His room is wallpapered in posters, stills, and cut outs from magazines. He feeds his addiction by buying bootleg videos from a pawn shop in China Town for a couple of dollars each. We follow him there and meet the owner, an old man called Hop and see Jason accidentally discover that Hop has a beautiful golden staff in a back room. He explains that he is waiting for the rightful owner to return for it.

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ranuel: (Default)
This week I revisited two favorites from my childhood and found one better than I remembered and one indescribably worse.

ranuel: (Radiation Care Bear)
Katje gave me this and it's the first time I've seen it since it was in theaters. I really needed something fun. Thanks Katje!

This movie is vulgar, often stupid, and hilarious. Their live action Scooby Doo gang beats the movie cast and is almost worth a rental all on it's own and where else will you get jokes so vulgar that they earned an NC-17 before a few were cut AND a cameo appearance by God Herself?

The sequence where they manage to simultaneously make fun of Batman and Star Wars with Mark Hamill as the villain is the highlight of the movie.

This movie has more pop culture references than any other I can think of but unfortunately this includes many references to Smith's previous movies. I think to really follow what there is of the plot you have to have at least seen Chasing Amy and Clerks but you're going to miss something if you haven't seen all of the prior films. The ending bit won't make sense if you haven't seen Dogma but might still be fun on it's own.

NOT for kids even though 13-year-old boys would love it.

Buy this movie, it's cheaper than Prozac and has more pleasant side effects.

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ranuel: (Default)
I'm a huge fan of Rurouni Kenshin, which is set before and after the time of this movie, so I both really, really wanted to see it and really, really didn't.

On the negative side it stars Tom Cruise, it's 2 1/2 hours long, Tom Cruise produced it, I know just enough about the time period to be picky if they screwed up the history, and Cruise making a big budget movie so he'd get to be an American Samarai sounded like this could be headed into Gary Stu territory.

On the plus side I kept hearing that the set and costume designers really did their homework and it would be fun to see things that I'd only seen in manga, anime, and old black and white photos in a big budget movie.

In any case, I spotted it on the shelf at the library so since it was free and included an episode of the History Channel's History vs. Hollywood series I decided it was worth a shot.

ranuel: (Default)
I really wanted to like this movie. See, I remember Truman Capote when he was a fixture on the talk show circuit. He was one of the guests that I'd stay up late for if he was going to be on The Tonight Show. He was brilliant and snarky and could stab someone in the back with a bit of gossip while being absolutely child like and wickedly innocent. He was Puck with a soft Southern accent and one too many martinis.

As an adult I've read a fair bit of his work and really came to appreciate him as a writer instead of just a media personality. His best work is generally agreed to be In Cold Blood his ground breaking "non-fiction novel". Not only is the book jaw dropping good the movie  with Robert Blake is one of the best adaptations of a book I've ever seen. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie you need to do both as soon as you can fit it into your schedule. Be sure to allow for time after to digest them, you'll be thinking about parts of both for awhile afterwards.  Blake kicks butt as Smith and makes him a far more interesting character than Clifton Collin's emo boy in this movie.

ranuel: (Alien Fish)
http://community.livejournal.com/m15m/14864.html

[profile] m15m presents a recap of 300  that is far, far more enjoyable than the actual movie even if you did spend most of it giggling like I did.

WARNING: Monitor spew may result if attempts are made to read this while eating or drinking.

LEONIDAS: Athenians? Those philosophers! Bleeding-heart Liberals! Boy-lovers!

SOME PERSIAN: Wait… so… you guys aren’t…?

LEONIDAS: Hell no! We’re just cousins.
ranuel: (Default)
Let's take a really good movie with gorgeous animation (remember the avalanche?), likable characters, memorable songs, a fun scary villain, an exciting plot, and some attempt to convey the culture of China and make a sequel that lacks everything from the list but the likable characters. Oh, but to make up for that last bit we'll make one of them behave totally out of character for the sake of the plot.

No matter what the person who pitched this actually said in the first pre-production meeting that's what he or she should have said in order to be completely honest.

If you happen to be around children who insist on watching this it isn't so bad that you will be in agony every step of the way, there are even some bits that are actually good for minutes at a time, but you do not want to spend money or time on this if you don't have to.

To tell you WHY it's bad I'm going to have to reveal pretty much the entire plot and some important bits of the first movie so:

**********HERE THERE BE SPOILERS FOR MULAN AND MULAN II**********



ranuel: (Default)

Reese Witherspoon got the Oscar but the whole cast is excellent. Every single person in this cast was not only perfectly cast but acted their collective asses off. They even did their own singing. My favorite was Waylon Payne as Jerry Lee Lewis. He does a much better job than Dennis Quaid did in Great Balls of Fire.

The sound track will stick in your head. I'm feeling a great need to own it and I don't have any money for non-essentials. I got a birthday in June y'all.

The sole and only problem I had was a big one for me. Going in I didn't know a whole lot about Johnny Cash's personal life so there was a lot I wasn't expecting and it was nice to not be spoiled for the twists and turns of the plot, however, the producers of this movie seemed to expect that the audience would know quite a lot about Cash and there were times that I was lost as to who, what, why, where, and especially when.

One minute Johnny's talking on the phone with his girlfriend, who I assume to be someone from back home he went to school with, then we jump to him waking up in bed with her and hear a baby crying in the background. Did she come to Germany? How much time has passed? How did they overcome her father's objections? I got enough from the scene that followed to figure out what was going on but it took reading the Wikipedia entry on Cash after I finished watching the movie to find out that Vivian was a girl he met in California in basic training and he married her after he was discharged. NOW their conversation about her daddy thinking he's crazy for wanting to marry her after only dating a month and her constant nagging for Johnny to take a job with her father and move to California makes sense.

I finally gave up on trying to figure out if a day or a year had passed between scenes and just sort of went with it. If you are very familiar with the subject you might not even notice this as you will automatically fill in the missing information. For someone who isn't, the movie is even more choppy and episodic than your average biopic.

They also expect you to identify who someone is by what song he or she is singing. For instance it took reading the credits to find out that Elvis was in the movie and watching the extras to find out where he appears.

I suspect that the movie is less than fair to Vivian. She is presented as a shrewish bitch for most of the film and there were scenes with her being softer and more understanding that were cut from the final release. Her portrayal is pretty much the way all men who cheat on their wives describe their wives to their mistresses. It also makes his choice of sweet, understanding, June who saves Johnny's life seem inevitable. Which according to the commentary track was exactly what the director was going for. Vivian's jealousy and anger at June is shown in a way to make her seem petty and vindictive instead of being the natural feelings of a woman who knows her husband is in love with another woman.

On the whole, I enjoyed the movie a lot. The performances much more than make up for the weaknesses in the script and the heavy handed direction. There is real chemistry between Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon and they made me believe their characters. Had me in tears a couple of times too thinking about the real people and what they went through. I strongly recommend seeing this if you haven't already.

ranuel: (OMG Magic)

If you haven't seen this yet and don't want to be spoiled skip this review. Yes, it's a historical movie and we all know how it ends but a lot of the stuff I'm going to talk about isn't historical so if you want to go in with an unprejudiced mind, don't read this. Elayne, this is exactly the sort of review you don't like so you may want to move on too.

 


ranuel: (OMG Magic)
This is the Patrick Stewart version that was done as a TNT original movie. He is one of the best Scrooges EVER. The rest of the cast is excellent with many familiar British character actors and Richard E. Grant of all people as Bob Cratchit. It surprised me that a guy who played the Scarlet Pimpernel with such daring do did such a great job as the down-trodden Cratchit. Joel Grey as the Ghost of Christmas past is fey and inhuman but still warm and sympathetic.

The production is gorgeous to look at too. The sets and costumes are wonderful. My only nitpick is that the clothes for Scrooges fiancée, Belle, are far too nice for her stated status in the film. At Fezziwig's party where the other girls are wearing cotton print dresses she wears a gorgeous bright yellow dress that better belongs on her Disney namesake. Later on when she breaks up with Scrooge she tells him he would never chose a poor girl if they were just meeting while wearing a velvet coat and matching hat that even today, with cheaper synthetic velvets, would set you back at least $200-$300 on sale.

The symbolism of her being the brightest, prettiest girl at the party and then later being dressed in a subdued shade of mustard yellow when things don't work out is obviously intended and really wasn't needed.

Other than that it really is great. I think this may be the best of the non-musical color versions. Stewart has been doing a one-man stage presentation of the story for years and his experience with the material shows. Scrooge is a tricky part to play. The actor has to be able to be convincing as both the hard hearted man scrooge was and the reformed Scrooge without overacting either one and has to show the transition between the two believably. Stewart manages to do this.
ranuel: (Default)
Hated it.

The original King Kong is one of my favorite movies. In the early eighties I estimated that I had seen it over twenty times and that was before it was released on home video. I've never owned a copy for some reason but now that it's finally out on DVD I plan to change that when I have money again.

I had been horribly disappointed by the Jessica Lang remake so I was hesitant to watch this. But hey, it's Peter Jackson and he mostly did good on LotR and he said all the right things in the interviews so we may finally have a good version in color.

The first hour of the film seemed to support that. It was different from the original but in ways I could live with and Jack Black absolutely rocks as impresario Carl Denhen. He is uncannily like my friend Rory when he played Uncle Max in sound of music. Then we get to Skull island and it all falls apart.

First of all an experienced sea captain has his ship go full speed ahead in the fog after they have already spotted the rocks? What? He's going to power his way through? It's not an ice flow for heaven's sake! They make it through and then we get to meet the natives.

The first King Kong takes grief for being racist but it's a product of the times and the depiction of the natives was not any worse than in most other films and as I'll point out in a minute, better than some. The natives probably were fresh off the set from the latest Tarzan movie. After seeing what a really actively racist film of the time was like when I watched Birth of a Nation it's hard to come down too hard on Kong. It's nice times have changed so we can now have a more sensitive and realistic portrayal of an aboriginal culture isn't it?

Apparently times haven't changed that much. THIS movie manages to portray the natives in an even more offensive manner than the 1933 version without the excuse of being the product of an overtly racist culture. They aren't just shown as primitive and superstitious; they are barely human. There were a few shots where I think Jackson got confused about which movie he was filming and slipped in a couple of left over orcs. They don't even have human skin color, but this blueish grayish black tone that should have gotten the make up artist fired.

Instead of an orderly village they live among the ruins of a past civilization with rotting fish and bones scattered about. Instead of an impressive wooden palisade, that they obviously keep maintained against the creatures on the other side, they have a crumbling stone wall, another relic from the past. The people in the original movie are healthy and thriving; these people are the undead dregs of a long extinct civilization not a vital active community surviving in a dangerous environment.

As soon as I saw the villagers I knew that the only black officer, probably my favorite new character, was toast as soon as they went after Kong. There was no way in this movie that he was going to beat the rule that in a monster movie the black character always dies. At least he dies heroically.

Then I completely lost any chance at suspending disbelief when Kong carries Ann through the jungle by grasping her in his hand and then running on all fours. She is whipped about so violently that IF she survived the experience she should have severe whiplash and brain damage. My money would have been on just a broken neck but no, she not only survives but when he puts her down, unconscious, she doesn't have any bruises or scratches. She isn't even dirty. Yet.

The makeup people and the continuity person continue to show their gross incompetence. Even within the same scene Ann goes from dirty and bruised to clean and glowing and back again for the rest of the jungle part of the movie. Every time the shot changes so does her condition. The streak of blood she acquires on her face toward the end changes at least 3 times in the short time she has it. It even shows up after she takes an extended dunking in a rapidly flowing river. It's like watching Igor's hump.

The attention to detail stays just as bad once they return to New York. Ann runs through the streets of New York in winter wearing high heels and a satin dress without slipping or showing any sign of being cold. You can't even see her breath steam. Later she climbs utility ladders on the outside of the Empire State Building up to the dirigible mooring still wearing the heels. The strong winds that one would expect at that hight are just enough to blow her skirt around artistically but nothing that threatens her balance.

Even though they used Andy Serkis and the motion capture system they developed for LotR for Kong there are still several places where the animation looks fake. Slight distortions that probably really looked bad in the theater if I can see them watching it on my laptop.

On the plus side the fight at the Empire State Building is exciting and very pretty with bright yellow bi-planes and a sunset over the city. The whole movie is nice to look at really. The recreation of a 1930s times square is worth seeing if you can catch this on cable or a cheap rental. It's not worth 3 hours of your life to see the nice shots though so maybe rental is best. That way you can do what I did and set the playback at 1.3 or 1.5 times normal speed for a lot of the last two hours so you can get through the worst bits faster. Or even just fast forward a lot. There isn't a lot of dialog that you will kick yourself for missing.
ranuel: (Default)
I had no plans to see this movie any time soon. Prior to this the latest Bond movie I'd seen all the way through was 1985's A View to a Kill. I caught a bit of one of the Brosnen movies (or was it Dalton) on cable when I was visiting my parents but didn't really pay attention to it.

I like James Bond so it was a bit of a surprise to me that it had been so long. My father and I would go to the theater together to watch the movies and it was a nice way to spend time together but then they got satellite and stopped going out to the movies and without him I didn't bother. I would watch re-runs of the older films if they happened to be on but the new ones just didn't interest me. The series had become predictable and the only reason to watch was for Connery or Moore so with a new actor there just wasn't a draw. I always meant to watch them some day, but there was always something else more interesting available and before I knew it over 20 years had passed with me still thinking of Brosnen as “one of the new guys”.

A couple of years back I added all the movies to my Netflix list to catch up but since they were in the 400s at the time it will be another couple of years before they work their way up to the top.

If my friend Rory hadn't given me a copy of the Chinese bootleg that's about when I would have gotten to it. Since he did, I went ahead and watched and...Wow! All the over the top elements that made Bond so easy to parody in films like Austen Powers were gone. We are back to a good basic action adventure espionage thriller like in the days of Sean Connery. The new guy sort of looks like a young Connery too.

It's still got a lot of the old standby elements like the beautiful women, people who die in interesting ways, a chase or two, gadgets, and an eccentric bad guy, but there are no shark tanks, no lasers, and the bad guy seems to have read at least part of the list of don't s for Evil Overlords. He doesn't leave Bond tied up unattended in a death trap, he doesn't spend ten minutes explaining his plan for taking over the world and why pushing that red button over there would be a Very Bad Idea (tm). He's just a psycho S.O.B. who's in it for the money.

The fight sequences are well choreographed with a nice mix of gritty realism in some with stuff that stopped just short of Hong Kong wire work in other sequences.

Judy Dench absolutely RULES as M. She has a fairly large role in this and I wanted it to be larger. I love her attitude towards Bond. She manages to show that she finds his attitude toward women distasteful and his rule breaking gets on her last nerve but she can't help having a bit of grudging affection for her resident bad boy. I want to see the other Bond movies she has been in now just for her.

There are some visual references to older Bond movies as well as some lines of dialog that are meant as in jokes. They are done subtly enough that if you haven't seen the movie a bit is referring to you probably won't even notice it's there. This is a restart of the series with a young Bond who hasn't been on all those adventures yet. I'm going to be sure to see the next one before another 22 years go by.
ranuel: (Default)
 

Reign of Fire (2002)


I wish I had seen this in the theater; it has some of the best SGI work I've seen. At least on the small screen I couldn't tell the models from the computer generated stuff and I always catch little distortions somewhere. The set and costume design are first rate too.


Urban fantasy is my favorite sub-genre and this is a great example of it even though the director describes it as a “monster movie”. It takes a fantasy concept, in this case dragons, and presents it in a realistic way in a modern setting with a big part of the plot being how modern people would react.


The story isn't perfect; there are some awfully large plot holes. I won't go into them since they involve major spoilers. Anyway, some of them may be more obvious to a gamer than to the average person watching it. Dragons are a common hazard of the adventuring life and I've had to put a lot of thought into dealing with them from both sides of the GM screen. I will admit to a certain amount of self-satisfaction when the solution to how to defeat the dragons was one of the ones that I had worked out.


There is action for everyone, some prime beefcake on display – nice shirtless scene – and other than the language it's fine for any kid old enough not to be too traumatized by giant fire breathing lizards eating people.

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