Category Archives: films

Haywire

I love that the theater by my house shows movies for $6.50 before 5pm and starts them early enough that I can watch on before I have to leave for work.

Because that’s how I got to watch what might be my new favorite action movie, Haywire.

The plot is pretty standard, but the format it adopts takes action movies to a new place. The opening scene provides enough information for viewers to know that Mallory Kane, our lead, has no problems taking control of whatever situation she finds herself, and that we are dropping into the middle of a story.

Most of the film unfold as the lead, Gina Carano, recounts the events the led up to the opening moments. This entails many action scenes as she finds herself fighting what eventually seems to consist of everyone.

But that’s perfect for an action movie. And the fight scenes feel real as though I could actually learn how to do them, which is very different from most action films. And as much as Carano looks like she can take on the world, when she gets hurt, she shows it, which only adds to the realism.

This movie won’t win awards for dialogue or plot, but that’s not why I went to see it. I wanted to see an action movie that was entertaining and had some cool fight scenes. Haywire delivered, and I will probably pick it up on DVD to add to my collection.

Red Tails

Red Tails opened this weekend, and I made the effort to see it after George Lucas’ interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

The movie has some good fight scenes, and I like that it highlights a part of history that we frequently ignore in the U.S. The characters are not as fleshed out as they could be, and the dialogue is a bit flat and clichéd.

But it captures the same feeling, in all of its flawed glory, of U.S. movies in the time of World War II. It tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American air-force division, with the heroism and patriotism of movies like Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Tuskegee Airmen
From the San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives Flickr

I appreciate that the movie highlights the accomplishments and drive of the men who fought to fly and then cam home to fight for equality. The movie focuses on the strength of the men who made up the Tuskegee experiment in the guise of a blockbuster. And the format makes the information approachable for a broad audience.

I do wish the movie was more cohesive in its approach to the story, but I think as an introduction with entertainment value it works. I would recommend the movie for all audiences who are old enough to handle loud noises and some gore. As tame as this movie is, because the focus is on the people, it remains a war film, which means on-screen deaths occur but with less intensity than a crime show on tv. I’d recommend it for people who would like a brief overview of a moment in U.S. history or people who like to watch WWII dogfights.

Why I dislike the Lord of the Rings movies

Remember (years) back when everyone was talking about the Lord of the Rings movies and how amazing they were? I wasn’t one of those people. I absolutely love and adore the series by J.R.R. Tolkien. And  though I do not like the movies, I was content to merely let my dislike stand amongst the shadows unless pressed.

While visiting friends in Arizona recently, I ended up meeting new people (it does happen from time to time). We were discussing various topics in the midst of which I stated my dislike for the movies clearly. One of the guys seemed shocked and ready to question, but I was using the statement as an example for a different discussion. The conversation never got back around to my outlandish claim, so this is my explanation.

I have the über-nerd complaints about the missing and mis-represented characters and secondary storylines, but those would not be enough for me to dislike a movie. I completely understand that not everyone will see the story the same way I do and that there is only so much time one can sit in a theater.

The movies fail in one major way – they miss the point of the story by not ending the movies with the scouring of the Shire. Continue reading Why I dislike the Lord of the Rings movies

Captain America

The first Avenger has hit the big screen. Through a curious series of circumstances, I’ve already seen Captain America: The First Avenger. Twice.

Captain America has never been the most interesting character to me, but I love comic book movies. My initial expectations were solidly in the realm of “Entertainment”. I didn’t go in expecting a movie that captured the feeling of a time past and explained the origin story of the character so well that I am now even more excited for next year’s The Avengers movie. Yet that is what I left the theater with. Both times.

Fair warning: From here on out, there will be a discussion of the movie, which will most likely result in spoilers. Continue reading Captain America

Transformers 3

Action movies are my favorite. The only way they get better is if they feature fantastic aliens/science fiction premise. So a movie like Transformers 3 is right up my alley. And I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Fair warning, from here on out, there will be real spoilers (not just hints) because I will talk about the movie.

Continue reading Transformers 3

Avatar: The Last Airbender

There are probably spoilers. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie and want it to be as close to completely surprising as possible today.

If you like the Nickelodeon series, this movie will probably disappoint you.

I love the series for it’s color and humor and treatment of serious issues (war, death, loss, fate verses desires) in a way that engages the audience without minimizing the issues presented.

The movie failed at that. It was heavy handed and slow. I checked the time on my phone several times during the movie to see how much longer until it was over. The sad aspects, like Zuko being banished by his father, should have been sadder, and the funny aspects, like Katara teaching herself to waterbend, should have been funnier.

Deadpan is fine if the movie’s subject can be played flatly, but The Last Airbender is an action comedy. It needs life and discernible change in emotion to be engaging.

Aside from the flatness of the story and acting, I missed the color of the characters. I don’t mean in their actions, but in the series, the main characters are non-white. That was one of my favorite elements of the story, because for once, a science-fictiony story on TV was not dominated by whites. It’s a trap that most science fiction stories, even adaptations, fall into, and it’s detrimental to the genre. In the live action The Last Airbender, the characters become white, which diminishes the story. Many of the background characters and extras were non-white, but the main characters, with a few distinct exceptions, were white.

My nerd complaint is that the characters couldn’t pronounce their names, or Aang’s title of Avatar, correctly. The entire series the pronunciation follows Southern Californian pronunciation with the short a for Aang and Avatar. Sokka sounded like “sock-ah”. Every time anyone pronounced Aang or Avatar or Sokka in the movie, I had to think through who they were talking about. If the series had been an adaptation of an Anime, I could understand the change. But Avatar: The Last Airbender is a US series. If you’ve seen the end, you can definitely tell there.

The graphics were flat and more silly than interesting. And I missed following the character development of the series.

All in all, it was a movie. I didn’t expect it to be great, and it wasn’t. I wasn’t disappointed,  but I’m glad I caught an early show, which meant I only paid $6. I didn’t find much in the movie to recommend, but I wouldn’t say avoid it like the plague. My review boils down to “meh”.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think? I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks.

Bookmark Avatar: The Last Airbender

Doorways and Meander

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phnL5WeSrvQ]

This is the trailer for the independent film a friend of mine, Mo Shirazi, wrote, filmed, and directed. I haven’t seen Doorways and Meander in this incarnation, but you can come and see it with me if you happen to be in the Pomona, CA, area July 11, around 7pm. He’s screening it for free at dbs256 Gallery Wine Bar.

So if you’re in the area and want to check out a movie in its early stages, come and hang out there! I’ll be posting my thoughts after the screening, and I’m looking forward to what other people think!

Bookmark Doorways and Meander

Alice in Wonderland

I went to see Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton this morning. The short version of what I’m going to say is this: I LOVED IT.

If you decide you want to know why, keep reading, but be warned, there will be spoilers.

Lewis Carroll’s stories of Alice and her adventures through the looking glass is one of my favorites. I never liked it when I was small, because I only understood the parts of the story that scared me and could not understand the humor. But once I began really studying literature and learning the way the English language shines brightest when the speaker/writer is playing, I feel in love with Alice in Wonderland.

Tim Burton’s envisioning of Alice and all of Wonderland embodies the playfulness of the story Carroll wrote out.

The story of the movie is not either book, while incorporating the best parts of each. The “Jabberwocky” poem runs throughout the movie, along with the extended chess match. And all of my favorite characters get extended roles in Burton’s film. I loved spending more time with the Mad Hatter and the Doormouse and the Cheshire Cat.

One of the best elements of the film was the sympathetic characterization of some of the more fearsome creatures. I never realized I could learn to love a furious Bandersnatch, or see the Queen of Hearts constant yelling as a cover for deep hurt.

Equally as intriguing was the undercurrent of unease throughout Wonderland, and not just in response to the Queen of Hearts. The White Queen maybe the true ruler, but there is something eerie in her court. It could be the distance required by royalty, or the overwhelming whiteness of her court and people. I’m sure these ideas will become clearer when I own the DVD and can watch it repeatedly.

What I walked out of the movie with was an appreciation of how stories reflect their time. One of the MA classes talked about what keeps Alice going and what saves her time and again in her Wonderland trials. Our conclusion was that Alice’s manners and ability to be proper, regardless of the circumstances or situations, make her able to return to her home.

Burton’s film has a less proper Alice, but she doesn’t need to be proper to make it home here. In 2010, Alice needs, more than anything else, to be herself and nothing else. But how Burton differentiates Alice’s need to be wholly herself from being independent of her companions. In the end, Alice relies on her whole being, but she can only take the necessary steps because she is surrounded by companions, particularly the Mad Hatter, who encourage her. Each of her companions pushes her in small and not so small ways to be more her, while she in turns encourages them to be more completely who they are.

I loved following Alice on her re-discovery of herself, and I loved how the movie ended. I completely enjoyed the new places Burton and the cast took such a familiar story.

These are my gushing thoughts on Tim Burton’s re-telling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But I know my thoughts won’t be anyone else’s.

So what did you think of the movie?

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Twilight

Ok, so to begin with, I haven’t read the books yet (I’m getting them soon, but I needed to stay focused on my work through the end of the semester), and I might have spoilers from the movie.

So I went and saw Twilight tonight, and while I still want to read the book, I felt very lost and confused. I felt like I did when I watched the fourth Harry Potter movie, except that I had read that book, so I could feel in the details. So I guess what I’m saying is I felt like what I assume people who hadn’t read the books felt like – very lost and confused. This was definitely a movie whose intended audience was readers of the series. Elements of the story seemed to be taken for granted, and the character development seemed to jump from stage to stage in rather large bounds. I’m sure all of that will make more sense once I finally get to read the books, but for now it was a little disconcerting. We got to the pivotal moment in Bella’s character development for this book, and I felt as though I had been side-swiped because I didn’t see where it came from.

And all of this is without comment on the acting.

I’m not entirely sure when we shifted to the “act like you would in real life” but I don’t care for it. The characters were supposed to be in high school, so I prepared for awkward moments. I did not prepare for excruciatingly long awkward sections. Especially since most of the awkwardness was communicated through the slight twitches in the actors’ faces. And the cinematography leaned heavily on the artistic side, which is fine, except when the same movement was repeated for the 50th time.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I’m looking forward to reading the books because I felt like I just heard a dis-jointed re-telling of the story by a young uber-fan of the series, so I want to see what really happened. I’m also interested in what the movie makers left out from the books. I love a good vampire story, so I am interested to see how the author plays with our ideas of vampire and our conceptions that go along with those.