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Om Shanti Om (2007)
So much fun
I'm an American, and have not seen very many Bollywood films -- Three Idiots, Saariwaya, and one or two others in passing -- but I know a spoof when I see it. This movie was a romp -- overdone theatrics, over-the-top musical numbers, and lots of wink-wink-nudge-nudge allusions. Actually, I probably missed most of those -- but I got enough of them to keep smiling all the way through. Nicely plotted, plenty of really good catch-lines, and warm-hearted at the core. I especially like the end credits, where crew members and the usually faceless support people did a kind of 'red carpet' appearance, to the applause and cheers of the mob. Great bit at the very end, where the director/writer got out of the tuk-tuk for her moment, and everybody was .... well, no spoilers here. Just watch the film. Well worth your time.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
incredibly strong storyline
Wow. Tsunami of clank -- one of the few science fiction offerings of late where the technology wow factor is off the scale. Gravity vector surfing boots? Spacesuit in a box? invisible shielding -- OK, that's been done before, but rarely on the scale or with the slickness of this film. Fabulous CGI -- well worth the additional tweaking that went on.
It could have been one hot mess -- involved story lines, gigantic milieu to offer and explain, tangled corporate information, complex familial relationships. But the Wachowskis deliver it all up with laser focus, and you never get so snowed in by characters or situations that you lose your way. From the seemingly simple beginning to the equally seemingly simple ending, you are kept to a logical course that allows you to accept some very complex details without a hiccup. The plot line is so focused that the audience accepts willingly the vast implications of the bigger picture.
This was a fun, fun, fun movie -- slick, great chemistry between the cast members, fabulous special effects which never overshadow the heart and soul of the humans at the center of everything.
Liked the message
For those wanting a 'genuine' mythology Hercules; this is not the movie for you. For those wanting a dark and realistic take on Hercules; this is not really the movie for you. For those hoping for popcorn fare, a little gory for a ten year old but just about right for a 13 or 14 year old, for those hoping for solid acting performances, well-choreographed fight scenes, and pretty high production values, then this is your show. And it's got a strong positive message that even those put off by the occasional splash of blood, the fleeting glimpse of bare female bottom, or the single comic use of the 'F' word would agree is something the American public occasionally needs to hear. Is it sort of formulaic? Yeah. So what? There are plenty of formulaic movies that have risen above stereotype into archetype. This isn't one of them, but it was worth the price of admission and the time spent. I'm glad Johnson got this movie done, and glad that I watched it.
shame. on. you
Poorly written. Poorly researched. Abysmal production values. Obvious propaganda. But what really, really enraged me was the head-wagging going on in the 100% white, middle-aged audience around me. How can so many people my age swallow this claptrap? Did something happen to their brains once they reached 45 or so that made them forget the vigorous, forward-thinking, terminally optimistic country that came through two world wars, the Civil Rights upheavals and Vietnam without rending itself to pieces? Is it fear of death that has somehow taken away their willingness to participate in our great, complex country? More importantly, is a multi-racial president all it takes to transform what used to be the progressive, 'can-do' people of my generation (yes, most of the yoiks in the audience were people my age) and turn them into xenophobic crybabies moaning 'waaa, I don't recognize my country any more!'? Lord, people, grow up! Our country is indeed exceptional, and is still exceptional, and the only danger we face is the danger of rolling up into a flag-draped ball of righteous fear and indignation because America right now is a whole lot more complex and diverse than you remember it from your childhood. (Um, it's actually always been more diverse. You were a child, then, and children don't see the big picture, you know). This film is appalling. And the audiences that love it need to get a grip and stop trying to hold back the future.
just as funny the second time around
We got hooked on Doc Martin when the first two seasons were offered on Netflix -- love the Cornish landscape and love the slightly scruffy and very quirky denizens of this corner of England. Imagine my surprise when I found out that there were two films previous to the series, and finally sat down to watch them. The first was really cute -- it was nice to see the Doctor not so crusty and more human than he is in the series, but the second one absolutely cracked me up. Nicely plotted, so many subtle digs at stereotypical Londoners, but not so stereotypical that they were trite. Loved the magical moments, and the last scene just ties everything up in a big bow -- I fell off the couch laughing, happy to leave the Doc with things perfectly in order (for Cornwall). A very feel-good movie, and well worth watching twice.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
magical, thought-provoking, very, very watchable
I can understand how most people view this film within the context of Hurricane Katrina. But even as a former denizen of the Gulf coast who sat out Alicia, Claudette, Allen, Rita, and Ike, I view this film in a much, much larger context. It goes beyond stereotype and into archetype -- the denizens of the Bathtub aren't poor drunks at the mercy of the environment, they are The People of the world they inhabit. Hushpuppy doesn't have a drunk father, she has a Father, with many of the faults and strengths of the immortal epic heroes -- anger, pride, genuine love and concern. Hushpuppy herself isn't just a little girl, she is The Child -- the purveyor of a magic which is real, intimately connected with her world, imaginatively linked with All Things. The outside world is a place of Things and Machines, of paperwork and rules -- and is never actually named, you see, because that would diminish it. Everything in this film exists within the realm of archetype, and if you watch it with that in mind, its multiple messages take on cosmic significance. Beautifully shot, beautifully acted -- it's going to take a few more days for the entire thing to completely sink in. Outstanding!
Captures the tone
Although I've read all three of the books (structurally, they're really 3 installments of one big honking novel), I haven't seen the Swedish movies. Forget about the books. Forget about the other movies. On its own, this adaptation does manage to capture the general tone and resonance of the novels, and it does this with admirable brevity and to-the-bone editing. There is a bleakness in the novels that is nicely encapsulated by the exterior and interior backgrounds. Snow. The sterility of Martin Vanger's modern house on the hill. The cool patina of years on the old cottage's walls, furniture, and stonework. The camera dwells on Lizbeth Salander's inexpressive face and you can almost hear her complex gears spinning away. The lighting director in this film is a genius -- and so is the cinematographer -- emotions are relayed in light and shadow so well, and the camera angles nudge our tensions without being overt about it. It's not perfect, of course. No movie version of a well-plotted novel ever is. But it strives to do the story justice, and manages to accomplish its task.
One of the better Hamlets
No matter how many times I see Hamlet (and I've seen it a LOT), I always seem to be in directorial mode, mostly to the detriment of what I'm watching. This is one of only two Hamlets where I was capable of actually watching the PLAY, rather than the director's mistakes. Tennant's very tense and tightly-wound Prince exhibits a pain and obtusion almost excruciating to watch. The contemporary gloss (LOVED those black interiors, shiny floors, endless reaches of doors and columns and the infinite dark starkness) doesn't feel superficial and does not distract at all from the text, unless you're one of those Renaissance Purists. Patrick Stewart's Claudius was slick, smooth, menacing, and (oddly enough), almost touchingly revealing. This production's Queen Gertrude had that haggard, 'wanna be young' angst seen in so many truly beautiful women once they hit fifty -- and I liked that she seemed to age as the battalions of misfortune kept coming in waves. Most importantly, I liked that the director allowed the TEXT to take center stage, rather than some radical new interpretational agenda. For once, a director that allows the audience to draw their own conclusions.
Be Kind Rewind (2008)
Subtle, sweet, and LOL, shake-your-head strange
I'm not usually a fan of Jack Black, even though I know darn well that he's actually a fine actor when he's not playing something outrageously stereotypical, but he snuck up on me in this one, as did Mos Def. Nice ensemble cast -- engaging, non-Hollywood dialog, strange happenings that, nonetheless, sucker you in so that you just go ahead and buy into the odd little plot premises. Most importantly, these characters, despite their strangeness, are more recognizably human than a whole lot of film characters. They might live next door, or in the next town, or just down the street. Not smart, particularly. Not always attractive. Just Human. Loved the cleverness of these shoestring budget movie makers (as a director of HS theater, I've been there and done that on stage) Finally, loved, loved, loved what this film says about how Americans are always buying into their own mythology -- or creating it out of whole cloth (or cardboard) when the facts are inconvenient.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
thank you thank you Del Toro
What a wonderful display of this director's talents -- love love love all the clockworks in this movie; if imagination is a machine, Del Toro's is an incredibly complex, Goldbergesque windup of gargantuan size. How nice, too, to have such a wonderful ensemble of characters -- Hellboy himself is one helluva scene-stopper, but he in no way overpowers any of the others. They feed on each other -- and every single one of them is fully formed and three dimensional -- even the dimensionless gaseous ectoplasm. The movieworld universe has been immeasurably enriched! Hellboy originally was visually stunning, but Del Toro really has surpassed himself. He's even managed to surpass his own work in Pan's Labyrinth. Amazing. Simply Amazing.