I walked into "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" with my arms firmly crossed as the whole series punches a parochial school button of mine. However, I actually ended up being thoroughly entertained and didn't sit there trying to re-analyze the Messianic messages that we were taught in school. The four children are actually quite good. But it is Tilda Swinton who stole the picture right from under the children as well as C.S. Lewis! She is every Disney villianess come to life. She is even able to perform beyond the design of her outrageous gowns. I loved her! The effects, mostly by Rythm and Hues, are seamless. It really is an impressive spectacle to see!
I walked into "The Ringer" with my arms open and ready to receive some more Farrelly Brothers sick humor starring Johnny Knoxville posing as a mentally handicapped athelete so he can win the Special Olympics! What I got was a cute movie. I hate cute. The problem? Well, it could have been a 'heel learns to love' story, but Knoxville's character is a conflicted good guy, and therefore never really commits to the sick and offensive humor that is just WAITING there to be had! In fact, it would be hard to pick out the 'bad guy' in this as none of his foes are truly developed into any kind of loathsome creature that a farce like this warrants. And don't get me started with the S L O W pacing. The friend I went with to see this actually dozed off at one point. It's just a silly little movie that's going to vanish off of everybody's radar.
The Chronicles of Narnia: "I love you, too!"
The Ringer: "Is it bedtime?"
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
"Munich"... Hmmm... Steven Spielberg (director) and Tony Kushner (screenplay)... together... Well, that's a pretty odd pairing, if you ask me. Spielberg is an entertainer, while Kushner is a lecturer, as far as I am concerned. And what they created is a pretty odd film, incorporating nearly Hitchcock like suspense and then some really dry, and fairly simplistic, discussions on ethics.
If you haven't been reading the papers, "Munich" is about Israel's response to the 1972 Munich Olympic killings of the Israeli team. Quite simply, the moral is violence begets violence. However, where Copolla was able to do it without lecturing us in "The Godfather," Spielberg/Kushner literally STOP the film after every assassination to review what happened and teach us something. The problem is, that lesson is the SAME LESSON, over and over. However, perhaps that is the TRUE moral, that regardless how many times violence is repeated and regardless of how many times a lesson is learned, violence recurs. But then, at nearly 3 hours, it really tests one's patience.
That said, the performances are generally good, with a nearly great performance from Eric Bana ("Chopper" "Hulk" "Troy"), as the leader of the assassination squad, and Daniel Craig (the 'new' James Bond) is just outrageously magnetic everytime he is on screen. Geoffrey Rush gives another nearly over-the-top performance. The production design is exemplary, of course. The cinematography seemed really odd to me, as the abrupt changes in lighting and film stock wasn't making sense.
In the end, since the film is so blatantly objective, it's going to piss off the extremists on both sides of the Mid-East conflict. However, the fact that Spielberg did NOT give this an audience pleasing ending, is a sign of how invested he is in the subject, and for that, he gets MAJOR props!
Now, due to popular demand, I shall introduce the "Maxxxxx Meter," which is made up of Maxxxxx's actual phrases. On the "Maxxxxx Meter" for "Munich," Maxxxxx says, "Is it bedtime?"
To catch up with the previous posting:
"King Kong" Maxxxxx gives it a screaming flight around the apartment, in thrill and terror!
"The Producers" Maxxxxx says, "Mmmmaxxxxxx!" and "Step up! Step up!" and a Sieg Heil with his wing!
"Brokeback Mountain" Maxxxxx says, "Wanna come out? Wanna come out?"
"Pride and Prejudice" Maxxxxx says, "Is it bedtime?"
"Mrs. Henderson Presents..." Maxxxxx gives it a 'wolf whistle'! (Well, it is about nudity on the West End!)
Monday, December 19, 2005
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Last time I went from 'rant to rave.' This time I will 'rave to rant.'
"King Kong" was another example of how much Peter Jackson likes movies. Not just 'movies' but BIG MOVIES!! His latest works are filled with the joy of what makes going to a BIG MOVIE is all about! Yes, 'Kong' is over 3 hours long. So what?! The first hour is the slowest of the three and may test the patience of those waiting to see the Big Ape, but it is a required exposition that will make the third hour all that more emotionally rewarding. The second hour is pretty much an homage to Steven Spielberg, back when Spielberg was FUN! (aka, Indy Jones, Jurassic, etc.) It is almost breathless in it's series of confrontations! The third hour is where Naomi Watts and Andy Serkis (the CGI'ed Kong) really get to shine! I was more emotionally involved in their tragic climax than I was in "Brokeback Mountain" (more on that, later). Visually, Jackson and his production design team and the Weta Workshop have created and re-created some fabulous worlds! I experienced those "is this real?!" gasps that I hadn't had since "Jurassic Park (I)" when the dino ate the man out of the out-house. I LOVED this film!
"The Producers" on the other hand doesn't create a new world as much as re-create the musical stage production, which is FINE with me! I loved the musical on stage, and Susan Stroman adapted to the screen 95% of the production. It doesn't serve so much as a 'cinematic adaptation' as it is an archival of the stage production. She does open it up, but in only two scenes ("You Can Do It!" in Central Park and "Little Old Lady Land" in the streets of New York), yet they still feel 'stage bound.' Now this is where cinema purists/critics and those who 'just like movies' are going to split. I think it mostly has to do with the cinematography. She does not break (or actually photograph) the 4th wall. In one way, it preserves the actors' moments when they DO break the '4th wall' and sing/speak directly to the audience. In another way, it anchors the film into a stage-like setting by not letting us see the entire set. (For instance, I was surprised to learn that Roger De Bris' apartment was not a set, but actually shot at a mansion.) But I think that is quibbling about cinematic aesthetics. What REALLY matters is the production itself, which I loved! There are moments that even improved on the original material as far as I am concerned, i.e. the blue blanket bit, and of course, the pigeons! (I LOVE the pigeons!!) Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Gary Beach and Roger Bart blast out their performances as if they had just opened the show! I LOVED them! Will Farrell actually stands his ground and keeps up with this 'family'. His reprise during the final credits is worth the price of the soundtrack CD! My only hesitation is Uma Thurman's 'Ulla.' She is physically perfect, and she acts the part, however she is also obviously over-dubbed in her singing and has a replacement dancer during the more difficult moves. I just don't think she is a big enough box office draw to justify her casting over someone who could fully perform the role. Other than that MINOR hesitation, I LOVED the movie, and up to the VERY END of the credits! (I want to see it again!)
"Brokeback Mountain" (aka 'the gay cowboy movie' aka 'the gay date movie of the year') did not emotionally satisfy me nearly as much as the previous two mentions. Though I LIKED this, I can't say that I loved it, much less fell prey to it's attempt to force me into a 'three hanky' sob fest, unlike many of those around me. Ang Lee is just too tasteful of a director to actually MOVE me into an emotional catharsis. The only exception to that, is "Sense and Sensibility," but I credit those moments to Emma Thompson, who wrote it and was obviously a strong enough performer to transcend Lee's emotional discretion. Heath Ledger, as well as Michelle Williams, prove to be strong enough to transcend Lee's control. However, I did not find Jake Gyllenhaal to be quite as capable. I blame it on his opening shot: Gyllenhaal and Ledger or nearly choreographed to be archetypal cowboys. Ledger is able to break from it, whereas I never thought Gyllenhall did. At that point, I was looking at them, particularly Gyllenhaal as stereotypes: 1) gay cowboys; 2) Jack = pushy bottom (which is maybe why I think Gyllenhaal seemed uncomfortable to me)/Ennis = cold top, who could only express his love through anger; 3) Jack's wife (Anne Hathaway) = long suffering and in denial; etc. There were just too many trite pieces for me to get emotionally involved. And I never felt the 'social pressure' that forbade their love as explicitly as say "Boys Don't Cry." That said, I do think that Ledger and Williams were nearly brilliant! It was their partners (Gyllenhaal and Hathaway) that didn't let it soar for me. The second unit photography is GORGEOUS! The production design is right on, which seems to be an Ang Lee specialty, i.e. "The Ice Storm" "Sense and Sensibility" "Crouching Tiger...". Overall, I LIKED it, however, I would NOT consider it the 'Best Film' of the year (NY, LA, SF and Boston Critics awards, a half dozen Golden Globe noms, etc.)
Finally, "Pride and Prejudice" was another lovely little adaptation. Keira Knightly was surprisingly GOOD as Elizabeth! Dame Judi Dench did her 'steamrolling curmudgeon' with great effectiveness and Donald Sutherland was GREAT as Elizabeth's father. However, Matthew MacFayden as Darcy was a bit... drab, and Brenda Blethyn really needs to find a new character to play, other than an overbearing mother. There were some nearly brilliant cinematic moments: the ballroom scene, overall all was spectacular in it's technical virtuosity! There is an exceptionally LONG take as we drift from room to room in the mansion, eavesdropping on a half dozen conversations; the 'crowd disappearing act' in the middle of Elizabeth's and Darcy's dance; the editing of 'across the room glances.' It was an exceptional 10 minutes out of a fairly routine Jane Austen flick. The last 5 minutes are totally out of period and character for the film and ALMOST ruins it, however.
Speaking of Dame Judi Dench, she gives a near Oscar worthy turn in "Mrs. Henderson Presents..."! The film itself is pretty confectionary, but I LAUGHED a lot and LOVED Dench and Bob Hoskins! That's all I need to say about THAT! ;)
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Maxxxxx was hatched approximately July 7, 2002. I adopted him in November of 2002. He took ownership of me during August of 2004, as he moved into the 'Terrible Twos.' The "Maxxxxx Meter" is made up of Maxxxxx's actual phrases. Currently, I am facing a possibly trans-gendered parrot as he is exhibiting female nesting behavior. His/her little hormones have kicked in. It. Is. Not. Pretty.
A RARE interview with Maxxxxx: (click there)