Movies

Interesting movies for 2013

Here are the movies I’ll be interested in checking out in the upcoming year:

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Oz: The Great and Powerful

March 8, 2013.  Mixed feelings about this.  While I think the overall idea could be a ton of fun, I’m worried it will turn out generic and uninspired.  But I’ll give it a chance.

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The Croods

March 22, 2013.  This is the film one of my animation mentors from DreamWorks was working on while I studied animation.  The trailers were funny, but I still don’t know what the overall story is about.

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The Host

March 29, 2013.  Yes, it’s based on a book by the author of the Twilight, but this one doesn’t look like romance, so hopefully I’ll be safe from such girlish daydreams.  The main reason I’m interested in this film is director Andrew Niccol, in whose work I have yet to be disappointed.

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Jurassic Park 3D

April 5, 2013.  This is one of my favorite films of all time.  I can’t wait to see it in 3D.  Roar.
Man of Steel

June 14, 2013.  I normally have no interest in Superman, and have yet to see any film or TV show featuring this silly flying alien man in tights.  However, the trailers were intriguing, and with a screen story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, a screenplay by David S. Goyer, and the awesome eye for fantastic visuals of director Zack Snyder, I’ll check it out.

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Monsters University

June 21, 2013.  While Pixar slips away from the glory it once was, and continues to descend into the depths of series-dom, we are given a prequel to Monsters, Inc.  Honestly, this looks rather uninspired, but I’ll give it a chance just because they are Pixar.

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Despicable Me 2

July 5, 2013.  OK, even though I just said that series-dom was a depth to be descended to, some films have obvious sequel potential.  I still have no idea what this sequel will be about, but the first one was funny enough that I think I will enjoy seeing these characters return.

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Pacific Rim

July 12, 2013.  From director Guillermo del Toro.  I guess it’s about giant robots fighting mystical monsters near the coast of the Pacific.  The trailer looked awesome; definitely a huge special effects film.

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Turbo

July 16, 2013.  This animated feature from DreamWorks has something to do with a snail who dreams of being a racer.  But, wait.  Snails are slow!  Whatever will happen?  Don’t know much about this film yet, but I’ll keep an eye on it.

 

The Seventh Son

October 18, 2013.  I know nothing about this, but I like the look and feel of the production photographs that have been released, and the storyline from IMDb sounds interesting enough for me: “John Gregory, a seventh son of a seventh son and the local Spook, has protected the country from witches, boggarts, ghouls, and all manner of things that go bump in the night.  However, John is not young anymore and has been seeking out an apprentice to carry on his trade.  Most have failed to survive.  The last hope to the county a young farmer’s son named Thomas Ward…”  OK, let’s go.

 

Ender’s Game

November 1, 2013.  My favorite sci-fi novel turned into a movie?  Impossible.  While it’s based on the book, the spirit of the book is very internal, very thought-driven, making it un-filmable.  So the success of this film will depend on director Gavin Hood’s interpretation; what he adds to it as much as what he’s forced to take out.  I look forward to watching it, but I can’t imagine it living up to the book.  But if it helps steer some audiences towards the book, that’s not a bad thing.  And it’s got Harrison Ford, who is perfect for his role.

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Frozen

November 29, 2013.  From Disney Animation comes an animated interpretation of my favorite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale: The Snow Queen.  It looks like they’re changing around a lot of the story, though, as Disney tends to do.  We’ll see.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

December 13, 2013.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was fantastic.  So of course I’m looking forward to the second chapter.

 

Saving Mr. Banks

December 20, 2013.  This Disney live-action drama, starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P. L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins books, tells the behind-the-scenes (but surely embellished, because Uncle Walt never did evil) story of creating Disney’s classic film, Mary Poppins.

And that’s it for now.  Lots to look forward to.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Philosophy

Trust

I think there’s a lot of stress and fear out there. The basic fears: Will I find a job? Will I have enough money? Enough food? Shelter? And then there are deeper fears that claw at one’s heart, even if people are too afraid to challenge them face to face: Am I good-looking? Am I loved? Am I worthy of love? Am I worth anything? Am I a good person? Do I belong here?

What saddens me just as much as the recent shooting is the number of people encouraging others to be enraged by it, to fuel themselves with the spirit of anger. The idea that anger and rage will somehow bring about justice is a terrible folly; these emotions only make truth harder to see. The world is ruled more by the spirit of our hearts than the coverage of our laws. We should be working for heart change more than law change. Otherwise, even with stricter laws, things are going to get much worse.

If you want to make a huge difference, think of the person or types of people you hate the most, and abandon that hate, give it up. And when someone or something makes you feel hurt and hated and fills you with that rage again, give it up again. You may not see the ripple effect this will produce; this world is too complex for our tiny minds. But all humans are connected and it will ripple. We may still disagree on things, but then our discussions will be fueled by love of truth, not contempt for rivalry.

And give up your fears. It’s a supreme, almost unnatural act of trust, but there is no real wisdom in suffering yourself with them.

Somebody else already taught these things a couple thousand years ago, but His message is doubted or ignored, perhaps because it sounds too good to be true, or perhaps because we think we’re too modern and smart for it nowadays. We’ll be celebrating His birth soon, a good time to remember that it’s all true. And this physical life is just the beginning.

God bless.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Movies

Lord of the Rings marathon was great!

lotrmarathon

Today (or yesterday, I suppose, since it’s 2 AM) I spent about thirteen hours in the movie theater watching a Lord of the Rings Extended Editions trilogy marathon.  About twenty to thirty people showed up; I thought it would be more popular, but I guess thirteen hours is a rather long time.  I thought it might test my stamina, but I was able to watch attentively without getting tired or getting a sore back (they had good comfy seats, good for tall people), or having to go to the bathroom halfway through a film, though I’m sure sitting for thirteen hours wasn’t very healthy at all.  Watching in a theater also offered less distractions, whereas if I did a marathon at home, I’d probably be pausing the film all the time.  Although we didn’t have the biggest screen of the theater, it was still much more glorious to see and hear these epic films on such a big screen than on a home TV.  It’s just awesome when movies like these take up more of your visual field, and the theater’s 4K projectors are wonderful.  (I’d love to get one for my home, they’re only $25K…)

Finally, even though I’ve seen the films plenty of times, they continue to inspire and excite me.  I got some good energy to finish my novel-in-progress, and continued to get new story ideas from the trilogy’s wealth of material.

I would love to live in some place that was a combo of Bag End, Rivendell, Lothlórien, and Minas Tirith, but that was also a space ship.  I guess it would be called Bagendellorienirith, Firefly-class.

Anyway, awesome stuff.  I loved it!  Let’s do it again!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Movies

Wobble through Les Miserables!

A small collection of clips from the upcoming musical film Les Miserables were uploaded to YouTube a couple days ago. For example, this one:

My thoughts:

Musically, sounds good. The singing sounds good, save for Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, who’s rapid vibrato makes it sound like she’s singing while driving over a bumpy road. I’m not sure the “live singing” adds anything spectacular, at least not in these brief clips, but it certainly doesn’t take anything away.

Camera-work wise, GAH!! I don’t mind the close-ups and the wide-angles, which I think will look awesome on the big screen, but why the wobbly handheld look? Is this a home-made movie? Is this a British TV show? Why can’t the English learn to hold a camera steady?

The worst example is in this clip, at about 35 seconds:

Oh, yes, let’s glance down at the letters and then back up at his face…? Very unprofessional looking. It makes me, as an audience member, feel like I’m not there, like elements of the scene are being concealed from me, like I’m being forced to watch something through the eyes of a tipsy drunken man. Ugh.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Movies

Thoughts on Rise of the Guardians

I saw the latest animated feature from DreamWorks recently, Rise of the Guardians, and I had the theater to myself, woohoo!  Here are my thoughts.  I think they’re spoiler free.  I can’t promise, though.

The movie tells the tale of the mythical Jack Frost, who is summoned to become a “Guardian” to protect the children of the world from forces of fear and hopelessness, personified by the guy with the British accent, Pitch, aka the Boogie Man.

The Good

I loved the visual look and feel of the film.  They really captured the mystery, wonder, storybook-ish magical-ness, and grandeur of the characters and their worlds.  It was visually fantastic.  DreamWorks can really nail it with their fantasy-oriented features.

I enjoyed the . . . what is it?  Symbolism?  The idea of the moon as God.  If all the story ideas I have were published books, you’d see that I very much enjoy the idea of moons symbolizing powerful mysterious forces beyond human understanding.  There’s something very natural about it, something very primal about being awed by a moon.  It is a definite theme in my current novel-in-progress, Moonrise Ink.

I liked the idea of the main character, Jack Frost, having lost memories.  I won’t give anything away, but that’s another story element I tend to enjoy, mysterious forgotten memories, at least when the characters still have personalities without them.

Finally, there was some good humor.  Overall, it was kind of hit or miss, but I did laugh out loud quite a few times, more than I did in Wreck-It Ralph.

The Not So Good

One of my pet peeves is characters talking to themselves for the sake of exposition.  It is such lazy writing.  In this film, the villain especially loved to speak his intentions to no one.

There were so many moments in the film that could’ve been aided with some epic musical thematic scoring, but all we get are rinky-tink sprinkles of orchestration.  Come on, gimme a melody!  (Ah, sure… I know… it’s not that kind of show…)  I prefer a John Powell How to Train Your Dragon sort of score.

Another thing that annoyed me was the whole idea of children needing to “believe.”  The problem with belief being a force of good in and of itself is that it’s too vague.  Belief in what?  Belief in Santa Clause?  Belief in wonder?  It’s too vague for anything primal to be at stake.  Fear is set up as the opposing force, but belief and fear are not opposites.  You have to believe in something to fear it, after all.  What is the opposite of fear?  That should have been the force of good.  (Of course, fear is also a rather vague force.  Fear of what?)

There’s a little girl in the movie with disgusting messed up hair.  Is that supposed to be cute?  It’s not.  It’s gross.  Take a shower and brush your hair.

Overall, many scenes felt far too rushed.  I really wanted to see some slower contemplative moments, with perhaps characters casually playing around with or using their powers or something.  I wanted to get a feeling for what these characters and their worlds were like in their off-time.  It’s easier to feel a world with the little things.  Being constantly over the top seems to be an American habit.  But when everything is over the top, nothing is.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Non-fiction books

You belong to Universe

mastery

I’m reading Mastery, the latest book from author Robert Greene (author of the classic book The 48 Laws of Power).  On page 42, Greene writes about Buckminster Fuller.  A depressed Fuller was on his way to commit suicide when he heard a voice from within himself that said:

“From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought.  You think the truth.  You do no have the right to eliminate yourself.  You do not belong to you.  You belong to Universe.  Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.”

I am not sure what the first line means.  What is “temporal attestation”?  From the context, I guess it means that you do not have to wait around to see whether or not your thought is true; whatever you think right now is true, based on your experiences.  It may not be true in the sense that it may not correlate with reality, but it is still valid in and of itself.  If you gain new experiences, as you inevitably will, you are obligated to form new thoughts based on them, not to refuse them in the name of pride or fear.  That’s my Karl Popper-ish guess, at least; it may be something both deeper and simpler than that.

“You do not have the right to eliminate yourself.  You do not belong to you.  You belong to Universe.”  This certainly struck me.  There are people who have had powerful conversions after suicide attempts who also mention learning that their life is not their own to eliminate.  And certainly much of today’s political and spiritual misery probably arises from the idea that each man belongs only to himself, and not to “Universe” (or God as we might say).

While a man’s significance in this life may forever be obscure to him, I don’t think it will remain that way forever.  I believe part of the comfort and joy of Heaven, that feeling of being “at home”, comes from being able to see oneself fully, and to see the connection between oneself and the rest of existence.  However, I cannot confirm this.  (Yet.)

The “advantage” of others seems a subjective thing.  I can easily imagine someone wanting from me something I cannot or will not give, claiming it would be to his advantage, whether it be my money, my approval of something I cannot approve, my time, my agreement, or my indifference to his words and actions.  That is, you do not get to decide for others or for the Universe (God) what would be to your advantage; it is not merely the fulfillment of your latest natural desire, such as money or the adoration of others.  To know what would be to the “advantage” of others is the wisdom we ask the Universe for, in the name of and for the sake of the Universe.

Anyway, the main principle I take away from this is that I am not living my life for the sake of itself.  While working on my novel or any of my projects, it’s easy to get sidetracked daydreaming of fame and fortune, wanting a piece of the power that the “big names” in the entertainment industry have.  And, on the business side of things, that’s how the world encourages one to think.  Money and power are the validators, and the foundations for getting anything done.  But that’s not where the fulfillment in a project comes from.

It also makes me that much more interested in the life and works of good old Bucky.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Movies

Some thoughts on Wreck-It Ralph

Not a review, just some thoughts. A few SPOILERS below, so don’t read if you plan on watching the movie and don’t want spoilers.

I saw Disney’s latest animated feature Wreck-It Ralph today. I was expecting good things from all the positive reviews I had heard about it.

But…

Perhaps I’m overanalyzing it (a favorite pastime of mine), but I didn’t quite connect with the story. I suppose what didn’t quite work for me was that the “be who you are” theme didn’t quite fit the main character’s real problem. That is, the main character’s problem wasn’t about accepting “who he was”; rather, it was about other characters not realizing that he wasn’t the same person as his “game character.”

At the beginning of the film, the other characters in his game (“Fix-it Felix”) treat him like dirt. Why? I have no idea. My best guess is that they believe he really wants to wreck everything just because he’s the villain, when really he just wants what all the characters want: to be loved and accepted as an equal. He doesn’t wreck things after the game is over, after all. He doesn’t go around trying to kill people. Wrecking isn’t what he wants to do in and of itself; it’s what he has to do as part of the game.

So, to me, it seems like the problem of the story centers around the other characters in Ralph’s game not understanding that Ralph is actually a nice guy who is simply “playing” the villain for the sake of the game. And yet it’s Ralph who, as the main character, has to go on an adventure to learn… to learn what? To “accept” who he is? To learn who he is? But that was never really the problem to begin with! The problem was that other people were treating him like dirt.

And then, at the end of the film, they come to love him. Problem solved. Why do they love him at the end of the film? How did he prove himself? Why did he ever have to prove himself to begin with?

All that said, it was a fun movie. Wonderful animation, wonderful look and feel, wonderful use of 3D, wonderful references written in graffiti, and wonderful pixelations.  I just had trouble understanding the overall theme.

Also, have you noticed that, similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Toy Story, Disney can somehow get a bunch of other franchises to participate in their movie, even while they’re actually just helping Disney build their own franchise, with Disney’s original characters at the center? Clever Disney.

By S P Hannifin, ago