Movies

Movies watched in June and July 2012

I never did a list for June, so I’ll have to combine June and July.

flypaper

Flypaper

This 2011 thriller tells the story of a man who finds himself trapped in a bank as it is robbed by two sets of criminals at the same time.  The man decides to play detective and tries to figure out what is going on.  This film was on TV during a free trial of some movie channel on DirecTV.  Most of the humor was too raunchy or stupid for me, but it did have some funny parts.  It did have an interesting and engaging whodunit mystery to it, which did keep me guessing until the end, yet still made sense; not an easy accomplishment, so I applaud the writers for that.  I enjoyed the mystery of it.  Fun movie, but the raunchy humor will probably prevent me from ever wanting to watch it again.

raisingarizona

Raising Arizona

I got this 1987 film as part of a blu-ray 4-pack called From the Minds of the Coen Brothers, which was on sale at Best Buy for $20.  The other films included Blood Simple, Fargo, and Miller’s Crossing.  I really just wanted Miller’s Crossing, as it was the only film in the pack I had seen, but I had seen pieces of Fargo on TV and wanted to see that as well.  And $20 seemed like a great value for four blu-rays.  Anyway, Raising Arizona tells the story of a man and wife who can’t have children, so they decide to steal a baby from a local rich man who they think has too many.  Of course you know they’re going to eventually change their hearts and realize that stealing a baby is not OK, but it’s a comedy.  While there were some funny parts, most of it was just too off the wall and far-fetched for me.

bloodsimple

Blood Simple

This 1985 Coen Brothers film tells a story about . . . uh . . . hmmm.  It’s kind of all over the place.  One guy hires a hit man to kill his ex-wife’s new love interest.  But the hit man has plans of his own, as does just about everyone else.  Murder, attempted murder, and evidence cover-ups abound.  I found it more humorous than Raising Arizona, and the story was engaging.  Fun movie.

kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin

This 2011 film tells the story of a mother’s difficult relationship with her son, and how she copes with life after her son is goes on a killing spree at school.  The premise makes you think the story will explore some pretty tough emotional places.  After all, what leads people to do such horrendous things?  Unfortunately the characters made no sense.  They got mad and angry and sad and manipulative and frustrated for no understandable reasons, which made their actions even less understandable.  It’s as if they were all brooding over doubts on the worth of the point of existing at all, every now and then doing something for the sake of moving the story along.  I didn’t understand this film.

extremelyloud

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

This 2011 film tells the story of a middle-grade child who loses his father in the 9/11 tragedy.  He discovers a mysterious key his father left behind, and, as a way of coping with his father’s death, sets out to find what the key goes to.  I enjoyed some things about this film.  I liked the premise, and the acting was good, especially Max von Sydow as an elderly mute.  Unfortunately the emotional impact of the tragedy that begins the story was lessened for me by the disjointed way it unfolds.  Instead of letting us see everything that happens to the protagonist on 9/11, the writers keep important parts of that tragic day a secret throughout the film, until the protagonist reveals it at the climax.  By then, it had lost a significant amount of its potential emotional punch.  Overall, good film, but with some glaring weaknesses.  (Also, somebody destroy that tambourine please.)

humancondition3

The Human Condition – Part 3: A Soldier’s Prayer

This 1961 film is the final installment of the epic trilogy of The Human Condition.  Our main character Kaji escapes from the battlefield and attempts to journey home.  But the country is still distressed by the hardships of war, and Kaji has many battles left to fight, even if not with his gun.  Great (if tragic) conclusion to the great (if tragic) trilogy.

starfighter

The Last Starfighter

This 1984 film is based on the daydream that a popular video game is actually a test for recruiters fighting space battles.  The effects are charmingly cheesy and the story is weak, but there’s a spirit in the film that the filmmakers know this and are making it anyway, because it’s fun.  The biggest story weakness was that the setup takes so long, the protagonist goes to such great lengths to refuse his quest, that when he finally accepts what he must do, it’s time for the film’s climax.  It makes the point of his quest seem unimportant, as if all he ever had to do was push a button.  Boring movie.

silencelambs

The Silence of the Lambs

This classic 1991 thriller tells the story of an FBI agent who enlists the help of the deadly psychopath cannibal Hannibal Lecter to help her track down a serial killer on the loose.  I found Hannibal’s cannibalism, or at least its portrayal, to be more comic than disturbing, but the other serial killer, and what he likes to collect from his victims, was quite disturbing indeed.  I want to say it was a fun movie, but it was really more disgusting than anything else.

manonledge

Man on a Ledge

This 2012 thriller tells the story of a man who walks out on the ledge of a tall building, appearing to be pondering suicide.  But there’s more to his plan than meets the eyes, as it’s really part of an elaborate plot to clear his name from a crime he was framed for.  It was all kind of confusing and farfetched, but fun, I guess.

prometheus

Prometheus

This 2012 sci-fi movie from director Ridley Scott is the prequel to Alien, which I have yet to see.  Anyway, a team of scientists land on an alien planet to investigate . . . something.  I can’t remember.  And then, oh no, there are evil alien things that want to kill them!  Oh no!  OK, it was actually much more engaging than I can make it sound.  And the 3D effects, especially the crashing of the spaceship, were quite beautiful to watch on the big screen.  It had a great music score as well.  I’m not sure if the writers are people of faith, but there is a character who is asked why he believes something, and he replies something like, “It’s what I choose to believe.”  If you’re a person of faith and this answer makes sense to you, that’s fine.  But if I were an atheist and asking this question in honesty, the answer seems rather arbitrary, if not circular.  Why not believe something else?  Why is this what you choose?  Can’t you be more specific?  It would’ve been nice if the film had let faith dig a little deeper than settling with what might be understood as an arbitrary choice.  Also, there’s a robot character who claims that lack of emotions make him better able to make good decisions.  Similar to the reason the character of Spock annoys me, I don’t understand this notion.  To make a decision is to have an emotion.  Emotion is an aid to decision making.  I don’t understand the notion that the emotion and decision-making can be or should be divorced, as if emotions are somehow prevented from ever being rational themselves.  Anyway, Prometheus was a fun movie, even if I have philosophical problems with some of the characters.

seventhseal

The Seventh Seal

This 1957 Ingmar Bergman film explores the nature of how man lives constantly trapped in the shadow of death as a man challenges death himself to a chess match when he comes calling.  The premise makes the film sound more interesting than it is, as it really doesn’t explore any deep ethical or philosophical ideas about death.  It just says, “Oh my, we’re all going to die!  Isn’t that interesting to think about!”  Really?  Gee, I never thought of that before!  Still, there’s something fantastically fascinating about making death a character, instead of just some shadowy theme that hangs around in metaphors.  Somewhat fun movie, but mostly boring.

burnnotice4

Burn Notice – Season 4

Finished watching the fourth season of Burn Notice from 2010 on DVD.  Another fun season; the fast paced thrilling action, intriguing villains, creative solutions to messy situations, and fiery explosions remain as addicting as salty potato chips without the side-effects of over-eating.  I look forward to more seasons, whenever I can get my hands on the DVDs.

fargo

Fargo

This 1996 Coen Brothers comedy was darkly hilarious.  A man hatches a plan to have his own wife kidnapped so that his father-in-law will pay a ransom, which he’ll get a cut of.  But things go wrong, of course, people get murdered, and the sweet charming hospitable police woman Marge investigates.  The hilarity lies in the over-the-top situations (oddly the very same reason Raising Arizona didn’t work for me), mixed with the believable acting, from the warm and welcoming Marge to the terribly annoying Jerry Lundegaard.  Great movie.

devilsbackbone

The Devil’s Backbone

This 2001 film from director Guillermo del Toro tells the story of a boy who’s dropped off at an orphanage for boys during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.  And, wouldn’t you know it, the orphanage is haunted by a young ghost boy who was murdered by someone working there at the orphanage.  Like del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, while there is some ugly violence to the drama, under the story there’s a peaceful and welcoming assurance that you that as long as your heart is in the right place, the world’s ugliness is really nothing to fear.  Great movie.

chronicle

Chronicle

This 2012 action comedy tells the story of three teenagers who obtain super powers.  But one of the teenagers is so angsty, that he uses his powers for evil!  While the premise was fun, and the parts meant to be humorous were fun, the overall story didn’t make much sense, as the characters’ motivations for doing things didn’t make much sense (hey, teenagers go to parties, let’s have that).  I think the biggest problem was that the story was told from the POV of a handheld camera, as in Cloverfield.  But, in Chronicle, there’s no reason for it at all.  If you really gained super powers, why in the world would your first thought be to record it all on camera?  It makes many of the elements of the story seem forced as the filmmakers wonder, “Hmmm, how do we work that handheld camera in this scene?”  Disappointing movie.

ran

Ran

This 1985 film was the last epic from director Akira Kurosawa, and starred Tatsuya Nakadai (Kaji from The Human Condition).  It’s very much a retelling of King Lear set in ancient Japan.  A powerful ruler decides to abdicate his powerful position and split his lands between his three sons, who of course do not want to listen to their father for one reason or another.  Battle and tragedy ensue.  As in Kagemusha, it seems Kurosawa loved over-the-top, almost frightening make-up to show his main character’s descent into tragic madness.  The photography was also very flat, like grand paintings, which made the film seem as if you were watching moving illustrations in some history book rather than realistic intimate depictions, but I imagine this is what Kurosawa was going for.  While this film certainly had some great moments, I could hardly stand just sitting there watching the white-faced Nakadai stare blankly at the screen.  Some of the battles also dragged on and on (though it didn’t get as bad as the dying horses in Kagemusha).  Overall, though, fun film.

dinnergame

The Dinner Game

This 1998 French comedy tells the story a man who plays a “dinner game” which involves finding someone he thinks is an idiot and bringing him to dinner as a guest so that he and his intellectual friends can make fun of the idiocy of each other’s idiots.  (It was remade in America as Dinner for Schmucks, which I’m guessing was much more raunchy and probably dumber.)  Unfortunately, he never gets to the dinner, as he throws out his back, and his wife leaves him.  And who’s there to help him through the situation?  The idiot he invited inside, of course, who only makes things worse.  Most of the movie takes place on one night in one room as the idiot tries to help the man track down his wife through phone conversations and inviting other friends over, a bit like an extended sitcom.  Pretty hilarious movie.

monkeys

12 Monkeys

This 1995 wacky sci-fi from Terry Gilliam didn’t make any sense.  A man from a post-apocalyptic future is sent back to the past to uncover how a deadly toxin came to destroy much of the breathable air on the Earth’s surface.  And it has something to do with an underground organization called “12 Monkeys.”  It could hardly follow it, or perhaps I just wasn’t interested in trying.

harakiri

Harakiri

This 1962 film from director Masaki Kobayashi (director of The Human Condition) and yet again starring Tatsuya Nakadai tells the tale of a samurai who arrives at an estate and requests to use their courtyard to commit harakiri (suicide consisting of sticking a blade into your gut and slicing open your intestines).  But before he does, he tells the story of why he’s really there, revealing how tragically immoral and hypocritical the warriors of the estate are.  Great film.  (On a side note, the film was remade in 3D in 2011 by director Takashi Miike.  Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll have the opportunity to see it in 3D in theaters, as theaters around here don’t play foreign films, but I would definitely like to see it at some point.  Miike’s 13 Assassins was great, though his portrayal of violence and disturbing imagery is sometimes too over-the-top for me.)

cinema

Cinema Paradiso

This 1988 film tells the story of a young boy who grows up in the 1940s and 50s obsessed with films.  He grows fond of the local cinema’s projectionist, begging to learn how the projector works.  Later, he becomes interested in making his own films, but remains close friends with the projectionist.  The story is great, as is the incredibly beautiful musical score by Ennio Morricone.  Great movie, and I think the ending scene, even if a bit predictable, is the best ending of any film I’ve ever seen.

rublev

Andrei Rublev

This boring film from 1966 tells the story of artist Andrei Rublev as he struggles with his life and faith in the poverty and violence-filled 15th century medieval Russia.  While most of the film was rather boring, I admit I was on the edge of my seat watching to see whether or not the giant bell they make near the end of the film would work or not.  But the rest of the film was rather boring.  Now and then there were some interesting religious and philosophical discussions, but nothing mind-bendingly engaging.

west

Once Upon a Time in the West

This 1968 spaghetti western from director Sergio Leone tells the story of a woman who inherits a piece of land which is worth a great fortune due to its location.  Gun battles ensue over twisted plots of killing or protecting the landowner.  Another great score from Ennio Morricone.  While the pace was sometimes slow, I thought if it was any faster it might’ve been hard to understand the constant twists and turns of the long story.  Great film.

z

Z

This 1969 French political thriller tells the story of the aftermath of the assassination of some important politician (yeah, I don’t know my world political history).  While the film makes you want to see the assassinators caught and the conspiracy uncovered, it doesn’t bring you to the edge of your seat about it.  It reminded me a bit of The French Connection, in how the story is told with handheld-ish documentary-style cameras, running through the streets alongside people.  Overall it was kind of boring.

brave

Brave

Pixar’s new 2012 film tells the story of a princess who, in typical princess fashion, doesn’t want to marry any of the uncharming princes offered to her.  But the real story begins when she accidentally puts a magical curse upon her mother, and must strive to break the spell and mend their relationship.  Unfortunately, the story was a bit of a mess, especially for Pixar’s usually high standards.  The main problem was lack of focus.  The conflict starts out as a princess battling a fate forced upon her, then turns into a relationship conflict.  Add in a magic system that makes little sense and some characters that have no personality and only speak for comic relief, and the end result is a bit of a hodge-podge.  Despite the mess, there are some nice heartfelt moments.  Finally, the title makes no sense, as bravery is only a thin thread of a theme in the film.  The original title, The Bear and the Bow, fits much better, in my opinion.  (You can go ahead and hire me as a creative executive, Pixar.)

redoctober

The Hunt for Red October

Based on the Tom Clancy novel, this 1990 thriller tells the story of the Soviet captain of a submarine called “Red October.”  He abandons his orders and goes rogue.  Now it’s up to Jack Ryan to find out why and prevent a war from starting when both nations are already on edge.  Fun movie.  It also has a great music score.

magician

The Magician

This 1958 film from director Ingmar Bergman once again stars Max von Sydow, this time as a mysterious magician.  When he and his troupe are investigated for fraud, the magician must prove what his acts are all about.  It reminded me a bit of The Prestige; there’s an interesting theme about how artists relate to their audiences, how both artists and audiences know it’s all a trick, but art is about letting oneself be manipulated for the sake of experiencing emotions.  Great film.

usualsuspects

The Usual Suspects

This 1995 movie tells the story of . . . oh, who cares?  This movie was dumb.

insidious

Insidious

This 2011 horror thriller tells the story of a kid who slips into a coma while something strange and mysterious begins haunting his family’s new house.  Things go from cheesy to ultra-super-cheesy when it is revealed just what is haunting the house and how to set things right.  But it was so ridiculous, that it was actually somewhat fun to watch.

terminator

The Terminator

This classic 1984 film tells the story of the infamous killing robot and the victim he pursues, the famous Sarah Connor.  How this ever became popular, I don’t know.  I reckon the sequel elevated its status?  This is really a cheesy, poorly written piece of slop.

orphanage

The Orphanage

This 2007 thriller tells the haunting tale of a woman who lives in a house that used to be an orphanage.  One day, her son tragically goes missing.  To find him, the woman will have to uncover what happened to the children of the orphanage.  This is one of the few ghost stories I’ve found to be both genuinely creepy and heartfelt at the same time.  The other one that comes to mind is The Sixth Sense.  Though quite tragic, this was a great film.

musketeers

The Three Musketeers

I was curious to see how airships would play into the 2011 remake of The Three Musketeers.  But the airships weren’t that epic.  The entire premise for the daring swordfights and sky battles center around . . . getting the Queen’s necklace back so that her husband will not think she’s cheating on him, which, because of other convoluted circumstances, will prevent war.  Not exactly the most exciting plot device to get the conflict going.  But James Corden was funny.

uwm

Unknown White Male

This 2005 documentary follows the aftermath of a young man who suddenly mysteriously suffers from severe amnesia, forgetting almost everything about his life and who he is.  It’s interesting for about ten minutes as one wonders, “Woah, what would that do to a person’s life?”  And then it’s just a bit boring.  Might’ve been more interesting if the filmmaker had waited ten years or so to revisit the young man to see how his life had changed since his amnesia, what sort of friends he kept and what sort of friends he lost, how his personality changed, etc.

artist

The Artist

This Oscar-winning 2011 silent black-and-white film tells the story of a film star who struggles with the film industry’s transition to the “talkies.”  While the premise was fine, it felt like only twenty minutes of story stretched out over an hour and a half, making it extremely boring.  I’m surprised I sat through it.  Too much character brooding.  Boring film.  And, really, if you want to enjoy the novelty of a silent film, watch a real one.  They’re much better.  Filmmakers had to work within the confines of silence; they didn’t use it as a gimmick.

illusionist

The Illusionist

This 2010 animated film tells the story of a young girl who grows attached to a traveling illusionist, who she seems to believe is a real magician.  The illusionist is kind, and is happy to please his biggest fan, but the girl begins to want more and more worldly pleasures.  The illusionist is torn between keeping his biggest fan pleased and happy, or revealing that he’s just an illusionist, and that all his work is just a trick.  Great film.  Certainly not the sort of warm-fuzzy animated film you’d get from America (not that that’s good or bad, only that it’s refreshing to see an animated film with a different tone).

lovelybones

The Lovely Bones

I was curious to see Peter Jackson’s 2009 film based on Alice Sebold’s book.  The film tells the story of a young girl who is murdered and, from beyond the grave, tries to cope with her death and tries to help her family find her killer.  The premise certainly had potential, but unfortunately it seemed like the film forgot its original premise at the end, or didn’t properly set up the conflict the story was meant to resolve.  The films jumps to the killer wanting to not get caught, to the father trying to cope with the tragedy, to the dead girl wondering through the surrealist afterlife trying to figure out what she wants to do now that she’s dead.  It was just a bit too much of a mess.

tsotsi

Tsotsi

I wanted to check out some of director Gavin Hood’s work, as I’m quite curious to see how he’ll handle Ender’s Game.  This 2005 foreign film tells the story of Tsotsi, a poor thief who shoots a woman and steals her car, only to discover a baby in the backseat.  He grows attached to the baby, despite having no means to care for it, and must come to terms with the sorry state of his life.  This could’ve been a powerful movie, but unfortunately the character of Tsotsi was just too evil for me to feel much sympathy for his plight.  He seems to have no remorse over the murders he’s involved in, and seems to have no problem pulling a gun on people and ordering them around.  His tragic childhood and his attachment to the baby do not excuse his behavior.  I suppose he changes by the end of the film, but it wasn’t quite enough for me.  Anyway, after seeing what Hood is emotionally capable of, will he manage to pull off Ender’s Game?  It’s certainly possible, but it’s no guarantee.

business

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

My family watched this 1967 musical on Netflix, so I watched it too.  It tells the comic story of a guy who wants to succeed in business without really trying.  He does this by reading a book and breaking into song every now and then.  Wow.  It was awful.  How did this ever become a popular musical?  The plot is nonsense, the songs seem completely random and rarely progress the story much, and their lyrics are drivel.  But I guess it’s a musical for girls who like preppy guys?

batman

The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan finished his Batman trilogy with this 2012 installment.  Bruce Wayne is retired and his business, Wayne Enterprises, is waning.  The economy is not so good.  And then comes Bane, physically stronger than Batman, with a terrible plot to destroy Gotham in the most torturous ways he can.  As with all Nolan’s film, this was great, I loved it, definitely a worthy successor to his previous Batman films.  But I still think The Dark Knight is the best Batman movie.  This one is about tied with Batman Begins in my mind.  Overall, fantastic trilogy.  I can’t wait to be able to sit down one day and watch them all one after the other.

So there’s June and July 2012.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Movies

Movies watched in April 2012

Continuing my explorations in cinema, here are the movies I watched in April 2012:

intime

In Time

Being a fan of Andrew Niccol’s previous work, The Truman Show and Gattaca, I was looking forward to seeing this movie from 2011.  In the future, humans have figured out how to stop aging.  But to prevent overpopulation, artificial limits are put on a person’s lifespan, and time left to live becomes a trading commodity, replacing money.  The poor die young while the rich can live forever.  Like Niccol’s previous work, the movie featured wonderful writing, good acting, and an engaging story.  Great film.

cinematographer

Cinematographer Style

Thought I might learn something about cinematography with this DVD from 2006, though it’s just a bunch of talking heads.  Absolutely no examples from actual films at all.  Still, some of the interviews were very interesting, especially the ones with Vittorio Storaro and Gordon Willis.

sundancekid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

I had seen a bunch of bits and pieces of this film since it’s so iconic, but never saw the whole thing until this past Easter Sunday.  And it definitely lived up to its iconic status; I loved it.  Great mix of humor and tragedy.  And of course the “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” song is insanely catchy.  Though I was familiar with the song previous to watching the film, the spirit of the film and the song match so well, watching the film makes the song even more catchy.  The blu-ray also featured some great commentary tracks and a deleted scene (with lost audio) in which Butch and Sundance watch themselves get killed on a newsreel in a theater.  I don’t know why they deleted it; I think it would have fit wonderfully in the film.

kundun

Kundun

This 1997 film by Martin Scorsese tells the tale of the Dalai Llama.  I guess it was educational.

titanic

Titanic 3D

I was curious to see how James Cameron’s insanely successful film from 1997 would look in 3D (I love 3D), and it was an extremely impressive conversion.  I can’t imagine all the insane amount of work that must’ve went into it, but it was hard for me to tell it was a conversion.  The only scenes that looked a bit odd were the ones in which a night sky full of stars was the backdrop.  It just looked too close to the foreground, as if the actors were acting in front of a poster-board with stars painted on it.  It did not look like the stars were far in the distance.  As for the story, I had never actually seen the first half of the film, didn’t know anything about how Jack got on the ship or what the story with the jewel was all about.  Geez, that romance was corny corny corny.  Is that really the sort of guy women want?  Bleh!  Oh, and of course every time I saw the captain I thought: Theoden King!

realsteel

Real Steel

This film from 2011 tells the story of an alienated father and son trying to find a way to relate to each other through the training and fighting of giant boxing robots.  The story is based on an old sci-fi short story, not the boxing head-popping robot toys.  The special effects were amazing, and it was refreshing to see a heartfelt story behind the action.  Fun popcorn movie.  But they certainly didn’t explore all the possibilities the premise of fighting robots could provide; it will be interesting to see if they create a sequel or not.

startrek

Star Trek

I hate Spock.

godfather2

The Godfather: Part 2

I very much enjoyed this famous 1974 sequel.  Again, I had seen many bits and pieces of the film before, but never the whole thing all the way through.  It was a great film; one of the few sequels better than its predecessor.

burnnotice

Burn Notice: Season 3

OK, it’s not a movie, but I have been watching Burn Notice DVD’s lately, and recently finished Season 3 from 2009.  Great show.  I’m too behind to watch it on TV, but I’ll keep watching the DVD’s when I can.

totoro

My Neighbor Totoro

I’m continuing to catch up on Studio Ghibli’s famous films, essential viewing for animation fans.  This film tells the story of two sisters who discover magical creatures in the woods behind their house who help them, in a way, cope with their mother’s illness.  Great film, full of a believability and spirit you don’t see in many of today’s animated films that are instead full of pop-culture reference gags.  (Though I still enjoy a good pop-culture reference gag.)

warhorse

War Horse

This Spielberg film from 2011 tells the tale of a horse who is “recruited” for war while the boy who raised him wonders whether or not he’ll ever see him again.  A great movie for people who think horses can feel human emotions.  I myself must admit that I am a blatant equusist; I am prejudiced against horses.  I don’t think they can have human emotions.  So it was very hard for me to relate to the horse’s war struggles.  I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with a human loving an animal (I know I quite loved my dear dead dog Patches), but I don’t like the idea of love for an animal being romanticized on the level of intra-human love in the context of a film’s story.  Does that make sense?  It’s a similar problem I had with Spielberg’s A.I.; I just couldn’t feel a relatable emotion with a little robot kid who doesn’t have real emotions in the first place.  And in War Horse the Germans, of course, spoke English with accents during the war, don’t you know?  Because Heaven forbid an American should have to read subtitles!

kagemusha

Kagemusha

This Kurosawa film from 1980 tells the story of an impersonator who replaces a dead emperor during dangerous times as old Japanese kingdoms battle each other.  After watching Kurosawa’s Ikiru a couple months ago, it was nice to see a film of his that was more epic in scope, and Kagemusha did not disappoint.  Great film.

visionsOfLight

Visions of Light

This documentary from 1993 about cinematography actually had examples from movies!  Woohoo!  Great stuff, but it still wasn’t as educational as it could’ve been.  It would be nice to see a documentary in which a cinematographer actual goes through the steps he takes to make his creative decisions instead of just looking at a bunch of final products and saying how good they are.  Still, this DVD was educational and even inspirational.

becket

Becket

This 1964 film tells the story of Thomas Becket (played by Richard Burton) who is friends with King Henry II (played by Peter O’Toole).  The King appoints Becket to be Archbishop of Canterbury in hopes that, because they’re friends, he’ll have a bit more control over that position.  But Becket ultimately has different religious beliefs than the King, and their friendship begins to rip apart.  Though some of the film feels a little dated and fakey by today’s standards (nice cardboard crown there, Henry), the story was engaging.  I didn’t think the writing was so great; the characters seemed too blatant about their emotions, and too long-winded when it came to expressing them, like some classical play.  But I guess that’s because it was adapted from a play.  But with a film, I think you can show an emotion much more effectively just by a look in a character’s eye, the way the shot is framed and colored, and what sounds accompany the picture.  No need to say anything sometimes.  But Becket won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.  Heh.

towerheist

Tower Heist

This movie from 2011 tells the story of a guy who works in a tower.  A bit like in Fun With Dick and Jane, his boss is arrested for something scammy, and it seems the guy and his working pals who had all their savings in the boss’s company may now go bankrupt.  So they decide to break into the boss’s apartment, find where he’s hiding all his money, and steal it!  The humor was a bit hit or miss for me (some of it seemed too forced), but overall it was quite funny.

casablanca

Casablanca

I had never seen this classic film from 1942 before.  Still, I knew many of the famous lines.  And maybe that’s why they didn’t quite work for me.  I had heard the famous lines so many times before, it felt like they were just being recited.  Overall, it was a good well-written movie, but I don’t know why it became such a huge classic hit.  I didn’t think it was that incredible.

castle

Castle in the Sky

Another Miyazaki film from Studio Ghilbli, this one from 1986.  The movie tells the story of a boy and a girl with a strange magical necklace thing who set out in search of a legendary floating island called Laputa.  I think I would enjoy any adventure film with castles and airships; they really set off my imagination.  So far, of the ones I’ve seen, this is my favorite film from Studio Ghilbli.  Loved it.

moviesold

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

This documentary from 2011 was weird.  It was supposed to be about the product placement in movies.  But the filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock, decided it would be neat if the documentary itself was funded entirely by companies in exchange for product placement.  The result was a rather empty film.  It was like an ad that just advertises itself.  What’s the content?  The content is the ad itself!  Er, OK, what?  The pitch meetings were interesting to watch, but the documentary as a whole didn’t make much sense to me.

raymond

Exporting Raymond

This documentary from 2010 follows Phil Rosenthal, the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond (one of my favorite sitcoms), as he travels to Russia to help them adapt his sitcom for their country.  Hilarious film, and very interesting to see how the TV business works in Russia.

So that’s, what, 19 this month?  Movies rewatched this month include: 13 Assassins, The Truman Show, and The Prestige.  Explorations in cinema continue this May, I hope.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Music composition

Stuff I’m doing…

Been a busy week here. Animation Mentor semester 5 started this week. My mentor this semester is animator Jay Jackson, who has a very impressive 2D background. I’m very excited! Our assignment for the next few weeks will be to add facial animation to our last assignment from last semester, which I am both excited and nervous about… I’m afraid my work is going to stink. But I’m new to this, so I forgive myself in advance. Just as long as I don’t fail out! Anyway, our assignment for this week, which I haven’t done yet, is to shoot video reference and draw sketches planning out our work.

Novel-writing-wise, my novel is at around 29,000 words. The three main characters are currently traveling through the sky in an airship headed towards the kingdom’s castle. I am a few chapters away from the mid-point of the story, so my current guess is that the novel will end up being around 70,000 to 90,000 words total. We’ll see.

I also started writing some more music earlier this week. Not sure what I’ll call the piece, but it’s almost finished. Watch for it on YouTube this week or next week or the week after that… not sure when I’ll finish. It’s pretty standard Hannifin work, but I’m quite pleased with it. In fact, I’m tempted to offer myself much praise, but, being me, I’m quite biased towards myself, so I consider myself at an unfair advantage to receive such praise.

TV-wise, if you care, I started watching Person of Interest (mostly because it was created by Jonathan Nolan). I’m not exactly impressed, but it’s not horrible, so I’ll give it a chance; but if I get pressed for time as the Animation Mentor semester continues, it’ll probably be the first to go. I also started watching Terra Nova as I enjoyed the sci-fi-ish previews for it, but the pilot for that show I also found to be rather unimpressive, and, at times, downright awful. But it’s interesting enough that I’d like to see what the story will turn into. Fringe returned on Friday, which was OK, but not nearly as good as last season’s start. But the “Where is Peter Bishop?” story line should provide me with enough interest to continue watching. The first half of last season was excellent, but I thought the last few shows that ended the season were quite weak, and the cartoony-CGI episode was one of the worst TV-watching experiences I’ve ever had. I’d rather watch HR Pufnstuf several hundred times than suffer through that episode again. (OK, maybe I wouldn’t go that far…) I’m looking forward to House starting on Monday. So… four shows for me this season, plus I’m still slowly working through Burn Notice season 2 on DVD, which is a great show. And Shark Tank will return for a season 3, but I’m not sure when. And we might get a DVR sometime next week, so that will be nice, but I can’t complain too much if I miss something, since Animation Mentor must be the priority… not TV.

Reading-wise, I’ve been enjoying Neal Stephenson’s Reamde: A Novel. Definitely more mainstream (so far) than Anathem (the only other novel of his I’ve read so far), but still quite captivating.

Oh, and in other news, I can now touch my nose with my tongue. I couldn’t do that before. Two decades of practice have finally paid off.

By S P Hannifin, ago