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April 13, 2007

Reaping less than they sowed.

I watched The Reaping yesterday. What could have been a good movie was made mediocre by its weak ending. I'll attempt to not spoil the ending. The movie essentially follows Katherine Winter (Hillary Swank) as she attempts to disprove what appears to be the Biblical 10 plagues by using science and observation to explain the occurrences. The movie is set in the bayous of Louisiana. Being that I grew up not too far from this location, some of the sounds involved brought back some memories. They did a great job on the locations.

Unfortunately, all of this was overshadowed by a gaping hole in the plot line and a cop-out ending. It's moving worth seeing; just don't expect a great ending.

July 19, 2007

1408

We went to see 1408 the other day. I have to say that I was quite impressed with the "thrill" aspect of it. It had good suspense and a lot of "Oh, $h!t!" moments. It was certainly one of the better thriller movies that we've seen in a while.

We had planned on seeing it a week earlier, but just as we were heading out the door, Angus decides he's going to start throwing up. So much for our evening out.

Surprisingly, when we did see the movie, it was playing in a small theatre and there were only a couple of dozen people there. I guess that's what happens nearly a month out from its release date when Harry Potter and Transformers are playing.

July 30, 2007

The Simpsons: Bigger, Longer, Just as Pointless

I went to see The Simpsons Movie today, on my employer's time and money, of course. The entire Engineering department made an outing of it. Had it not been paid for, I would not have seen this movie. Unless you really like The Simpsons (And really, who does? It's only been on the air for 18 years. This fall, college freshmen will never have known a world sans Simpsons.), I would not bother with the box office experience. Oh, sure, there were some snarky jokes. There was general lampooning of the executive branch of government. There was even Fox poking itself in the eye when it not only advertised for another show during the movie, but acknowledged how lame an idea it was.

However, Homer sums up the movie before the opening credits: Anyone who would pay to see something that they can get at home for free is crazy. The overall story arc of the movie was what one would expect from a TV show gone Big Screen. It could have been done in a half an hour, possibly 45 minutes. To stretch it to nearly an hour and half required excessive ancillary story development. Or, the could have better developed some of the other story potential (Lisa's new boyfriend?) to make a more compelling movie, but that would have required The Simpsons to step out of the "funny" realm and develop a slightly more serious tone. We couldn't have that now could we?

The biggest kicker for me: the whole premise for the main conflict (rampant pollution) is not resolved, or even really addressed in the entire second half of the film. It's a problem that just quietly goes away. Isn't that part of the problem that have in this country? If we don't talk about the nasty issues, they'll just disappear. But I digress.

The Simpsons Meh-vie. Meh.

January 9, 2008

"No Place Like London"

I went to see the Tim Burton remake of Sweeny Todd this weekend. On some level, I knew it was a remake; however, I did not know that it was a musical. This was rather unexpected, to say the least. My first clue was when I saw Stephen Sondheim's name in the opening credits. It was actually an entertaining movie and story line (even if a bit twisted). The singing was better than one might expect from a group of (I assume) non-singers, although some of the lyrics were a bit unintelligible between the accents (both real and faked) and the multiple parts singing over one another. The look and feel of the movie was similar to Sleepy Hollow or some of the mansion scenes of Edward Scissorhands: dark and desaturated with mostly gray tones. This made the punctuation of color, mainly blood, much more pronounced. And speaking of blood, this had a lot of the really fake looking blood. I think Tim Burton really enjoys the sight gag of cutting someone and having their blood spray across the room, drenching everything in its path. The blood effects reminded me of either old samurai movies or what one might see in anime. This seemed to turn the attention away from the blood as gore and lend a bit of a fairy tale feel to the movie.

April 26, 2008

Trailer Trash

I got an invitation to attend a pre-screening of a movie the other day. The invitation was pretty light on the details:

A New Animated Movie

From the people that brought you Shrek, Madagascar, and the upcoming Kung Fu Panda.

That's not much to go on. I liked Shrek. I never saw Madagascar. I had not heard of Kung Fu Panda. But, the opportunity to see a movie early and provide feed-back appealed to me. A couple of quick phone calls, and we were confirmed to see the movie.

The over-all experience I found to be interesting. There was standing in line for a while. Repeatedly being warned that no recording devices of any kind would be allowed in the theater. This included cell phones with cameras, among other devices. When we were finally allowed into the theater lobby, we queued up again into a rope barrier that lead us up to a metal detector. I thought it was just short of asking us to remove our shoes and place all liquids into plastic baggies.

When (most) everyone was seated, they announced what movie we would be seeing: Madagascar 2. There was mixed cheering and at least a few grumbles of dissatisfaction. They then proceeded to tell us that this movie was very much a work in progress. It was a mix of finished scenes, partially rendered scenes (no final textures and lighting), rough animatics, and storyboards. Turns out that it was about 1/4 of each of these all mixed together. It was a bit bizarre to go from a finished scene to a storyboard, to animatics, to partial rendering, and back to storyboard. After the movie, we were given sheets to provide feedback.

So, what was the movie like? Well it was mix. It looks like all of the main actors returned to reprise their roles. There were some good pop culture references. And there were parts that just kind of dragged out. Some elements seemed a bit derivative. There was a bit of glorifying the atrocities that man has inflicted on nature. There were a couple of senseless killing of "lesser" animals just for a gag.

I don't know what it is about animated kids movies that they often begin with some tragedy befalling the main character. Bambi: the mother is shot by hunters in the opening sequence. Tarzan: the baby gorilla is killed in the opening sequence. Madagascar 2: the baby lion is coaxed off the preserve and trapped by poachers. He then manages to survive being put in a crate, falling off a truck, rolling down a hill, landing in a river, being swept out to sea, floating across the Atlantic, and ends up in New York. This little lion cub made the entire trip locked in a crate with no food or water. Right.... Oh, I almost forgot: there was the Lion King-esque "one lion challenging the dominant lion for leadership" sequence which plays a bigger role later in the film.

I guess the movie went through a bit a of fast-forward rehash of the first movie. It was a bit confusing. One minute, four animals are yakking in a zoo, there's some cuts to an old woman beating up the lion, then a newspaper headline saying something about a ship lost at sea, and then we're in the jungle with these four animals and some penguins getting ready to leave in an old junk of an airplane. This sequence didn't really make a lot of sense; it seemed hurried and did not do a decent job of explaining where they were or why.

After some in-flight comedy, the group finds themselves is Africa and Alex is reunited with his family. Happiness ensues as everyone falls into their own species groups until the lion who wishes to be king schemes to banish Alex and his family while parallel story arcs have everyone else question whether they truly belong in Africa or with their own species.

Ultimately zoo animals finds out that they belong together and they don't fit in the wild. With the help of the penguins (and the labor of the chimps), they manage to escape the animal hating granny and fly off into the sunset. We don't really know where they are going or what they will do when they get there, but we know it isn't staying in Africa.

I guess the moral of the story is "if the grass isn't really greener on the other side, you should just turn back around and head for home." Or perhaps, "maybe you should keep looking for that place where you are valued for being you, because it isn't here."

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