zustifer: (comics: Mysterio laughs at nothing)
Harry Potter 5 (2007), David Yates. July 14, 4pm. View count: one.

This one turned out well! I don't see David Yates being some really huge heavy hitter, from his imdb page, so I can't really tell whose clout it was that held this movie in Reasonably Good Territory. But held it was, and even if it was due to all the child actors becoming teen actors and learning how to emote without looking like earnest little clods, things worked out fairly well. I did read the book, back a couple of years ago, but I forget things almost instantly, so discrepancies were not an issue for me. I remembered some themes and such, but as usual the universe mechanics (which are generally not too present) are the most interesting part for me, so all the various character dynamics and who's-where-whens of the plot kind of slid off my brain and onto the floor. Also I think this was the one where Harry gets all angsty and hyper-obnoxious? Maybe that's the next one. It's probably not important.

There were a few times where Lack of Consequences/Follow-Through was the order of the day, but usually there wasn't any bad fallout from this, just maybe some unsatisfying comeuppances/rewards. And, as unpleasant mentions, there was a beautiful, hilarious shot of dear old Val-Mart making the ol' colon-capital-D face that who knows why it was there but please don't remove it. I can't wait for the DVD so that I can cap it.

Anyhow. This movie did a fairly good job with the keeping things visible and comprehensible. The editing was pleasing, the acting was nice and believable (excluding the one sourish note of Helena Bonham-Thingy reprising her role from Fight Club), and if you can sit through some way overblown Awesome Stuff Music (see: Jurassic Park) and a pinch of fairly appalling cg, there is a good bit of fun to be had. Plus, wizard fight! (Everyone's going to compare it to the Yoda/Sidious fight, favorably (as they should), but I suspect that people's metric for such things includes the Sword in the Stone (1963?!) wizard battle (er, up to the shapeshifting, that is).)
zustifer: (nick and lacroix)
Day Watch (2006), Timur Bekmambetov. June 15, 9:10pm. View count: One.

This is some sort of sequel to Night Watch, which I haven't seen yet (but have recently snagged). Spook tells me (and, really, I'm grateful to him for dragging us out to see movies a lot lately; we tend to get, uh, inert [that is a hint to you people who live around here! I like movies! You like movies! Let's go!]) that the first one was flawed but more coherent. This one was, to me, without context, a lot of fun. There was a good volume of clever ideas, and the characters were (with perhaps one exception) iconic semi-caricatures inside human skin (showcasing also the weird Russian human-body perspective [I swear, a very large percentage of Russian film has this concept of humans as sweaty wrinkled lumpy things underlying all characters and interactions. It's got to be a deep-seated cultural tenet]. It also takes place in the winter, so everyone is constantly bundled up. This probably helps).

It's got a pretty visual style. I was reminded more than a little of a higher-budget Delicatessen (the tone is somewhat similar, as is the color palette), but Delicatessen has much more of an archness about it, and its filmic conceits are homely and personal, whereas Day Watch is more full of FX and fairy-tale fantasyish elements. Really, though, this is a terrific idea, to give a budget to a weird Russian story sort of about vampires. This should happen more often.

Weak points: The storyline definitely skewed toward the 'stack of stuff happening' style, but generally I was okay with it. The love interest was unquestionably the weak point (reminded us all of the blond doctor [who graduated from Harvard Yale and got an A] from Darkplace) characterwise, but the other characters did fine. The historical background tie-in was difficult to care about, but fortunately it didn't much matter.

Nick, you should probably see this. I think you would enjoy it.
zustifer: (comics: Nivlem says See Here)
The Prestige, Christopher Nolan. Mar. 24, 10:30pm. View count: One.

I'd heard people say about this movie things like 'Oh, it was good, but there was this part at the end that was really unbelievable.' That unbelievable thing was the thing that made this movie worthwhile. The rest of it was decent, and it's obvious that loads of effort went into it, but the novel-based roots really showed. Voiceovers and telling rather than showing, mainly, and the simultaneous storytelling thing that Nolan enjoys doing hurt the first half especially. The structure wackiness was in place before we'd gotten a sense of the characters, which, for me, hurt my immersion. The characters were, all in all, fairly flat, too.

The acting was pretty nice; David Bowie does well. Christian Bale's rubbery lips are starting to bother me, though, and his accent was a little unfortunate.

Having read the wikipedia entries for the book and movie, the movie made the correct choice regarding the Unbelievable Thing (which the book did not), but that did not save it from endless meaningless repetitions of catchphrases ('the prestige!') which everyone seems to know for no reason, portentious talking about things we haven't seen, and a general plotline that, while tightly arranged, is not very character-driven.

Bowie, though, there's Bowie. And the first shot of the film made me giggle almost like the plastic bag scene in American Beauty. (When it showed up later though, it was a stock sound FX graveyard that stomped on my immersion's windpipe a bit.)

Cut for spoily minirant )
zustifer: (Dr. Phibes)
Yesterday I stopped in the middle of reading an Iain Banks book and instead read the entirety of this book (The Boy Detective Fails). I'd picked it up with the Barnes&Noble gift cert my grandmother gave us (took the relatives long enough to give us such sensical gifts), on the recommendation of Jackson Publick (one of the Venture Brothers guys (Makes total sense.)).
Iain Banks was pissing me off with his halfassed intrigue (I mean, I enjoy some of the guy's work an awful lot. Then there's the rest of it) and endless pointless PROTAGONIST HAS AN ERECTION, LET'S TALK ABOUT IT sequences.

So anyway, The Boy Detective. Very amusing book, probably six hours worth of reading, but pleasant. The comparison that's just hit me is sort of a David Byrne-influenced Chris Ware universe. Like, the deadpan sad-little-people Chris Ware with a core of engaged people-are-amazing-and-interesting David Byrne True-Storieslike attitude, instead of Chris Ware's ambivalence. There are a couple of points where there are some lovely wry humorous protrusions into the story (page 86, the police show theme, f'rinstance) that really made it for me.

The book does sort of gradually slide from downbeat (which I was enjoying) into a happy ending that didn't quite come together properly (I mean, it technically tied up the loose ends, but character-wise I dunno), I thought, but then that could be me. (I realised not too long ago that I generally value story-universes for their possibilities rather than their actual events, which is why I read the Dune series repeatedly and pretty much always when asked why I liked some scifi book will say 'the universe was awesome.' So, anyway, that is maybe why the ending was unsatisfying to me, because I was hoping for some more meaningful occurrence to manifest itself, since I knew it was possible.)

I do also enjoy a good downer. Sometimes it takes more guts to not allow things to come out okay, and sometimes the opposite (the example I always give here is of Baron Munchausen. I maintain that it was more courageous for Gilliam to allow the story to end happily, knowing his tendencies and given the rest of the film. There's the money thing, though, too, which is contrary). I had a big discussion with a school chum of mine a couple of months ago regarding Pan's Labyrinth, which he despised. He mostly had perfectly good reasons (the trailer did not reflect the film well, so he developed erroneous expectations; he dislikes downers; he dislikes unclear motivations; he dislikes lack of attention to mise-en-scene detail (he's a screenwriter)), but, while I agreed that his problems were present, they did not bother me. I'll be an asshole and paste the conversation, since I already said this:

Cut for thematic spoiler for Pan's Labyrinth )

So, in short: I will be reading more of Mr. Meno's work. I also eagerly await season three of Venture Brothers. Iain Banks can go play Civ for a while though. ('Complicity', incidentally, had a very Civ-like game in it, which gave me the small measure of amusement I derived from the first half.)
zustifer: (comics: creeper)
Season Five of Justice League (Unlimited) is no Season Four, or Season Two. But it's not bad. There's some fun stuff. The season goes kind of randomly from on to off, and then winds up with a big 'curtain call' (as chmmr observed) at the end. It did have the generally hilarious brain-switch episode though.

A fun idea sort of brought into view was that the Flash's city (Central City = Chicago? Minneapolis?) was shaped positively by Flash's general attitude. It's not clear whether cities are a reflection of their heroes or vice versa (or neither; maybe they change along with one another), but it's amusing to think that maybe Central City is sort of harmless because the Flash is fundamentally a sweetheart who doesn't wish anyone harm. This also lends weight to his contribution to the Justice Lords plot.

Schwa, I am not sure where you got your My sexual preference is: Stop the robots! gag, but it allowed the following exchange:

chmmr: Lex Luthor is so gay for Brainiac.
me: I don't know, I think his sexual preference is 'Kill Superman.'
chmmr: He can be both.
me: Oh, true! That's even better.

I also had this horrible quip about Flash getting off over being naked in front of Batman for a millisecond (while changing into his costume at high speed). I mean, this is a series where I swear that Wonder Woman's mom thought she and Hawkgirl were dating (there is really no reason that Wonder Woman shouldn't be gay), but in which no one can actually get together. Also I'm horrible.

There're some episode summaries and copious screenshots here. Spoilers ahoy, though, obviously.

Oh good golly. And I've just noticed that there are at least three cast members of Firefly in the series (all Unlimited, apparently). Sort of explains why some relatively minimally backstoried characters ended up not sucking.
zustifer: (Nivlem says See Here)
So I figured I should mention that the latter (at least up through #4) seasons of Justice League (the animated series) _do_ eventually get good. The third season (really the first season of 'Justice League Unlimited'; loads of DC heroes are added to the Justice League instead of the seven usual ones focussed upon in the first series, 'Justice League') has some real clunkers (I am looking at YOU, 'Hawk and Dove'), but eventually finds its stride and does not try to cram a two-parter's worth of material into a twenty-two minute episode anymore. I was really, really discouraged, before we got to the stride-finding, to the point that I almost gave up on Unlimited. But the wise chmmr suggested we continue to give it a shot, and I am pleased that we did.

The first two seasons especially (and bear in mind that we have not yet watched the fifth and final) were just excellent, in part because each story was given two episodes in which to play out (at least after a little ramp-up time. Also needing some ramp-up is the writing of dialog for the Flash, but that really does pick up). Very well-handled. They essentially standardised the length of a story as two episodes long. Now suddenly all kinds of things can be fit in. There's fightin', there's character development, and there's some really clever letter-of-the-law evasions of the rules we're all used to from Batman the Animated Series: no blood, no dismemberment of organic beings, only trauma allowed is blunt-force (teeth can't be lost), explosive, or electrical (meaning: no disfigurement). No killing, period.

The series is especially good because it knows the rules and just - just bends them a little, every now and then. Implied blood. Frozen evil dictator. Moral ambiguity all over you screen. Sometimes, not all the time. There's a great ratio of Good Clean Punchin' to Whoa, Did That Just Happen? The context is impeccably constructed and maintained.

And for Unpleasant, Green Arrow _does_ get a part, albeit with a chunk of it in a weird episode where everyone is a complete dick and utterly unsympathetic. Wildcat's in there too. Just power through the Supergirl and stuff should improve.


(This avatar is Nivlem, scanned from an early MAD Batman parody. He's doing not just Explaining Hand, but Explaining Hand With Helpful Pointing. He's very smarmy. But it would be wrong to use my Marvelly other superhero avatars to make this post. I'm not a big DC person (outside of Batman's rogues' gallery (inside of Arkham they keep it too dark to read comics), Sandman, and Books of Magic), but Justice League does somewhat flatter me by allowing me to be all 'Isn't this guy [something something] because of his [backstory]? I THINK he might be...' and then it turns out that like any child of six, I am right. Yay.)
zustifer: (Barbara)
Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro. Jan 14th, 4:15 pm. View count: 1.

I'm going to keep this spoilerless, because it's still in theatres and all.

I don't think I can quite agree with optic's assessment that Pan's Labyrinth is something Gilliam could ever make; his darkness is not nearly so unflinching and visceral. It's more existential/mental, really. But the comparison should definitely remain, as the whole fairy tale + real life marriage is pretty Gilliam-friendly, I completely agree.

This is a really well-done movie. The fantasy/reality line is well-walked, and all the characters are realized to a good level. It's sort of messy and confusingly motivated in some spots, but I think this is okay. I probably need to see this again, because it is dense and interesting, but I shrink somewhat from the idea of doing so because of the dark, dark violence. Del Toro is not afraid of showing violence. There is no last-second cutting away, and almost no blocked views. There is also no balancing humor.

I will close with some stuff a lady sitting near us said, that chmmr caught after the movie: "It's so violent! It's not appropriate for kids at all. But the brother was so cute."
This is more depressing than the movie, and also much less interesting.
zustifer: (Beetlejuice: Juno shh)
Russell T. Davies, or whoever his DP is, has earned a bit more of my respect by dropping a sweet visual reference (mostly camera angle and set formation, though there may have been some color temperature & blocking; I'd have to go back and check) in this most recent episode. It's even possible that they reused some or all of a set from last season (also possible that there's more referencing than I caught; it's been a while). Really cute, and, it turns out, appropriate.
zustifer: (Karma)
No spoilers beyond those which the trailer will spoil for you, I don't think.

Oh, X-Men movie franchise. You're sort of squirming gutshot on the floor now, aren't you. All the know-how and make-do, as William S. Burroughs said, has gone out of you. Also you seem to have Halle Berry glued to your face.

Many others have already said it, albeit with varying degrees of understanding of/love for the source material and good spelling, but, yeah. Not so good. Everyone who can act either gets written into stupid corners, killed off, or forced to share every scene with Halle Berry, who will NOT SHUT UP OR GO AWAY. I want to hire someone to lock her in a port-a-potty for the duration of the shooting of the next movie.

A few cute scenes do not a movie make. There were a few great effects shots, and a lot of poor ones. A few fun things, and many unfun things. Makeup was generally pretty good, except for that of Beast, but admittedly he's hard. Big Chris (from Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels) was well-cast and pretty okay when he wasn't being asked to say overtly dumb things that make baby Everything Sentient cry. Writing of both dialog and plot were sorely lacking. Hugh Jackman tried really hard, but he couldn't help but come off as sort of in touch with his feelings, which is just unfortunate.

Enh. Wasted opportunity, in many ways. Character development, knowing nods to the fans, and even in-character actions in general were missing. I am full of sadness. I miss Singer. He wasn't perfect, but he did his job, by gum, and he at least cared.
zustifer: (Amidabh)
Huh, Brokeback Mountain was pretty good! I was right pleased. It had weird pacing and a plot item that rankled a bit (it WAS warranted, but a little too convenient), but all in all, it was a nice bit of relatively subtle, quiet film. And JP was impressed by the good ol' boy authenticity, which I daresay is more than I can vet, so, good enough for me.

Addendum: But did they REALLY have to cram Rufus Wainwright into the soundtrack? I mean, I like the guy, and it was the very last over-credits song. But it still wasn't very appropriate. Rufus Wainwright (correct me if I am wrong here) has a level of erudite languidness, sort of, that is very very wrong in the context of this movie. I can only imagine he wanted to support it, but, eh.

Other Addendum: The short story is here, if you want to read it. It's interesting to see the contrast.
zustifer: (Dr. Phibes)
This is a terrific little list of Harry Potter hilarity, which is welcome because after the last book I don't care about the series any longer. Wait, was that the last book? I can't remember.
(See also this post.)

More seriously, here's a good page on locations from The Conversation. The Conversation is so goddamn good you will fall over, if you haven't seen it yet. Actually maybe if you have. Unlike the Godfather, The Conversation actually does a good job of showing you a detached person (often in direct contrast with people who aren't), and focussing closely upon him. Just think if instead of the decentralised third-person-autistic viewpoint of Godfather if we had stayed always with Pacino and been able to gauge his reactions to things as reasonable and/or understandable. Ah, the very idea. Anyway, the one big fat (sonic) flaw that occurs at the end of Conversation is not enough to mar the whole piece, although it comes close. We watched it several times in our sound class in college, and indeed its soundtrack is impeccable (and also its score is highly excellent; if anyone wants a few tracks, squeak loudly). Worth it in that regard alone. An arbitrary little written bit on the movie here, although, spoilers.
Spoilers of movies for me are not as important as they are for some people, but usually it is a good thing to develop your own ideas about what's on screen. Knowing events beforehand does irrevocably change things, not necessarily in a negative way, but the thing you're watching is not the thing you would have been watching spoilerless (You know to look for events or characters; your understanding is deeper than the director counted on, on first viewing. Instead of assessing what you're shown independently, you are bound by the structure you already abstractly know). The Conversation is a good movie to watch non-presciently; some of the ideas I've read in writeups had almost no bearing on what I myself remember seeing, and although it's possible to start with what another sees and through multiple rewatchings arrive at another viewpoint, seldom do people want to put in the time and effort on this.
zustifer: (pseudorca crassidens)
New Batman movie: Actually quite good. Surprisingly good. I attribute this in part to excellent actors, piled in great numbers into the cast. Good writing, but for a few call-and-response 'I will speak a Momentous Sentence, and later you will repeat it back to me when it seems chintziest' appearances. Two villains, and yet, this more or less worked. Cinematography sort of uninspired, but not hurtful.
The weakest part was the muddy, confusing fight scenes. They were all of the cut-really-fast-and-hope school, preventing the viewer from getting a good sense of who was where when.
But honestly, it was worth watching. Christian Bale sort of has a bit of Willem Dafoeness about him, albeit slight. Liam Neeson still has the Dignified Yet Ass-Kicking Guru part very much down. Effects were quite good, and even contributed well to some imaginative little bits that I shall not go into.

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Karla Z

February 2012

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