Sitting in the Aisle

It's kinda like getting an e-mail from John about what movie he just saw, well, kinda, sorta.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ratatouille (Film)

I'm not sure how Pixar keeps bringing out these wonderful films that just happened to be animated. They present stories that could actually only be told animated. Another pearl in a string of pearls. This story of the ultimate outsider trying to belong and excel in a place that only loathes him is crafted with such heart and tenderness. It is also filled with a love of all things cooking and Paris. Really outstanding. This recipe gets an A.

Live Free or Die Hard (Film)

This is as good as an action packed summer movie gets. I have to admit my doubts when I heard McClane was coming back for more. Those doubts quickly evaporated as soon as the first action sequence started. It's been a long time since I've seen an action movie this good. I give this adventure a A-.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Film)

When I think of the Fantastic Four from the comics, I think of epic adventures in the most astounding of places. This adventure seems almost quaint in comparison. With a scant running time and so much having to happen, the fantastic foursome often play second fiddle to the Silver Surfer. The Surfer comes across so well, I think of him as coolest character introduced in these summer movies. The possibility of a Surfer movie is something I look forward to. I wished I felt the same way about another FF movie. I still think Pixar's The Incredibles as the best FF movie they never made. I give this adventure a C.

Ocean's 13 (Film)

Possibly the best of the Ocean films. The film hits the ground running with everyone knowing what needs to be done complete with necessary the skills. There are no real surprises and everything goes so smoothly, it's almost bland. You wish there was some sense of real jeopardy during this heist. Everything just seems to come so easily. In this case, 13 may just be a lucky number after all. I give this heist a B.

Hostel Part II (Film)

One of the reasons the first part was so effective was because you weren't quite sure what was going on. The appeal was in the discovery of what Hostel was. With this important element gone, the film has to go in a different direction. You are no longer a recipient, but a participant. The horror cannot lie in what is about to come, but instead, it has to do something different. The Alien films understood this. The first one was basically a bogey man in house. The second one was much different and more inventive. Sadly, this is not the case with Hostel. You pretty much get more of the same without that added spark of something more. It felt all too routine. Horror films tend to come in trends. Recently it was the remake of Japanese horror films which primarily consisted of pale wet children. Lately it has been the Saw-type films where people are tortured. I feel this latest trend is now coming to an end and I wonder where the fresh new terror will come from. Certainly from this movie. I give my stay at the Hostel a C.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Knocked Up (Film)

I admit I don't always get comedies. I don't always know if I just have a particular taste or if the movie itself is just no good. Take this one. I liked the director's previous works: Freaks and Geeks and The 40-year-old Virgin. This one I just thought was just okay. There are a lot of relationship jokes and pregnant women jokes that I felt fell a little flat. The best moment I liked was when a pregnant woman and her sister are trying to get into a club. In the past they were hot enough to get in, but not this time. The back and forth between the older sister and the bouncer was unexpectedly real and tender. Something I wished the movie had more of. I give this rib tickler a C.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Film)

A vast improvement over the last movie. This film has the feeling of tying up loose ends and wanting to finish out the story with a bang. This is one of the most visually stunning movies I have seen in a long time and even with the running time approaching 3 hours, there is always something interesting to watch on the screen. This pirate movie gets a B.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Shrek the Third (Film)

I liked this third installment of Shrek more so than the over pop-cultured, dull second chapter. While I enjoy the continued storyline, I still prefer the much better first film. I think they maybe should have stopped with that first one. It's sometimes feels like what I imagine would have happened if they took one of the Disney fairy tales and made sequels to them (I'm not counting the direct to video trash). The first film usually tells the most interesting story in their characters' lives and sequels tend to wander and drift a bit. Sometimes the second part is able to expand upon the first. But when you get to the third part, you really feel those empty fumes. I give this adventure a C.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Wii (Video Game)

I was lucky enough to stop in a new Best Buy on opening day. I was doing a quick browse when an ultra-friendly salesperson pointed out the stack of Wiis just sitting there. It was a thing of beauty. I had been casually looking for this item over the past several months. Even though the
Wii has been out since Thanskgiving, I still could not find one on the shelves. I do see plenty of PS3s and 360s, but no Wiis, until now. I haven't played around much with it, but it really does feel next gen. The graphics are similar to the Gamecube and it would have been nice if they were a tad spiffier, but the controls more than make up for it. Without playing one, it's hard to get across just how amazing the controls are. I felt a little like Tom Cruise using the computer in the Minority Report. All in all it's pretty amazing. So far the best games out were initially made for the Gamecube. I don't think the real potential has been tapped yet. And with so many Wiis being sold, I hope we see some games that will. I haven't been this amazed with a game system since the Sega Dreamcast. I can only hope this system will be around much longer. I give this Wii an A.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Spider-Man 3 (Film)

I'm trying to decide just how bad this film is. At one point I checked my watch and was horrified to see I had another hour and some change to go. I hoped this film would get better. Those hopes were dashed. I liked some of the additions to the cast: Thomas Hayden Church and Bryce Dallas Howard. But, there were way too many villains and characters that were being forced into one movie. As great a villain the Sandman was, he was completely unnecessary. Events unfolded in a sloppy, perfunctory manner. It felt like things hap pened just because they were supposed to happen in order to set up the next action beat. At one point late in the movie, two villains meet randomly in an alley and decide to team-up because if they didn't, then the "thrilling" action finale wouldn't make any sense. There was no organic flow to the story and consequently lacked any semblance of cohesion. It's a crying shame to see a once great franchise disintegrate into a typical empty headed, summer blockbuster that makes you wonder why all that time and money were spent. These can't be the same filmmakers who made the first two. I was excited for this batch of summer movies to come in. Now all I feel is trepidation. I'm hoping this is not a harbinger of things to come. I give this web-crawler a D.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Next (Film)

Based on a short story, it's about a small time Las Vegas magician who can see two minutes into his future. I was not aware going in that the source material was by Philip K. Dick. Other notable movies based on the author's work are Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, and Paycheck. His main characters tend to share many similar traits. they tend to be paranoid and unsure of their surroundings, of knowing what is real, not knowing what to believe. The author was said to be the same way. I guess you sometimes really do write what you know.

As for the movie, Julianne Moore kicks @$$ as the federal investigator needing Nichols Cage's help. It turns out a nuclear weapon has been smuggled into the US and they're hoping Cage can see where the bomb will go off before it actually happens. I liked the premise and the ways the filmmakers demonstrated Cage's ability to see into the future. The ending is rather abrupt and makes you wonder they didn't have enough funds to film the last 30 minutes. Near the end of the film, Cage realizes he chose the wrong path and a terrible mistake occurs. The next scene we're back to about the midpoint and Cage decides to make another choice. And then the film ends, credits roll. We never see the results of this second choice. I guess we're to assume everything works out because that's just how it goes, good guys win. While I found this non-ending to be ballsy, I have this feeling the general public will not think so. A solid film with an interesting premise that not only drops the ending, you don't even get a chance to see it. I'm giving this film a C.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Grindhouse (Film)

The first of the two films in this ode to B movie double-feature is Planet Terror directed by Robert Rodriguez. It's a zombie movie of sorts with Rodriguez doing his best directing job I've ever seen. I've always thought of him as someone with an enormous amount of talent that's never fully been realized, until now. His contribution is a bloody, over the top action spectacle that always seems to have something up its sleeve. This first film makes an immediate impact, but I think its the second film that stays with you longer. Directed by Quentin Tarantino, Death Proof, the second movie starts out as a stalker film, but ends up as a revenge picture. Trademark Tarantino dialogue is in full effect and shows how often imitiated, but never surpassed, his original, quirky dialogue can be.

I think these two films have much in common with how the two Kill Bill movies feel. The first Kill Bill was much more action oriented, like Planet Terror. While the second Kill Bill was a more dialogue heavy, action peppered in sequel and Death Proof feels much the same way, especially coming after Planet Terror. I wonder how the two movies would have been, had I not seen them together. I give this tribute to grindhouse cinema a A-.

World's Finest (Image)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cheating (Random musing)

Reading an interesting article on what men would consider cheating, I thought upon what I would think of as cheating and came up with this. I think cheating is doing something with a member of the opposite sex you would not do with a friend of the same sex. So for example, I have a good buddy and his name is Jaemin (names have been changed to protect the tainted). I hang out with him and we might catch dinner and a movie. All fine and dandy. I think if I was in a relationship, I should be able to do that with a female friend. Now, when I see these movies with Jaemin, I'm not holding his hand or kissing him good-night afterwards. I think whatever I do with my female friends, I should be able to do with Jaemin and if I can't, maybe I'm cheating. I think it's a pretty good rule of thumb to have.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

300 (Film)

An incredibly faithful adaptation of the comic book mini-series by Frank Miller. While I found this to be much more watchable than the previous movie adaptation of Miller's Sin City, I still feel there are times when what really works on the printed page, a two dimensional environment, does not always translate successfully to the moving world of cinema. I do feel that this film represents the future of spectacle film making on a budget as a vast majority of the film was shot on a stage in front of large green screens with the background to be added in later. As impressive as the film looked, it still had that odd sheen of digital perfection. In fact, I would say the biggest gripe I had of the film was how pristine the film looked. As grimy and sweat covered everything was, it all looked as if was a hair from being over art directed. I can't help but wonder how this film would have looked if they actually filmed on location. Minor quibbles aside, I give this spartan epic a B.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Relationships (Random Musing)

The sure sign you are in a mature relationship is that you have occasional moments when you hate your partner's guts, but don't bail because you know you aren't going to find better -- only different.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Black Snake Moan (Film)

What starts out as a lurid southern fried gothic sex tale ends up being about the powers of love and the meaning of redemption. Not bad, but I wish the movie didn't start out so over the top and pulpy, that's it's hard to reconcile the ending with the beginning. I liked the playing of the stereotypes and implications of having Samuel L. Jackson chaining up a petite, almost naked Christina Ricci set in the deep South. As the poster shows, it can be a powerful image. I did think the reasoning of why Ricci was so sex starved came across a bit simplistic. I give this tale of wanton lust and love a C+.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Zodiac (Film)

Easily one of the most well made movies I've ever seen. It seems director Fincher has put away all those fancy camera tricks he's employed in his previous movies and has the confidence in this story to just let be. In some ways, this movie has reminds me of the movie JFK, lots of dense factual material streamlined in such a way that you never feel lost while the movie's unfolding. If any criticism can be said is, it is long, but in a good way, and the movie may lack an emotional resolution. And not to spoil things, the actual Zodiac killer was never caught. Film making of this caliber deserves an A.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Number 23 (Film)

A thriller wannabe that neither chills nor thrills. I think the film gives too much credit to the number 23. At best, the number is like a smoke detector that might be an early warning system. The number certainly cannot make you do anything. The most haunting claim the movie suggests is the lack of free will, that everything is preordained with 23 being the proof. How this translates into a thriller is a bit dodgy with the results being mixed at best. The film starts out with a supernatural explanation that eventually is reduced to having the events caused by an all too human hand. I'm giving this one a C-. I do wonder if there was a sequel made, would it be called 24?

Reno 911!: Miami (Film)

Eh, never saw the TV show this is based on and after seeing this movie, I still have no desire to check the show out either. Seeing this reminded me of the Police Academy movies from the 80's. The film is surprisingly crude
and bits are humorous, but nothing that can't wait for a home viewing. For this non-fan, I'm giving this movie a D.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Time Traveler's Wife (Book)

A love story that nearly broke my heart and almost made me cry, twice. The boy in this tale has a rare genetic disorder that causes him to time travel. While on one of these trips, he ends up meeting his true love, for the first time, when she's only six and he's 38. Through it all, they both begin a love story that's firmly rooted in reality and set against the fantastic. The story is set in Chicago and with only details that could be written by a native. An outstanding book that I can only give it a A.

Bridge to Terabithia (Film)

A touching, heartfelt peek into the platonic childhood friendships a boy and a girl can have before the complications of puberty set in. The trailers and commercials for this film have it all wrong by having this film appear to be similar to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Nothing could be further from the truth. The magical land of Terabithia is only glimpsed at and can only be viewed by one's exuberant imagination. I fear this film will have a short theatrical life, but will live on as a classic on DVD. I heartily give this film a B+.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ghost Rider (Film)

I don't think this film could be anymore awful if it tried. Crap, D-.

Random Musing (100th Post)

*click* I think love is like having a light switch. As quickly as it can illuminate a dark room with a warm, comforting glow, it can also plunge that same room into a darkness filled with distorted shadows, making the familiar into something strange and ominous. What gets me is how rapid this change can be. *click*

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Music and Lyrics (Film)

An utterly homogenized waste of a romantic comedy. I'd say more, but I can't for the life of me remember anything else except feeling really sleepy and irritated. I have a sneaking suspicion that's a good thing, D-.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Alright, Still (CD)

Good grief, I can't stop listening to this CD. I first saw her perform on SNL the other week with Drew Barrymore hosting. It's catchy pop with a ska edge over some really tart lyrics. Quite cheeky. I keep playing Track 11, Alfie, a ridiculous amount, really, it's getting to be rather embarrassing.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Little Children (Film)

Really outstanding film making. I feel all the Oscar nominations given to The Queen should have gone to this film instead, including Best Picture and Best Director. After seeing all those Oscar nominated pictures over the past few weeks and feeling I was just not getting it. I was puzzled why some of those films and the performances they contained were considered Oscar worthy. I was starting to doubt my tastes. I really enjoyed this film. I found the film to be funny and touching. I felt like reading the original novel after seeing this movie. Grade A work all around.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Volver (Film)

I've always enjoyed European films. I find those films tend to be more ambiguous in their storytelling. They don't have a need to tie everything together in some neat bow. It's ok if some things are left a little messy. Volver is a prime example of this. I initially saw this because Penelope Cruz was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar and she looked sizzling in the trailer. I found the film itself not without it's charms, but felt curiously flat to me. I was hoping for a little more heat from the storyline to better match what Cruz was bringing to the role. I give this tale of mothers and their daughters a C-.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Batman: Year 100 (Comic)

It's a Batman tale set in the future year of 2039, a hundred years after the publication of the first Batman story. The story's a mite wonky and the questions aren't all answered, but the vision created by Paul Pope is complete and utterly unique. It took a bit to get used to his art, but I found a freshness and energy I hadn't seen in a while. Looking at the art shows Pope has thought long and hard of what he wants to put down and that care really shows. Well worth picking up and checking out. B+.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Smokin' Aces (Film)

A loud, annoying, unexciting, and worst of all, dull wannabe cool hipster action movie. It's someone thinking if they wear the right clothes they're automatically cool, not realizing it's not what you wear, but who you are. All the characters seem to have come out of movies from better movies and the influences are painfully clear: Tarantino, Guy Richie, Coen Brothers, and Trainspotting. The problem is, this film never rises above those influences and creates it's own unique mojo. The movie's only an hour and forty-eight minutes, but it's a long, long hour and forty-eight. I'd stay clear and it's the reason I'm only giving this a D-.

The Queen (Film)

I admit upfront I only saw this movie because it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and the buzz behind Helen Mirren's performance as the Queen. I don't really understand the public fascination of the English monarchy or the English class system for that matter. Given all this, I felt at times while watching the movie, it seemed like I was watching a movie on PBS. While the film largely dealt with the Queen's reaction in the week following Diana's death in Paris, I was much more interested in Prime Minister Tony Blair's handling of the situation. Helen Mirren is appreciatively restrained in her aloof performance, but I saw nothing particularly dazzling. Perhaps that was the point, how understated she seemed. I did find the overwhelming public reaction to Diana's death surprising. I had no idea she was so loved. Given my lukewarm reaction, is it any surprise I'm giving this movie a C-.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Letters from Iwo Jima (Film)

One of the more compelling films I've ever seen on the subject of war. I found the Japanese's point of view particularly interesting because I think all the World War II pictures I've seen have largely been about the American forces and in particular their battles in Europe. It was refreshing to see things from the "enemies" perspective and it turns out it's not that much different from the other side. The soldiers we meet on Iwo Jima are not professional soldiers, but instead are bakers and farmers, ordinary men asked to defend the country they live in and love. Who can fault these men who've answered the call to arms? Through the letters they write to loved ones back home and the conversations they share, we learn to respect and honor the sacrifices they make in the name of patriotism. I'm amazed at the directing job Clint Eastwood has pulled off and marvel at his masterful ability to direct a film in a foreign language. I did think he had it in him. It's a film well worth seeing. I give this film a A.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Babel (Film)

According to Genesis 11:1-9, mankind, after the deluge, traveled from the mountain where the ark had rested, and settled in 'a plain in the land of Shinar' (or Senaar). Here, they attempted to build a city and a tower whose top might reach unto Heaven, the Tower of Babel.

The attempt to build the Tower of Babel had angered God who, in his anger, made each person involved speak a different language which ultimately halted the project and scattered and disconnected the people across the planet.

This film is a fractured tale made up of three stories that intercut with one another and are vaguely connected to one another. The most interesting of these story lines involves a deaf mute Japanese teenager whose inability to hear so isolates her from her peers as to be heartbreaking. She wants to lead the normal life of a teenaged girl complete with flirting with cute boys and perhaps even fall in love. The filmmakers effectively convey what it might be like to be deaf. The silence speaks volumes.

I had wished the other stories were as effective. I found my mind wandering and checked my watch to see how much more time was left. I admire the intent behind the film, for all our differences, we are more like than different and how communication can so easily be jumbled as to mistake intent. As it stands, I would give the movie a C.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My 5 Favorite Albums (Random Musing)

Fiddling with my iPod the other night and I came to muse upon what my favorite albums are. Now I've heard in this day of buying singles, people actually buying whole albums is a rather antiquated concept, a product of a by-gone era. Perhaps. Maybe people don't have enough time to absorb albums anymore, not when something new could be heard a mouse click away. Any way, for your listening pleasure and mine, I'd thought I'd list what my five albums are. I do like a wide range of music, but these are albums I can actually find myself listening to the whole way through. Not as easy as I might have thought. And this is in no particular order.

By the Way by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I found this album to be a real departure form their previous efforts. It has a real strong sense of harmony I would not have thought possible from this group.

Ritual de lo Habitual by Jane's Addiction. The song Three Days is as fine as a rock song can be and the other songs are not too shabby either. It's the album that made me love Jane's Addiction and the reason why I kept getting their albums in the hopes they will be as good as this.

Come Away with Me by Norah Jones. Her lush voice made me swoon over these songs.

The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails. Awesome. I was planning on listening to just the first track and I damn near listened to the entire album.

OK Computer by Radiohead. Over an entire winter all I listened to was this album. And I never got sick of it. This album alone will make me get every single album Radiohead makes for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Perfume - The Story of a Murderer (Film)

At times the visual images flowed like sublime poetry. The story is about a man whose sense of smell is so acute, he can discern the precise contents of a perfume with just one whiff. He wants to create the most potent scent ever devised and to do so, like making an omelet, he must break a few eggs or in this case, sacrifice a few lives. I see this as a statement on the necessity of great art comes from great pain and sometimes suffering. I found this film to be utterly captivating coupled with a sense of unease. I found myself wondering how this story would ultimately end. It's been a while since that's happened to me. I'm a big fan of this director's earlier work, Run Lola Run, and see his love for red heads remains intact. I give this film a B+.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Anime Simpsons

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess (Video Game)

The game is finished and is a fitting end for the Nintendo Gamecube system. While at times, which in fact is too many, this Zelda outing felt like a spiffier super-sized version of N64's Ocarina of Time, I still enjoyed my time in Hyrule. I did feel there wasn't enough challenges in the game. I found myself beating end bosses way too easily. I had hoped for a better fight. The quest is epic and diverse. I'm very curious how this would play out on the Wii with it's unique controller set up. All in all, I'll give this game a A-.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Children of Men (Film)

I've been a big fan of this director ever since Alfonso Cuaron directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I think he is enormously talented and has a real eye for taking interesting shots. His talent is very much evident in this movie with breathtaking shots of extended takes with no apparent cuts. I wish the story was as compelling. If you've seen the trailer, I'm afraid you've seen most of the major story beats for this film. I wasn't as annoyed as I should have been given the story's acute ambiguity on the reasons why children are no longer being born or the lack of information on the Human Project. What story is present is compelling and worth watching. I give this film a B.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth (Film)

My expectations got the better of me this time. I had heard so much about this movie I was expecting such big things. It was like someone telling you he has this really funny joke. A really, really funny joke. I mean, you'll just bust a gut laughing and that's no joke, seriously. Then you hear the joke and you're just left feeling, eh. That's how I felt after seeing this movie.

I wanted the main character of Ofelia, a reincarnated soul of a lost Princess, to be more clever and show her worthy of her royal title. The film is beautifully made, I think the director has some real skill and style all his own. I just wish the film was as good. I give the film a C.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dreamgirls (Film)

It's much more like an opera than musical. I'd guess about 5% of the film is spoken dialogue with the rest made up of song. Which wouldn't be so bad, if you cared for the music. I would strongly recommend taking a listen to the soundtrack and see if you care for the songs. If you do, by all means see this movie. If not, this will be a very long two hours. A very, very long two hours. The film is very well made and shot beautifully. I wished the songs were a lot stronger. The Dreamgirls are supposed to be representative of the hit Motown sound. Sadly, for me, none of the songs sung in the movie come even close. I give this one a D.