Thoughts on some movies I’ve seen in the last ~2 months.
Seen for the First Time
The Big Lebowski – I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. It should have been funny, but was just tedious.
Slumdog Millionaire – Fascinating, both in its exploration of poverty in India and in the theme of showing how seemingly small and unrelated events can all contribute to someone’s future.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies – Had its moments, but overall was pretty much a standard superhero film.
Clerks 2 – Kevin Smith seems to hit about 50/50 with me. I loved the first Clerks, hated Mallrats (except for the “Jedi Mind Trick” payoff), liked Chasing Amy and Dogma, but Jay and Silent Bob was mostly annoying (though it had its moments). Clerks 2 was mostly gross-out humor wrapped around a Broken Aesop in which the happy ending is for the indecisive guy to let the a—hole make his decisions for him.
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan – They did a decent job of trying to pull together a consistent story from elements that were originally unconnected, but it still ended up playing too much like a clip show — especially the segments in the Colonial fleet. The segments on Caprica worked much better, though I did find it interesting that they re-cast the Cylon infiltrators as a tiny, isolated guerrilla force rather than the tip of an iceberg of espionage. It relied way too much on the audience remembering what happened in the series.
Liar, Liar – Pretty much what I remember from the previews, except longer. Funny. Worth seeing at least once.
Synecdoche, New York – A metafictional examination of living life vs. imitating it that doesn’t quite live up to the scope of its ambition…but then, part of the point of the movie is that it can’t. (Note: not a good choice for watching while eating.)
Evil Dead 2 – Nice camera work, but I’m not a horror fan. Also, this makes absolutely no sense as a sequel, but works just fine as a remake. You can explain Ash’s actions at the beginning with evil-enforced amnesia, but the timeline with the professor’s discovery of the book just doesn’t mesh with the first movie. I posted some thoughts on Army of Darkness last week.
Up – Second time, watched in a second-run theater. Holds up, even without 3D. Bring tissue.
Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero – still a better Mr. Freeze movie than Batman And Robin. Not that it would be hard.
Coraline – Third time, but first time on small screen or in 2D. Still works, though of course not nearly as impressive visually. Still, great animation & story. Kind of like Up in that way.
Conan the Destroyer – The first movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger was very good and holds up well almost three decades later. This one was almost self-parody.
Neil Gaiman remarked on his blog that images his agent emails from Germany end up with the colors inverted, and posts an example of a Coraline poster:
“…ah yes, I thought. That’s the sequel, all right. CORALINE APOCALYPSE”
I used to run into this with TIFF images when building websites. (No big surprise, given that there are a million variations on the TIFF format.) I think it was around 2000 or so that I was working on a website for a law firm, and they sent me their logo. The logo, as I received it, was yellow on light blue, so I built a site with black text on a white background for the main areas, and yellow on light blue (matching their logo) for the title, navigation, and borders.
I sent them a link to the test site. They looked at it, and said it was very nice, but could I try to match the color scheme on their logo instead?
It turned out that red and blue had gotten switched around (and possibly more, because I can’t remember how the yellow ended up in there), but anyway it was supposed to be white on light brown. I switched the channels, redid all the graphics and styles for the site, and they stuck with it for several years.
Back on the subject of Coraline, Gaiman adds in his post that the film has become “the second highest grossing stop-motion film ever” after Chicken Run. So why does it seem to be forgotten already? Just two months ago, commentators were falling all over themselves to say Coraline was the turning point for 3-D animation being part of the storytelling and not just a gimmick. Now everyone’s talking about how Monsters vs. Aliens is the turning point for 3-D animation being part of the storytelling and not just a gimmick.
Somehow, I don’t think that being a mall cop is a good choice for a self-confessed shopaholic.
Also, “Coraline: Just Not That Into You” has a faintly amusing ring to it.
Speaking of Coraline, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that not only is it still in a lot of nearby theaters after ~6 weeks, it’s still out in 3-D in a lot of theaters. I may have to take advantage of that fact at some point…
Found this ad for Coraline in this morning’s newspaper:
It’s kind of hard to read, between the pixel size and the printing, but the funniest bit is the blue sidebar on “Finding the Tastiest Beetles:”
Beetles are delicious creatures that live close to home. If you use beetles from your backyard or basement, check them for shiny and fully developed thoraxes (beetles still in larval stage will be chewy and bland). The most mouth-watering kind, with translucent shells and large veins, can be found in the forests of Zanzibar.
I discovered Sandman late, borrowing the trades from one of my (younger) brother’s friends around 1998 or so, then immediately tracking down my own copies. I lucked out and got a complete set on eBay for something like $70. Since then I’ve devoured most of Neil Gaiman’s work, be it in comics, prose, or movie form. The original novel of Coraline was very good, and it’s been adapted by the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is among my favorite movies…and what I’ve seen of the film suggests that they get it. It’s hard to believe it’s only two weeks away!
Other movies: Oddly enough, I’m only mildly interested in Terminator: Salvation, Transformers 2: Can’t Remember the Subtitle, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the films have been steadily deteriorating after peaking with #3, IMHO), Star Trek, and Watchmen. I’ll probably see all of them, but none of them have me nearly as excited.