movie reviews, updates

As seen on… June 2014

Hey hey hey, here’s another monthly wrap-up post thing! I’m about a week late because things have been super busy since July 1st. At any rate, here’s what I wrote about when I wasn’t here (and I wasn’t here much, was I?).

On +5 Charisma at Geek Girl Pen Pals…
I featured a couple of super creative ladies in my Disneybounding/Everyday Cosplay series. Check them out!

Movie Reviews for June:
The month started with The Fault in Our Stars. I thought it was good, and I’d recommend seeing it now that the theater isn’t going to be full of sobbing teenagers.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 was fun, exciting, beautifully animated, and had some really great emotional undercurrents. I loved the relationship between Hiccup’s parents. Do not watch with small children, however, because this movie does follow a couple of coming-of-age, related-to-parent tropes. (You like how I avoided spoilers with that one?)
For its 30th anniversary, I rewatched Ghostbusters and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The humor holds up well. The effects? Not so much.
Transformers: Age of Extinction was possibly the longest movie I’ve ever sat through, and that includes a marathon of all of the Lord of the Rings extended editions. Seriously.

Over at Paper Droids…
I talked about Maleficent as an allegory of assault survival in light of the #YesAllWomen movement on Twitter. Deeper than my usual fare, not for light reading.

And that’s about it! I had a bit of an adventure on July 1 that I’ll share soon (J had a “take your family to work” day and it was both fascinating and very very long at the same time), plus I need to finish the last Australia entry. I’ve been taking a bit of a break for summer, but by August I should be back into full swing, plus with some new content (more animal/conservation/zoo stuff maybe? yes?) for you. Woot! Until then.

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movie reviews

Thoughts on The Desolation of Smaug… A small hobbity commentary

Hobbit DoS poster 1

I saw The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug this weekend and here are some of my thoughts on it, slightly out of order and really just as they occur to me. My full review can be found here.

1) While I don’t generally mind changes in book-to-movie adaptations, I feel like this movie was strongest when it rang true to the book and weakest where the deviations were strongest.

2) I really like Tauriel as a character. It makes sense to have specific elves present and I like having a female character in an otherwise completely male cast. When they retread Arwen’s healing skills with her (and reduce her to a love triangle) I think it’s a detriment to her as a character.

3) It makes perfect sense for us to see Legolas in the movie, seeing as his dad is so prominent in the story.

4) Much as I love Beorn… He could’ve been completely cut. We either needed to slow down and have some sort of plot point at Beorn’s house, or the dwarves could’ve just run for the forest and been done with it. As it was, the whole thing felt rushed and extra.

5) I do not understand how a. Thorin wasn’t burned to death sitting on a metal cart in molten gold and then b. still expected the dragon to be killed by it. Logical fallacy at best.

6) Bilbo’s reactions to the Ring are wonderful! Especially the details about being able to understand the spiders’ speech while wearing it.

7) Smaug was amazing. The film-makers completely did him justice and despite the logical issues in the molten gold scene, he still comes off the better for it. Who’d have guessed the dragon would be my favorite part?

8) Laketown was, I think, perfect as a set. Well, until the orcs and elves turned up, that is.

9) Story wise, I think the loss of the people’s enthusiasm for the dwarves could make the dragon attack less poignant. I could be wrong, as that’s the next movie.

10) Other than justifying the orcs and elves in Laketown (which as I’ve said I didn’t like anyway), I can’t think of any reason for the four dwarves to be left behind. I’m honestly expected to believe that after ALL of the things they’ve experienced together, those four wouldn’t at least try to follow? I get that Kili is injured…but it bothers me.

11) I really like getting to see what Gandalf is doing when he continually leaves the dwarves on their own, and it sets up the events in LotR better.

As I’ve said before, this was a very good action/fantasy film and I’m sure critics will like it better because it’s faster paced (which is the trend right now). It may be a really good action movie, but it’s very bad Tolkien. I’ll have to go see it again and find out how I react when the surprises are gone and I’m just watching it as a movie, see what I notice. And it may be that the extended edition fixes many of my complaints with the breakneck pacing and lack of plot point at Beorn’s house.

So there we go. Random thoughts on DoS.

Disney, movie reviews

Movie Review: Disney’s Frozen

Disney-Frozen-360x210

I’m going to say it up front: Disney’s Frozen is the best animation picture they have put out in years. The animation itself is lovely, the snowy scenes they created are epic in scale and gorgeous, the characters are interesting (and there’s a whole cast of them to boot!), and the story is surprising in a way that Disney-Princess-Tales so often are not. This movie is fantastic.

From here on, there are SPOILERS, Sweetie.

Continue reading “Movie Review: Disney’s Frozen”

Commentary, movie reviews

Wizardly Commentary: Thoughts on Oz, the Great and Powerful

((SPOILER WARNING))

Tonight we saw Oz, the Great and Powerful, the new movie from Disney that is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz. Strange, perhaps, to release a prequel 74 years after the original movie, but maybe we needed this long for Oz to permeate our pop culture, and for us to be ready for another trip there.

Personally, I’ve never especially liked the original movie. I know, I know, it’s a Classic Film, but there are a handful that either I saw at the exact wrong time as a child or that have never held my interest. E.T. is one I’ve never liked because I had nightmares about the titular character jumping out of the very-familiar-pile-of-toys on my bed. He terrified me, and to this day I will not watch that movie. I suspect the Wizard of Oz falls into the latter category; it’s never been very interesting to me. I’ve always liked the first bit, with the tornado and landing in Oz and all, but somewhere around the poppy field I always get bored or distracted and never seem to finish.

All of that being said, I was actually looking forward to Oz, the Great and Powerful. It looked and sounded promising, and if nothing else it would be a relatively entertaining Disney jaunt. It was much better than that.

Things I liked about the movie included the conflict between the witches. I liked that Glenda wasn’t dumb, and that Theodora is a surprise of sorts. I knew since neither of those first two witches was named “Glenda” that we should be careful of them, but they didn’t seem all that bad really. Not until they needed to be properly wicked. I also liked the scenes when they flew through Oz itself, with the land (sometimes literally) unfolding beneath and around them. It was also, as J observed, a very good movie in which no one died.

The best parts were the nods to the original work, not just to the 1939 movie, but to the Oz books themselves. The circus at the beginning is “Baum’s Circus” and the girl-left-behind goes off to marry a John Gale, and I can only assume they are Dorothy’s parents. There is a lion called cowardly, and useful scarecrows, and other such things, but there are also Quadlings and Tinkers and people of Oz! I enjoyed that a lot.

Things I didn’t like included the parts that were obviously included for 3D. We saw it in 2D and it was bright and colorful and gorgeous, but there were certain parts (water fairies, I’m looking at you) that were only there for the sake of the 3D, and we had to wait patiently for those bits to be done as they tended to be slow (so as people watching in 3D could appreciate them, I suppose). I also didn’t like how quickly Theodora became a wicked witch. I thought she’d fight it a little more, that she would be more complicated and that she wouldn’t turn to complete wickedness just over a man. I wanted more depth from that character. Another note on her: Mila Kunis really got the Margaret Hamilton, Wicked Witch laugh down. It’s hard to fill those black, pointy shoes, but she did a pretty good job.

The most interesting part of watching the movie itself I’m not sure was even intentional. Maybe it was, but I’d have to see it again to be sure. At any rate, the movie opens in old-school, small frame black and white, and then opens into color when we arrive in Oz, just like the original. The interesting thing to me was that the movie was almost annoyingly quiet in the black and white portion. I was extremely aware that I was in a (very full) theater; people whispered, candy wrappers rustled, popcorn crunched… and then as we got to Oz and the picture expanded and the color turned on, the sound became encompassing and there we were. The more I think about it, the more I think this had to be on purpose. How else would a shift to color (and very saturated color at that) be such a big moment in the movie, unless the filmmakers could recreate the wonder of that Technicolor moment with a modern audience? So you aren’t fully immersed until you enter Oz. It’s very clever.

Overall it was a very enjoyable movie, and I recommend it to anyone, whether they need a kick of nostalgia or if they just want to see Oz in a new way.

movie reviews

Thoughts on Jurassic Park, 3D.

Last night I saw Jurassic Park in 3D.

The interesting thing (to me) about this movie is that I remember when it came out in theaters, but I never went to see it. Maybe because I wasn’t quite 11 and the movie was PG-13 (though, seeing it now, it’s a very tame PG-13 compared to current movies) or maybe because by the time I was nearly 11 I was over the dinosaurs thing and had moved on to horses, or maybe a little of both. At any rate, I remember this movie in the cultural landscape of, oh, fifth grade or so and what a big deal it was.

I also remember going to Universal Studios this past November and walking through the Jurassic Park section, and thinking how exciting it must have been when that bit of the park opened, and how much things have changed (with a comparison to, say, the Harry Potter section there now). It puts things into a cultural context where you can see things age.

All of that being said, it is important to know that I have never seen this movie, from start to finish, in its entirety until tonight. The only time I’ve seen it before was probably ten years ago, edited for TV on a tiny, square screen. Somehow the t-rex just doesn’t have the same impact in such a situation.

The movie absolutely withstands the test of time, apart from the obviously dated electronics (the theater audience all had a good laugh at the “interactive CD-ROM” in the Jeeps). The storytelling and pacing are still good, as are the visual effects, which really surprised me. There is no obvious green/blue screen, and I had no trouble buying into the humans interacting with the dinosaurs.

The 3D was some of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a good bit. Most people complain about the “dimness” of the screen in 3D , or how the images look like cut-outs after conversion (like a diorama) but this movie doesn’t seem to suffer from either. The 3D was seamless from my perspective, and actually enhanced the movie– when I took off my glasses to squint at the “original” film on screen, the movie took on a dated look, but with the 3D it was like seeing something fresh. Which, of course, to me it mostly was, but I wasn’t aware that I was looking at a twenty-year-old film.

Besides all of that, it’s just a fun movie. It’s scary in all the right places, it’s got just the right amount of suspense, and a good sense of wonderment at the dinosaur sightings. I kept expecting the floor to shake with the t-rex’s footsteps.

So (if my opinion counts for anything) I completely recommend seeing this one in theaters. I know it’s expensive to see it in the 3D, but it’s a great experience and, I think, worth it.

And, for what it’s worth, now that I’ve seen the movie start to finish, the Jurassic Park section at Universal did a remarkable job recreating the Visitor Center.

Commentary, geek life, movie reviews

There and Back Again: a Hobbit Commentary

WARNING: Spoilers, Sweetie.

My thoughts on the first installment of the new Hobbit trilogy, after having seen it twice.

First, I’m not sure that the 3D added to my enjoyment of the movie, except that the scenery was more immersive. I enjoyed all of the New Zealand vistas, and getting to see both familiar and new locations. Some places looked familiar that probably weren’t quite the same, but that’s what you get filming in a single (gorgeous) country.

Second, the casting is really good. I was hesitant when I saw Thorin at first, since he doesn’t look quite dwarf-y enough to me, but I really like it given the rest of the plot.

And now to that plot… The added orcs, the added characters (Radagast), etc, are heavily drawn from (or inspired by) the descriptions of concurrent events and histories in the Appendices of Lord of the Rings and from the other writings of JRR Tolkien. I know some people (purists, I’d guess) have complained, but really I thought it was well done and took what would have been an episodic children’s story and turned it into something cinematic. 

Radagast was one of my favorite additions. He’s always been fascinating to me as a background character in LotR, and to see him actually realized (and so well done!) is really fun. He might be my favorite part. And who wouldn’t want a rabbit sled?

Finally, the main complaint I’ve seen is that the movie is entirely too similar to Fellowship of the Ring. And if you haven’t read the books, or if you don’t know why Tolkien wrote Fellowship, then it’s understandable. The thing is, The Hobbit was surprisingly successful. The publisher wanted a sequel, and so Tolkien tried to give them the text of what would become Silmarillion, his mythology that he’d been writing for Great Britain. The publisher didn’t want to deal with all of that, they wanted another episodic children’s book, so Tolkien tried again. He wrote about Bilbo having another adventure, then he wrote about Bilbo’s son (who no longer exists) and eventually it morphed into Bilbo’s cousin, Frodo. The story kept expanding, and became a blend of Hobbit-like plot with Silmarillion-like depth, and Lord of the Rings was the result. But if you keep in mind that each hobbit’s journey began with a trip toward Rivendell, and given that Fellowship began as a sequel, it’s no surprise that the two seem alike. The journeys are similar because they are moving from west to east, they encounter elves and goblins, and they must use their wits to survive in a scary world that’s in conflict.

At any rate, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and can’t wait to see the next installment.

conservation, movie reviews

Thoughts on Chimpanzee (the movie, not the animal)

As this weekend was Earth Day, it was also the opening weekend for the new Disneynature movie, Chimpanzee. And as I have every year, I went with a group from the zoo to go see it.

It’s always interesting to go see an animal movie w/ zoo people because we see things with that perspective. So the comments afterward were along the lines of this:

“At least they didn’t personify the chimps quite as much as in the lion one last year.”
“Why does there have to be an ‘invading force’ and all that, why not just say the other group needs more food to support itself?”
“Why are all of the ‘bad guys’ in these Disney movies named things like Scar? Or Fang?” (My contribution? “I like the name Roscoe…”)
“I wonder how much they edited it in the studio for _______ scene…”

You get the idea.

The footage was beautiful, though. I especially liked the parts where they filmed rain in slow motion as it poured down on mushrooms and leaves, and a part where they showed phosphorescent fungi. This is what I really like about these type of movies– the high definition, gorgeous footage of the wildlife and of places I’ll probably never see in my lifetime.

So yeah. I liked it overall.

Last thing for tonight and then I’m going to bed (I’ve been up since 4:30, which is a whole other matter). A friend sent me this:

..___
/…….>—(
=-=—=
=-=—=
|.|.|.|.|.>—-C
|●…●…●\
|●…●….●\
|●….●….●\
————————

Commentary, movie reviews, musings

Revisiting Childhood: The Lion King

Tonight I went to see the Lion King in 3D and I have to admit that I got chills when the sun first popped into view and the music started. It’s a great piece of music for one, but also because it was fun to see something that I remember seeing in theaters. In fact, I remember liking the movie so much we went to see it a second time at the $1 theater six months after it first opened.

While a lot of the movie is exactly as I remember it (I have it on DVD, too, so it’s not like I haven’t seen it in years or anything, though it has been a while), there are several things I didn’t notice as a child. And the interesting thing about childhood memories is that they are sometimes so strong that they continue to be the main perception of something. For instance, even though I’ve seen this movie a dozen times at least (plus every week of summer camp at the zoo), and even though I’ve seen the Broadway production, for the first time I heard the dialog as an adult and not as a kid. I noticed the Reservoir Dogs joke (“They call me… Mr. PIG!”) and other such small things that meant nothing to me 17 years ago when the movie was made.

Another thing I noticed? For being out of food about about to starve, those lionesses are still kind of, well, rounded. If they looked like that in a zoo, they’d be put on a diet reduction. (Note to self: cartoonlionscartoonlionscartoonlionsCARTOONLIONS)

Also, how did Scar get his name? It’s got to be a nickname since everyone else has African-sounding names. Plus, if he was born with the scar then it’s not really a scar, now is it? It’s just a weird stripe on his face. As an adult I imagine that Mufasa and his brother fought as cubs and that Mufasa gave him the scar and therefore the new name. (I have found that my theory is correct. Hmm.)

Another difference from childhood? I’ve now studied Hamlet. Hello, plotline.

But really, it was fun to rediscover my favorite movie from childhood and to find that it’s still beautiful and that I can still enjoy it (even if I spent the entire opening sequence thinking “Hey, look, it’s a kudu!” and other such things). And I think I’d like the new remastered version on DVD to replace my old, well loved copy.

movie reviews, updates

Updated entry for Cowboys and Aliens

So I keep getting hits on my blog for people looking for the meaning behind the symbolic hummingbird in the movie Cowboys and Aliens. I didn’t say my interpretations in the original entry about the movie to prevent spoilers, but as the movie is now several weeks old, I updated that post. You can view it here. And this is your spoiler alert: don’t go read that if you haven’t seen the movie. It won’t make much sense, but it will ruin enough for you that it won’t be any fun. ~_^