Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Movie List 2012: February

* = rewatched


The Muppets

A pair of brothers journey to LA and try to reunite The Muppet gang and save their studio from being demolished by an evil oil baron.

Genre: Comedy/Partial Musical

You know what this movie could have really used? More muppets! For a movie about the muppets there was way, way too much of a focus on the humans and that dumb human muppet. That little Walter human-muppet guy was HORRIBLE. The muppets were great as always, Bret McKenzie's songs were enjoyable, and there were some really well done emotional scenes. But that horrid little muppet man tainted everything. Also there were way too many 4th wall jokes. Once or twice it can be funny, but when you keep tearing down the 4th wall it's just dumb.

So yeah. It was an okay movie, but it doesn't even come close to holding a candle to the older muppet movies.


You Are (Not) Alone

For some reason the world's most whiny kid is the only one who can pilot the giant robot that's needed to fight the huge Gushers-powered monsters that keep attacking.

Genre: Giant Robot Sci-Fi Anime

Fun Fact: If your friend Rusty tells you that you should come over and watch The Exorcist, don't do it. Because he will make you watch this movie instead.

I hated this movie for so many reasons: I didn't understand a single thing that was going on, the voice acting was terrible, the main character always sounded like he was about to start crying and was constantly whining about everything, the designs weren't anything special, and so much more. But instead of pulling a Shinji and complaining about it all I'm going to tell you about the movie's best scene. A scene so good I laughed so very, very hard. It was the best laugh I've had in a long time. The scene wasn't supposed to be funny, but that is besides the point.

So, there's this kid named Shinji. He is constantly in one of these states: about to cry, crying, complaining, feeling sorry for himself. Anyways, he's just been shown a truly enormous robot and told that he's going to be the pilot.

"What?," says Shinji, "I don't know anything about piloting giant robots."

"Don't worry," they tell him. "You'll be fine. We'll walk you through it."

"I don't want to," says Shinji. "My father doesn't love me! WAAAHHH"

"Yeah, good luck with that. Suck it up. They world's apparently a devastated hellscape for some reason so we've all got issues. Plus if you don't do it we're going to put this battered young girl in it instead and it'll probably kill her."

"Jesus Christ, why would you do that?"


Anyways, a giant monster is about to attack the city and after much whining and crying Shinji agrees to pilot it. I'll set the scene:

It's a dark city. Tall futuristic buildings are ominously in the background. A huge monster approaches the city. Panels in the streets open up and a badass robot arises from it.

"Okay, so how do I drive this crazy thing," Shinji asks.

"Alright, first things first, just concentrate on taking a step."

"Okay...oh, wow...I'm doing it! I'm really doing it!"

The hulking robot begins to walk toward the monster.

"He's doing it!" The people in charge say. "He just might be able to pull this off!"

It is at this point that the giant robot trips over its own feet and falls to the ground. The monster immediately pounces on it, breaks the robot's arm, and then punches it in its robot face. It continues to punch it in face over and over again with increasing vigor until finally throwing aside the now battered and broken robot and going back to destroying the city.

I honestly thought that they were going to have the untrained loser pilot who had never been in this thing before defeat the monster. Never in a million years would I have guessed that they'd actually go with the obvious result of him getting his ass handed to him. It was in a word: brilliant.

However, immediately after this bit Shinji goes berserk and for some reason that gives him the knowledge needed to not suck at life and he does defeat the monster. And with that the faint glimmer of hope I had that this movie might not be so bad after all was crushed.


Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

A documentary following Conan O'Brien from shortly after he left The Tonight Show up until the end of his live tour.

Genre: Documentary

For once I was actually really excited to see a movie and I wasn't disappointed. I watched it and then I promptly watched it again with the commentary on. In the commentary there was a really interesting comment about what the film was about: Addiction. About how Conan really just can't stop. He can't stop trying to seek out the spotlight, he can't stop trying to please everyone, even when doing these things are taking a serious toll on him. There's a number of memorable scenes where Conan will be complaining about how it's all too much and then refuses to let anyone help him and goes and does it all anyway. It's because of this angle that I think that someone who wasn't a big Conan fan might still find this documentary quite interesting.

While it is overall quite funny, you do get to see Conan stressed out, depressed, and lashing out at people. I really would recommend giving the commentary a try because it was done after Conan had gotten his new show and is in a better place. As such he is able to look back on these events from a higher ground and shed light on a bunch of stuff. Definitely one of the more interesting commentary tracks I've heard.


Hot Coffee

A look at how our judicial branch is being exploited and the effect this has on actual people.

Genre: Documentary

I'm on a good documentary roll here. I had seen the interview with this filmmaker on The Colbert Report and that's what made me curious about this film. It is a fascinating movie. Before seeing the interview and before seeing the movie, I would have never believed that a movie about Judicial matters and torte reform would be so interesting. But there you have it.

As I was watching this movie it became more and more clear that I've been duped by corporations. I hate that feeling, don't you? That realization that they got you. We're always thinking how smart we are for seeing past propaganda. For not being dumb enough to fall prey to the people who say things like "global warming is fake" and whatnot. And then you get shown some of things you haven't been so smart about. I didn't even know what a torte was. Turns out it is actually something that is really very important and everyone should probably bother learning about.

I mean, the whole thing with the lady who sued McDonalds because she spilled hot coffee on herself? I remember hearing about that. I remember thinking it was ridiculous. And that there were too many frivolous law suits. But I really just had no idea. Who knew that when these settlements are made the victims have to sign a gag order. Then the corporations are free to talk about it and spin the story as they see fit and the victim can't say a thing. Thus we never hear the real story.

I'd recommend checking out that interview and if you're even the littlest bit intrigued I'd highly recommend you give the film a watch.



A cautionary tale about the dangers of owning rare and exotic pets. A young man's Christmas present ends up unleashing a plague of murderous gremlins onto an unsuspecting small town.

Genre: Horror-Comedy

You know, after I saw this movie as a kid I was scared me for years. Whenever I was home alone I'd be afraid that Gremlins would pop out of the cabinet or from under of my bed, or from any number of other such places. Over the years I've come to think that it was rather silly of me and that the movie was really more goofy than anything, but that is just not the case. I was perfectly right as a child to be horrified by this movie. It's not all that horrifying to an adult, but damn. For a kid? Perfectly understandable. There's some freaky stuff going on in this movie.

That being said, the movie is a lot of fun. There are a lot of goofy jokes and whatnot. I also really like all the characters. They're all quite likeable so you actually care about them. But the really impressive thing about this movie is the effects. No CGI. Just old-fashioned amazing physical effects. And damn it looks so much creepier because of it.


Gremlins 2

A gremlin horde is unleashed against an unsuspecting populace once again, except this time instead of terrorising a small town they're terrorising a state-of-the-art shopping mall and business complex.

Genre: Comedy-Horror

This movie is the reason I looked back on the first movie and thought it was silly of me to have been so scared of it. This movie has a lot less scares and gross-out moments and a lot more laughs. The writers must have had a lot of fun coming up with some of the stuff for this movie. There's some crazy gadgets, there's kooky characters, there's mad-scientist labs, it's got everything. It's a lot of fun.

Fun Fact: I watched these two movies at my friend Rusty's house after work one night. I probably would have enjoyed this one more if I hadn't been fighting off a wicked need to use the bathroom. You see Rusty lives in his parents basement and his dad isn't completely all there and can be found wandering about at night. As such he creeps me out and I refuse go to the bathroom while I'm there in fear of coming across him. So after the movies, as I was walking home, I ended up going behind a snow bank because my bladder couldn't wait any longer. Good times.


The Burbs

Neighbors in a suburb community become obsessed with the goings-on of the strange new family that's moved in.

Genre: Comedy

You know, Rusty seems to think that this movie is a hilarious classic. I'm not as convinced. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of funny parts too it, and it has a pretty great cast, but I definitely wouldn't call it a must-see film by any means. I'd say that if some friends are watching it or if you stumble on it on TV, go ahead a give it a watch. But I wouldn't bother seeking it out.


Mr & Mrs Smith

Mr & Mrs Smith find out that there marriage wasn't legal and now Mrs Smith isn't so sure she wants to rectify that.

Genre: Old Alfred Hitchcock Comedy

I don't know. The movie is pretty fun, but overall I'm not sure I really cared for it. You spend most of the movie thinking that Mr. Smith is a total jerk and that his "wife" is completely right to want to be done with him. Then it's only at the very end that they show you that she's a little crazy as well and that's why the couple actually works.



After her mentally handicapped son is accused of murder, an elderly mother has to try and investigate the situation herself to try and clear her son's name.

Genre: Korean Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

As I've said before, Korean movies are fascinating. They are fascinating because they never play by the same rulebook we're used to seeing. I honestly don't know what to say about this movie. It's fascinating, but unlike anything I've seen before. It was beautiful, sad, horrifying, and tense, but always in ways I wasn't expecting. It takes a good hard look at the things we would do for the people we love and the lengths we would go to. It brings up the subject of unconditional love and questions whether or not it is really such a purely Good emotion. After all, if an emotion, even love, can lead someone to do unspeakable acts, can it really be Good?


The Secret World of Arietty

A Studio Ghibli adaptation of The Borrowers.
A race of tiny people exist in the walls of houses, surviving by secretly borrowing the things that they need from the humans. However, when a young borrower named Arietty is spotted by a young human it triggers a series of events that changes her world forever.

Genre: Fantasy

Studio Ghibli movies are always a challenge to describe, because there is always some intrinsic quality to them that goes beyond what you see in most movies. The more action oriented ones like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are easier to describe, because they have more epic plots. However, it is much more challenging to tell your friends about movies like Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro because the plots more or less don't matter; they're movies of mood. They deal in characters and places and images more so than events. And the mood movies of Studio Ghibli are actually my favorites. Because being less centered on story, allows them to be more timeless.

I'm getting away from myself a little bit here, but I bring all this up because I feel that The Secret World of Arietty falls into that category of Ghibli mood movies. As such, I think that if I tried to explain why I loved it, I would just ramble on and on. I will, however, say that it might just have been my 3rd favorite Ghibli movie (I'd have to see it again and in Japanese to be sure).


The Exorcist

A young girl becomes possessed by the devil and her mother tries desperately to save her.

Genre: Classic Horror

I finally got around to seeing this. Technically I should mention that I saw the extended cut, and since Rusty was telling me what scenes weren't in the original, I'm going to go ahead and say that I like the extended cut better.

The movie definitely isn't the kind of thing you see a lot of nowadays. I feel that if it was done today there would be a bigger focus on the Scares and less of a focus on the Scary. The way this movie chose its emphases surprised me quite a bit, because when you hear about this movie you always hear about the Scares: the crab-walk down the stairs, the spinning head, the vomiting, etc. But those aren't the parts that are the scariest. The parts that are effectively the most chilling are the ones that illustrate the mental state of the mother.

Here is this woman whose daughter is suffering from an affliction that no one can seem to cure her of. The girl is sick and is hurting herself and others and this mother is at her wits end. Her world is falling apart and she doesn't know what to do anymore. And that's when the church comes into play. Because when things are hopeless what else can you do but to say a prayer and hope that God knows what He's doing. The idea that something can hit a family, any family, out of nowhere and destroy the lives of those in it is really the part of this film that I found truly fascinating.


The Adventures of Tintin

Based on the famous comic series by Hergé.
When a reporter buys an old model ship at a flea market he accidentally stumbles into a mystery. A mystery that could either make an amazing story, or wind up getting him killed.

Genre: Adventure

I remember reading the Tintin comics at my friend Jack's house as a kid so I was pretty excited to hear that they were making a movie. However, then I heard that it was done using motion capture computer graphics. Frankly that process tends to give me the creeps. But Jack said that a lot of his friends had seen it and said that it was really good, so I figured I'd give it a chance. And you know what? The CGI motion capture thing didn't bother me nearly as much as I thought it would. Although there definitely were a number of times it made things looks really goofy, over all it was used to a much greater effect than I've seen elsewhere.

As for the story I think it was a very good adaptation that remained very faithful to the comics. I believe that because Jack is a pretty big Tintin fan and he enjoyed it. I also believe it because the things I liked about the movie were all things I liked about the comics, and the things I didn't like about the comics, were also things I didn't like about the movie. So, I guess if you liked the comics you should check it out. If you have no prior exposure to Tintin at all, I'm a traditionalist, so I'd recommend you go read the comics first and see what you think.



Disney's take on the Repunzel fairy tale.
A witch kidnaps a baby girl, locks her in a tower, names her Repunzel, and raises her as her own in order to have access to the girl's magical hair. However, when Repunzel grows up she dreams of experiencing the outside world. She finally gets her chance when a thief stumbles upon the tower and gets press-ganged into being Repunzel's escort to the outside world.

Genre: Fairy tale Comedy/Musical

I really like this movie, but I also find it very disappointing. I find it very disappointing because it comes so, so very close to being a movie I'd Love. Its biggest problem is that it's a Musical...but not really. There are a couple of musical numbers, but they all seem ever-so forced. Not only that, but the songs are completely forgettable. I honestly can't remember the tune to a single one of them, let alone the lyrics. So as a musical it is a complete flop. But as a fun fantasy comedy? It's amazing. It's funny, it's fun, the characters are endearing, the animation is absolutely gorgeous, and probably some other pros that are just slipping my mind.

In conclusion: Definitely worth seeing, probably worth owning, but it has a few major faults.


  1. Completely agree with your take on Tangled and Arietyy.

    What are your two favorite Miyazaki & Ghibli movies?

    I think mine would have to be
    Porco Rosso and Howl's Moving Castle with the Cat Returns and Proncess Mononoke tied for thrid...

  2. Excluding Arrietty because I've only seen it once, my favorite Ghibli movies are:

    1. My Neighbor Totoro
    2. Spirited Away
    3. Princess Mononoke
    4. Kiki's Delivery Service
    5. Whisper of the Heart

    Admittedly "Grave of the Fireflies" should be high up on the list, because it is so well done and powerful. But it makes me terribly sad and thus I generally refuse to rewatch it.

  3. Oh man, I agree. Grave of the Fireflies is excellent but super depressing. But then again, Grave of the Fireflies isn't Miyazaki which was one of the conditions. So it's a good thing you didn't include it. ;)

  4. I said "Ghibli movies". Grave of the Fireflies was indeed done by Studio Ghibli.

    Plus if you want to be technical about it, then your list wouldn't be legit under a Miyazaki only rule. The Cat Returns wasn't directed or written by Miyazaki.

  5. Ha! Now I wish I had succeeded in bullying you into watching Tin Tin over the holidays. I too have recently seen it, and liked it quite a bit. I was amazed by the detail in the facial expressions. :D