Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Movie List 2012: April

I've mostly been watching TV, mini-series, and mini-series documentaries this month, so there aren't too many movies for April.

While writing this post I realized that Bloggers new setup is overall quite nice, and yet in some ways I dislike it. For instance they took away one of my fonts! I used to use Lucida Grande for titles and headings and stuff. But now it's gone! But for some reason I have the option to choose from Helvetica & Arial? First of all, why would you want to use Helvetica? Second of all, why would I use Arial if I could use Helvetica? Here, let's look at the fonts I can use:

Arial, Courier, Georgia, Helvetica, Times, Trebuchet, Verdana.

This means that I have access to 7 fonts: 4 sans serifs and 3 serifs. With regard to serifs, Courier is kind of a speciality one, so I really only have 2 choices for the body serif text. And then my sans-serifs are all quite similar.

What kind of madness is this?!

 * = rewatched




A team of scientists have created a device that not only allows them to record their patients dreams, but also to send other people into those dreams. Their intention is to use the device as a tool for therapy, but someone steals it and starts using it to kill people by forcing their minds into dreams. It's up to the team's psychiatrist(aka Paprika) to use her skills to go into the dream world and make things right.

Genre: Satoshi-Kon-brand Anime Mind-fuck

First off let me say that I love this movie. It is absolutely amazing. The soundtrack is so good that I own it, the animation is gorgeous, and it is just an imagination tour de force.

I have a hard time talking about it without talking about the director: Satoshi Kon. Satoshi Kon was an anime director, who in my opinion, was the absolute equal of Hayao Miyazaki. They work with completely different types of stories, but they were equally talented (and if you know of Hayao Miyazaki you'll know what kind of praise that is). Satoshi Kon was a master of movies that mess with your notions of reality. They are bizarre and fantastical and yet, throughout it all, grounded to reality. My favorites of his include the movie Tokyo Godfathers (a wonderful movie about three homeless people who find a baby), the television show Paranoia Agent (I would need a lot more space to explain its premise but suffice it to say that it is great), and Paprika.

Paprika investigates the world of dreams in such a way that it makes you wonder where the movie's line between reality and dreams is. Which is an appropriate bit of confusion to have, because it mirrors that same wonder we have in real life. Have you ever had a fight with someone in your dreams and then been mad with them when you wake up in reality because of it? Or perhaps have you ever just gotten a memory confused with a dream? Have you ever noticed that one second you were listening to someone attentively and the next moment you realize you'd started to daydream? We like to think that the line between reality and dreams is hard and fast, but it really isn't. We slip from one to the other more easily than we like to admit.

As much as I love it, I'll admit that the film isn't for everyone. It's strange and off-the-wall and messes with your head. And I understand that that isn't something that everyone wants to see in a movie. Or at the very least it isn't something that people want to see all the time. But I still think it's worth watching at some point because it will defintiely make an impression.
Lastly let me say that this came out well before Inception. Actually sometime this month I think I'll do an extended talk about these movies. The similiarities and differences between the two are kind of fascinating and quite telling about the cultures they came out of.

So until then.


21 Jump Street

Morton and Greg (a nerd and a jock) didn't get along so well in high school. But when they meet again at the police academy they're able to see past their differences and become best friends. After they screw up an arrest (and because they look young for their age) they are reassigned to an undercover task force. Their missions? Pose as high school students in order to bust a drug ring operating out of the school.

Genre: Comedy-Action + 80s TV spinoff

After seeing this I have become extremely confused about something: why on Earth doesn't Channing Tatum do more comedies? He always seems to be in lame sub par chick flicks and bland action movies. But it's comedy that he's best at! Who would have thought? He is just as funny if not more so than Jonah Hill! Plus he and Jonah Hill are an amazing comedic duo. They work great together.

So yeah, I had a blast at this movie. So many laughs. Plus I thought it did an amazing job at not playing up the usual stereotypes of high school kids. So often you'll things where the jocks will be brain dead assholes with muscles and the nerds will be these uber intelligent social disasters. But this movie doesn't. Here the popular kids are sociable (although slightly pretentious) people who are engaged in the more social scenes of high school like sports and plays. The nerds are friendly kids who just prefer hanging out with smaller groups and engaging in less popular activities. I mean sure, the nerds aren't the best at social interactions and are never really invited to parties, but they also show that the reason for that is the same is it is in reality: they hang out in smaller groups and enjoy atypical interests, so most people don't get to know them and people don't really like things/people they don't understand.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but who cares. That's what I think. I think it was really great that they took the effort to show people as humans and not just stereotypes. Anways, it's a lot of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I really want to see it again.



Two British nerds are on a UFO road trip across the United States when they cross paths with a real alien named Paul. Now they've got to help the alien escape from the government agents who are after him.

Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy

The best way to see any movie is to go in thinking it's gonna suck. I was really excited about this when I first heard about it. I mean, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost? Together again? Yes, please! But then I saw the trailer and there's a horrible CG stoner alien voiced by Seth Rogan. Ummm...I think I'll pass. I eventually decided to give it a try, but a I'll-rent-this-from-the-library-for-free kind of a try, because I don't want to pay any money for something that looks like it'll suck major ass.

But guess what? It wasn't completely awful! I was pleasantly surprised. Don't get me wrong, it isn't great or anything, but it didn't make me want to turn it off after 5 minutes in disgust. So that's something to its credit.

That being said I do have some problems with it. For instance, I think they used way too many stereotypes. The nerds go to comic book conventions, and believe in UFOs, and write Science Fiction stories about big breasted space ladies, and don't know how to talk to real girls. Rednecks are morons, they call people gay, and they aren't very smart. Religious people are nuts who refuse to embrace science and love guns. And so on and so on and so on. Everyone seems to be playing a bit instead of playing a fully fleshed out character. It's basically took those things I said I liked about 21 Jump Street and decided to do the opposite.

I also hate the CGness of the alien. It is so obviously CG. It's just silly looking. And not it the good way. But I just generally have issues with CGI so maybe it's just me.

The movie is pretty shallow, but that being said there still are some funny bits. I would never pay money to see it, but if some friends were watching it then I'd probably watch it with them.


She's The Man

A girl finds out that her high school is cutting its girls' soccer team and they refuse to let her try out for the boys' team. So when her twin brother decides he's going to ditch his first couple weeks at his new school (which just happens to be the main rival of her old school), she pretends to be him and goes there in his place. Because that way she'll be able join their soccer team and beat the pants off her old school.

Genre: Sports Comedy

I watched this one because one of my cousins had it listed as one of her favorite movies and I was curious. I didn't have high expectations, but it was actually pretty great. I mean, I don't like soccer and I'm not a young girl, so I think a lot of the problems I had with it are just due to the fact I'm decidedly not its target audience. But still, despite the fact that I am in no way its demo audience, I still thoroughly enjoyed it, so I suppose that's the sign of a good movie.

It did a number of things I really liked. For instance I really like that even though she has a very high opinion of her soccer skills, it turns out she isn't the best around. When she joins the better school's team she finds out she has a lot to learn and has to work hard and practice to improve. I mean it's amazing how few movies bother to mention the importance of practice and hard work.

I also liked that there wasn't some love triangle thing going on. If anything they took the notion of a love triangle and made it into some sort of love polygon. I dislike love triangles because they are always so angsty and stupid. The love polygon, however? I'm all for those. Love polygons open a lot of comedic doors. If you need an example of what I'm talking about think about Some Like it Hot or that episode of Frasier  "The Ski Lodge". Miscommunications, mixed signals, and crossed lines of attraction galore.

Plus Channing Tatum is in it and he's doing a comedic role again! I know I've already said this, but for some reason or other I think he's hilarious. I can't properly explain why, but he is.

And there you have it. I don't think it's really a movie intended for adults, but I had a great time watching it, so who cares.


The Perfect Host

A bank robber lies his way into a man's house so he can hide out from the authorities for a while, but it turns out that his host has secrets of his own and the robber is in for a lot more than he bargained for.

Genre: Horrorish? Slasherish? I really don't know.

I saw this movie entirely because David Hyde Pierce is in it and playing a role quite different from his usual fare: his role in this is kind of like if Frasier's Niles were a deranged madman.

Plus I have to admit I did not see the twists at the end coming. Just when you think you've figured this movie out it takes a hard right in a different direction. It's got a few problems and it isn't as good as it could've been, but it's still kind of spooky, and bizarre, and just plain interesting. Yes, that's a good word: it's a very interesting movie to watch.


No One Said it Would be Easy

A documentary about the band Cloud Cult.

Genre: Music Documentary

Cloud Cult is a local Minnesotan band and they just happen to be my favorite band. So obviously I had to see a documentary about them. And the story it's telling really is a great one. They band members are just such an interesting group of people.

I'm completely biased, but I think you'd enjoy this movie even if you've never heard of the band before. Just because the story behind the band is so intriguing. I mean take the band's leader Craig Minowa for example. Here's a guy who has a Bachelor's in Environmental Science from the University of Minnesota. In addition to writing, performing, and touring with his band he also works as a researcher and writer for environmental science cases. He also actively works to make sure the label he created and his band leave as little impact on the environment as possible. Even though it'll mean he won't make as much money as he could.
He's just a really interesting guy, and the story of how his band got started and its various ups and downs is equally interesting.

In summary, I loved watching the story of this band for the same reasons I love listening to their music: it's interesting, it's powerful, it's beautiful, and it makes me feel a lot of emotions. You can tell it's an indie movie, the production isn't as high as you'll see in most documentaries, and I felt the very beginning was a little weak, but who cares. Their story really is fascinating. It's got everything: there's romance, there's tragedy, there's nature, there are laughs, there's even a part where they talk about how Chris Minowa lost his mind for a while and kind of went off the deep end.


The Cabin in the Woods

A group of college students are vacationing at a remote cabin...or are they? It turns out that despite what they might think this vacation wasn't planned by them, but by someone else. It appears that a group of people are watching these kids and they're the ones in charge. They're the ones directing the action, the ones who are unleashing monsters on these students, and they're the ones who want them dead. But why?

Genre: "A loving hate letter" to horror movies.

I really don't know how to talk about what makes this movie so great without spoiling parts of the plot. But I'll do what I can.

Joss Whedon was one of the writers and you can tell. You can see his trademark wit at work in the plot and dialogue. He was the one that called it "a loving hate letter" to horror movies and I really can't describe it more aptly than that. It's steeped in all the things that are great about horror movies, but at the same time it works to point out how stupid and ridiculous they can be.

It really isn't a scary movie. I mean, don't get me wrong, if you don't do well with horror movies then it might freak/gross you out. But if you don't like horror movies you probably won't appreciate what this movie is all about anyway. If you love horror movies (or just like horror movies), or even if you just like Whedon's work on things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, then I think you'd get a kick out of this movie.


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

A rich sheik from Yemen wants to introduce salmon into the Yemen River. To do so he gets in contact with one of a leading expert on salmon. Despite the expert saying it's a ridiculous project and wanting nothing to do with it, the fates are conspiring against him and he's forced to see what he can do it make it happen.

Genre: Feel-goody Romance/Drama

If ever there was a title that sounded like it belonged to a documentary this is it. And yet it isn't, so there you go. If it hadn't come to the theater that I work at I would have never known otherwise, because the idea of a documentary about salmon fishing sounds super lame.

So anyways, it's nothing really that original. It's pretty typical for its genre, but there are a few things it has going for it.

The scenery is gorgeous. There are just a ton of shots set in these beautiful landscapes that are just a pleasure to look at.

The main scientist guy played by Ewan McGregor. When I saw the trailer I thought he seemed like a terribly written character. His lines seemed to be awkwardly delivered. But it turns out that's the character. He's just a terribly awkward guy, who probably has a touch of aspergers syndrome or something. So a lot of his dialogue is awkwardly delivered not because its badly acted, but because it is a good actor portraying a guy who doesn't have very good social skills.

So yeah. It's well done, with some appreciated touches of quirkiness here and there. Nothing trailblazing, but still enjoyable.

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