Sunday, September 2, 2012

Movie List 2012: July

* = rewatched

The Pirates!
Band of Misfits

A group of misfit pirates learn the power of the Dodo as they battle Charles Darwin and the Queen of England.

Genre: Aardman claymation comedy

I don't see as many movies in theaters as I'd like to, but on my birthday I generally make a point of treating myself and seeing all the movies that strike my fancy. This year I ended up seeing 3 of them and this was the first.

Generally I'm pretty biased due to being exposed to brilliant Aardman things like Creature Comforts and Wallace and Gromit at a young age and thus have a soft spot for stop-motion animation. Although I'll be the first to admit that most of Aardman Animation's new stuff hasn't been my cup of tea. However, the trailer for this one had some funny parts and it was playing at the sub-run theater where tickets are only $2, so why not.

Perhaps it was because my expectations were so low, but this movie was definitely a lot better than I was expecting it to be. It's irreverent, and fun, and best of all it doesn't mind being silly for the heck of it.

Not to mention that the voice acting was surprisingly good. Generally I hate when movies get big name actors to do the voices, because big-name actors aren't trained in voice acting. Thus you get people with no experience in voice acting delivering lines in their usual highly recognizable voice. In short: they're awful. However, this movie has picked a pretty strange combination of actors (ie. Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant) and for the most part every one does a great job.

Have I mentioned that the movie looks great? But, it is Aardman, so that's kind of expected. But really, the sets are all amazing. There was such attention to detail going on. There's all sorts of little jokes hidden in newspapers and flyers on the wall and so on. In fact during the credits they show a bunch of the props by themselves and you're able to get a better look at some of them.

So yeah. It isn't the best movie around or anything. They definitely decided to tell more jokes than to develop a more solid plot. But when it comes right down to it, I enjoyed it. I loved that it wasn't like anything I was expecting. I mean the movie is about pirates trying to win a science prize so that they can win a trophy at a pirates award show. The non-North American title is actually "Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists."

Really, it's just such an oddly silly movie that it's hard not to love it a little.

Safety Not Guaranteed

A magazine writer and his interns are trying to write a story about a man who wrote a strange classified ad about time travel. However, when one of the interns is sent to answer the man's advert she finds out that maybe he isn't so crazy after all.

Genre: Quirky Sci-Fi Comedy/Drama

This is the best movie I've seen all year. I will be very surprised if anything manages to top it. I just love everything about it. It's quirky, it's funny, it's charming, it's enthralling, it was just a joy to watch. I swear someone created this movie just for me. I can't say enough nice things about this movie. And you'd better believe I'm gonna buy it the second I see it in a store.


A young princess and her mother must come to terms with their changing relationship in order to defeat an evil curse.

Genre: Pixar Animation

You know what? I heard a ton of people bashing this movie. And frankly I think they're all nuts.

Was it different from Pixar's other movies? Definitely. For instance, Pixar movies tend to have a grand scope with adventures big enough to cross oceans, but Brave was very focused on a single place. So if you went in wanting some epic journey, you were going to be disappointed.

Another big complaint was that the plot was cliche and overly Disneyesque. "Oh, another movie about a princess who doesn't want to go through with an arranged marriage? Yawn." But honestly, anyone who says that wasn't paying attention to the movie at all...or those other movies either. Every example of the Princess-fighting-against-arranged-marriage storyline I can think of involves another love interest. Pocahontas had John Smith, Jasmine had Aladdin, etc. But in Brave the arranged marriage thing isn't the crux of the story; it is merely a catalyst to tell a story about a mother and daughter relationship. Or if you want to talk in English Class themes, the element of tension regarding arranged marriages is merely a metaphor for the tension that exists between offspring and their parents due to the differences in values across the generational divide and not, as some have posited, the primary subject of the story.

I could go through all the complaints and dismiss them one-by-one, but I don't want to bother. So let me say this, I love Pixar movies, but Brave is the only one I really want to own. I'm not going to say that Brave is better than Toy Story or Finding Nemo, but I am going to say that I like it a lot more. And a large part of that is because of the characters. The depth of the characters and relationships on display in this movie are amazing. As great as Finding Nemo was I didn't find Marlin even half as endearing as Merida.

If nothing else this movie stands above the rest because of Merida. She is an amazing character. Unlike all the other movies people like to compare this to, there is no man she's pining for. She's against an arranged marriage because she sees it as an intrusion on her freedom, not because she wants to marry some lowly stablehand or whatever crap like that other stories seem to force their heroines. She is an absolutely amazing female character. One of the best I've ever seen. If I had a daughter I would love to show her this movie. I wouldn't give it a second thought.

So there you have it. I loved it. I plan to own it. And that's something that I can't say about any other Pixar movie. So there.

Moonrise Kingdom

A young boy and girl run off together which sets off a flurry of events as people try to find the kids before a huge storm hits the island.

Genre: Wes Anderson Romance

While watching this movie I was trying to determine how I would describe Wes Anderson's style. Because unlike so many directors, he has a very apparent style. You can spot a Wes Anderson movie from a mile away. And I've come to the conclusion that a Wes Anderson movie is like a play. A play with scene transitions and other movie features, but a play nonetheless. Now what do I mean by that? Well, in a play everything you see is very deliberate. Movies often try to evoke reality, while plays use their sets and props to evoke a feeling of reality. Wes Anderson's costumes have the feeling of being costumes, props the feeling of props, and lines the feeling of lines. Now, maybe it's just me, but that's the same sense I get whenever I see a play.

...I'm not sure if that'll make sense or not. But anyways, this movie is very much a Wes Anderson movie. So if you don't like his work, you probably won't like this one either.

I, however, do like Wes Anderson. I like how he stamps his style upon his movies. And thus I enjoyed it. It wasn't as good as The Life Aquatic, but it was definitely one of his best.

Although I will add that the thing that held this one back from being the best, was the relationship between those two kids. A lot of the time it was really endearing, but other times it was uber creepy. I mean, they honestly need some sort of professional help level creepy.

Shaun of the Dead

An average guy tries to sort his life amidst a zombie attack.

Genre: Zombie Comedy

I could say a million nice things about Shaun of the Dead. But really, when it comes down to it I'm a fan of zombie movies. I love the zombie elements in this movie and I love the many references to classic zombie movies. And you know what? If you're a fan of zombie movies, you'll have already seen this already. So let's not talk about me, let's talk about the people who don't like zombie movies.

I can't quite remember how exactly things went down, but through some inexplicable twist of fate, I convinced my aunt Rosemary to see Shaun of the Dead and she loved it. Now, this is a woman who is definitely not a fan of horror movies. And yet she enjoyed it so much that she's convinced friends of hers to watch it as well.

I've asked her why she likes it so much considering that she doesn't like horror movies and her answer was simple: It's not a horror movie. And she's 100% correct. It isn't. It is a comedy. It is a comedy done so well and with such cleverness that it surpasses its own niche material. And really, the ability to be funny to people outside of subject material is the sign of a great comedy.

So if you've never been one for Zombie movies and/or Horror movies, consider giving Shaun a try. It's an extremely well done and very clever comedy that just happens to include zombies.

Morning Glory

An inexperienced producer manages to land a gig as the executive producer on the failing morning show of a major network. In order to boost rating she forces a legendary reporter to be one of the hosts, but she's in for more than she bargained for when he refuses to play by her rules.

Genre: Feel-Good Comedy

What can I say? I just like this movie. It isn't some feat of cinematic achievement or anything, but...I like it.

It's just so strangely offbeat. I mean first of all you've got Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford as the stars, so right off the bat you've got a pretty unusual pairing right there. And then from there on it dances right on the edge of cliche without ever really crossing into that territory. (Although I'm sure some people out there might disagree with me about that). There are just a lot of little things going on that I find intriguingly different from the norms of the genre.

So whatever. It's got great actors doing strange and memorable roles, it's too offbeat for me to agree to call it cliche, and it makes me laugh.


To pass the time during a rainy day a group of men discuss the story of a man who was murdered and his wife raped. However, everyone who bore witness to the story has a different version of what happened.

Genre: Classic B&W Kurosawa movie

Just like with literature, every once in a while I feel the need to wade into the shallows of the Classics. I more often than not walk away from it at the end wondering what the fuss was all about, but it's always nice to know what everyone was talking about.

There's a lot of little things about this movie that I don't really like, but I've gotta admit that overall I found it to be rather interesting. I love the idea that everyone creates a different version of the story, because it's so true. And thus it was fun to see someone playing with that idea. My biggest complaint is that a lot of scenes seemed excessively long. It's a very slow movie and I don't think it really had to be. But in the end I'm glad I saw it.

I'll probably never bother to see it again, but still, I'm glad I saw it.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones finds himself on the trail of his missing father, and subsequently on the trail to find the holy grail of legend. Plus: Nazis.

Genre: Adventure

Oh, Indiana Jones. I love these movies (all 3 of them). And clearly this one is the best of the bunch...which is really saying something about its quality.

The Sean Connery/Harrison Ford duo is amazing. I mean they are just brilliant together. Absolutely brilliant. The movie single-handedly makes the others seem worse in comparison, because neither of the others have the Connery-Ford chemistry going on.

The only big complaint I have is that there's only one female character in the whole thing. Which is a real shame, but the films are kind of based on those serial adventure stories, so I can't say I'm really surprised.

But other than that the movie is outstandingly amazing. It's got great action, amazing adventures, and huge laughs. I mean, you could ask for more than that, but it would be rather greedy.

Ernest Goes to Camp

The inept, but well meaning, groundskeeper of a summer camp finally realizes his dream of becoming a counselor when the camp sticks him with the problem kids. However together they may be the only ones who can save the camp from a greedy land developer.

Genre: Silly Fun 4 Kids

I was a pretty big Ernest fan when I was a kid. So it's hard not to be influenced by the nostalgia of it all. But If I'm being honest here, the movie definitely wasn't as good as it was when I was a kid. A lot of the jokes are pretty hackneyed and childish. And the plot is woefully cliched. But darn it all if Jim Varney isn't a pleasure to watch. If anyone else had the lead in this movie it would be absolutely terrible, but it isn't and that is all because of Varney.

He's funny, he's got such an incredibly expressive face, you just can't help but care about him, and I could go on. There's a scene that even chokes me up a little bit. I mean, that shouldn't happen in a film like this! But it does!

Basically what I'm saying here is that the man is a comedic genius.

The film might not be the best, but Lord help me, I love watching it for Jim.

Back to the Future

After the experiment of his eccentric friend, Doc Brown, goes awry, 1980's high schooler Marty McFly finds himself stuck in 1955. And to make matters worse he accidentally prevents his parents from meeting. Now a young(er) Doc Brown is Marty's only hope to get home, but that won't matter unless they can get his parents back together and thus insure he'll be born.

Genre: Time Travel Adventure-Comedy

Back to the Future is one of my very favorite movies. It is just brilliant. I mean not only is the writing super clever, but the more I see it the more I appreciate the way it was shot. There's a number of really clever shots. The opening one that pans across the machinery and then shows Marty enter but only from the waist down so we see the key being put back under the welcome mat. The one where Doc Brown says "Back to the Future!" as he turns to point at the camera/the audience. I mean they're subtle things, but really show some great staging.

And another thing I like is how this movie seems like a goofy fun movie, but really it's quite dark. Ideas of incest, rape, murder, to name a few. But they handle it in such a way that keeps the feeling of intensity and yet with none of the dark baggage. To be able to do that takes some real talent.

I dunno, I could talk about this movie for ages. But you've probably already seen it and if you haven't there is something wrong with you.

Something seriously wrong with you.

Going Postal

A conman named Moist von Lipwig is put in charge of a major city's dilapidated post office. However, the other major communications outlet in the city, The Clacks, doesn't like competition and now Moist has to add "Stay Alive" to his ever-growing list of seemingly impossible tasks.

Genre: Comedic-Fantasy Book Adaptation

This movie is a large part of the reason this post is so late. I'm really having a hard time wrapping my head around it. It simultaneously destroys everything I loved about the book and gets everything right. I just...I just can't figure out how I feel about it. I'm going to watch it again in September and try to solidify my feelings towards it.

So until then.

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