Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Movie List 2013: 81-95

The continuing list of all the movies I've watched this year.

There might be some occasional swearing, because I just love movies so much frickin' much!

* = rewatched
? = I probably have seen it before, but honestly can't really remember



An alien signal sends us genetic blueprints for a human/alien hybrid, but the resulting creation breaks free from the scientists who created it. Now the creaturein the form of a usually topless womanis fueled by a need to breed. The government puts together a team of various experts in order to hunt her down.

Genre: Sci-Fi for Teen Boys

This is another one of those movies that I keep hearing references to and decided to see what it was all about. I was expecting it to be like Mimic meets Splice. But it was more like...Splice meets...Aliens 3? I dunno, I'm not sure how to describe it.

The beginning of the movie is by far the most interesting. The fascinating thing about the creature is that she's been raised in a lab with minimal contact with anyone. She looks human and she's only seen other humans, but she slowly begins to realize that she's different somehow. Now that's compelling! The story of a little girl who's on the run from people very people who created her? Who's trying to figure out who and what she is? That's a great story and it could work in a number of ways. She could be the main character, or it could be just like it is with her being the antagonist. I mean, the antagonist being a little girl? A profoundly dangerous little girl who can't help it? I'm loving it. Someone please make a Splice+Hanna, or possibly a Splice+Looper.

Yet, of course, soon after she escapes she goes into an alien cocoon and emerges as a stark naked 20-something woman. At this point the film begins its gradual descent into just a monster flick for teenage-boys. They deal a little bit with the creature's ignorance and curiosity about these new feelings she's having, but mostly they just use them as an excuse to steer her into action scenes and reasons to be topless. Which is a pity, because if they really wanted to go down this path they could have made it an interesting sci-fi look at sexuality. I mean this half-human is going through all these changes and has all these new urges and she's kind of scared and excited and confused all at once. Run with that! But alas! They just touch on these things briefly and then twist them into excuses for actions scenes and explosions and whatnot.

Spoiler alert: Nipple tentacles? Say what!?!


Sign Painters

A documentary about sign painters.

Genre: Documentary

I saw this was playing at the local microcinema and was intrigued. I proceeded to watch the trailer and then I obviously had to see it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it surpassed my expectations! It was really interesting. It was very well made and it really makes you think about something you might have never thought about before. Makes you look at the world a little differently. I mean, what more could you want from a documentary? I highly recommend it.


Rear Window

A photojournalist is stuck in full leg casts after an accident. Since it's difficult for him to get out-and-about he spends his time looking out his window into the courtyard to spy on the neighbors. Unfortunately he starts seeing things he shouldn't and his mind starts trying to create stories to explain them. But are his theories based in reality or are they just the products of his unhealthy obsession?

Genre: Thriller

I've always meant to watch this one and have just never gotten around to it. Until now! Although, admittedly, it's strange to watch it now because so many things have referenced / made homages to it  [The most noteworthy being The Simpsons' brilliant episode "Bart of Darkness."] that I basically knew the story already.

First of all, this movie says it stars "James Stewart." Really? You can't outrun the "Jimmy", Mr. Stewart. You're not fooling anyone.

Second of all, I had a lot of trouble relating to this guy. He spends a lot of time moping about how his girlfriend is too perfect. Ugh! Don't you hate that? When you have a beautiful, intelligent woman who both adores you and has tons of cash? Gross, right? There is literally a scene where said beautiful woman is trying to make out with him and he's all like, "Not now! I'm trying to spy on the neighbors." WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Make out with your sexy girlfriend, you jag!

Okay, I realize that I'm hung up on that aspect and that the movie isn't really about that, but still!

The movie itself is very well done and it's shot in a really interesting way. They had a huge set for the courtyard where you can see all the various neighbors going about their business all the time. It's something you'd never see nowadays and it was very visually interesting. Kind of like something you'd expect to see in a play.

The premise is pretty great too. As a mystery it's an interesting twist. Here's this guy and he has all this circumstantial evidence, but he can't actually investigate anything by himself. Plus on a deeper level it raises some interesting questions about life in the city and about privacy.


Shaun of the Dead

A lovable pair of losers try to survive a zombie outbreak.

Genre: Zombie Comedy

Oh, what can one even say about a movie like Shaun of the Dead? I usually don't have to, because all my friends have seen it. Thus I've never had to hone the skill of selling it to someone who hasn't.

I could see someone never giving this movie a try because they might not like horror movies. On it's surface I could easily see someone thinking this is either a scary movie or just a movie for zombie-nerds and thus not for them. But it's not! Sure there are zombies in it. And yes, there are a lot of little references to classic zombie movies, but all the references are such lovingly subtle nods that you won't even realize there's anything you're missing.

At its heart it's a comedy. What's more it's a brilliant comedy. It's a comedy about a loser in a dead-end job who's life is a bit of a mess. A loser whose best friend is an even bigger loser. These two unlikely guys are thrust into an impossible situation that requires cunning, smarts, physical agility: all the things they have none of. Come on, that sounds like a situation rife with comedy, right?

We can't all be like Die Hard's John McClane. If shit went down it's fair to say that most of us are going to stumble around trying to live up to the ideals we see in movies and then just utterly fail. And that's what makes Shaun of the Dead so endearing and so hilarious. We can see ourselves in these characters who are entirely out of their league and just trying their best. Hell, we all feel that way sometimes.

So if you're that person who's never bothered to see it because you don't like horror and zombies, I think you should reconsider. Yes, there are one or two moments that might gross you out a bit, but they're extremely brief. I've shown the movie to a number of people who don't like horror movies at all and they've all loved it. It's just a truly an outstanding comedy.


The Emperor's New Groove

A selfish emperor's advisor tries to poison him and take the throne. However, she accidentally transforms him into a llama. Shennanigans!

Genre: Animated comedy

I have a soft spot for the Disney movies that break out of the Disney mold. It's not a musical, the character designs are much more stylized, and even the humor is different. Most Disney movies have lots of funny parts and jokes, but at their heart they're still tales of romance or adventure. The Emperor's New Groove, however, is definitely a comedy. And it's hilarious!

I love it. The characters are all so much fun and their voice actors are fantastic! I mean look at the main lineup: John Goodman, David Spade, Eartha Kitt, and Patrick Warburton. Umm...Yes, please.

It's animated, it's silly, and it's just a lot of fun.


Going Postal

Notorious conman Moist von Lipwig is apprehended and given a choice by the city's Patrician: either he can hang for his crimes or...become the new Postmaster for the city's delapatated Post Office?

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy book adaptation

This is a tough one to talk about, because it's based on a book I love. And the maddening thing about it is that it both gets so many things right, but it also gets so many things wrong! What? WHAT?

[Warning: If you haven't read the book then I'm not even going to talk to you right now. Who watches Discworld movies without having read the books? Seriously. Go read a book you bum.]

Okay, so first of all the casting is amazing. Especially Adora and Moist who are just perfect.

My main problem is this:

In the movie Moist is said to be directly responsible for not only Adora's father losing control of his company, but also her smoking addiction. This is just way too much of a TV coincidence. "What? The drama going on at home just happens to be a direct parallel to the drama going on at work? Again? What are the odds?" And the cigarette thing? Talk about over-the-top. They even have a flashback scene where her family is all in trouble because of losing the company and she goes to the store and reaches for some chocolate, but then decides to have a pack of smokes instead. ACK! Someone perform the Heimlich, because that piece of cheese is lodged in my throat.

However, I do like how the movie put Adora much more front and center than the book did.

Also, the movie gives Ankh-Morpork a weird Victorian London vibe that I don't really care for, because it's very different from the older era fantasy feel I get from the books. But that's a minor quibble, so, whatever.

But...yeah, I dunno. If you like the book I think you should definitely watch the movie. Would someone who has never read Going Postal or perhaps hasn't read any of Terry Pratchett's brilliant Discworld books like the movie? I honestly have no idea. Make your significant other watch it with you and find out, I guess?


The Brave Little Toaster

A group of abandoned appliances go on a journey to find their old master.

Genre: Animated kids movie

When it's your best friend's birthday and he wants to watch all The Brave Little Toaster movies with his friends, then gosh-darn-it, that's what's going to happen.

Oddly my memories of this movie only included the 2nd half. I always seem to forget the whole part where the appliances journey through the woods to get to the city in search of their master. Which reflects poorly on me, because apparently that is a large part of the movie.

It's kind of a creepy movie though, right? I mean the idea of all your toys being alive is bad enough, but if all your appliances are alive? That's just spooky. You couldn't throw anything out without being a murderer!

Also, I know I shouldn't be thinking too much about a cartoon like this, but how come sometimes they need electricity and sometimes they don't? Kirby needs it to move, but the others can waddle/hop around all they want?

Like any old animated movie from a non-Disney studio it's an interesting movie. What's more a lot of the original Pixar people worked on it and while it certainly isn't Pixar quality, you can kind of see things brewing in it.


The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars

A motley crew of appliances journey to Mars in order to save their master's baby after it gets abducted by Martians.

Genre: Low budget direct-to-video sequel

Okay, no one agrees with me about this, but this is the best of the 3. And I'll tell you why!

#1 The songs are much better. They're catchier and they're performed by people who can actually sing. (The last part there kind of makes a big difference).

and #2 It's absolutely ridiculous! They get to MARS by popping microwave popcorn in a laundry basket strapped to a ceiling fan. I can't stress that enough: A ceiling fan powered by a microwave popping popcorn and fastened to a laundry basket with rope is their vehicle to Mars! WHAT?! The whole thing is so absolutely and thoroughly absurd that I can't help but to love it. It's so dumb it's immediately memorable. It's like something a little kid would come up with. And the hearing aid's origin story? Hahaha.



The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue

A veterinary student's appliances try to save their master's animals from being sold to a lab by his treacherous assistant. Oh, and they also try to recover his thesis, because a computer glitch deleted it and he was dumb enough not to have a backup.

Genre: The worst kind of animated sequel

Okay this is where things get weird. Chronologically this is actually the second movie. But I always thought it was the 3rd one! Because it was released 3rd! WHAT? What makes this even weirder is that Goes to Mars has references to this movie by means of a rat and super computer who are characters introduced in this one! Are you as confused by this as I am?

Anyways, worst of the 3! By far. Not even close. The songs are stupid, the plot is stupid, every single one of the characters is stupid. And not stupid in a good way like Goes to Mars! No. Stupid in a painful way. The kind of way that makes you want to slap everyone.

Also, I'm sorry to go back to this nitpicking thing, but how come Radio dies when he takes out his tube? Lampy doesn't die when his bulb is removed. The other appliances don't die when they're unplugged. The first movie had cars with no engines in the junkyard who weren't dead. The lifeforce of these beings boggles my brain a bit. There are no rules!



The story of Henry Hill's life with the mob.

Genre: Mob story

My friend Hannah said this was her favorite movie, so I watched it!

I usually don't really go in for mob movies. Truth be told I've never even seen any of The Godfather movies. "Gasp," says the readers. But what can I say? The mob really doesn't interest me all that much. And despite that I enjoyed this one!

I don't know what to say. Not being a fan of the genre I'm kind of left without much of anything to compare it to. It's well shot, it's well acted, it's very well paced, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm especially impressed with the unusual way the story is put together. If you see one mob movie this year: make it Goodfellas. Why not? It's rated Grade-A Hannah's choice, after all.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

An evil organization of hoodlum ninja thieves is causing trouble in New York City and the only ones who can stop them are a reporter, a sports-equipment enthusiast, and a family of mutated turtle ninjas led by their mutated rat father.

Genre: 90s Action/Adventure Comedy

Oh, this movie. I had this movie on VHS as a kid and I watched it a lot. It's so good!

Also, did you know that a young Sam Rockwell is in this movie?! I never realized this until now.

Once again, I feel weird telling you about a movie like this. I'm sure its target audience has already seen it. But what if you haven't? I'm a big turtles fan so I'm rather biased, but I'll try to tell what makes it great.

While the movie is for kids and has plenty of humor, the story is taken seriously. The premise is rather silly, but the actual story is very well-told. What's more, it gets surprisingly dark. When I was a kid this movie always stood out in my mind because of that. I don't want to spoil anything, but there's a part of the movie where the turtle's lose! And it's their rise from defeat that always made the story stand out in my mind. The cartoons and comics and everything were great, but this movie managed to give the franchise so much heart and emotion.

Plus the turtles themselves were done by Jim Hensen's Creature Shop and are extremely well-done. The practical effects give the story so much more oomph and really let you connect to the characters more. The whole thing just has this perfect balance between fantastically silly & realistically interesting.


Notting Hill

A famous American movie actress falls for a dopey British bookseller.

Genre: Romantic Comedy

What can I say? This is a favorite rom-com of mine. I know, I know! Its premise sounds woefully like the set-up to an incredibly generic rom-com and its trailer makes it seem the same way. BUT IT'S NOT! I mean, sure, it is a romantic comedy and you know how it's gonna end at the start, but how it gets you there is delightful.

#1 The character's are so wonderfully fleshed out. Even the exaggerated characters seem believable. Special props go to Hugh Grant's character who is delightfully unassuming.

#2 The writing is top notch. It was written by Richard Curtis who wrote for Mr. Bean as well as the romance Love Actually. So if you imagine those two things put together you've got a good idea of what to expect.

#3 Dylan Moran (Bernard from Black Books & David from Shaun of the Dead) is in a scene where he plays a man who puts a book down his pants. I feel I should mention that because I know people who've seen this movie just because of that. Heck, I can't quite remember, but my first memory of this movie was seeing it when my friend Sonja wanted to watch it for that very reason. So that very well could be why I saw it to begin with.

#4 The humor is very down-to-Earth in its setup. One of the things that made Mr. Bean so great was that the humor wasn't imposed on the scenes like it would be in something like...The Marx Brothers or The 3 Stooges. There's no string of one-liners for the sake of one-liners. No bumbling slapstick. Mr Bean's humor came out of the situation. They'd set Mr. Bean loose in a situation and they'd find the humor in it; this movie is very similar.

A lot of Romantic Comedies will set-up some elaborate joke for the sake of laughs even though it's incredibly staged. Like...oh, I dunno. Like the bit in Fever Pitch where they go to a baseball game and a foul ball hits Drew Barrymore in the face? Or...the bits in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days where Kate Hudson is going over the top to try and drive Matthew McConaughey away? Notting Hill, however, has jokes like...Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts are taking an evening stroll and see a pretty little park in a gated community, so on a whim she suggests they hop the fence and check it out. Hugh Grant's character, however, is woefully not the physical sort, but wants to impress her and while attempting to scale the fence he slips back down and goes "Whoopsidaisies!" And she playfully ribs him for it.

"What did you you say?"


"Yes you did."

"No I didn't."

"You said 'Whoopsidaisies.'"

"I don't think so. No one says 'whoopsidaisies' do they? Unless they're..."

"There is no unless. No one has said 'whoopsidaisies' for fifty years and even then it was only little girls with blonde ringlets."

"Exactly. Here we go again.
[he slips down the fence again]


"...It's a disease I've got. It's a clinical thing. I'm taking pills and having injections. It won't last long."

I mean look at that! I can see that happening. I mean you try to impress someone and you end up failing in front of them instead, and you're so embarrassed that your brain farts and you say something ridiculous? Umm, yeah, we've all been there right? And then someone playfully ribs you about it? Exactly. You try again, because maybe a victory will end your shame, but you screw up again and you say that exact same stupid thing because it's in your head now! Yes. That's how it goes. It's both hilarious and relatable.

What can I say here? You're just gonna have to take my word for it. Or don't. Whatever! The premise might be exaggerated, but the interactions and beats between the characters is very true to life. The best romances are the ones you can relate to aren't they? There are so many memorable moments and the jokes are funny and seem like real dialogue.


The Hunger Games

In the country of Paneem a randomly selected boy and girl from each of the 12 districts must take part in televised battle to the death. After her sister is chosen to take part, Katniss Everdeen volunteers in order to take her place.

Genre: uhhh...Young Adult distopian romance?

As a lot of my friends know, I have some issues with this franchise. It comes down to the fact that I think the story they're telling is interesting and worth telling, but that it tries too hard to be something its not.

Admittedly the movie fixes a couple of the problems I had with the book and I think the actors in it all did a good job. The problem I have with the movie is that it kinds of points out how ridiculous it all is? I mean, let's not kid around here, this story isn't new. Ever hear about Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery?" How about the Japanese cult classic Battle Royale? "The Lottery" deals with issues of conformity and an indictment of small town thinking that breeds it. Battle Royale, however, embraces the violence of it all. Dealing with how different people would handle the situations. Some embrace it, others seek to team up, others try to stay out of it, and so on. And what I'm getting at here, is that I'm not sure what The Hunger Games is bringing to the table.

I say the first book has merit because it's the only one that comes close to being about something. It's not quite about a cruel government and fiendish upper class taking advantage of the poor. It's not quite an indictment of the media. It's not quite a romance. It's not quite an action/adventure. It's kind of a lot of things, but it tries to be everything and ends up not succeeding at being anything.

I dunno. I'm admittedly rather harsh on it. But that's just because there's a lot there that I liked, so it bothers me all the more when it doesn't live up to its potential. In my mind The Hunger Games should have been about familial love. The core of the story should be about a sister who is willing to go to any lengths (no matter how horrific) in order to save her sister. But as the story goes on it loses sight of that. It starts being about dreamy boys, and snobby rich kids. It's becomes a full-fledged high school melodrama played on a larger scale.

Oh no! I got partnered up with the quiet kid next door for this project. What! Now he's hanging out with the rich cool kids who are mean to everyone. And don't get me started on adults!

Just. Ugh. No. Why did you go down this road? WHY?!


Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Sarah Conner has been put in an insane asylum for claiming that a robot from the future came back in time to kill her so that her son John (who's now living with foster parents) would never be born and thus could never lead the future human resistance against the robots. As crazy as that sounds...she's telling the truth. And she'd better get out of there soon, because the robots have sent back another assassin to kill her son and John's gonna need all the help he can get.

Genre: Action with a Sci-Fi edge

Ooooh, who's got two thumbs and got to see this on the big screen? Yeah, that's right. This guy! Gotta love midnight movie series, amiright?

Anyways, I love Terminator 2!

Unlike the first one where Sarah Conner is a total damsel in distress, in this one she's a total badass. She becomes a really interesting character in this one, because she's tough and capable and intelligent, but she's also seen to have real emotions (and you rarely see that in action stars, don't you think?).

It also deals with some interesting questions: Can the future be changed or is it set in stone? Is it right to punish someone for something they haven't done? What makes humanity worth saving? On top of all that it's just a great action movie. A robotic killing machine is the role Arnold Schwarzengger was born to play.


The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo falls in love with a beautiful gypsy woman who sees him for his inner beauty. However, she just likes him as a friend and would rather smooch the dude who's both nice AND good-looking. Oh, and some stuff about Quasimodo's sexually frustrated caretaker who keeps trying to burn people alive.

Genre: Disney make some amazing movies, but make some really terrible ones too.

I mean, honestly, it's trying to have a message about the importance of inner beauty and being true to yourself and it just fails miserably. Quasimodo doesn't get the girl, the man who raised him dies horrifically after trying to kill said girl (dick or not he was still the only father he ever knew), Paris is lit in I need to go on? This is a kind of fucked-up movie. You can slap all the doofy gargoyles and happy songs you want on this sow, but it doesn't cover up the smell.

Much like Pocahontas Hunchback has one shining moment. For Pocahontas it was "Colors of the Wind" and for Hunchback it's "Hellfire." So, yeah..that one part was pretty good. The rest? Not so much.