Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Holiday Haikus: Gifts, Hope, and Snowmen

Up on the rooftop,
The deer are leaving presents.
...You’ll need a shovel.

Naughty or Nice, Nick?
Who are you to judge us all!?
Sic Semper Nympha!

A package for you.
But please don't unwrap it yet.
Not until we're done.

Roasting chestnuts, eh?
Do people really do that?
Are they out of brats?

All I need is you.
But I still want some presents.
...I'm only human.

Mom kissing Santa?
All the good men are taken.
It’s official now.

Christmas time again.
Time to be with family.
…Best of luck with that.

Snowmen are sexy.
Who doesn't love well-built men
that leave you all wet?

Gift certificates
Fulfill social requirements
And that's about it.

All I want this year.
Is for you to be happy.
With or without me.

Knows when I’m sleeping?
Is he watching us right now?
Did he bug the house?

Elves on our rooftops!
Breaking into all our homes!
Stop leaving food out!

Mistletoe or no
We should probably make out.
Right now...later too...

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Movie List 2013: 96-110

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


The Muppet Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens (Gonzo) and Rizzo the Rat (as himself) take us along through the classic Christmas story of crotchety meiser Scrooge's (Michael Cain) spectral journey to learn the importance of friendship, empathy, and Christmas.

Genre: Family-fun Christmas Musical

Not only would I say that this is my favorite Muppet movie, but I would also go as far as to say that it is my favorite Christmas movie. I really cannot say enough nice things about it.

The Muppets fill the roles of Dickens' story like a hand in a glove and Michael Cain portrays a perfect Scrooge. So many adaptations go at Scrooge as 1-dimensionally grumpy and cruel, as if he was nothing more than a mean old man, but Cain captures both the bitter resentment of the character and the warmth underneath.

Let's take a moment to talk about the songs. The songs are Brilliant. They are impossibly fun and incredibly catchy. People love to rely on the old classics when it comes to Christmas songs, but this movie makes its own and does Such An Amazing Job! Not only are they so catchy and fun, but they are so well done. Not to mention the visuals and cinematography are just as good. I mean, like the scene where we first see Scrooge? So well done. Sooooo well done. He comes around the corner draped in shadows, ominous and menacing. He pauses for a moment then moves across the scene, the cape of his shadowed form eclipsing the shot. The strings start to build as the song begins, already a chilling tune. Then the shot of just his feet, walking at a quick pace over the icy streets as his walking stick's thuds against the pavement match the beat of the music as the other instruments begin to build up the music. Then you've got this wonderful song describing how everyone views Scrooge, but you only get to see him in shadows, or just fleeting glimpses of him; he's a legend more than a man.

I mean, Holy Shit! It's brilliant.

As if all these things weren't enough, it's Gonzo as Charles Dickens and the story structure he creates that really puts this movie into a class of its own. I mean, Gonzo portrays Charles Dickens himself! Not as some guy reading the book (in an ornate chair with a fireplace in the background), but as a person living in the very world the story takes place in. The Muppets have always been ones to playfully use the 4th wall for laughs, but this takes it to another level. On one hand you have Gonzo the Muppet playing Charles Dickens, which establishes an almost Theatre feel, as if this was a play. But then you also have Gonzo narrating the story of the world he is living in, which gives him an almost God-like status. Then his sidekick Rizzo is along for the ride as the straight-man who doesn't believe his friend is really Charles Dickens, but Gonzo's seeming omniscience captures his curiosity and forces him to follow along to see what happens.

It is just so Weird that it's hopelessly fascinating. And it works! You just can't help but to be stuck in your seat to see where they're going with this. And they play it brilliantly. The relationship between Gonzo and Rizzo creates a perfect set-up for them to follow the action of the story, sneaking around in its fringes and subsequently taking us along for the ride. So many iterations of this story will either play it straight, or have it set up as a narrator reading the classic story, but A Muppet Christmas Carol blends these two versions together into an absolutely amazing amalgam.

I just can't properly describe how much I love this movie. It's funny, it's visually great to look at (a perfect blend of dark & silly, realistic & fantastical), it's heart warming, the songs are amazing, the characters are phenomenal, and the story structure is one-of-a-kind.

Just trust me on this one: you've got to see it.

I do not make merry at Christmas...”
That is certainly true.”
And I cannot afford to make other people merry.”
That is certainly not true.”


Much Ado About Nothing

Joss Whedon's modern adaptation of Shakespeare's comedic story of love, betrayal, and misunderstandings.

Genre: A new kind of Shakespeare.

I have a rather love/hate relationship with Shakespeare. I love a lot of what Shakespeare doeshis wordplay, his timeless storiesbut I have a terribly hard time putting up with his writing style, which is just a constant flow of flowery verse; every line needing to be it's own masterpiece. My brain has a hard time getting into a story's flow when it's written like that, so I just don't bother. For me that style of writing just isn't conducive to the immersive experience a great story can provide. Thus I've never seen/read the vast majority of Shakespeare's plays.

It's important to get that information out there, because I want you to understand what I mean when I say that this is the first time I've seen a production of Shakespeare that I loved. Heck, it's the first time I've seen a production of Shakespeare that I even liked. If you yourself are a lover of Shakespeare, then I don't know what this means for you. Does the fact that it appeals to a Shakespeare-dumdum like myself, mean it won't appeal to your tastes? I can't say.

After seeing this movie, though, I feel that perhaps film is much more suited for Shakespeare than theatre. All the Shakespeare plays I've seen have put such a heavy focus on the words that the actors are just second-string. But in Whedon's version the visuals and the acting bare equal weight with the words. Take the humor for example. I always remember English teachers having to explain to the class why a passage was funny (and as we all know a joke that you have to explain isn't a very funny one). Yet, this movie shows us the humor.  They put it into their inflections, and faces, and blocking, and even prat falls. One of the things The Simpsons was always so brilliant at was creating jokes that worked on multiple levels, so that you'd be laughing even if you didn't get the reference. Even if you're not entirely sure what a line means, Whedon still gets the essence of it across in other ways. I mean, heck, my favorite line was " By this day she's a fair lady." In most people's hands it would just be a regular line, but Alexis Denisof's delivery is hilarious and wonderful.

I don't really know what else to say. If you've got no love for Shakespeare you probably won't care for it. If you're a big fan I'd recommend seeing it just for the sake of seeing Whedon's unique portrayal. And if you're like meand have always had some mixed feelings about ShakespeareI'd suggest you give it a shot, because I enjoyed it so much I'd like to own it. Considering how I felt about Shakespeare beforehand that's really saying something.

I really hope Whedon tries his hands at some of Shakespeare's others plays in the future.

There is a kind of merry war betwixt Senor Benedick and her. They never meet, but there is a a skirmish of wit between them.”


My Man Godfrey

A ditsy young socialite hires a homeless vagrant to be her family's butler.

Genre: 30's Screwball Comedy

It's a movie from the 1930's about a rich woman who hires a bum to be her butler. I mean, I obviously had to see this thing. Especially since it was playing at the theater where I work and was thus free. Interesting(?) fact: I saw both this and Much Ado About Nothing on my birthday.

I don't really know what to say.  It was goofy, funny, silly, there's some very clever bits of dialogue, it certainly ended on different note than I was expecting, and I had a great time watching it. It's a little all over the place at times, but still fun (especially if you like old comedies).

All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people. ”


Big Business

Two sets of identical twins get bungled, and the unmatched pairs go home to different families: one to wealthy business owners and the other to small town farmers. Yet things go topsy-turvy when the grown twins meet up unexpectedly.

Genre: 80's buddy comedy using a twins-separated at birth set-up

I read an article online that was talking about The Heat and how female buddy comedies have become a very rare commodity. Much to my discredit I had never really noticed, but it's true! Me and my friend Rusty decided to spend the day watching a couple of them.

I don't know why, but I have distinct memories of watching this one for the first time at my uncle's house when I was a kid. It's nothing too far from your usual "Twins separated at birth" gag, but it's fun. I mean, it's starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin! How can you not enjoy those two?

I don't know what else to say really. It's a fun movie. "Twins-separated-at-birth buddy comedy starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin" pretty much sums it up perfectly. If that sounds amusing to you, then you should definitely check it out sometime.

You might also get some laughs at seeing a very young Seth Green playing a role in the movie.

“Don't worry, it will only take one little prick.”

That's what got me into this trouble in the first place!”


Outrageous Fortune

Two wannabe actresses find out they've been dating the same man, but when he suddenly goes missing they team up to find him and get to the bottom of his infidelity.

Genre: Female buddy comedy from the 80's

This one isn't quite as enjoyable as Big Business, mostly because the set-up is kind of messed up. I mean, these two women find out that the man they've been dating has been cheating on them and is involved in some super shady shit and they still want him back! I mean, it's not until late in the movie that they finally get to the "Well, to hell with this asshole!" mindset they should have come to almost immediately. Oh! Plus the cops/agents in this movie don't announce themselves! They just start chasing ladies with their guns out! Of COURSE they're going to run from you, you idiots! Also did I mention there's a lot of stereotypes going on in this movie?

That stuff aside, Shelly Long and Bette Midler are an enjoyable duo. Apparently they didn't work well together off-set (for instance they threw a hissy fit over who would get first billing), but on screen they're a fun pair. However, the best part of this movieby faris when George Carlin shows up.

In summary: It's not the greatest movie around. It has it's moments though. I probably won't seek it out again, but if someone else wanted to watch it I'd be down for that. If nothing else you get to see George Carlin in a dress, and that's nothing to turn your nose up at.

You defiled a Christmas tree?”

No one SAW!”


The Heat

A boisterous cop and an uptight FBI agent team up to track down a drug dealer in the streets of Boston.

Genre: Buddy-cop comedy

I loved this movie! It only came out this year and I've already seen it multiple times.

I don't really know what to say about it. It's really funny. It's so funny that I keep watching it and it has me laughing every time. What more of a recommendation can you give a comedy? Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are a fantastic duo.

Oh, plus just look at some of the other actors in this thing: Jane Curtin (SNL, 3rd Rock From the Sun), Marlon Wayans (The Wayans Bros., The Ladykillers), Kaitlin Olson (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Tony Hale (Arrested Development), and Thomas Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future)!

Jesus, what are those?”

Stop it, they're my Spanx. They hold everything together.”

Why, what's gonna come popping out?”

Nothing, it just keeps everything where it's supposed to be. Like...”

“Shit, like medically?”


Muppet Treasure Island

The Muppets take on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic story of Treasure Island when Gonzo, Rizzo, and Jim Hawkins discover a treasure map and set sail for adventure.

Genre: Family-friendly Adventure Comedy

If I had to rank my favorite Muppet movies I'd say this one is my...3rd favorite. Once again the Muppets prove that they are just so good at fitting into the roles of classic literature. Plus Tim Curry as Long John Silver?! Yes, please!

Overall the movie's a whole lot of fun, but I've gotta admit they go a little off the rails a little bit at times. For instance they kind of shoehorn a reason to for Ms. Piggy to show up. It's a weird element to add to the story, but I like Ms. Piggy so I guess I can't really complain.

Also, I am compelled to point out that the kid that plays Hawkins has a frighteningly high singing voice. It is just so weird to hear to coming out of his mouth. It's just so high!

ALSO Billy Connolly has a little role in the movie! And I want it on the record that I'm a big fan of Billy Connolly.

“Terrific. Captured by crazed wild pigs and sacrificed hideously before a pagan altar.”

Are we lucky or what?”


Now You See Me

A group of magicians team up and to use their skills to pull off grand heists during their performances.

Genre: Jazz hands mystery thriller?

Jeez, I'm so far behind on this movie list it's not even funny.

I remember that I ended up doing a ton of biking the day I saw this. I biked from my house to my job at the library, then I biked all the way across Minneapolis to get to the theater I work at (so I could see it for free), then I biked back home so I could take a quick shower before then biking back over to the north side of town for a date, and then biking back home once again.

But as for the movie? Uhhh...not nearly as clever as it thought it was. I saw through a lot of the would-be surprises and the ending was rather silly...actually, it was very silly. I liked the characters, but in my opinion the plot was all flash no substance. It just came off as being extremely full of itself.

I don't know. It's a movie, I enjoyed myself well enough, but I have no real interest in ever seeing it again.

First rule of magic: always be the smartest person in the room.”


Being Elmo:
A Puppeteer's Journey

A documentary about Kevin Clash, the man behind Elmo.

Genre: Documentary

It's a documentary about Elmo. I don't really know what else I can say about it. It's interesting seeing behind-the-scene muppets stuff and it was streaming on Netflix so I figured, "Why not?"

It was interesting. My only complaint is that they paint this guy as being some perfect kind of person and that struck me as biased. It was all too clean. No one's life is that clean.

...whoah...yeah, if you take a second to look at his wikipedia page you'll see I was right about that. Jeez. That makes the whole thing super weird.

Anyways, I lied earlier! I have another complaint and it is that they claim it's narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, but she barely says anything, so calling her a Narrator seems a bit of a stretch.


The Secret World of Arrietty

Based on Mary Norton's fantasy novel The Borrowers, Arrietty and her family of tiny borrowers live under the floor and in the walls of a house, surviving by borrowing things from the humans who live there. But everything changes when a new human comes to stay at the house and Arrietty's lust for adventure gets herself and her family into trouble.

Genre: Animated adventure

When you see a Studio Ghibli movie you're pretty much guaranteed for a visual treat. Oh, and I should mention that while Miyazaki didn't actually direct this one, he did write the screenplay.

I really like this movie, but my trouble comes from not being able to properly explain what it is exactly that I like so much about it. I mean, the plot is a very basic by-the-book sort of thing and in some movies that works against them, but in this one...it works. The focus of the movie isn't on the plot, but on the characters and their world. It's one of the most immersive movies I've seen. It's just a joy to look at and see this world of ours from a different perspective. I don't know! It just draws me in! Plus, much like My Neighbor Totoro, I find it to be a very relaxing movie to watch.

Oh! And the English voice acting is actually pretty good in this one. Which is nice to see, especially after the dubbing train-wreck that was Ponyo.

So, yeah. Even though I'm no good at explaining what it is exactly about this movie that captivates me, who cares! It's definitely become one of my favorite Ghibli movies.

My mother used to tell me stories about the little people that lived under the floors.”


Pacific Rim

In a post apocalyptic world beset upon by giant monsters from a dimensional rift in the ocean, a giant robot pilot has to use a giant robot to help another giant robot save the world.

Genre: Giant Monsters vs Giant Robots type action.

I'm probably going to get some flak for this, but who cares! This movie is very stupid. And I've heard all the "It's cool and fun! It's supposed to be a little stupid!" lines before. I love many stupid things, but this isn't the right kind of stupid. This is trying to be Cool and missing the mark and landing fully in stupid. I mean, if you're going to go mecha you just gotta go for it. You can't be putzing around trying to make it sound like it makes any kind of sense. No one is ever going to build robots that big. It's just not going to happen. Engineering aspects aside, it would be an absurd waste of materials, research, and technology.

There's even one part of the movie that they say that all the monsters have the same base DNA or something. Guess what would be more efficient against that than a robot the size of a fucking building? A frigging biological weapon! In the decade or whatever it took you to develop this robot tech, you could have been putting tons of research and funding into bio weapons, and really fucked up those Kaiju. And what, no one thinks to try and figure out how to plug that dimensional hole until now? Kinda seems like that might be a bigger priority.

Also can we talk about the casting here? There's essentially 1 female character (who is also the only real Asian character) and she's the love interest. What's more their romance is staggeringly forced. It was no legs on it whatsoever. Oh, and right now someone out there is saying "what about that one Russian pilot? She was a woman. And that set of Chinese triplets? They were Asian." And yes, they're right, those characters existed, but guess what? They basically had no lines! They were just background characters who don't matter in the end. Essentially you've got 1 black man, 1 asian woman, and a shit-ton of white dudes saving the world. It's 2013! Can we please, PLEASE, get some diversity in movies? A big chunk of this movie takes place in Hong Kong! What the hell!

This movie had a lot going for it: it's got giant robots, it's got really cool monsters, it's got Charlie Day, Idris Elba, and Ron Perlman! (Ron Perlman, by the way, was the best part of this movie by far and he should have gotten so much more screentime.) Of all the characters I only really like Charlie Day and Perlman's. Okay, I like Rinko's character a lot at first, but they kind of ruined all the great stuff about her as the story progressed. I usually love Elba, but his character in this was just so boringly stereotypical.

In the end, it was really fun seeing giant monsters and robots on the big screen. I could probably be talked into seeing again just because I like monsters. But it is far from being a good movie. Visually interesting movie? Definitely. It reminds me of Tron: Legacy, in that I'd much rather look at an art book from the movie than watch the movie again.

Oh yeah, if you see it be sure to stay for an extra after-credits scene.

We always thought alien life would come from the stars, but it came from deep beneath the sea; a portal between dimensions in the Pacific Ocean.


A Prairie Home Companion

An old-fashioned live radio show is putting on its final show before being shutdown.

Genre: Dramatic comedy.

I once heard a coworker talking about how he was going to do a Robert Altman marathon and watch all his movies, "Except A Prairie Home Companion, of course."

Excuse me?

What a ridiculous thing to say. Altman's direction really shines in this movie and to cast it off seems insulting to such a renowned director. I'm no expert on film making, but Roger Ebert is able to better express this into words (he not only gave the film 4/4 stars, but also put it on his Great Movies list). This movie is amazing and I keep coming back to it again and again.

Perhaps it's one of those movies where you either get it or you don't. I get it and I love it. There's just something distinctly Minnesotan about it for me. It's unusually funny, quietly beautiful, and makes you read between the lines.

It does things differently than the vast majority of movies out there. It's an exploration of Endings. There are no ticking countdowns and no last minute saves, because it's about what happens when things die. Finding the beauty in death is what Winter's all about here and to see a movie subtly tackle those ideas so skillfully is just a real pleasure.

We come from people who brought us up to believe that life is a struggle, and if you should feel really happy, be patient: this will pass.



When her elderly father is called to war, Mulan steal his sword and armor, dresses as a man, and joins the army in his place. Now she must not only worry about her secret getting out, but also surviving against a ruthless invading army.

Genre: Disney animation

First of all my roommates all watched this together when I was at work. Not cool, you guys. Not cool at all.

Anyways, you know what? Mulan is much better than I remembered it being. I never thought it was bad or anything, but in my memory Eddie Murphy was a lot worse than he actually was. I rather like him actually. He's a million times better than Disney's usual animal comic-relief sidekicks.

When Mulan came along Disney had been in a pretty big slump. I mean the three Disney movies before this one were: Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notredame, and Hercules. Mulan definitely blows those out of the water. Speaking of which, it's also a ton better than Tarzan which came right after.

For one thing the songs were back at Disney standards. They're a little more comedic and don't try to be as sweeping and epic as the classics, but they're super catchy and fit their scenes perfectly. Heck, "I'll Make a Man out of You" is probably the last Disney movie to have wormed it's way into my memory banks like only a Disney song can.

Plus, you've gotta love that Mulan for how it turned a complete 180 on the whole Disney Princess idea. This film was the first to not only star a female protagonist, but have her be self-reliant, not just in words, but in actions as well. She loves her family deeply, but nonetheless follows her own path in life. Not because of some man, but because of who she is. She's resiliant and rises to the challenges set before her through hard work and determination. She's the one rescuing her "prince" in this movie, and not the other way around.

Sure, I could critique some the film's depictions of Asia, but when it comes right down to it, the things it does right vastly outnumber any qualms I could come up with. When I first saw it I wasn't overly impressed, but it's grows on me more and more as time goes by and now it's a favorite Disney movie of mine.

I've heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father's armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese Army, destroyed my palace, and... you have saved us all.



A young FBI agent named John Myers gets transferred to the Beaureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. More spefically he gets assigned to look out for the B.P.R.D.'s top agent: a demon who was raised as a man, named Hellboy. When the sorcerer who's responsible for Hellboy's entrance to Earth returns with plans to bring about the end of the world, John's assignment starts to look like a much bigger mission than he was ever expecting.

Genre: Light-hearted Paranormal action

What can I say? It's a movie based on a comic by Mike Mignola wherein Ron Perlman plays a man-demon working as a paranormal investigator. There is no way I could not get a kick out of that. I mean, really. If any of that sounds up your alley then you should watch it. If you like Lovecraftian horror, comics, monsters, paranormal action and comedy, or any of the above; then you should watch it.

My uncle used to say that we like people for their qualities but we love them for their defects.


Alien: Resurrection

Centuries after her death, Ripley is cloned by scientists fascinated by the alien creatures. However, they underestimated them. Now it's up to Ripley and a team of space mercenaries to take the aliens out.

Genre: Space...fantasy?

This movie...I just...I don't even know where to begin. It's an interesting movie and there's a lot of memorable stuff going on in it, but it doesn't fit into the Alien franchise at all. It's like...a  weird space-fantasy version of Aliens? I don't know.

Anything I could say has already been said better by Joey Comeau, so really I'd just recommend you read his review if you're interested.

I will say that it's not my favorite of the franchise. It's also not my least favorite. There's a lot of stuff I liked about this movie. My 2 biggest problems with it are these:

1. The final alien creature is so stupid looking! It's got this weird wiggly nose thing? Ugh. It is just so stupid! It looks like something someone made as a joke.

2. These people are frighteningly stupid. I was yelling at the screen through a lot of it. I mean, they're fighting for their lives and yet they keep taking really, really stupid chances. For instance: Hauling around a wheelchair bound guy on your back while a pack of vicious aliens are after you? Noble? Yeah, but also pretty damn stupid. Especially when it comes time to climb a huge ladder. Also, maybe I'm heartless, but if you find some dude who's got an alien parasite in his chest, who could at any moment pop out a killer monster, you should probably kill him. And by Probably I really mean Definitely. At the very least leave him to die on his own. Sure you might be able to save him, but really!? You're fighting for your lives! You probably won't survive and he is not helping your odds one bit! Sure, once again it's a very noble act, but also really fucking stupid!

I can't imagine anyone watching this if they haven't watched the other ones. If you're like me and you're a fan of the Alien movies then OF COURSE you should see this. If you haven't seen the other movies then this one will probably be Super bizarre for you.

Fun Fact: In the movie Sigourney Weaver makes a behind-the-back half-court basketball shot and she really did it! Not only that, but she did so on her first take! Ron Perlman was so amazed that he broke character and nearly ruined it.

Hey, Ripley. I heard you, like, ran into these things before?
That's right.”
Wow, man. So, like, what did you do?

I died. ”