Friday, March 30, 2012

The Hmmmger Games


Couldn't have said it better myself

Well, kids. I finally saw it. I bit the bullet. I took a chance. And all I have to say is...

"Well...That happened."

For my fellow book-readers, I hope you will understand when I say that I didn't NOT like the movie, but it left so much to be desired as compared to the book that the experience was kind of lackluster. Alas, even two and a half hours was not quite long enough to get the incredible amount of information onto the screen.

For those of you who don't know the plot (is that possible at this point in the media frenzy?), The Hunger Games is a competition held by the futuristic dystopian nation of Panem (used to be the US, fyi) to keep all 12 of their assorted districts in line after a horrible uprising almost a century beforehand. Each district has to send a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to fight to the death in a competition that will result in the victor's district getting special treatment for a year.

So at the center of our plot, we have Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 (the coal-mining district. not that that is incredibly relevent.) who has fought for the past few years to keep her family from starving after her father died in a mine explosion. On the day of The Reaping, her beloved little sister gets called up to be placed in the Hunger Games and, in order to spare her, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Also called is Peeta Mellark(y), who ends up trying to save her throughout the games, either because he has his own agenda or because he is in love with Katniss (you don't figure it out til the end).

So! Let's get to what is good about this movie first:

Excellent costumes. They really take the bizarre Lady Gaga fashions of Panem and bring them to life. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) especially has some truly astounding fashion choices and the scenes at The Capital are brilliant.

Who knew Lady Gaga could see this far into the fashion future? Cray.

Also they really seemed to realize the commentary on spectating that the book suggests. That humans can become extremely base when anything is done for pure sport or spectacle, and that when things become entertainment, reality gets extremely blurry. Especially for the people living in The Capital; you can tell that their lowest priority is the welfare of these children and that to them it is all a game.

All in all, it was more or less an accurate visual of what I had already imagined in my head, which was a huge plus.

I mean there's really no better person they could have chosen for Caesar

Alright...gettin down to brass tacks...

I was not all that impressed with the over-dramatization of the characters. Just because you make something shorter does not mean that you have to up the emotional integrity of each character. I felt like the actors took their characters from the book and turned the volume up to 11 (Spinal Tap? Anyone?). Peeta was turned from a sensitive guy into a needy over-the-top baby, Cinna went from Yoda-figure to hip gay buddy (and Lenny Kravitz? What? Really? Why? Awful.), and Hamitch went from a complex gruff and standoffish character with a heart to over-invested sober person (NOT sober for very long at all in the book, just for the record).

Putting on gold eyeliner doesn't make you Cinna. It just makes you Lenny Kravitz wearing gold eyeliner.

Another issue that I had was the lack of violence. Let me justify that statement: the book makes all of the deaths somewhat vivid to bring attention to how incredibly backwards it is to have children fight to their own imminent deaths. The spear that hits Rue, in the film, doesn't even go completely through her. Doesn't that go against science? Likewise, all of the deaths at the Cornucopia were made blurry by fast camera-shaking and such so that you barely even saw any of the kids actually getting killed. That kind of PG-13 violence doesn't really drive home the effed up factor that the books do.

I don't know, maybe part of my problem is just that it's NOT the book. And the book was so much better. Books can take their time explaining things to you because things take a while to happen in real time. Even in most chapters you don't have the magnitude of cuts and scenes that you have in a movie. And even when the cuts and such match the structure of the book, things like music, camera shots, and all kinds of other factors end up taking the story from real to overdramatic almost every time. Another issue is that movies can't really pull off inner monologue without being cheesy, which is a shame because inner monologue makes up about half of Katniss's character.

So. In conclusion. The Hunger Games movie: not bad. But I wouldn't go to it expecting to be impressed if you got reeeaally into the books.

6 outa 10.

Also the Hollywood monkeys disabled embedding for all of the Hunger Games trailers so I'm gonna go ahead and let you seek it out for yourself (as if you haven't seen it already).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

21 Jump Street: A Lovely Surprise

Sooo this weekend, instead of joining the masses and flocking to the nearest theater to see The Hunger Games, Bill came up to visit and we decided to opt, instead, for 21 Jump Street.

Now, I had been told by my mom that this movie had been pretty hilarious, but I had my doubts. I mean honestly, if moms are seeing it how good could it really be? But I must have seriously underestimated how cool Cath is because me and Bill were doubled over in the theater cracking up.

But high school movies never come to a crux at the prom!?

The movie is, of course, based off of the old 80's TV series of the same name, formerly starring Johnny Depp and that other guy that was in A Night At the Roxbury (I wanna say Greico?). But it isn't the same characters, reinvented as so many other shows have tried to do (Starsky and Hutch, The Dukes of Hazard, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Addams Family, aaand I'm gonna stop there cuz this could go on for a while). This movie features Schmidt and Jenko (Joanh Hill and Channing Tatum) as a couple of awful cops that get downgraded to being sent back to high school undercover to take down a synthetic drug ring.

I mean, that's really the entire plot. It also involves the two characters getting into a fight and then reconciling but I feel like that's kind of a given.

The real humor in this movie comes from their portrayal of how different high schools are now as opposed to around 2005. It was kind of funny to see how they portray 2005 too, haha. Velour jumpsuits, bleached hair, and letterman jackets.

Ah, memories

And when the two cops go back to school all of the stereotypes that they had while they themselves had been in high school have now been completely morphed. They are now dealing with a hipster kind of crowd being the center of the popular ring, which means that bullying, fossil fuels, and littering are way not cool man.

He rules a drug ring and still has time to work on the school yearbook

As a result, instead of Jenko (obviously a cool kid back in the day) taking over as the new king of the school, they flip the stereotypes on their heads and make Schmidt the new popular kid. Even though Schmidt was a total nerd in high school, these qualities of his have now become cool. So I guess a huge portion of the plot is also having both boys reconcile their past high school experiences with the ones that they have to go through as undercover cops. Schmidt lets popularity go to his head while Jenko gets humbled after becoming BFFs with the chemistry nerds.


I don't know whether it's just the fact that they are so full-heartedly making fun of hipsters, that I'm old and I understand where Schmidt and Jenko are coming from, or that the writing is just really on mark, but this movie was hilarious. It was like a cross between Never Been Kissed and The Other Guys. Sweet teen comedy but also raunchy and outrageous. Just real enough to make a point but goofy enough that it's something new.


Seriously, I would see it again. Don't get peer pressured into seeing just The Hunger Games, cuz this one was pretty sweet too.

7 and a half outa 10.

Also keep an eye out for cameos from some of your favorite TV actors!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Little Voice: If Ya Like 50s Music and Getting Caught in the Rain

Alas, my friends. I have not seen The Hunger Games yet. Mostly because I've been working my butt off covering my coworker's shift for the past nine days and couldn't convince myself that I could get through nine hours of work on the five hours of sleep I would've gotten after seeing the midnight showing of the movie (which totally sucked, cuz midnight releases are the best). But the review will be written the minute that I get home, so just hold your horses.

Nope, had to resort back to my good ole buddy, Netflix, who saw me through this difficult time and offered me the same movies it's been recommending me for about a year (I'll watch them when I'm ready, damnit!). Fortunately for Netlfix, my friend Josh (I do have friends that are girls, by the way, they just never recommend me movies. I'll bring them up someday.) told me to watch one that they've been recommending to me literally for a year, if not longer. The name of the movie was Little Voice and, to tell you the truth, I never watched it because I didn't know anything at all about it. It ended up being a really cool movie, though, both in terms of plot and in terms of its entertainment value.

I already said what the name of the movie was, you don't have to point at it...

The plot follows a girl named LV (short for Little Voice. Just clarifying.) and her tyrannical mother, Mari (Brenda Blethyn). LV (Jane Horrocks) and her mother live in a quaint little British town where nothing ever really seems to happen, until Mari starts seeing a washed up talent agent named Ray Say (Michael Caine). After a night of laughs ends with the two of them trying to kick LV out of the living room, they accidentally end up discovering that LV maybe has a bigger voice than they had ever imagined. Ray then takes matters into his own hands trying to make LV into the star he's always dreamed of, with Mari only too happy to comply, but when each of them underestimates the fragility of her character, all hell breaks loose.

She's probably not singing but screaming. Probably.

The movie is interesting in that it is a lot of fun but also a really intense commentary on human relationships. LV is obsessed with the records of her dead father, who she was extremely close to. It is because of the amount of times that she has listened to his records that she can mimic the tones and mannerisms of all of his favorite stars. LV seems to also stand out in the plot as a comment on nostalgia and the dangers of letting it consume you.

LV, Ray, aaaand LV's dead dad at center.

Completely opposite of LV is her loud and obnoxious mother, a character that at first you hate, but then almost grow to feel sorry for. While she is totally oversexed and loudmouthed, there seems to be a deep rooted loneliness about her that almost makes you empathetic to her when she watches as her daughter takes over the attentions of Ray Say.

Love me!?

The movie's plot is also really simple but in a different way. Typical good versus evil story but with an unusual character that keeps the plot realistic and show tunes which give it an edge of surreality.

Ewan MeGregor also has a small part as LV's boyish love interest, which keeps the two of them almost childlike in the intensely corrupt atmosphere that surrounds them.

Interesting contrasts and a great soundtrack (seriously, if you only watch one scene, watch the scene of LV totally killin' all of her dad's favorite records. Or else the one where she flips out at her mom. Both great scenes).

7 outa 10 stars.

Couldn't find a trailer, so here's a clip for y'all.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Just out of curiosity...

How many of you are planning to see The Hunger Games this Friday at midnight?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Brassed Off (That Means "Pissed Off" in Yorkshirese)

When I woke up Thursday morning, I was gearing up for another awesome sunshiney beautiful gorgeous day, when I realized that my room had darted back to its February temperature. Fearing the worst, I looked outside and it was all cloudy and not beautiful gorgeous either. Womp womp. So I ended up spending the better half of the morning working on job applications watching a movie called Brassed Off.

Funny story about this movie: I had never heard of it before: I was doing some research on a certain song called Tubthumping by Chumbawumba (god, I feel old). I don't know if any of you have ever heard the intro to the song before, but it starts off with an audio clip spoken by Pete Postlethwaite saying "The truth is I thought it mattered. I thought that music mattered. But does it, bullocks. Not compared to our people, matter." (It makes more sense with his Yorkshire accent).

So I, resident film nerd, took it upon myself to perform the arduous task of googling said audio clip in order to find out its origin. Then I looked up Brassed Off on Netflix, added it to my Netflix, and promptly forgot all about it.

Until I found it as a VHS in Liberty Thrift.

Yes, my VHS haters. For the price of $1.00 I now own Brassed Off.

One funny thing about this movie, though, as it is with most obscure movies, is that the movie's cover did not really advertise the true inner workings of the plot (I know. I was just as shocked as you probably are.). In fact, the movie's cover seemed to suggest that this movie is a romanic comedy, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what it actually is. I mean, the tagline of the movie is "Together Again...And Turning the Town Upside Down!" Ummm...not really, dude.

Contrary to what this cover may have you thinking, this is not the British She's All That.

The movie's plot is actually set on the backdrop of a mining town and what happens when its colliery (that's British for "mine"), the villagers' main source of income, is put under a possible shut-down as a result of the "Tory Party" (doesn't that just sound too British?) trying to modernize England and phase out coal mining or something. But that's just the backdrop. The problems of the villagers to come up with money, the emotional strain of being on strike, and all kinds of other problems are only heightened when they're put in contrast with the small problems and awesome sound of the village's colliery brass band.


The band, which has been running for 100 years, is led by sweet but narrow-minded Danny (Pete Postlethwaite), who refuses to take in the situation going on around him. Despite his son, Phil's (Stephen Tompkinson) various troubles with money and managing his family, Danny seems to focus whole-heartedly on the band. One day, the band is approached by a girl named Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald), who was born in Grimley and wants to practice with the band while she's there "on holiday" (highly suspect...). The band (which is all dudes) welcomes her incredible flugle skills and she is asked to go through the band's next competition playing with them. Entranced by Gloria is Andy (Ewan McGregor, fresh off of Trainspotting), who has had a crush on her since they were little.

The ensuing tangle of a storyline then follows Danny's declining health as a result of all his mining years as he refuses to see what is around him; Phil coming to terms with the reality of his familial and financial situation; and Andy and Gloria's relationship after everyone finds out she is a surveyor for the very company that is trying to shut down the mine.

Haha poverty's the best

It's actually very well put together. Set up as a political commentary film about the underdog of Yorkshire amidst the bigger dogs like Wales and London (I'm going off of Danny's speech at the end), the film actually manages to successfully get their audience rooting for the people of Grimley and, perhaps less importantly, their brass band.

Speaking of their brass band, I've got to say (even though it's fairly obvious that none of the actors bothered really learning their instruments. Yes I'm talking to you, Tara Fitzgerald) the soundtrack is pretty great. I don't know about you, but when I hear "brass band", the only songs that come to mind are John Philip Sousa marches. Despite this, the film managed to pull off some pretty gorgeous songs that I had never heard before, or at least never played by a brass band (look up their clips of Danny Boy and Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. Dayum.). Well done on the soundtrack, kids.

In terms of the film again, though, I will warn you there is quite a lot about this film that ends up being dark (which is really why I couldn't understand them calling it a romantic comedy?) and even though it ends on a high note, there is still a good portion of it that leaves you kind of crestfallen. The miners are so let down by everyone around them and there is such a large number of people that end up being screwed over by the government that it makes you think. Probably what they were going for.

I will say that the only point that they didn't have me sold on, in terms of shutting down mines being a bad thing, was the health risks. I was a little surprised that they put Danny having the black lung when their agenda was so clearly to persuade people that mining is a lucrative and profitable industry. Sorry folks. Not buyin' it.

'Nuff said.

Pretty good for a political movie. And just funny enough to keep you going.

6.5 outa 10

THis is the only trailer I could find, guys, sorry for the horrific lag:

To make up for that awful trailer video...

(I know you guys wanted an excuse to jam to this oldie)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hunger Games, Hunger Games, What Are We Going To Do With You...

Having recently totally binged on the entire Hunger Games books series (seriously I finished the whole series in, like, four days. I have no life. Also they're really good.), I'm having a hard time deciphering my feelings about this movie nonsense.

Now I know that you all know that I will watch pretty much any movie thrown at me (doubters, please see the post about Pinnochio's Revenge), but what you may not know is that I, like so many others, have a definite problem defining how I feel about beloved books that have been made into films.

Take, for example (no, not Harry Potter, shut up) Pride and Prejudice. Pride and Prejudice was a book that I had read before I saw any of the movie versions and I loved it. Like, a lot. Now this is a prime example of how a book can be turned into a movie both the right way and the wrong way, in my humble opinion.

The right way:

BBC magic.

The BBC's version of Pride and Prejudice, albeit a bit long, is an extremely faithful adaptation of the book and of the Regency era (totally looked that up..) in general. The storyline follows every step of the characters' various problems and discoveries, making it awesome. Also, Colin Firth is in it and he's adorable as the haughty-turned-kind Mr. Darcy.

If you think he's cute here, you should see the scene where he comes out of the pond. Seriously. See it.

The wrong way:


Now, not to be all judgmental. The cinematography in this is pretty spectacular, and I will say that they are all much more attractive on a modern level (not a Regency era one!)...but Keira Knightley? Really? She does that weird thing with her mouth and I just become lost in trying to figure out how awesome she thinks she is.

You're not supposed to be the hot one, damnit, Jane Bennett is, now put that fish-mouth away!

Also, I'm sorry, but the Mr. Darcy in this version looks like a big ol' bear compared to my beloved Colin Firth. And sort of acts like an Edward Cullen more than a Mr. Darcy. In the book, Mr. Darcy is extremely subtle in how he comes around from being a judgmental asshole to the kind and affectionate man he is in the end. Trying to make out with Lizzy Bennett in the rain is not exactly his style.

In comparing the two, and really any book-to-movie adaptation for that matter, it is obvious that the longer version will always be the more faithful (and let's face it, usually better) version of the tale to watch. Unfortunately, we do not live in India (where movies typically run for three hours at least) and Americans prefer movies to be, at most, 2 hours long. This can cut the authenticity that book-lovers are looking for.

So to bring it back to The Hunger Games...I don't know, I guess I'm a little anxious to see how they do with a story that I so vividly imagined in my mind. Obviously the story reads a little different for everyone and it will be interesting to see what their adaptation will end up looking like, but I just don't want them to muddle images that I already have ingrained in my mind. Do you guys remember Harry Potter? Did anyone else start mixing up the cartoon version of Harry on the cover with Daniel Radcliffe? Very confusing. But I'm a little more optimistic for The Hunger Games than I was for Harry Potter, to tell you the truth. Even hearing that the movie version is going to be a running time of about 2 1/2 hours (if I recall correctly) has given me hope that the film will not be a complete travesty. Also, it's always fun to see how in movies they interpret dystopian futures and this one looks like it's not going to disappoint.

This is not, in fact, Lady Gaga, but Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket

So, in conclusion: to buy midnight showing tickets for The Hunger Games or to not buy midnight showing tickets for The Hunger Games. That is the question.

I know you've all probably seen the trailers for The Hunger Games, so I'ma leave you with this adorable guy:

I mean you can even keep Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth Bennet, but holy crap, give me Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy please.

Not-So-Safe House

So I don't know how this keeps happening, but each weekend I keep finding myself back in Jersey. This past weekend I just went home to decompress and take a frolic on the beach in this awesome weather. Too bad it was 37 degrees outside.

You can't see the cold...but it's there.

So bypassing my own plans to prance around the beach, I opted instead for (wait for it) a movie. Except this time Billiam and I sneaked out of the house and left Mama at home (sorry, Cath).

This round we went and saw Safe House starring Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington (swoonfest).

Niemand ist sicher, indeed.

The movie start off with Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) and his girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) in South Africa and chatting about all the different places that they'd like to move. Come to find out about five to ten minutes after that that he has made a cover for himself and has lied about his actual job to his girlfriend. He is, in fact, a "housekeeper" for the CIA. Housekeepers, you come to find out, are the people that run safe houses for the government, housing high profile criminals while the government tries to get information from them or decides what to do with them. Matt sees close to no action, though, spending his days throwing a tennis ball against the wall.

Enter Tobin Frost (Washington), a high-profile criminal who has been on the run from the US government for years. After meeting Matt, the scene then switches to Frost meeting a friend of his and getting a valuable file (we don't know what's on it). Soon after there is gunfire, a killer chase scene, his friend is killed in transit, and Frost, seeing no other option, surrenders to the American Embassy (this all also takes place in South Africa, fyi). Soon after, our two heroes are smooshed together, Tobin being led to Matt's safe house so that the CIA can question him on same random stuff.

All hell breaks loose when the security of the safe house is compromised and the team that has led Frost there is all left for dead, leaving poor Matt to deal with this terrifying mind-messer-wither.

He is, in fact, reading his mind.

As the plot unfolds, however, it becomes increasingly (and then decreasingly) difficult to figure out if Frost is a good guy or a bad guy, giving Matt tips and eventually even helping him with his own demise.

This movie was actually pretty interesting. While I have got to say I'm not sure about how I feel about Matt crying through, like, 2/3 of the entire film, it brings some realism into a genre that is usually reserved for badass, emotionless secret agents. Matt's dewey eyes are maybe a little over the top, but they also make you realize how terrifying it actually is to be a spy, what the level of trust is in that secret of a branch of government, and the self-searching problems that you would have with that kind of a job. While he is no Jason Bourne, Matt Weston is almost more believable (if less entertaining to watch) as the only character in the film with any kind of moral fiber.

Am I holding this gun right?

Denzel is also totally his usual badass self as Tobin Frost. In the beginning you are somewhat convinced he is a sociopath, but as he helps Matt Weston question the duties of his job and the trust that he has wholly put into the American government, you being to realize that he is the exact opposite of a sociopath, and just a jaded ex-agent who is trying to bring sense to Matt. Very well acted.

A cool commentary about patriotism, corruption in government, "the system" and who you can and cannot trust. Not bad.

6 outa 10 stars.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Taking You to a VHS Wonderland

Good lord. I guess you're teetering dangerously on hipster territory when you find yourself using the VHS half of your dual player more than the DVD half. But in my defense, when I first got a TV for Christmas and didn't have anything to hook it up to, my friend Steve (bet you're feelin pretty popular at this point, Steve) gave me his roommate's dual player out of the kindness of his heart. Only we discovered shortly after plugging it in that it was more of a VCR than a dual player.

Disclaimer: Does not actually play DVDs. We were just kidding.

However, I am not one to turn up my nose at any movie, no matter how grainy the picture is and no matter how silly looking those tapes appear (hehe tapes...).

No, my friends. For someone who will literally watch the movies of mini vans on the Garden State Parkway trying to figure out if it's a movie she knows and where they are in the plot, this VHS tape nonsense was no blow. Actually took me on a pretty fun journey to the past (Anastasia? Anyone?).

So I raided everything, guys. Goodwill, thrift stores, my parents' house, the cabinets, the attic, my roommates' movies, everywhere. And now I have the most kickass movie collection from ten years ago that anyone would ever wish to have.

Some might call this excessive. I would call it having options.

Speed, Jurassic Park, The Others, Indian in the Cupboard, The Mask of Zorro, The Matrix, Moulin Rouge, Monster's Inc, The Wedding Singer, Cape Fear. You'd be jealous of me in 2002, man. So jealous.

But honestly it was the non-blockbusters that really had me giggling when I was hunting down these babies. Movies like Mars Attacks, Troop Beverly Hills, Smoke Signals, The Prince of Egypt, Muppet Treasure Island, and (omg) The Haunting.

So I popped The Haunting into my new used ($35 at Goodwill, fools) dual player the other day and holy crap. What an inexplicable display of whole-hearted movie attempt. Honestly I don't even know where to begin, so I guess I'll begin with the plot (plot?).

The movie starts off with Eleanor (Lilli Taylor), who has just been told by some sort of relative that they are taking her dead mother's house, where she has lived as her mother's caretaker for what I can only assume has been her entire life. Then Eleanor, left with no place to go, gets a phone call and checks out this insomnia study that some doctor is conducting. Only the audience finds out seconds later that the insomnia study is a ruse, and that Dr. Marrow (Liam Neeson) is doing a study on fear and is trying to create an incredibly suggestive environment in which to do it. Other co-testers include Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Luke (Owen Wilson). After their arrival they hear a brief story about who built the house that they're staying in, a house which looks like some sort of baroque castle.


Apparently some dude named Hugh Crane got rich off his textile mills and wanted a bunch of kids, but his wife kept having stillborn babies. Then eventually she killed herself, he threw himself into the construction of his home, and people in the village kept getting creeped out cuz they'd hear kids coming from the house. Standard.

Right off the bat weird stuff starts happening (of course). When they're having dinner the first night some chick's eye gets cut by a wire off of the piano and she has to get taken into town. The rest of the film is filled with ghost children asking Eleanor to help them for some reason, the house attacking the various occupants, and Hugh Crane's ghost personally messing with all of the main characters.

So I know this movie is supposed to be scary but honestly it just ends up hilarious. First and foremost, Eleanor's character makes no sense. She keeps getting personalized messages from these ghost children complete with bloody footprints and is just kind of like "Huh, that's weird. Boy I love this house. Guess I should help these creepy ghost children since they like talking to me so much." A reaction completely contrary to anyone in a sound state of mind.

"Oh don't mind me. Come find me later. I might be alive, I might not, no big deal."

And since Eleanor is the only character that the audience really gets to see for most of the movie, it gets pretty funny watching her run around the castle house trying to make sense of what has happened to these children. Of course she finds out that Hugh Crane kept kidnapping kids from the mills and killing them for some reason and no one believes her. And then the movie gets totally carried away with itself and it involves part of the house being her mom's old room, her being related to Hugh Crane, and the children somehow being sent to heaven by her getting sucked into a door for five minutes.


Dat shit cray.

It also doesn't help that looking at CGI effects from 1999 is a laugh riot. They make the film lose any credibility that it might've had otherwise. If you're trying to ease your way into watching scary movies, this is your ticket!

Haha, I give it a 3 out of 10 for pure humor.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Secret World of Arriety (aka The Borrowers in Cartoon Form)

Headed home two days ago to see my youngest brother starring in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (mouthful) at the Middle Township High School on Thursday (great job, Bill!) and got the chance to hang out with the fam yesterday afternoon. Cape May County really does not have that much goin on in the off-season, being completely devoid of tourists and leaving the locals with few options.

So should we go bowling or...uh...go bowling?

But being the crazy cinephiles that we are, we decided to go see one of the newest movies produced by Hayao Miyzaki, The Secret World of Arrietty, which is an anime version of the kid classic novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton.

Now, ok haters. At this point you're probably like "Anime is gross, I hated Pokemon" but I assure you, that is not what is in store for you. If you've seen Studio Ghibli's other movies (Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, or My Neighbor Totoro to name a few) you know that you're always in for a gorgeous (GORGEOUS) movie.

My brain just blew up.

So The Secret World of Arrietty is based on a book about small people leaving in a country home and "borrowing" everything that they need to survive. But their lives are disrupted with the addition of a boy named Shawn (voiced in the US version by David Henrie) to the house that they live under. The very first day that he arrives at the house, he glimpses Arrietty hiding in a bush. Arrietty disregards the possible sighting and go home to prepare for her first "borrowing". But things take a turn when she's spotted once more while trying to take a sheet of kleenex from Shawn's room. Things escalate even further when the housekeeper (voiced by Carol Burnett) discovers evidence of the tiny people herself.

This movie was adorable. I mean, kid's movies have to be versatile, appealing to both the children's attention spans and the parents that take them to the theater. But this was such a sweet and beautifully crafted film that even though there's not a whole lot of action, it dazzles you immediately.


Studio Ghibli (which is also the studio that produced Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, and all the other Miyazaki movies I talked about five seconds ago) always does a fantastic job of vividly capturing what real life is like and enhancing it through cartoon form the same way a painting does. Arrietty is no exception. The colors, sounds, and movements are so realistic that the movie turns into a work of art. Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the film's director, really triumphs in his vision of what the borrowers' world looks like. You can tell that he is no mere film-maker, he is a craftsman. The noises of the cicadas in the summer time, how a water drop would form coming out of a quarter inch size tea kettle, what light looks like coming through trees, he's thought of it all.


Plot-wise, the film was a little slow. There could've been a little more action. You're never really wondering whether the borrowers will be killed by the "beans" (human beings, duh) so there's not a whole lot of suspense. Additionally, the characters are so calm throughout the entire movie (except for Arrietty and her mother, voiced by Amy Poehler. Hilarious.) that I sometimes found myself focusing more on the various makeshift object around their house instead of the dialogue.

Hehe, bottle caps are too small to store things for regular sized people...

A really good family film and a really great artisan film for those of you who (like me) are starved for beautiful cartoons in the current 3D animation nonsense trend that seems to be taking everyone by storm. It also far surpasses The Borrowers of 1997.

Gum on his toe? Why does he have gum on his toe? What the...ugh..even the poster sucks..

Go see it!

7 outa 10 woot woot!

PS Try clicking on the pictures in this post to get the full effect, they turned out a little smaller than I liked after I posted them!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Brazil (Disclaimer: It's Not About the Country)

Not having a lot of known neighbors in our immediate area, my one roommate and I were overjoyed to learn that a few people that we knew from school were living near us. So one of them (Steve. Hi Steve.) had leant me this movie that he assured me was something along the lines of Monty Python, kind of ridiculous, and really thought-provoking.

The movie was called Brazil. I did not really understand why for about 9/10 of the movie, and then they kind of appease you in the credits. But suffice it to say, it is certainly not about the country of Brazil.

Get out of here, I told you we weren't talking about you

This movie is actually set in a retro-futuristic (it makes sense when you see the movie) dystopia in which everything is determined by paperwork. The driving force of the plot is centered around Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a person working in data entry who finds himself in hot water after trying to right a clerical error. It's also somewhat of a love story, following him as he searches for the girl from his dreams (literally).

I really don't know how else to explain the plot without giving too much away, but I gotta say...I didn't really love it. I would like it to write a film paper on maybe, because it is so very different from anything that I've really seen before, but to watch for fun I had some trouble connecting with the characters. Sam Lowry is such a nervous nelly that it's hard to see him as a guy going against the system for both the girl that he loves (Kim Greist) and for the man who suffered because of a typo. Additionally, I feel like I waited for half of the movie to really start up and even twenty minutes before it ended I was waiting for something better to happen. I agree with its commentary on human beings and the importance of not neglecting our own humanity by getting caught up in petty rules and paperwork, but the message was delivered by someone I would probably never vote for in leading a revolution and that made the message less effective.

I like you better as Governor Swann.

I will say that the set was pretty damn cool. Although it is set in the future, Brazil has the strong feel of the 1950's, complete with primitive computers, ductwork everywhere, and gadgets that look like they came out of Mon Oncle. In fact, even the media there seems old. For instance, the only movies that they watch are vintage classics (Casablanca, Greta Garbo films, etc.) and even though they have computers they still rely almost absolutely on paperwork. It gives a kind of Super Mario Bros (the movie, not the game), mixed with Blade Runner, mixed with Mon Oncle kind of feel to it, if you can imagine that (I know it's hard. I'm sorry. I'm highly associative.).

The other thing that stuck out about this movie was the usage of highly surreal dream sequences. These sequences kind of kept the movie alive when I started to get really bored of Sam poorly executing his plans against the government. And it really brightens up the incredibly bleak society that the film portrays.

I mean I didn't love this movie, but how cool is this flying suit?

The surreal parts of the movie were kind of what kept it interesting. Also if you're watching this and you think the dream sequences are Jim Henson-esque and creepy, wait til the ending, my friends. Wait til the ending. Cuz I was confused for about the last 20 minutes, until the thirty seconds right before the credits. And then the movie makes sense. But really, I gotta tell you guys, I just don't have that much patience. And in hindsight, the film was really interesting but I didn't really enjoy it.

Sorry Steve, the best thing I loved about this movie was probably the movie poster that I found when I was looking up the trivia on IMDB.

Seriously, I wanna wheatpaste like 20 of these onto a city building somewhere...

I'm gonna say this movie gets a 5 outa 10 from me. A+ for creativity, but really just wasn't my flavor.

Also this trailer probably gives away a little much, but basically outlines the entire movie if you're interested.