Monday, December 10, 2012

Rise of the Guardians: Mythical Creatures Just Got Bad-ass

A kid's movie? Me? I know. Shocking.

So with all of the special effects, violence, and testosterone-filled flicks these days, it's no wonder when sometimes kids movies get a little beefed up. In the case of Rise of the Guardians (which I keep getting mixed up with Legends of the Guardians, which is a very different movie...) the formula actually works pretty well. While many have tried before to make Santa Claus a little less jolly and a bit more deep, there are innumerable times when this representation of the jolly gift-giver seriously and atrociously fails. However in this movie, I was impressed to find how likable the characters remain, and how many mythical beings get a little more limelight.

It's The Avengers for kids!

The story revolves around Jack Frost, who, in a nut shell, can make things really cold. Giving little kids Snow Days and causing minor mayhem is his favorite, and he loves to help little kids have fun on their days off from school. The only problem with Jack, though, is that no child can see him. In an interestingly accurate presentation, kids do not acknowledge Jack Frost because they have never heard of him. And in the world of the film, if a child does not believe in a mythical creature, they can't see them. Which is where the conflict in the film comes in.

If you can't see this picture, then you don't believe in Jack Frost.

Pitch Black, also referred to as just "Pitch" (which had me chortling in my seat cuz it sounded like they were saying somethin' else...), is the mythical creature known as the boogie man. Being a little uncomfortably scary, even for me, he has been unseen by children for decades. The dude gets fed up with being invisible and starts a war with the mythical creatures so that they will feel his pain. His mayhem stirs up many problems in the mythical creatures' worlds, and without the unfailing faith of children, their extinction knocks at the door. DUN DUN DUUUNNNN.

He's like Saruman for kids!

The mythical creatures in this flick include Santa Claus (voiced by Alec Baldwin), a robust, tattooed man with a strong Russian accent; the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman), a spry guy with an Australian accent and a boomerang; the Tooth Fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher), a class-A spaz that looks to be half hummingbird; the Sandman, adorably short and mute, who uses his golden dust to communicate with his buds; and Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), who always looks freezing (d'oh ho but seriously, he made me cold). All of these creatures have such strong and separate personalities, the film ends up working quite well. Even though they all seem to be a little more human than most illustrations have depicted them in the past, this works for the film. Instead of softy things, they really pack a punch, and are not going down without a fight. And, quite, honestly, their reality makes them even funnier.


Of course the cutest thing, as with all movies involving holiday icons, is the purity of the belief of children that these things exist. When all looks lost, one child's faith in the Easter bunny is what ends up saving them all. And the fact that today kids are still choosing to believe in things like Santa (probably the easiest one), the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and even Jack Frost, I'm sure, after this movie, really warms my heart. Even if these versions are more built to be fighters than the classic representations.

Sweet movie that was hugely entertaining. Highly recommend.

8 outa 10.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Potiche: Who Thought Feminism Could Be So Adorable?

Chaque fois que je regarde un filme francais, je veux depenser la reste du jour en parlant francais. Mais. Bon. Excusez-moi. Tout la reste serais en anglais.*

Vive la France.

So I went to the gym today for the first time in about a month, and you know what that means. Yes, yes, more movies for me to feast my eyes upon so I can endure a half hour on the elliptical, yay!

Today's unexpected gem was a French film called Potiche (roughly translates to "Trophy Wife"). Probably the most adorable movie about politics that I have ever seen. Taking place in 1977, a French housewife named Madame Pujol (Poo-jole, guys) is called upon to take over her husband's umbrella factory.  Her husband, quite unwell following his kidnapping by members of the umbrella factory union, lays dormant for three months while she manages the factory's inner workings. Usually spending her time taking care of a household and writing poems, Madame Pujol is unused to the business world, but takes to it easily. The efficiency with which she manages the umbrella factory in her husband's absence causes the greedy guy to take extreme measures to win it back for himself. What she does as a result is pretty cool.

Also, jeez, look how amazing Catherine Deneuve still looks???

This was a great film for feminism. It adresses the fact that men and women are different, but that sometimes this can be a good thing. Madame Pujol loves beauty and has a definite sense of humanity, two things that her husband definitely lacks. She also helps the factory run smoothly as a result of her respect for everyone, and by finding a job that suits everyone's personalities. Even though she begins the movie as a sort of absent-minded housewife, she ends if as a powerful contender for the political community. Pretty cool for the 70's. Additionally, hints to her indiscretions as a younger housewife remind the audience that sometimes women and men are very much alike, if not always viewed by society in the same light. While her husband traipses around town with different girls on his arm and even has an affair with his secretary, Mme Pujol is so discreet about her own that her husband literally does not believe her.

Who's infidele now, bitch?

I also love the nostalgic spin on the filming style. Dual shots fill the screen as we see her jogging towards the camera in one shot above another side shot of her feet running. The beginning of the film also is very bright and very opulent, calling to mind the movies of the 60's, while the latter half brings attention to the workers and to the reality of what things are. The music is cute, too.

Also these two dance on a lit-up disco floor. Frealz.

All around good fun and important message. Love Catherine Deneuve as Madame Pujol and Gerard Depardieu as Babin, the leader of the umbrella union. I so rarely find French films that aren't heartbreakingly sad or extremely dramatic, but I LOVED how cute and meaningful Potiche ended up being. See it now, kthanks.

*Every time I watch a French movie, I want to spend the rest of the day speaking French. But. Ok. Sorry. The rest will be in English.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hitchcock: The Kinda Sorta Making of Psycho

Had the fortune to see the latest celebrity biopic, one so named Hitchcock in a (somewhat rare) double feature opportunity. The Philadelphia Film Society was offering a screening of Hitchcock followed by a screening of Psycho, the movie whose making Hitchcock loosely follows. They were like "Hey, ya wanna see this?" and I was like "Psh, yeah."

Heh, this guy

So. Plot. What was the plot of Hitchcock? Basically, it follows what occurred before, during, and after the filming of Psycho, a revolution in the horror genre of the 60's. This includes, but is not limited to, problems in production funding, problems in Hitchcock's marriage, problems with the story, problems with the actors, and just general problems.

I have a confession to make: I didn't love this movie.

For one thing, I have discovered that I may be too much of a nerd to take the dramatized flavor of celebrity biopics (unless they're, y'know, political, in which case I need all the drama I can get). When it came to this film, I walked away wondering how much was improvised, how accurate the acting was, and a thousand other things that could've been more easily answered by a cut-and-dry documentary.

Certified badass.

What bugged me about this movie was that I walked out of the movie theatre with about as much information about Alfred Hitchcock as I had had upon walking in. Obviously he was disturbed a little, look at his repertoire. No news there, movie buffs. Psycho is about a murderer who is obsessed with his mother. Marnie is about the effects of childhood trauma. Rope is about two boys that murder their friend and have a dinner party on top of his body, which is stored in a chest. How could this director not have a few dark thoughts?

Don't let his belly fool you, he is not jolly like Santa.

The things that were cool about Hitchcock, though, were the things I learned about the problems in production and how much of an ace his wife, Alma, was. Though the movie claims through its title that it is about the great director Alfred Hitchcock, it is just as equally about his wife. Helping Alfred throughout the production of Psycho from mortgaging their home for the funds with which to make it, proofreading the script, and helping him with the structure of the plot, she really is one of the huge players that made Psycho the tremendous success that it was.

A poster I wish I'd seen more of

The one thing that I liked about this was the personalities of both Hitchcock and Alma. Their sense of humor makes the whole movie worth watching (in addition to the beautiful colors of 1960). Between their witty repartees and their laughing at the truly grotesque, they do add a little bite of humor to the otherwise semi-dreary subjects of their shaky marriage and production woes.

I dunno, the whole film left a bit of an incomplete taste in my mouth. Very cool, but not horribly educational if you are looking to learn about the director himself. The movie offers you a scope of Hitchcock's life, the progress of his film, and the life of his wife.

Interesting, but I'd rather nerd out with a documentary.

6 outa 10.