Tuesday, May 27, 2008

adventures in film geekery: long overdue edition

As long as I don't have to send my laptop back to Apple yet, I might as well post my ramblings on my movie adventures over the past week. The most obvious ones being Indiana Jones and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which I saw back-to-back.

When I arrived at the theater pretty much every screening of Indiana Jones was sold out and my theater recently opened up a new showing from 30 minutes ago. They kind of pushed me into seeing it saying that after the trailers and those newfangled advertisements they play before movies now that I'd only miss the first five or so minutes. So I reluctantly went to the screening aware of the way cool David Fincher trailer I was missing and the clever opening they had with the Paramount Logo. I came in just a little bit before Cate Blanchett appeared.

Afterwards, I figured if they pushed me to miss the first few minutes (and this is missing the first minutes of INDIANA JONES, I've been waiting for this movie for like a year) that I'd have every right to sit through the credits and watch the trailers and first few minutes that I missed. During the wait between films which was around twenty minutes or so I noticed a few telltale signs that I probably wasn't going to see Indiana Jones. The first was the fact that they changed the aspect ratio from the more cinematic 2.35 : 1 to the more commercially viable 1.85 : 1. The second was that throughout the entire wait only a couple of dates showed up. Lastly, the trailers were all for films in the early summer, like June/July and on top of that they showed the Red Band trailer for Pineapple Express, something that I feel would be a bit too obscene for the family friendly Indiana Jones crowd. Sure enough after the trailer for the Judd Apatow produced Seth Rogan comedy, the opening credits for the Judd Apatow produced Jason Segel comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall showed up. Had it been any other movie, I would have totally left but I REALLY wanted to see this one and I felt that this would probably be my last chance to see it. Also anything with a controversial ad campaign that offended everyone named Sarah Marshall in New York City is cool in my book.

Onward to the movies I saw over the past week:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - I had mixed feelings towards this one. When the movie was actually rolling I was having a blast. Like I was never really blown away by anything and most of the film seemed just to be "remaking" the signature moments of the other films with a plot that is more of an excuse just for Indy to beat up some Soviets. Surprisingly I didn't really mind Shia Labeouf too much. The only reason I don't really like him is that I will ALWAYS associate him with that kid who was on Even Stevens and his role in Holes didn't really do much to erase that Disney Channel slave image I had of him.

The movie really fell apart for me in that it was made in 2008 and not in like 1992 or something. I wasn't really too pleased when I saw a man getting covered in some pretty fake looking 3D animated ants and when they were climbing down into a CG tomb that was ready to collapse. I felt that these touches were a little unnecessary and I'd rather have them limit the amount of CG in favor of prosthetic and plaster props. At least when those look fake they try to hide it a bit more as opposed to rubbing it in your face.
When used sparingly I can be fooled by CG but when there's too much of it I can't help but feel the aftertaste of it, and I really doubt there will ever be a time when I can see CG and find it completely believable.

There were also quite a few Science Fiction elements in Indiana Jones which were thankfully only in a few minutes of the movie but it kind of ruins the essence of Indiana Jones for me. I guess it wasn't really a bad movie or anything, it just wasn't the next logical step in the series.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - I actually enjoyed this one a lot more than Indiana Jones. It weighed a bit more on the drama side than most of the comedies in the Apatow camp but this was a good thing. The film played out like your typical romantic comedy except it switched the genders of the characters, making it a lot funnier than the standard throwaway comedy you'd see on TBS at 2 in the morning. While the plot was pretty obvious and it didn't really traverse any new ground, it didn't really need to. The heart was there and that puts it above 90% of the unfunny Ben Stiller romantic comedies in the past ten years.

Live Free or Die Hard - I'm really glad I saw the Unrated version of this on the DVD, it was every bit the profanity-laden popcorn film I was expecting. Its a shame it was edited down to a PG-13 by Fox, especially during the same year when R-rated films like 300 were raking in huge box office numbers. The DVD was a worthy apology but I guess I can't really argue with their decision to edit it down to a PG-13, its the kind of film that skewers more towards hyped up 12 year olds than people who are old enough to think during movies. I think the story involved "hackers" or something, but their portrayal of technology was pretty laughable. They refreshingly had a lot of actual stunts and pyrotechnics versus CG animation, when they went for CG it looked terrible but I could forgive it for mostly holding back on it. Not an incredibly smart film but a lot of stuff blows up and you get to see Justin Long (the Mac from the Mac vs. PC ads) getting shot in the knee, which is worth the price of admission alone. Also, Kevin Smith's cameo role was pretty awesome.

Fargo - I was surprised at how close this movie was to No Country for Old Men, replace the desert with snow and the similarities in style were pretty stunning. The only other films from the Coen brothers that I have seen apart from the aforemented films above were The Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou? the latter of the two I didn't really like that much. I really loved Steve Buscemi's character in this, especially after seeing Ghost World. He pretty much played the same thing, except a bit more of a psychopathic killer. I held off on watching this for ahwhile because its one of my grandpa's favorite movies and every week he was telling me to watch it on TV. I kind of wish I listened to him earlier, this movie was pretty rockin'.

Forbidden Planet - I've seen this movie on Turner Classic Movies a few times and at Pratt I practically lived at the aforementioned comic book store of the same name. I picked up the 50th Anniversary Edition at the Virgin Megastore on their $10 bin, I've been holding off on buying this DVD and now I missed out on the cool tin it was packaged in but I suppose I'd rather save $20 then get some pretty cool nerd enviable bonuses. The movie is surprisingly watchable to this day and it only feels derivative because it was so influential back in 1956. There are scenes in Star Wars that have literally taken the same exact camera angle from shots in Forbidden Planet and Robby the Robot bears a strong resemblance to C-3PO. For a 50th edition DVD the special features are fairly light, they've included all of the film Invisible Boy which also starred Robby the Robot but that one is barely worth watching, the only other real feature of note is a special on the 1950s that was lifted directly from Turner Classic Movies. The interviews with George Lucas, James Cameron and Steven Speilberg are welcome however.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - I haven't been keeping up with the Harry Potter films and I picked up the latest one from my library to see if I have been missing anything. For someone who hasn't seen a Harry Potter film in the past six years, this movie does very little to pick up the pieces. Either that or Harry's much awesomer than I remembered and he'll totally make out with with an Asian girl after only talking to her for three minutes. It would be helpful if the movie tried a little harder to be more self-contained, it took about the 50 minute mark for the movie to get onto its actual plot and leave from picking up the pieces of the last two movies I saw. The special effects were nice, but that's about the only thing I could wrap my head around.

Ghost World - I kind of couldn't stand Art School Confidential even though it was based off of Daniel Clowes's experience at Pratt Institute. The other collaboration between Clowes and Terry Zwigoff was actually pretty decent. Not as amazing as the reviews suggested but the deadpan humor kind of worked in this. It also featured Scarlett Johansson back when she was a mangy teen and not an overblown sex symbol, which was pretty surreal. I was not a big fan of the ending of this movie but at least it wasn't a third as self absorbed as Art School Confidential.

Chicago - Overblown in my opinion, I don't really see how it won as many Academy Awards as it did. I hope it was a slow year or something. Just most of the musical sequences and choreography seemed kind of the same to me and the plot seemed to be just an excuse to have more cabaret sequences. The Hairspray film from last year was a thousand times better and that didn't even get a Golden Globe. Go figure...

Cloverfield - I remembered last year I was really caught up in the hype and ARG marketing campaign behind it but by the time I actually came out I became kind of apathetic. I watched it on DVD when the hype settled down and for a movie of its budget with relatively unknown talent, I thought it was pretty good and they were able to pull off some pretty believable CG considering. I really liked the idea of using older footage on the tape to serve as both a beginning and an end to the film but I felt it went a little overboard with the shakey camera. I kind of wish they did not show the monster at the end either, it was more exciting only seeing pieces of its obscured body and making a mental image of it. This was a fun movie for how unique it was but I feel if that Cloverfield sequel is still coming out, the idea will run pretty thin. I mean, it got old here after its relatively short runtime of about 80 minutes.

Flushed Away - I liked a lot of the Aardman style humor that was still evident in this but I did not really like all the pop culture references that seemed to be thrown in there at the last minute. The plot seemed kind of thrown together and the lavish life at the beginning was pretty useless and seemed like more of an excuse to get a toilet joke in there. While not half as dreadful as most CG Dreamworks movies, it left a bit to be desired. I know Dreamworks ended their contract with Aardman after this film was such a financial disaster. Its a real shame. The Wallace and Gromit movie was the closest Dreamworks will EVER get to an Academy Award for one of their Animated Features. They just got lucky with Shrek, Monsters Inc. deserved it way more.

The Fountain - Takes repeated viewings to really understand, has some clever cinematography though. Also the fact that the sap from the tree at the end was just Alka-Seltzer kind of ruined it for me. I can't really watch that scene without bursting into laughter.

FUN FACT!!: The fate of R. Kelly's recent court trial relies on the believabilty of the terrible Marlon and Shawn Wayans Comedy film, Little Man. Good luck with that one...
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