Monday, November 26, 2012

Life of Pi

Let me skip to the end.  I didn't like Life of Pi.  Didn't hate it; just didn't like it very much.

There has been all kinds of publicity for Life of Pi, and until this past weekend, all of it was pre-opening publicity and should have been discounted.  In fact, based on the previews alone, I wasn't going to go see it. Then I saw reviews from a few critics I respect, namely Roger Ebert and David Edelstein, who encouraged me to not only go see Life of Pi, but to see it in 3D.  I generally avoid 3D, but since they said it was such an integral part of the movie, I sought out a 3D screen.

The 3D, in fact, was effective and subtle, which is a nice change.  What I didn't like was the story.  Life of Pi was told from the perspective of the adult Pi (I assure you that's not a spoiler) so there was no real suspense that he survives a shipwreck, but there were a million other variables in the way the story could told, and I thought the storytelling was a bit flat.  It was also fighting some huge religious baggage. Not that that is an automatic disqualifier - I'm not a religious person but I can watch religious movies all day long if they're entertaining.  No, the baggage just muddled the story a bit. I think the filmmakers tried to toe several lines and crossed some of them too many times - religion, hallucinations, morals, special effects.

Life of Pi will be fine for many moviegoers but for some of us, it needed to be much more.


Sunday, November 11, 2012


Best Bond yet.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

10 Things I Hate About You

You guys suck.  I leave you alone with this blog for a few minutes and you fail to update it regularly for about ten months.  Do I have to do everything myself?

I began a love affair with Kay Hanley's voice about eleven years ago - April 13, 2001, to be exact.  That was the day I saw the Josie and the Pussycats movie, where Ms Hanley provided the singing voice for Josie.  Since then, I've accumulated all of her solo stuff, two CDs with her new band, Palmdale, and all of the old stuff with her 1990s band, Letters to Cleo.  Why am I writing about a singer in a post about a thirteen-year-old movie?

Because Kay Hanley is the star of 10 Things I Hate About You.

No, not really, but she - and Letters to Cleo - are in it. I recently rediscovered a few Letters to Cleo songs for the first time (don't quibble - you know what I mean) and decided to revisit 10 Things I Hate About You on DVD, where I knew I would find Kay.

I last saw 10 Things I Hate About You in August of 2006.  I remember it being a pleasant enough movie and I remember seeing Letters to Cleo in the prom scene, but that's about it.  Nothing really stuck with me.  Time to rediscover, for the first time.

First, the movie is really good.  Based on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, it's a high school dating/misunderstanding/prom movie and pretty well done.  There were a few times I rolled my eyes in scenes that may have been fine in 1999 and don't hold up now, but overall, good writing, good acting, great cinematography.  I couldn't believe my eyes during the flyer scene.

The stars of 10 Things I Hate About You are mostly A-listers now - Julia Stiles, David Krumbholz, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gabrielle Union, for example.  The younger sister of the shrew was played by Larisa Oleynik, whom I recognized immediately but could not place.  A quick run to IMDB showed that I had seen her EVERYWHERE in the past decade.  You have, too.  Oh, and there is the Heath Ledger thing. The late Heath Ledger.  It takes a few minutes to compartmentalize before the true enjoyment of the movie can kick in.

I got so emotionally invested in the movie that near the end, when Kat, the shrew, read her composition '10 Things I Hate About You,' inspired by Shakespeare's sonnets and dedicated to the guy who let her down, I got choked up.  Not so choked up that I failed to count the things she hated - all 14 of them.  It's fine - I don't think the movie needed to be called 14 Things I Hate About You, 10 is just fine.  Oh, and SPOILER ALERT, the last of the things she hates about him is that she can't hate him.  It's a happy ending and it's very cool.

As for the music, I also choked up when I heard them play Letters to Cleo, which happens five times in three scenes.  Kay Hanley - and the band - make an appearance three times, including the coolest live performance of a song since the Beatles did their farewell from the roof of Abbey Road.  This was also the farewell for Letters to Cleo, as they disbanded about the time 10 Things I Hate About You came out, in March, 1999.  There were actually tears in my eyes during the prom scene when Kay steps off the stage and sashays across the dance floor - singng all the while - to say "hey" to Kat, one of her biggest fans.  It was exceedingly cool.

I don't think I'm going to wait another six years to watch 10 Things I Hate About You again, and if you aren't familiar with Kay Hanley and Letters to Cleo music, maybe you should be.

Friday, June 22, 2012


A critique of Prometheus in three parts.

I.  I did not know Prometheus was a prequel to Alien.  As Alien-related movies have devolved into high-tech slasher flicks, I would have skipped Prometheus had I known.

II.  The science in Prometheus was all wrong.

III.  Since Prometheus is part of the Alien universe, this question seems apt: Is it a stand-up movie or is it a bug hunt?

It's a bug hunt.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Battleship is the alien invasion movie for people who thought Independence Day was too cerebral.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ringer Marathon

Back in September, 2011, the CW netlet premiered a new series starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar. I watched the first episode because it is my policy to sample everything done by people connected to Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse, you know, everything in the Whedonverse.

I liked Ringer immediately. A suspenseful show about a druggie who takes over her twin sister's Park Avenue life after the sister offs herself. What's not to like? I liked it so much that I did two things. I started pronouncing the G as a J, like Ranger only with an I, and I started to save up a few episodes so I could watch several at a time. I thought it might be 3-4 episodes before I starting watching the show in earnest but instead it was 22. That's right, I found myself with entire season sitting on my DVR, so Friday night, I started a Rin-jer marathon.

It was a wonderful weekend.

The show is wonderful. Dark, suspenseful and most importantly, never cheap or cheesy. Watching all 22 episodes at once was a great way to follow the details of the dense plot. Oh, it is dense, in a way that you rarely see on television. SMG plays Bridget and Siobhan - the name Siobhan itself entertains me far more than is reasonable - and lies a lot. Bridget was a fugitive and decided that hiding in plain sight was the most appealing option, but it's tough to lie to everyone when you start to care.

I was worried that Ringer would drift into prime-time soap territory, but it never did. Everything was played straight and the issues were always matters of life and death. Literally as several people, not always the bad guys, met their demise. There was one plot thread, the teenage step-daughter getting raped by a teacher, that made me roll my eyes (also literally) as the topic, serious in real life but overdone on TV, became much more than a soap plot. All in all, a well done series and well cast.

The teenage step-daughter was played by Zoey Deutch, whom IMDB tells me is the daughter of Lea Thompson. The real-life mother-daughter don't really look anything alike but when you know what to look for, you can see Lea's mannerisms all over her daughter's face. Zoey also came off as a real teenager instead of a TV teenager. A welcome treat.

Oddly, Ringer was joined in the life swap genre this year by a series called The Lying Game on ABC Family. I also watched The Lying Game but hardly for the same reasons. In TLG, twins separated at birth meet up and share one life. It's played as a soap, complete with over-the-top plots and silly issues. As I said, I enjoyed TLG, but more for the eye candy than its quality. Between the two, I wouldn't mind a second season of The Lying Game, but I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want a second season of Ringer. I'll even pronounce it correctly if that will help.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mirror, Mirror

As Mirror, Mirror is based on the Snow White fairy tale, I will present my comments in chapter form, like a book.

Chapter One

Lily Collins is the fairest in all the land.

Chapter Two

I generally avoid Julia Roberts movies as she's one of those larger-than-life people who never disappears into her characters. That's fine for many Movie Stars, but for Ms Roberts, I've seen enough interviews with her where I get a sense of her real personality and that personality seems to be a nut job. Nonetheless, I went to Mirror, Mirror not expecting much and I was rewarded with something more. The character of the evil queen called for an over-the-top performance and Julia's chewing of the scenery - literally in one scene - fit perfectly into the movie. Kudos.

Chapter Three

The overall tone of Mirror, Mirror was tongue-in-cheek but not campy. The movie pulled off the difficult task of maintaining tone throughout, but they did not live happily ever after...

Chapter Four

If you can, leave the theater or turn off the movie right as Snow deals with the apple at her wedding. The movie closes with a musical number over the credits, like many movies do, but this one sucks. Whereas many movies reward you with a fun number, such as "Build Me Up Buttercup" from There's Something About Mary, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" in the fairy tale themed Ella Enchanted, or any of the Shrek movies, Mirror, Mirror punishes you with a Bollywood number that is a voluminously violent assault on the ears and a bit on the eyes, as well. It doesn't fit into the movie at all. It uses Indian instruments and was sung in the Indian style, which is fine if you appreciate that style or you're watching a movie set in India. I noticed that Mirror, Mirror was directed by a guy with an Indian-sounding name so maybe he's a Bollywood guy and was rewarding himself on finishing an American movie, but the closing number was a punishment to the very movie-goers the director had just spent 95 minutes successfully entertaining. Seriously, turn off the movie when you see the apple or at least hit mute.

Chapter Five

What is with all the Snow White shows lately? We have her in ABC's Once Upon a Time every Sunday, this movie, and this Summer, Snow White and the Huntsman, with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron. Are there no other stories out there worth telling?

Chapter Six

Lily Collins is the fairest in all the land.


Titanic 3D

I just returned from watching Titanic. I won't bother with a review - anyone and everyone knows all about it. This was the first time I've seen Titanic in a theater since May, 1998, and I've never watched it in its entirety on home video, although I did watch a significant chunk with my niece circa the turn of the last century, so today was much like watching it for the first time.

It's still an impressive movie, although I could not avoid noticing it was also very long - three hours and change tests the limits of my sleep deprivation, ADD, and bladder. I'm happy to report I didn't nap, start fidgeting or wet myself today, so we'll call this a win.

The 3D is another story. I don't like 3D and find that it detracts from the movie-going experience more than it adds. As Titanic was not shot in 3D, they had to synthesize the effects, layering elements in each shot in front or behind each other. It wasn't all that impressive overall and some of the effects shots - and there are a lot of effects shots in Titanic - looked a bit cheap, or at least they stood out as effects more than I remember.

Not liking to wear those icky 3D glasses over my prescription lenses, I spent just under $20 on clip-ons designed for 3D TVs. This was the first movie I used them on and it was better. The 3D glasses never quite fit over the regular glasses and always slip off if I move my head too much. The clip-ons allowed full head movement and have the added benefit of not being heavily tinted, unlike the glasses, which are dark enough to wear as sunglasses outdoors. I'll give you a full report of the clip-ons after I've used them for a few more movies.

All-in all, spending three hours with Rose and Jack was a pleasant stroll down memory lane. Is anyone planning on watching Titanic in the theater on April 15, 2012? It's a once in a lifetime anniversary.


Friday, February 24, 2012

The Artist

The Artist is the black & white silent movie that everyone is talking about, if you'll pardon the expression. It's the basic A Star is Born story that has been the basis of movies since shortly after the invention of the talkie. I found it mostly entertaining, but it was a little long (despite its 97 minute running time) and I didn't like the ending.

I won't tell you what I didn't like about the ending of The Artist because plenty of people appear to enjoy it, but I found the last five minutes to be out of character for the movie.

The leads received Academy Award nominations and deserved them, but Bérénice Bejo was nominated for supporting actress in what was clearly a leading role. She's in a tough category but I wouldn't be shocked - or disappointed - if she took home a trophy Sunday night.