Feb. 29th, 2012

missroserose: (Masquerade)
Partly in order to continue testing out Blockbuster's online service and partly as a means of inexpensive entertainment (not to mention enjoying the not-small investment we made in our home theater), I've been catching up on some of the movies I've been meaning to see. Here, some brief thoughts on the ones that have made the biggest impressions.

The Ides of March: A fascinating look at the power dynamics and political maneuvering behind the scenes of a successful political campaign. Ryan Gosling, who is fast becoming my new Hollywood crush, once again plays the understated role (harder than it looks!) as the press secretary who really believes in his candidate (played by George Clooney), only to (inevitably) be let down. The let-down sequence and its fallout struck me as perhaps a little heavy-handed, but not unrealistically so; and if the emotional connection was a little tenuous as a result, the intelligence of the script and excellent turns by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti make it well worth watching. I particularly liked how it ended on a note of uncertainty; it also left me with the simultaneous and conflicting senses of "If I wanted to, I could go pretty far in politics" and "Man, I'm so fucking glad I don't work in politics." B+

Tangled: I don't know if it's that I'm getting older and my standards are getting higher, but the "Disney Princess" formula is beginning to wear on me some. I loved The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast growing up (and still do!), and as an adult I also very much enjoyed The Princess and the Frog (largely because it felt like the first time a Disney 'princess' lived in the real world and had goals and aspirations other than getting married and living the fairy tale happily-ever-after). Tangled felt in many ways like a step backward, though the screenwriters get points for at least having a reason why the heroine would be incredibly attached to her manipulative/denigrating mother (hard to realize what a toxic relationship is when you've never experienced anything else) as well as so wide-eyed and naive about the world. All that said, the art direction was absolutely gorgeous (especially on Blu Ray), and if the story's a bit thin (frankly, the most interesting character was Maximus the horse), well, the scene with the floating lanterns alone made it worth the rental. C+ (Also, for a far more interesting take on the Rapunzel tale, I strongly recommend Jess Hartley's story Hunger's Child from the anthology Human Tales.)

The Adjustment Bureau: Though it was far from perfect, I quite liked this movie - the premise was unusual, it was tightly shot and edited, and (unusually for a thriller) both sides of the story were sympathetic. Unfortunately, the antagonists weren't really very scary, which meant the sense of suspense felt a little artificially induced (we were told that they could do awful things to the protagonist, but never saw them do anything like that, which left a bit of emotional distance between the viewer and the story rather than really making you dread that they might win). Similarly, the ending, while it felt like the right one for the story, was lacking a certain amount of energy and bombast that the earlier parts had possessed in spades. (I was also a little disappointed at the way it touched on chaos theory but never really explored the idea.) All that said, I still very much enjoyed the concept and much of the execution, even if the screenwriter needs to study his angelic mythology - angels can be scary, and often are, in the best stories. The ways of God are not the ways of man, et cetera. B+

Anonymous: Just to get it out of the way, I don't subscribe to the "Oxford School" at all; it's always struck me as having a nasty streak of ever-so-British classism to it ("Of course William Shakespeare couldn't have actually written these plays, yes? Not without schooling, and the right company, and all those other wonderful things that nobility and money buy you.") As if an understanding of human nature and a gift for writing is the sole province of the wealthy and well-bred.

All that aside (and I didn't have much trouble putting it aside, much as I didn't have trouble with Shakespeare in Love - a movie is first and foremost a story, not a historical record), I found Anonymous enjoyable enough. It's a bit long and self-aggrandizing in bits, and it's definitely not my favorite rendition of Queen Elizabeth - the charitable interpretation is that they were trying for a complex portrayal and didn't quite get there, whereas the less-charitable one is that they didn't care about her as a character and just needed her to react as the script dictated; either way, she never quite feels like a fully-developed character in her own right. On the other hand, there's lots of juicy intrigue for those of us who enjoy that sort of thing, and the production values are irreproachable. I especially loved how intimate they made the Globe feel, where the groundlings could reach out and touch the actors as they spoke their lines. I can't help but think that Shakespeare wouldn't have such a modern reputation of being so, er, untouchable, if more people had experienced it in less pompous and more intimate productions (Kenneth Branagh, I'm glancing at you and clearing my throat here). B

In some oddly personal movie news, I've been seeing some buzz from the indie circuit about On the Ice, a thriller set and filmed up in Barrow, with Inupiaq actors. Watching the trailer and reading the reviews was a bit of a trip; it's been almost a decade since I lived up there, but names like Patkotak and Okpeaha still ring a bell, and there's a distinct accent among the residents that comes from the place being half-Inupiaq as well as very geographically isolated. What was even crazier was talking to one of my high school friends this morning and discovering that one of the three main characters is played by his brother. (My friend was a little gleeful upon discovering that his brother played the kid who gets killed partway through; their relationship has never been smooth, largely due to his brother being an alcoholic/drug addict with a history of bullying/recklessly endangering friends and family members.) Apparently the director used to rent his the upstairs half of the duplex his family owned when we were in high school. Small dang world.

Anyway, I missed the screening and director Q&A that The Loft did (which I'm sort of sorry about, but couldn't really help - it would've meant three hours of driving on a weeknight), but I'll have to give it a rental when it comes out. I doubt I'll ever live in Barrow again, but an experience like that (even one only a couple of years long) leaves an impression, and it'll be interesting to revisit the place.
missroserose: (Masquerade)
Partly in order to continue testing out Blockbuster's online service and partly as a means of inexpensive entertainment (not to mention enjoying the not-small investment we made in our home theater), I've been catching up on some of the movies I've been meaning to see. Here, some brief thoughts on the ones that have made the biggest impressions.

The Ides of March: A fascinating look at the power dynamics and political maneuvering behind the scenes of a successful political campaign. Ryan Gosling, who is fast becoming my new Hollywood crush, once again plays the understated role (harder than it looks!) as the press secretary who really believes in his candidate (played by George Clooney), only to (inevitably) be let down. The let-down sequence and its fallout struck me as perhaps a little heavy-handed, but not unrealistically so; and if the emotional connection was a little tenuous as a result, the intelligence of the script and excellent turns by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti make it well worth watching. I particularly liked how it ended on a note of uncertainty; it also left me with the simultaneous and conflicting senses of "If I wanted to, I could go pretty far in politics" and "Man, I'm so fucking glad I don't work in politics." B+

Tangled: I don't know if it's that I'm getting older and my standards are getting higher, but the "Disney Princess" formula is beginning to wear on me some. I loved The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast growing up (and still do!), and as an adult I also very much enjoyed The Princess and the Frog (largely because it felt like the first time a Disney 'princess' lived in the real world and had goals and aspirations other than getting married and living the fairy tale happily-ever-after). Tangled felt in many ways like a step backward, though the screenwriters get points for at least having a reason why the heroine would be incredibly attached to her manipulative/denigrating mother (hard to realize what a toxic relationship is when you've never experienced anything else) as well as so wide-eyed and naive about the world. All that said, the art direction was absolutely gorgeous (especially on Blu Ray), and if the story's a bit thin (frankly, the most interesting character was Maximus the horse), well, the scene with the floating lanterns alone made it worth the rental. C+ (Also, for a far more interesting take on the Rapunzel tale, I strongly recommend Jess Hartley's story Hunger's Child from the anthology Human Tales.)

The Adjustment Bureau: Though it was far from perfect, I quite liked this movie - the premise was unusual, it was tightly shot and edited, and (unusually for a thriller) both sides of the story were sympathetic. Unfortunately, the antagonists weren't really very scary, which meant the sense of suspense felt a little artificially induced (we were told that they could do awful things to the protagonist, but never saw them do anything like that, which left a bit of emotional distance between the viewer and the story rather than really making you dread that they might win). Similarly, the ending, while it felt like the right one for the story, was lacking a certain amount of energy and bombast that the earlier parts had possessed in spades. (I was also a little disappointed at the way it touched on chaos theory but never really explored the idea.) All that said, I still very much enjoyed the concept and much of the execution, even if the screenwriter needs to study his angelic mythology - angels can be scary, and often are, in the best stories. The ways of God are not the ways of man, et cetera. B+

Anonymous: Just to get it out of the way, I don't subscribe to the "Oxford School" at all; it's always struck me as having a nasty streak of ever-so-British classism to it ("Of course William Shakespeare couldn't have actually written these plays, yes? Not without schooling, and the right company, and all those other wonderful things that nobility and money buy you.") As if an understanding of human nature and a gift for writing is the sole province of the wealthy and well-bred.

All that aside (and I didn't have much trouble putting it aside, much as I didn't have trouble with Shakespeare in Love - a movie is first and foremost a story, not a historical record), I found Anonymous enjoyable enough. It's a bit long and self-aggrandizing in bits, and it's definitely not my favorite rendition of Queen Elizabeth - the charitable interpretation is that they were trying for a complex portrayal and didn't quite get there, whereas the less-charitable one is that they didn't care about her as a character and just needed her to react as the script dictated; either way, she never quite feels like a fully-developed character in her own right. On the other hand, there's lots of juicy intrigue for those of us who enjoy that sort of thing, and the production values are irreproachable. I especially loved how intimate they made the Globe feel, where the groundlings could reach out and touch the actors as they spoke their lines. I can't help but think that Shakespeare wouldn't have such a modern reputation of being so, er, untouchable, if more people had experienced it in less pompous and more intimate productions (Kenneth Branagh, I'm glancing at you and clearing my throat here). B

In some oddly personal movie news, I've been seeing some buzz from the indie circuit about On the Ice, a thriller set and filmed up in Barrow, with Inupiaq actors. Watching the trailer and reading the reviews was a bit of a trip; it's been almost a decade since I lived up there, but names like Patkotak and Okpeaha still ring a bell, and there's a distinct accent among the residents that comes from the place being half-Inupiaq as well as very geographically isolated. What was even crazier was talking to one of my high school friends this morning and discovering that one of the three main characters is played by his brother. (My friend was a little gleeful upon discovering that his brother played the kid who gets killed partway through; their relationship has never been smooth, largely due to his brother being an alcoholic/drug addict with a history of bullying/recklessly endangering friends and family members.) Apparently the director used to rent his the upstairs half of the duplex his family owned when we were in high school. Small dang world.

Anyway, I missed the screening and director Q&A that The Loft did (which I'm sort of sorry about, but couldn't really help - it would've meant three hours of driving on a weeknight), but I'll have to give it a rental when it comes out. I doubt I'll ever live in Barrow again, but an experience like that (even one only a couple of years long) leaves an impression, and it'll be interesting to revisit the place.

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