Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a 2013 film based on the 1939 short story. Directed by and starring Ben Stiller, I did not expect this to be any good.
Surprisingly, it was.
Ben Stiller is actually a really good actor amazingly despite how typical his characters usually are.
It's about a chronic daydreamer, by the name of Walter Mitty.
He works at Life magazine where he processes photographs, working with one of Life's top photojournalist, Sean O'Connell. (Played by Sean Penn)
O'Connell has sent in a set of negatives to Walter, saying that they should use the twenty-fifth slide as the cover for the last issue of Life.
Life magazine has been bought out by some online venture-capitalist group who are planning to transition to a Life Online format and who want to downsize the company.
The guy (Name of Ted Hendricks) who is supposed to facilitate the transition is a complete and total jerk. He looks like that character from The Hunger Games movie with the sculpted beard.
The twenty-fifth slide is missing, so Walter decides to start looking for O'Connel. With some help from a co-worker named Cheryl Melhoff, he determines that O'Connel probably sent them in from Greenland.
I should probably talk about Walter's daydreaming. He starts off the movie fantasizing about rescuing his crush, Cheryl's dog from an exploding building and fashioning a prosthetic leg for it on the way down the stairs while he's waiting for the train.
He also imagines himself marrying Cheryl and aging backwards like Benjamin Button.
Anyways, he flies off to Greenland and talks to a bartender, who tells him that O'Connel took a chopper off to a boat a while ago.
Walter gets to the ship, where he learns that O'Connel has departed for Iceland.
He trades for a skateboard and uses it to traverse a town in Iceland, and this is a pretty cool scene, him remembering how to skateboard after thirty years. He's forced to return to New York, where he's fired from his job and appears to have no shot with his love interest.
His mother tells him where Sean has gone, noting that he was daydreaming the last time she told him.
So Walter goes on a trip to the Himalayas to meet with O'Connel, who tells him where to find the missing slide.
Mitty flies to LA, and then back to New York, where he delivers the slide and berates Hendricks for the disrespect he's shown the employees and the magazine during the transition.
Walter reunites with Cheryl, and they buy a copy of the last issue of Life.
I have not done the plot any kind of justice. It being the story of a chronic daydreamer who goes on a real adventure around the world, it sounds a little uninteresting. All of the promotional material made it out to be a movie that was just about a daydreamer, and that's why I thought it wasn't going to be very good. Surprisingly it was, and I do recommend it to anybody with a DVD player.
All in all, I give it a 9.8* rating..
I'll see you next week with Resident Evil!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird is a film from 1962 based on Harper Lee's novel of the same name. It stars Gregory Peck and Mary Badham in the roles of Atticus and Scout Finch respectively. It follows the adventures of Scout, her brother Jem and a friend of theirs, Dill Harris in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during the 1930s. As a piece of classic cinema, it's already gotten a lot of praise over the decades.
I figure it needs some more, because this is a great film.
Scout Finch is the daughter of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in small town Alabama. The people in the town are too poor to pay him for his services, so they exchange food and resources for courtroom representation.
Atticus gets appointed to represent a black man by the town judge. The man was accused of rape and because this is the 1930s, they have to go through special effort to keep the people of the town from hanging him. The children find out about this and, innocent as they are attempt to figure out what the peoples problems are with him.
This is where the statements of the movie and of the book really shine through. The children have no concept of prejudice, and no concept of why the people would wish a man dead without trial.
To be honest, I don't think this movie could have been made today. Despite the message it's attempting to get across, I have a feeling that point would be completely missed in favor of accusing the film of racism. Not to mention the obvious other side of the coin.
And I have a feeling that it wouldn't be able to get its message across the same way the original film did, because someone would probably inject a less tasteful agenda into it.
That's the thing about movies that try to make statements these days, they don't do them subtly. Someone always feels the need to bang the point into your head. And it makes the point all the more pointless when you present the idea as though it's inherently right and will always be right as opposed to presenting the situation and letting the audience come to their own conclusions.
On the other hand, you can easily take it too far in the other direction and leave the audience confused as to what the point was supposed to be. I suppose that's what the people who try pounding the point into your head are trying to avoid, and to be fair it's a good idea to make sure you don't make your point too broad or too specific.
But what happens over time is that people try to imitate the style of films such as this that make such good points. Somebody does it badly by going too far in one direction, or maybe just a little further than the perfectly made film did. Then it gets popular, and somebody decides to take it a little further in that same direction. Eventually it gets so overloaded that somebody takes it back in the other direction and people like that because it's a change from the standard formula these days.
Or in programmers terms:
10 Left
20 Right
30 Middle
40 Goto 10
Nice little formula for politics as well right there.
So anyways, I liked this film. It's one of the few from the early-to-mid twentieth century that I really think deserves to still be popular. I have to say that yes, it's one of my favorite films of all time. It's up there with Casablanca, Star Wars and The Godfather for me.
I give it a 9.9* rating. I'll see you next week with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Chronicle is another example why 2012 is a really good year for movies. I heard about it from CinemaSins (Proceeding to not watch the video because I wanted to form my own opinion) and reserved it at my library. Then I saw that it was a movie shot from the perspective of one of the characters cameras. Yeah, that kinda almost turned me off of the entire film. But I decided to sit through it anyways, because I was tired of sitting over at my computer doing nothing every day.
So Chronicle is a movie made from the perspective of a single camera throughout most of it. The first character we're introduced to is Andrew Detmer, a kid from Seattle who's decided to start recording his entire life. Like a self-made reality show.
Anyways, Andrew's mother is dying and his father has decided to take a nosedive off the deep-end in response. As such he's become an abusive jerk. Or maybe he was always like this, I don't know.
So Andrew goes to school with his cousin, Matt Garetty. Andrew records his life at school and we find that he's bullied there.
In 2012? Seriously? Nerds being nerds is cause for bullying? Maybe Seattle is different from the rest of the country.
I don't know, I've never been there. Or maybe the world hasn't changed as much as I would have thought.
So Andrew gets invited to a party by Matt to try and bring him out of his shell, but some morons at the party decided to mess with him for trying to document his life. So he leaves the party and sits in the yard doing nothing for a while.
I like how the film moves from run-of-the-mill drudgery to whoosh-crikey awesomeness fairly quickly.
So they develop super-powers and start honing them to perfection. They develop a close bond, as anyone who developed superpowers with or near someone else probably would.
So they enter into the school talent competition to show off their powers as a magic trick, and Andrew becomes extremely popular overnight. His cousin, Matt films it all, along with another student from their school who also films stuff.
So afterwards, Andrew gets drunk at a party and proceeds to vomit. Afterwards he's treated just as bad, if not worse then he was before.
What follows is a series of events that put Andrew through a series of hardships that are entirely of his own making. If he'd spent any time talking to his friends, the people who can best relate to being a godlike entity with tons of power going through highschool in Seattle Washington. Seriously, there are two other people in the world who know what's going on and he completely ignores them!
While Matt could have been a little less accusatory towards Andrew, Andrew could have solved all of the problems in this entire movie if he'd spent more time talking about the stuff he's going through with Steve and Matt.
Or even if he'd looked around on the internet, the repository of all the worlds knowledge. You know, like every teenager in this day and age does!
Ugh.... Anyways, while I did really like the film, it got a little wonky towards the end. While it kind of makes up for it with how awesome the climax is, the way they got there is highly questionable.
To be perfectly honest, it seems like they wrote a really awesome climax, but forgot to figure out how to lead into it, so they just derailed all of the characters so they could serve it. Not that it's a bad climax, it's entertaining to watch, and is about the only time that it actually seems like a real movie rather than a student film project. The problem is that the way they got there isn't entirely believable.
I can think of a hundred ways the movie could have ended better, but only one of them is funny.
All they need is Nick Fury and Charles Xavier. Fury to whip them into line and Xavier to teach them how to use their mutant/whatever powers.
Hold on, I've got a script treatment to write.....
To me, personally it seemed like they just wanted to get to the awesome climax and forgot to make the characters get into the mindset for it in some sort of believable way.
So now to the special effects. For the most part they're really good. The flying looks fairly realistic, but the green-screening for one of the skyscraper scenes looks like they laid a satellite picture of Seattle behind the actors and didn't bother adding any depth to it. The buildings never shift around the way they would in real life if you were actually filming in a city, as opposed to a set in South Africa.
So all in all, it was a good movie I suppose. I mean while it was good it was really good, but the ending wasn't how I'd have figured it would have finish off.
I give it a 7.7* rating. It loses a lot of points for throwing its characters off the rails towards the end, but gains some back for how awesome the climax was.
So, I'll see you next week with To Kill a Mockingbird!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the 2011 followup to the 2007 film, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End. So far it's the last one they've put out in the series. Apparently Dead Men Tell No Tales is still in development, and is slated for a 2017/16 release. So that's kind of odd. Yeah, it took four years to get this one out but come on! What's going on there?
Anyways, the story follows Jack, having escaped death twice in the last film attempting to find a way to get his ship back from his mutinous first mate, Barbossa. So far so Curse of the Black Pearl, right? Well it gets pretty different pretty fast. Jack runs into his old "friend" after saving his current first mate, Gibbs from execution. Barbossa's now a privateer, having joined the Kings service after losing a leg and The Black Pearl. So Jack finagles his way out of trouble again, with the trademark action and humor we've come to expect out of the series. He runs into his father, who's reprised by Keith Richards from the last movie. He elaborates on something that the king brought up, that someone's been impersonating Jack and is putting together a crew for a ship. So Jack decides to check it out and finds that someone is imitating his fighting style, code of dress (If you can call it that) and general all around Jack-ness.
After some more cool fighting we find out that it's a girl played by Penelope Cruz. Angelica, an old friend of Jack's has been attempting to bring Jack out of hiding.
So far so good. Nice to watch at least. Nothing really to complain about.
So Jack wakes up on a ship as a crew member, and according to the crew Blackbeard owns it.
Jack decides to stage a mutiny because he figures there's no way it could really be Blackbeard's ship, and find out it is the hard way.
Angelica is apparently Blackbeard's daughter and she's using that to manipulate him into helping her find The Fountain of Youth. Which is something Jack has been looking for. And he may or may not know where it is. So Jack runs into a new sidekick during the mutiny, Phillip Swift, a former Catholic priest who is about as sensible as Will Turner when it comes to how noble he is. That's pretty much where the similarities end, because while he's devoted to goodness, he's not as willing to take up the blade and cannon to defend what's right and good.
So Blackbeard forces Jack to find the way to the fountain, in addition to finding Jaun Ponce de Leon's ship, which contains some silver cups they need for the ritual.
In the meantime, Barbossa attempts and fails to execute Jack's first mate, Joshamee Gibbs. Gibbs forces Barbossa to take him along on their voyage to find the fountain of youth, since he's the only one (Aside from Jack) who knows where everything on the map leads to.
Blackbeard sends some of the mutineers out to bait some Mermaids, because apparently they need mermaid tears to complete the ritual.
During the conflict, one of the mermaids gets trapped in a shallow pool saving Phillip from being crushed by a falling mast. Blackbeard captures her and hauls her through the jungle.
So Jack meets up with Barbossa and finds that the chalices are missing. Apparently the Spanish Church has beaten them to the punch in search of the chalices.
So Jack and Barbossa team up to get the chalices from the Spanish encampment and are captured, but Jack manages to get them free and they abscond with the cups.
Blackbeard, having noticed that Phillip and the mermaid care for each other decides to torture Phillip to get the mermaids tear. Phillip is left for dead, but returns to free the maiden, but is recaptured as she starts shedding tears of joy at his return.
Jack leads Blackbeard and company to the fountain, but Barbossa's crew and the Spanish show up with two different agendas. The ensuing battle leaves Barbossa with The Queen Anne's Revenge and the Fountain of Youth destroyed. Jack leaves Angelica on an island and returns to the Fountain with Gibbs, hatching a plan to get the Pearl seaworthy again.
So all in all, it's a good movie. A nice return to the swift straightforwardness of the first two movies after the massive climax of At Worlds End. So I suppose that I liked it. After the massively disappointing hype-train that was The Expendables almost anything looks good though....
So Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gets a 9.8* rating. I'll see you next week with Chronicle!