With all of the excitement over the new 3D movie technology and the ability to convert traditional movies into 3D, many studios are understandably reviewing their archives for previous hits that might play well as a 3D movie. One example is the upcoming 3D converted release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Disney has also ventured into the world of converting previous releases with their 3D versions of Toy Story, Toy Story 2, The Lion King and the upcoming 3D release of Finding Nemo. The latest 3D-converted release by Disney is their 1991 classic, Beauty and the Beast, and after my experience viewing it, I believe that there are some things that are better left 2D. Continue reading “Tale as old as time—in three dimensions: A review of Beauty and the Beast 3D” »
With rising ticket and concession prices, it makes sense to be selective as to what movies to watch in the theaters and which to wait for the DVD to be released. Making the decision can sometimes be a tricky combination of checking requirements off of a personal standards list and wading through a little movie reviewer voodoo. As this is an inherently imperfect and fallible system, it’s reasonable to take some time to review my movie selection standards and see if there are any areas that can be improved. I’ll use Tron: Legacy as a guide for outlining the criteria I use in selecting a movie to watch on the big screen since that was the last one that I saw in the theater and it covers many of the variables in my selection process.
One of the first things that I look at when picking a movie for the big screen is whether or not it will make the most of the large screen and the big sound that can only be found at the theater. I often view theatrical viewings of movies as something similar to a theme park ride—the experience itself often compensates for the high price. As a superior theatrical experience, Tron: Legacy definitely filled that criterion. The special effects were spectacular and the sound was big and booming. In many ways it was the “ride” that I could have only experienced in that venue. Continue reading ““Tron: Legacy” and what makes theaters great.” »
“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”
In the early 1990s there was a popular resurgence of swing music. Many bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and Squirrel Nut Zippers quickly became famous and many young people learned how much of a thrill Swing dancing could be.
With such resurgence of Swing popularity, it only makes sense that Hollywood would attempt to capitalize on such a fad. You’d expect that whatever came of such theatrical effort would be shallow and corny, much like all of the wannabe Star Wars movies of the 80s… or Dirty Dancing. Instead, the movie that appeared to be cashing in on a flight of passing fancy, Swing Kids, is much, much deeper than the title implies.
In the late 1930s, Germany was undergoing some major changes as the National Socialist (better known as Nazi) party led by Adolf Hitler was tightening its grip on German society. At the same time, Jitter-bug dancing young Germans were relishing in English and American Jazz culture and were doing everything they could to embrace it in their clothing, speech, music and dancing.
“This place has been X-filed, wrapped in a cover up, and deep fried in a paranoid conspiracy.”
I laughed pretty hard when I saw the first trailer for Monsters vs. Aliens from Dreamworks so I was expecting an extremely funny movie. While there were quite a few laughs in it, I think that this movie has a lot more heart and story than I was expecting.
The movie begins on Susan Murphy’s (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) wedding day. As she prepares to tie the knot, we quickly see that the groom and his family are not going to be as appealing as she may have thought they would be. Still, she’s convinced that marrying her fiancé Derek Dietl (voiced by Paul Rudd) will make her happy, so she resolves to take the plunge.
Unfortunately, mere moments before her nuptials, she’s hit by a meteor. This puts a damper on her wedding as she begins to glow, and then grow into a 30-foot tall giant.
The military quickly shows up, takes her into custody and locks her away with 4 other monsters they’ve apprehended over the years. First there’s the hilariously brainless, gelatinous mass named B.O.B. (voiced by Seth Rogen), the brainy Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. (voiced by Hugh Laurie), the half-man/half-fish The Missing Link (voiced by Will Arnett), and the gigantic Insectosaurus (voiced by what sounds like Godzilla)
Just like most Dreamworks animated movies, there are plenty of pop-culture references in this flick, but I enjoyed all of them as they played homage to many of the B-movies from years back and often included references to Stephen Spielberg’s movies E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
My least favorite parts of this movie involved the military and government characters. It’s easy to see that the filmmakers don’t have a high opinion of the military and poke fun at them a lot. I especially groaned when they introduced the military leader, General W.R. Monger (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland). Giving a character the name “War Monger” immediately gave me the impression that he was going to be a bad guy, but the total opposite was true so I concluded that it was just bad writing that was just trying to put in digs at anything they didn’t like.
The only other aspect of this movie that I didn’t enjoy relates to the animation. With computer graphic technology improving so much over recent years they can make human characters so realistic with their skin and modeling that I thought the human characters in this movie verged on the creepy side.
Fortunately, the President (voiced by Stephen Colbert) and the other humans in the government don’t take up too much of the movie. Contrary to what the trailers show, the story revolves almost entirely around the character Susan Murphy, who is codenamed Ginormica, and her struggle to become a person who takes charge of her own life and destiny. All while battling an alien invasion led by the dastardly Gallaxhar (voiced by Rainn Wilson).
All in all, I really enjoyed this movie. I would recommend it to anyone who’s up for a fun time, although it wasn’t as full of laughs as I thought it would be, what it lacked in constant hilarity, it made up for with heart. Bear in mind, though, that there are parts that might be seen as inappropriate and even scary for little children—an unfortunately common staple for Dreamworks movies—but nothing was terribly over the top and should be enjoyed by most everyone.
“What happens when the numbers run out?”
What do you do if you know that a devastating disaster is about to occur and where it will happen? Do you make sure that you are far away from the event so you can be kept safe? Or do you try to warn as many people as you can and even try to be on the scene to aid as many victims as possible? What if there is nothing you can do about it? Does knowing about it make it better because at least then you can prepare? Or would you want to be kept in the dark?
These and many other questions are raised in the latest film starring Nicolas Cage entitled, Knowing, which was made by Alex Proyas, who directed one of my favorite films, I, Robot.
Knowing begins 50 years ago, as a new elementary school is about to bury a time capsule. A classroom assignment has all of the children drawing pictures to put into it depicting what they think the future will look like. One oddity is a little girl, Lucinda Embry (Lara Robinson), who is inexplicably writing what appears to be random numbers on her paper, which also gets placed into the capsule.
Fast forward 50 years, we see the time capsule opened and Lucinda’s strange paper with the numbers on it finds it’s way into the hands of Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), the son of John Koestler (Nicolas Cage). John takes the paper, and in a surprisingly easy turn of events discovers that the numbers are the dates when a disaster occurred, how many people died and where they happened. What’s disturbing, though, is that the last three dates on the list are in the very near future.
Armed with this knowledge, John has the overwhelming dilemma of what to do with it. How hard should he try to convince people of its truth? Should he warn the people where the disasters are about to occur? Is there any way to stop them?
What follows is a movie filled with mystery and tense, edge of your seat suspense. I had my cell phone in my shirt pocked and jumped in my seat at one point when it vibrated with an email during a suspenseful scene. There were times when the feel of the movie goes from disaster film, to horror flick, but all of it is engaging and, for me, very satisfying.
Since the date of 9/11/01 is the catalyst for John’s deciphering of the numbers, I can’t help but think about the impact that tragic day has had on my ability to watch movies like this.
I remember sitting in the theater in 1996 watching the Will Smith blockbuster Independence Day and being in awe as the alien ships destroyed the cities and important landmarks. I remember being rather charged up by the intensity of it all and then the satisfaction of payback that the rest of the movie brought.
But now, I have a hard time watching that movie. Partly because there are many parts that I’ve come to regard as just plain goofy, but mostly because of the reality of what such destruction can bring which was tragically brought to light when terrorists brought down the twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001. I remember the devastation caused by such a sudden and real loss of life and I haven’t been able to watch so-called “disaster movies” with the same air of entertainment since. Before 9/11, occurrences like that were pure fantasy, but now we know that things like that can really happen, and we know the heavy cost that events like that have on our psyche and society.
With all of this in mind, let me say that this movie is not for the faint of heart. There are small, personal dangers that our characters have to deal with, but there are also global crises that loom ever more ominously as the last few dates on the list come and go. Much of what we see in the disaster scenes is very realistic and disturbing to see, but I never felt like it was gratuitous—often those events are also realistically accompanied by acts of heroism and selflessness.
Make no mistake, though, Knowingis definitely Science Fiction and is a metaphor that will be colored by your own religious or philosophical beliefs, but I would suggest that everyone see this movie if for no other reason than to start yourself considering some of these dilemmas for yourself. I will not provide any of my own interpretations in this review because I believe that would detract from your own experience with this movie.