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movies | utter randomonium

Tag Archives: movies

The Outsiders

The Outsiders: I was honestly somewhat meh about the book and felt similarly about the movie – which is to be expected, since the movie takes pretty much zero liberties with the book. I’m sure this film was popular with the ladies: pretty much every ’80s heartthrob is present. I particularly enjoyed Emilio Estevez as Two-Bit and felt a little uncomfortable watching cutie Ralph Macchio as Johnny – until I learned he was 22 when he played the role. 22! When did his voice change, 30? My husband says this movie was played on cable all the time back in the day, but until I got my hands on the book I’d never even heard of it. Ever read what you thought was a semi-obscure book only to discover a super-popular film had been made from it? Yeah, maybe that’s just me.

Absolute Power

Absolute Power: I was reasonably entertained when I read the book, but what really got me interested in seeing the movie was how they managed to cut the main character, Jack Graham. And you know, it worked. I didn’t miss him at all. Most of his bits went to Luther, meaning that he talked directly to his daughter and the lead detective rather than using Jack as a go-between. It made Luther a lot more likable and tightened the story up considerably. Clint Eastwood was delightful as Luther and Gene Hackman was, well, Gene Hackman as the president (and he was good, of course, what with being Gene Hackman and all). Certainly not a movie I feel the need to see again, but it’s a decent popcorn flick.

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones: Though I was fairly meh about the book, the movie was more engaging. The basic storyline is the same: 14-year-old Susie Salmon is murdered and narrates the story from the afterlife. There is less focus on the family’s grieving process (including the removal of the mother’s affair and the father’s heart attack) and more on Susie’s journey to accepting her own death while exploring a realm quite reminiscent of What Dreams May Come. And you know, this was fine: I didn’t feel leaving out those details detracted from the story at all. Mark Wahlberg was touching as Susie’s father as he obsessively tried to solve her murder. Susan Sarandon was clearly having a ball as the eccentric grandmother. Stanley Tucci, whom I know primarily as Nigel and Puck, scared the everliving crap out of me. I’m not sure this movie would necessarily appeal to fans of the book – the critics certainly hated it – but it was a decent way to spend a couple hours on a Friday evening. Just not something I’d watch again.

Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons: Wow, this is one seriously terrible movie. A couple of Rogues team up with a Mage and a Warrior in pursuit of a Magic Rod, which is also desired by, well, pretty much everybody else. Pick a fantasy stereotype, and it’s here. My husband explained this movie as, “The problems start with the script and go from there.” Not exactly a glowing recommendation. In fact, the only reason he bought the DVD was for the director’s commentary, “to find out what the hell went wrong.”

The real problem with this film was that it was totally cobbled together. None of the characters had any kind of motivation for any of their actions. The dwarf tags along, claiming to have no other choice, though it’s not clear where he gets this idea. The Most Dangerous Weapon Evar is “hidden” in a cave, completely without guards or traps – you just walk in and take it. My favorite example of this randomness was when the heroes are getting their asses kicked while the dwarf and elf are outside. The dwarf says they should go help, but the elf says that no, this is something they need to do alone. The dwarf nods solemnly and stays put. Wait, what? And don’t even get me started on the completely random ending.

In hindsight, I probably should have taken it as a sign when I realized the hero was Jimmy Olsen, but despite my husband’s assurances of just how awesomely awful this movie is, I held out a tiny bit of hope. And you know, it was pretty (unintentionally) hilarious. Jeremy Irons, for example, was clearly having the time of his life as the Evil Dude. “Ooh, another scene where I get to laugh maniacally! Sweet!” Actually, this was evidence of just how good an actor he really is, as I had trouble accepting that this character and the stoic Aramis are the same actor. I actually enjoyed watching this film just for how ridiculously bad it is.

But you know, as cheesy and silly and maddening as this movie is, it’s still better than Eragon.

Beowulf & Grendel

Beowulf & Grendel: I read Beowulf, or at least part of it, during school at some point, though my memory of it is pretty vague. Basically I remember that there’s this badass dude named Beowulf, he fights a troll named Grendel, kills him, and later on has to face Grendel’s mom too. There’s a bunch of talk about gods and monsters and OMG-Beowulf-is-so-awesome, and that’s about all I can recall. I have not seen the more recent film adaptation (the one where Grendel is played by George McFly – wait, what?), but this one’s been sitting on the shelf for years so I decided to pull it out. Here, King Hrothgar kills Grendel’s dad, Grendel grows up into some kind of Neanderthal and starts attacking Hrothgar’s Nordic village, Beowulf and his Scottish men show up to help out, Beowulf befriends a snarky Canadian witch, and the whole thing is just hellaciously boring. Seriously, nothing happens for about the first two thirds of the film, except for Grendel wandering around yelling incoherently and the Danes and Geats getting drunk together and using a lot of very modern swear words. I might have found Hrothgar’s attempts to worship the right gods funnier had I been able to follow it better, but to be honest after a while one grizzled old white dude with gnarly red hair starts looking much like another. Pretty much all of the fantasy elements have been stripped out, save Grendel’s mom, who shows up randomly for one of the briefest and most anti-climatic climatic battle scenes I’ve ever seen. Seriously, this thing was so boring it didn’t even make good background noise while I cleaned. Why do I own this?

Enchanted

I got home from work on Friday afternoon in the mood to curl up with a light-hearted movie, and Enchanted looked it it would fit the bill. This is more or less a spoof of Disney’s classic princess films, most especially Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Giselle, a denizen of a magical (and animated) kingdom, is sent to real-world New York City by an evil queen who fears being dethroned if her stepson marries. Giselle’s betrothed, a prince she met that very morning, plunges through the portal after her. Behind him comes Nathaniel, faithful servant of the evil queen, to prevent the reunion. Robert, a divorce attorney with a young daughter and plans to propose to his girlfriend, gives Giselle a safe place to sleep her first night in New York. There’s a lot of talk about love and romance and spontaneity, and the whole thing is entirely predictable. Seriously, you know the entire plot within the first ten minutes or so, and every time a new character is introduced, you know exactly what their story will be as well. No surprises here.

But you know, I don’t suspect many people are watching it for plot twists. The music is campy and charming. Giselle sounds startlingly like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Prince Edward is dashingly oblivious. The evil queen goes on a pun spree during the final battle. In short, it’s just a lot of fun to watch, clearly written with longtime Disney fans in mind. Definitely recommended if you’re looking for a bit of fluff.

On a related note, I wonder if James Marsden ever tires of playing The Other Guy, the heroine’s existing love interest who’s perfectly handsome and loving and great, but ultimately just can’t compete with Superman or Wolverine or Noah Calhoun.

The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl: I read the book not long ago and, as is my habit, had to see the movie. I love costume dramas anyway, so I figured even if it wasn’t very true to the book, I’d still enjoy it. My husband, who had not read the book, said it was a decent film on its own, even if it did suffer from the all-too-common “crap we need to end this now” rush to cram half the story into the last half hour. I, however, I was too busy being confused to form an opinion. The first part of the film covers several events that occur before the beginning of the book, such as Mary’s wedding and Anne’s departure for France. There are also a number of introductions between characters who, in the book, have known each other for years. Why were these things added while the real meat of the story – Anne’s entire relationship with Henry – flies by at breakneck speed? Anyway, I suppose I might recommend this film to people who haven’t read the book. I’m not a good one to judge from that point of view. I don’t expect a film to be exactly how I imagined the book, mind you.  I can usually separate the two in my mind, but this time around I simply could not. The changes just didn’t make any sense to me.

The Hours

The Hours: I read the book some time ago and had trouble following it, mostly because I was completely unfamiliar with Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. The movie, however, was far less of a challenge to follow, especially as the time jumps are clearly marked. The acting all around was good; it was especially interesting to see actors I’d seen in vastly different roles. For example, I’m most familiar with Toni Collette from her role in In Her Shoes, but she was gorgeous as the 1950s housewife Kitty. And between Pleasantville and his beautifully understated portrayal of Richard’s ex-lover in this film, Jeff Daniels has certainly come a long way since Dumb and Dumber.  Anyway, back to The Hours.  Unfortunately, the Big Secret connecting the three timelines wasn’t nearly as much of an “ah ha” moment as it was in the book. In fact, when I explained it to my husband his response was, “That still doesn’t help me.” In all, the film was decent but not very cohesive. The connections between the three timelines were tenuous at best, with Woolf’s own story almost completely unnecessary. Like the book, I probably would have appreciated it more were I more familiar with Woolf’s books.

Aside: the score by Philip Glass was rather distracting for me, as there were times when it sounded strikingly like “The Meadow” by Alexandre Desplat, the bit of the score that showed up on the soundtrack for New Moon. And this is definitely not a film you want in any way associated with Twilight.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: I’ll admit this right off the bat: I went into this movie expecting to enjoy it. However, I figured I’d enjoy it for the same sorts of reasons I loved New Moon – that it would be awesomely bad and unintentionally hilarious. But I actually liked it quite a bit, and mostly on its own merits. It helped that it was fairly self-deprecating (lines like “Doesn’t he own a shirt?” and “I’m hotter than you” were priceless), but the primary reason was that so much of the stupid crap from the book was removed. Major props go to screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who has truly outdone herself this time. When I read the book, I was pretty unimpressed with both Edward (portrayed here by Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), and more than a little disappointed in Bella (Kristen Stewart) for giving either one of them the time of day. Ah, but in the film, both boys come across as (more or less) attractive options, save a bit of over-protectiveness from Edward and desperation from Jacob. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the cinematography plays up the guys’ best physical aspects – Lautner’s stunning physique and Pattinson’s charming smile. (I have to mention that watching the camera caress Lautner’s washboard abs is an extremely uncomfortable experience, for he is a child, and no child should look that tasty. I’m sorry, “but he’s 18” doesn’t help your case when you’re over 30.)

The plot in a nutshell: Edward wants to get married, but Bella, who is perfectly willing to spend eternity as a vampire with him, is balking at the idea. To complicate matters, werewolf Jacob has stepped up to the plate, offering himself as a saner alternative to the living dead. In the meantime, longtime foe Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) is forming an army of superstrong newborn vampires to destroy Bella and the Cullens as revenge for them killing her mate in Twilight. Though sworn enemies, the vampires and the werewolves have to team up to defeat Victoria’s minions.

With all the exposition covered in the prior two movies, there’s less melodramatic angst this time around and more believability in the relationships. I spent most of Twilight trying to figure out what attracted Edward to Bella in the first place, and much of New Moon wondering about Jacob’s poor taste in women. But in Eclipse, it’s taken for granted that these two guys are in love with the same girl, and the whys don’t matter much. It helps that Stewart and Pattinson spend a lot more time smiling, making it appear as if they actually enjoy each other’s company. Pattinson and Lautner are clearly having a ball playing rivals, even if there were times when I wanted to tell Jacob to just give it a rest already and move on.

The costumes and make-up are better this time around, though Cleolinda is totally right: the Cullens do resemble Gap/Old Navy commercials pretty much every time they want to look tough. The wolf pack didn’t give me any more West Side Story flashbacks, which was both heartening and a little disappointing. Because I love the wolf pack and all their cheesy goodness. The CG wolves are far more believable than in New Moon, even if most of the actors have difficulty delivering their lines convincingly to things that aren’t really there. And let me just say this: Bella’s engagement ring is ugh-lee. It looks like a cheese grater. Seriously.

The acting of the main trio is considerably improved. Stewart is Twitchy McStutters less often and even closes her mouth from time to time. Pattinson sounds less like he can’t remember his lines. Lautner has learned to portray a far greater range of emotions. Speaking of good acting, Billy Burke (as Bella’s father Charlie) remains one of the bright spots of the film, delivering every line so well he stars in all his scenes.

Now, this is far from a perfect film. I can’t imagine anyone with a hatred for (or even extreme disinterest in) the Twilight universe liking it all that much. Vampires still sparkle, werewolves still imprint, and teenagers still talk about true love as if they have any experience to go on. This is unquestionably the best movie of the series so far, but the first two admittedly set that bar fairly low. (Actually, technically it was the books that set that bar, but you know what I mean.) It’s sort of a cross between a Syfy Original and a romantic comedy on ABC Family.

Anyway, I’ve blathered on long enough. Eclipse is a fun little film, clearly written for the fans, and something I’d watch again and still enjoy – perhaps even without MST3K-ing it to death. The same could not be said for Twilight and New Moon. Oh, David Slade, why couldn’t you have directed all of them?

The Karate Kid

Last night I watched The Karate Kid for – believe it or not – the very first time. I knew the story, of course: underdog teenager gets his ass kicked, starts taking karate lessons from enigmatic old Japanese dude, mistakes his training for menial labor, finds understanding, goes to tournament, kicks ass. What I didn’t realize was (1) Pat Morita has some truly hilarious lines, (2) Ralph Macchio was totally charming and I would so have had a crush on him back in the day, and (3) OMG 80s.

Seriously, the clothing is hysterical. What was it about shirts tucked into high-waisted jeans with no belt? More than that, who decided that this fashion nightmare, PLUS a purple checked shirt, PLUS camouflage pants would look attractive on Daniel-san? Aside from that, he’s really not an awkward teenager at all; the way he talks to Alli-with-an-I is clear evidence of that. He just dresses like one.

So yeah, I liked this movie, and I understand why it is one of my husband’s childhood favorites. Too bad about Ralph Macchio’s career, though.

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