HERE is how this movie should have been advertised. I would have TOTALLY wanted to see THIS movie. Get with it, Disney.
HERE is how this movie should have been advertised. I would have TOTALLY wanted to see THIS movie. Get with it, Disney.
So, last weekend I went to see JOHN CARTER. Not many people did. It’s getting mediocre reviews and nobody really seems to know what it’s about. HOWEVER. It was totally worth it. If you want a beautiful, exciting sci-fi adventure story with a dash of steampunkery and a dash of Victoriana, you should go see it too. (I realize that I just described my dream movie, so I may be a little biased, but seriously. You should go.)
The movie is not perfect. It gets a bit exposition-heavy, it takes a little while for all the different stories to wind together into the main narrative, the Big Bads are not as complex or interesting as one might hope. But the rest of the film is entertaining enough that I am willing to overlook some misses. The movie is just—fun. It is fun the way a pulpy book movie should be. It’s not dark and heavy and trying to be anything it’s not. It’s the story of a Hero with a capital H and a beautiful Science Princess Warrior and saving the world and an oversized six-legged dog who is cuter than he has any right to be. Overall it’s a great ride, an exciting journey that I’m excited to experience again and again.
So why is it doing so poorly in theaters? This article from the New York Times gives some very interesting background on the behind-the-scenes workings of the film’s production. After some false starts, it was finally produced by Disney and directed by long-time JC fan Andrew Stanton (you may have heard of two of his other films, Wall-E and Finding Nemo). What I find most fascinating is that Stanton had a heavy hand in how the movie was marketed, which is in my (humble) opinion the movie’s main misstep. I was only at JC because some friends of mine were like NO WE ARE GOING TRUST USSSSS. (Note to self: trust friends.) The previews made JC look like another Rock (sorry Dwayne Johnson) vehicle, or something akin to 300 or Clash of Titans or any other movie that is just half-dressed men swinging swords at each other. Which… isn’t completely accurate. Yes, there’s shirtless sword- and gun-fighting, but there’s a lot more, too. A few shots of Princess Dejah Thoris kicking ass with her sword or the steampunky machines that fly with solar power would have helped, or even just some shots of the cities to show how rich and gorgeous Mars/Barsoom is. You can tell watching the film that there is tons material supporting it (like, maybe, ten books), and that doesn’t come through in the previews. It’s just a desert.
Anyway, the marketing has been marketed and there’s not much to be done about that now. The upshot is, this movie is so much cooler than the previews make it look and you should totally give it a chance. Trust me. TRUST JOHN CARTER. Dejah Thoris trusts John Carter. You should too.
Purely by chance, so did my younger brother. Perhaps we are related, after all.
Before I start my review, I will sum up my knowledge of Captain America so that you understand where I am coming from: 1) he is patriotic 2) he has a shield 3) he has a sidekick name Bucky—which I only know thanks to recent trips to Target’s action figures aisle. So yes, I come from a world of darkness.
And into the light. Because Captain America was COOL.
It was funny. It was pretty. It was dramatic. It worked. It worked as both a movie and a comic book movie.
It starts, of course, with the origin story. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny, chronically ill Brooklyn-ite who wants to join the army. He wants to join the army so badly he’s tried 5 times. But then he meets Dr. Abraham Erksine (Stanley Tucci), who sees in Steve the qualities that make not a soldier, but a hero. This is exactly what Dr. Erksine is looking for, because has the serum to make the hero into a supersoldier.
Agent Smith crazy Nazi Dr. Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is trying to harness the power of the gods to take over the world, not for Hitler but for his own “scientific” organization called Hydra.
Because that always works.
This is one of those movies where there’s so much cool stuff happening I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s not really a question of plot—it’s a very formulaic superhero plot, you won’t really be shocked by anything. But there’s just so many cool things going on. Like a chorus line Captain America. *zips lips*
Suffice to say that after a brief stint as a media consultant, Steve Rogers aka Captain America charges into Nazi territory to save the world. And he kicks ass, and he takes names.
The movie was put together superbly, from the actors to the costume design to the general milieu. Tommy Lee Jones plays Tommy Lee Jones, which he does quite well. Chris Evans is both an excellent scrawny Steve and an excellent ripped Cap. The 1940s sets and costumes and atmosphere were dead on and oh-so-pretty. I love a good 40s setting.
And there are so many little things in this movie, from an Indiana Jones reference to a quick nod to Dr. Arnim Zola’s future as a robot. (<—why I go to these things with the comic geek BF) Everyone freaked out when Bucky picked up the shield. I think a true Cap geek would find a lot of little hidden treasures.
So, yes, I love the movie. A few minor plot quibbles (“so wait, how did she know—nevermind…”) but it was an awesome ride and the time flew by.
Finally, one kind of major point: Captain America is the first of the comic book movies that has made me want to read the related comics. X-Men, well, I already loved the X-Men. Thor, eh. Batman, eh. But in Captain America there was a whole montage sequence that showed Cap and his team going on dozens of missions—and I want to know what they are. His team looks like fun, and I love the character and setting. I want more.
However, having read the new Captain America issue #1 that came out last week or whenever… I was unimpressed. Marvel, if you’re going to make an awesome movie, you should make sure you’re supporting it with an awesome book.
Because, yeah, awesome move. Go see it.
Okay. There’s this movie. I love it. I can’t find anyone else who loves it. It is making me sad. SO HERE I AM, crying out to the universe:
AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO LIKES VERSUS?
Versus is a ridiculous Japanese zombie movie that involves Samurai swords, lots and lots of guns, destinies and portents, yakuza, good vs. evil, resurrections of all varieties, and lots of leather jackets. I love it so.
I understand it’s not a great movie. The first half is ridiculous. The second half is about five hours too long. Honestly I usually turn it off before it gets boring. But that first half is so AWESOMELY FUN and I have tried so hard to find someone who appreciates it as much as I do and I just CAN’T and it’s making me a very, very sad kitten.
Okay to be fully honest there are two people I can think of who like Versus: my siblings. I don’t know what this says about us. Probably that we’re awesome. But I’ve been trying to find people outside of my gene pool who appreciate this movie, and so far I’ve come up zero.
At first when I’d watch it with other people I’d say, “omg this movie is so great!” without really specifying that I meant bad-great. So that didn’t work. But even when I warn people what a mess it is, and that I mean great in the not-great sense, and that it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, even when I find people who are willing to risk that, I still can’t find anyone who likes it.
So I’ve decided I’m going to stop trying to get people to watch it. It just annoys them and makes me all sadface. But I know that SOMEWHERE in this universe someone else must like this movie. Someone. Somewhere.
So. If you are the person I’m looking for, shout out. We’ll throw a party of two, break out the beer, and enjoy one of the most incredible zombie movies Japan has ever produced.
So I have a guilty little secret. I am a Kurosawa fangirl.
This is Kurosawa:
This is also Kurosawa:
He is basically my favorite director ever. And the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square is doing about a month of what they are calling a repertory series, “The Warrior’s Camera: Akira Kurosawa Centennial” but what I am calling KUROSAWAFEST. (What would have been his 100th birthday was last Tuesday.) First up is STRAY DOG, a neo-noir starring a young Toshiro Mifune; I will be going this evening with my kid brother if he gets all his homework done. I AM SO EXCITED.
Because the only thing better than a Kurosawa film? A Kurosawa film ON A BIG SCREEN.
Kurosawafest 2010. It has begun.
*insert fangirl squee*
I watched like 8 hours of Dracula yesterday. Because I am AWESOME.
Also, because I bought a Christopher Lee fourpack at Target last week and it was dying to be watched. I mean, come on, the 4th one was called Dracula: A.D. 1972. That could not set on my shelf unwatched for long.
And really, I think these four Dracula movies can be summed up with one word:
The first one (Horror of Dracula) was a pretty ordinary Dracula, style-wise. I mean, they pretty much took the plot, put it in a blender, and poured the smoothie onto film. For instance, Harker was engaged to be married to someone named Lucy Holmwood, who is (I think) the sister of Mina and Arthur Holmwood (although those two may be married, I’m not really sure). But, yeah. There was blood, garlic, Peter Cushing as Van Helsing—pretty ordinary Dracula.
We move into Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (tagline: “You just can’t keep a good man down!”) which was a lovely little film that begins with a girl hanging upside down, covered in blood, and showing about as much boob as was legal at that time. From then on, the movies just turn into a boobfest. Never any nipple, but… yeah. So much tit action.
There was a point, near the beginning of the third movie (Taste the Blood of Dracula), when I thought, “ah, we’ve returned to a simpler, boob-free time,” but then OH NO! our heroes visit a brothel.
And then, well yeah, the 4th movie is set in the ’70s. That’s really all you need to know.
They were pretty fantastic, not gonna lie.
I love my life.
As part of a brand-new series I’m calling “I watch shitty movies at 2am so you don’t have to,” Gracetopia is proud to bring you our review of Dragons: Fire & Ice.
I don’t know how this movie ended up in my Netflix queue. I don’t know what mood I was in when I thought this would be a good idea. Seriously:
[Animated] A bitter feud between the Norvagen and the Daigon has been blazing for centuries, though no one remembers why. The peaceful times of the enlightened dragons and their Crystals of Power are no more, as the dragons have vanished and taken all serenity with them. In an effort to restore harmony to the land, prince Dev of the Norvagan and princess Dyra of the Draigon team up as an improbable pair to fight the forces that only they can conquer.
But now it’s here and I’m going to watch it. So you don’t have to.
I’m going to do something of a play-by-play on twitter (which will be in the past by the time you read this bwahaha) and I’m going to jot down thoughts here as well. I apologize in advance for any rambling, incoherence, etc. It is 2am.
AND HERE WE GO.
You know those videos people post on youtube where they make videogame characters dance around to songs like “Boba the Fett” or “Thriller?” That is what the scenes from this menu screen looks like. This does not bode well.
Hmmm okay so we started with a voiceover about dragons, and the Dragonworld, and crystals (+ one special crystal with a name that sounds like “decepticon”) and A GREAT BETRAYAL and a dragon queen is dead. I am not entirely clear on the details. The voiceover was quite growly and dramatic.
Seriously I was playing computer games when I was ten with better animation than this. And Dragons: Fire & Ice is from 2004.
Ah-ha, now we have a little blond prince and a little dark-haired princess. I PREDICT THAT THEY WILL JOIN FORCES AND SAVE THE WORLD. Partly because I just read it in the description. OH NO THEY’RE BOTH ON DRAGONS NOW what if they run into each other? THERE ARE NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS IN THE SKY.
Aw, the little prince and princess are all grown up. The prince is whiny and blond. The princess is whiny and brunette. Goodness so much whining. They’re perfect for each other. I wish them lots of chubby whiny children.
Okay, the prince really needs to stop saying “I will come in/Go in fast and hard.” My adolescent mind can’t handle it.
Hokay, really, I feel like I am watching someone play a 10-year-old video game. I appreciate Pixar so much more now.
GUYS THE TWO ENEMY KINGS HAVE BEEN KIDNAPPED BY EVIL DRAGONS. Now the prince and princess must BAND TOGETHER and SAVE THEM. As an aside, has anyone noticed that I use more CAPS when I am tired?
Prince quote of the moment, “Uh, yeah, he’s a wizard, duh.” Such elegant language for a princeling.
Okay, I got distracted. They met a wizard and fought a dragon, but it turned out the dragon is “good” and the wise old wizard is actually a bad guy. Shocking twist, I know. Oh, and now the dragon is explaining plot things that… are maybe important?
WAIT! The Orethon (?) is IN the prince and princess! I do not know what this means but it seems important. It sounds like a disease.
I zoned out again. Now it appears that the sky is falling in. Also a herd of gray dragons that look almost exactly like the monkey warriors from The Wizard of Oz. From afar.
And there are 20 minutes left. What. Help.
Reading reviews on Netflix indicates that there are toys that go along with this movie, and that possibly the toys were first. This would explain quite a bit, really.
Ooh the bad guy just made a dragon skeleton thing out of ice, and it’s actually almost pretty. First thing about this movie that seems even a bit impressive.
OH THANK GOD IT’S OVER. It ended with the bad guy shaking his fist (weren’t they supposed to kill him?) and saying “It’s not OVER!” but actually I think it is. Don’t anyone feel a need to point me towards the sequel.
So basically I think this movie was made for pre-adolescent boys whose mothers told them they had to cap their video game time. Because this seems to my untrained eye to be exactly like playing a video game, except with less plot.
Ta-da! I have watched Dragons: Fire & Ice so you don’t have to—not that you were planning to anyway, probably.
So you know how some girls go all fangirl over Twilight? Well, I go all fangirl over Sherlock Holmes. No, seriously. It’s bordering on psychotic. I love Holmes. I’ve read all the stories dozens if not hundreds of times—give me a line from one of the stories and nine times out of ten I’ll place it. I have very strong opinions about canon, and the unauthorized “sequels” (do NOT get me started on The Beekeper’s Apprentice), and the homoeroticism between Holmes and Watson, and Holmes’s misogyny and his relationship to Irene Adler. I was, literally, bouncing while waiting for the movie to start.
That said, I was expecting this movie to be “okay.” Not brilliant, but Robert Downey Jr’s in it so it couldn’t be toooo awful. And, well—if you’ve spoken to anyone who’s seen it or done even a brief google search, you will probably have heard that this movie is “okay, good but not great.” And that is an entirely accurate assessment.
First, though: Robert Downey Jr is fantastic. He’s a new, grittier Holmes. It’s quite a humorous script, and he pulls off the funny while staying true to Holmes’s sometimes mechanical and forlorn character. The scenes where he is wallowing in misery, especially the first wherein Watson is trying to make him do something, anything, are brilliantly done. Jude Law is quite good as Watson, too. He doesn’t have as much to work with, script-wise, but what he does have he does well.
I found the story slightly disappointing. Choosing to do a storyline involving dark magic and occult orders and whatnot just seems like a lazy way to take advantage of the current fantasy/magic craze. It was obvious that all the magic would be explained away with science (it is a Holmes story, after all), or at the very least “science,” so it didn’t really hold my interest. It all just seemed… unnecessary, and un-Holmesian. A sharp, gripping story could easily have been written using no fake magical elements. I mean, it’s a totally feasible story; the late Victorians loved magic and the occult and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself took pictures of fairies. But I would have been so much happier without the smoke and mirrors.
The script was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. A lot of humor was thrown in, especially in the fight scenes. Really, between the jokes and the overly-impressive fighting on the parts of Watson and Holmes, it sometimes felt like watching a Jackie Chan movie. (Don’t get me wrong, Holmes knows how to box. But… probably not like this.) The movie was an interesting blend of gritty realism and absurdity. And it was beautiful; sets, costumes, everything was beautiful. Dark, but beautiful. Holmes was a little more disheveled than is entirely accurate, but RDJ pulled it off.
And I loved the little things they included from the stories: when Watson correctly identifies a watch as belonging to a drunk, he is using the exact same reasoning utilized by Holmes in “The Sign of Four” to identify the watch of Watson’s brother; and when Holmes shoots “V.R.” into the wall he is exactly replicating one of his “queer humours” from “The Musgrave Ritual” (for “Victoria Regina”—Holmes is nothing if not a loyal Briton). Cute. I approve.
So overall, the movie is, as expected, pretty okay.
But now we need to talk about Irene Adler. Because really, what the hell. Way to run rampant with the canon.
I haven’t really complained yet about the liberties the script takes with the canon, because it’s only to be expected in a movie like this that’s supposed to be some kind of reinvention. I haven’t complained about the Mary Morstan nonsense (they totally rewrote that storyline), or about how Holmes was petulantly attempting to prevent Watson from getting married, or about Holmes’s fighting.
But I cannot keep quiet about Irene Adler.
I understand the desire to have a female lead in this story, to attract/mollify some female viewers who would not otherwise have wanted to watch a story about two men fighting male criminals with the help of a male police force. I understand. But Irene Adler? She holds a very specific place in the canon. The only woman to outwit Holmes, a woman he regards so highly that he always refers to her as The Woman. She is unique and extraordinary. And there is a) no romance between them, implied or otherwise, and b) no altercation between them aside from “A Scandal in Bohemia.” According to the movie, Irene Adler has already outwitted Holmes twice before the movie begins. No.
I possibly would have put up with bringing her back as an antagonist or a protagonist or both. Possibly. But to imply a love interest? Like I said, I have very strong feelings about Holmes’s misogyny. He just… doesn’t. like. women. It happens. Watson is the ladies’ man in these stories, if you felt romance was absolutely necessary have him hitch up with someone. (I mean, you did, but he’d already caught his fish by the time the movie started.)
Why is it so difficult for everyone to believe that Holmes admires Irene Adler because she outfoxed him, not because he wants to get in her skirts? Why why why? This has always been a sore point with me, in case that weren’t obvious, and of everything in this movie it bothered me the most.
Okay. Rant over.
But in general, quite a good film, quite pretty, RDJ is fantastic and Jude Law is close behind. I’m not going to call it a must-see, but… you won’t waste your time. It’s pretty okay; good, but not great.
And you get to see Robert Downy Jr without his shirt on. It’s all about the little things, people.
Saw this movie last night and oh MY god I could not stop laughing.
Go see this movie. No, really, I don’t care what else you may have to do, cancel things and go see this movie.
Or else Woody Harrelson will banjo your ass to death.
And you don’t want that.
Introducing… a movie about the Joker with appearances by that bat guy.
It is mislabeled, however. It is less a Batman movie than a movie of Gotham City and of madness. Batman gets no more screen time than Gary Oldman’s Detective Gordon and much less than the star of the show, Heath Ledger’s Joker. This makes the movie stronger, though, as it interweaves the story of Batman with the story of the city he protects, and explores the effect that protection has on both the city and the man behind the mask.
But let’s get to everyone’s main question.
It seems a shame that discussion of this movie is going to always end and begin with Heath Ledger, because there is so much more to the film—on the other hand, this is one of those roles that is going to go down in history. Heath Ledger’s Joker. Like Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates, this is going to be a villain people talk about for a long time. Ledger played him so beautifully mad, I was transfixed every moment he was onscreen. He made the pure madness of the character plausible and enjoyable.
The main plotline is—well, chaotic. The Joker is mad. He does mad things. There seems to be reason behind it, but then there doesn’t, and then there does again. Batman tries to stop him and gets a new suit. A lot of bodies fly—I lost track of how many cops are killed. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) shows up and may be the answer Batman is looking for—a White Knight to take over his duties, to give Batman a chance to be Bruce and live happily ever after with Rachel (a role taken over by Maggie Gyllenhaal). (which I almost spelled properly without IMDb.)
Let me give you a hint: it doesn’t work.
The Dark Knight is dark. You thought Batman Begins was dark, you ain’t seen nothing yet. TDK is a study of insanity and desire and fear, Batman’s and the Joker’s and the city’s. The writers tear apart everything these characters hold dear (and Gotham is very much a character) and lets them loose to pick up the pieces as best they can. Batman and Gotham and the Joker–and all the other characters–are pushed to their limits and back again. It is almost painful to watch sometimes, but so riveting.
It is hard to call out actors for commendation because everyone was so good across the board. Maggie Gyllenhaal wasn’t quite as young and perky a Rachel as Katie Holmes was, which is probably a good thing; her world-weary edge fit this new movie. Gary Oldman, as usual, just showed up and increased the fabulous factor of the movie by about 100%. Aaron Eckhart didn’t have as much to work with character-wise but did a good job with it. And even Christian Bale didn’t bother me as much as he usually does, though his “raspy voice” thing did get old after a while.
TDK wasn’t all made of perfection, though. The body count was ridiculously high, even for me, and some of the technological whizzies were over-the-top in a “really? are you sure about that?” kind of way. Really a lot of the movie was just unreasonable. Way too many times a car flipped over and someone important just strolled out of the wreckage. And–don’t want to give anything away—but the shiny gidget at the end—wtf? And I began to get antsy towards the end—there were a lot of storylines, and they were all tied up more-or-less cleanly, but there was a while there when I was a bit bouncy.
Also, I don’t know if it’s just me, but about half a dozen of their “wow, plot twist!” things totally weren’t twisting me. Didn’t really detract from the movie, though, and it was funny to watch the rest of the audience’s shock when—well, you’ll see.
Also, Cillian Murphy was only in the movie for a grand total of 5 seconds, which was unfortunate.
But overall, complete wowness. What a ride.