Tuesday, January 31, 2012

TALES FROM EARTHSEA (2006)

Beautiful animation but man that story was a mess! From what I can tell the film is based on a popular fantasy series by author Ursula K. Le Guin. I am not a fantasy reader, but according to Wikipedia this film is "a combination of plots and characters from the first four books"!!!!!! Four books compressed into a 115 minute movie?! Are you fucking kidding me? No wonder it felt all weird.

As best as I can tell: long ago in the land of Earthsea magic and dragons were more prevalent, but now those things are extremely rare. Bad omens have been seen all over the land and it's obvious that the Balance is out of wack. The king is murdered by his young son and the boy runs away. Out in the middle of the desert the boy is saved from a pack of wolves by a the only good wizard still around. The two team up and travel around. Eventually after a few minor events (including saving a young girl from slave traders) they end up at the farm of a female friend who just happens to be the caretaker of the girl the boy saved from the slave traders. Anyway, so there's this evil sorceress who hates the wizard and is looking for the secret to eternal life and in doing so she is the one cause the Balance to be out of wack. She kidnaps everybody and some how the boy's shadow is running around on his own or something and there's a magic sword and out of nowhere a dragon appears. I was so goddamn confused I turned to my cat for help but all he said was I should try scratching behind his ear for answers.

It's sad that the story ended up being such a jumbled up disaster because the animation was really nice. TFE could have easily been a classic, but I think the filmmakers bit off more than they could swallow. I hate to say it, but skip it.

Once again according to Wikipedia: for years Studio Ghibli had been asking Ursula K. Le Guin for the permission to make a film about her series, but she always said no. But then after seeing SPIRITED AWAY by Hayao Miyazaki she agreed. Problem was that Miyazaki was already busy making HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE so his son, Goro, was put in charge of TFE despite the fact he had never directed a movie before. In the end Le Guin told Goro "It is not my book. It is your movie."

Oh yea, that awesome looking dragon on the poster. It's only in the movie for like two minutes.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A SINGLE MAN (2009)

Colin Firth plays a man, George Falconer, who is deep in depression (and maybe even shock) in the months following the sudden death of his companion Jim. The film opens as George awakens out of a dream about Jim. Ahh shit. Another miserable day but today is not going to be like all of the other black days since Jim's death. No, today is going to be the very last day ever that George has to fake his way through this torture. His plan is to spend the day getting all of his final arrangements in order and then in the evening blow his fucking brains out along with all the misery and loneliness that infests it...but sometimes life has plans that differ from yours.

I haven't read the book so I'm sure some of the more subtle nuances of the story have been lost in the translation from paper to screen, even so I still enjoyed A SINGLE MAN and found it touching and thought provoking. First time director Tom Ford does a good job. I think the delicate story is better suited for somebody with more experience (Ang Lee maybe?), but Tom does a adequate job and even though I disliked the way the movie was shot there are a few moments that really shine. The liquor store parking lot scene is one I have in mind. The ever so slight expressions on Colin's face during that scene are a pleasure to behold.

A SINGLE MAN by no means a masterpiece, but it's a very nice, thoughtful film and Colin's performance alone is worth the price of admission.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (1948)

As you well know I love both Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, so you would think the pairing of them together would be a sure sign of a hilarious movie. Well it's not. MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE has numerous funny moments but the thing that turned me off overall to the movie was the fact that Blandings has a job where he apparently does nothing but can still afford to not only support a wife and two kids but also afford a maid and build a gigantic house at a grossly overinflated price! It bothered the shit out of me. I don't know jack about the advertising business (except that the majority of commercials I see make me want to kill the entire human race), but Blandings has a job where he's given the assignment of coming up with a new slogan for a ham company and he's given six fucking months to do it!!!!!!! You're telling me this guy is getting paid enough money to live like a fucking king because he can come up with a slogan every six months!?!! WTF? It's all I could think about the entire movie.

OK, OK, let's forget about the whole money grows on tree aspect of the story and just focus on the comedy...ehh, it's alright. Unfortunately most of the jokes focus on the different ways that Blandings is getting ripped off. Example: the guy he's paying to discover water for his well is paid by the foot, so the joke is the well digger guy has to dig over 200 feet down to discover water while the house construction guys only have to dig down 6 feet to discover a spring that ends up flooding the basement. Hardy-har-har. If that kind of stuff gets you to knee-slapping then MBBHDH is the movie for you. Myself though I kinda found it more depressing than funny.

Not a bad movie, but I think you'd better off watching GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE which has a very similar story, but actually funny.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)

A up and coming tennis player, Guy, has been courting the daughter of a senator. His future looks to be very promising...except for the fact that he's still married to the town slut from his hometown. While on a train trip back home to discuss his divorce with his estranged wife Guy bumps into a man, Bruno, and they strike up an uneasy conversation. Eventually the subject turns to "the perfect murder" and while Guy thinks Bruno is just joking, Bruno is actually deadly serious...not to mention highly disturbed. Bruno claims the perfect murder would be for Bruno to murder Guy's wife and for Guy to murder Bruno's father, explaining that since neither of them know their victim the police would never be able to solve the murders.

The train arrives and Guy forgets the whole silly conversation when his wife, sensing a cash cow, backs out on the promised divorce. They get in a heated argument in front of her co-workers. Later on she's at a carnival when Bruno shows up and strangles her to death. Bruno then contacts a horrified Guy and tells him that now it's Guy's turn kill his father.

If I had to rank Hitchcock movies I would place SOAT somewhere in the Top 20. It's an entertaining viewing with some interesting shots and a nice amount of dark humor. On the other hand it's not rewatchable (as opposed to PSYCHO or VERTIGO) and the character of Guy is a total idiot. All of his problems would have disappeared if he had just manned up from the beginning, but instead he spent the majority of the movie whimpering like spineless pussy. Worth a rent and that's it.
Hitch cameo.