Movie Reviews In A Hurry

A bunch of things I’ve seen lately subject to my harsh internet criticism:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Sweet! – An amazing cast of elderly Britons head to India to retire and discover there are still some valuable life lessons left to learn. Great soundtrack, gorgeous sets, but it’s got a real juggling act of storylines going on, which I think diminished the evolution of some of the individual stories. A bunch of loose threads conveniently tied up towards the end rather than running their course, but it was definitely cute and the end was satisfying if a little hurried. Beautiful cinematography of urban India.

They LiveKindof Awesome! – I finally got around to seeing this a few decades late! Roddy Piper discovers magic sunglasses that let him see through the mass-hypnosis we’re all under – only to discover the world is run by malevolent aliens! Some of the themes felt startlingly prescient regarding our current economic climate, but we suffered through a similar economic crash in the 80s. The pacing is uneven, Rowdy Roddy Piper is maybe better in the wrestling ring than on camera, and the film jumps right into the violent deep end as soon as he puts on the glasses, but the whole concept is hilariously brilliant and even the terrible script can’t diminish it. For all its violent pointlessness, it was still pretty entertaining.

Departures (Okuribito)Beautiful! – We got this ceremony-steeped film out of the library based on a recommendation, and it was entertaining, sweet, and educational. Daigo loses his job in the orchestra and answers an ad in the paper looking for someone to handle departures, which turns out not to be a travel agency – it’s a Japanese funeral home. Daigo learns about the very elaborate and beautiful ceremonies surrounding the Japanese traditional preparations for burial, hitting a few comedic snags along the way. Absolutely worth seeing, and not at all as depressing as you’re imagining.

AvengersFun! – I wasn’t sure how they were going to match up a god, a super soldier, and a rage monster and make a script work, but Joss Whedon used his script-writing magic to actually make this an entertaining, exciting, funny and clever spectacle film. Earth’s mightiest heroes (and an archer – one of these things does not belong here) unite on a flying aircraft carrier to fight off a horde of space invaders in New York. All the characters had a chance to flex their super-talents, and the actors got some witty dialog to bounce off eachother. I really enjoyed this despite having reservations early on. This could have been the worst mess ever, but they pulled it off, and really well. Probably the best super-hero movie ever.

John CarterSpectacle! – This spring popcorn film got some bad press early on (I don’t understand how the media can declare something a flop before opening weekend?) but I really enjoyed it. John Carter gets beamed to Mars and discovers that under its weak gravity, he’s incredibly strong and can’t wear shirts. The pacing was a bit uneven, and I felt like the martian settings could have used a bit more whimsy, but there was plenty of action and lots of interesting set pieces that I thought were really fun. This one totally worked for me,and I hope they get a chance to go back to Mars and explore the world a little more. I especially dug the editing during the brutal fight scene in the middle of the film – the one that matches up his action with the flashbacks of his family. I thought that was really interesting and creative and spoke volumes about the character’s desperation, kudos to the editor on that one.

Sucker PunchWorst Movie Ever! – It’s sad that despite the very awesome visual effects, the highly stylized filmwork and the pretty great soundtrack, I passionately hated everything else about this film. It’s fine to be invincible sexy super-ninja warrior women, but without any opposition in the exhaustive fight scenes, the action is pointless and boring. The premise of the brothel/mental hospital was creepy as heck, and the director plays the sexual violence up as glamorous fantasy – seriously? The hypnotic trance-world dances didn’t make any sense at all. Is this metaphor? Is this literal? Is this a flashback? No, it’s garbage! You can’t hop in and out of dream worlds without rules to tie the plot together. Did _anything_ happen in this film or was it all a dream? I don’t actually care.

Sidewalk Robots

As a person who has demonstrated interests in robots and drawing in wet cement, I can understand how someone could jump to the conclusion I was responsible for this awesome sidewalk doodle in my neighborhood, but it actually wasn’t me. Somewhere in my neighborhood there’s an awesome robot person waiting to be high-fived. 🙂

Dragonboating 2012

I joined the CHEO FitHeads in the Tim Horton’s Ottawa Dragonboat Festival again this year to take advantage of the opportunity to be in a boat. 😉

We had an awesome first day, easily making the cut for the competitive second day, and then advancing up to G division, which was two or three ranks higher than we’d earned the years before. We were punching above our weight pretty much all weekend, taking off to terrific starts and placing second over and over against 8 better teams.

I’m really proud of the team and our effort, we did an amazing job and everyone on the team gelled really well in the boat. Go team!

Uninhibited Dancing

I was peripherally aware of Robyn as a European pop artist from an article I read about a cool fluid-filled dress she wore in a music video, but I hadn’t heard much from her since. So when she showed up in a Saturday Night Live re-run one evening while Natasha and I were in the basement checking on errands, I almost didn’t pay her any attention. Her song was catchy, but like most SNL musical guests, there wasn’t much notable going on in the performance – she was mostly just standing there. Natasha got up to check on the laundry.

And then a bomb dropped – right around 1:20 she walks over to a wall and does a crazy back-flip thing on the ground. I called Natasha “Hey! She’s doing something really cool!” and sure enough, as soon as Natasha’s back Robyn is standing more or less in place again. She heads back in to check on the laundry and at 2:30 Robyn starts mashing potatoes and rolling down the river and spinning around again. I’m shouting “Natasha! She’s doing it again!” but then it’s over again and I’m starting to feel like that Warner Brothers Dancing Frog cartoon. 🙂

When the next music segment comes on, I make sure Natasha’s glued to her seat, and Robyn doesn’t disappoint. “Wait for it… wait for it…” and then at 1:20 she starts with the flailing arm pumping – it’s so awesome.

There’s something I find totally wonderful about uninhibited dancing – obviously Robyn has choreographed her sequences like any professional, but there’s something about the way she moves and the energy she exudes that I find really authentic – like she’s dancing because she HAS TO, not because it’s part of the show. I don’t know if I can explain it, but I can tell the difference between her wild arm-pumping and an over-choreographed pop-star dance number – they’re worlds apart.

Natasha and I have since become huge fans of her music – Robyn is really fun. Would definitely pay to see her live.

Spider-Man Remake

I’m not at all excited about the new Spider-Man movie. For a few reasons.

1) I hate origin stories. Avengers had it right – I don’t need to watch the obligatory hour of a character’s tragic plodding backstory to enjoy seeing them defeating evil in colourful costumes. These are not complicated characters. Even my grandparents knew Superman came from Krypton, and Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider. Save origin stories for the theme song. (Is he strong? Listen bud – he’s got radioactive blood!) Cut to the chase, and start us off in an established hero universe for once! How many times has Uncle Ben got to die before everyone knows the line about responsibility?

2) I’m making an active effort to avoid lazy Hollywood remakes, and it seems like the ultimate absurdity to start from scratch again on an ultra-successful movie franchise that’s hardly even 10 years old. There’s a jillion heroes in the Marvel Universe. Certainly it’s Squid-Woman or Lamp-For-A-Head-Man’s turn to shine?

Christopher Nolan made a decent Batman re-make, (which I’m not actually that keen on) so now everyone’s re-making their established money-makers. Superman and Daredevil’s reboots are being filmed now, and I won’t be camped outside for those ones, either.

3) I thought Sam Raimi’s (much debated by comic nerds) editorial decisions for his version of Spider-Man were spot on. The organic web shooters and personable Parker made perfect sense for the story, much moreso than the canon storyline from the comics that they’re going back to in the new movie. He’s the super-genius scientist son of genetically-enhanced international super-spies, and works as a photographer at a daily newspaper? Give me a break.

The Marvel Universe already has a genius infestation. Bruce Banner (the Hulk) – epic genius. Tony Stark (Iron Man) – epic genius. Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) – epic genius. Henry McCoy (Beast) – epic genius. Green Goblin, Mole Man, Kitty Pride, Doctor Doom, The Wizard, The Lizard, Giant-Man, The Jackal, YellowJacket, Gorgon, Superia, Gargoyle… does Peter Parker, our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, also need to be a genius? Wouldn’t we be able to empathize better with him if he was more like one of us?