Fri, Dec 30, 2011

: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Director: Brad Bird

Impressive and fun, with a much simpler and more linear plot than previous films. It relies on set pieces for momentum and really isn’t much of a story, but for a big budget action flick like this, that works. I liked the settings (the stuff in the desert and tall building was cool). Not everything made sense, which is typical of this franchise, but Tom Cruise is still awesome and the series is an enjoyable blast.

Topic: [/movie]


Wed, Dec 21, 2011

: The Adventures of Tintin

Director: Steven Spielberg

Growing up in Europe, where Tintin is more popular than Superman and Batman put together, I have loved the books since I was a child. There have been attempts to make the books into movies before. A live action one was tried in the 1980s and flopped, and there was an HBO animated series in the early 1990s that was pretty good and very faithful to the books in both story and animation style. But this one with Spielberg at the helm promised more… and it delivered.

The motion-capture animation is, in a word, stunning. It doesn’t look creepy at all, but fabulous. I saw the 3D version which adds a little but isn’t essential. Everything about this world is done with wonderful attention to detail and though it’s a different and more photo-realistic style than Hergé’s art, it has a similar feel and tone. It’s breathtaking.

As far as the story goes, this film is really a version of The Secret of the Unicorn. It follows a very similar plot, but it’s been expanded a bit — made into more of a globe-trotting adventure. Amazingly, though some of the details have been switched around and there are new events — it still feels like aspects of the original book. The writers did an incredible job of creating new events that fit right in with Tintin (some parts are borrowed from other books). The sight gags, humor, the little dog Snowy, the Thompson Twins, all the wacky characters are included and they all feel just right. The voice performances are pitch-perfect, as is the animation.

I did hear one review that was critical of the plot as being a bit dated, and while I understand that, it is the plot of the original book so that strikes me as a strange criticism. One might as well criticize Emily Bronte’s work for being old! Personally, I prefer the original plot to something new: this has a classic feel to it and really is a wonderful, sweet, wholesome story of adventure and old-fashioned treasure-hunting. If you’ve read the books you’ll love the film, and if you’re discovering the character for the first time, the film’s a great introduction. Go see it and enjoy it and then read all the books. The whole series is timeless.

Topic: [/movie]


Tue, Dec 20, 2011

: Fruit Bouquet

This weekend I had an interesting adventure as I attempted to create my first fruit bouquet. These are like flower arrangements, but with cut fruit on skewers, ready to eat. I read a tiny bit about these on the web and just went for it without much preparation. I didn’t have all the right equipment, which caused some issues, but the end result wasn’t too bad:

I used floral foam blocks for the base, which wasn’t the best as it was too light and I discovered that the heavier fruit skewers tended to unbalance the thing. It was tricky getting and keeping it balanced and transporting it was a nightmare. (I ended up wrapping it with plastic wrap and placing the two baskets into a large cooler, which worked.) The whole thing was far too fragile for my liking, however. Fruit fell off the skewers or slid down them to the base, the whole thing kept wanting to tip, and I couldn’t fill in all the gaps properly because I couldn’t get in between the existing skewers without damaging the whole structure.

Another issue was I used some fake moss as a sort of stuffing. Theoretically you use that to fill in the cracks between the skewers and cover up the foam block. It really brings the whole thing together and makes it look more like a floral bouquet instead of just a collection of sticks of fruit. Unfortunately, the moss I got was very flaky, like grass clippings, and since it wasn’t edible, I worried about it sticking to the fruit and people eating (it was getting everywhere, like confetti). Therefore I only used a little bit and my bouquet doesn’t look as good as it should. I later saw something about using kale for this filler and that would have been a much better approach, but I found out too late to use it on this project.

Basically, I needed a better plan for the whole thing. But it still worked and everyone at the party seemed to like it and appreciate the effort. I haven’t done any kind of project like this in a long time, so it was good to push myself into trying something new. I definitely like the concept and I’ll try it again in the future, but with better planning and execution. With the right equipment and supplies, I think I could produce some interesting arrangements. It was fun and I recommend everyone try this: you really can’t go too wrong. Even if it ends up a mess, you just have fruit salad!

Topic: [/personal]


Sun, Dec 18, 2011

: Dorian Gray

I loved the book and though this is a well-done film, it left me a bit bereft. I’m not sure why. It could be because I didn’t find the actor who plays the lead compelling at all. He had no chemistry and seemed ill-cast. (The rest of the cast was excellent, especially Colin Firth as Lord Henry.)

The whole story feels awkward and empty. It’s been a while since I read the book so I’m not sure if this aspect is accurate or not, but in this film it felt like Dorian was portrayed as a sweet innocent who’s entirely corrupted by his mentor Lord Henry. It was as though it was trying to remove the blame off of Dorian, which I didn’t like. My vision of him is much more of an arrogant and spoiled man who is easily tempted and swayed, not a good guy who has to be dragged kicking and screaming into sin.

The film is also too on-the-nose too often. For instance, animating the portrait just felt weird and wrong. Yes, the portrait was sinfully ugly and vile and well-done in that regard, but it might have been much better if the audience had never been shown that and we only saw the reactions of people who saw the portrait instead. Making the portrait move and pulse with something like a heartbeat was a serious mistake. It again serves to remove blame from Dorian, as though the portrait is evil and has a mind of its own instead of this all being something he has done to himself.

Overall this is a beautifully shot and acted adaptation of the book, but it just didn’t quite work for me. The flaws are slight but critical. It’s still worth seeing, especially if you don’t plan on reading the book.

Topic: [/movie]


Fri, Dec 16, 2011

: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

I was not the biggest fan of the original, but I liked this one better. The plot’s still far too elaborate, crazy, and involved (basically Holmes’ nemesis, Professor Moriarty, is out to start a world war so he can profit on the chaos), and there are bizarre contradictions. (Particularly the ending, where Moriarty seems unfazed by his defeat as he claims war is inevitable anyway — his plot was just going to speed it up. If that’s the case, why bother with such a complex web of intrigue?)

But the key thing about this one is that it is fun. There’s the delightful Holmes-Watson relationship, a sort of odd couple (Felix and Oscar) thing, the introduction of Holmes’ quirky brother, and of course, the diabolical game with Moriarty. The latter two match wits throughout the film and it culminates in a literal game of chess — with higher ramifications — between them. Much of the time I had no idea what was happening, but in a film like this it hardly matters. It’s just fun. Light entertainment, but definitely amusing.

Oh, and the closing credits are some of the most interesting I’ve ever seen! A really neat blend of live action film and old-fashioned print.

Topic: [/movie]


Tue, Dec 06, 2011

: Neverland

This made-for-Scifi channel miniseries was an interesting take on Peter Pan. It takes place before he meets Wendy and her brothers in the original book and tells his origin story. It’s science-fictiony in the sense that it purports that Neverland is a distant planet and some teleportation widget gets people there. A bit silly at times, but what I liked was the way it integrated all the aspects of the original book into the film. For instance, different groups of people — pirates, American Indians, Hook, Peter and the Lost Boys, were each transported to Neverland from different points in history and they all end up there together. Since there is no aging in Neverland, they all coexist despite coming from different eras. This delightfully explains the origins of such disparate characters.

There’s much here that’s muddled and the plot (about Hook wanting the secret to Fairy flying) is a little forced and not that compelling, but these miniseries do have an interesting premise and I rather like them. This one is better than most, mainly because you’re always watching for little clues and hints at the original story (such as Hook’s watch being swallowed by a crocodile), and I liked that they used authentic British actors instead of miscasting big stars in the roles.

Topic: [/movie]


Sun, Dec 04, 2011

: The Disappearance of Alice Creed

This is a fascinating British film I’d never heard about, but it’s really pretty cool. The premise is deliciously simple. There are just three actors in the whole movie. It takes place almost entirely in a small fortified apartment. It feels a lot like a play (and perhaps could have been).

Basically two criminals kidnap a young woman intending to ransom her for $2 million from her rich father. Out of that simple conflict, all sorts of intriguing possibilities emerge. I don’t want to reveal them as it would spoil the drama, but let’s just say that not everything is as it seems. I loved the way the film kept doing the unexpected. By the end, I really felt I had no idea what was going to happen (that’s a rare thing for me as usually I can predict the ending a mile away).

One of the things I liked about this film is that it deals with the harsh reality of kidnapping a person. For instance, how to handle feeding a bowel movements while still keeping the prisoner secure. It reminded me of aspects of the The Debt in that regard (one of my favorite aspects of that film).

This does mean that this film is not exactly pleasant. There’s a lot of bad language, violence, screaming, and disturbing situations (thankfully the rape I was expecting doesn’t happen). I was originally just going to watch a few minutes just out of curiosity but I became mesmerized and even though it was hard to watch at times, I felt so emotionally connected with the characters (even the bad guys) I couldn’t stop and stayed up half the night watching it. If you’re at all interested in gritty crime drama, give this one a look. You might be as surprised me!

Topic: [/movie]