Monday, December 28, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odysey - Part XVIII

Ponyo (2008)
The latest offering from Hayao Miyazaki is very cute and charming with plenty of memorable characters, and while the visuals are not as opulent as Spirited Away (2001) or Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), they are still quite lovely.

Public Enemies (2009)
Johnny Depp and Christian Bale are both quite good as they face off against each other, but I had a hard time keeping track of all the supporting characters and the best parts of the movie were the closeups of Myrna Loy from Manhattan Melodrama (1934).

Star Trek (2009)
This was a whole lot of fun with a great cast, especially Simon Pegg as a very funny Scotty, with the only real complaint I can come up with is that they sacrificed a bit too much of the philosophical musings that are is signature of Star Trek in favor of more action (and a few too many lens flares).

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
This is a pleasant little movie featuring Cary Grant, who is endearing as always, and David Niven as a frustrated bishop who gets an unexpected answer to his prayers.

Alien Trespass (2009)
While I applaud their efforts to recreate a B-movie from the 1950s, the sexuality, the obvious use of CG, and the fact that it was in color instead of black and white kept taking me out of the moment and kept it from being an effective homage, but never funny enough to work as a parody.

The Paradine Case (1947)
This courtroom drama never really gets going in the courtroom scenes; what makes the film interesting is how it focuses on how the trial affects all the people involved.

All That Jazz (1979)
This unorthodox musical (it is almost half an hour into the film before someone on screen sings something and is firmly rated R) tells the story of a celebrated Broadway director and choreographer who is working himself to death, and becomes more and more abstract as the film progresses, taking the movie musical into some interesting new places.

Mystery, Alaska (1999)
While the idea of a small-town hockey team taking on an NHL team is a fun idea, what elevates this film over most of the rest of the sports movies out there is the attention it gives to the characters and how the big game affects the whole town.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)
The action is mindless, the characters are shallow, the dialog is flat, the villain is too comical to be taken seriously, the robot assistant is annoying as all get out, the big effects set-pieces are unconvincing, and its single redeeming attribute, a song on the soundtrack from They Might Be Giants, lasts only a few seconds, making this movie every bit as dumb as I though it would be.

Nothing Sacred (1937)
Carole Lombard is very funny in her only Technicolor appearance as a woman who is incorrectly diagnosed with terminal radium poisoning, and only learns this fact after a reporter for a major New York newspaper decides to write a series of public interest articles on her tragic story.

Coming up next: more hockey and an unconventional ghost story.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part XVII

Following (1998)
The directorial debut from Christopher Nolan tells an interesting story that keeps its audience guessing until the very end with his signature nonlinear storytelling out in full force.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
The beginning is loud, confusing, and overblown, and the ending drags on too long with far too many explosions, but the second act works for the most part with the Transformers actually getting more developed characters this time around.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)
It was pleasant enough, but a bit of a disappointment since I rather enjoyed Pride and Prejudice (2005).

At the Circus (1939)
This time around the Marx Brothers play detective in this fun romp that has several wonderfully comic scenes.

Murder at the Vanities (1934)
The film cuts between a murder investigation backstage at a theatre which is rather entertaining and the on stage musical numbers that are obviously inspired by the Ziegfeld follies and surprisingly racy.

San Diego I Love You (1944)
This funny movie about an amateur inventor and his slightly overzealous daughter and their move to San Diego to get funding for one of his inventions is highlighted by a wonderful cameo by Buster Keaton (in which he actually smiles!).

Cavalcade (1933)
Much like Cimarron (1931) and Giant (1956), Cavalcade tries to tell the story of a geographical region through the lens of one family, and just like the former two films, ends up being tedious and far too long (though there were two very memorable moments).

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
James Cagney defines charismatic evil as a gangster just released from prison who becomes an idol for a group of neighborhood kids, much to the chagrin of his childhood friend and local priest.

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
This is a little less dumb than How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) and Buster Keaton’s supporting role is actually funny this time around, taking advantage of his talent for physical comedy instead of ignoring them.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
The scenes with Percy as the Pimpernel and as the upper class twit are both loads of fun, but the rest of the movie drags and could have benefitted from losing half an hour or more of run time.

Coming up next: television translated to the big screen and an unorthodox musical.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part XVI

Okay, so I'm way behind on my movie odyssey posting. So in the interest of catching up so this doesn't drag too far into 2010, I'm switching to 10 per post instead of my normal 5. Enjoy.

Up (2009)
This is a wonderful tale about friendship and adventure found in unexpected places, full of emotional highs and lows, and even when something happened exactly as I predicted, it still provoked an emotional response.

Das Experiment (2001)
This is a grim tale about a psychology experiment in which volunteers play the roles of prison guards and inmates that gets out of hand and was inspired by an actual experiment.

Sleuth (2007)
This remake took almost everything that was visually interesting from the original and threw it out the window along with most of the compelling elements of the plot and replaced them with a visually boring set, copious amounts of profanity, and a homoerotic ending that came completely out of nowhere and made absolutely no sense.

The Brothers Bloom (2008)
This con man romp from the director of Brick (2005) is a lot of fun with several interesting characters including Bang Bang, a cute explosives expert who never bothers to talk.

Ace in the Hole (1951)
This heartbreaking indictment of sensationalist journalism features an excellent performance by Kirk Douglas who stars as newspaper reporter who manufactures a human interest story that captures the imagination of the nation, and then does whatever he can to make the publicity wave last as long as possible, no matter what happens to anyone else.

Wings (1927)
I really wanted to like this film that was the first winner of the Best Picture Oscar, but the aerial dogfights were not very thrilling and an overlong sequence where one hotshot pilot gets drunk for the first time grew tedious very quickly.

Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
This charming, quiet comedy is almost a silent film and is full of memorable characters and amusing recurring jokes that force the audience to pay attention since so many of them are very subtle.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Stunning photography and a powerful performance by Maria Falconetti make this a must-see for cinephiles but should probably be avoided by people who haven’t seen many silent films.

The Simpsons Movie (2007)
It is funny and feels like a long episode, but doesn’t break any new ground.

I.Q. (1994)
This is a cute movie about intelligent people being foolishly in love and a wonderful posse of elderly scientists led by Albert Einstein which reminded me (favorably) of Ball of Fire (1941).

Coming up next: my final best picture winner.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part XV

For Me and My Gal (1942)
Judy Garland is pretty, Gene Kelley is charming, and there are some nice musical numbers, which adds up to a pleasantly entertaining piece of film (though I think Judy Garland’s character chose the wrong man in the end).

Taken (2008)
The title should be renamed: “Liam Neeson Kicks Butt.”

Knowing (2009)
There are a couple interesting set pieces (namely Nicholas Cage wandering through the wreckage of a plane that just crashed) but the payoff, filled with hijacked Christian symbolism, left me thinking that the whole thing would have been much better if done as a half hour Twilight Zone episode.

Caught (1949)
The movie asks some interesting relationship questions, but the ending feels overly contrived and too much like a copout.

Manhattan (1979)
Woody Allen has troubles with his love life; isn’t this the plot of every one of his films?

Coming up next: a couple more single word titles, one vastly superior to the other.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part XIV

The 400 Blows (1959)
This is an interesting character study of a young boy who constantly finds himself in trouble (played wonderfully by Jean-Pierre Leaund) but nothing really happens.

Southland Tales (2006)
This is the most bizarre, confusing, poorly written, poorly acted, inconsistent, unbelievable, and downright dirty beer commercial I have ever seen.

Ikiru (1952)
This is the compelling story of an old man with only a few months to live, who decides to make something of what little life he has left despite the ineffectual bureaucracy that surrounds him.

Any Given Sunday (1999)
Oliver Stone makes a football movie that is entertaining while it lasts.

Catch-22 (1970)
This war time comedy is irreverent and sometimes surreal and is very reminiscent of MASH, which coincidentally came out the same year.

Coming up next: four one word titles.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part XIII

The Wrestler (2008)
I am not a fan of professional wrestling, so when I say that I enjoyed the story and Mickey Rourke’s performance, that means something.

Bedlam (1946)
My final Val Lewton film, it offers fewer scares than the previous outings, but it is still very engaging and, of course, very atmospheric.

Sleuth (1972)
Laurence Olivier and Michael Cain go toe-to-toe in a battle of wills that always kept me guessing, with Alec Cawthorne holding his own alongside these two acting legends.

Winchester ‘73 (1950)
This interesting western has a prized rifle as the main character as it constantly changes hands from one unworthy man to another.

Bend of the River (1952)
James Stewart starts as a gunslinger who hires on to lead a wagon train west to their new homestead in this gorgeous western.

Coming up next: 2 numeric films and one real loser.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part XII

Doubt (2008)
This is a well acted tale featuring a righteous crusader of a hero and a truly vile villain; the only question is: which one is the hero and which one is the villain?

Free and Easy (1930)
Buster Keaton’s first sound film was a disappointment since he never really gets to show off his comedy skills, and while there are a couple good bits, it is depressing knowing what MGM did to his career and how far this great comedian fell.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008)
I was expecting this to be bad, being chock full of Adam Sandler “humor,” but what I was not expecting was countless shots of Sandler’s bare behind and an overdose of perverse sexuality.

Spy Hard (1996)
It is an amusing waste of time, better than most parodies, but not nearly as memorable as Airplane! (1980) and The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), with the best part being the theme song performed by Weird Al.

10,000 BC (2008)
After watching the trailer and seeing the billboards, I knew this would be a bad movie, but with all the contrived plot points, poorly constructed characters, impossible geography, and the overall feel that it is The Ten Commandments (1956) remade by atheists, it passed over the “so bad it’s fun” designation into “so bad it’s painful.”

Coming up next: A couple James Stewart westerns and a classic mystery.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part XI

In Bruges (2008)
While the film took a couple unexpected narrative turns, I failed to see what was so great about this mostly enjoyable but largely forgettable film.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Since I work at a job involving sales, I could appreciate what some of the characters were going through, but I quickly got tired of the endless angry, profanity-filled monologues.

The Crimson Pirate (1952)
Burt Lancaster is electric in this highly entertaining swashbuckling romp, aided by his equally captivating, non-speaking sidekick who comes across as a cross between Jack Sparrow and Harpo Marx.

Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
Ever since I saw this title I knew I had to see the film, and it was pretty much what I expected: raunchy 80s comedy that is funny in parts but one which I would be embarrassed to watch in the company of women and children.

Guys and Dolls (1955)
The opening musical sequence is amazing and the dialog was fun to listen to, but all too quickly the musical numbers turned run-of-the-mill, but still the whole experience is an enjoyable one.

Coming up next: two movies virtually guaranteed to make my bottom ten of the year.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part X

Let the Right One In (2008)
I mostly liked this different take on vampires though the ending is a little twisted (and I wonder what it would have been like going into the movie not knowing it was about a vampire).

The Body Snatcher (1945)
Boris Karloff is suitably creepy in yet another atmospheric gem from producer Val Lewton.

The Wages of Fear (1953)
The film starts out slow and boring, but becomes an absolutely gripping tale as four men must navigate a pair of trucks loaded down with nitroglycerin through the South American rain forest, driving on poorly maintained roads, where the slightest bump could spell certain doom for the drivers.

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
This is an amusing tale about a professional assassin who rethinks his life after reconnecting with Minnie Driver.

Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Anne Hathaway puts in a wonderful performance in this surprisingly likeable story about a wedding that at times almost feels like the ultimate wedding video (though I don’t mean that in a bad way).

Coming up next: a rip-roaring good time and a film I watched solely because of the title.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part IX

The Evil Dead (1981)
This fun, gory B-movie makes up in inventiveness what it lacks in production value.

Ishtar (1987)
The film has some truly funny moments, but it gets bogged down in an overlong opening that is practically a different movie from the rest of the film.

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)
This is a pretty funny French spy thriller parody, though I can’t figure out if it’s a brilliant satire of European colonialism or merely a thinly veiled criticism of Bush's foreign policy.

Blowup (1966)
I found the main character repulsive in this film in which a whole lot of nothing happens for the first half of the film, and when he discovers a murder and things start to get interesting, a whole lot more nothing happens and nothing is resolved.

The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964)
While I’m sure I would have liked it as a kid, I found the whole thing little more than silly and amusing fun, yet largely unforgettable.

Coming up next: 3 intense movies and 2 homecomings.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Life According to They Might Be Giants

And now for something completely different...

Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a song title. It's a lot harder than you think!

I decided to go with They Might Be Giants since they have lots of songs on lots of topics with interesting titles. Some of these had more than one good answer, but I decided to go with the best one.

-Are you a male or female? - Mr. Me

-Describe yourself: - No One Knows My Plan

-How do you feel right now? - Everything Right Is Wrong Again

-If you could go anywhere, where would you go? - Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

-Your favorite form of transportation: - Rocket Ship

-Describe Your Morning Routine: - Don't Let's Start

-Your best friend is: - My Evil Twin

-What's the weather like? - Why Does the Sun Shine?

-Pet Peeve? - Man, It's So Loud in Here

-If your life was a TV show, what would it be called? - Experimental Film

-Your relationship status: - All Alone, All By Myself

-Your Fear: - Everything Is Catching on Fire

-What is the best advice you have to give? - Careful What You Pack

-If you could change your name, you would change it to? - Doctor Worm

-What do you say when you are frustrated? - When It Rains It Snows

-Thought for the day: - C Is for Conifers

-How you would like to die? - I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die

-Your soul's present condition: - Kiss Me, Son of God

-Your motto: - I Should Be Allowed to Think

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part VIII

61* (2001)
This entertaining story of Mickey Mantle and Roger Marris’ race to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record is highly recommended for baseball fans.

Tropic Thunder (2008)
I liked the Hollywood satire parts of the film, and Robert Downy Jr. was quite fun, but the film descended into crassness too often for my tastes.

Watchmen (2009)
While the visuals are great, the story wallows in moral relativism, most of the characters are not terribly compelling, and the violence is needlessly brutal.

Sabotage (1936)
This early Hitchcock work is mostly mediocre but features a bus sequence that gives a glimpse of what Hitchcock would become.

Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control (2008)
This spinoff of Get Smart is mostly funny but gets unnecessarily earthy in places.

Coming up next: a cult classic and an infamous bomb.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part VII

Hair (1979)
Hippies are the true saviors of mankind!

Ball of Fire (1941)
This very funny screwball comedy features Gary Cooper as an absentminded professor and Barbara Stanwyck as the woman disrupts his attentions and steals his heart, as well as a wonderful cast of supporting characters played by a who’s who of old man character actors.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
This taught, small-scale thriller features Walter Matthau as a New York transit authority worker who has to deal with hijackers who hold hostage a subway train full of people.

In Cold Blood (1967)
This is kind of an interesting character study that goes on way too long and I never really latched on to any of the characters (and it’s not much of a courtroom drama, AFI).

Sixteen Candles (1984)
The movie has it’s moments, but it is filled with caricatures who are overly obsessed with getting the right boy/girlfriend.

Coming up next: three one word titles.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part VI

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
While the ending was a little weird, the effects were very well done and the scene in which a cat tries to eat him is surprisingly tense.

Howard the Duck (1986)
Howard’s wisecracks, Tim Robbins’ “scientist,” the hokey bad guy, and the whole plot were supposed to be funny, but the “humor” fell flatter than a pancake after being visited by a steam roller.

Notting Hill (1999)
I found it surprisingly funny and engaging, though the end seemed a little contrived, and like most romantic comedies, it forgot it was a comedy for the last third of the film.

Panic Room (2002)
This is a fun claustrophobic thriller with some wonderfully inventive camera work/effects.

The Hustler (1961)
Paul Newman’s quest to be the best pool player is riveting, but his scenes with his love interest failed to make any sort of connection.

Coming up next: two anatomical movies and two numerical ones.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part V

The Thing (1982)
This film exists solely to see a gross monster eat people and get destroyed in a myriad of gruesome ways.

Spielberg on Spielberg (2007)
A must-see for fans of Steven Spielberg, this documentary features an hour and a half of Spielberg talking about his movies.

Persepolis (2007)
While visually interesting, the story loses steam two-thirds of the way through as the main character is unable to feel at home in either Europe or her native Iran.

The Reader (2008)
I would say I liked it better when they called it Sophie’s Choice, but I wasn’t terribly fond of Sophie’s Choice either.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
It was funnier, happier, more engaging, and had much more truth to it when they called it Forrest Gump.

Coming up next: a classic sci-fi flick and a classic stinker.

Friday, July 31, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part IV

I have been terribly remiss in posting these updates. Hopefully my backlog will make for a more regular schedule from here on out, but knowing me I doubt it.

Planet B-Boy (2007)
This documentary features some amazing break dancing, but if follows too many people to keep track of and the talking heads say little that is of any merit.

Superbad (2007)
I am not a fan of the Judd Apatow genre, and the main plot of the two friends trying to get laid did not engage me, but the subplot involving McLovin and the police officers was surprisingly funny.

Dreamgirls (2006)
Lots of show-stopping numbers highlight an otherwise mediocre tale of trying to make it big in the music industry.

House of Wax (1953)
Vincent Price is always creepy, though I wish I could have seen this film in its original 3D.

Coraline (2009)
I’m a sucker for stories of a dream world just beyond our own and this one is beautifully dark and slightly off (and a song by They Might Be Giants doesn’t hurt either).

Coming up next: a remake and two pseudo-remakes.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Musings on Nietzsche Saturday

My brother wrote on his blog about an encounter he had with someone which prompted a lot of questions, the most basic being, "Why does God let bad things happen to good people and kittens?" The post got me thinking about the nature of God and our perception of Him, and while I don’t come even close to claiming I have all the answers, this is how I answer these questions to myself.

I think some of our dissatisfaction with God comes from an incomplete view of who He is. God is the most powerful entity in the universe, and He is not answerable to us. His only constraints are the ones He imposes on Himself. This is not a concept that sits well with Americans. The most powerful man in the world is the president of the United States, and he does what we tell him to. President Bush was so unpopular because he kept doing thing the American people didn’t like. Then along comes Barak Obama saying, "I will do all the things you wanted Bush to do but that he refused to do," and America voted him into office. And if, in four years, America is as dissatisfied with President Obama as it was with President Bush, there will be someone new in the Oval Office. But we don’t get a vote as to what God is like or what He will do, and we cannot vote Him out of the office of creator and ruler of the universe.

Today the message seems to be, "Jesus wants to be your best friend. Become a Christian and Jesus will fix all your problems." While there is a lot of underlying truth in that trite saying, it ignores the awesomeness of God and says nothing about sin and the fallen nature of the world. A God that kills kittens or lets kittens be killed has no place in this world view. But God invented kittens, and every kitten that exists does so because He lets it. And if God were to decree tomorrow: "Thou shalt kill all the kittens in the world for they are an abomination to Me, excepting the gray tabbies, for they alone are beautiful in My sight," that would be all right and good because God is boss and all kittens are His to do with as He pleases.

God created a perfect world, with a plan for how the whole thing would work. And He put man in charge of the world to take care of it. And man decided he had a better plan than God’s, and so brought sin and death into the world. Humans became mortal because of Adam’s sin. It is possible that death did not exist at all until Adam’s sin, and if that is the case, it is not God’s fault at all that kittens die. And we continue Adam’s legacy today. Every time I sin, I do my part to make this world a worse place to live in.

And yet, even though God has no responsibilities to us, His creations, even though we continually try to come up with a better plan than His, even though we continually blame Him for making us dirty after we have been wilfully rolling in the mud, even though He would be completely within His rights to completely wipe humanity off the face of the earth and start all over again with Adam 2.0, He came up with a new plan so that we can once again be right with Him. He sent His only son, Jesus, to die for us so that we don’t have to spend eternity separated from Him. He didn’t have to do that, but apparently He thinks that we are worth the trouble. The plan does not always make sense, but since God is not answerable to anyone and can do whatever He wants, it doesn’t have to.

And so I think it is an encouraging thought on this Nietzsche Saturday that the God who can do whatever He wants, went out of His way to provide for a bunch of losers like us.

Friday, April 3, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part III

Get Smart (2008)
Steve Carell does a fair job standing in for Don Adams in a film that did a surprisingly good job of preserving the feel of the classic 60s television show.

Man on Wire (2008)
This is a documentary that feels almost like a heist movie as a man conspires to walk on a tightrope stretched between the Twin Towers.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
There were a couple of memorable characters and the minimalist camera work was somewhat interesting, but the subject matter and the plot failed to keep my interest and I didn’t care about any of the characters.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
The film is fairly entertaining as a pretty Anne Hathaway flirts with losing her soul in an attempt to gain the world.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
I think I’ve officially become a fan of Danny Boyle with this film that is edgy and stylish yet sweet and hopeful and may feature the most easy to read subtitles I have ever seen.

Coming up next: Some song and dance and a couple 3D movies.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part II

Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
This Preston Sturges gem is a gleefully dark comedy as an orchestra conductor fantasizes about murdering his wife who he suspects of being unfaithful.

The Naked Spur (1953)
The film takes a more serious look at many of the western conventions without going all Unforgiven revisionist on us.

Open Your Eyes (1997)
This trippy, mildly entertaining film was remade as the slightly better Vanilla Sky.

George of the Jungle (1997)
This goofy film has much more intelligence than the trailer led me to believe with the humor coming from more than just getting hit in the crotch, falling in poo, and other such "slapstick" ilk.

Species (1995)
The effects are gross, half the characters have no real reason for existence, the dialog is stilted and unnatural at best, and the climax is predictable and far from thrilling.

Coming up next: three films that won major awards, and two featuring Anne Hathaway.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part I

Well, here we go with the start of another movie odyssey. Hopefully I won't get too backed up and behind like I did last year. For this year I have decided to distill my thoughts on each film into one sentence (and hopefully it will be a pretty good sentence). If I have more to say I will write more, but only after I have composed the lone sentence. I have no idea how much this will happen (I haven't felt the need to add any more material yet) but the additional thoughts will probably be few and far between. I'm also hoping to cross 2000 total movies some time this year (I currently have 109 to go), so I might do something special once I hit 2000. We'll see. Now, on with the show.

The Duchess (2008)
The whole thing is pretty to look at, but the story is uninteresting.

Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)
There were too many unhappy, dissatisfied characters for me to get into it.

Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
A beautiful yet heart wrenching tale of imagination and friendship in unlooked for places.

Straw Dogs (1971)
This exercise in 70s unpleasantness is boring through the first two-thirds, and the violence in the final third was so over the top that I couldn’t take anything seriously.

The Bounty (1984)
This is a surprisingly entertaining tale on a grand scale that tries to tell the story of mutiny aboard the Bounty as realistically as possible.

Coming up next: a movie that was better than I expected and one that was worse than I feared.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Top and Bottom of 2008 - #1

Well, we have reached the very best and the very worst. But before I let everyone in on the secret, here is an honorable mention of a favorite film I saw for the first time on the big screen.

Honorable Mention
The Great Escape (1963)
I had the great fortune to see The Great Escape on the big screen last year. One of my favorite films of all time, my enjoyment of the film was greatly enhanced by being able to see it in the theater. The prison camp appeared much larger and I found myself watching the multitude of activities going on in the background which are harder to see on a television screen. The whole movie had an even more epic feel than it did on DVD. This is truly a must-see for everyone and I highly recommend the big screen experience.

Love Crazy (1941)
This is easily the funniest movie I saw all year. William Powell and Myrna Loy are a happily married couple until a series of innocent yet unfortunate events causes Myrna Loy's character to question her husband's love for her. What follows is one madcap situation after another, each eliciting more laughter than the previous one. The witty banter here between Powell and Loy is highly reminiscent of Nick and Nora from the Thin Man series, but without those pesky murders getting in the way of the comedy.

D-War (2007)
Where do I start with a movie like this? The story is silly, the screenplay is laughable, the acting is almost entirely wooden, none of the characters act believably, half the scenes end abruptly without any sort of reasonable conclusion, and to top it all off, it’s a story that is about Korean mythology with reincarnated Koreans, that takes place solely in modern day Los Angeles, with only one (minor) Asian character (who may or may not even be Korean). But wait, there’s more! Not only is Los Angeles being attacked by two dueling dragons, there is also an ancient Korean overlord (who looks as un-Korean as anyone can look) whose sole purpose is to look menacing as a Sauron wannabe while he makes the blade of his sword appear magically from its hilt. He also commands hoards of undead soldiers that appear inexplicably out of nowhere and headquarters in a castle (wha?) that is another complete ripoff of Lord of the Rings. Of all the films I’ve seen from 2007, this one would make the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, and I fully expect to see a Rifftrax available for it very soon.

Since nobody guessed what the top and bottom films would be, I get to keep all the fabulous prizes I had prepared for the winners.

Coming up next: the beginning of my 2009 Movie Odyssey.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Top and Bottom of 2008 - #2

Wall-E (2008)
One of the things I love about the Pixar shorts is that they each tell a complete story without the use of dialog. Now we have Wall-E, a feature length film which has no dialog (except for a few commercial voiceovers) for the first half of the film. What results is a masterpiece of character animation. Not since Buster Keaton has a character shown so many emotions with so little facial movement. Also of note is the fantastic work of Ben Burtt who created such a lush soundscape for the film and gave Wall-E his voice, all against the backdrop of Thomas Newman’s beautiful score. I almost put this one at number one.

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but I was definitely not expecting an amateur production with unexciting slapstick fights, vampires preying on lesbians, Jesus joining forces with a Mexican wrestler, and the occasional musical number from out of the blue (one of which I am sure was inspired by "Every Sperm is Sacred" from The Meaning of Life). The production values are shoddy, the script is on par with your average student film, and overall the film is more dumb than sacrilegious (which says more about its intelligence than its theology).

Coming up next: the best of the best and the worst of the worst. Any predictions?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Top and Bottom of 2008 - #3

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
This film tells essentially two stories. First is the story of the trial. Charles Laughton stars as a defense lawyer who is presented with a nearly impossible murder case to defend: lots of circumstantial evidence against the accused and a shaky alibi. And then his only witness, the accused’s wife, testifies for the prosecution, and things really get interesting. Laughton is riveting in the courtroom scenes and I could not take my eyes off his every tic and unorthodox delivery. The second story is Charles Laughton versus his nurse (a very funny Elsa Lanchester). Since he is just coming home from the hospital after a heart attack, her mission in life is to keep him from his favorite vices of whiskey and cigars. It is immensely entertaining to watch the cat-and-mouse game the two of them play as Laughton tries to escape from his nurse for a quick cigar while she is relentless in her attempts to pin him down to take his pills. Both stories are highly entertaining and compliment each other superbly.

Love Story (1970)
"Love means never having to say you're sorry."
"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."
Those immortal words from What's Up, Doc? pretty much sum up my reaction to both the signature line and the film in general. Ryan O’Neal hates his father, so he ignores his father’s sensible advice and marries his college crush. She tells him "Love means never having to say you’re sorry," then gets sick and dies. His father tries to reach out to him, and he tells his dad, "Love means never having to say you’re sorry," and the credits roll. The line makes no sense and every way I try to figure it out it comes out saying something very incorrect about love. When Ryan O’Neal’s beloved says it, it’s dumb but excusable because she is a free spirit and can get away with saying things like that, but when he utters the silly phrase to conclude the film it makes absolutely no sense and puts a perfectly idiotic ending on an already silly film.

Coming up next: two saviors who save humanity from life-sucking entities.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Top and Bottom of 2008 - #4

The Dark Knight (2008)
A hero who truly longs for justice. A truly twisted and evil villain. Lots of thrilling actions sequences. Moral dilemmas with serious consequences. Cool gadgets. A beautifully executed bank heist. Really, what’s not to like?
(So there’s not much I can say that hasn’t already been stated by thousands of other critics, and really by this point, you have either seen it or already know if you want to see it for yourself or not, so my vote of confidence is just a drop in a very large ocean.)

Casino Royale (1967)
What a piece of trash! There were very few laughs in this "comedy" and the plot was so disjointed it seemed that every scene was completely unconnected to the previous one. Even the presence of Peter Sellers, David Niven, Orson Welles, and Woody Allen could not save this film. If you see only one spy spoof movie, see Austin Powers.

Coming up next: a movie that is a mystery and a movie that is a mystery to me why it is considered to be a great film.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Top and Bottom of 2008 - #5

White Heat (1949)
James Cagney seethes evil as the gangster Cody Jarrett. He has no moral compass other than a messed up mother complex that would have made Hitchcock proud. When the police place an undercover cop in Jarrett's gang, the tension mounts until the inevitable explosive ending. And as Jarrett shoots friend and foe alike with no regard for his own safety, my only thought was "Heath Ledger's got nothing on Cagney."

La Vie en rose (2007)
I watched this film knowing nothing about French singer Edith Piaf, and once the film was over, all I knew was she had a big voice, liked to drink, and loved an already married boxer. The story is annoyingly told out of chronological order, so there is no sense of when anything is happening and what has already happened. People pop in and out of Edith’s life with no explanation as to where they went or how they came back. And if things start to get interesting, the film jumps to a completely different time period with no common thread to tie the scenes together. It is as if the editor misread the slates, and when they said "Day 1" he thought they meant "Scene 1," so edited the film in the order in which it was shot. And to make matters worse, half the film is woefully underlit. Granted, I watched the film on my computer screen which was already dark, but when half the scenes are at night (for no apparent reason) or in dimly lit interiors, the fault is not solely in my computer hardware.

Coming up next: a couple alternate versions of already established movie characters.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Top and Bottom of 2008 - #6

The Dirty Dozen (1967)
The film tells the rousing story of a group of misfit soldiers who elect to go on a suicide mission during WWII in lieu of serving out their prison sentences. While we don’t get a full look at each member of the titular dozen, the film does a wonderful job juggling its large cast in a way that we still get to know most of the twelve. Lee Marvin lights up the screen in every scene, and watching the film makes me want to check out more of his extensive work. The film has a lot in common with The Great Escape: a war movie that feels like a comedy until the third act when the tension ratchets up several notches, leading to a sobering ending that still does not seem out of place.

Mean Streets (1973)
My roommate walked in while I was watching the movie. "What’s happened?" "Nothing." "You just started?" "No, I’m an hour in." And it was downhill from there. I have never enjoyed Martin Scorsese’s exercises in ugliness, but this one didn’t even have a plot to pretend to engage me. In fact, I had to read the back of the DVD case to get the story of the movie I just watched. Most of the characters are thoroughly unlikeable and all the scenes take place in dingy, dirty environments that most people would clean before inhabiting. While it may have some interesting camera work, all the fancy camera work in the world is useless unless it is showing something worth looking at.

Coming up next: a crazy protagonist and a crazy chronology.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Top and Bottom of 2008 - #7

The King of Kong (2007)
I have played a little bit of Donkey Kong, and it is hard and frustrating. So I was intrigued when I heard about a film that chronicles two men: the Donkey Kong high score record holder, and the man out to beat that score. While it did not give me any enlightening tips on how to beat the game, the film does provides an interesting look into the world of competitive gaming and ranks high on the nostalgia factor, featuring many old-school arcade games. But the film is even more than that, providing heroes, villains, and many who we’re not sure what side they’re on, and thrilling the whole way through. And as an added bonus, as the credits roll, we are treated to clips chronicling the evolution of video games from the earliest arcade games to the most recent, state of the art console games.

I Know Who Killed Me (2007)
This is an ugly movie with a "surprise twist" that is more like a bad Twilight Zone episode that has absolutely no redeeming value that I can think of.

Coming up next: films that are dirty and mean.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Top and Bottom of 2008 - #8

The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
Few movies are as much of a joy to look at as this one is. Each frame is filled to the brim with lush, glorious Technicolor. The audience is treated to a plethora of visions: beautiful palaces, immense statues, a flying carpet, a flying horse, a giant spider, and a six-armed blue guitar player. All these sights are brought about through a combination of magnificent sets, luscious matte paintings, and ground breaking visual effects. The highlight of the film is the giant genie played by Rex Ingram who, while still being a comic character, never lets us forget how truly powerful and dangerous he is. The story is pulled from several of the 1001 Arabian Nights tales and features an exiled king, an evil vizier, a trapped princess, and, of course, a thief. This film holds its own alongside other fantasy epics such as The Lord of the Rings and The Wizard of Oz.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Gorgeous photography and camera work. Excellent performances all around. Characters so abrasively angry and uncaring that half an hour into the film I was looking at the clock, wondering when the movie would be over. Elizabeth Taylor yells at Richard Burton. Then Richard Burton yells at Elizabeth Taylor. Then they belittle each other. Then they alternate between making their unfortunate guests uncomfortable and setting each other up to look foolish in front of their guests. Lather, rinse, repeat. There is a bit of hope present in the last moments of the film, but by that time I had almost completely lost interest in the whole affair.

Coming up next: a film that won more Razzies than it should have, and a film that should have gotten more Oscars than it did.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Top and Bottom of 2008 - #9

Sons of the Desert (1933)
Laurel and Hardy want to go to Chicago for a national lodge retreat. There is one problem: their wives will not let them go. They trick their wives into letting them take a trip to Hawaii instead (for health reasons), and head off to Chicago. Of course their wives learn of the deception and much hilarity ensues. While the plot alone is pretty funny, what really makes Laurel and Hardy’s comedy stand out is their physical humor. They work off each other perfectly, and even when their gags are predictable, they are still funny. The most memorable sequence is one in which Laurel and Hardy (who live in adjacent apartments) keep managing to lock themselves out of their apartments. The sequence runs surprisingly long and they milk the premise for all it is worth, and yet it never gets dull.

Sideways (2004)
Maybe if I was a disaffected middle-aged man who liked to drink wine I would like this movie more. As it was, I was bored through most of the film and did not care for any of the characters. Drinking lots of wine and having lots of sex is the goal of the two main characters, and lying to anyone and everyone in order to either get away with or get more of drinking lots of wine and having lots of sex is a perfectly good way to go about business. And when one lie gets them in trouble, they make up an even better lie for someone else. I didn’t laugh once during this "comedy."

Coming up next: a movie that is a joy to look at and one that sucks all the joy from the room.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Top and Bottom of 2008 - #10

So here we go with my best and worst picks from all 131 movies I saw in 2008. People are welcome to guess which film comes in at numbers 1 and 131 (who knows, there might even be a prize connected with it).

Rio Bravo (1959)
This western is the story of three men: John Wayne's sheriff who refuses almost all offers of help to bring down the town outlaw (in a direct contrast to the Gary Cooper role in High Noon), Dean Martin's deputy who is a recovering alcoholic, and Ricky Nelson's hotshot new gunman who worms his way into John Wayne's graces. What results is a highly entertaining western that focuses more on the interactions between characters than the shootouts. Also worth noting is Walter Brennan as a partially over-the-hill deputy with an injured leg who is assigned to guard the jail. His cranky old man performance adds some wonderful humor to the mix, keeping the film from getting too serious. The inevitable final shootout lacks dramatic gravity, but that is a minor complaint compared with the rest of this highly entertaining film.

Videodrome (1983)
If you like gross films with disturbing, sexual images, this is the film for you. The rest of us should probably stay away. The plot made very little sense, and with so many dream sequences and double-crosses, it was impossible to keep track of who was what, and the ending was anything but satisfactory. I do think it is interesting that James Woods' television producer tries to air a program that features a combination of pornography and torture. Did director David Cronenberg predict today's torture porn?

Coming up next: 2 movies about 2 men going on a road trip.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My 2008 Movie Odyssey - Part XXVI

Here we go. This is the final entry of my 2008 movie odyssey. I will probably be doing something similar again this year, but I haven't decided yet what format I want it to take. Ten word movie reviews? Movie X meets movie Y? The same thing all over again? Something completely different? Cast your votes in the comments section.

Australia (2008)
It’s a story about an impossible cattle drive. It’s a WWII drama. It’s a story about a woman finding her way in a new world and love in unlooked for places. It’s about the problems that arise when two very different cultures collide. And so much more. The problem with all these different elements is that with so many of them the film lacks any sort of uniting theme and the audience is treated to about three movies for the price of one. It is Giant in Australia.

Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
A star-studded cast brings this Charles Dickens story to the big screen with lots of memorable characters. The film is lots of fun to watch, as should be expected from Dickens.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Maybe I’m getting old, but more often than not I sided with the adults in this high school coming-of-age story. On the other hand, Sean Penn gives his only good performance as the very funny terminal slacker Jeff Spicoli. The rest of the film, not so much.

Gunga Din (1939)
Cary Grant and his two compatriots have an excellent entrance in this film as each one’s heads come crashing through an upper story window as they are called to by their superior officer during a bar fight. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the film: light-hearted high adventure. Gunga Din is an obvious influence on the Indiana Jones films as Cary Grant and company encounter many of the situations that Jones later encounters. While the film’s treatment of the Indians is far from being politically correct by today’s standards, there are still plenty of thrilling action pieces that make the film more than worth while.

The Kid (1921)
I am not a big fan of Chaplin, much preferring the works of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, but I felt like I ought to see this film. It was pretty enjoyable, but it is readily apparent that Chaplin was still learning the language of cinema as there were several narrative rough spots that are not evident in other films from the same era, and there are far too many title cards. There is also an extended dream sequence at the end which is not very funny and adds nothing to the rest of the film. On the other hand, Jackie Coogan as the titular kid is amazing to watch and his scenes with Chaplin are very sweet.

Christmas Vacation (1989)
Sometimes, finding a good movie feels like searching for a pearl in a pile of pebbles. For me, finding a good 80s comedy often feels more like searching for a diamond in a pile of manure. There are the handful of comedies that stand proudly alongside the great comedies of the 30s: Airplane!, Ghost Busters, Back to the Future, Tootsie, and The Princess Bride. They all are very funny, have many memorable characters, and you feel good about laughing at the movie. Then there are the rest of the 80s comedies, which seem more interested in wallowing in uncomfortable situations (Planes, Trains & Automobiles), excessively ruminating on sex and nudity (Animal House), and featuring a cast of characters that are so far removed from reality that they bear no resemblance to anything even close to real people (Caddyshack). Christmas Vacation falls squarely in with the majority, featuring far too many uncomfortable situations with highly unbelievable characters. I guess I should have expected that with two 80s non-stars: Chevy Chase and Randy Quaid.

Coming up next: #10 on my top and bottom 10 list for 2008.

Friday, January 30, 2009

My 2008 Movie Odyssey - Part XXV

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
Charles Laughton is riveting as a defense attorney who takes on a murder case that seems doomed from the start, all the while thwarting the best intentions of his nurse, played by a very funny Elsa Lanchester, who is determined to keep him from killing himself with his vices. Laughton's client's case is shaky at best, but when his prime witness changes sides and testifies for the prosecution, things really get interesting.

Red River (1948)
Well, this marks the third time Walter Brennan has appeared in my movie odyssey, and I must say that he is fast becoming one of my favorite character actors from the 40s and 50s. This is an epic western with John Wayne at the head of a massive cattle drive. Unfortunately, one of the main plot points, wondering whether there actually is a railroad in Abilene, KS, was rendered impotent since I already knew that Abilene was a popular cattle drive destination during the wild (and not-so-wild) west. It was still an entertaining movie, but I did feel the vast landscapes would have been better served if the film had been in color.

Now, Voyager (1942)
This high character drama features wonderful performances from its leads but left no impact on me.

Sophie’s Choice (1982)
This is yet another Hollywood tale of luminous yet damaged people that the Academy loves to give Oscar nominations and awards to but always leaves me wanting something more, and this one was no exception.

Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)
This is a fun film full of Disney magic. The competitive friendship between Darby and the king of the Leprechauns is a joy to watch, and the effects work just as well today as they did in 1959.

Coming up next: the conclusion of my 2008 movie odyssey which includes a bonus extra movie.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My 2008 Movie Odyssey - Part XXIV

Sons of the Desert (1933)
This is a very funny outing by Laurel and Hardy as they try to convince their wives to let them go on a lodge retreat. In a plot contrivance that I Love Lucy would borrow and recycle endlessly, they lie to their wives to get them to let them leave, but are found out in the end and retribution follows. One of the interesting things I have noticed with Laurel and Hardy's work is that so much of their comedy is physical, their films are almost essentially silent films where the title cards are spoken.

Sideways (2004)
Maybe if I was a disaffected middle-aged man who liked to drink wine I would like this movie more. As it was, I was bored through most of the film and did not care for any of the characters.

C. S. A.: The Confederate States of America (2004)
This mockumentary, done in the style of a straight-laced PBS documentary, tells the story of the history of America with one little deviation from actual history: the South won the Civil War. The whole film is done with a straight face with no winking at the camera. Interspersed throughout are a series of fake commercials for products featuring unflattering racial stereotypes (such as Coon Chicken), products to keep your slaves from running away, and even a COPS style television show about law enforcement hunting down escaped slaves. It is a very sobering film that really brought home to me how slavery actually works. Even though I've read all about it in history books, it happened over 150 years ago, making it seem less real. But seeing how it would work in today's context really brings to light how dehumanizing slavery can be. The real kicker for me was during a segment with the Slave Shopping Network (a takeoff of the Home Shopping Network) in which there is a family of four slaves for sale, and the saleslady says cheerily, "Now you can purchase the whole family or we can break up the set and sell them individually." The film is definitely not for everyone, but it did give me a lot to think about.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
This is yet another take on the "do something desperate while we try to avoid the loan sharks" theme already visited in Mean Streets and Rounders. This is easily the flashiest and most complicated of the three, but with so many characters to follow, I had a hard time keeping track of who was who.

Evelyn Prentice (1934)
This is another outing from William Powell and Myrna Loy, and while they are fun to watch, as always, the story is too serious for their chemistry to have a chance to shine. But rework the script and change some of the characters around, and this might have made a good Thin Man movie.

Coming up next: some AFI catch-up.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My 2008 Movie Odyssey - Part XXIII

Fear(s) of the Dark (2007)
This series of animated black and white horror stories is a wonderful feast for the eyes. Each story is creepy in its own way. It is not for the faint of heart since a couple segments get pretty scary, and since it is a French film, it occasionally descends into weird, sexual stuff.

Trouble in Paradise (1932)
This Ernst Lubitsch comedy set the tone for many of the screwball comedies of the 1930s. While the first couple acts come fast and humorous, the third act wades a little too deep into melodrama for me to fully endorse as anything other than an important step in the evolution of the romantic comedy.

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
The film has some interesting things to say about guilt, but I was ultimately dissatisfied by the whole. I did like that Woody Allen's character was enamored with watching Singin' In the Rain.

Meet John Doe (1941)
Frank Capra continues his theme of taking an ordinary American and thrusting him into the limelight (see also: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town). It's Gary Cooper again as the honorable American, pretending to be a fictional person dreamed up by a newspaper writer. His sidekick is Walter Brennan who plays a cranky old drifter who lives a crusade against "heelots." Few directors do it better than Capra.

The City of Ember (2008)
The film is full of art direction and creates a fairly believable world. The story works pretty well but unfortunately turns into a theme park ride at the end. This is a minor quibble, however, and most of the film is a lot of fun, especially for those looking for family friendly viewing.

Coming up next: a couple comedies, one of which is funny. Only three more entries to go, and then I can unveil my top and bottom 10 of the year. I know everyone is looking forward to it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My 2008 Movie Odyssey - Part XXII

Child’s Play (1988)
Nothing is quite as freaky as a doll that may or may not be alive, and while Chucky is mostly inanimate the film is very effective. However, once Chucky starts running around attacking big people the film loses a lot of its believability.

Scarface (1932)
I had a hard time getting into this film, though it is probably because Cagney in White Heat was so fresh on my mind that Paul Muni just seemed tame by comparison. It did have some surprisingly funny scenes in it.

A Night in Casablanca (1946)
Another Marx Brothers film, and as always, the plot is rather superfluous. The first half moves a little slow, taking too much time with story, but the second half really picks up. A scene towards the end featuring the brothers hiding in a hotel room while its villainous resident is trying to pack had me in stitches.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
This is the fourth bank heist movie of the year for me. This time the heist is engineered by Al Pacino who orchestrates a media circus when he and his accomplice get trapped inside the bank. This is more of a character piece and it is interesting to watch Pacino's relationships grow and change with his partner, the hostages, and the police surrounding the bank. But two-thirds of the way though the film a homosexual angle comes out of left field and derails the film until the inevitable conclusion. And does John Cazale ever play anyone other than a loser?

Videodrome (1983)
If you like gross films with disturbing, sexual images, this is the film for you. The rest of us should probably stay away. I do think it is interesting that James Woods' television producer tries to air a program that features a combination of pornography and torture. Did David Cronenberg predict today's torture porn?

Coming up next: fear, trouble, and crime.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My 2008 Movie Odyssey - Part XXI

Happy new year! I'm back from Papua New Guinea and am hoping to finish off my 2008 movie posts in the next couple weeks. I'm pretty behind. I still have 12 movies to write blurbs about, and have already seen two new movies in 2009 (thanks to airline viewing).

Meet the Robinsons (2007)
This is a solid effort that is a lot of fun and kind of silly (but in a good way).

Isle of the Dead (1945)
A group of nine people are trapped on an island and start dying off one by one. Is it the plague, as the doctor declares, or have the gods cursed them for harboring a demon, or some combination of both? This is the best science versus the supernatural themed film from Val Lewton. While some of his films sway one way or the other, this one is left the most ambiguous as to what was really going on. And of course it contains wonderfully atmospheric photography and a domineering performance from Boris Karloff.

Room Service (1938)
According to IMDb, this is the only Marx Brothers movie that was not written specifically for them, and it shows. Groucho is too busy advancing the plot to get many strings of double and triple entendres off, and Harpo does little more than stand around and look out of place. I can't help but think it would have been much better if it had been directed by Howard Hawks and starred either William Powell or Cary Grant in the Groucho role.

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
This is another pairing of Myrna Loy and William Powell, this time with Clark Gable in the mix as well. Gable and Powell are foster brothers and best friends. The only problem is that while Powell is a straight-laced politician, Gable is a very crooked-laced gangster. Of course they both fall in love with Myrna Loy (who wouldn't?). Though there are several funny scenes, Manhattan Melodrama is not a comedy and asks serious questions about justice vs. doing the right thing and holding yourself to the same standards you hold others to.

Surf’s Up (2007)
The mockumentary aspects of this animated film are well executed, though there are a few places I found myself thinking, "A real life documentary crew would not have had a camera there." The whole movie is fun, and while the story may be pretty conventional, the fact that it is a mockumentary keeps things fresh. Much better than that other animated penguin movie.

Coming up next: An afternoon and a night facing a video player.