[movies] Despicable Me 2
Yesterday, a few hours after dropping the delightful @SiltyReed off at the train station, the_child, Lisa Costello and I went to see Despicable Me 2 [ imdb ]. I rather liked the first one, and this sequel did that rare trick of holding up to the original.
It was entertaining, sweet and charming, and managed to appeal to both generations of my party in some fun and interesting ways.
Like a lot of movies, Despicable Me 2 doesn’t survive deconstruction well. Gru’s relationship with the minions is extremely troubling if you try to take it literally. El Macho was a disturbing villain in ways that Vector from the first movie was not. On the other hand, Lucy, the female lead, (mostly) does a good job of rescuing herself and managing her own stuff. And Gru’s girls are allowed to be smart, funny and empowered.
However, the movie charmed me sufficiently that those factors only occurred to me afterward, when thinking over what I saw. In the theater, I experienced a mishmash of old James Bond tropes, family humor and rom-com moments, wrapped in well executed animation and scripting that was sweet enough to take the sting out of what could have been the tougher bits.
A whole lot of fun, if you like animated feature films in the first place.
Posted: 7:05 am Mon July 15 2013 | Comments(12) |
[cancer|movies] Filming the Roadtrip to Mordor
From an announcement by Waterloo Productions:
Roadtrip to Mordor — Author Jay Lake has been given 3-6 months to live. Before he dies, he’s going to take his daughter to New Zealand. We want to make a documentary of their trip.
This is an effort parallel to the Lakeside documentary, also from Waterloo Productions. Producer Donnie Reynolds wants to follow me, the_child and Lisa Costello to New Zealand. We’ll be touring both the South and North Islands in the company of the redoubtable team of danjite and khaybee. Donnie wants to fold this into the larger effort of documenting my life and death.
Note this fundraiser isn’t to pay for our trip. I did that out of the overage of funds from the Acts of Whimsy fundraiser last spring. That’s already down to all of you who supported and contributed with such incredible generosity. This effort is to get Donnie, his second cameraman and all his equipment from Texas to New Zealand and back. The whole project is off budget from Lakeside.
This is important to me because the trajectory of my illness means I’ll never make it to Antarctica like I’d hope. New Zealand will by my last great adventure shared with my daughter and with Lisa. I hope you’ll consider helping Donnie out, because we can tell more of my story, and the_child‘s through this process.
I live every day in spectacle here in the decline of my life. Let us make of it a grand spectacle. If you so desire, you can help Donnie out here.
Posted: 7:38 am Fri June 28 2013 | Comments(13) |
[movies] Star Trek Into Darkness
Yesterday, Lisa Costello and I went to see Star Trek Into Darkness [ imdb ].
How you can make such a terribly bad movie with Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and Benedict Cumberbatch is beyond me. It wasn’t just bad. It was gratuitously bad. Stupidly bad. Intellectually offensively bad. Sort of like that recent movie that someone who stole Ridley Scott’s name claimed to have made. $190,000,000 spent on this dog and they couldn’t get a scriptwriter with minimal competence at science, science fiction, plot, suspense or dialog? I could have written a better script. Drunk.
Lisa’s first flying snowman came six or seven minutes in. I think I lasted ten minutes before my first flying snowman. After a while, I lost count. I eventually wanted to retitle the movie Star Trek: Lens Flares vs Flying Snowmen. If nothing else, that would have been truth in advertising.
I’ll admit this much: it was kind of fun. Stupid, boring, annoying fun, but kind of fun. Seriously, though. Wait for the DVD release. Or Netflix. Or a junior college interpretive dance performance of the script. At a minimum, watch it at home with the sound turned off while listening to old Cheech and Chong routines.
And this movie was made by the man who will make the next Star Wars films? Based on what J.J. Abrams did to Star Trek Into Darkness, I predict an all-Jar Jar cast in a Busby Berkeley style musical about political infighting in the Imperial Senate.
Posted: 5:09 am Sat June 01 2013 | Comments(34) |
[movies] Iron Man 3 and Oblivion (spoiler free)
Yesterday was a tough day for Being Productive, what with the cancer stress and all, so Lisa Costello and I bailed out for the movies. First we saw Oblivion [ imdb ], then we went and picked up the_child, to hit Iron Man 3 [ imdb ].
I actually kind of liked Oblivion, but it definitely felt very derivative. (Lisa actively disliked it.) And though the worldbuilding eye candy was beyond gorgeous, much of it was also sufficiently illogical to distract me from the movie. In the end, I suppose this movie is rather like The Fifth Element [ imdb ]: best enjoyed with the sound turned off.
Iron Man 3 was precisely what it said on the tin: the third Iron Man movie. Robert Downey, Jr. played his part, things went boom and ka-blam, and so forth. There were some reasonably interesting plot twists, and a fair nod to continuity within the Marvel Avengers film cycle. Certainly a lot of fun.
So, yeah, good summer movies. Of course, it’s not quite summer yet…
Posted: 5:27 am Wed May 08 2013 | Comments(10) |
[movies] Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Yesterday afternoon, the_child and I went with a friend to see Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters [ imdb ]. This was mostly at the blog recommendation of the magnificent Howard Tayler. We were highly entertained by a movie so very bad that it transcended its own misbegotten tropes and acquired a weird magnificence. If Walt Disney and and Russ Meyer had been conjoined twins, and Quentin Tarantino their go-to director, this is the kind of fairy tale fare we would have seen from Big Mouse.
I’m not going to talk about Hansel & Gretel‘s contributions to the American cinematic oeuvre. The plot was linear but not quite running on rails, the cinematography was Matrix: Faux Medieval minus the Wachowski’s incredible sense of design, the acting was competent (which was probably better than the script deserved), and Jeremy Renner was Jeremy Renner. But it was fun, in a sort of bloody-handed way.
It’s perfectly possible to complain about the movie’s gender politics and apparent position on female empowerment. There’s more than a whiff of racial issues with respect to the troll character, though there’s also a surprising redemption. The politics of the movie’s rendition of Medieval Augsburg are sort of High Noon crossed with low cunning. And historicity got tossed in the same rubbish bin as continuity when they made this leather-clad, red-stained monster of a film.
On the plus side, the opening credits were worth the price of admission. The music was quite good. The running gags, including Renner’s riffs on John McClane in stylish ahistorical drag, were funny to the point of inspired. The witch costuming and makeup, especially in the final scenes, were straight out of Hieronymus Bosch.
Did I mention it was fun? Sort of the way Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was fun, but without that movie’s nuanced treatment of historical issues and complex characters. Don’t go unless you’re prepared for blood on the walls and gingerbread house induced diabetes (really), but, man… We liked it.
Howard, I think you owe me one. Or maybe the other way around.
Posted: 6:49 am Sun February 17 2013 | Comments(9) |
[movies] Django Unchained (mild spoilers)
Yesterday, Jersey Girl in Portland and I went to see Django Unchained [ imdb ]. Roger Ebert and Ta-Nehisi Coates have already covered the angles on this movie much better than I could, so I commend you to their comments if you’re considering the film, or even just wondering about it. Meanwhile, I’ll add my two cents.
This is classic Tarentino. Everything from the typography of the opening credits to the score reflects film history: spaghetti westerns, blaxploitation films, revenge flicks. As critic John Shales once said of True Lies [ imdb ], this movie is so far over the top it makes all previous attempts at wretched excess seem like timid understatement. The viewer is signaled from the very beginning to simultaneously not take it too seriously, and yet to go deep with the film as it ventures into difficult and dangerous territory.
It’s very hard to have an honest conversation about slavery in our culture. The defensive pride of Southern white culture (my birth culture, and that of my ancestors these past seven generations and more) colors our national consciousness deeply. Racism, both historical and present day, stains that national consciousness even more deeply. I don’t believe I’d call Django Unchained an honest conversation, either, but it at least leverages an approach that isn’t typical.
The movie relies heavily in stereotyping. This is explicitly acknowledged even within the film’s narrative structure, and given the nature of the storytelling, I’m okay with it. Likewise, the geography is confused, to put it mildly, but the location shots were obviously chosen to emphasize the nature of individual scenes, not to document the landscape of Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi. A touch I liked was that the towns and people of the era were portrayed in realistic, muddy misery the likes of which I have not personally seen on film since Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man [ imdb ].
As for the characters, one rapidly falls in love, or at least in fascination, with both Christoph Walz’ socipathically murderous Dr. King Schultz and Jamie Foxx’ one-in-ten-thousand Django. Their “buddy” story arc is also stereotypical of film, but very well done. To that end, the deep cleverness of Schultz plays well against Django’s relentless determination and nearly superhuman competence. Though the movie glaringly telegraphs us to focus on Django, I’m not sure this isn’t really Schultz’ story. He is more changed by events than Django. Django, after all, plays out his destiny, admittedly against tremendous odds. Still, he is becoming who he was apparently born to be. It is Schultz who materially changes the course of his life, and ultimately pays a larger price for his choices than Django does.
The other characters are so steeped in the era’s unselfconscious immorality of slavery that they are chilling for that quality. We are supposed to be revulsed by and despise Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie, for example, and we are; but I ultimately found Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Stephen, the lead house n****r (pardon the censorship, but that is the term the film uses, and it will cause this blog problems with search engines and filters if I spell it out), the most frightening character. His evil is perhaps the most relentless and appalling of them all.
I recommend this film highly, assuming you can tolerate Tarantino’s signature penchant for exaggerated, bloody violence. The movie is at times funny, loving and moving, but it is overall impressive as heck.
Posted: 6:23 am Mon January 14 2013 | Comments(4) |
[movies|cancer] Lakeside Kickstarter
The Lakeside documentary [ imdb ] Kickstarter fund raiser has begun. Waterloo Productions has been deeply involved in my story for almost the past year, and the various reversals of fortune which have afflicted me have correspondingly driven their production costs up well past the original budget.
The film is the story of my life with cancer, and quite possibly my death. We’re working within the experience of my daily life, including things I don’t talk about much or at all here on the blog — the reactions of my family members (their privacy, after all, is not mine to breach here); my responses to those reactions; some of my own end-of-life thinking and the planning that has begun for that series of terminal events. It’s a bigger story than even this blog can tell.
As things do in life, everything happens at once. I believe another, separate medical fundraiser is launching shortly to help me pay for a rather expensive genetic test which will be completely out of pocket, as well as possibly meet additional medical expenses. This is a strange, strange time in my life, as I am not accustomed to asking for help this way. People and institutions have been very generous to me already these past few years. All of you who read and listen and hold the image of my struggles are generous with your time and your hearts.
Anyway, go check out what Donnie is doing over there. Whether you can give hope or money, it will help.
I will never get to heaven, but this film will be part of both my life and my afterlife.
Posted: 6:42 am Wed January 09 2013 | Comments(14) |
[movies] The Hobbit (with spoilers under cut)
So I went and saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [ imbd&ndsp;] yesterday. Lisa Costello and the_child took me over to Clackamas Town Center (the cinema at the mall where the recent shootings took place), where the usual suspects met up with us. I took off my sunshield face mask to walk into mall, figuring on not causing any more problems than needful. My face did not burst into flame from 3 minutes of UV exposure.
We saw the film in its traditional 2D presentation. It’s my hope to go back this coming week and see it in 48fps 3D, but that’s a junior film geek thing more than an “Ermahgerd, must see again nao lolz!” My basic expectation for the film was absolutely fulfilled: two and half hours of Jacksonverse Lord of the Rings fan service was what I was expecting, and it’s actually what I got.
The Hobbit is the world’s most expensive piece of fan fic ever.
As such, I loved it.
As a film, not so much. My critical brain never turned off, which is a bit of a pity. Given the lack of density of the source material (and I mean this specifically in contrast to Lord of the Rings I suspect the full Hobbitfilm trilogy would have been a pretty tight single 130 or 140 minute film. As it stands now, the amount of padding and divers alarums and excursions required to take a third of a small book and make it into a epic length trilogy really shows at the seas.
I wound up in the odd position of simultaneously loving the film and spending the last hour and change wondering when the hell it would be over. That would be my reader/fan brain in a pissing match with my writer/critic brain.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s gorgeous. The Hobbit absolutely lives up to the beauty and vastness and haunting glory of Lord of the Rings. Martin Freeman was born to play Bilbo. Gandalf is Gandalfy as ever. Jackson has even restored some measure of dignity to the dwarves, which was shameless stripped from Gimli in the first film series in the name of (apparently) comic relief. If you’re any kind of a fan of the Jacksonverse version of Tolkein’s work you will love this film. If you’re not, it will probably bore you.
Some incomplete spoiler notes:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: 9:33 am Sun December 23 2012 | Comments(15) |
[movies] More deconstruction, of the superhero variety
After last weekend’s deconstruction of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) [ imdb ] as an ur-James Bond move [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], we watched The Incredibles (2004) [ imdb ] during the week. A friend once described that as “the best 1970s James Bond movie never made”. It also has some deconstructionist tendencies.
So, more with the deconstruction yesterday. Marta Murvosh, Lisa Costello and I watched a double feature of the director’s extended cut of Watchmen (2009) [ imdb ], followed by Mystery Men (1999) [ imdb ]. Those movies are oddly well matched. First, cynical superheroes in a dying world (with some odd echoes of Incredibles, intended or not). Then, earnest not-quite-superheroes in a world sort of like Bladerunner filtered through Pleasantville. Plus, Herkimer Battle Jitney! And Geoffrey Rush! And bonus Tom Waites! In both cases, the superhero dialect is turned on its ear in different directions. If we’d had time, we could have watched Kick-Ass (2010) [ imdb ] for the trifecta.
I like to be entertained. I like to think. (Even through the chemo fog.) Watchmen and Mystery Men were a great way to do both those things and have a hell of a good time. Gently (and not-so-gently) mocking love letters to the superhero genre.
As The Shoveler says: “We’ve got a blind date with destiny… and it looks like she’s ordered the lobster.”
Posted: 7:27 am Sun November 11 2012 | Comments(4) |
[cancer] James Bond and ow frick
As discussed, yesterday I did not go to the movies. This turned out to be wise, as my GI had a few nasty things to say around that morning. That actually started while Lisa Costello and I were out at early lunch with Jersey Girl in Portland and her visiting family. So I stayed home with Lisa and Jersey Girl and laid low. Mostly we watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang [ imdb ], which I am old enough to have on VHS. Weirdest. James Bond. Movie. EVAR. Though it does include Dick van Dyke uttering the immortal line, “You’ll find a slight squeeze on the hooter an excellent safety precaution, Miss Scrumptious.”
(If you’re unfamiliar with the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang/James Bond connection, consider this: The original book was written by Ian Fleming. The screenplay was written by Fleming and Roald Dahl, along with two others. Albert Broccoli produced. Desmond Llewelyn has a minor role, who also played Q. The story features a magical car, an improbably named female love interest, a shadowy Eastern European dictatorship, and some weird sex. Yes, in a Disney movie. With Dick van Dyke as James Bond. Not to mention Benny Hill as a manic depressive toymaker and Phil Collins making an uncredited appearance as a child actor. Watch the movie with all this in mind and prepare to be amazed. It’s like all the James Bond plot cards turned 15 degrees out of true.)
Yesterday afternoon, the Neulasta pain came on. In a weird place — my upper arms and upper back. (This is not consistent with my own historical experience of this drug’s side effects.) I felt if I coughed or choked. This morning it is also in my lower back. What causes this is bone marrow growth blooms placing pressure on the bone from the inside. It expresses as a sharp, intense pain that can approach crippling, though in truth this is more annoying that crippling.
Ah, cancer and its discontents. I’ll always have Dick van Dyke. Sometime soon, we’re going to watch Mary Poppins [ imdb ] with a similar revisionist eye. That movie also rewards such scrutiny.
Posted: 6:45 am Mon November 05 2012 | Comments(7) |
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