Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dante's Inferno

I saw Dante's Inferno at the Philadelphia Film Festival when it first came out in 2007 and recently picked it up on DVD.  In spite of being a bit too raunchy for my taste, it was a delight!  The Fox News helicopter, ie the "great monster of fraud", is in the 8th circle of Hell. Strom Thurmond is eternally trapped in a Mrs. Butterworth costume. Halliburton has its own building. Dick Cheyney is so evil that he is in the frozen pit of wickedness, even though he is still alive. And all the characters were cutout puppets. I forgot how good this is!

Men in Black 3

A short comment about Men in Black 3 - it was all I expected, and more; and Josh Brolin was perfect. I was glad I had an extra napkin - I needed it to dry my tears. The best moment was the worms singing "Amazing Grace", while playing a bagpipe. That scene better show up on YouTube!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

I'm not a big Batman fan and wasn't expecting much from The Dark Knight Rises. Surprisingly, the only thing I didn't like about it was the violence. Unlike the cartoon violence in The Avengers, it was much too brutal, with some distressingly similar to the recent killings in Aurora, CO.  I also found it difficult from time to time to understand what the villain, Bane, was saying.

Aside from these drawbacks, and before re-watching the first two films, I thought that this was the best of the trilogy. There were some interesting surprises, particularly when I was sure I had a couple of plot lines figured out. Christian Bale was OK (I can take or leave him); Gary Oldman was good; Morgan Freeman was his always calm and reassuring self; Anne Hathaway showed her versatility; and Michael Caine delivered a moving performance (my first bought of tears in the movie). The real treat was to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a strong role. I've enjoyed watching him grow as an actor over the past few years.

By the end of the film, I found myself sobbing, a sure sign that I liked it.


Rubber was suggested by a friend of mine, so I couldn't resist streaming it on Amazon. It is difficult to describe. The short version is that it is a movie about a movie about a homicidal tire. Unbelievably, the tire played its part quite believably. There was interaction between the human characters and the movie within a movie's audience. It is a really bizarre film, but strangely enjoyable - especially if you are a Monty Python or Muppet Show fan and laugh at exploding insects and other creatures.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Vicky Donor

I never got a chance to see Vicky Donor in the theater, but got to enjoy it on Bollywood Hits on Demand.  On the surface, it was a comedy about a ne'er do well, Vicky Arora, who is recruited to be a sperm donor.  Complications arise because he is embarrassed about his successful "job" and doesn't tell anyone what he does to make a living.  Above and beyond, the film touched on some serious issues like prejudice and the importance of sperm donation.  And it worked as both a comedy and an issue film.

There was the added bonus of getting to see John Abraham dancing in an item number.  What I like about John Abraham, who produced this movie, is that though he has been in several big hits, he also does smaller films like Water, Kabul Express, No Smoking, and the should have been widely released New York, that tackle important issues.  He's only in the item number, but the movie certainly has his mark on it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild just for the air conditioning and was rewarded with a powerful and moving experience. Based primarily in "the bathtub", an isolated bayou community, the film chronicles a time period before and after a catastrophic storm, presumably Katrina. Above and beyond that, it addresses such themes as daily existence, alcoholism, the power of cultural ties, and the fabric of the universe, all through the eyes of Hushpuppy, a motherless little girl with a hard drinking father. Quvenzhané Wallis'performance as the proud and defiant Hushpuppy is outstanding.

The Avengers

As promised, here's an oldie, from a May 4th midnight show.  

The Avengers was wonderful!  Since I'm not an avid comic book reader (my love of the characters goes back to the old 1960s TV series, The Marvel Superheroes), I missed some of the "in" things that brought cheers and knowing chuckles from the audience; but it didn't matter.  And what a great audience - this is why I go to midnight shows. Even before the movie started, there was a resounding "Shh!" so that everyone could hear all the previews.  There was action, drama, comedy - all you could ask from a Marvel film.  Once in a while, the laughter would muffle a line; so I guess I'll just have to see it again, perhaps several times.  All the characters were perfect; and there were a few action surprises, especially involving the Hulk, that we're pulled off seamlessly.  As a bonus, the half of the audience who stayed through the credits was treated to probably the best post-credits scene ever.  Since the sneak peek of the next movie came early, it was obviously a gift for the folks who stayed. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


No, not the 1988 Tom Cruise film, even though some of the movie apps and ticket vendors would have you believe it is. Cocktail is a 2012 Bollywood film starring Saif Ali Khan as a playboy living with two women: his girlfriend, Deepika Padukone, and her roommate, Diana Penty, who he ends up falling in love with.  A lot of it takes place in the dance club scene, and the music and lifestyle weren't my cup of tea.  There was one hysterical scene with Saif Ali Khan dancing around dressed in, shall we say, female attire.  My overall view is that it wasn't a great film, but it passed the time. 

Lucia di Lammermoor

A summer encore of the February 7, 2009 offering in the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD series, Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't familiar with any of the music, since I've only seen a handful of operas, mostly Wagner; but I did recognize Sextet from one or more comedies and/or cartoons. The tragic story was packed with star crossed lovers, ghosts, madness, and murder; and the show was over before I knew it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ice Age: Continental Drift

I chuckled a couple of times, shed no tears, and was not at all impressed with Ice Age: Continental Drift. In this 4th outing, the story has drifted off course and lost its innocence. Sure, the lessons are still there - the importance of the herd (or family, whatever it's makeup), what it means to be a friend, the stresses and changes of coming of age, and respect for elders. But there was something mean-spirited about it. What has changed is the adversary, this time Captain Gutt, an evil primate and leader of a motley band of pirates, voiced by Peter Dinklage. Dinklage does an excellent job with the part, maybe too good, as the heartless and menacing villain. In the previous films, it seems to me that the bad guys we're predators, doing what predators do. In this case, Captain Gutt was just evil and all too human; and this cast a cloud over the whole film. There were also issues of teen angst that might have been OK if not under that cloud, but in this case they just added to the darker atmosphere.

Two bright spots did succeed in peeking through all the gloom. The ever optimistic Sid was as clueless, optimistic, and lovable as ever. Skrat, ever in pursuit of his goal, was welcome relief each time he dropped into the picture; and his big scene near the end must surely be an homage to my hero, Daffy Duck.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Singin' in the Rain

One of the great movies of all time, Singin' in the Rain made a 60th anniversary appearance on the silver screen - in all its timeless glory. The audience of young, old, and in-between applauded every musical number, with Donald O'Conner's "Make 'Em Laugh" the clear favorite.  And there was the iconic scene with Gene Kelley "just singin' and dancin' in the rain".

This film is a glowing example of "They don't make 'em like that anymore". As people were leaving the theater, I overheard a little girl of about 4 or 5 say, "That was really good, Mommy!" That says it all. Singin' in the Rain is a G-rated film that can still play to a packed house of all ages and be enjoyed by one and all.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

I really liked Snow White and the Huntsman, an interesting take on the story; but I can't help but find Kristen Stewart irritating. It's something about the short little breaths she takes. At least it was minimal, compared to the Twilight films. Charlize Theron radiated evil as the queen; and Sam Spruell as her brother was exceedingly creepy. The dwarves were so believable that even though I recognized Bob Hoskins, I wasn't positive it was actually him.  Chris Hemsworth, who I first saw in Thor, sealed himself as my new heart throb. The CGI effects were stunning (the faeries were adorable), and there were a couple of scenes that made me think of Ray Harryhausen. I wondered what movies would be like if he were still making them today. 

To Rome With Love

I'm not normally a Woody Allen fan, but To Rome With Love had me laughing for nearly 2 hours. The four separate stories are meshed together, throwing any thought of a timeline to the wind. The situations the characters were thrown into were outlandish, yet there was always something you could identify with. The casting and performances were perfect. Penélope Cruz was a hoot as a hooker who shows up at the wrong place. The highlight of the film was Fabio Armiliato as a mortician who sings in the shower and whose scenes generated spasms of hysterical laughter from the audience.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Bol Bachchan

Bol Bachchan was a rollicking good time!  The acting, the music, the dancing, the cinematography - all way over the top.  It was an outrageous screwball comedy, perfect for a hot Friday evening.  Ajay Devgn as Prithviraj Raghuvanshi, butchering the English language, and Abhishek Bachchan as Abbas Ali, pretending to be Abhishek Bachchan (not THE Abihishek Bachchan), were a riot.   

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed was excellent - a cast of quirky characters in a study of relationships, regret, trust, faith, and more - all with a touch of madness.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Madagascar 3 was fun - not great, but fun. My favorite part was King Julian being smitten by a huge circus bear who rides a tiny bicycle.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this film, but it was a pleasant surprise.  I even found myself blubbering at the end. 

In the context of the end of all things, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World takes a look at our humanity. What would you do with your life if you knew the end was really approaching? Would you become a complete hedonist? Let your animal instincts take over? Or would you embrace the relationships, old and new, that have grown and faded throughout your life?   It's those human relationships that are addressed in this wonderful film.   

It isn't getting the critical acclaim that last year's awful Melancholia miraculously received.  The only good part of that movie was the destruction of the earth that ended the pain of watching it.  I found Seeking a Friend for the End of the World to be far superior. By the end, what started out as a serio-comic observation imperceptibly transformed into a powerful character study of people (Steve Carrell as the bewilderd Dodge and Keira Knightly as the free-spirited Penny) I cared about. It made no attempt to consider what happens after the world ends and leaves that up to the viewer. 

I saw the film just to avoid the 90+ degree heat outside and found myself grateful for the opportunity to see a good end of the world story. It was even worth paying Loews' outrageous senior citizen rate.