Friday, October 18, 2013

All Is Lost

All Is Lost is a well done and interesting film, but a bit too long. Robert Redford delivers an outstanding performance in a picture with a negligible amount of dialog.  I found myself, however, wanting to check the time and comparing it a bit to Cast Away and a lot to Life of Pi . Which story did I prefer? Life of Pi .

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wagner & Me

I love Wagner's operas, and yet I know that he was anti-Semitic and that Hitler was a great fan.  It isn't always easy to separate the man from his genius, but , a Jew who lost family members in the Holocaust, succeeds in doing just that in Wagner & Me.  He examines the man in personal and historical contexts and visits theaters, including Wagner's specially designed theater, where the music was, and is, played.  Ultimately, Fry comes to terms with his love of Wagner's masterpieces and is able to step, like a giddy child, into the theater to enjoy the annual Bayreuth Festival.  I really liked his analogy, comparing Wagner's music to a stained tapestry.  It is still beautiful, but the stain remains.

Midnight's Children

I haven't read 's Midnight's Children, but after seeing the film, that is going to happen soon.  The story follows the lives of two babies who were born at midnight, August 15, 1947, the day of India's independence from Great Britain.  Shiva, born to a well-to-do family, and Saleem, born to a beggar's wife, but actually the son of a departing Brit, are switched in the nursery, after the death of the beggar's wife.  Narrated by as Saleem, the story follows the boys through childhood into adulthood intertwined with the backdrop of the history of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. 

I saw the film for two reasons.  First, I was impressed with director 's film, Water, and wanted to see what she did with this story.  It didn't disappoint.  Second, the write-up categorized it as science fiction.  That aspect comes out when Saleem discovers that he can communicate with others of the 1,000 children who were born at or near the same midnight, each with some kind of power.  One of them, Parvati, is a magician, with whom Saleem falls in love.  As adults, the children are persecuted and sterilized.  In a way, I was reminded a bit of John Wyndham's book, The Chrysalids (aka Rebirth), which was the inspiration for the Jefferson Airplane's Crown of Creation, but with a different outcome.  I digress.  

I really enjoyed the movie.  It examined issues of religion, politics, society, family, human nature, love, hate, fear of "the other", and so on.  The book is over 500 pages, and I'm sure a lot must have been left out, particularly about the bond between the boys and the history of the 3 countries.  I'm looking forward to reading it.

As a post script, it was, as always, a treat to see  Anupam Kher in an all too short cameo role.

Go Goa Gone

Go Goa Gone is a Bollywood zombie comedy, with several laugh out loud moments.  In a nutshell, three friends end up going to an island near Goa for a rave party sponsored by the Russian mafia.  One of the drugs passed around ended up turning people into zombies, and the friends, along with a few other survivors, try to find a way off the island, while avoiding being eaten by the zombies.  was a riot as Boris, an arsenal-toting member of the Russian mafia, a bit reminiscent of  's character in Zombieland.  Rather than being a Bollywood remake, it was an original story that payed homage to other films.  A familiar line that stood out was Boris quoting, "I'll be back."

Aside from its comedy genre, what impressed me about the film was that, before it began, introduced the film with a brief warning about smoking, drinking, and drug use.  He emphasized it by relating his history as a smoker and the heart attack he had at 36.  Bollywood films always include a warning about smoking if it is going to appear on screen, but this one was actually powerful.  And the movie itself was a hilarious warning about the risks of drug abuse.

Star Trek Into Darkness

But for one detail, I loved Star Trek Into Darkness.  It was a new twist on an old story - familiar characters, role reversals, plot twists. I'm still getting used to the alternate reality, but it worked well. The excellent and already familiar crew of the Enterprise is back, and it was a treat to see in the film.  The one thing I didn't like was 's role.  I can't say why because it would give a major surprise away.  Suffice to say, he was excellent, but ultimately wrong for the character.  I wish they had just created a new one for him to play and it would have been perfect.  As it is, there are two actors who would have much better, each for a different reason.  DO NOT look at the Internet Movie Database links if you don't want spoilers. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2012 Movie Visits

For the curious, here are my annual statistics for 2012:

126 visits to the movies (I don't count repeats)
72 current "regular" films (8 of them animated)
54 "other" films
    13 Bollywood films
    11 collections of short films (7 of them animated)
    5 documentaries
    17 classic films
    8 concerts/operas/stage productions

And which were my top 10?

  1. Les Misérables
  2. Life of Pi
  3. The Avengers
  4. Brave
  5. Caesar Must Die
  6. Robot & Frank
  7. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  8. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  9. Moonrise Kingdom
10. OMG: Oh My God!

Most fun - The Avengers
Favorite documentary - Caesar Must Die
Favorite Bollywood film - OMG: Oh My God!
Favorite animated film - Brave
Honorable mention - Lincoln (a great film and award-worthy)
Worst movie ever - Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Last Mountain

I was incredibly angry after seeing The Last Mountain. I found myself disgusted by the greed displayed by the coal industry and the politicians (regardless of affiliation) that they buy and that is poisoning air and water and sickening innocent children. A pox upon the executives and their henchmen who bribe ("lobby") and the officials who are bought.

The Princess and the Frog

The Princess and the Frog had a good message about the difference between what we want and what we need. The voodoo aspects were a little too intense for a G rating. It didn't scare my granddaughters, but I had to answer a lot of questions. The 3-year-old also kept asking where the princess (the focus of Disney’s hypermarketing) was, and both got confused by the flashbacks and dream sequences. Louis the alligator was the most interesting and well done character, but it seemed like he was pulled from the cast of Fantasia and plopped into this movie. Prince Naveen seemed to be played by Pepe Le Pew in a frog suit. All in all, I think the movie is poorly rated and will disappoint the little girls expecting more emphasis on princessness.

The Goat Rodeo Sessions

I saw The Goat Rodeo Sessions last year, live on the silver screen. I wasn't actually disappointed because I didn't know what to expect. Most of the music was not very melodic (progressive bluegrass??) and wasn't my cup of tea, but it did give me an opportunity to go away (shut my eyes and see where the music takes me) without guilt. I thoroughly enjoyed the encore when they played Bach on bass, cello, and mandolin; played some good fiddle music; and ended with "All Through the Night" (I got a little misty during that). I was also proud of myself for recognizing Chris Thile, who was the lead singer for Nickel Creek.

Love Never Dies

Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, was an Australian production, revised from the failed London version. The good news: the sets were incredible and beautiful; there was a touch of heavy metal; Anna O'Byrne, as Christine, had a beautiful voice; and I got to blubber at the end. The bad news: it was decent, but not even close to The Phantom. When I saw it at the local Cinemark, I overheard someone in the lobby compare it to seeing Return of the Jedi after The Empire Strikes Back; it can only be a letdown. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who Ben Lewis (the Phantom) reminded me of - it was Vampire Bill. All in all, I enjoyed it and got to cry.