Are You Planning To Step On Us?

May 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

What is it about watching a team come together that is so satisfying? It’s been done again and again in heist movies, secret agent movies, sports movies, Pokémon movies, and it never gets old. (Well, maybe the last one does.) The Avengers is Marvel Studios’ latest production of visual overstimulation, and I think Joss Whedon does a good job of giving the characters a balanced amount of screen time while keeping the film from toppling under the weight of superhero clichés.

As you should already know, Thor‘s jilted adopted brother Loki is leading an evil alien army to conquer Earth. The aliens, of course, are ugly creatures only one step above Power Rangers villains, and we get very little hint of their motive except that Earth is probably a more pleasant place to live than the dank, light-less planet from which they appear to come. I’m not saying that I wanted a half hour of heartfelt alien backstory, and fighting aliens is at least better than casting the Russians, Persians or Chinese as the enemy, but it almost seemed like another installment of the Transformers series.

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And What Kind Of Freedom Is That?

February 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

For Valentine’s Day, a couple of friends and I decided to go watch The Lady, a movie based on the life of Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Burmese democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, starring Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis (AKA Professor Lupin). It wasn’t my first choice, honestly; while I didn’t doubt that it would be good, I figured a low-key film like that could be equally enjoyed on my laptop without paying for the $11US ticket. In the end, it turned out to be a highly appropriate choice for the holiday. If it were still out in US theaters, I would urge you to skip The Vow or Beauty and the Beast 3D or (heaven forbid) This Means War — if you want a story about the depths of true love, watch The Lady instead.

Some of you might not know who she is. I admit that despite having watched the documentary Burma VJ last year in my capstone class and having read about the country once in an Amy Tan novel, I still get Burma mixed up with Tibet sometimes. I mean, these small, oppressed Asian countries — who can keep track of them, right? Wrong. Irresponsible, even. Some of you [and by you I mean me] might only know her as the woman who was kept under house arrest for years, which sounds like the most boring way to lead a revolution if you ask me. (/sarcasm)

Some of you might even know that Burma is also sometimes referred to as Myanmar, and its naming appears to be quite confused though I like to think of the latter as its slave name. Anyway, my point is that most people in America (I can only speak for us, but the range is probably more like everywhere) know nothing about the country or its present-day politics, so do yourself a favor and get educated. It’s as easy as watching a movie (or two: Burma VJ could be considered a solid chronological epilogue to The Lady and the whole thing is on Youtube!!).

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Is It Stealing If It’s Already Stolen?

October 30, 2011 § 7 Comments

You literally only have those 2 options.

Yes. The answer in most cases is yes. Yet, Amanda Seyfried‘s character felt convicted enough about that question to have the gall to ask it at two different points during the movie. Unless you’re a superhero with a catchphrase, that’s not acceptable. Then again, she and Justin Timberlake‘s character pretty much thought of themselves as Robin-Hood-esque vigilantes, so I don’t doubt that she would’ve uttered that line more than twice if given the chance.

In the movie In Time, we’re dropped in the middle of this post-industrialized society where people have one year to live after turning 25, and they use their time as currency, dropping dead when the clock on their arm reaches zero. Apparently this is an attempt to fight overpopulation, though I guess I missed that part of the exposition. There are so many questions I had about this society: How could the beauty/anti-aging and pharmaceutical companies let this happen?? Who runs the government, and how the hell did they implement this universal biological clock? Have hospitals become obsolete because people [ostensibly] tend to die of being robbed of time as opposed to ailments from which they can be resuscitated? Did minorities get eradicated early on in this anti-population process? We’re thrown in with little context, but with movies like this, we’re just supposed to accept what we’re told to be reality. Just like when you’re playing Pokémon, it’s better not to ask questions.

For full disclosure, the reason I wanted to watch this movie because one of my favorite actors, Matt Bomer, is in it. Yes, he dies rather early on in the film [it’s not a spoiler if it happened in the trailer!], but seeing him on the big screen was like a dream come true. I almost fainted with glee. His character philosophizes about life and death before “timing himself out ” [ie. suicide], which opens Timberlake’s eyes to the injustice around him.

In fact, there’s quite a bit of philosophizing in this movie. It comes out at an opportune time because the similarities to the Occupy Wall Street movement are easy to draw. The In Time society is separated into “time zones,” and only those rich with time are allowed out of the ghetto and into New Greenwich, which is one of those words [like Newfoundland] that should just be pronounced the way it’s spelled. Naturally, all the poor people in the ghetto rob each other and are themselves robbed by the powerful few, who control the markets and get to live forever. [They are the 1%!!!] It’s not hard to see the undertaking of a political message, but the film takes itself so seriously that the audience occasionally laughed when we weren’t supposed to. Oops.

Also, immortality seems like a throwback to villains of my childhood. Maybe it’s because I don’t watch cartoons anymore, but does anybody really want to live forever anymore?

[SPOILER]

At some point during In Time, the movie jumps on the crazy train and derails itself. For example, Timberlake and Seyfried concoct the brilliant plan to rob a bank that magically leaves its vault open and uses no guards. They do this successfully multiple times. In fact, the only times they get caught are when they’re in the street and not brazenly stealing from a vault. They make a sexy Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque couple, but there’s very little substance to their relationship, so it ends up being cringe-inducing. [I wanted to die during the strip poker scene.]

And who else expected “fighting” to mean “intense arm-wrestling”??

[END SPOILER]

Some brief character comments:

Justin Timberlake: Is he just a good citizen for the hell of it? Why does he feel obligated to rescue Henry Hamilton? Why don’t we get to learn more about his father? The character development is lacking.
Best quote: “No one should be immortal if even one person has to die.”

Watching. Waiting. Watching.

Amanda Seyfried:  She spends most of the movie in 5 inch heels, an impressive feat considering the sheer amount of sprinting she has to do. Kudos! Her character is introduced to us as a super creeper who just stares at Timberlake wordlessly from a distance for quite some time. It reminded me of Olivia Wilde‘s character from Tron. She’s reckless without much reason, and the way she falls for Timberlake after being held for ransom by him is nothing short of desperate.
Worst quote: “You talk like someone who comes from the ghetto. Sometimes I envy them.” Spoken like a truly out-of-touch 1%!

Cillian Murphy: His wardrobe, according to LC, comes straight out of The Matrix. I have to agree. I guess it’s always a challenge to dress these futuristic societies, eh? Somehow, I don’t expect knee-length leather jackets to come back in style at any point in the future, but I guess I could be wrong.

Vincent Kartheiser: As Amanda Seyfried’s father, he served his role as the insecure time tycoon very well. Maybe it’s because the villains get better material to work with, but his acting was the best, in my opinion.

Alex Pettyfer: I can’t believe he’s actually younger than me. Are minutemen like gangsters? Where do they get so much power? Do they work for the rich?

In the end, I’m glad that we don’t have to live like this — literally living day to day, with death looming as palpably as the green neon numbers on our arms. Writer/director Andrew Niccol is behind classics such as the Truman Show and Gattaca, but In Time isn’t his strongest work. He highlights a very real problem, but his solution is a bit too extreme and simplistic.

A Miyazaki-Ghibli Sampler

October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve taken it upon myself to watch all of Hayao Miyazaki‘s feature films [and by extension, all Studio Ghibli films]. The first one I ever watched was Spirited Away (2001), in high school [or was it middle school], which introduced me to the magical world of Miyazaki’s animation. Some people began with My Neighbor Totoro, but I was a latecomer.

I had watched anime before, but it had never felt so…deep. [Arguably I had only watched questionable anime series that I don’t even remember anymore.] Next was Princess Mononoke (1997), which I barely remember but for the wolf and the forest and the lake. Then, when Howl’s Moving Castle was released in 2004, I watched that one online too. Miyazaki didn’t create another feature film until I was in college, so in 2008, I was delighted to watch Ponyo. It didn’t seem as well-received among my friends, who deemed it weird and childish, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. After that, I waited until this summer to watch The Secret World of Arrietty (2010), which was beautiful to watch even though the storyline didn’t really go anywhere.

Now, I’m going through the archives, digging for films that were released before I was even born. I’m normally apathetic about watching old movies [there’s barely enough time to watch all the new ones!], but I love animated films, and these are undoubtedly some of the world’s best. Besides, all the movies currently in theaters are mind-numbingly unappealing, so the choice was pretty easy. It doesn’t hurt that Miyazaki’s bio mentions a few times that he explores feminist themes by casting female characters as leads in his films. Could he be any more perfect and wonderful? Apart from that, some of Miyazaki’s expressed viewpoints remind me of Shel Silverstein, who also produced pieces for children in a deliberately non-condescending and non-patronizing way.

First on my list was Laputa: Castle In The Sky (1986). It came up in a Gchat conversation with VY, and I was all “what is this laputa, sounds like a spanish curse word” [those were my exact words], so I looked it up and decided to watch it. It’s weird to watch old-school animation that isn’t all slick like modern anime, but the hand-drawn style is one of Miyazaki’s many distinct charms, from the way food looks so freaking plump and delicious to the way a character’s facial expression and hair rises when he or she is alarmed.

FEED ME!!!!!!!

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