Thursday, January 29, 2015

Aliens - A Childhood Favorite

Movie: Alien Trilogy
My Rating: 5 stars

I really have a soft spot in my heart for these movies.  I’ve loved them ever since I was a little kid.  Now, I don’t know how appropriate this was, but when we were little kids, my brother and I had a baby sitter introduce us to these fine films.  Yes, it was a teenage boy babysitter (guy babysitters were always the most fun).  And, fortunately for him, we loved the movies.  We enjoyed them so much that we watched them over and over again, any time we had a little free time.  I remember that I was a little nervous before watching the first one the first time, because the picture on the VHS box was really scary.  But, after actually seeing the movies, all that fear melted away.  So, maybe there’s a case to be made for pressuring crybaby kids into doing things that may frighten them.  Because, even though I was initially pretty reticent, the experience ultimately made me a much braver kid.  I at least learned that it was my imagination that was scaring me the most.  And, I discovered some really exciting sci-fi!
I think it was definitely these movies that sparked my interest in stories about bad-ass ladies, running around with heavy artillery, gunning down monsters.  Some of these franchises are better than others, but this series has always been my favorite.  It could be that I’m just nostalgic, but I genuinely think these are great movies.  For me, these films are all about Sigourney Weaver.  Now, that’s a lady who really knows her way around a loading dock!  She’s so tough and confident and independent.  But, I guess being a killing machine is ultimately a lonely life.  There’s nothing that’ll get you killed off faster than becoming the romantic interest of a machine-gun-toting, alien hunter.

Each of the films in the trilogy has its own, unique mood and character.  The first is a pure suspense film.  Number two is a rough-and-tumble action film, complete with space-marines and flamethrowers.  And, the third film is a quieter, more contemplative piece.  (I view the ill-advised, fourth installment as a different creature entirely.  It’s more of a grotesque, horror piece, and doesn’t really feel like a natural part of the series.  But, oh well).  I try to get as many people as possible to watch these movies.  They’re classics.  Of course, this is a pretty hard sell for people who don’t like scary movies.  Because, they have a reputation for being pretty intense.  And, while I do view these movie as in the action/adventure genre, they are pretty bloody and tense.  But hey, if a little, nine-year-old girl could handle it, then so can you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Xanadu - Rollerskates and Glitter

Movie: Xanadu
My Rating: 4 bombs

Boy oh boy.  This movie actually left me speechless for a while.  But, I got over that pretty quickly, and just started my usual yelling at the screen, and questioning the gods, and asking why this was happening to me.  Oh, but I completely recommend watching this train wreck.  It’s that spectacular.  Just picture roller skating, and billowing eighties jumpsuits, primitive computer special effects, pencil-thin mustaches, and the complete degradation of the elderly Gene Kelly’s career.  It’s completely incomprehensible, and all the more glorious for it.  I watched this one along with the How Did This Get Made podcast crowd.  I can always count on them to deliver up some real winners.  And, they usually select movies that are enjoyably bad, like this one.
In this movie, Olivia Newton John plays a Greek muse, Kira.  She’s been sent to earth by Zeus to inspire struggling artists.  She had visited earlier to help a young Gene Kelly with his Big Band clarineting, and now she’s back to motivate a visual artist.  Sonny would like to do really deep, intellectual pieces, but so far the only painting work he’s been able to drum up is airbrushing logos onto vans (and I’m assuming, sexy ladies onto the hoods of low-riders).  In this story, the screenwriter also has him copying album art onto posters, (as if that were ever a real profession).
Unfortunately, Kira is not very good at her job.  We all know that the best way to get the creative, painting juices flowing is with sexy, spritely roller-skating.  But, Kira never actually inspires Sonny to paint anything.  In fact, he seems to dump this whole dream of becoming an artist altogether, and decides to get into the nightclub business with Gene Kelly instead.  (A super-modern, roller-skating, nightclub).  But who cares about dreams when you get to have steamy (implied) sex with a soft-focused Greek muse?  It’s the principle that civilizations were built on.  Nations of men have given up their life's passions at the most tenuous, threadbare hope of one day, possibly, having sex with a lady.  Even if that lady is just barely holding onto her ephemeral charms.  I hate being so catty, but you can practically see Olivia Newton John’s youth wilting from frame to frame.  This story is actually quite depressing, now that I think about it.  But, the movie is still a really good time.

This movie is bananas, and that’s exactly why I want you to see it.  It makes absolutely no sense, and it’s all the more magical for it.  Someone was definitely doing drugs when they wrote this.  (And, the elderly Gene Kelly must have also been when he accepted the role).  You’re going to love all the glitter, and lasers, and short shorts, and complete lack of a comprehensible plot.  It’s quite special (in all the senses of the word).  So, I definitely recommend this movie as fun for the whole family.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

FLCL - An Anime Favorite

Show: FLCL
My Rating: 5 stars

Now, here’s a good, old chestnut.  This is another one of my favorite, older, anime shows—delivered to me courtesy of my brother again, of course.  And, one of my reasons for liking this one so much is its nice, limited run, at only six episodes.  Pretty impressive right?  Not, that I judge shows purely on their run times.  But, some really get pretty carried away.  And, after sitting through the entirety of abominations like Yu YuHakusho, (which clocks in at one-hundred-twelve episodes), I’m very impressed by such a display of restraint.
This is just your classic tale of a young boy (Naota) dealing with all the usual stresses of puberty.  At twelve years old, he’s negotiating the emotional battlefield of living with a pervy, divorced dad, and trying to shake off his older brother’s pyromaniac, ex-girlfriend.  Then, he’s also exploring his confusing new attraction to the sexy, alien girl who has come to live with the family as a boarder.  You know, just the usual stuff. 
But, that alien girl is pretty great—Haruhara Haruko.  She’s one of my all-time favorite characters.  She’s pushy and loud, wears cool clothes, is good at sports, and kinda just makes herself at home at poor Naota’s house.  And, it drives him crazy!  It’s clear that she wants something from him, but she won’t tell him what.  Enraging, right?  It’s the central mystery in the story, but Naota is pretty sure it has something to do with the troubling, new horn that has started growing out of his forehead.  Haruko’s been lurking around, spying on Naota in his room or in the bathroom, and measuring the horn’s growth, biding her time.  That can’t be good.  She seems so dangerous and unpredictable.

The show is pretty sassy and silly.  And, the pace is super hyper and frenetic.  It crams a lot of information into very few episodes, so it moves the plot along pretty quickly without stopping to explain any details.  So, this is definitely a show that I recommend watching more than once—as many times as you can spare, really.  There’s a lot in there, and I see something new each time I see it.  But, since the show is so short, that’s not hard to do.  So, go for it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Into the Woods - Light, Holiday Fun

Movie: Into the Woods
My Rating: 3 stars

Well, this was a cute, little, holiday romp.  I caught this movie in the theater with a couple of old friends around New Year’s, and I had a good time.  I’m always much better about going to see movies in the theater around the holidays.  I get a break from my everyday working routine, so I’m much more open to going out on short notice.  But, this movie was a cute, fluffy, little diversion.  I had been aware that this creation started as a musical and a stage play.  But, I had never gotten around to actually seeing it.  So, while I was familiar with the underlying fairy tales that the plot is based on, the particular way this script weaved them all together was new to me.
I generally like this kind of story—one based on common folktales, but with a sassy, modern twist.  But honestly, I’m not sure I would have made the effort to see this one if the cast hadn’t been so impressive.  (I guess I probably would have gotten around to renting it at some point).  But, this movie has got everyone!  Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt.  They’re all there.  (I haven’t been a fan of Johnny Depp in quite a long time, so I’m only mentioning him now for the sake of being comprehensive).  But, there are a lot of bright, new faces too.  I think I even recognized a few actors from last year’s LesMiserables.  Makes sense for a musical.  But, like I mentioned before, the story weaves together several of our favorite, old fairytales—Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Cinderella—connecting the stories to each other, and adding a dash of ironic humor.  It’s pretty fun.  Oh, and almost all the dialogue is delivered in song, and the movie even manages to poke a little fun at that.

I think this movie would be good fun for the whole family.  It’s got a little something in there for everyone—stories, song, dance, humor, pretty people.  And, while there are a few adultish jokes in there, they’re phrased innocently enough to go undetected by the more uncorrupted viewers.  And, this was a nice movie to see around the holidays, so I recommend catching this one while it’s in theaters if you stumble across it.  But, you don’t have to go out of your way or anything.  It’s still just silly, fluffy, fun.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Big Hero 6 - Precocious, Young Scientists

Movie: Big Hero 6
My Rating: 4 stars

I kinda loved this movie.  And, I really wasn’t expecting to with how empty of content all of the trailers were.  The TV commercials revealed practically nothing about the story, so I was about to write this one off as being another saccharine, plotless, kids movie.  But, my brother assured me that this was a good movie.  And, he’s never steered my wrong before, so I was happy to go see this one with him in the theater.  Of course, kids will definitely enjoy the movie, too.  But as an adult, I found a lot to like about it, and you know how difficult to please I am.
This is a superhero movie.  But, I like that it’s a superhero movie about smart kids who work hard and create their own powers through their hard work and inventions.  No sniveling, spoiled brats who were bitten by a radioactive gopher, and then pout about all their new, undeserved responsibilities.  These kids are proactive, and brave, and are ready to take on the world!  (And, they’re very ethnically diverse!!)  They cultivate their “powers” in order to go out and do good in the world.  It’s a good example for a new generation of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, young learners.  But, aside from the basic storyline, the movie is also very visually impressive too—lots of action and robots, and sassy college kids getting into wholesome, but sometimes dangerous, trouble.  It’s good, clean fun.
Hiro is a precocious, young science prodigy.  He’s dropped out of school (junior high maybe?), but has been making extra cash in the underground, robot-fighting circuit.  He’s actually been hustling the big dogs, with his youthful looks, and unassuming little robot.  But, his older brother has bigger plans for him.  He wants him to get a college degree and make something of himself.  So he introduces Hiro to all his super hip, robot-building classmates, and arranges for this little science whiz to get accepted to the program.  And, of course Hiro’s in love with the school.  But, the experimental science industry has always had an uncomfortable relationship with big industry.  So, Hiro and his friends are going to have to make some difficult decisions when one of the biggest corporations in town comes knocking, offering a tempting contract.

But, this movie is about way more than that.  It’s about the future, and family, and friendship, and invention.  It’s pretty great.  I definitely recommend watching this one, because it was way more than I was expecting.  It’s probably out of theaters by now.  I cut it pretty close, seeing in in theaters when I did.  But, it should be coming out pretty soon for rental.  So, make sure you see this one.