Monday, December 20, 2010

Movie Monday: Holiday Edition

According to the schedule I made during a burst of planning and organization at the beginning of the year, I'm supposed to be on holiday this week. But I have work that has to be done today and then I'm actually in a mood to write (I even wrote Friday night), so instead I've just shaken things up a bit. I took the morning off, then am doing my "morning" stuff in the afternoon. My posting the next couple of weeks may be sporadic, as I may use the "business" part of my schedule as my holiday time while still doing some writing.

It was a busy movie weekend, so I've got a lot of reviews for Monday Movies. I'll do them in chronological order (the order in which I saw them).

On Friday, I went to see How Do You Know, and I liked it more than the reviewers apparently did. It may not have been entirely satisfying as a romance, though I think that's partially because it's more about the decision to start a relationship, as opposed to the development of a relationship. Mostly, though, I found it interesting as an exploration of how people react when life pulls the rug out from under them and things aren't working out the way they planned. What I did like was that they avoided most of my romantic comedy pet peeves. The main couple was opposites in some ways, but that wasn't the whole point of their relationship. They didn't bicker constantly over meaningless things. "Mr. Wrong" wasn't evil. He was kind of a jerk, but he was a sweet, clueless jerk, so it felt like an honest choice between the two men rather than an obvious villain vs. hero comparison. I also liked that they didn't hit us over the head with the character development and the reasons the characters did things. That made this a fun movie for people who like to psychoanalyze fictional people. And then there was Paul Rudd. I've always liked him in nice-guy romantic comedy mode, but I've never really thought of him as an actor. In this, though, he was amazing. His face was so expressive that you could practically read his mind (very much like Amy Adams -- ooh, that might be my dream romantic comedy pairing).

Unfortunately, the bad side of seeing a romantic comedy in December is that you're forced to see the trailers for the romantic comedy dreck that tends to get released (or, considering the quality of the movies, excreted) in January and February. It looks like we'll be subjected to a lot of male-fantasy "romantic" "comedies." There was the one about the middle-aged men getting a free pass from their wives to spend a week as though they weren't married (yeah, right) and the one about a "friends with benefits" relationship where she didn't want them to develop feelings. Natalie Portman may get hit with the Eddie Murphy curse, where what seemed like a surefire Oscar nomination gets tanked when the same actor appears in a truly awful movie released right around nomination time.

Then on Saturday I saw Tron: Legacy. I hadn't seen the original, so I may have missed some of the nuances, if there were any. This was your basic popcorn movie that looked really cool, and the action sequences were exciting (due largely to a great soundtrack), but I found myself looking at my watch whenever there was a dialogue scene. I saw this in 3D, and I did like that they did the Wizard of Oz thing with it, where the "real world" scenes were like a regular 2D movie, and it went into 3D when we entered the virtual world. The 3D was used more for world building and less for the "oooh, stuff is flying off the screen at you!" effect. The main problem with this movie was that they were making the Airplane! of science fiction/action movies without being aware that's what they were doing. It was pretty much a cobbled together collection of tropes and even entire scenes from other movies in the genre. When two rows of people (I went with a big group of friends) says the exact same line from the source material at the same time, you might have hewn a little too closely to the source material. These guys had seen Star Wars. A lot.

As for the 3D, this was my first experience with it. 3D things tend not to work for me, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I put on my glasses at the "your 3D presentation will begin momentarily" slide, so when the "put on your glasses now" thing came on and a pair of glasses came flying out of the screen, I actually screamed a bit. From what I saw in the 3D trailers, I think I'd avoid 3D for any movie where I cared about the plot because it would be too distracting -- unless it was really part of the storytelling and world building. Mostly it seems to involve "ooh, stuff is flying out of the screen at you!" Which I can live without. When something comes flying at me, my instinct is to scream and duck, which is how I almost failed volleyball in 8th grade PE, and I'd prefer not to spend the movie screaming and ducking.

Then on Sunday night my HBO OnDemand movie was Pirate Radio, which was written and directed by Richard Curtis, the guy behind Love, Actually (and the "Vincent and the Doctor" episode of Doctor Who). It's about the time in the mid-60s when BBC radio wouldn't play rock music, and so pirate stations located off-shore provided the rock music. The movie focuses on the group of oddballs working on one of these pirate stations, as well as on the government official trying to bring them down. I liked this movie, but it wasn't as good as it should have been. Like Love, Actually, it had the cast of thousands and lots of little stories going on, but that one was more like an anthology of short stories. With this, it just seemed episodic, and nothing was ever really developed. It might have been better to focus on and really deal with a few stories instead of being so scattershot. However, there is a big moment near the end that I must say was one of the most goosebump-causing, tear-jerking moments of triumph I've ever seen on film. I'm kind of glad I didn't see this in a theater because I actually shouted "Yes!" and jumped off the sofa, and that would have been embarrassing in public (though it's possible that everyone else would have been doing it, too).

I think I'll save The King's Speech for after Christmas because it will involve a trip downtown. I may try out the new rail line and make a day of it.

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