12 Angry Men

They actually aren't all angry, but this makes for a better title. I read the play back in eighth grade and finally got around to watching the movie. It's about a group of jurors charged with finding an 18-year-old guilty or innocent of the murder of his father. Wonderful acting, dialogue, characters, and suspenseful buildups, along with some very strong visuals (watch how the camera pans for long periods, rather than modern techniques of cutting back-and-forth between characters). A fascinating take on what takes place in a jury room and in the mind of jurors. 12 angry men

Slavoj Zizek: The Pervert's Guide to Ideology - Sophie Fiennes

Fiennes presents Zizek lecturing about philosophical meanings behind concepts of ideology from (often literally) the backdrop of popular culture (where we see Zizek speaking within reproductions of sets from the films he discusses). While it is quite fascinating and hilarious this is only for a few who are specifically interested in such a subject matters, and even still they might be frustrated over Zizek's halting English. I thought it rather fascinating, but I warn people to take what he says with several grains of salt. For example, Zizek claims that consumers used to feel guilty and donate to charity, but now that, again for example, Starbucks tells us that they donate a percentage of their coffee money helping poor farmers blah blah, and so we no longer feel guilty, consumed with confidence, and don't bother feeling guilty or donating any longer. However, where is his evidence to suggest this? Were consumers feeling guilty? Did they then go out and do something? Do they now no longer feel guilty? And do they now no longer do something--because, after all, they are doing something by consuming? We do have evidence that strongly right-wing consumers will shop at Chick Fillet because of their political stance, and they won't buy products labeled "green" even if it is cheaper and more efficient, so that's something (something he doesn't talk about), but Zizek is big on making sweeping statements without providing hard (or even soft) evidence, and complaining that others are making false generalization. Still, very interesting. Pervert's guide to ideology

Capote

After reading In Cold Blood (and seeing the movie version) I was fascinated with how Truman Capote was able to accumulate such vast detail about the 1959 Kansas murders. With this movie, based on a book, I now understand how: the incredibly charming and brilliant writer ingratiated himself into the lives of just about everyone involved in the horrific murders (from townsfolk, to detectives, to killers), a fact completely missing from the so-called documentary fiction that Capote wrote. The truth, apparently, is that Capote was a manipulative bastard who used people heinously. This is not to say he didn't later regret his actions, as they tormented him enough to cause permit writer's block. This is not exactly a fast-moving film, and if you do not know the story behind In Cold Blood it is pointless to watch, but the acting is amazing and insight important. Capote

Hugo

I saw this movie version of the book years after reading the original, which was a good thing as I was able to view it with less expectation and more chance of surprise. The tale is of an orphaned boy working as the clock repairman of a Paris train station, his quest to repair a mysterious automaton, the power and history of film, and the people he meets. There are some very enjoyable portrayals in the movie and it is definitely fun. Despite my earlier statement, there must remain some vague memory of the book as I felt it didn't have the same impact of the unique original telling. Still, check them both out and you won't be disappointed.

In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences - Truman Capote

The book is a documentary account (no, I'm not entirely sure what that means) of the 1959 murders of a family in a small town in Kansas. Oddly or unfortunately enough there were plenty of other murders, just as pointless, just as brutal, but apparently not as shocking or well-known, around the same time, so don't confuse the story as an end of innocence tale. Why Capote chose to write about this one, I don't know, but he does so with great eloquence and empathy making this work every bit as exciting and unbelievable as fiction. If you're interested in history--or in murder (I'm being flippant, but there's fascinating insight into the mind of murderers)--then you may well enjoy, for lack of a better word, this book. I also saw the movie, as I am planning to teach this text and I wanted to see what was covered and, more importantly, what wasn't. Unfortunately, the film is from the 60s, and suffers greatly from the point of view of a modern movie-goer who expects action and adventure, although it did a somewhat decent job painting a vivid picture in two hours what the book took 340 pages to do. In Cold Blood

John Wick

Neo, sorry, John Wick is a retired super assassin, who gets pulled back in after idiot mobsters pull a home invasion on him. The entire movie is simply shoot 'em up, so if that's what you are looking for, great, otherwise forget it.

Zizek!

If you are interested in the Slovenian philosopher, Zizek, then this documentary is only sort of for you. While it attempts to enlighten viewers about the personality, ideas, and background about this contemporary thinker, the end result is a rather boring collection of clips, including such pointless ones of him appearing to be naked under the covers in bed (is this the director's way of saying they had sex?). It does little for those with any knowledge of Zizek, and will not interest those who know nothing. zizek!

Last Days in Vietnam

An incredibly powerful documentary examining the fall of South Vietnam in 1975 and the inaction of many and the actions of a few to get those that helped America during our horrific conflict there out of the country so that they would not face almost certain death. This poignant film is all the more so considering how many we are or will be leaving behind since exiting Iraq and Afghanistan. Powerful stuff. Last days in Vietnam

Seabiscuit

This is the story about an abused horse that is too small for racing, a down and out kid too big to be a jockey, a horse trainer who is too old, and a very rich horse owner who is trying to get over the death of his son (and has a ridiculous generosity with his money). I'm assuming most of the story is true, and I kind of don't want to know which parts, if any, are fabricated, as it really is a nicely done feel good movie that parallels well with the needs of the nation coming out of the depression that is its setting. seabiscuit

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

The first half hour of the second part of the conclusion of the movies about the boy wizard, Harry Potter, and his fight against the forces of darkness is largely a mess. It moves slowly, like the first installment, and at the same time is jumpy. If you have someone's wand and can use it as ID, why not show it? How did Luna get into Hogwarts when the main group had such an impossible time doing so? How many items are we looking for again? At the same time a lot of the character development and screen time is also lost. Thank goodness the movie has as many of the flaws as the book. Around the 40 minute mark things pick up and, honestly, you might just want to start watching this movie at that point (and skip the first entirely). If you do, you might find the experience more enjoyable. For the record: I still am concerned that kids will plow through the books/movies without actually growing up with them, Luna is the Lily to my Severus, and Neville is truly the character that develops and grows more than anyone else in the series. Like the book, the movie may not be the most enjoyable conclusion to what is arguably a generation shaping phenomenon, but it is a satisfying one, and perhaps that was the best we could have hoped for. Goodbye, Harry Potter; "the boy that lived" did so more than most of us.

State of Play

I had never heard of this movie, or perhaps I simply blocked it out, as it is far too filled with pretty people, but I greatly enjoyed it. Two reporters (well, one's a blogger) are trying to unravel a mystery of a government intern suicide/murder, and what, if any, it has to do with a government probe of what amounts to the privatization of military forces (Think Blackwater). I was very impressed with the relationships between characters, commentary on the state of newspapers, and the fact that there was no gratuitous violence, only subtle romance, and no big action shoot them up scenes. Then again, perhaps that's exactly what killed the movie and made it so I never heard of it. state of play

Cowboys & Aliens

How did this get pitched? "Ok, so we got this cowboy, and he has this weird tech device on his wrist, but he doesn't know what it is 'cause he has amnesia, right? and these aliens--space ones that is--are abducting people, and every single cliche you could think of is part of the plot, and despite the action it's all really boring!" "Hmmmm, but does it make any sense?" "None!" "Then let's make a movie." If the comic this is based on is only partially this bad, the books need to be burned.

Jupiter Ascending

Often very pretty to look at, I'm not sure I can really tell you what this movie is about. Mila Kunis is very pretty and attempts (and fails) to play the title role of Jupiter, who is secretly queen of some intergalactic empire (that's actually pretty much very evil), and some very pretty guy, who is in a lot of dance and stripper movies, runs/flies around on high tech rollerblades while trying to protect her, and really it all is very pretty, bad that is. It attempts to be an action movie, a sci-fi adventure, and a Cinderella story, all rolled into one, but what that "one" is I pretty much have very little idea.

300: Rise of an Empire

Ok, I didn't actually think this would be anything but a piece of garbage, and I was 100% correct on that fact, but I hoped there would be some interesting action sequences, and yet they were few and far between. It does pick up a point that was one of my many complaints against the original 300, and that is giving credit to the Athenian naval genius Themistokles fighting against the invading Persian army. Eva Green (who, apparently, I've seen in various movies and bizarrely do not have much memory of) is, of course, insanely good looking, and there are plenty of half naked men for eye candy, but perhaps the best part of this movie is dissecting the various negative gender statements it makes.

Men In Black 3

The super secret agents that defend against and hides from the world alien threats are back (well, this review is a little old). Unlike the second movie which, like the second Terminator movie, was the same plot of their respective originals, this third movie deals with agent J having to travel back in time to stop an assassination attempt against his partner, agent K. It's Ok: some laughs, some fun, some weird aliens, but the series seems to have played itself out.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Parts One and Two)

This is a two part direct to video cartoon adaptation of the revolutionary comic by the same name. I saw the first part at Kym's place with Cory and stumbled upon the conclusion many months later (and re-watched it many months later for another time). It is the story of the vigilante coming out of forced retirement to deal with new and returned threats (as well as friends). When the comic was first made it was ground breaking in many respects, but let's just deal with the idea of the movie. I thought it was well done, being truthful to the original with enough changes to keep it interesting and probably spark some debate as to whether or not they were helpful (and I would gladly jump in on both sides). I've heard arguments that the story itself doesn't hold up after the generation plus since its publication, but I disagree. Despite that many viewers probably have no idea what the Soviets were, it makes some fun points on ideas of excessive liberalism and blindly following authority. And I think it is still a strong story with interesting characters, concepts, and action scenes. I will say that the voice actors, while not bad, just didn't strike me as "correct." 

Edge of Tomorrow

What if Groundhogs Day was an action, sci-fi, movie (surely based on a video game) instead of a comedy? I actually had a good time watching this movie and you will too as long as you don't expect too much from it. It is about a reluctant soldier who gets sent to the frontlines during the final showdown between humanity and some bizarre alien invaders. For reasons that will be made clear if you actually watch the movie, every time he dies he restarts the day, and it is up to him and the hot, tough girl / possible romantic partner (and some assorted misfits) to figure out what is going on and how to save humanity.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

This is actually the only Potter movie I never saw any of prior to my (re)watching of them. In it, Harry, the no-longer-a-boy wizard and friends, seek to put an end to the return of the Dark Lord before he fully establishes his rule. It's definitely for the best that the last of the Potter books was split in two for the movies as it is far too long. Unfortunately, like the book, this first part is rather slow. There are interesting ideas here like the idea of sacrifice to protect what you care about (whether a person or a way of life) and elements of fascism are displayed as evil wizards take control of more and more of magical society. Still, rather slow. The book tries to instill elements of adolescent angst during the early parts but comes across as presenting a group of annoying teens. And I had a hard time hearing everything that was said and think it might just be a product of the library copy I had--it is still very frustrating.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [Take Two]

Once again I'm reviewing a Harry Potter movie I've both seen and reviewed, but wanted to re-mention it and add a few new thoughts. In this film our hero boy wizard and friends continue to figure out ways to defeat the Dark Lord. Unlike the last movie that focused on action, this one is very much centered on relationships between the various players and so I suspect it wasn't very enjoyable to most viewers, but I liked it well enough. Luna makes some brief appearances and continues to be my favorite character and love of my life.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

You all know the story, but do you know what comes after? when they grow up? They hunt witches! Actually, they kind of suck at it, like stupidly so. The movie wants to be an Evil Dead but incorporates far too much of Van Helsing. It actually could have been a lot of fun if people spent more than a weekend on its creation.