Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Movie: Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Writer(s): C.S. Lewis

This DVD is in two parts, each a separate book. The first, Prince Caspian, is only an hour long, and is a bit lame considering all the build-up to a big battle that never happens. In the book the best part was the part about Caspian escaping from home, and all the drama and excitement of that is lost in this production. Dawn Treader was much better. It was never one of my favorite books since it has minimal plot and wanders from adventure to adventure during the ship's voyage, but in movie form it worked well. The special effects were pretty hokey, but the story was excellent. A few things were given short shrift. One of the best analogies in the book is the story of the arrogant Eustace during into a dragon and his humbling (and painful) restorance, and while that's included in the film, it's not as revealing as in the book. Still, all my favorite parts are included, such as the pool of water with the golden statue of a man inside that turns out to be magical water that turns whatever it touches into gold. Obviously, the man went for a swim and... oops! Overall, a pretty good film.


Monday, December 30, 2002

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Movie: Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Writer(s): C.S. Lewis

This film is the first is a 3-DVD set I bought at Costco. The films were made for BBC television. I was a bit disappointed at the low production quality, which is much more like a play than a film (the talking animals are people dressed up in occasionally silly-looking costumes). Some special effects and unusual animals (flying horse, etc.) are done with cheesy animation on top of the live action footage, with minimal attempt, it seems, to try to make it blend seamlessly. However, the scripts are remarkably faithful to the books, even including much of the dialogue, and each film is 168 minutes long (nearly three hours) so there's little left out. The pace is leisurely and never rushed. This film was very good, except for a few oddities: for instance, the actual stabbing of Aslan, the Lion, isn't shown. I presume that was done to keep the violence down for children, but it made the death much less dramatic. All in all, not bad, and I liked the script, but I definitely prefer realism to a children's play. At least Aslan wasn't totally unimpressive (his head is completely puppet so we don't have human eyes and mouth like most of the other animals).


Sunday, December 29, 2002


Movie: Amelie

Wonderful, quirky, odd, fantastic film! The premise is based on odd concidences that plague the life of Amelie, a young French girl, warping her view of reality from childhood. For instance, she loves her cold fish doctor father very much and longs for him to embrace her, but the only time he touches is her is during her annual physical, and thus her heart beats very rapidly when he examines her, making him think she has a weak heart and thus the family can never go on vacation and she must go to a special school. In another scene, she witnesses a car accident while taking pictures and a cruel neighbor tells her that her photo-taking caused the accident. She goes home and sees all sorts of tragedies on the news that night and imagines she caused them! But she's not a doormat: when she figures out the neighbor's "joke" she gets him back by disconnecting his TV antenna during the big soccer every time the French team is about to score (she's listening to the game on a portable radio so she knows when to disconnect and reconnect the signal). Thus the girl grows up with a vivid imagination. As an adult, she works as a waitress in a small cafe, when she finds a hole in her apartment that reveals a secret compartment which contains a small box of a boy's treasures (marbles, pictures, etc.). She decides her mission is to become a do-gooder, and her first task is to find the man who owned the treasure box and return it to him. What would a man say to have his childhood treasure returned to him after 40 years? Of course, the results are comic and heart-warming. Later, Amelie tries to be match-maker to her friends with great success, and then tries to set herself up as well, but the latter task proves much more difficult, with every trick failing. Eventually, though, Fate is kind and she and her mate finally connect and all live happily ever after. This film is just beautiful, one of the best films I've ever seen. I could watch it again and again and again, it's so deep, and the frantic pace means you're sure to see new things in it every time you watch. Just magical.


Sunday, December 29, 2002

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Book: The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Writer(s): Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Cool book of Sherlock Holmes short stories. I've read a number of Holmes stuff, but never this collection, which was apparently done after Doyle "killed off" Holmes in a previous story. It was six years before he used this book to bring Holmes back from the dead. The first story explains how that happened (Holmes was never dead, of course, but in hiding, something I found a bit odd for Holmes to do). The other stories deal with various adventures of the famous dectective, and they're very cool. A few are simpler and involve less "detecting," and a few annoyingly rely on knowledge Holmes has that Watson, the narrator, does not, making it nigh impossible for the reader to figure out the mystery. But the best thing about Holmes has always been his manner of stating something outrageous as fact, seeming gaining the knowledge from a supernatural source. But of course, once the explanation is provided, it seems too simple. It's much like a magician's trick, which seems impossible (did they cut her in half???) but is disappointingly down-to-earth when the secret is revealed (there were two women, one curled in each half of the box so the feet wiggled and made you think it was the same woman lying down). The magical explanation is much more satisfactory and fascinating.


Friday, December 27, 2002

Shoot the Piano Player

Movie: Shoot the Piano Player
Director(s): Francois Truffaut

Interesting, if somewhat convoluted story about a former piano virtuoso who quit after his wife's suicide, and now plays in a rundown bar. One of his brother's tries to cheat on some gansters, and now they're after him, so he runs to his brother for help, and then things get complicated. A fun sense of humor makes this an above average ganster film.


Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Kate and Leopold

Movie: Kate and Leopold

Interesting little romance with a twist: Leopold is a 19th century Duke brought forward in time to modern New York City. Unfortunately, he only has a week before the time portal appears again. But during this week he meets Kate (Meg Ryan), a marketing consultant, and his achronistic ways (he's polite, stands up when a lady leaves the table, rides a horse to chase down a Central Park purse-snatcher, etc.) charm her. Silly and implausible, but the characters are so likable you don't care and just want to see them get together. Fun.


Saturday, December 21, 2002

American Graffiti

Movie: American Graffiti
Director(s): George Lucas

I'd heard this was a classic, but I'd never seen it. Interesting look at youth in the late fifties/early sixties, apparently based on Lucas' own teen years. Reminded me of a number of other films, though this was probably the first of the genre. It's not my favorite era or type of film (the "story" is one night in the lives of several characters as they cruise, party, and get into trouble before leaving for college the next day). Basically I give this an Okay. It's well-done, and I suppose if you were into that era, it would really bring back memories. To me it seems like a rip-off of Happy Days.


Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Movie: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Director(s): Peter Jackson

One word: Awesome. This is not just a good adaptation of the book, it's a great film. There's action, drama, suspense, with a surprising amount of characterization and depth. We really get to feel Frodo's internal conflict over the Ring, sense the peril of Middle-Earth as Sauruman prepares his forces for battle, and through unbelievable CGI, Gollum comes to life in a performance that ought to win an acting Oscar: he's fantastic. There are minor quibbles about the story and Aragorn's romances, but they're such a small part of a beautifully crafted epic tale they're hardly worth mentioning. The big battle scenes are impressive, but I'd heard so much amount them before the film that I found them a bit less impactful than I expected. Partly that was because Jackson chose to intercut the long battle with scenes from other stories, which diluted the battle a bit. But overall this is a five star movie, much better than the first one. Oddly, the first book is my favorite, and the second my least favorite, but so far the movies have that reversed.


Thursday, December 12, 2002


Movie: Clockstoppers
Director(s): Jonathan Frakes

Mindless stuff about a watch that stops time. Okay, technically it speeds you up so fast it seems to you that everything around you has stopped, but it's pretty much the same thing. The plot's predictable (bad guys want the watch, kid saves the day, etc.), but overall the film has it's moments. It's mostly intriguing just for the cool special effects which are far better than any previous "time stopping" film.


Wednesday, December 11, 2002

The Thing

Movie: The Thing
Director(s): John Carpenter

For some reason I thought I'd seen this long ago, but that was a completely different movie. I'd never seen this, though I wanted to after recently reading the short story upon which it was based. I'm not a big Carpenter fan, but this is one truly great movie. It's extremely faithful to the story, which was great, and has an excellent visual appearance, terrific performances, and special effects that surprisingly still hold up today. On top of all that, it's even scary! It also is thought-provoking: it's sure to bring up some debates on trust. Worth seeing all the way. The DVD's pretty good as well: there's a long documentary that reveals much about how they created the special effects.


Sunday, December 8, 2002

The Cat's Meow

Movie: The Cat's Meow

Interesting story about a murder that might have been committed by William Randolph Hearst way back when. He took a party of famous people (including Charlie Chaplin) out on his boat, but one member died and there was never an inquiry. This film is one possibility of what might have happened. Well done, with a great cast, but obviously a lot of history and Hollywood knowledge is required to really appreciate this: I've heard of Hearst and Chaplin, but those were the only ones, so I missed most of the rest. Still, it was interesting, though a llittle heavy-handed (I could tell there were aspects of the characters I was supposed to react to, assuming I knew the real-life person, but since I didn't, the references went over my head and I found that got boring after a while).


Sunday, December 8, 2002

The Road to Wellville

Movie: The Road to Wellville

Strange film. I'd heard a lot about this and the premise sounded interesting: set in the early 1900's, it's based on the real-life of Dr. Kellogg (who invented Corn Flakes) and the strange cures offered at his sanitarium. Unfortunately, most of the humor is of a scatalogical nature, making it uncomfortable viewing. It's not really funny... or is it? I guess that depends on your point of view. I found it more interesting from the historical perspective, and felt the plot was predictable and the comedy lame. Worth seeing just for it's uniqueness, however.


Saturday, December 7, 2002

The Queen of the Damned

Movie: The Queen of the Damned

I hadn't realized this was based on the Anne Rice book when it was in the theatres: all I knew was that the star, some singer I'd never heard of, died in a plane crash before the movie opened. I guess it was just as well. While this had some interesting moments and I can see that it would have been a good book in Rice's capable hands, as a film it became a meaningless action flick. Well done, but routine.