Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category.

Random TV-Related Things

  1. My parents bought this plasma TV at Best Buy during boxing week. What surprises me is how integration with upconverting DVD players and HD set-top boxes is so unpolished. At the current level of integration, it’s clear that the whole HDTV thing is aimed squarely at the early adopter. The surprising thing is how much penetration it has at the consumer level – just check out how hard Future Shop is pushing HDTV for the upcoming Super Bowl.
  2. My question is, how do Joe-and-Sally-average buy HDTV equipment and set it up themselves at home? My guess is they do it sub-optimally. I picture them setting it all up, then having their own eyes tell them that it doesn’t look as good as they thought it would. Trouble is, it probably looks better than the 10-year-old CRT that it replaced, so they can’t be sure if it’s actually supposed to be so underwhelming.
  3. Lemme tell ya though, when everything’s set up correctly, 1080i and 720p HD broadcasts are absolutely breathtaking. There are only about 20 HD channels, and they’re of varying quality because a lot depends on the quality of the original source material, and also whether the broadcaster has done any detrimental post-processing. The Rogers HD demo channel seems to have the Much Music 2004 Video Awards on endless loop though. It’s a good choice – the young and nubile are particularly well suited for display at high resolution. That sounds kinda dirty.
  4. The funny thing is that Bonnie refuses to even look at the HD channels. She says that once she’s seen them, she’ll never be able to go back. No, there’s no convincing her. I tried with the “We should stop eating at nice restaurants, because we’ll never be able to go back” argument, but no dice. Meh.
  5. Since my parents got the new plasma and DVD player, Bonnie and I inherited their old 27″ Sony CRT and “high-quailty” Vsonic DVD player. This, combined with GoodLife now offering free DVD rentals to members means that we’ve been doing nothing but working out and watching movies for the past week. Not good, the TV just sucks the time away, it’s such a waste. I think this further cements the resolution that we’ll never be getting cable.
  6. Now a random selection of quickie movie reviews…

    • The Incredibles
      One-line review: Another home run for Disney/Pixar, I think it’s their best to date.
      Unanswered question: If Violet were invisible while eating, what would happen to the food? Would you be able to see it in her stomach and watch it slowly turn invisible as it was digested? That’d be kinda cool.
      Best scene: Jack-jack turning into a little devil and going postal on Buddy at the end of the movie.
    • Closer
      One-line review: Natalie Portman almost nekkid, what’s not to like? Clive Owen is also quite the nasty villian – I’m only used to him helping lost Tibetan boys and such.
      Unanswered question: I’m not quite sure I understand the ending. OK, so she fooled those handsome Englishmen good. Now she’s gonna rope in some startlingly unattractive New Yorkers too? I don’t get her deal.
      Best scene: “I don’t stalk, I lurk.“.
    • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
      One-line review: Like all Wes Anderson movies, this one’s great because all of the characters are such losers that take themselves so incredibly seriously. It’s jolly good fun to watch.
      Unanswered question: No seriously, what’s with the red caps?
      Best scene: Bill Murray grooving to his piped in music.
    • The Delicate Art of Parking
      One-line review: Not a fan of the faux documentary style. The faux documentarist is kinda sleazy looking too.
    • Mona Lisa Smile
      One-line review: Meh, just your standard chick flick. As an aside, is it just me or is there something vaguely rabbit-like about Maggie Gyllenhaal?
    • Something’s Gotta Give
      One-line review: Meh, more formulaic chick flick stuff, but for old chicks I guess. Has Jack Nicholson been playing the same character since As Good As It Gets?

Zatoichi

Saw Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman a couple weeks ago. It’s enjoyable, a lighthearted, mindless samurai action flick.

Littered throughout the movie there are these interesting “cutscenes” (for lack of a better term) where the extras are doing their thing to the beat of the quirky, instrumental soundtrack. For example, Zatoichi is walking along a dirt road, and there are three guys raking a field with hoes. They’re all raking to the beat of the various instruments though. If I were more musically inclined, I’d actually be able to describe it better. You’re probably better off seeing it for yourself. Here are some torrents if it’s not playing in your area.

The end of the movie also consists of an almost 2-minute scene with all the characters tap dancing in wooden Japanese shoes, which is again, kind of strange, but interesting to see.

Anyway, as we leave the theatre and are walking along Cumberland, these two guys are walking behind us, and one says to the other, “I love how all that percussive dancing is a… simile… for how one person’s actions don’t really mean anything.” Tim and I both turn to each other and exclaim, “WTF?“.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder whether there are thousands of unemployed general arts majors sitting in coffee shops around the city, spouting crap like that and patting each other on the back all day long. I can’t believe my hard earned tax dollars help subsidize people like this. Now you know why I’d never vote NDP, I don’t want to encourage them. I don’t think there’s anything I hate more than a lazy ass that mooches off others.

Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.

Saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind over the weekend. It was enjoyable in the same way that it’s fun to “stare at a train wreck“, as Tim would say.

Don’t misunderstand, it’s difficult to argue with a movie that features a scene with Kirsten Dunst in her undies, dancing recklessly on Jim Carrey’s bed[1]. The movie is definitely unconventional, and I think it tries to be smart, but it ends up being more eye candy than brain food.

Charlie Kaufman’s projects tend to deal with things that most people have wished for at some point in time, but are pretty much the realm of fantasy/science fiction. In Being John Malkovich, it’s the ability to be someone else, to be inside their head and know what it feels like to be rich, famous, important, etc. We all know how that turns out.

Eternal Sunshine is in a similar vein, though I found its subject matter less universal. The premise is: meek, quiet, boring boy Joel (Jim Carrey) meets quirky, spontaneous, outgoing girl Clementine (Kate Winslet). They fall for each other the way they tell us that opposites attract. As the relationship progresses, it becomes apparent that their differences are too large to overcome, and they split after a heated argument. Clementine being the impulsive one, undergoes a procedure to erase all memory of Joel, in order to help her move on with life. Joel finds out shortly thereafter, and demands the same procedure out of spite. We relive his memories in reverse chronological order (Memento style) as they are being erased. As we progress toward his earlier memories from the puppy-love, infatuation phase of their relationship, Joel realizes he doesn’t want to forget Clementine and wackiness ensues as he attempts to have the procedure aborted in his drug-induced stupor.

He of course fails, and both Joel and Clementine have each other completely erased from their respective memories. Both seem to be strangely left with the feeling that they’ve lost something, but they don’t know what it is, and wouldn’t mind having it back. Thanks to the magic of Kirsten Dunst, they soon find out what happened, and are both in the uncomfortable position of listening to pre-erasure tape recordings of the other person listing their faults. Despite this, the initial spark that brought them together the first time around is back, and they entertain the thought of getting (back) together.

And there’s the rub – these tapes are like a gift from the gods, but the characters completely ignore them. Imagine that you were about to embark on something that would end up being a collossal waste of time and energy. Irrefutable evidence lands in your lap telling you that you’ve already tried once, and the outcome of your efforts was a failure. Would you try again anyway?

So what is the moral of the story then? In the case of Being John Malkovich, the point was that it doesn’t make a difference if you get to be somebody else. You’ll still be you on the inside, not that “perfect” person you’re dying to be instead. At first things will be different, but they’ll eventually regress back to the way they were. You can take the girl out of the honky-tonk, but you can’t take the honky-tonk out of the girl, as a sales guy at work says.

The point of Eternal Sunshine? There’s no point in trying to erase the memories of your past mistakes, because even if you did, you’d just go back and repeat them again? Which would almost be believable if it weren’t for those bloody tape recordings that Joel and Clementine choose to ignore. The ending would have been much more poignant if it just showed them screwing up all over again, without any knowledge that they’d done so already.

Instead, I walked out of the theatre just thinking that Joel and Clementine are such dumbasses.

[1] That, and the portrayal of Frodo Bagginses as a (clean) panty stealer is almost worth the price of admission alone. Boy, I bet that answers a lot of questions for Liv Tyler.

For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.

Just finished watching Lost in Translation. The plot doesn’t really have much substance – two complete strangers in a foreign country (Japan), drawn together by their common loss of direction in life. One, a 50-year old actor passed his prime and going through a mid-life crisis. The other, a young woman and recent Yale alumnus, who just married a celebrity photographer, and now doesn’t know what to do with her life. Not really a premise that you’d think would last an hour and forty minutes, especially considering how little dialogue there is.

The cinematography is amazing though. I’m not really one for the scenery of densely populated big cities, with their big neon signs and electronic bilboards, like Times Square in New York, and downtown Hong Kong and Japan. But Sofia Coppola and Lance Acord make it work. The whole movie seems to have this soft glow to it, kind of like the whole thing has been passed through some sort of Photoshop soften filter. I also like their use of reflections and mirrors, which seem to be a common theme throughout the film.

The pace and soundtrack of the entire feature are also very well executed. Given the aforementioned thin plot and lack of dialogue, there’s never any point in the movie where I sat impatiently waiting for it to move on to the next scene. Kudos to Coppola for that, seeing as this is just her sophomore picture, she must have picked up a thing or two from her father. Or maybe it was just all done in post-production, you can never tell these days.

Among the bits of dialogue there are some real gems though. I think my favourite scene is when they’re lying on the bed. The best bits of dialogue go something like this (the italic parts are what really stuck out in my mind):

Charlotte and Bob, at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Charlotte: I’m stuck. Does it get easier?
Bob: No.
Bob: Yes. It gets easier. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.

Charlotte: What about marriage, does that get easier?
Bob: That’s hard.
Bob: We used to have a lot of fun. Lydia would come with me when I would make the movies, and we would laugh about it all. Now she doesn’t want to leave the kids. She doesn’t need me to be there. The kids miss me, but they’re fine. It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids.
Bob: It’s the most terrifying day of your life the day your first one is born. Your life, as you know it, is gone. Never to return.