The Dark IMAX

Monday, August 11th, 2008

I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight yesterday. I don’t know why the rule that comic book sequels are always better than the originals, but it continues to hold. (Superman II, Batman Returns, The Incredible Hulk). Possibly it also holds in sci fi in general: The Wrath of Khan, Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, etc.

As everyone already knows, Heath Ledger was incredible as The Joker, and Christian Bale once again blew chunks. (Why no actor has ever been able to voice Batman properly, I have no idea; but in my head I just never heard him talking in some funky whisper. Batman has a strong, authoritative, commanding voice. It’s Bruce Wayne who disguises his voice, not Batman.) Nonetheless, it’s a really good movie. Go see it.

The reason I waited so long was that I wanted to see it in IMAX. I heard that it had been specially designed and shot for IMAX, and that it would really take advantage of the medium. Wow, was that wrong.
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Comic Book Movies 2008

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Last night Beth and I went to see what has got to be the best superhero movie of the year (in a year of relatively good movies in a genre famous for bad ones) and the most visually striking superhero movie ever. It had interesting characters, great action, and almost completely avoided cliché. And unlike The Incredible Hulk or Iron Man, I could not guess where it was going next; and while it didn’t quite surprise me, it at least wasn’t as predictable as a Law & Order episode. It was still basically a summer popcorn flick, but it did border on real darkness, and set up the potential for some genuinely horrifying sequels.

Of course I could only be talking about Hellboy II.
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The Golden Compass

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Wow. What a disappointment. I was looking forward to this one for months, but I guess I should have known Hollywood couldn’t do this book justice. I just had no idea how badly they’d fail. I mean, I knew they were going to water down the anti-religious message. (The Golden Compass was flat-out heretical. The Subtle Knife was actively blasphemous, and by the time the third book arrived, the series was bordering on satanism. No way Hollywood was going to follow that plot line.) However, I didn’t know they were going to open with massive spoilers.
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Juno

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

The Golden Compass was sold out at our local movie theater last night, which proved fortuitous since it meant we saw Juno instead. Wonderful movie! By all means, go see it. The dialog was extremely clever, even verging on Whedonesque. The basic story is about 16-year old Juno getting pregnant (after what seemed like her first time, though I don’t think that was definitively established) and then giving the baby up for adoption. I do wonder a little about a girl as intelligent and strong-willed as Juno not figuring out how to use reliable birth control, but I guess that was necessary to get the plot moving.

Of course, the movie had the obligatory, girl-goes-to-abortion-clinic-but-decides-not-to-go-through-with-it-at-the-last-minute scene. Otherwise it mostly avoided clichés. At least it didn’t go with the usual television cop-out of Juno magically discovering she wasn’t pregnant after all.

Still, just once I’d like to see a movie about a teenage girl who gets knocked up, has an abortion, and lives happily ever after, just like thousands of real teenagers do every year. (more…)

Beowulf in Eye-blurring 3D

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

Beth and I caught Beowulf in Digital 3D this afternoon. Some other reviewers liked this version best, but personally I didn’t think it held a candle to IMAX. I also noticed that by the time the movie was over, my eyes were a little sore. Maybe the experience is better for users who don’t wear glasses. I don’t know.

It was also obvious that as good as digital animation has gotten, it still doesn’t hold a candle to real film. Beowulf was better than Final Fantasy, but still didn’t compare well to movies shot with real actors, even digital effect heavy movies like Star Wars I-III. Even more tellingly, Beowulf didn’t compare all that well to the old Harryhausen films: the monsters are better (Grendel was fabulous) but the humans are so much worse. I wonder how long it will be before we can finally render animatronic humans that are indistinguishable from real humans on the screen?

Ratatouille

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Beth and I happened to walk by the City Cinemas Village East yesterday just in time for Ratatouille (well a few minutes late, but movies never start on time anyway) so we decided to stop in. That proved to be fortuitous. Ratatouille is a wonderful movie, absolutely perfect. It didn’t hit one false note. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s the best movie Pixar has ever made, and that’s saying something. It’s certainly the most adult movie they’ve ever done, despite the talking rats. Don’t worry: Ratatouille is completely appropriate for children too, but adults will enjoy this film on a whole different level.

Without giving anything away, the plot was original. Every character was fully drawn out, and a real character, never a caricature. And speaking of drawing, the animation has achieved a new level of fluidity and grace. Technically I don’t think there’s anything Pixar couldn’t achieve at this point.

I suppose Ratatouille doesn’t slap you upside the head with its originality quite as much as Toy Story did. However, you can’t hold that against it. There can only be one genre-busting original, and Pixar more-or-less invented the 3D-animated feature with Toy Story. However, with Ratatouille they’ve finally perfected it.

The only quibble I have isn’t even about the movie itself, but the previews. In the reverse of the usual situation, the previews made the movie seem a lot less interesting than it actually was. That’s a big reason I hadn’t gone to see it already. The previews made it look like just another silly animal picture, but really this movie is so much more. There’s a heart to this picture that a two-minute preview just couldn’t bring out.

If you haven’t seen it yet, go see it. You won’t be disappointed.