Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Movies - Overrated Part II


I was really looking forward to The Master.I like Paul Thomas Anderson quite a bit. There are scenes in Magnolia that have drilled their way into my head. Punch Drunk Love is easily the best Adam Sandler movie. I don't know if I fully appreciated There Will Be Blood, but Daniel Day Lewis is remarkable.

Anderson gets great performances. Even Marky Mark's wang is impressive under his direction. So with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Joaquin Phoenix starring, you knew the leads would be great. And they are. Give Joaquin the nom for best actor (though the award to someone else I just mentioned). The processing scene (if you've seen it, it's the one where Phoenix can't blink or they start over) is brilliant, and both Phoenix and Hoffman shine. There are other things that Phoenix does in the movie where you can tell that he's totally immersed in the work. There's something brilliant happening.

That's the problem. The word "something." Because even though everyone in this movie is totally in the movie, totally in the moment, I have NO IDEA what it's about. I don't know what happened and/or why. Clearly, there's something related to Scientology. But what? What's the point? What's the message? What's the plot? Is it possible that PTA had this idea for a movie but didn't want to get involved with the litigation of Scientology?

That has to be the only explanation. The Master feels like you're watching someone else's inside joke. They're totally in on it, but there's no way you'll understand. And even if they can explain it, they weren't there. You know? This is a drag.

Silver Linings Playbook is getting a lot of Oscar talk, and that needs to stop. People are talking about Oscar noms for the two lead roles, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who makes her second appearance on my overrated list. I thought both were bland in their roles.

In fact, take a look at the movie poster that I've placed over to the right. Look at their half faces. They are both showing more charisma in the poster than they did in the movie.

I had problems with the end. (Vagueness ahead to avoid spoilers) The choice made at the end is too easy. Given everything else happening in the final scene, given everything else leading up to the final scene, I just don't see him making that decision. It's not even that one decision is clearly right or clearly wrong to the viewer and we can see he made the right decision.

Most likely, though, my biggest problem with the movie is that you have to root for the Philadelphia Eagles in order to root for this family. And that's a line I just won't cross.

As I've mentioned with a few of these, Life of Pi is a good movie. Visually, it's brilliant. Storywise, it's a bit slow. Character wise, the tiger is probably more interesting than Pi. On the raft, at least.

Pi is actually an interesting character in the lead up. The way he deals with religion is fascinating, and I actually want to see a movie about that character who makes it safely to Canada without having to share a raft with a tiger.

On the raft, as I mentioned, things are visually spectacular. I saw it in 3D (a rare moment of weakness, I know). The theory is that in 3D you really get the depth of the small raft and just how close these two are as they make their way across the ocean. I don't think it added anything to it (as is typical for 3D), and I would have been just fine without it.

But how much time can you really spend on a raft? With a tiger? Not as much as they gave to Life of Pi. There's a reason why Tom Hanks is on the raft with Wilson for just a few minutes. That's just not as interesting.

One final problem I had is that it contains a fatal flaw. In a movie, book, TV show - whatever - you can't start by telling the reader/viewer how much they're going to like the story. The best joke is the joke that you don't know is a joke until you hear the punchline. How many funny jokes start with, "Here's a funny joke." Because then you've raised expectations too high.

Life of Pi starts by basically telling us that this story is going to be amazing. But even worse, here's how they say it. "He said you had a story that would make me believe in God." If that book with the talking snake didn't do that, the tiger on the raft won't either.

And that brings me to the last movie I saw in 2012. Before I get into it and start getting my fictional Facebook dislike button pressed, answer this question to yourself. Did you really like Les Misérables, or did you really like the music?

Back in high school band, we played a Les Misérables medley. With that, I got to know some of the music pretty well, as one does when one plays a song over and over. I didn't get to know any of the words, though, as one doesn't when one plays a song over and over. And I did grow to enjoy the music.

On on middle school Washington, D.C. and New York trip that I lead, we go to see a Broadway show on one of the evenings. One year, we saw Les Misérables. I remember enjoying that much, much more than Phantom of the Opera, Legally Blonde, or that really crappy ABBA thing. I remember being impressed by the sets and how something so big fit on the small stage. And I did enjoy the music.

I can't remember exactly how long ago I started seeing the trailer for Les Misérables, but when you watch as many movies as I do, you see many trailers over and over. It feature Anne Hathaway singing I Dreamed a Dream. And you know what? That's a really pretty song. It's beautiful, in fact. And it's an emotional song. And it's super-duper catchy.  And I would continue to hum or whistle it the rest of the day. I would sing it, but I don't really know the words. I think it goes something like this. "I dreamed a dream of dreams and dreams. I have a dream today of dreaming. Free at last, oh free at last. I dreamed a dream, we're free at last."

So that little ear worm actually got me to the point where I was anticipating the movie and looking forward to it. But something on a stage just doesn't translate to something on the big screen.

Director Tom Hooper made a bizarre decision, I think. During many of the big solo songs, he filmed the actors (and I make the distinction between actors and singers, which I'll get to in a moment) in an extreme close-up of their faces. I guess the reasoning is that on stage you can't see the expressions on their faces, so this will give them something different.

When you give a long, extended close-up of someone singing emotionally and trying to cry, their nose runs. And it's a bit gross to see this clear line of 10 feet of booger running into a gigantic mouth. Try not to look at it while Marius sings with his Muppet voice.

This extreme close-up idea probably works best in the previously mentioned I Dreamed a Dream. It is a very emotional song, and Hathaway does a good job with most of it. But it ultimately didn't work for me for two reasons. The first is that she's an actress, not really a singer. So she's trying harder to act than to sing. The song suffers when she forces the louder parts.

But more importantly, Hathaway performs the song soon in the movie after getting her hair cut off. And there's an extreme close-up on her face for an extended period of time. And she cries a bit. And I couldn't think of anything except THIS. Nothing compares 2 it.

Russell Crowe. Here's what I thought everytime he would sing. "It's a good thing Gladiator wasn't a musical." He's rather awful.

Hugh Jackman. Here's what I thought everytime he would sing. "Maybe Wolverine should have been a musical." He's actually pretty good. His character of Jean Valjean proves that in 19th century France, money can't buy happiness. But it can buy a toothbrush.

Amanda Seyfried. It makes sense that she was cast as Anne Hathaway's daughter. They both have those creepy, oversize, bulbous, horse-eyes on the sides of their heads.

The absolute best performance of the movie is Samantha Barks as Eponine with On My Own. She's clearly the most talented singer. A quick bit of research shows why. She actually performed it on stage. And finding that bit of information makes me wish that they would make a version of this movie with an actual stage cast and a different director.

I think it needs a few more changes, as well. It needs to be edited down. On Broadway, we mercifully have an intermission. The movie is way too long. In that version we played in high school, the medley ends with Do You Hear the People Sing? When I heard the people sing that, I was really hoping the movie was about to end as well. Nope. I continued to hear the people sing for quite a long time after.

I was also turned off by the "dialogue" between the big numbers. They sing the lines. Sort of. They certainly aren't saying the lines. On stage, it works. On the screen, it's annoying.

Here's the deal with Les Misérables. As I write this, I'm still whistling the music. And I have been for the day and a half since I saw it. I like the music. I don't like the movie.

2012 Movies - Overrated, Part I

These aren't bad movies. Some of them are even quite good. You have probably heard of them. You have probably heard someone else say how great they are. They are on other people's top ten lists. Those people are wrong.

Movies are made for certain audiences. I don't just mean movies for kids, tweens, women, men, or hermaphrodites. I mean for people who have had certain experiences. I don't always know what those experiences are, but there's an easy way to identify those movies. Many people will simply say that they just didn't get it. Not in the lack of comprehension of the plot, but they just didn't get why other people liked it. The example I always think of is Lost in Translation. I don't know exactly what it was, but it resurfaces when you watch the movie.

The Grey is an example of a movie that I saw but DIDN'T experience whatever it was I was supposed to experience. These guys walk through the snow while being stalked by wolves. I've read reviews and lists of people who absolutely loved it and felt a deep connection with Liam Neeson's character. They understood his relationship with faith and some sort of God. I just never got it. It didn't connect with me. But there was something else that pulled me out of the movie.

Early on, one of the characters talks about the myth that more people are alive today that have ever existed on the Earth. I spent the next several minutes just trying to do some math in my head. It just didn't add up. Also, I was pretty sure that I had heard that myth debunked before. So when I got home, I had to check it out. It turns out that using science and math, people have calculated that the total number of people to exist is much closer to 100 billion. The website that I found and linked to above was dated about the same day that I saw the movie, so I wouldn't be surprised if the article was prompted by this stupid movie.

Or maybe I just wanted to see Liam Neeson fight more wolves.

I hesitate to list The Hunger Games as overrated, since the only people who rate it highly are girls approximately aged 12-14. But when it came out, that's who I had to hear about it from. Also, I read all three books. After finishing the third, I dared to post on Facebook a bout how shitty it was. And I was rebuffed by actual adults. They were wrong.

So first, I feel that a quick review of the books is necessary here. The first book was decent. It was, as are all three, quick reads. It's filled with flaws, but it's an interesting enough story. The second book is pretty much the first book all over again, but the actual Games are more interesting. The third book takes it's own course. And it completely falls apart.

The third book (minor spoilers) is about the war between the little city things (notice my lack of interest in doing 30 seconds or research to find what they were called) and the big city government. But it's not fought the way a war is fought. The battles aren't like battles. It reminded me of a middle school student trying to talk about the Civil War but not even understanding the difference between a war and a battle. 

Then there's Katniss (slightly bigger spoilers, but still minor, ahead). She is basically worthless in the movie. In fact, all she does is get injured and get in the way. While reading it, I was reminded of the movie Robot Ninja. His line in the movie is "I am the Robot Ninja, and I kick ass." First and most importantly, he was neither a Robot or a Ninja. Second, he never kicks ass. He gets his ass constantly kicked. So his line is a complete lie. All Katniss does in here is get her ass kicked, and if not, getting in everyone else's way. It's just garbage.

What about the movie The Hunger Games. It honestly wasn't too bad and was entertaining. I promised that this year I wouldn't write about how distracting the SHITTY SHAKY CAM is in movies, so I'll ignore how that almost ruined the movie going experience, as it so often does. Will I see the other movies? I don't know. I think the Games in the second could be entertaining if they don't change it too much from the books. But the third? I think it would be horrible. They're breaking it into two movies. I can't imagine anyone being interested in that. I should point out that a lot of people who really liked the first two books have told me that they had trouble getting through the third.

Prometheus was highly anticipated as having some kind of connection with the Alien movies. Visually, it's a beautiful movie. However, it tries to ask a lot of philosophical questions about the origins of man, both in this particular mythology and in our world. And it fails to deliver any kinds of answers or even anything to actually think about. It's a lot like Lost. And not so coincidentally, Damon Lindelof, Lost showrunner, was heavily involved with the script. The difference is that I actually enjoyed the journey on Lost, and I think that's what ended up being most important (until you start to ask WHY there's a box somewhere on the island that they can pull Locke's father from and apparently anything they want but is never referenced ever again). With Prometheus, I found the journey lacking in entertainment and frustrating due to my lack of understanding of what it was trying to accomplish.

I  wasn't going to put The Dark Knight Rises on this list. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to give it more than a couple sentences. The movies in the middle aren't going to get much more than that, so this is a chance to highlight it a bit. I feel like I need to mention more about it out of reverence to the previous two movies. I listed Batman Begins as my number 4 in 2005 and The Dark Knight as number 3 in 2008. To be honest, I REALLY liked The Dark Knight Rises. I was entertained all the way through. I applaud Christopher Nolan and company for really reaching to put the third movie over the top.

But that's where it falls apart for me. It went way too far over the top. Bane takes an entire city hostage. That's really reaching - ambitious for both Bane and Nolan to allow that to happen. But then comes the part that I can't get past. The gap of several months where he continues to hold the city hostage. MONTHS. Forget Batman. How long could that actually go on without any real resistance from the outside? And it's the DC Universe, so somebody else would show up to do something.

And after a few months, the police emerge from underground fresh and clean and ready to fight. Batman has another fist fight with Bane.It's just too big for this movie, and I couldn't move past that. Many of the other things people complained about I was fine with. The" This isn't the real Bruce Wayne/Batman" argument didn't work for me. First, he's fictional. Second, which version? Third, this is the real Batman from these movies. And the ending? I didn't find it ambiguous, and I liked it. I'm greatly conflicted.

I wrote more about these four movies than I planned to, so I'm splitting this into two parts.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Movies - The Worst

51 Movies.I didn't quite get to one a week. If there were anything else showing in a theater near me tomorrow, I would probably hit that mark. But considering what's out there, if I were to see something, it would probably make it into this post. These are the WORST movies I saw this year.

As usual, I must make a disclaimer. Even though I see more movies than most people, I'm still somewhat picky about my movies. I try not to see movies that are obvious total dreck. That's why I didn't see Parental Guidance this holiday season. The first reason I wanted to be sure I mention this is so that you notice that I didn't list A Thousand Words on today's post and think that it must be on my top 10 list.

The second reason is that I broke that general rule this year. I feel justified in breaking it, as I'll explain, but I still feel bad about it. And this year, I almost broke that rule a second time. I made my way through James Patterson's Alex Cross books this past year. They aren't great, but they're fast, entertaining reads. I almost went to see Cross. Based on everything I've read, I dodged a second bullet; the first is still embedded in my gut. I'll return to that in a bit, as it doesn't stand alone on this list.

There were four movies I saw in theaters this year that were pretty worthless. The second movie I saw was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I saw this only because it was nominated for Best Picture, which is a huge crock of shit. Here's what I wrote back in February for my Oscar roundup:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was Extremely Band and Incredibly Wretched. Tom Hanks is strange, and not in a good way.The plot is contrived and ridiculous. I will admit that there is a small twist at the end that brought some things together and made the mother's character, played by Sandra Bullock, make more sense. But it was too late at that point. I have no clue why this movie was nominated or even liked. I'll start my own riot and looting in downtown Concord if this wins.

 I debated over whether to put The Campaign on this list or just hide it away into my general writeup as forgettable. But it comes down to this. If a comedy isn't funny, it fails. The only funny parts were in the trailer. Beyond that? Very, very forgettable. I often forget that I usually don't care for Will Farrell. Anchorman, which I love, has totally screwed up my barometer for Ferrell.

I felt strongly deceived by Premium Rush. It stars Joseph Gordon Levitt. He has been a superstar on my list over the past couple years with Inception  at number 4 in 2010, 500 Days of Summer at number 2 in 2009, and the fantastic 50/50 scoring the top spot last year. I saw all four movies credited to him this year, and one of those is in my top ten.

Also deceiving me was Michael Shannon. If you haven't seen Take Shelter, take a look. He's fantastic. And he's going to be General Zod, for crying out loud. In Premium Rush, both of these actors phoned it in. It felt like a bad surfing movie from the 90s. Actually, I think I'm being way too kind with that comparison.

So what was the worst movie of 2012? The one I broke my rule for? First, here's my excuse. I was in Las Vegas. And that should almost be explanation enough, and it should be my cue to stop writing and keep that memory in Vegas. But I shall continue as a cautionary tale to others to stay away.

So I was in Las Vegas, and I had to check out of my hotel by noon. But I wasn't done with that visit. I was meeting others later that day. I had to kill some time. Las Vegas is hot. I also wanted air conditioning. Casinos tend to cost money. So I went to the movies.

It was probably the heat of the Nevada desert that convinced me that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter would be a good choice. I perhaps tried to convince myself that it was also research for my job. It wasn't. It was bad. And not even in a campy way, which is probably its worst sin. It never took a moment to wink at the viewer to show that they were in on the joke. They weren't.

I say the next part lightly, but also slightly seriously. And I don't even know if I can explain it correctly. I didn't like the historical inaccuracies in the movie, either. Yeah, the movie that added vampires to the Antebellum Period and put a crucifix in the hand of our 16th president. I say either make it totally accurate but with vampires OR just change history a la Quentin Tarantino. But don't have things that are just inaccurate.

It was a miserable hour of my life. "Wait!" I hear you say. "It was only an hour?" No. I'm sure it was longer. But that's all I could handle. Yep. I left. I walked out of the theater. And that's a big deal. I don't walk out of movies. I can remember only two other movies that I've walked out of. One was The Milagro Beanfield War. But I saw that movie at the Capri way back in the late 80s. For those of you who don't know, they used to show two moves repeated. So if you pay for one movie, you get to watch the next. And repeat if you choose. So I went to see something else. I hardly count that one.

The second movie walked out of is a lot more telling. It was in my San Diego State days. That movie was Mel Brook's Dracula: Dead and Loving It. I think I walked out of that one and walked into Father of the Bride II, which shows you just how bad that was.  So apparently, I hate vampire movies with colons in their titles. It's a good thing I didn't see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part II.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

1939: You Can't Take It With You

I was looking forward to You Can't Take It With You. I enjoy Frank Capra movies. I enjoy Jimmy Stewart movies. I enjoy Frank Capra's movies with Jimmy Stewart.  The problem is that I fell asleep about 15 minutes in.

Knowing that I wasn't particularly tired, I blamed it on the movie. I'm a very light sleeper, and I usually have a difficult time falling asleep (though it's not unheard of that I'll doze off while watching TV or a movie.) So something was a bit off. I knew I had to try again, but something was going to need to change.

You see, the picture and sound quality aren't great. You Can't Take It With You is in dire need of a clean up. The picture is overly grainy and slowly flickers between light and dark. And the dialogue isn't clear. I lost focus on what they were saying, and that turned the movie into white noise. I always sleep with white noise. And the picture became the video version with its hypnotic slow flicker.

So take two. I turned on the captions. The first thing it did is put bright yellow, but constant, words on the screen. It broke the video monotony. And of course reading the words made sure I understood exactly what was being said. It also forced me to pay attention.

The funny thing is that I should have thought of that idea right away. Whenever I showed a movie in class (Almost Heroes and Glory - and that's an important reason why I stopped showing the edited version of Glory. It wasn't captioned), I show it with the captions. Partially this is for any deaf students I might have. But I also understand that having words on the screen helps with comprehension. And I was the one who needed this particular accommodation today.

So what about the movie? It's pretty darned good. I think I enjoy It Happened Last Night and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington more, but it might be close to It's a Wonderful Life for me. Being a Capra movie, the ending was predictable from the first few minutes, but it takes plenty of fun turns along the way. It certainly doesn't get to that point in the way I expected.

Of the Capra movies, it might be the best representation of the 30's. All the way through, I was considering how it would work to show in a junior year history class. Since I'm teaching four of those next year, I think it could work to teach a few things.

NEXT WEEK: 1940 - Gone With the Wind

Oscar Project Rankings:
  1. It Happened One Night (1935)
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1931)
  3. Mutiny on the Bounty (1936)
  4. You Can't Take It With You (1939)
  5. The Life of Emile Zola (1938)
  6. Grand Hotel (1933)
  7. Cimarron (1932)
  8. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
  9. Broadway Melody (1930)
  10. Wings (1929)
  11. Cavalcade (1934)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

1938: The Life of Emile Zola

The Life of Emile Zola is a slightly misleading title. This is really the story of the Dreyfus affair told from the point of view of writer Emile Zola with a long introduction showing key points in his career. I really mention that less as a nitpick about the title, as titles are allowed to be ambigous and/or misleading (I'm looking at you, Naked Lunch). I point that out more because the movie really takes off when we gt to the Dreyfus affair.

I first became familiar with the Dreyfus affair after seeing it as a favorite subject of several questions and answers on Jeopardy. French Captain Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly accused, tries and convicted of treason. When evidence of his innocence was discovered, it was covered by higher ups in the French army, prompting many French intellectuals, including Emile Zola, to get involved.

The first part of the movie, actually showing the life of Emile Zola, moves quickly enough, as it is a series of short scenes that outlines his writing career. But there's nothing too interesting, save for his friendship with painter Paul Cézanne and a few lines about fighting for the people, likely taken from his own writings. I found myself mentally drifting away during that first part, but as I mentioned before, the movie really takes off when the Dreyfus affair begins. The scenes when Emile Zola is on trial are the most dramatic and best of the movie and made it well worth watching.

NEXT WEEK: 1939 - You Can't Take it With You

Oscar Project Rankings:
  1. It Happened One Night (1935)
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1931)
  3. Mutiny on the Bounty (1936)
  4. The Life of Emile Zola (1938)
  5. Grand Hotel (1933)
  6. Cimarron (1932)
  7. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
  8. Broadway Melody (1930)
  9. Wings (1929)
  10. Cavalcade (1933)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

1937: The Great Ziegfeld

The Great Ziegfeld tells the story of the career of Broadway producer Florence Ziegfeld. His career is a series of ups and downs. Every time he gets a hit or tastes success, he loses it only to have to build up again. For example, when he gets rich in 1929, he decides that it's time to play it safe and put all of his money into the stock market. Click the link on the year if you don't know why that's a bad idea. He usually gets his money back from The Wizard of Oz.

Ziegfeld is less of a producer and more of a used car salesman. He tricks and manipulates those around him. I can see how in 1936 when this came out that he might have been a different lead character than people had seen in a movie. But these days, we've seen that act done before and done much better. Still, kudos for doing it early on.

After the first 45 minutes, the majority of the rest of the 185 minute movie is musical numbers from Ziegfeld's various Broadway shows, especially his Follies. I was reminded of the second Oscar winner, The Broadway Melody. And I was as uninterested in this as I was in that.

The highlight of the movie is easily a scene with Ray Bolger. I've embedded it below. It's pretty much his audition for the part of The Scarecrow. Though in his first scene, it's almost confusing when he talks about not having a heart. The real fun starts about a minute in, and the really impressive part starts around 2:20.

Update: It's no longer available on YouTube. So... search for other Ray Bolger stuff. It's good.

NEXT WEEK: 1938 - The Life of Emile Zola

Oscar Project Rankings:
  1. It Happened One Night (1935)
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1931)
  3. Mutiny on the Bounty (1936)
  4. Grand Hotel (1933)
  5. Cimarron (1932)
  6. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
  7. Broadway Melody (1930)
  8. Wings (1929)
  9. Cavalcade (1933)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Summer 2012

I can't exactly start a summer without my summer blog, can I? The funny thing to do would be to put, "Yes. Yes I can." Then end it there.

But this isn't just for shits and giggles. It's for shits, giggles, and grandstanding. In the past, I have used my summer blog to write about my goals for the summer. Considering that I rarely ever meet any of my goals, I think this year I'm going to call them predictions. If I don't meet any of the goals, then I'll just be a poor psychic.  Or just a psychic.  Or a unicorn. What's the difference?

But anyway, here's a disclaimer that I add on every year, I think. This post is more for me than for you. I can't imagine any interest or excitement in reading this for anyone other than me. You've been warned. Still, I'll be happy if you do and I appreciate the comments.

My first prediction/goal is one that I have to meet. Last week was my last at El Dorado Middle School. This fall I will start at Northgate High School. That means I have a totally new curriculum. I need to spend some good quality time this summer developing a new curriculum. Or possibly two, depending on which schedule I'm offered. I've been told I'll either be teaching five periods of US History (juniors) or four of World History (sophomores) and a period of a geography elective. Since it's my job, that goal isn't a choice. So I'll be actively working on that all summer. I might blog about leaving El Dorado at some point, but I don't really want to say some things too publicly at this point. I'm leaving happily and comfortably with bridges intact behind me. I mean, it's not like my leaving wasn't acknowledged or anything like that...

Last summer, I got quite a bit done on the interior remodel of my house. There are a few details that I still haven't finished on the crown molding, so that needs to be done. I have early plans to take down the beautiful wallpaper in the kitchen and give it a coat of paint. And I have a couple rooms that are still filled with stuff that needs to be organized and taken to the garbage or garage.

Outside, we have a different story. I  have a backyard filled with plants and stuff that I don't like. I'm tearing out a lot of it. If we have too many days like today (the thermometer in my car said 107 about an hour ago), I won't get a lot done there.  There are some plants in the front yard I want to tear out as well. It's possible I might get around to painting the house as well. The problem is that the paint on the house now is lead based. That means the removal of that coat is not cheap. It might just get painted over. And then there's the roof, which I should have gotten to a couple years ago.

So that covers the work I need to do. What about the fun stuff?  I've "collected" a whole lot of movies on my computer from Netflix over the past year, so I want to watch a bunch of those. I hope to continue with the Oscar Project. In fact, I'm going to watch The Great Ziegfeld later today. And there are a few movies coming out in theaters that I'm looking forward to. I also have The Wire ready to go. I watched the first season last year, but it felt like work every time I turned on an episode. I've heard the later seasons are much better. We'll see.

I played around on my piano for a bit this morning, and I want to start playing again regularly this summer, even if only for a few minutes a day. And who knows? I might pull out my guitar or any other instruments laying around and play with those a bit.

Some might remember my reader's block blog from a few years past. I've definitely gotten past that. With my Nook, I've been as much of an avid reader as I ever was. I've been reading through the Alex Cross series. They are dumb "beach reading" type thrillers, but fun. They have been getting progressively worse, however, so I don't know if I'll get through them all. I'm reading the second Game of Thrones book. I figure I'll alternate reading those and watching the seasons of the show, though I hear they won't line up as nicely in the next few seasons.

I got my new camera a couple months ago. I'm hoping to spend some quality time learning how to do a few new techniques as well as really learning post production.

I hope to host a BBQ or two over here this summer, so let me know if you want to come over and hang out, as well as maybe another games night or just sitting around night.

It should be a pretty relaxed summer. Next summer, I'm traveling again, so this summer I'm saving money for that (as well as the possibility of furlough days if the kind voters of California continue to decide that education isn't worth it). I'll be in Las Vegas for a few days next week, and I hope to be in San Diego for a few days at the end of the summer, but that's it. The rest will be in the Bay Area. I'll probably spend too much time online looking at travel sites.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

1936: Mutiny on the Bounty

While watching these older movies, I often wonder what it would be like if it were made in modern times. The story of the mutiny has been told several times. In fact, the 1936 Oscar winning version was the third of five movies. But it's the only one I have seen, so I wonder if what I'm about to write it true of any of the others.

The voyage of the Bounty is an interesting story, and the mutiny itself is probably least interesting. In Mutiny on the Bounty, it takes about two minutes of screen time, and that's about all that's needed. I believe that if it were made today, the mutiny would be almost the entire movie. It would probably be filmed with extra shaky cam and featuring impromptu martial arts displays from the various mutineers. The size of the interior of the ship would be filled with endless hiding places and individual set pieces.

Mutiny on the Bounty is too long at 132 minutes, but it still moves along well enough. As I mentioned, the mutiny itself is done quickly, and is almost the only action piece, minus a threatening storm or two. The story moves along with the slowly building tension between Captain Bligh and the others. Once we finally get to the mutiny, it makes sense. It works. We even wish it had happened earlier. I think that would be missing from a modern version.

For the second week in a row, I can write that Clark Gable is great in this. And he plays a different character than in It Happened One Night. His acting range is pretty darned good, especially for the mid 1930s, when much of the acting is overmelodramatic, if such a thing is possible. I'll see Gable again in a few weeks, but he won't give a damn.

And what about Captain Blight?  Some quick research shows that the movie character wasn't much like the reality. The real cause of the mutiny probably wasn't the same as in the movie, and isn't really clear. But we're talking about the movie.

What he really such a horrible guy? Did he deserve the mutiny? Well as I mentioned, we understand when it gets to that point. But I don't think he's so evil as he is just a dumb guy with too much power. The movie makes the point that he was a brilliant Captain. The voyage was a difficult one that he made much easier with his mad skills. And most of his decisions are made with the voyage, as well as King and County, in mind. The problem is that he isn't smart enough to the take the best path, only the one prescribed to him. So did he deserve the mutiny? No, but the men who did deserved to mutiny, and in the end that's all that matters.
P.S. Just before publishing this, I remembered that since I had watched Mutiny on the Bounty as one of the AFT Top 100 movies, I had already written a bit about it. I went to check it out. As it turns out, My opinion remained almost identical, just with fewer words. Here it it:

March 28, 2004 - Mutiny marks movie #100 for me - the last movie to watch... Overall a good movie. At over two hours, it moved along well enough without rushing to the mutiny itself. I think that if it were made today, the mutiny would have started about 45 minutes in - and then taken up another 45 minutes worth of special effects to actually do it.

NEXT WEEK: 1937 - The Great Ziegfeld

Oscar Project Rankings:
  1. It Happened One Night (1935)
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1931)
  3. Mutiny on the Bounty (1936)
  4. Grand Hotel (1933)
  5. Cimarron (1932)
  6. Broadway Melody (1930)
  7. Wings (1929)
  8. Cavalcade (1933)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

1935: It Happened One Night

I recently had a brief conversation about It's a Wonderful Life. I mentioned that it was a pretty good movie, but that it wasn't even Frank Capra's best movie. I prefer both Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and this movie, It Happened One Night. I should note that I've never seen You Can't Take it With You, but I soon will for this very column.

It Happened One Night is filled with snappy dialogue, delivered by the deliciously smarmy Clark Gable. Those scenes are all the better when shared by Claudette Colbert. At 105 minutes, it's just about the perfect length for a movie, and the great scenes give it forward momentum almost all the way through. The last twenty minutes, however, takes a bit too long to reach it's conclusion. The conclusion is obvious and satisfying, however, so it works well enough.

While the dialogue makes the movie good, a few bright scenes makes it great. Clark Gable does a memorable strip tease (even the most homophobic of you can handle it). Gable and Colbert's attempt at hitchhiking has been repeated and parodied enough.  Gable's carrot eating in the scene even inspired a certain cartoon rabbit, as does a minor character's repeated use of the word "Doc" elsewhere in the movie. I'm embedding the scene below. In the last couple frames, you might recognize the driver. That's both Little John and the Skipper's dad.

My absolute favorite scene, however, is a sing-a-long on the bus. A group of musicians suddenly appear on the back of the bus, and soon everyone is singing "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze."  Different passengers, none of whom we have previously seen or will see again, take a different verse. The entire bus, Gable and Colbert featured, sing along with the chorus. It doesn't make a great deal of sense, though it does lead to the next plot point (featuring the exterior of a totally different bus and driver crashing into a ditch). But it's a few minutes of pure cinematic joy.

NEXT WEEK: 1936 - Mutiny on the Bounty

Oscar Project Rankings:

1. It Happened One Night (1935)
2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1931)
3. Grand Hotel (1933)
4. Cimarron (1932)
5. Broadway Melody (1930)
6. Wings (1929)
7. Cavalcade (1933)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

1934: Cavalcade

Cavalcade is the movie that I blame for stopping the Oscar Project the first time around. The reason has almost nothing to do with the movie itself. It's that it's not easily available. I found a lousy torrent of it, complete with Spanish subtitles and lousy sound. I realized after a few minutes that I had to rely on my sparse Spanish skills to understand some of the sentences. I stopped watching, and the Project found itself unofficially suspended. I threatened to continue a couple times under the assumption that I could find a cleaner version of Cavalcade, or just pass it by. I couldn't do either. Today, I'm forcing myself to sit down and watch the crappy sound/Spanish subtitled version.

It's definitely not the most exciting movie ever. Cavalcade tells the story of an English family over the course of 30+ years. Starting with New Years Eve 1899, the family patriarch is about to go off to Africa to fight in the Boer War. Expectations are that he will return changed or not at all. A few months later, he's back, and it doesn't seem to have changed him at all. I guess I missed the significance of that.

Years later his son falls in love. He and his new wife go on a cruise for their honeymoon. The date on the screen is April 14, 1912. If you know your historical dates (or James Cameron movies), you know it won't end well. Then World War I happens in a Captain America/WWII style montage. And then some other stuff happened that I didn't pay attention to.

Definitely not worth the wait. Even though it's been a couple years since I watched the first movies, I'm pretty sure that Cavalcade is definitely my least favorite movie of The Project so far. You can check the "Oscar Project" labels on the blog posts to find those. I hope I'm back on track with this thing. If I actually do, I'll be watching the Oscar winner from this year in December of 2013. The next movie, It Happened One Night, I've already seen. It's fantastic, so I know I'll enjoy rewatching it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

2011 Oscar Roundup

2011 was a rather strange year for movies, and that makes for a strange mix of Best Picture nominees. Perhaps strange isn't the word of choice for many, as by many accounts it was a weak year for movies. But I tend to enjoy the bad movies as much as the good one, as it gives me something to complain about.

I do have to agree to some extent, at least. With the exception of my favorite movie of 2011, I didn't really love any of the movies. The same is true of the Oscar winners. I have some favorites, but none that I'll really be rooting for. I have four that I will be actively rooting against, however. Let's discuss.


Midnight in Paris, The Descendents, and The Artist all made my top 10 list. I honestly believe that the race is between The Descendents and The Artist. I feel like Midnight in Paris came out too soon, so it lost the momentum. However, it's out on DVD/Blu, but it's still showing in some theaters. That's unprecedented for a non-special effects extravaganza. The Descendents is probably the more emotional choice, and maybe the best all around movie. The Artist is the most different of the movies, and being silent and black and white, the best look back at classic movies.

The Middle of the road.

Moneyball and Hugo were good, but definitely not great. My favorite part of Moneyball was reliving the A's win streak, but that's because I followed it closely and went to one of the games. I'm also nerdy enough to enjoy the math conversations between Hill and Pitt. I didn't like the pacing of Hugo. It looks beautiful and is a great nod to film events that should be made a part of our country's remembered history. But, well, meh.

The toilet.

Of the four movies that I really disliked, I would be least offended if the movie I hated the most won. Reread that sentence if necessary to follow it. The Tree of Life was pretentious crap, but it was ambitiously crappy. For that reason alone, it will hurt the least if it gets the award.

War Horse was an over manipulation of emotions. While The Descendents was emotional, it was because of someone dying and felt genuine. We were supposed to be swept away by a horse in War Horse, and one that was spectacular. Looked like just a horse to me. The kid who played the lead was not such a great actor with a strange voice.

The Help. It has many of the notes of a good movie. The acting is good. The subject is interesting. There are parts that I really liked. But there is way too much crap. The most egregious problem to me is that the characters are cartoons, especially Bryce Dallas Howard's villainous white lady - awful. There are MUCH better movies about the civil rights era. And there is a great movie about the help waiting to be told; I've heard that the book is excellent. But tell it from the point of the help. Show their stories - don't having them tell them (creative writing 101, day 1).

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was Extremely Band and Incredibly Wretched. Tom Hanks is strange, and not in a good way.The plot is contrived and ridiculous. I will admit that there is a small twist at the end that brought some things together and made the mother's character, played by Sandra Bullock, make more sense. But it was too late at that point. I have no clue why this movie was nominated or even liked. I'll start my own riot and looting in downtown Concord if this wins.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Number 1 - 50/50

50/50 is a funny movie about cancer. Good times!

When I wrote about The Descendents, I mentioned that it nicely walked the line between funny and dramatic. 50/50 does it even better.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt came close to making the top of my list before with 500 Days of Summer - it hit number 2. The two movies can sit next to each other in a DVD collection whether grouped by name or by level of awesomeness. I don't think this movie works without him. James McAvoy was originally cast as Adam, and I can't imagine it.

My biggest surprise is how much I enjoyed Seth Rogan as Kyle. He dialed back his performance and took the backseat, yet he never disappears. While 50/50 looks at Adam's relationship with his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), it's Adam and Kyle who grow closer together in a natural way as a result of Adam's cancer. Considering that was the genesis of the script, and the role he played in real life, it works.

50/50 comes out at home later this month. I think it deserves a MUCH wider audience that it received. It came out at a bad time, and it's probably difficult to market a funny cancer movie. See it.I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Number 2 - Midnight in Paris

This became my favorite Woody Allen movie barely halfway through it. I submit that I haven't seen every one of his, but I've seen my fair share. I've actually enjoyed a few movies that he's done in the past few years, including Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Match Point (which hit number 8 on my 2006 list). Of his older stuff, I appreciate some of them, found no enjoyment at all in some of them.

I think that I like the Woody Allen character, but I want the character to do something other to be the whole movie. And that's one of the first ways that Midnight in Paris succeeds. Owen Wilson plays the Allen character, but there is actually a plot that he follows. Yes, I realize that I have said many times that the character arc is the most important thing in a movie. But it's even better when they do something.

And then we have Owen Wilson's performance. I mentioned that he plays the Allen character. But while you recognize it, it feels more like Owen is playing a homage to Allen instead of trying to be him. He moves in his own direction and gives it a light touch that I really liked. This was a guy that you really would like to hang out with for awhile. As he goes on his midnight adventures, you really understand why all of these people would really like him.

I'm being vague with plot details by using the word "adventures" instead of telling anything. I went into this movie knowing little more than the trailer and that it was getting good reviews, so nothing was spoiled for me. What happens after midnight is the big surprise of the movie, and I don't want to be the one to ruin it for you if you haven't seen it yet. However, in some things I have since read about, it has been spoiled. The closer it gets to Oscar season, it will be spoiled even more.

Luckily, it's out on DVD. Even luckier, it's still showing in some theaters around the Bay Area. Yes, a movie that came out at the beginning of last summer is still there in January. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out. If you are an English teacher and you still haven't seen it, or if you just plain enjoy reading some good literature, you definitely need to see it.

Also, I love that poster. My favorite of the year.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Number 3 - The Descendents

The best script of the year, hands down, belongs to The Descendents. You won't see a movie with more snappy dialogue and smooth lines this year. But the two story lines also weave together nicely.

The first story is of Matt King, played by George Clooney, and his family's attempt to sell their land, which they are required to do for legal reasons. Here's one big reason why this movie and script works. That should be a dull story, and they make it work. It's mostly the backdrop for the second and more import story, but it never gets lost, it never gets forgotten, and it enhances the main story.

The second and main story involves King's wife. She is in a coma, and King finds out that she was having an affair. He, with his daughters, tries to find the guy while they are dealing with the condition of his wife. It's an extremely emotional story that never gets melodramatic. It walks that thin tightrope of trying to be dramatic and funny - and pulls it off effortlessly.

George Clooney always picks great movies. Even him movies that I haven't enjoyed as much, such as Syriana, I appreciate and respect. He's at his best here. And surprisingly, so are the Amara Miller and Shailene Woodley, the girls who play his daughters. I noticed something during the final scene. It's a really simple shot of the family watching TV, with the camera in the place where the TV should be. They didn't feel like they were acting in that shot. None of them. And I recognized that in most movies with little kids (Miller is 10) you tend to notice that their acting is crappy, but they're kids so you often ignore it. Everything felt natural. Woodley plays his 17-year old daughter, thoough she is actually 20. I've read buzz of an Oscar nom for her. She deserves it, and I hope to see Clooney's name as well.

The minor characters are also very nicely written. Early in the movie, you'll meet a character named Sid, who is a friend of King's older daughter. You'll think that you have him figured out in his early scenes. But there's another layer or two revealed, and it works. It makes sense. You'll think he's just there for comic relief, but he also helps to tell the story.

Finally, I have to give a nod to the music. The movie takes place in Hawaii, so you can imagine what you hear, though it's never cheesy or feels like luau.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day Star

Number 4 - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I really liked the Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I *sort of* put it on my top 10 last year, though I chose to group it together with all three movies, as they were released in the US in the same year. When I heard about the US remake so soon, I was quite doubtful. Mostly, I thought that there was no way that they could replace Noomi Rapace as the title character Lisbeth Salander. Noomi made the character cool. However, I rewatched parts of the original after watching this version. Seeing in through new eyes, I noticed that her characterization is more flat. She plays Lisbeth as a tortured, moody soul. But that's about it. I also saw Noomi Rapace in a new light when I saw Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. She was pretty bad in that, so I'm afraid she might just be a one trick pony.

As it turns out, the best reason to like the new David Fincher version is Rooney Mara in the same role. She not only exceeds the coolness, but she does something that makes a huge difference. She makes the character interesting. The new Lisbeth has a range of emotions, yet all are quite subtle. You have to pay attention to notice them. Luckily, she's good enough that you can't help but watch her when she's on screen.

After watching this version, I was finally compelled to read the book. The beginning of the book goes into a lot more detail with the business part of the movie - the more dull parts. I think both movies were quite successful in speeding that up. The new movie, however, changes the ending of the mystery. I'm not sure if it's better or as good, though.

Overall, however, the new version ends up being better than the Swedish. It has a better flow. It tells the story cleaner. It brings the characters into a new life. I understand that since box office numbers haven't been as good as they had been hoping, Sony isn't sure if they are going to go ahead with the next two movies. That would be a shame. As I said in my review last year of all three, they work best as a complete story. I need the next two to come out to inspire me to read the other two.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lord Murphy

Number 5 - The Muppets

After watching The Muppets, I spent some time during Winter Break watching lots of Muppets clips. There are plenty of fun songs from the TV show and previous movies. Many of the Jim Henson tributes, especially this one, are really emotional. The movie brought back a lot of great memories.

But it's more than just that. This is definitely the most fun movie of the year. Let's start with Jason Segal. He's just right for this. Did you see Bad Teacher? Not a good movie.The one bright spot was Jason Segal. He delivered the only laughs in that movie. How can you not watch the closing of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and not know that he can excel in a Muppet movie?

In the end, the music has to work. Four words. Flight. Of. The. Conchords. They got Bret McKenzie from FotC. Brilliant. A couple songs, "Party of One" and "Man or Muppet," both feel like they could fit in any episode. And then there's the opening song Life's a Happy Song, which is easy to sing along with. Here's a slightly different (and even more fun) version of the song, featuring Bret and Kermit. Life's a filet o' fish!

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Number 6 - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This was without a doubt the surprise of the year for me. I'm not a huge Planet of the Apes fan. I watched the original probably around the time that the Tim Burton remake was announced. I remember plenty of cheesy acting from Charlton Heston and a few other things, but it felt really dated. So I was in support of the remake. What I remember most from the remake, other than a severe feeling of being underwhelmed, was Paul Giamatti as one of the apes. And the ending too, I guess.

Had it not been for Rotten Tomatoes, I never would have considered going to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The trailer looked a little cool, but I expected all the best to be in there. So after seeing the tomato meter so high (currently at 83%), I decided to check it out.

The character arc of the ape, Caesar, is actually pretty good. I think the special effects have finally hit the point where my mind is mostly convinced that it's real. I'm not constantly noticing - "Oh, there's CGI." The pace of the movie works really nicely. The action is fun and exciting. There are a few nice Easter Eggs that refer to the original movie. Just all around, I really enjoyed the movie. Is it as high on the list as it is because I had low expectations? Absolutely. But I think that if I were a fan of the original, I still would have enjoyed it quite a bit.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Number 7 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

To be clear, I didn't accidentally leave off "Part 2" from the title. I mentioned while making the list last year that Part 1 was naturally unsatisfying. Dividing it into two parts was a good idea to be able to tell more of the story, but you need to have them both. So this entry really is for the entire movie, and really for the entire series.

In previous years, movies in the series have takes regular places on my top 10 list.My favorite of the movies is Prisoner of Azkaban. That one was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, and was the transition from kids movies to darker movies. It's the movie where the main actors finally became the characters. And it's almost a miracle that those three made it through all three movies still looking good enough to be the correct ages and ending up being pretty good actors.

But at the time I watched that one, the books hadn't yet ended. I was still nervous about how the series would play out. There were little hints and subplots, but would J.K. Rowling remember and tie up all of them in a meaningful way? I had my doubts because of how other series ended. In recent memory, the TV series Lost and Battlestar Galactica ended showing the audience that there was, in fact, no plan. Stephen King's Dark Tower series ended the best and only way it could, but it was (as King even mentioned in the book) frustratingly slightly unsatisfying.

(spoiler alert in this paragraph) I thought Rowling nailed the ending. No, not the tagged on ending, but the showdown between Harry and Voldemort. It ended the only way it could and was still satisfying. It was perfect and filmable. Splitting the movie in two allowed for that, so the movie tied up the series just right. The biggest flaw is that the movie didn't explain Harry's resurrection clearly. It had been too long since I had read the books to remember, and I was confused. The book did a nicer and clearer job of explaining it, and I had to refer back to it when I returned from the theaters. And the aged Harry, Hermione, and Ron at the end was cheesy, but just like it was in the book.

It's a series that I'm going to miss. I enjoyed looking forward to the next episode. But I'm sure we'll go through it again when someone remakes the whole thing in 20-30 years. And I wouldn't put a remake or two on my top 10 list, would I?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Number 8 - Terri

Terri lives with Creed Bratton. If you watch The Office, that's all you really need to know. But Creed has a relatively small role, so there's a lot more to see.

Terri is an oddball kid at school. He's overweight and wears pajamas every day. That should be enough to make him an outcast. This brings him to the attention of the assistant principal, played by John C. Reilly. Reilly plays a slightly more sane Dr. Steve Brule (for your health), and as it turns out, probably the most real school authority figure ever depicted in movies. He wants to do well and has a good heart, but he has no real clue what he's doing. He screws up, Terri calls him on it, and he owns up to it. For me, that's the relationship that works best in this movie.

Terri makes a couple more friends along the way, one a potential odd romance. There's a lot of reality to that as well. Every year, I watch the weird kids find each other. There's one major scene near the end in which the three hang out. It's an uncomfortable scene, and I'm not sure it completely worked, but again, it felt real.

You don't always want a movie to feel real. But being in a school everyday, it's distracting when a movie does something that just doesn't happen in movie. For example, I recently saw something in which a substitute teacher was promoted to full time. Yeah. Not how it works. Or the relationship between kids and teachers or admin just doesn't ring true, I'm pulled out of  it. This movie works, but also you really like the characters.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Number 9- The Artist

I've written before about problems I have with silent movies.I recognize that I've been spoiled not by sound but by actual dialogue. I don't just prefer a good script, I require it. Silent movies rely on the actors mugging for the camera. And this is something that The Artist actually addresses.This is a silent movie for people who don't like silent movies, and probably for those who do, as well.

If you're reading this, I assume you like movies. That means you have seen Singin' in the Rain. If that second assumption is incorrect, fix it now.  The Artist deals with the same issue - talkies disrupting the careers of silent movie actors.

Jean Dujardin stars as silent movie actor George Valentin. What makes this, to me, a more unique silent movie actor role is that you see him on screen doing that silent movie overacting in the face. And then you see him off camera. And while he's still silent, the acting is more modern.

The Artist takes some of the ridiculousness of movies from the 1920s and adds the nuances of modern movies and combines them into a really fun movie. At 100 minutes, it doesn't outlast itself. It's in theaters right now, so take a look. Don't be scared of the silence or the black and white.

Don't be surprised when this gets nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. I think it might even get a King's Speech type push over the next month and come out winning the whole thing (though I hope my number 2 and 3 give it a run for it's money)

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Number 10 - Beginners

There are two really good stories here. The first is the relationship between Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and his father Hal (Christopher Plummer). After his his wife (and Oliver's mother) died, Hal came out of the closet. We watch the two of them interact as Hal is dying, with Oliver getting used to his father's new lifestyle.

The second story is between Oliver and his new girlfriend Anna (Mélanie Laurent). While the two stories are told mingled together, he meets her after his father has died. Anna is dealing with issues about her own father.

Ewan McGregor is great, and Christopher Plummer deserved an Oscar nom. The story is well told as it bobs and weaves through time, but not in a way that's too confusing. Oliver is an artist, and his drawings are used effectively to help tell the story and show the emotional condition.

Perhaps the best thing about the movie is that it avoids clichés in the relationships. Oliver and Anna's relationship is strained and difficult. But instead of cheesy romantic comedy misunderstandings, it's because of real issue's they are going through.With Oliver and his father,  it isn't the kid coming out of the closet but the father. Oliver's negative reactions aren't rooted in misguided religious beliefs, hatred, or homophobia, but confusion. And that's the only truly natural reaction as opposed to learned.

2011 Movies - Runners up!

Here's three movies that I liked a lot and you should see, but they barely missed my top 10 list.

For the second time this summer, Marvel released a movie that took place in the characters' original time setting. It worked by setting X-Men: First Class in the 60's, and it worked even better with Captain America: The First Avenger set in World War II. To really tell the story, Cap had to fight the Nazi's. It's a good story.

The skinny Steve Rogers special effect were amazing. I've had arguments with people who refuse to believe that it was actually special effects instead of a different actor.

In the movie, Captain America begins his career not as a soldier or a hero but a promoter of war bonds. That was a change from the original comic book story that actually worked, which is rare. The reason, I think, is that they were able to use this plot line to keep the character true. If they can keep his character and personality in the Avengers movie, that will be a very good thing.

Most of you probably didn't see Attack the Block. Many of you probably didn't even hear about Attack the Block. That's bad. You should see it. Not only is it fun, but I loved the look of the aliens/creatures. I'm positive that the look comes from a lack of a big budget, but that meant that they had to get creative.

While I liked the movie, I think my own enjoyment of the movie came from the lack of any public buzz. I got to feel like part of a secret club. Since I recognize that, I left it off the top 10. Still, check it out, and keep an eye out for future stuff from writer and director Joe Cornish.

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold was on my top 10 list until a few days ago, and I'm sorry to see it go. To me, it was the funniest movie of the year.

I recently listened to an interview with Morgan Spurlock. They discussed whether that was a bad thing to have a documentary that is also a comedy. Spurlock explained that he wants people to enjoy watching it. And it isn't like he's discussing the deepest topic here. If Deliver Us From Evil were a comedy, that would be different.

Though I had some logical problems with Super Size Me, I've enjoyed Spurlock's work. This was probably my favorite. It's a good documentary for a general audience.

OK - next post: I start the Top 10 movies of 2011.