Movie Reviews Roundup

Sunday, May 30, 2010

This roundup of reviews is mostly current movies with one throwback to the 90s. Oh, and they include spoilers, so don't read if you don't want to know!

LIBERTY:
Review of Just Wright:
I went and saw this movie with my mother and thought that it was a sweet romantic comedy and a good light movie to go and enjoy. It wasn’t perfect, but in the face of the terrible romantic comedies that have been coming out lately, this one stood out as decent and likeable. Queen Latifah is a good actor and does a nice job of portraying a strong woman who can stand on her own two feet. Common also did a good job and my mother didn’t know that he was a rapper until I told her. He might not have been totally believable as a basketball star, but the whole movie required you to put your more skeptical mind on hold, as most movies do. It was nice to see someone whose body type and skin color does not fit into Hollywood’s stereotype get the guy in the end, especially over a thinner girl. It made me very happy and I left the theater feeling as thought I had not wasted my time. It’s a romantic comedy, so it’s not the most serious of movies, but for what it was it was perfectly fine. I recommend it.

Review of Robin Hood:
I will admit that I didn’t even intend to see this movie and went into it with extremely low expectations. I was going to see Iron Man 2, but it took me a while to walk to 42nd street from 52nd or so. I could have made Iron Man 2, but barely, so on a whim I decided to go see Robin Hood. I had seen both of the trailers and they were so badly cut (at least to my eyes) that I could not tell what was going on or why I should go see it. I decided not to go see the movie on the basis of my dislike of the trailers. I will admit that I was very wrong—I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and want to go see it again. The action was very well done, the characters were engaging and compelling, and although not very historically accurate, the sets and cinematography were beautiful. All of the scenery was gorgeous and there were some shots that I wanted to pause and stare at for a bit. I don’t like Russell Crowe very much, but found him to be a decent Robin (although he spent a lot of the time unsmiling and frowning in situations that didn’t call for those facial expressions. Maybe he was trying to be serious). Cate Blanchett was very good as Marion—I liked that they made her more courageous and willing to put herself in danger for others. She wasn’t a maid in danger; she was a grown woman who could take care of herself. Mark Strong was amazing as usual as the villain, Godfrey. He has played three villains within the last year or so and will continue to do so, I hope. He plays a very fine villain and always gives a strong, menacing performance. There’s something in me that always roots for villains, but I find myself allying against his a bit. I still like him, but Godfrey was so evil that I turned against him and rooted for Marion instead. I think that that is a testament to his performance. Max Von Sydow was affecting as Sir Walter Loxely—a bit cryptic in his comments to Robin when he should have just come out and told him what he knew—but overall a nice fatherly figure. William Hurt (as William Marshall) kept looking like he was smirking during serous scenes. I decided that he was amused by everything. The characters that I wanted to see more of were Robin’s friends: Little John, Will Scarlett, Alan A’Dayle, and Friar Tuck. All of them were extremely likeable and I sort of want to see them in a buddy movie, roaming around England and helping people out. I would love to see a sequel to this movie and I highly recommend it.

JORDAN:
Review of Iron Man & Iron Man 2:
Prior to last weekend, I had seen none of the greatness that is Iron Man. I was skeptical of all the hype because every time someone tells me a movie is awesome, it disappoints me in some way (Napoleon Dynamite, anyone?). But I have to admit, the first Iron Man enthralled me. Maybe it was just the great special effects or the fact that the movie satisfied my inner nerd, but the storyline was strong and the acting was great. I think that Tony Stark is a quintessential bad boy – so much so that I sometimes didn’t believe him as the hero later on and continued to mutter to myself questions like “why did that journalist sleep with him?” Overall, however, the movie was really well done and I found myself wanting more adventure at the end.
Iron Man 2, in comparison, finds all its strength in the villains. The storyline is understandable, but it has definitely been done before. Whenever Ivan was on screen, he stole the show – it was a fantastic performance! In general, I feel like the flashiness of the fight scenes in the second movie were much less gripping as the first movie’s complex storyline; it felt more like a traditional action movie in terms of the unnecessary violence and big budget ideas. Yet the movie was still entertaining, even if it dropped a star or so in my rating scale from the first movie.

Review of Prince of Persia:
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is an adaptation of the popular video game of the same name. The movie, however, does not stick to the game storyline very well and uses a much more contrived plot in order to fulfill its goals. Although I have not played the game myself, I know from anecdotal evidence that the movie uses a lot of the elements from the game (such as accurate background story, costumes, and scenery), but takes the storyline on a crazy journey. I think that the movie is entertaining – as many adaptations are – not for the plot but for the big budget adventure that happens in the 2 hour time frame. There were some scenes that were blatantly over the top in this movie and I felt my attention flagging when the predictable love scenes appeared, so I would not recommend this movie if you want something completely entertaining. But if you’re looking for a summer movie with all the bells and whistles from large glowing hourglass rocks and assassins powered by black magic, then go for it.
And, as for the Iraq war metaphors that some have mentioned are contained in this movie? I really don’t see it as anything more than a trashy action flick, sorry guys.

Review of Super Mario Bros:
Another video game adaptation, this film from 1993 is one of the weirdest I have seen. In an attempt to explain the back story of the two plumbers, this movie takes you on a romp through another dimension where the evolved species was dinosaurs rather than mammals. The villains of this dimension are King Koopa (Bowser) but as a human-looking man who has taken over the mainly barren expanse of their world. The Goombas are truly freaky since they are de-evolved dinosaurs with human bodies, and all of the elements of the Mario games are subtle and make you say “Oh!” when you realize what they are. The Mario brothers are plumbers in modern day Brooklyn and follow Princess Daisy back over to the other dimension as she realizes that she is not of that dimension (via a kidnapping by the Koopas, as usual) Overall, I enjoyed this movie in a perverse way; it took the elements of Mario and made them into a cohesive storyline. The graphics left much to be desired and it didn’t stick to the original game at all. I think, quite honestly, it would be a terrible movie even if you hadn’t heard of Mario at all beforehand. But there was a sense of ironic humor that really made me smile and I could always laugh at the absurdity presented throughout. Bonus points for having Dennis Hopper (recently deceased) and John Leguizamo – star quality in a strange B movie!

Make sure to take a look at the other movie reviews Liberty and I wrote and our other collaborative work: comic alterna-history zine The Bearniverse.

Rollin' Rollin'...

Friday, May 21, 2010

I have returned to Seattle! And so have my boxes (finally).
I feel as if I am still in transition from New York to Seattle; I wouldn't say that I had major jet lag, but I definitely woke up at 6:30am everyday since I touched ground and am only now getting on to a reasonable 8am. The greatest adjustments are getting back to living with my parents, obviously, and having to find a new job and means of entertainment. A lot of people are still in school, so I mostly have to make my own way around here - it's all good though because I am definitely having a blast trying out new things and finding my own routine.

New To My Life:
1. Roller skating!
I became infatuated with roller derby, so I decided I would jump right into it this summer. I bought all my first-timer gear and started to practice skating again (even going to a PFM New Skater practice and getting my butt kicked!). I haven't done it since elementary school so I obviously need a lot more work, but that is what the summer is for! I hope that I will become comfortable enough on skates before I go back to NYC that I can start trying out for practice teams there - I seriously think that this form of exercise beats walking by a mile!

2. Working at ZAPP!
Yesterday, I started work at the zine library at Richard Hugo House, and it is pretty awesome. I get to hang around the zines all day and the work is pretty chill - I get to do the same things that I had done at the Barnard library and also work on my own zine (which I was going to do anyway, but this is a happy motivator). It was a great reunion feeling when I came back to Hugo House for the first time; I am thinking about taking a summer class there too if I have the time. This time it will be for one about editing novels, since I want to get my NaNo 2009 novel up and running.

3. Driving!
This isn't really a new one, but when you've come back from a land of public transportation, it sure feels new. I am not worried about my skills, but I definitely feel more shaky on the road these days...

4. Health and fitness transformation!
No, not a crash diet and some other craziness, but I am going to start making an effort to take care of myself again. I feel like when I was in the dorms, I let myself go in favor of hitting the books or some other stupid reason, so I have decided to regularize my routine, get a few new products, and start exercising [biking, swimming] in between my skating.

The rest of the updates are my typical over-planning: read books, write blogs, watch movies, go places, be awesome. Everything that keeps me entertained is sticking around, including the writing reviews and other updates. Consider this an atypical post as I adjust to my surroundings - content to come!

P.S.
There are new links at the Cool Links section! I added a lot - does that say something about my summer internet use? Check it out!

Movie Reviews: Nightmare on Elm Street Comparison and Being John Malkovich

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Introducing... MOVIE CLUB 2010!
My friend Liberty and I, since we are going to be on opposite coasts this summer, have decided to watch movies together and write reviews in order to keep in touch. Here are our first reviews - we are comparing the two versions of Nightmare on Elm Street and Being John Malkovich!

LIBERTY:
Nightmare on Elm Street:
In this review, I will compare the remake, which came out this year, to the original version by Wes Craven. We watched the remake first, so I might be biased in that direction, especially since I love Jackie Earle Haley and wanted to see the remake solely for him. I did like the remake, although I felt that it was in the same vein as new horror films: a lot of things happened in dark places and the overall feel of the movie was very grey. I did think that it had a more coherent plot and a better overall explanation of what was going on. I got more of a feel for the characters and I knew why the events were happening. In the original, the characters weren't introduced as well and there was never a definitive explanation for why Freddy was after the teenagers. He was described as a "child murderer," but no one ever said that he was trying to kill Nancy as revenge for his death or anything. I inferred that from my knowledge of the series, but it was very unclear. I did think that Nancy in the original had a much stronger voice and presence than she did in the remake. In the original, she was very forceful and had a strong voice. I liked her more in the original, because she knew what to do and she did it with very little support, as everyone in her life kept failing her. In the remake, Nancy keeps to herself and feels muted and subdued throughout. Although she has better ideas than her friends, she keeps them to herself and follows along. I feel that there's a cultural shift in there, maybe a backlash against feminism, but I don't know enough to really posit a thesis. What was really interesting to me was what was left unsaid in both films. In the original, they never say that Nancy's father and mother are divorced, although it seemed to me that they are--Nancy's mother is always drinking and her father is never seen in the house. She and her mother drive a separate car from him, and he is referred to as her mother as "your father." In the remake, they never say clearly that the children were molested, although the remake revolves around that information. Their parents say that "He hurt you" and never refer to what happened to them in any other terms that might help them process what happened to them. What our culture is willing to talk about is shown in these omissions. Even in the remake, I don't think that it's clearly stated where Nancy's father, whom we never see on screen, is. Are they divorced? Her mother is an air hostess and leaves her alone in the house when she has to go on a flight, so unless her father also has a job that requires travel, I would assume so. To me, it seemed that Wes Craven's scenes of horror were better shot and scared me more than the scenes in the remake. However, I laughed throughout the remake except during those scenes, so I would say that the remake, during which I hid behind my hands in fear, was a scarier, more coherent movie overall. I enjoyed both of them, though, and they both have their merits.

Being John Malkovich:
I enjoyed this movie; it has the kind of quirky humor that I like a lot. It also (obviously) has John Malkovich, whom I love. I was suprised to see Cameron Diaz, but I thought that she gave a very good, nuanced performance, and she was my favorite to watch on the screen. I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it, so I will try not to go into to much detail, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would (although I still liked it). I don't know if I would watch it again or tell anyone that they had to watch it. The moral issues raised by taking control of someone and making them do things that they do not want to do, and the blase way in which it was presented bothered me. I understand that it is a comedy, but it bothered me that they didn't seem to really consider or be disturbed by what they were doing or the consequences of their actions. I started out sympathizing with John Cusak's character, but I rapidly (within 20 minutes or so) lost my sympathy. The only likeable character was John Malkovich. The rest of them seemed vapid and morally bankrupt--interested only in themselves and what would make them happy at that moment. As a result, I have mixed feelings about the movie. John Malkovich is awesome, though, and this discomfort over the lack of morals displayed in the movie may be only my own bias or me taking the movie too seriously.

JORDAN:
Nightmare on Elm Street:
In watching both the remake and the old version of this movie, I must say that the campy bits of the original were much better for a silly slumber party horror flick than a seriously scary movie. The effects in both movies were astounding, however, and I felt myself really drawn into the horror scenes in both versions - the bed scene, for instance, was much more effective in the original film, while in the remake it seemed less chilling. Yet those parts do not a cohesive horror film make. I see the appeal of the Freddy of old because he is definitely a terrifying man and his use of the bodybagged first victim is effective, but in the second version it seems that he has a more well-developed character and back story. I enjoy the addition of confusing elements that coalesce into making the movie more of a thriller genre flick rather than a simple slasher film.
Switching gears, however, I feel like the female roles in the original movie were much more pronounced and carried much more gravity than in the remake. What's wrong with a strong female protagonist? Why did she have to be coaxed into drawing the killer out of her dreams in the second version whereas in the first she had the gumption that no one else did to confront him head on? Maybe the movie is not meant to act as a woman's empowerment ploy, but there are definitely overtones of the strong, smart woman in the first film that are genuinely lacking in the second.
Overall, I really enjoyed the remake for its heart-stopping scenes and its ability to make Freddy into a deeply complicated character. Though Robert Englund still remains the original Freddy, his predecessor Jackie Earle Haley makes his own man out of the character and definitely nails the creep factor. The first film is better used as a throwback at a party where no one wants to have bad dreams later that night.

Being John Malkovich:
This movie is a thought-provoking romp through the mind of some very specific characters. I felt that it was very effective in exploring the psyches of Lotti, Craig, and Maxine in a way that showed they were deeply flawed people that needed to find themselves through another consciousness (namely, John Malkovich). I grew to hate Craig as the movie progressed and found deep sympathy for Lotti, especially when she and Maxine began to express their love for one another. Maxine I liked from the beginning, as she was a strong female character that I really admire.
Overall, this movie is not for the faint of heart. As opposed to some of the more popular and straightforward storylines, in this movie the viewer is dropped into the middle of a strange world with low-ceilings and torrid love affairs using another person's body - the audience has to suspend their disbelief from the very beginning. Yet the movie lays out a plausible and realistic account of these characters as it studies their internal dilemmas through the strangeness of the situation they find themselves in.
I really enjoyed this movie, although at some moments I was fed up with the whining of Craig in his desperation for Maxine; it goes to show that the characters are really well-executed when I can go through a range of emotions towards them throughout the course of two hours.

Make sure to take a look at the other movie reviews Liberty and I wrote and our other collaborative work: comic alterna-history zine The Bearniverse.

RBW Creative Project Zine

Monday, May 10, 2010

As promised, here is a sample of the work I have been doing - it is my final project for my Reading Barnard Writing class. It's a smattering of photography, non-fiction, fiction based off the authors we read in that class, and personal opinion. I really could not decide to do just one, basically. The printed product is also available if you let me know - I hand bind the pages with Japanese stab-binding technique.
I put the file up on DeviantArt, but you're going to have to press 'Download' to view it (it's in the left sidebar). Never fear, the file pops up in your browser window rather than downloading directly to your computer - at least that is my experience. Enjoy!

RBW Creative Zine

Check out some of my other zines, such as a comic alterna-history The Bearniverse.

A Quasi-Post

Monday, May 3, 2010

It has been quite a while since I last got the chance to share my writer-ly hangouts. These past few weeks have marked the end of my first year at college and, as is to be expected, I have been caught up in academics and clubs and all the requisite processes that seem to all crash together into a two week period. So, this post is not going to be about the places I have wandered to for the past few weeks, but will be focused on what I have been working on.

First of all, there have been great honors afoot!
I was recently honored at the SGA Leadership Dinner as a First Year Leadership Award Recipient. I don't know who nominated me, but I am really grateful to whoever it was! The embarrassing part of the story, however, is that I did not believe I was being recognized for anything at first. They sent a formal invitation to my father and, when he called me to say that he got it, I shrugged it off and said "they must be giving those to everyone." It was only when they emailed me a second time to RSVP that I caught on.
When I arrived at the dinner, everyone was in formal attire and there were parents up and down the aisles - how I wish my father could have been there! It was a fancy setting with catering and butter shaped like little flowers! It was by far the fanciest event I have gone to in a while. I regret not bringing a proper camera...

On to things that I did know were happening - I am next year going to be a Well Woman!
For those of you that don't know what that is, Well Women is an organization of peer educators that learn all about women's health and issues; since Barnard is a women's college, they run an office that provides educational services to all the students. I am really excited to meet everyone and learn about all of these different topics! When I was going through the interview process, I felt really comfortable and welcomed, so I am happy that I got on.

I was also offered to work at ZAPP, the zine library in Richard Hugo House during the summer! While it is not a full internship, it allows me to keep my zine skills working and probably will encourage me to finish my own personal zine (which I will also be working on during the summer). Hooray plans!

On to the second group, the hard-work-that-paid-off category!
This past weekend, we both finished this semester's publication of Awaaz (in which I am both an editor and a writer!) and mounted Nazaara's play Kanyadaan. Although I was biting my nails about the performance to the very end, we pulled through and there were a lot of strong responses in the audience - for good and for ill. It was nice to hear that the play was so provocative, as it is a very powerful text. Fun fact: they are performing it in Seattle on the 14th, so I might be able to go see it (again and in a different language, but still!)

Aside from all of these things, I have been working diligently at all the things that I usually do. Today was the last day of classes so I finally feel that I have run the race to the finish line - I no longer have any essays to complete and just a few final exams to pass before I head off into wild blue yonder (pretty much literally). And today was a nice relieving break because Liberty and I went bowling with my adviser and our first year class dean, as well as some students and a Spanish professor. It was a great time! Although, I didn't do too well on bowling...

I think I will be keeping up my writer-ly explorations in Seattle, so stay tuned for some more recommendations (albeit, about the other side of the country) and some writing. Yes, I promise to put up some actual writing after this.