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Archive for June, 2010

Toy Story 3 – Orion’s Take

Toy Story 3 PosterHaving walked just now from the movie theater, the emotions that tugged and tore at me during Toy Story 3 continue to bubble.  This movie is an absolute whirlwind of emotion: you will laugh, you will cry, and at the end you will walk away feeling…fulfilled.  This movie delivers on the promise of the first two films, that of a satisfying and deserving ending to this Toy Story.

The movie begins with a flashback of sorts, to happier days.  We are lead through the years through a series of homemade video clips, in a reminder of how quickly time passes.  But one thing hasn’t changed: Woody is still as loyal as ever, and fiercely dedicated to being the best toy to Andy that he can be.  But it seems that the other toys aren’t so hopeful.  Seemingly abandoned, they make a choice: to run away to a daycare center in hopes that the children there will play with them.  But Sunnyside Daycare is not the haven that it initially seems.  An apparently lovable plush bear by the name of Lotso (short for Lots o’ Hugs) has a sinister secret, and the gang will have to make their escape.

This movie tossed me around emotionally for a variety of reasons: but the most important of those reasons is it’s honesty.  The emotions of abandonment, betrayal,  nostalgia, and of simply letting go were really just that.  True emotion, devoid of sentimentality or artificiality.  There is a crucial scene where the toys take each others hands and it simply blew me away.  You will know why when you watch it.

This is a mature movie, in many ways.  There are scenes, while not explicit or violent in any way, that will still seem very serious.  I commend Pixar for that, in that they manage to integrate these adult themes seamlessly into the story without dumbing it down.  These scenes can often be scary, or sad, but Pixar kept them in the way they were supposed to be.

But that’s not to say that this movie was depressing.  On the contrary, the reason this movie hits you in the stomach with sad scenes is because there are genuine moments of humor in the film which leave you exposed: laughing, you have no time to prepare yourself for honest emotion.  May I say also that the humor is very witty.  This is simple humor, but humor that will truly appeal to all ages.

My only complaint, and it is not a true complaint, is that this movie is cut to the edge.  Every minute is accounted for, and this, while usually commendable, means that the desire to stay with each character forever will never be fulfilled.  But the end, the completion of this saga (and it deserves that term: this is a saga) is both satisfying and achingly real.  When the credits roll, you will stay just to see the last few glimpses of these characters you have grown to love and cherish, to say goodbye, and with that, it will be enough.

With love,

Orion

5/5 Waffles

Categories: Movie Reviews

Red Cliff

I got an early glimpse of this movie because it came out first in Asia; it was actually two separate films that have been combined into the non-Asian version I watched.  First of all, let me just say that the movie’s source is the stuff of legends.  I grew up reading the Romance of the Three Kingdoms – stories of Zhuge Liang’s straw men/arrow nests were my bedtime tales (check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictitious_stories_in_Romance_of_the_Three_Kingdoms#Borrowing_of_arrows_with_straw_boats or read the books).  (I’m not sure how familiar the majority of viewers are with these stories though; it can get overwhelming very quickly.)  Secondly, I love epic stories, stories that weave tales of nations rising and falling, the decisions and events before a battle that lead to a memorable victory or loss.  Third, the actors were familiar: Zhou Yu was played by Tony Leung, who was Mr. Yee from Lust, Caution; Sun Quan was played by Chang Chen, who was Dark Cloud from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Cao Cao is played by Zhang Fengyi, who was the guy from Farewell My Concubine.

Looking past the huge budget for this film, the material and design seem extraordinary.  The battle scenes are very thorough and will probably more than satisfy the warmongering of most modern viewers.  However, I was a little tired by the sheer length and number of these fights – they wore on, and too many of the men who fought were nameless.  And when main characters were involved in fighting, it seemed like there were so many different generals, all introduced in a flurry.  As a viewer, I assume part of the responsibility in making an effort to keep track of which characters are which, but I felt that Red Cliff just tried to do too much in too little time.  (A caveat – the original film was composed of two two-hour films; to cut four hours into two and a half is quite difficult.)

As far as subtitles go, I have to say that the translation does not do the original Chinese script justice.  Especially the poetry – there is something always lost in translation, but I feel that Chinese poetry, when translated, loses so much of its rhythm and specially chosen vocabulary that it feels almost silly.

One part that I really, really liked about this film was the strategist, Zhuge Liang’s role.  He is renowned in literature for his military prowess and knowledge – his academic studies come into play at many pivotal roles during the course of the movie.  Also, I thought the actor had a good browbone-ish expression – the way he observed the battle or the camp of a stranger reminded me of Legolas from Lord of the Rings, looking into the distance while walking on top of snow.

Overall, 3.5/5 “waffles” – visually detailed and an epic story, but too much that was too shallow.

Best regards,

Apple, http://wafflemovies.wordpress.com

Categories: Movie Reviews

Toy Story 3

I remember the first “Toy Story” movie coming out when I was very young, and although I’m sure that I’ve grown and changed a lot since then, there are pieces of the movie that gave me the same impressions.  First, overall, the movie was great – action-packed, sweet, and creative.  Secondly, is it just me or were there a lot of strange, scary parts?  Something about toys that are babies…  And third, were there always these grown-up references?

In this third installation of the “Toy Story” saga, Andy is all grown up and headed off to college!  What happens to his toys? (All my own toys are still in my room at home, safe atop shelves and dressers.)  This is their story.

I discussed the movie with my friend Ryan on the way home from the theater, and we agreed that the guys at Pixar are really good.  There were so many times during the movie where I had no idea what was going to happen next; there were so many creative quirks in the movie, and it never lagged. So many different things happened in this story (which I don’t think is that surprising, considering its main audience is probably less than four feet tall), but it’s really refreshing to have really a lot of different events and settings. Imagine: what kind of things present big obstacles for a toy? Doors! Walls!  Crazy toddlers!  Above all, this is a story of adventure – the daily obstacles for toys, as well as the adventure of growing up.

One thing I noticed was that there were a lot of scenes that I would expect to come out of a movie for older viewers – there’s an interrogation-like scene with Buzz, and also a breakout scene that could be something out of Mission Impossible (except with toys).  Is this to prepare children for older action movies?  There were also a lot of jokes about Ken.  Have we always had these kinds of scenes in children’s movies?  If so, I never noticed them.

So we went to go see this movie in 3D.  Is it just me, or does 3D seem to be turning out to be a lot more of a deal than I think it should?  I mean, movies already feel pretty 3D, especially animated movies like Toy Story, so why the big hype (in fact, when I took off my glasses at points in the movie, and it didn’t look all that different)?  Is it because 3D movies are more expensive, and thus theaters are encouraged to play more movies “in 3D”?  I almost don’t like having to get used to the glasses and movement, and would prefer the movie to be regular rather than 3D.

Overall, classic Pixar quality movie: 4.5/5 – good, satisfying adventure.

Best regards,

Apple, http://wafflemovies.wordpress.com

Categories: Movie Reviews

District 9

District 9

So, I’ve wanted to watch this for a long time.  Last summer, I passed up the spontaneous offering to go see it with a friend I bumped into at Red Mango; it was already late, and I had to work the next morning.  I heard a bunch of my coworkers discussing the movie, and its strangeness.  I saw the movie being nominated for a whole series of Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  But I never saw the actual movie until last night.

I remember watching the short “Alive in Joburg” (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1185812222812358837#) back in 2005, and thinking it was such an interesting concept and stylized portrayal – as a “mock documentary,” the film has a strikingly genuine feel.  The shots of the interviews and newscasts could be something out of real broadcasts or documentaries.  Aliens are so often portrayed as invasive, dangerous monsters (eg, “Predator”) that it was refreshing to see aliens being portrayed as refugees that are victims of prejudice, of xenophobia.  I appreciate this creativity and up my rating because of it.

This film was pretty rough, and I had a hard time watching several scenes in it.  But I think each scene has a purpose; the harshness is an important trait of the movie.  It is certainly not a family movie. (Once, when I was young, I went to see “Kill Bill” with my parents, not knowing what the movie was about, or what we were getting into.)

I try not to read other peoples’ reviews too much until I’ve written my own, but after browsing Rotten Tomatoes, I want to address an idea that continued to pop up.  This movie provided both political commentary and science fiction action – some reviewers praised this, while others thought that it did neither well.  I personally thought that “District 9” was first and foremost about one man’s character journey – our main character Wikus changes a great deal throughout the movie, and I think it was this – not the aliens or mother ship or themes of prejudice – that drove the movie forward.  The actor did an excellent job too.

On a side note, as I was watching this, I thought it was strangely similar to another Best Picture nominee – Cameron’s “Avatar”.  This similarity has probably been pointed out many times already, but I never heard how similar the two are.  Here’s my little list of similarities:

1. Both movies are about alien-human interactions.

2. Both have humans trying to evict aliens from their land.

3. Both have the main protagonist becoming alien, both figuratively and literally!

Coincidence?  Or a product of the current world around us?

Overall, 4.5/5 “waffles” – refreshing style and story, good acting, interesting themes.

Best regards,

Apple, http://wafflemovies.wordpress.com

Categories: Movie Reviews

The Karate Parents: A review of The Karate Kid

The Karate Parents: A review of The Karate Kid

I must admit that, from the previews, I thought this movie was going to be bad.  However, a friend and I stopped by the movie theatre today, and it was the only movie whose viewing fit our schedule.  Having read Ebert’s positive review of the film, I went in with mixed expectations.

The first few moments of the film were slow, and I spent most of the beginning waiting for Jackie Chan to show up (who doesn’t love Jackie Chan?).  However, from the very beginning scene of Jaden Smith rolling around on a suitcase, I have to say that the role he played in this movie was a lot better suited to him than the last movie I saw him in, which was “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”  If you’ve seen this movie, you know what I mean – he was supposed to be this bratty, whiney, boy; the role did not suit him well.

Throughout the entire film, this is what interested me the most.  I noticed that both Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith – Jaden’s parents – are producers for the film, and so I immediately imagined the planning that must have gone into this film from the parents of its star.  They picked a great movie idea for a kid, a sweet location, and also a nice guy for him to work with.  Think about it – what kid wouldn’t want to star in a kung fu movie?  What’s a cool place to film? China!  And what better mentor to work with than Jackie Chan?  Not just in kung fu, but also, I think, in movie-making.

For one, the major dramatic acting in this film falls upon Chan’s shoulders.  Smith does a good job going along with Chan’s feelings, but he himself only has to act like a kid in a strange new place.  He does a good job doing this – thoroughly acting Dre Parker out as a likeable kid, so much so that when Dre lands a slow-motion kick, fellow movie-goers in our theatre actually cheered out loud.

Because I have a soft spot in my heart for kung fu movies, and also because I feel that this movie had a lot of thought and planning put into it, I would give this four “waffles” out of five.  I am interested to see what role Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith continue to play in encouraging their son’s budding acting career, and also in what you guys think of this.  Should parents help their kids out like this?  To what degree should they use their own influence in a field for their family?

Final: 4/5; fun, well-planned, interesting parental involvement.

Best regards,

Apple

Categories: Movie Reviews

“Kick-Ass or Ass-Kick?”

Apple: Welcome to our first movie review. This is about the semi-recent movie, “Kick-Ass”.
Orion: I like waffles.
Apple: I think, overall, I have to give the movie about seven stars out of ten.
Orion: You mean seven waffles out of ten.
Apple: Uhhh…why waffles?
Orion: 1) they are delicious, 2) they are delicious, and 3) it’s the name of our blog.
Apple: This is a silly name.
Orion: We can eat waffles while we do the review. (pulls out a waffle and starts chewing on it) This is a story about a regular boy named Dave who dresses up as a superhero – Kick-Ass. He soon realizes that there are actually other, real, superheroes out there – Mindy/Hit-Girl and Damon/Big-Daddy. There are also real bad guys – namely, Frank D’Amico. The story goes from there.
Apple: There’s really been a lot of controversy about the graphic violence in this, especially involving Hit-Girl, whose actress was only 11 at the time of filming. What do you think about this?
Orion: I wanna be Hit-Girl.
Apple: I definitely had to look away at times -
Orion: Yah, cause you’re a wimp.
Apple: But I’m not sure I completely agree with Ebert, who really, really disliked the film, and strongly criticized the violence that was in it. One thing I did really like was the storyline – especially the parallels that were drawn in the film – for example, both Dave and Mindy were children without mothers; the father-child relationship between Mindy-Damon compared with Chris-Frank D’Amico; I think lines like that were really nicely set up.
Orion: I really have to commend Nicholas Cage for his acting. His relationship with Hit-Girl was simply brilliant, one of the most twisted and interesting parts of the movie as a whole.
Apple: I really thought that relationship was kind of weird. And there was that one scene near the end, that culminated in a conversation between him and Hit-Girl. That whole scene was really brutal and horrible. I didn’t like it. Couldn’t there have been another way to get this message across?
Orion: Maybe. Would it have been as effective? I think the violence, as over the top and gruesome as it was, sent an important message: real world crime is violent.
Apple: Well, that’s true, but the problem is that this is a movie, and it’s not a documentary about violence or crime.
Orion: Anyway, you have to admit that this movie was funny.
Apple: You mean you relate with Dave’s geekiness.
Orion: …
Apple: So, overall, 7/10 from me. You?
Orion: 8/10.
Apple: Thanks for reading/watching everyone!
Categories: Movie Reviews

Hello, world!

Welcome to Waffle Movies, a collaborative movie review blog written by Apple and Orion, two students who enjoy watching and talking about movies.  We also have friends who hopefully will join us in blogging reviews.

We’re planning to publish both written and video formats, the latter of which will likely be posted on Youtube.  If there’s a specific move that you’d like us to review, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or send us an email.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoy our conversations, and look forward to some memorable reviews!

Best regards,

Apple

Categories: Uncategorized
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