I suppose neither of these are technically “classics” and thus are inappropriately catalogued under “Classic Capsules.” However, neither is exactly new either; I would call them “classic” in the way that Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle is a classic – the people who value them, they’re great, and to the people who don’t they’re not. Simple, right?
Hot Fuzz is Simon Pegg’s parody movie of cop movies. It tells the story of a super policeman who gets reassigned to a quiet town of slacker cops because he’s made everyone look bad with his sheer awesomeness. Orion describes the humor as dry, but for some reason, I found this movie hilarious. It is chock-full of homage’s to ridiculous action flicks, ranging from Point Break to Bad Boys II. The sheer outrageousness of every situation, as well as the attitudes of the townspeople, makes it a very fun (though somewhat forgettable) ride. 3.5/5 – check it out for Pegg’s great deadpan expression and his partner, Nick Frost’s boundless enthusiasm and love for awesome cops.
Orion loves Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Having seen Joss Whedon’s musical Buffy episode, I was somewhat prepared for the sudden burst into song, a la traditional Disney movies. They were short and cute, but that’s about it; I don’t think the movie will be winning any music-related awards anytime soon. That being said, Neil Patrick Harris was great as Dr. Horrible, a “supervillain” aspiring to enter the Evil League of Evil. Nathan Fillion (Firefly!) was similarly great as superhero and arch nemesis Captain Hammer. The setup reminded me a little of Megamind, where we followed the bad guy as our protagonist, who doesn’t turn out to be all that bad, and who is in love with the superhero’s girl. Except that Dr. Horrible isn’t a children’s film, and so doesn’t get a children’s film’s ending. After the movie finished, I was left shocked and thinking, ‘Is that it?!’ 4/5 – a clever and quirky piece; mediocre singing, but a great ending!
Hop: the teenage son of the Easter Bunny goes to Hollywood to pursue dreams of rock stardom.
Your Highness: James Franco and Natalie Portman, in a knight’s tale.
Hanna: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, assassins!
Rio: A domesticated Macaw (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) on an adventure to Rio de Janeiro!
Water for Elephants: Circus story based on the NaNoWriMo novel, with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson.
In some ways, this is a very similar movie to True Grit. Both feature tough female leads, with absent fathers and subsequent hunts. However, while “True Grit” was filled with earth and dirt, “Winter’s Bone” is filled with cold, stark landscape and a washed out palette of greys. Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a seventeen-year-old girl who takes care of her depressed mother, little brother, and little sister. Her father is not only absent, but has put up their house for his bond, and is known for cooking crystal meth. If Ree doesn’t turn him up, she will lose the house and her family will be torn apart.
Winter’s Bone is such a beautifully filmed piece of work – set in the Ozark mountains of Missouri in wintertime, the landscape is dreadfully pale and cold. There is very little background music in the whole movie, and so all sounds feel heightened. The dialect of the town is mumbled, with its own sort of slang, and everyone speaks it a little differently. I wrote my final paper for class about this movie, and in it, I focused on the setting as the strongest part of the movie. It is filled with seemingly random shots of children playing amongst bales of hay, people gathered in circles with instruments on a cold night, and countless pans across trees and frozen grass.
Winter’s Bone was nominated for Best Picture this year, and I can definitely see why – it’s a polished piece of work, and from the beginning, we’re on Ree’s side. We can’t help but admire her strength, her fearlessness and sheer tenacity. When she goes around asking dangerous people for help, she is sharp with her words. Everyone around town looks similar, and it appears that they’re all related in some way. Similarly, word travels around this town ridiculously fast; it feels that almost as soon as one thing happens, everyone knows about it.
While writing my paper, I came across some furious comments in the NYTimes review (check it out here: http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/movies/11winter.html). One reader seethes, “But many reviewers comment on the film’s “fighting of stereotypes” and “haunting authenticity.” I’m left wondering…how? The portrayed impoverished hill people are: dirty, mean, uneducated, violent, misogynistic, strung-out, gun-totin’, rabbit-eatin’, and dog-infested” (fifth comment down). I’m loving this string of adjectives, but the comment itself frustrates me. I really liked the community in Winter’s Bone, how tough and rugged everyone seemed, but it looks like I just fell into the stereotype trap.
4/5 – hopefully, the actual citizens of the Ozark mountains can forgive me for liking this movie, because I thought it was gripping, stark, and beautiful.
Although its reputation certainly precedes it, The Godfather Part II is nothing short of excellent. It deserves a full review, but having just written a long paper on it, I will beg forgiveness and just capsulate it. This second installment in the trilogy of my favorite of the three, mainly because of Robert De Niro’s remarkably restrained performance as the young and rising Vito Corleone. As Michael struggles with his burdens as Godfather, Vito cheerfully puts things together, making friends and killing enemies; the two timelines are intertwined and cut back and forth from each other. The movie runs rather long at 2.5 hours, but it is so beautiful in a quiet way that time slips by in the manner of being absorbed in a great story. 5/5 – everyone should see this movie.
We watched this erotic-thriller for class, and also read more than a dozen reviews of it. At the time Eyes Wide Shut was being filmed, Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise were still married, and their casting as the husband and wife in the movie was apparently big news. The movie starts off with a few dramatic deliveries by Kidman, who, though heavy handed, dominated the scenes with her monologues. After that, Cruise unfortunately takes over and feels passive and unsure of himself – part of this is undoubtedly part of the story, but part of it felt genuine in an unpleasant, weak sort of way. His character discovers a sexual, religion ceremony, which includes some scandalous scenes. Rather amusingly, digital figures were edited into these scenes to lessen the explicit nature of the movie, something every reviewer seemed to remark upon. To top it all off, director Stanley Kubrick (of 2001 and A Clockwork Orange) died right after making the film. 2/5 – without having experienced all the drama surrounding its release, the movie felt remarkably plain, boring even.
There is a moment in The Adjustment Bureau when Thompson, one of the elderly “adjusters” traces the light and dark periods of history in terms of the Adjustment Bureau. “We tried to give you free will,” Thompson says, “and you gave us the Dark Ages….Humanity just isn’t mature enough to take care of itself.” This little tidbit was so convincingly executed that I can imagine the entire story stemming from this one little observation: the writer, at his desk, reading history, perhaps, and envisioning a group of men in suits – modern day angels or something – who take care of people. This evolved into a Bureau, because that sounds more sophisticated, and in order to keep people interesting, a male and female lead were introduced.
If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know that The Adjustment Bureau is about David Norris (Matt Damon) as a rising politician who meets and falls in love with a dancer, Elise (Emily Blunt). Unfortunately, they are not “meant” to be together because it is not in “the plan” that is written by “the Chairman.” Thus, even though they feel such passion for each other, they cannot be together, and the adjuster caseworkers will do anything to keep them apart.
Damon and Blunt seem to do the best that they can, with the limited room this convoluted script has given them. Orion and I had planned to see this movie a while ago, but were warned against it by our friends, Feifei and Brian. Having just seen it with my family, I have to thank them for their warning, because everything they said was true. The Adjustment Bureau is filled with disgustingly arbitrary limitations and rules: for example, adjusters must wear special hats in order to travel through a teleporting-door network, and have their powers dampened (no pun intended) by the presence of water. The story tries to play on the Matrix-esque idea of the illusion of free will, only it fails to live up to anything of the broader themes it contains.
Not only all of this, but the characters are terribly simple. Elise’s dancing is great – her practice and performance are perhaps the only visually arresting scenes of the film – but that’s all that’s great about her. She’s described as a loose cannon, and to me, seems pretty much like a weak incarnation of a manic pixie dream girl. For several scenes, she inspires a crazy side of Damon’s character by throwing his Blackberry into his coffee, hiding in the men’s bathroom, crashing weddings, etc.
Unfortunately, in later scenes, when things get serious, Elise completely falls apart. She can’t handle the idea of the Adjustment Bureau, as anyone would expect, but goes along with David anyway; he literally drags her by the hand through teleporting doors, running from agents. Her character supposedly feels a connection to David, but never once reaches out to him; we see David think about her every day, riding the same bus for three years in hopes of running into her, but Elise just goes along her own way. When David vanishes from her life, she takes offense, rather than assertively attempting to seek him out. Is this the kind of pathetic female lead audiences go for? What weakness!
But that’s not the worst part of this movie; in fact, it could even be overlooked were it not for the very base of the movie being corrupt. In this movie, David is trying to fight against people telling him what to do: in one scene while he is trying to outrun adjuster agents, the taxi he hails crashes, leaving two people injured. But David doesn’t care – he doesn’t care because he’s in love, and he’ll do anything to find the girl on his dreams, even if it means throwing all his work out the window. I suppose the writers wanted this to show the magnitude of his love, but all it shows is David’s immaturity. This individualist attitude is ridiculous: the Bureau has a larger plan, written by a Chairman (implied to be God), but David just ignores it. Even later, when it is revealed that by being with Elise, David will ruin her dreams as well, he still can’t let go – he is selfish enough to try and see her still, despite all the warnings he has been given.
So what, then, are we to make of The Adjustment Bureau? The action wasn’t even that good – it’s a lot of running around more than anything else. Damon and Blunt have some cute conversations, but that’s it; besides the campaigning, Damon’s acting feels misplaced, and the same goes for Blunt. Of course, the movie has a happy ending, in so rewarding the selfish, individual and telling the audience, you can have your cake and eat it too!
Overall, 1/5 – it’s clear that this movie was thoughtlessly crafted, and lazily written. It’s convoluted in an attempt at sophistication, but not even Brooks Brothers suits can conceal the disordered plot. Elise is an example of everything weak in a female lead, and David is an example of everything selfish in a male lead. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty disappointed with the state of movies right now.
(See original tips post here.)
Previously, on Apple and Orion… At the rental store, Fantastic Mr Fox was playing, and I actually got really into it, completely didn’t realize that we were leaving. I never looked closely at Fantastic Mr Fox, except to notice the interesting casting of George Clooney as the main character. However, after seeing the unique animation style of the film, I was instantly drawn in. A review will soon follow! (August 14, 2010; Dead Snow Review)
Let’s just say I don’t really have a sense of humor. I mean, I thought Mean Girls was boring. However, I thought Fantastic Mr. Fox was freaking hilarious. The humor feels a little dry, and is both childish and not. The stop-motion film had great texture for each of the animals, and I loved the unexpected cuts. The titles for each “chapter” were adorable, too. Did I mention I thought the film was awesome?
I remember reading Roald Dahl books as a kid and loving him. It is always weird to see movie adaptations of childhood favorites, and I originally avoided seeing this movie for exactly that reason. Does anyone remember James and the Giant Peach? Yeah, I hated that movie. But Fantastic Mr. Fox is something entirely different. Director Wes Anderson, known for work like The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, is not normally a children’s filmmaker, nor an animator. Perhaps for that reason, Fantastic Mr. Fox feels like neither – its scenes are a little too sarcastic, dry, and choppy to have been made by a classic sort of storyteller. That’s why it’s so refreshing! For example, rather than swear, the characters use the actual word “cuss,” as in, “why the cuss didn’t I listen to my lawyer?”
For anyone who has read the book, yes, Mr. Fox is alive and kicking, stealing chickens, ducks, turkeys, squabs – you name it. Yes, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean (one fat, one short, one lean!) are the three farmers who are sick of being robbed and team up to go up against Mr. Fox. The movie adds a few themes about family, teamwork, and what it means to be a “wild animal” but nicely stays faithful to Dahl’s original material. Thanks, Wes, we appreciate it!
The voice acting is superb: George Clooney is Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep is Mrs. Fox, and Jason Schwartzman plays their son, Ash Fox. Everything feels natural, and the animation blends very nicely. The foxes look like little toys, with wiry fur and little pointed ears, and it’s all ridiculously adorable. I don’t have much else to say except that this movie kept me entirely entertained, for the entire 87 minutes; I wasn’t even tempted to doodle or start on my review. I can easily see myself watching this again and again. Seriously, 5/5.
A chameleon with existential issues stares out onto a bare desert with a trace of fear and doubt in his eyes. After having his comfortable and boring world literally shattered to pieces, this nameless, identity-less reptile meets a philosophical armadillo who should be dead from being run over, and an adventure begins. I do not know of another animated film that starts so gruesomely or oddly and yet manages to capture that yearning that is at the center of any good Western: that desire for freedom and the power of the individual.
Rango is what the chameleon decides to name himself. After all, in the Wild West you can take on any name you want. You can be anyone. And Rango decides to be someone special, a ray of hope, the sheriff of Dirt, a backwater town that is literally drying up. Seeing as water is the source of life in a desert, this is a serious problem, one that Rango is immediately assigned to tackle. Rango’s attributes include a proclivity for words, the imagination to tell a good story, and a healthy abundance of good luck, all of which serve him fairly well.
Because the animated film has long been associated with children’s movies I was presently surprised at the complexity of the issues presented in the film. Questions of identity, the nature of hope, the exploitation of water, and what it means to be a hero are all addressed in the movie. This explains the slightly longer run time (107 min). Unfortunately, the exploration of these themes was often cursory. For example, in a scene meant to be an indictment of the wasteful usage of water in artificial oases made for golf courses and retirement homes, Rango stands on a hill and looks down on a sprawling city while sprinklers hiss over empty green fields. Though I liked the juxtaposition of this green resort to the difficult life in Dirt, the scene itself failed to properly address the complexities of wasteful living. The audience is told that this waste is bad without learning what causes this waste or how to stop it. The existential questioning is handled better, but for many people who have experienced that panic this questioning will come across as shallow. You can’t really get more obvious than a chameleon asking questions like “Who am I?”
Despite its shortcomings as a philosophical treatise and imparter of life lessons, this film is certainly funny in a goofy way. That suits me just perfectly: I loved Johnny Depp’s turn as the crooked-necked chameleon, and Bill Nighy was downright frightening as Rattlesnake Jake (man, what a scary villain. A rattlesnake with a machinegun rattle. Should shake your bones). Much of the humor is just a level too high for children to understand, and much of it is slapstick, but you got to love it. The animation is also beautifully done. As Apple told me after the film, the movie is just filled with great texture: the roughness of sand, the hard scales of a reptile, the shiny, sleek, and almost slimy gleam of a rattlesnake. There are some trippy scenes in this film as well, the most obvious being when Rango finds the Spirit of the West, a godlike figure meant to look like Clint Eastwood. This is a pretty complex package. Parents be warned: there is violence, a little bit of cussing, and a fair amount of scary scenes.
And dang it all, after all is said and done, this is Western. And as a Western, this movie succeeds: you’ll find yourself longing for the dry heat of the desert, for the call of a hawk, for the old days when guns were in good supply and all you needed to make your day was a good shootout in the desert.
Rango is a movie about texture. The aqua-toned protagonist chameleon, voiced excellently by Johnny Depp, has skin with very fine scales that stretch and glisten with great believability. The movie is all about water, specifically, about one town’s lack of it, and the animated water has a great wet feel against the dry, hot, dusty desert. The texture of sand is especially well done, and in one scene Rango walks against the edge of a sand cliff, which causes sand to trickle down the sides in little tear-like rolls. The texture is definitely the best part of Rango, and it is extremely precise.
Rango is the story of a lizard from a tank, who is thrown (literally) into the problems of a desert town named Dirt. Dirt is a true frontier town, wild-west down to its dim-lit saloon and chock-full of gunslingers and sheriffs. It feels like there have been a lot of westerns lately – True Grit, for one, and we watched High Noon in class. Along the way, Rango meets a nice girl lizard, whose voice actress makes her sound just like the girl from Red Dead Redemption. Similar to Shark Tale, it’s the story of a little critter with a big mouth that gets him both in and out of trouble.
The movie was cute, funny, and witty, with some great action scenes. There were times where I was really surprised by some of the dialogue in this children’s film, and by the gruesomeness of some ideas: the first scene has Rango attempting to woo a “princess,” which is a naked, headless Barbie bust. There were also instances when things felt inconsistent – Rango was at one moment completely oblivious, and then too wily at the next – there were unfortunately several hiccups like this in an otherwise enjoyable film.
The movie has some strangely surreal elements to it, which are not surprising considering the dehydration the desert induces. Rango is told to look for golden guardians and an alabaster carriage, which turn out to be little statuettes and a white golf cart, by an ancient, bearded armadillo pilgrim trying to cross a highway. Cacti literally walk (like the last march of the ents!) across the desert, searching for water, and Rattlesnake Jake is a mean western diamondback who somehow has revolver cylinders as a rattle at the end of his tail.
Overall, 3.5/5 – Rango is a cute, clever movie; it’s a fun ride but is far from perfect. It felt weird to walk back into the theatre after almost an entire quarter without going, but I don’t regret going for Rango. Where else could we get the experience of an entire room of kids jumping and screaming at the movie?
Taking another break from the typical movie review, I’d like to bring you guys an iPhone App review! I mostly used my phone for reading news at first, but have since progressed into less and less productive use of this excellent mobile device. Among the games that I have played and enjoyed are: Sushi Cat, Flood-It!, Paper Ninja, Charmed, Cat Physics, Mega Jump, and iJewels. But there have been several extraordinary games, and I’d like to share them with you. (I’ve also included a Tiny Wings Tips section at the bottom of this review!)
Among the level-based games, I think the best definitely have to be Cut the Rope, Trainyard, and Angry Birds. Of these, Angry Birds is the most famous, yet I fail to see why. One simply drags a bird back in a slingshot, and launches it forwards to knock over structures and destroy evil green pigs. It uses good physics-based motions, includes an assortment of different powered birds, and has a lot of levels. Actually, I thought Angry Birds was kind of boring.
Usually, these level-based games have some sort of a smaller, free version that people test before buying the full version of the game, even when the full version is usually only $0.99 itself. Trainyard is a notable exception, in that its free Trainyard Express has levels that are unique from the full game. I think Trainyard has been my favorite puzzle game so far – one guy developed it in his spare time, see the story here (http://struct.ca/2010/the-story-so-far/). It employs an excellent puzzle system set in a trainyard, where one has to lead colored trains into colored boxes. Sounds simple, but Trainyard can get really hard, really fast. The levels are especially well-designed, teaching the user the tricks of the trade, and then immediately putting them to the test.
Lastly among these, Cut the Rope is an adorable game. A little monster named Om Nom arrives on your doorstep, and you must feed it candy! This game really uses the multitouch abilities of the iPhone in an intuitive way, cutting ropes to let candy drop. The levels are simple, well-designed, and most importantly, super cute! Among the variety of attributes that arise in later levels, my favorite have got to be portal-esque socks, where the candy goes in one sock and shoots out the other, momentum conserved (as in Portal). Cut the Rope’s updates sometimes include new levels, so the game never stops growing.
Among the progression-based games, my favorites have definitely been Doodle Jump and Tiny Wings. These both have simple, intuitive gameplay, based on innovative use of the iPhone’s controls. Doodle Jump is a tilt-based game similar to Orisinal’s Winterbells, where you play a little green doodlebug that jumps from platform to platform. Along the way, difficulty increases as platforms move and vanish, and monsters appear. There are a nice variety of maps and powerups, along with several achievements, which help feed the addiction.
And lastly, my newest addiction is Tiny Wings. This game is ridiculously cute and sweet – the description states, “You have always dreamed of flying – but your wings are tiny. Luckily the world is full of beautiful hills.” That’s the premise behind Tiny Wings – using hills to build momentum in order to “fly.” This game has cute music, although the bird sounds kind of like a Furby, and the hills change colors every day. There are also nest upgrades and different islands, but I think Tiny Wings could definitely use some more features. Since this is only version 1 though, I’m sure we can expect to see a lot more from Andreas Illiger soon.
Here is the trailer for Tiny Wings. It is pretty damn adorable.
Now, as promised, TINY WINGS TIPS/TUTORIAL/WALKTHROUGH! I’ve only had the game for four days, but I’ve fallen in love with it. I’m currently at a high score of ~150,000 and working on upgrading my nest from x24 (update: now on the last objective set, x26! Update2: beat all objectives!). Last I checked, international high scores were high 200,000s, so if I keep at it, maybe there’s hope! Anyway, here’s my advice:
First, read the HELP section to learn the rules! This way, you’ll know how many points you get for everything, and what to aim for! Of course, these points will be multiplied depending on your nest.
The goal is to get as far as you can before the sun sets. Each time you fly across the ocean to a new island, you fly faster than the sun, and so it appears like time is turning back. If you find you are running out of time, try to get to the next island for a little boost in time!
To get perfect slides, aim to have the bird hit the ground on the downhill part, slide through the bottom valley, and leave the ground while heading uphill. (See white splotchy line in picture.)
- You have to land from the air and end in the air in order to qualify for a perfect slide, thus, you cannot get a perfect slide if you stay on the ground from hill to hill. You have to fly over at least one hill/valley and then land in order for it to count.
Fever mode is key to getting a high score. After three perfect slides, the bird will go into fever mode, and star sparkles will stream from his tail. During this time, which will continue as long as perfect slides are made, your score will be doubled.
- Since score is computed by distance, it is especially important to get into fever mode at the end of one island – the score from entire distance of the ocean between islands will be doubled.
Upgrade your nest! Check the objectives on the main screen to see what you need to do in order to get to the next nest. This is key in obtaining a high score, because each nest multiples your score by some number, and better nests have higher multipliers!
- This is not hard if you focus on the objectives, but objectives rarely happen of their own accord, so make sure to actively accomplish them!
- This will also improve your game in general; Orion told me a study about how people will plateau their typing speeds, and break past the plateau through focusing on improving little details.
Additional sources of score include coins, speedcoins, and cloud touches.
- I would ignore coins unless you need them for a nest upgrade; it is much better to maintain a smooth momentum than to nab a few coins.
- Cloud touches (aka all the goals for one nest upgrade) are good, and are easily achieved right at the beginning of a new island, because of all the momentum accumulated flying over the ocean. Cloud touches are also easier with small, steep/deep hills, because of the upward elevation. Blue speedcoins can help cloud touches as well.
- Blue speedcoins will help you go faster, but I also wouldn’t suggest going for them unless they happen to be on your way.
Specific nest up advice:
- “Get 200 coins” - this is hard if you don’t focus on it. I can go many games without getting 200 coins; the trick is to go slowly. Especially at the end of each island, the long string of coins is easy to miss if you’re going too quickly.
- “Get 10 perfect slides on island 1″ – this sounds hard at first, but there are a lot of hills on island 1. The trick to this objective is to not sail high off the ground. The ideal movement is to get one perfect slide, fly over one valley, and then bring the bird back down right away for another perfect slide; basically, try to hit every other valley perfectly. Quickly tapping the screen rather than pressing/holding is a good technique to slow down the bird’s movement.
- “Get to 4th island without a perfect slide” (to upgrade to Nest x26) – this might sound ridiculous at first, but turned out to be surprisingly easy. Since a slide only counts as a ‘perfect slide’ if the bird flies over a hill before landing, as long as you stay close to the ground, you won’t get any perfect slides. Try to tap or hold right after you get to the top of a hill, so you end up gliding up and down the hills at a reasonable speed, but never actually fly off the ground.
- “34 seconds in fever mode” (for Nest x26) – I got stuck on this for a while; I was originally trying to get all of islands 1 and 2 in fever mode, and would restart the game if I messed up. However, I actually ended up getting it at the end of island 4 and the beginning of island 5, which has a lot of small and regular hills (see above image for example). This objective is all about time, not distance, so go as slow as you can by tapping the screen (as opposed to pressing and holding). Tapping gives you more control, changing the bird’s speed bit by bit rather than all of a sudden. Also, if you’re tapping, as long as you land somewhere before the valley, you will likely get a perfect slide.
Good luck, and have fun beating all your friends! If you have any questions or suggestions for this tips page, let me know in the comments!