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Hot Fuzz is Delicious—A Review of Hot Fuzz by Orion

I could also have titled this review, “Why Hot Fuzz is Better than Apple Makes it Seem,” but I thought that this title more accurately captured the warm feelings I have for Hot Fuzz, and for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in general.  Hot Fuzz is a parody of every cop movie you have ever seen, but given a British twist: Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a hard-nosed, incredibly dedicated cop who’s making the rest of the police in London look bad.  Angel’s bosses transfer him a middle of nowhere peaceful town, where he meets his partner, Danny Butterman (played hilariously by Frost) and all hell breaks loose.

This is a parody, yes, but a parody with a style of its own.  I thought that it was hilarious to see Simon Pegg play an overly serious cop, especially when in Shaun of the Dead he plays this loser without any skills whatsoever.  He’s somehow completely believable: his eyes have a hard glint that wasn’t there in Shaun of the Dead.  He is constantly observing, constantly on edge, waiting for some crime to happen.  The whole movie is meant to seem hyperactive, even hyperbolic, even though the first half of the movie is about what doesn’t happen—about the seeming lack of serious crime in the area.  Some scenes have a series of extremely fast cuts, which are accompanied by a cute rushing sound, and we always get a sense of movement that is almost sickening.  These features help the viewer understand what it means to be Angel, a cop who seemingly can’t switch it off—I could list endless more examples, but I don’t want to ruin these little gems for you.

When murders disguised as accidents begin to occur in this little town, things really get interesting.  There is so much bureaucracy and lethargy in this town and you can really feel Angel’s frustration building as his attempts to investigate what he sees as clear cut cover-ups.  The humor acquires an edge, with the movie making pointed comments about the nature of bureaucracy and the idea of the greater good.  But even these points aren’t taken too seriously.  There is a scene I love when Angel uncovers the conspiracy and is blown away by the mundane justification the culprits give for their actions.  The movie doesn’t attempt to be serious in its criticism, understanding that comedy always cuts two ways.

4.5/5 Waffles

-Orion

 

The good, the bad, and the horrible: on Hot Fuzz and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

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!

 

Best regards,

Apple

 

On The Godfather Part II and Eyes Wide Shut

March 24, 2011 1 comment

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.

 

Best regards,

Apple

 

Classic Capsules II: The Misfits, Bonnie and Clyde, Lady Sings the Blues

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment

“The Misfits” was written by Arthur Miller, author of plays like “Death of a Salesman.”  It was supposedly a gift to Marilyn Monroe, who he later married, and who is featured as the main actress in the film (I didn’t realize this until twenty minutes in, when I paused to read the Wikipedia entry on the movie).  Monroe plays a divorced woman who meets three different men – Clark Gable as a cowboy, Montgomery Clift as a rodeo rider, and Eli Wallach as a pilot.  They all, to some extent, fall in love with her, and the movie twists like a tornado with Monroe in its center.  Perhaps because of Miller’s background, much of the movie is made up on ornate dialogue, which can be frustrating at times, but overall, the film is pretty interesting.  3.5/5 – at the end, everyone heads up into the mountains to catch wild mustangs, and the shots of the mountains the horses are breathtaking.

“Bonnie and Clyde” is a 1967 film about the famous criminal duo, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.  Supposedly a landmark, and I think the tale goes something like this: after one major critic’s negative review got smashed by the young public, he resigned, noting that if he could no longer ‘understand’ new, ‘modern,’ movies, then perhaps he was no longer ‘right’ for reviewing.  I thought the movie told a good story, especially in the middle, when Bonnie and Clyde expand their two person gang to include a car mechanic, Clyde’s brother, and the brother’s wife.  The relations between the five members include tension, puppy love, dislike, respect, and it is all told in a way that is palpable.  Much of the time is spent on the road, and a car stuffed full of five people is a great place for interactions to flourish.  3/5 – perhaps because I am a modern viewer dulled to the supposedly shocking sex and violence that “Bonnie and Clyde” presented, I am not the ‘right’ person to review this either.  (In other news, the 2011 movie “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” is going to feature none other than Hillary Duff as Bonnie.  WTH?)

“Lady Sings the Blues” is a 1972 movie about Billie Holiday, with Diana Ross as the leading actress.  Ross does an excellent job with the complicated role, portraying Billie all the way from her tomboy childhood to celebrated singer to morphine addict; she sings all the songs in the movie, employing an especially detailed “on drugs” singing and “off drugs” singing style.  Similar to the more recent movie, “Ray,” this movie is about one singer’s rise to fame and subsequent struggles/fall due to drugs.  “Lady Sings the Blues” is a difficult film to watch, as Billie’s self destructive behavior spirals, cutting into her career and her relationship with her eventual husband, Louis McKay.  (A side note – Billy Dee Williams plays Louis, and I finally realized the reason he looks so familiar.  Billy Dee Williams played Lando Calrissian in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.  Weird.)  4/5 – this movie was painful, but elegantly so; Diana Ross does an amazing job portraying the legendary jazz singer, and her strength truly drove the movie to greater heights.

Classic Capsules: a series of mini-reviews on older movies

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment

So, it’s been a slow quarter for movies, and apologies for the lack of fresh reviews on Apple and Orion.  I’ve been watching a lot of older movies lately, for a class I’m taking on film criticism, and rather than full reviews, I’d like to share some short reviews with you guys, in a format my professor calls a “capsule review.”  Is that not an adorable term?

“Double Indemnity” is a 1944 film noir directed by Billy Wilder, about an insurance salesman who teams up with a lonely wife to plot the murder of her husband, and reap in earnings from his life insurance.  At first, I didn’t particularly like this movie – I thought the acting was stiff and that the plot was rather boring.  However, I changed my mind after reading a very analytical review that looked into homoerotic undertones between the salesman and his colleague, a claims adjuster who is amazingly apt at sniffing out false insurance claims.  On a second viewing, the film seemed much more multifaceted, with quite a handful of subplots and devious interactions, and I liked it a lot more.  3.5/5 – if you pay attention during this movie, you’ll catch a lot more than what the basic plot shoves at you.

 

“The Lost Weekend” was another film directed by Billy Wilder, albeit a very different one.  This movie spans a long weekend, and tells the story of a deeply alcoholic writer, Don, and his relationships with his girlfriend, brother, bartender, and a series of other characters.  Honestly, I thought this movie was depressing and unpleasant, especially when it explored Don’s struggles with withdrawal and hallucinations.  However, it was a smash at the 1946 Academy Awards, taking home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay.  2.5/5 – this movie certainly has an important story, but it was just too much of a downer to be enjoyable.

 

“Pickup on South Street” is a movie that starts with a pickpocket (Skip) who steals a woman’s (Candy) wallet.  Unbeknownst to either of them, the wallet contains top-secret microfilm that Candy’s ex-boyfriend was smuggling to communist agents.  The American secret agents tailing Candy and the communist agents both struggle to get their hands on the film, leading to a tangled plot and dynamic story.  In my opinion, the best part of this movie is actually a minor character named Moe, who is a self-declared peddler of information.  She lives by herself, making a living by selling ties on the street and selling the addresses and styles of pickpockets.  Her only goal at this point in her life is to save up money to buy an expensive burial plot for when she dies; she is remarkably cheerful about this, and it isn’t until late in the movie that we learn just how exhausted she truly is.  3.5/5 – unfortunately, the main character Candy is a rather stupid girl, falling head-over-heels for pickpocket Skip and also failing to catch on to the plot around her, but because of Thelma Ritter’s wonderful portrayal of Moe, this movie is saved from being awful.

What an excellent day for an exorcism: “The Exorcist”

February 6, 2011 1 comment

“The Exorcist” is foremost renowned for being one of the scariest movies of all time.  However, when we watched it for Religion in Human Experience, our TA reminded us that it is more than that; having been nominated for a slew of Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, “The Exorcist” is more drama with a dose of horror than vice versa.

We are currently studying the effects of the supernatural in defining the human, and furthermore, human faith in the divine.  I think “The Exorcist” is certainly an interesting theater through which to examine this concept: it tells the tale of a young girl (Regan) who becomes possessed by the devil, and the priest (Father Karras) who seems to rediscover his faith through his experiences with her.  Unfortunately, almost half of the movie is Regan’s mother, Chris MacNeil, going from psychologist to psychologist, looking for an answer and become pretty crazy as she goes.  Only in the very end does the priest we are introduced to in the beginning, Father Merrin, return to the movie to attempt an exorcism.

I think the movie is interesting for placing possession in a (relatively) modern light – Chris struggles to find a scientific explanation for Regan’s behaviors for quite some time before turning to a supernatural explanation.  I’m not sure how much I liked the specific characters, but the movie was certainly plump with strong themes.  The ideas of science as opposed to the supernatural, the potential for evil to bring good to light (to even restore one’s faith in good) – there’s a set of nice dualities, which I love!

As for the horror, I was super stressed by the movie.  Talking to my friend Kathy Huang about one movie, “Let the Right One In,” she explained her feeling throughout the film as being “when will this be over?”  That’s how I felt about “The Exorcist” – each scene was not particularly gruesome or scary (although the x-ray scenes in the hospital are rather squeamishness-inducing), but as a whole, the movie falls properly under the horror genre.  I had another friend, Hansang, who was absolutely not afraid of scary movies.  He sought thrills in the real world instead – there was an abandoned asylum near his school (supposedly haunted) that he visited once at midnight, with no light but the screen on his cell phone.

Overall, 3/5 – while strong themed, “The Exorcist” is far from perfect, with a slow start and rather flat characters.  However, it is certainly a classic for a reason, and I don’t know why it took me so long to see.

Best regards,

Apple

A master of his time: “King Kong” (1933)

January 19, 2011 1 comment

“King Kong” is perhaps one of the most iconic figures in the collective movie-watcher’s mind.  Who can, once they see it, erase that image of an enormous ape at the top of the empire state building, one furry hand clutching a screaming blond and the other swiping madly at fighter planes?  In one of my classes this quarter, we were assigned to watch the 1933 version – the first version before a slew of remakes – and present a review through the guise of a 1933 film reviewer.  I’ll spare you the stream-of-consciousness review I wrote for class (although I had a lot of fun writing it) and instead try to take a balance between modern and original audiences.

The film is about a director, Carl Denham, who takes a crew to an unknown island to make a picture.  At the beginning, the night before the voyage, he picks up a girl to star in it, having been told that with a girl, his films could double their revenue.  Ironically (or perhaps pointlessly not), the blond actress, Fay Wray, seems to fill that exact role in “King Kong” – she spends her time screaming and fainting her way through the scenes.  What makes this film especially remarkable is its inclusion of giant animals – dinosaurs, a loch-ness monster of sorts, huge snakes and, of course, the eponymous monster ape Kong.  This is 1933 that we’re talking about.  Sure, Kong looks ridiculous by today’s standards, but for the time, I can only imagine how exciting he and the other island giants must have been.  As I understand it, Kong was animated through a mixture of puppetry and stop-motion; nearly every scene he’s in is completely filled with his looming, furry body.

Fay Wray’s character, Ann Darrow, quickly falls in love with the ship’s First Mate, Jack Driscoll.  There is one scene that I especially liked – Denham is testing Ann in front of the camera, and we watch her act according to his directions, without knowing exactly what he wants.  He tells her to look up, be amazed, surprised, shocked, terrified, and then, to scream.  I’ll give it to you guys, Fay Wray is one hell of a screamer.  Jack, grimly overlooking the shot, says rather ominously, “What’s he think she’s really going to see?”

Although the film seems ridiculous in many aspects, least of all being the jerky technology that moves Kong, the film is still of a magnificent magnitude.  It’s sort of sexist (all the men go crazy over saving Ann), racist (the crew members are rude and condescending to the stereotyped island natives), and also campy (dinosaurs fighting giant apes?), but in the end, there is no doubting that “King Kong” was truly a king of its time.  It’s one of the 50 best American films according to the American Film Institute, and has since its release been recognized with multiple awards and honors.

Overall – 2.5/5; I personally found the action too dragged out, crushing any messages of human-beast interactions under the constant show-off of fight scenes, but the film remains monumental.  See it if you’re feeling historic, and because it’s such a famous creature of a film.  It’s even all on Youtube, and so you know it’s got to be a classic.

Best regards,

Apple

A “Classic” Movie Review: X-men – Orion’s Take

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

This review is a present from Apple and I, as we enter the new year.  Many thanks to our readers for making this year a blast for http://www.appleandorion.com!

I’ve seen this movie many times.  So when a slightly tipsy Apple suggested that we watch it again, I wasn’t very enthused.  I remembered it being cliché ridden and altogether disappointing for a film based on some of my favorite superheroes.  Come on, who doesn’t think Cyclops is awesome?  I also personally think Professor X is an excellent character.  In any case, I relented to Apple’s request with a sigh and started to watch.

It was as bad as I remembered: the characters spouted inane clichés and bad jokes, all the while failing to do anything useful.  Does anyone else think the plot makes no sense?  Are you telling me that Professor X, who can kill any person in the world as long as their mind is not shielded, and who can sort through billions of people to identify the location of one particular mutant, isn’t able to notice one mutant who sneaks into his school?  That he wouldn’t able to tell when someone had tampered with a machine he helped build?

Of course, it isn’t the plot of this movie that is the worst.  The worst sin for an action movie is having bad actions scenes.  And boy does this movie have bad action scenes.  Why do the X-Men suck at fighting?  For God’s sake, how do you lose a fight against Toad?  Also, Sabertooth looks like a Neanderthal with overlong nails.  Speaking of bad character design, Cyclops is the biggest loser ever, and I would know.

The only redeeming quality of this film is the inclusion of two masterful actors, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.  Patrick Stewart is graceful as ever as the magisterial Professor X and Ian McKellen embodies the intellectual and menacing villain Magneto with charm.  Those two were really the only reason I could finish this miserable excuse for a film.

2.5/5 Waffles

Juno – Orion’s Take

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

A sweet treat that manages to avoid being saccharine with a deft sense of humor and just plain weirdness, this is one film that kept me captured all the way through.  Those that know me know that when I get emotionally involved in a movie I will often stop and pause the movie because I’m concerned about the wellbeing of the characters involved and sometimes I’ll even yell at the screen.

Such was the case in this well-spun story about a 16-year-old girl’s struggle to understand herself in the midst of an unwanted and unexpected pregnancy.  Juno (Ellen Page), who is named after the Roman queen of the gods, decides on finding an adoptive home for her child and spins through the world with an attitude that is hard to describe.  A mixture of wide-eyed astonishment, cynicism and hope, she is a bundle of contradictions that somehow presents a likeable character: though Juno is rude and sometimes foolish, she can get away with it.  In one scene Juno remarks, rather callously, to a woman who cannot get pregnant, that she would never want what is happening to her.  We, as viewers, can see the pain flash across the face of Vanessa (played masterfully by Jennifer Garner), but can forgive and even love Juno.

The interaction between a woman who longs to be a mother and an expecting mother who has no idea what she wants is engaging.  Jennifer Garner manages to capture the desperation and joy that her character feels throughout the film with elegance, never overdoing it, just putting her heart and soul into showing this flawed but loving woman for who she is.  And it works.  Her character is one of the best in a film filled with many great characters.

Each character is portrayed with a special eye for their quirks, which makes them all the more human.  Juno’s father works with heaters and air conditioners, her stepmom is obsessed with dogs and works at a nail salon, her best friend has a “thing” for older, bearded teachers, and her not-really-boyfriend-or-lover runs track and rubs deodorant on his thighs.  The support of her friends and family through the film changes Juno in inexplicable ways, and is very sweet.  I especially liked the father, who, while living through a father’s worst nightmare, never raises his voice at his daughter (which is not to say that he never gets angry)  and keeps his good humor and down-to-earth nature all the way through.

This is a movie that is so filled with awkwardness that I felt right at home.  The movie, in the words of my partner Apple, is “super cute.”  I have to agree.  Whether it was the sight of Juno’s cheeseburger phone, or the way her stepmother stands up for her, something got to me when I watched this film.

5/5 Waffles

With love,

-Orion

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