Saturday, December 31, 2011

Video – What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? (Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt Singing)

[Announcer’s voice]  We interrupt your regularly scheduled reviews to bring you this special post.

I ran across this video on IMDB this morning when I went to save off the year end Top 250 list (something I’ve done since 1998.)  It’s Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt singing together.  I thought it was cute and I really liked them in the movie (500) Days of Summer [you can read my post on it here].  I knew she could sing, but I didn’t realize that he could, too.  It’s also nice to see that even people who make their living in front of cameras still have those awkward little moments at the beginning and end of things they record.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Movie and Book – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

I am re-reading and re-watching all of the Harry Potter books and movies.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here.

Plot (no spoilers):  Harry attends the Quidditch World Cup and sees an attack from Death Eaters – supporters of Lord Voldemort.  When he gets to Hogwarts he finds out that there is going to be a Tri-Wizard tournament featuring champions from Hogwarts and two other wizarding schools.  Even though there is an age restriction that he doesn’t meet, Harry’s name is somehow picked as a second representative of Hogwarts.  The challenges in the tournament are deadly, so someone may be trying to kill him by placing him in the tournament.  There is yet another Defense Against the Dark Arts professor – one who teaches them the three Unforgivable Curses (control, pain, and death) because he feels they need to be prepared to defend themselves from them.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione are growing up and experience their first Ball.  Meanwhile, Voldemort is plotting his return to full strength.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Movie and Book – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

I am re-reading and re-watching all of the Harry Potter books and movies.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here.

Plot (no spoilers):  Harry runs away from home after an incident with his adoptive family.  He gets picked up by a wizarding bus and taken to safety.  He finds out that a dangerous man named Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban prison.  On the way to Hogwarts the train is stopped and the Azkaban guards, creatures named Dementors, search the train and attack Harry.  He is saved by the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor Remus Lupin.  During the school year Harry learns that Sirius Black has a connection to his parents.  Things really start happening when Black and Harry come face to face.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Movie and Book – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

I am re-reading and re-watching all of the Harry Potter books and movies.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here.

Plot (no spoilers):  Harry has had a miserable summer back with his aunt and uncle.  Not only does a house elf named Dobby show up giving dire warnings to Harry not to return to Hogwarts, but he ends up literally becoming a prisoner in his own home.  He escapes with the help of the Weasleys and after a misadventure with a flying car, manages to make it back to Hogwarts.  He finds the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is a self-promoting book author with a legion of female fans.  The threat this year is that a Chamber of Secrets has been opened and a monster unleashed on the school.  It attacks several students and suspicion falls first on Harry, then on Hagrid.  Harry has to figure out what is going on in order to set everything right.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Movie and Book – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

I am re-reading and re-watching all of the Harry Potter books and movies.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here.

Plot (no spoilers):  Harry Potter grows up not realizing that he comes from a legacy of wizards and witches.  He is raised by his aunt and uncle after his parents die and they keep this a secret from him.  It isn’t until his eleventh birthday when he gets contacted by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that he realizes that he has some special gifts.  He makes friends with fellow first year students Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger and the three become the main characters for the entire series.  Each book covers the next year in Harry Potter’s life, up to age 17.  He finds day to day challenges in learning magic and in the actions of some of his schoolmates and professors.  He finds bigger challenges in the danger provided by Voldemort, the evil wizard who killed Harry’s parents.

Harry Potter Books and Movies

“Harry – yer a wizard […] an’ a thumpin good’un, I’d say, once yeh’ve been trained up a bit.– Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I first remember hearing about Harry Potter when the third book was coming out.  I caught a news story about the anticipation for it.  I didn’t think any more about it.  When the fourth book was coming out, the news stories were almost constant.  I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  The first book was available in regular paperback, so I bought it and read it.  I was able to see why it was so popular with kids.  None of the other books were available in paperback yet, so I didn’t know if/when I might read them.

I mentioned this to a friend and he said that he had the next three books – he had bought them for his son and daughter, but he and his wife had read them, too.  He loaned me the second book, which was a quick read like the first one.  I returned it to him the next day and asked if I could borrow the third one.  Because the weekend was coming he brought in both the third and fourth books.  This was fortuitous for me because if I had not already had both of them in front of me I probably would not have read any more than the first three.  The third book just seemed like more of the same to me and I wasn’t looking forward to reading a fourth that just rehashed the first three.  I read it anyway and it became my favorite of the four because this was the first one with a story that was obviously geared more to adults than children.

Of course, once I got caught up on the books, author J.K. Rowling decided to take three years off to get recharged and plot out the remaining three books.  When the wait was over I bought each of the next three books in hardcover and read them the day they were released.  I also rented each of the movies as they came to DVD.  While I did re-read book 4 at some point, I have never re-read the series or re-watched the movies until now.

I already owned all seven books.  A few weeks ago when all eight movies became available on Blu-ray in a single set, I picked them up.  That was the genesis for my idea to do these reviews.

My plans are to pair books and movies together and read/watch them in order.  I will then write and post a review of each book/movie before moving on to the next one in the series.  I am curious what my impressions will be of them now that I know how the whole story is going to play out.  What things did I miss the first time around because I did not know the part they were going to play later on?  How well did the books translate into the movies?  Will my ratings for the movies change?  Let's find out.

Here are links to my posts on the books and movies.  I will update this list as I post each one.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Overall Thoughts on the Harry Potter Books and Movies

Here's some Harry Potter humor.

One other bit of fun in regards to Harry Potter: what if the Harry Potter characters appeared on classic album covers?  You can find those here. 

On to the reviews…

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Wishes

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been doing the almost daily movie reviews that I’ve been posting the last few months.  I’ve been kicking back a little, getting ready for Christmas.  I’ve also watched three of the four remaining Best Picture winners that I had not seen – Hamlet (1948), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), and How Green Was My Valley (1941) down, only Cavalcade (1933) to go. 

I’m going to be visiting with my family this weekend, and then we’ll see about picking things up again after that. 

I’ve got plans for a re-read and re-watch of all the Harry Potter books and movies.  I’ve not seen or read any of them since they came out and I’m curious what my impressions will be now that they are all complete.  I'll write each review before moving on to the next book/movie. 

I’ve also got a ton of hikes to write up.  I spent seven out of eight days hiking in Acadia National Park back in September and I’ve got a lot of new trails and pictures to post.  I’ve also been toying with a bunch of other ideas, so I’m certainly not out of topics.  (And with well over 100 brainstormed groupings of movies, I won’t be out anytime soon.)

I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Good Winter Solstice, Happy Holidays, Merry Festivus (not so obscure TV reference) and a Good Gurnenthar’s Ascendance (really obscure TV reference).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Humor – Christmas Jammies

Because a man just has to draw the line at matching flannel Christmas pajamas…

Monday, December 19, 2011

Humor – Christmas Lights

When it comes to winning the neighborhood competition for the best light display sometimes you have to do more with less.

And here is a ditto for the ditto.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Movie – Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

What if the original Santa wasn’t the kind, jolly old man that stories make him out to be?  What if the legend got garbled over the thousands of years from when an ancient people first encountered him to when modern people now encounter him again?  How would they respond?  The movie Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale answers those questions and more.  As the tagline for the movie says, “This Christmas everyone will believe in Santa Claus.”  The film is a mixture of suspense and dark comedy that is highly entertaining.  It is number 5 on my list of the best non-traditional Christmas movies.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Movie – In Bruges (2008)

In Bruges has multiple great performances in it, including the best performance I’ve seen from Colin Farrell.  It won him the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical over his co-star Brendan Gleeson.  I wouldn’t exactly call this movie a comedy, but it does contain quite a bit of humor within a crime drama plot.  The result is a very good movie.  It is number 4 on my list of the best non-traditional Christmas movies.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Movie – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a movie that had almost no marketing done for it in the U.S.  Consequently, it earned almost nothing at the domestic box office.  For people only concerned about dollars this would make the movie a flop not worth watching.  For anybody who actually cares if they will be entertained by a movie, this is one that is definitely worth watching.  It revived Robert Downey, Jr.’s career and launched Michelle Monaghan’s.  It is number 3 on my list of the best non-traditional Christmas movies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Movie – Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually shows the lives of many different sets of people in the weeks leading up to Christmas as they try to meet someone, try to get over someone, try to stay together, or just try to hook up.  It has a large cast of familiar faces (more on that in a bit), as well as several cameos.  It is one of the best romantic comedies ever made and it is number 2 on my list of the best non-traditional Christmas movies.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Movie – Die Hard (1988)

I’m old enough that I saw Die Hard during its original run in the theaters.  I convinced my friend to go see it with me.  Even though it had a great trailer (“It will blow you through the back wall of the theater!”) he just didn’t think it would be that good.  The theater was only about 1/3 full on opening night, so a lot of other people probably thought it wasn’t going to be that good, either.  Well, it turned out to be one of the best, if not the best, action films ever made.  It’s number 1 on my list of the best non-traditional Christmas movies.

The Five Best Non-Traditional Christmas Movies

“Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker.”– John McClane, Die Hard

So, it’s Christmas-time again.  You’re getting presents wrapped, trees decorated, and when you can, you are watching a heartwarming Christmas movie.  It’s the umpteenth time that you’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life, or Miracle on 34th Street, or The Shop Around the Corner, or, well, you get the idea. 

While these are all great movies, haven’t you perhaps gotten just a little tired of seeing some of them year after year after year?  If not, congratulations – you truly have the Christmas spirit.  There’s a large group of other folks who probably said yes to that, though.  (There’s a reason that Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer became the biggest selling Christmas song of all time.)

For the rest of you folks, I am going to write reviews for the films I consider the five best non-traditional Christmas movies.  Normally I would have done them from five to one, but since Die Hard is pretty much the consensus pick in this category, it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise.  Because of this I will reverse the order and write about them from one to five.  After I post a new review I will come back to this parent post and add the link to it.

There were a couple of honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the list.  They are The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) and Batman Returns (1992). 

The Long Kiss Goodnight was pretty much the first non-sci-fi movie to have a female action hero lead.  While it’s chic to dump on both Renny Harlin and Geena Davis now, this movie remains a very entertaining one.

As for Batman Returns, it is the best of the four Batman movies from the late 80s and 90s.  Danny Devito and Michelle Pfeiffer were perfectly cast as the Penguin and Catwoman, just as Jack Nicholson was perfectly cast as the Joker in the prior movie.

Without further ado, here are the five best non-traditional Christmas movies:

  1. Die Hard
  2. Love Actually
  3. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  4. In Bruges
  5. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

On to the reviews…

Monday, December 12, 2011

Humor – Guess the Movie Quiz #3

I’m going to do a little quiz from time to time as I run across photos that apply.  How will the quiz work?  I will post a photo and from that you try to figure out what movie it refers to. 

If you missed them, you can see #1 here and #2 here.

I’ll do another easy one.

Click Read more for the answer.

Th-th-th-that’s All Folks

When I started this endeavor my intent was to do a movie for every number from zero to 50, then to continue to skip among larger numbers for other movies I would recommend.  Now that I’ve done the zero to fifty portion, I find that I’m itching to move on to other categories of movies.  Because of this, I am not going to do any other numbered movies above fifty right now.  At some point in the future I may pick this category up again.

First things first, here is the complete list of movie reviews I did for the Movies by the Numbers category, complete with links to each of those reviews, and with additional recommendations in the comments.

I’d like to thank the following people for recommending films to me for this effort.  Please visit their websites to see what they have to say about movies:

CS                  at Big Thoughts from a Small Mind
MovieNut14  at Defiant Success
SJHoneywell at 1001plus

I’d like to especially thank Bob Turnbull for writing a guest column for the number 31 movie when I was stuck with no movie to write about.  You can read it here. 

I had a lot of fun doing this large set of movie reviews.  It exposed me to several movies I probably would not have otherwise seen.  It also gave me a good excuse to re-watch a few movies along the way.  (All the other movies I did from memory.)  For those who are curious, here are the films I watched/re-watched for this effort.

Zero Effect – recommended by CS at Big Thoughts from a Small Mind
Six-String Samurai
14 Hours
Stalag 17 – (re-watched)
Hanger 18
Twenty Bucks
Catch-22 – recommended by CS at Big Thoughts from a Small Mind
24 Hour Party People
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century – (re-watched the pilot)
Chapter 27 – (didn’t like it enough to recommend)
Harvard Beats Yale 29-29
30 Minutes or Less – recommended by CS at Big Thoughts from a Small Mind
32 Short Films About Glenn Gould
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin – (three out of five stars, but I had 36 Fillette already planned to post) recommended by SJHoneywell at 1001plus and Bob Turnbull at Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind
38 Special: Live at Sturgis
Glorious 39
Sum 41: Introduction to Destruction
42nd Street – recommended by SJHoneywell at 1001plus and Kevyn Knox at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World
Summer of ’42 – (re-watched) – SJHoneywell at 1001plus reminded me of this
44 Inch Chest – (didn’t like it enough to recommend)
Janice Beard 45 WPM
Code 46 – recommended by Bob Turnbull at Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind
47 Ronin – recommended by Bob Turnbull at Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind
49th Parallel – recommended by Bob Turnbull at Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind
50/50 – recommended by CS at Big Thoughts from a Small Mind and Kevyn Knox at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World

You can check out the comments at the movie link post for many more suggestions from these folks.  Here are my own suggestions for the numbers above 50:

Passenger 57
Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
Around the World in 80 Days
RKO 281
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
2001: A Space Odyssey
2010: The Year We Make Contact
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Million Dollar Baby

If you are wondering if there were some movies I wrote about that straddled the line between worthy of recommendation and not worthy, then the answer is yes.  Here are the movies that I might never have written a review for had I not needed a movie for that number:

Hangar 18 – it was either this or The 18 Year Old Virgin, which is only worth watching for the nudity
The Number 23 – I had no other choices for this number and some people love it
27 Dresses – it was either this movie, which is okay, or Chapter 27, which I disliked
Sum 41: Introduction to Destruction – I had no other choices for this number and juvenile humor appeals to quite a few people

The numbers I had to skip because I had no movie to write about were 26, 33, and 43.  Bob Turnbull at Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind wrote a guest review for the number 31, otherwise I would have had to skip that one, too.

I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to read these posts and especially those who took the time to comment.  Hopefully, I’ve given you some movies that you will enjoy watching.

Next up – I will do a humor post or two then I will write about the best non-traditional Christmas movies.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Movie – 50/50 (2011)

The movie 50/50 is based on actual events in the life of Seth Rogen and his friend Will Reiser.  Rogen convinced Reiser to write a screenplay about his battle with cancer when Rogen knew him in his twenties.  (Reiser was given a 50/50 chance to live, hence the title.)  The result is a bittersweet comedy/drama with an excellent lead performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Movie – 49th Parallel (1941)

The movie 49th Parallel was an attempt by the British government to use propaganda in a way to benefit their war effort.  Nazi Germany had shown that it was a very effective tool, and The U.K. hoped to show North America what the Nazis were capable of.  In addition to the government funding the movie, several big stars agreed to work on the film for half of their usual fees.  The result was a movie that has to be evaluated on two levels – how it was received then and how it comes across now.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Movie – 48 Hrs. (1982)

The movie 48 Hrs. is sometimes credited with kicking off the whole “buddy cop” genre.  Even if it wasn’t the first, it was certainly followed by a ton of others (i.e. Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, Rush Hour – all of which became a series of movies.)  There was even a sequel to this movie titled Another 48 Hrs.  Regardless of whether 48 Hrs. was first or not, it certainly was popular with both audiences and critics.  It also made Eddie Murphy a star in his very first movie role.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Movie – 47 Ronin (1994)

47 Ronin tells the classic Japanese tale of, you guessed it, the 47 ronin.  Just as the tales of King Arthur are known to pretty much every British citizen, so too is the tale of the 47 ronin known to all Japanese.  Like King Arthur, it is based on true historical events, although since they occurred much more recently, the story presented is more accurate than any of the King Arthur stories.  This movie is a good way for people to get familiar with the story ahead of the big 2012 blockbuster that is going to somehow include Keanu Reeves.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Movie – Code 46 (2003)

Code 46 is a dense science fiction movie that takes a look at the social impact advances in genetics may have on human society.  Unlike Gattaca (1997), which presented a genetically superior human race, there is no human genetic engineering in Code 46.  Instead, the increased use of cloning and in-vitro fertilization has presented a situation where genetically similar people may meet and not even know.  Because of this, governments have passed “Code 46” defining who can and cannot reproduce.  The legal and moral implications of two such people falling in love would be huge.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Movie – Janice Beard 45 WPM (1999)

Janice Beard 45 WPM is a small, low budget British film.  I’ve read more than one comparison to Bridget Jones’ Diary, which seems rather odd to me.  Both movies are office-based comedies with women as the lead characters, but the similarity pretty much ends there.  I would describe Janice Beard 45 WPM as one part Amelie (2001), one part industrial espionage, one part outsider trying to fit in, and just a dash of Die Hard (1988).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Movie – Class of ‘44 (1973)

Class of ’44 was the sequel to the very popular Summer of ’42.  Like many sequels it did not achieve the same success as the original.  In this case it was for other than the usual reason.  Many sequels are just rehashes of the exact same thing as the original and therefore people grow bored with them quicker.  Class of ’44 was a completely different kind of movie from Summer of ’42.  This was a disappointment to people at the time because they wanted to see more like what they had just seen two years earlier.  If you go into the movie knowing what not to expect, though, I think you will like it better.

Friday, December 2, 2011

No Movie for Number 43

Well, I had to skip numbers 26 and 33 and I have to do it again for number 43.  I have seen no movies with a “43” or variations thereof in the title, let alone one good enough to recommend.  This is one of the reasons I did a double post for the number 42.

I identified several movies that had the requisite number in their titles, but none were available to be seen.  The one that sounded like I might have liked it was the Italian film It Happened in ’43 (1960).  Room 43 (1958) sounds silly and Every 43 Seconds (2003) sounds preachy. 

If you have seen any of these movies, please let me know by leaving a comment here.  I’m interested in your opinion on them.

There are two movies currently in production that might be good.  The first is 43 Pounds about a man who tries to make a movie for (you guessed it) 43 pounds. 

The second is Movie 43 that is coming out in 2012.  It will consist of a series of comedy shorts produced by the Farrelly Brothers about the private lives of superheroes (i.e. Batman going speed dating.)  It has a hell of a cast listed for it – Emma Stone, Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit Girl), Gerard Butler, Elizabeth Banks, Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Kristen Bell (Heroes), Anna Faris (My Super Ex-Girlfriend), Kate Winslet, Josh Duhamel, Patrick Warburton (The Tick), Naomi Watts, Uma Thurman (G-Girl), Richard Gere, Seann William Scott, Jason Sudeikas, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Liev Schreiber (Sabretooth), Kieran Culkin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Red Mist), Johnny Knoxville, and Tony Shalhoub, “just to name a few”.

If I ever get a chance to see one of these movies, or if a new movie with a 43 in the title comes out that I like, then I will replace this post with my recommendation for it.  Until then I have to move on to the number 44.

[Note – you can see all the Movies by Numbers, as well as get some hints on what’s to come, at this link.]

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Movie and Book – Summer of ‘42 (1971)

Summer of ’42 played movie theaters during the spring and summer of 1971.  It is an autobiographical tale of a boy’s coming of age one summer on Nantucket Island.  Both it and the book that accompanied it were very popular with audiences.  The movie was nominated for four Oscars, winning for Best Score.  The book became one of the best selling novels of the 1970s.  As it happens, I read the book and saw the movie when I was just about the same age as the main character (15) and they rang very true for me.

Movie – 42nd Street (1933)

When 42nd Street came out Warner Brothers was close to bankruptcy from the effects of the Great Depression.  This movie not only saved the studio, but it is credited with single-handedly saving the movie musical genre.  It proved to be very popular with audiences and it received a Best Picture nomination.  The success of this movie led to Radio Pictures deciding to do Flying Down to Rio (1933), which just happened to be the first pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.