…and the quest to see everything

Archive for July 6, 2010

It’s Like That Friend Who’s…

ph. MGM/UA

…tha asshole. He’s our asshole.

After “How to Train Your Dragon,” last Friday, the Toronto Underground Cinema played “Hot Tub Time Machine.” And I saw it again. And I paid for it. I just wanna share my favourite moments this second time around, and this time I actually have proper screen caps.

Like When Nick Webber-Agnew (Craig Robinson) just word vomits in Russian.

Or Lou’s (Rob Corddry) calm demeanor when he looks up to the thundering sky, deciding that he’s not gonna go back to 2010. Blink and you miss it.

Jon’s (blogless, as far as I know) favourite moment is when Lou tells his son Jacob those three words he never did. As well as Jacob’s response to that.

Look, the lovable Lizzy Caplan joins the party! She plays the younger voice of sanity in “Mean Girls” and she does that here too. She has great chemistry with Adam (John Cusack) never looks too young nor too old in either parts of the space-time continuum.

And there’s been some talk that iMDb is fanboy centric. If that were true,  “Hot Tub Time Machine” would have a higher mark.

Martina was talking on the phone with her mother. I joked at how her mother might be scared that she’s watching a movie with two boys. She said that her mother trusts her choice of friends, but retracted that statement after watching the movie. I told them that I spent a voucher to watch this movie the first time and they told me that I wasted that voucher. I hope you guys disagree with them. 😛

How To Train Your Dragon 2D

ph. Dreamworks

The first time I realized I was watching a great movie in “How To Train Your Dragon” is when Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) finally finds his captive dragon,  Toothless, for the first time. Toothless is a Night Fury with sleek black surface like a car, puppy cute with large eyes, but skinny little Hiccup is afraid nonetheless. The film shows the dragon up close, its scales individually glinting from some imagined light source. The animators at Dreamworks really got texture and put that into the movie, specifically in the way it worked on the design of the anthropomorphic dragon as well as the fur and the hair that the Viking characters were wearing. To remind you guys, this is in 2D and is just as effective. If only they got fire and clouds and human skin just as perfectly, but you know, uncanny valley.

This ‘close-up’ of the dragon makes it seem like the movie uses not animation but a camera. The first scene breezily floats towards Berk, finds Hiccup, follows him until he runs into the muscular Stoick (Gerard Butler), whom we’ll find out as Hiccup’s father. Then we’re back at learning Hiccup trying to get away from his boss, Gobber (Craig Ferguson). He does and unintentionally makes more trouble for the small town. The films needles in and out of the town in sweeping strokes, in sync with the action happening onscreen. I tried to keep telling myself that it’s only animation, but it makes the audience feel like an expensive epic battle scene with ambitious long takes. The scene is a study of colour too, the peaceful blues of the evening sky and the ocean being fought off by the orange-coloured fire and the brown fur vests and hair.

It also has one of the most rousing musical scores I’ve heard in a while. The funny thing is that the music is a bit militaristic (thankfully with full violins, flutes and some choral work and minimal drums and percussion. I’m thinking I heard bagpipes too, but it might just be because of the distracting Scottish accents). John Powell (Shrek, The Bourne Series) uses the militaristic music in depicting a child, playing with pet dragon, feeling free, discovering something new and human within Toothless. The feelings that the score evokes, the turning point when both Hiccup and Toothless turn doubt into trust. It’s infectious.

Gerry Butler’s also good in this movie too. It’s like Clooney in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Butler immerses himself into the character and his looks don’t get into the way. I can’t wait for time to pass by and for him to get away from hot shitty romantic comedies and get more into parental roles. Baruchel’s voice needs to be less monotone monotone voice, but that’s a little gripe compared to the wonders of the rest of the movie.

And if Stoick asked for the well-being of his son instead of being mad at him for causing trouble and unintentionally releasing all the captive dragons. But not all movie parents are perfect, and letting the dragons go with the village’s food is a pretty bad thing to do. But at least it’s more succinct and more effective than “Avatar.”

p.s. I saw Martina. This is her review that actually explains the plot better than mine.

James Mason: A Star is Born ’54

ph. Warner Home Video

A film known for its memorable songs and emotional valleys, George Cukor’s 1954 musical remake of “A Star is Born” is also an effective parody of the Hollywood machine. Its circular events calendar and more circular narratives, lack of willingness to open doors, the 1950’s craze of finding the most groomed instead of the most able (I’m looking at you, Grace Kelly), vampire-like treatment of its talent whom they perceive as expendable, lack of respect for its talents’ privacy in dire times, absolute falseness,  exoticization of the rest of the world and disseminating that information into the American household, misguided and hateful press agents (Jack Carson), how it separates loving couples. I suppose Norman Maine shouldn’t drinking that much or that his problems aren’t caused by Hollywood, or that Esther Bloodgett/Vicki Lester (Judy Garland), but Hollywood still looks bad.

It also looks bad because Esther, one of its victims, has so much humanity and pathos. She gets discovered by alcoholic superstar Norman Maine (James Mason), and her soaring career coincides with his self-destruction. I can’t pick out her shining moment in the movie. While she’s in the car with Norman, she seems to belong to her big city present with hints of the small town little girl of her past. As she’s in between the musical movements of  “In the Trunk,” she goes from caramel-voiced actress then breaks out into song, holding back tears of joy and gratitude. In her dressing room, still in a jolly costume as an androgynous newspaper girl, she tells Oliver Niles of how she hates Norman for failing but says it with sorrow and remorse, and brings audiences to tears.

James Mason gets a moment too. It’s the last movie played in his retrospective, and what other way to end it than with his performance in this movie. Playing opposite Garland takes a lot of subtlety. But my favourite scene for him is when he ‘Kanye’s‘ his wife at an Academy Awards ceremony. He tells those who are attending the banquet that he knows them by their first name, convincing authority from a man who is there to beg. It’s horrible for him to do, but we still feel his pain. I also just inexplicably like it when actors stutter at the right moments. Both Mason and Garland play off each other well in this scene, even if they don’t look like a good couple in a few other scenes. And his “Why do you disgust me” in the first scene brings laughs too.

The movie’s a circular one, beginning and ending both in a Hollywood benefit show. Esther returns to the place where she met Norman, filling his place. She appears to her audience as Mrs. Norman Maine, positioning herself as a traditional wife, as one of Hollywood instead of just being a newcomer. As she belts out in one of her numbers, the show must go on.

Oh and if you like Mondrian, you’ll love this movie too.

A good ten minutes of “A Star is Born ’54” are just monochrome film stills accompanied. Those ten minutes seemed thrice its length, almost ruined the experience, I wanted to walk out and get my money back. I should have known that film executives cut it up because the original three hours was apparently too long by test audiences at the time. Thankfully the last inserted parts of the film ended by the 70th minute, and the meat of the film and its musical numbers are intact. I was eavesdropping other people’s conversations after the screening, women in their forties strongly saying that the stills added nothing to the film. I hope to hear the other side of the argument someday.