Saturday Nov 27, 2004

Garfield

The movie, not the cartoons. Pay-per-view now has it playing every half hour, so Duncan and I sat down to watch it yesterday afternoon. I've no idea what the original demographic for this movie was, but let's just say that it went down well with a six year old boy if the amount of hysterical giggling is anything to go by. Or he could just have been really tired and was desparately trying to stay awake. Personally I thought the movie was blah.

See the IMDb entry for the synopsis, cast of actors and their extended movie review. My further comments:

The film makers generated Garfield well. As the owner of what used to be a fat cat (who's not so fat now that we have a dog - but that's another story), I can vouch that Garfield was doing all the right fat cat-like things. Good voice-over by Bill Murray. Garfields manner and tone felt right for a fat cat but didn't feel truly authentic to the way I remembered the cartoon strips. Garfield on paper was a lot lazier and unhelpful and Me Me Me! than the Garfield in the film. As IMDb notes, the Garfield TV cartoon series (in 2D) got it right.

As for the other actors. Well, let's just say that no actor suffered for their art in the making of this movie. Just the grown-ups in the audience. But then again, maybe that's exactly right. If you were expecting a real acting performance out of the supporting cast, you were looking at this the wrong way. Unlike Scobby-Doo, (the other recent mainstream 3D generated animal character in a movie), Garfield is the main character; not one of several. Focus should be on the cat. They got this right. Interactions with Odie, "the dumb dog" were excellently done.

I did appreciate that the movie wasn't longer than 80 minutes, which was all the time it needed (and then some). I don't think there will ever be a Garfield 2, and we won't be buying the DVD either.

After the movie, Pay-per-view were showing a preview of Robots, the next animated adventure from the creators of Ice Age. Coming to theatres in Spring 2005. That looks like it'll be worth going to.

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Sunday Nov 21, 2004

The Incredibles

Warning: slight spoiler ahead. Don't read this if that bothers you.

Yesterday was movie day for the Burridge family. We seem to have a traditional Disney/Pixar movie ritual. Hear about next Pixar movie from a preview for the last one. Wait patiently for it to appear in a theatre. Go see it. Love it. Wait for the DVD to come out. Buy it. And around we go again. This was no exception.

Even though it's been out two weeks, it's still pulling in big crowds. We Fandango'ed and went to the first performance at 11:15am in Mountain View and it was still very busy. (Pssst, the next movie from Pixar will be Cars, with a vocal role for Paul Newman, about this time next year).

The Incredibles movie lived up to all the hype that I'd previously heard. It's sort of an animated cross between an Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie, a James Bond movie, an X-Men movie, with parts that will remind you of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and computer games like Riven, the sequel to Myst. TheMovieBox.net has a good synopsis. The director and screenwriter (and fashion designer to our heroes) is Brad Bird, who also did The Iron Giant another of my all-time animated favorites.

The action is almost non-stop. The film's not over when you think it's over. The story line and humor are as clever as usual. The plot is well developed. And let'd not forget the wonderful graphics which almost goes without saying.

I really liked how the super heroes try desparately to lead normal lives, but it's just not working. My favorite scene would be where Elastigirl was stretched to her limits (two rooms, a corridor and an elevator by my count).

I'm sure there is a web site out there somewhere that will soon by listing all the other movies that were spoofed. I'll need to see this a few more times to recognize them all. My favorite spoof scene (at the moment), was watching the baby morph into the Hellboy baby need the end of the movie.

And there are still two more new animated movies in the theatres that we want to see; The Polar Express and Spongebob. It's going to be a busy Thanksgiving period.

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Monday Oct 25, 2004

Hellboy

Grownup movie night this weekend. With our son safely in bed, we sat down to watch Hellboy on Pay-per-view. As you probably know, this is another movie based on a character from a comic book series.

Here is the synopsis of the movie. We'd never read the comics or the synopsis for the movie before we watched it; we'd just got taken in by a preview and with a what-the-hell feeling, thought we'd give it a try. I was also very curious why the lead character had two lump of salami on his head (you're right, I didn't do much thinking about this movie up front).

Short summary: fairly enjoyable movie. Good scary monsters, though the reincarnation aspect (2 new ones for every dead one) got a little stale. Don't try to think too hard about this movie. The plot is thin. Just like the first Star Trek TV series, you know that if you see a good guy you've never met before, they are probably going to be toast (or even burn toast) very soon. There are some good one-liners delivered in a deadpan style by Hellboy, which just wouldn't have worked any other way. The special effects were good. I particularly liked the visuals for the apocalyptic screens and the views of the monster in prison on the other side of the portal. Also the scenes where they are making fun of Hellboy's indestructableness.

Ron Perlman makes this movie for me. Monster playing good guy. His softer side. His "teenage" angst with the Liz Sherman character. He was also the guy who played the Beast in this TV series. He's come a long way since then.

For the recent movies based on a comic books series that I've seen so far (and I've yet to see the Hulk or Spiderman 2), I preferred the X-Men films, but this was definitely watchable.

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Saturday Oct 16, 2004

Inappropriate language style

These comments are based on an article in the May 1985 edition of Omni, where Charles Platt in the "The Arts" column writes about the use of language in science fiction.

Here you are hundreds of years in the future, yet all the players are speaking in an understandable language (typically some American dialect). Everything else has changed almost beyond recognition; shouldn't the language have changed?

The obvious reason why this isn't done, is that if it was, you probably wouldn't understand it. Just a couple hundred years into our past, the English language spoken was quite often very different. Take a person from that time, and dump them into the present day, and start to have a conversation with them, and it would be strained at times. Heck, the older generation can't always understand the younger generation, and sometimes that's just the language that's used.

Platt gives some examples in the article. Probably the most famous is A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, which I read after seeing the film when I was 14. That was my first X-rated film and it was recommended by my English teacher, Calvin Goodall, a very liberal man. It left a lasting impression on me, mostly for the violence, but also for the use of this Nadsat language - a mixture of English and Russian. Reading the book was not hard. You could quite often infer what the new words meant.

Contrast that with another of Platts examples, Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. Hoban invents words that looked strange but sounded like English when you read them aloud. Even though it's won the National Book Award, I found this book totally unreadable.

The article gives other examples of futuristic language use, including The Marching Morons by C. M. Kornbluth and Golem 100 by Alfred Bester.

Since 1985, I'm sure there have been several more examples where the author has made a concerted effort to explore new language possibilities. Two I can think of are Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks (which I enjoyed immensely), and Elvissey by Jack Womack (where I gave up after twenty pages when I tried to read this - I might try again some day).

More often or not, a science fiction author will just introduce a few new words to try to give a futuristic impression. I've noticed the reverse recently in reading the books in the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson (Quicksilver, The Confusion and System of the World). Here the plot is set around about the end of the 17th century, but the writing style is very up to date, with a few old (frequently unused nowadays) words or the old spelling of words. It's making the novels extremely readable (assuming you can keep track of the dozens of characters).

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Sunday Oct 10, 2004

Ice Age

Last night was family movie night at our house, so we played the DVD for Ice Age. This was actually one of the few movies we've seen with Duncan at the theater when it first came out a couple of years ago. Because he's already seen it, had it explained to him, knows where all the scary bits are and doesn't need to be taken to the restroom every half hour, Mom and Dad actually got to see it as if for the first time. It's either that, or my mid-term memory lost is getting bad, or I was really tired when we saw it the first time, because last night, there were several scenes I didn't remember at all.

For those of you who haven't seen this (and I find it hard to believe there are many), it's the animated story of how a mammoth, a sloth and a saber-tooth tiger return a young human baby to its tribe during an ice age 20,000 years ago. Add in a pack of sabre-tooth tigers as the bad guys, an hilarious sequence with an army of dodo's and a running gag with a sabertooth squirrel called Scrat who has a passion for nuts plus various other odds and sods, and you have a wonderful movie. There is excellent comedic voiceover talent with people like Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary. The IMdB review is here. Two thumbs way up in my view, but then I've always had a passion for good animation (which is probably why I'm still watching Father of the Pride even though the writing is terrible, the jokes are lousy and I now have a strong urge to go see to Siegfried and Roy in person just to see if they are really that strange in real life).

The Ice Age DVD has a bonus disk which includes an animated short which contains Scrat's missing adventure Gone Nutty, which is also very funny. The Ice Age web site has some games young kids will like too.

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Tuesday Jul 06, 2004

Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkaban

Lynea and I took great pleasure today in going out to the local movie theatre and watching a good movie, instead of the piece of drivel we sat through on Sunday.

It looks like the Potter crowds are finally thinning out for this movie. There were only two showings today, and the one we were in was only about a third full.

Both of us have read all of the books and eagerly await each new film. As has been reported elsewhere, this one was much darker than the previous ones. The humour was greatly reduced. The characters are developing. The kids are growing up. Nice to see there was only a minimal number of Malfoy appearances and Quidditch matches, two parts of Potter films that I find tiresome.

Michael Gambon carried on the role of Dumbledore, slightly different (more animated), but it didn't feel out of place. Good to see new characters introduced. Gary Oldman as Sirius Black and the cameo by Dawn French as the Fat Lady were my favorites.

I also love the incidentals that appear in the Potter movies. This time it was the Marauders Map. Very cleverly done. Obviously others felt the same way as it was used for the credits at the end of the film.

I don't know whether I want the rest of the Potter films right away, or to wait a while and see more after a few years (like Lucas did with Star Wars). Part of me wants to see the same actors playing the roles and part of me would like the Potter universe on film to be fresh. Don't get me wrong, Alfonso Cuaron has definitely made it feel more lived-in, and I like that but I wonder what a few years and advances in technology could do to improve it even more.

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Sunday Jul 04, 2004

Cat in the Hat

Parents of small children will relate to this. You watch a lot of "entertainment" that you wouldn't even consider thinking about if your child hadn't said that they really really wanted to see it.

The Cat in the Hat film with Mike Myers falls into this category. The book is a classic. Wonderful. The film is a disaster. We watched it on Pay-per-review so it was a relatively cheap disaster but it was 1 1/2 hours of my life that I'll never get back again.

I did a double take when it was starting up and said it contained Adult Content. For a childrens story? Hmm. I don't know why they put the adult content in. If they were trying for humor on two levels, then they failed with this. There were a few good jokes that the grown-ups would get. There wasn't a need for some of the other attempts.

The special effects were okay. Our son laughed twice, but also, as I looked across a few times, he had some strange puzzled looks on his face.

Mike Myers can do great comedy when he's given the right material. This wasn't it.

P.S. The popcorn was good.

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Monday Jun 21, 2004

Kill Bill

No, it's not a new Sun marketing directive; it's the recent film from Quentin Tarantino, that we watched on Pay-per-View on Sunday Night. Well Volume 1 of what's guaranteed to have a followup. I've seen all of Tarantino's other films, so I was looking forward to this.

Like all of his films, it is never obvious what is going to happen next. Yeah, you know there is going to be lots of violence (and this film has buckets of blood) and you can be sure that there will be the well choosen expletives, but from scene to scene he's not predictable. I love the way he goes from something that seems ordinary and familiar right into a marshall arts display. The way it goes from the over-the-top carnage scene in the restaurant to the "peaceful" snow scene in the garden (prelude to yet another marshall arts show).

I'm sure I didn't get all the references and in-jokes to the marshall arts movies from the 70's, but it thoughly entertained me anyhow. If you are looking for realism, this film isn't for you. You need to ignore the excessive violence (body parts flying everywhere) and just watch a master director getting off on what he can do well.

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Saturday Jun 19, 2004

Master and Commander

Since our son has been born, we don't go to the movies so much. I bet a lot of parents with young children can relate to that. When Duncan was first born, we used Netflix (which had just started up at that time) and got our movie fix that way.

Nowadays we occasionally watch Per-per-view on cable. Last night we put Duncan to bed earlier than usual (he was exhausted from practicing swimming in the pool - see yesterdays blog entry) and sat down to Master and Commander. It was great. Wish I'd had a chance to see it on the big screen. It keep us totally engrossed. My wife, even turned off her laptop so she could fully concentrate on it. Course that could have been because I turned off the lights and she couldn't see properly, and hasn't yet mastered how to use a computer in the dark.

As an avid book reader, I've been meaning to get around to reading the Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin series for a while, with Master and Commander being the first one (and Far Side of the World coming in at #10). I picked up M&C at the library book sale last week for 50 cents, so it's now moved near the top of my list of next book to read, just to see where it ends (and presumably FSofW begins).

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