Sunday, August 31, 2014

31 Days of Film - Day 31: The "perfect" film

I reviewed Toy Story 3 when it came out in 2010. I was a mess afterwards. I've only watched it two other times. It's a tear jerking film. And it's PERFECT. It's the closest thing to perfection a film could ever get. And the shocking thing is - it's a sequel.

Both Toy Story sequels improved on the first - not just with technology but with the story itself. Toy Story 2 ripped our hearts out, but Toy Story 3 crushed them. (Yes, that is a Once Upon A Time reference.) Toy Story 3 basically perfected storytelling and CGI animation.

I don't think an animated film should make someone sob for the last 10-15 minutes of a film. I don't think it's right at all. But the ending was perfect (for the movie as well as the trilogy). I know Disney likes to milk their movies to the point of no return (see Frozen) but I really hope the rumors of Toy Story 4 remain rumors. You cannot perfect perfection.

And that concludes the 31 Day Film Challenge! With Disney coming in just two weeks I won't be doing a September challenge. I'm sure I'll find excuses to ramble on, though. (For 18 pages... FRONT AND BACK!)

And then when I get back from Disney there will be pictures... and hopefully a completed trip report (I mean, 5th times the charm, right?!)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

31 Days of Film - Day 30: The "smartest" film you've seen

A lot of movie viewers claim this movie is just a mixture of Forrest Gump and Castaway - it's easy to think that considering the star of all three films is Tom Hanks, but it's so much more! The Terminal was Spielberg's jaunt into a "date night" movie, but with his classic themes of father-son bond and, of course, biopic (the story is loosely based on a real story).

This film has so much charm and heart that it's easily one of my favorite Spielberg films. The casting of Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski is what makes this movie work. He is the perfect sympathetic character. Stanley Tucci as the stories villain is also fantastic in his role (I love him, he can play so many different characters so well). The merry band of misfits that Navorski encounters in his 9 months in the terminal round out the film in a humorous and touching way.

I remember seeing this movie twice in one day - first with my best friend Erin, and then later that night with my dad as a father-daughter date. It charmed me both times.

It doesn't talk down to the audience, and a lot of the humor is subtle in a look or gesture of the actor. It's a classic Spielberg flick. Not sure it's the "smartest" I've ever seen, but it's definitely the one that's stuck with me most.

"Do you have an appointment?"

Friday, August 29, 2014

Kenai Animal Shelter Portraits - August 27

Things are busy here, so I'm backlogged on my blogging. But I'm not complaining. This is the most I've ever blogged in all the years I've been on blogger so yay! And some of the content I've written I'm actually proud of. Haven't been able to say that really in a while!

Anyway, Kassy and I braved the rain to take photos of the dogs and kitties at the Kenai Animal Shelter on Wednesday. They've got some great animals, as well as a lot of familiar faces (which makes me sad, they're all great! why don't they have forever homes?!).

31 Days of Film - Day 29: A film that you will never tire of

I. Love. This. Movie. It's amazing. Even after so many viewings that I've lost count I still laugh hard watching this movie. I quote it more than I probably should.

In college I watched this movie whenever I had a bad day - it wasn't the humor that made my day better... it was the idea that the whole world was blowing up. My aunt always knew when I was mad at the world because I was cheering on the aliens.

I've been known to watch this movie more than once in a single day. I've marathon-ed a whole weekend of just this movie. Normally I'm sick as a dog and too tired/lazy to get up and switch out the movie - but that's a minor detail.

Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum were such an unlikely pair, but it worked. Jeff is quirky... and Will is a dork. In Smith's first major motion picture he proved that he had the chops to be more than a teen demographic sitcom star. Bill Pullman was the best choice ever for a president. And Randy Quaid always plays crazy (because he IS crazy) to perfection.

Great cast, fun story, just a great sci-fi flick.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

31 Days of Film - Day 28: The "perfect" date movie

Not that I've ever gone on a date night to the movies (have to have a date to go on a date), but one of my favorite "romantic" type films (of which I don't like many) is "The Holiday". I LOVE this movie, and while it does happen around Christmas time, it's a movie worth watching year round. The four main characters are so adorable that you can't help but love the movie.

Kate Winslet's character being my favorite, I feel a connection to the character - I understand her. Even though our life experiences are no where near alike a lot of her personality I see in my own. Cameron Diaz is pleasant in the film as well, and I'm not a fan of hers (find her a tad overrated), her character is a sympathetic one from the onset when we meet her douchebag of an ex-boyfriend. Jude Law and Jack Black as the ladies' unexpected love interests make the movie sing.

And I'm not a fan girl of either of them, though if they played characters like the ones they have in this movie all the time I probably would. This movie proves there are good guys out there, you just have to be willing to see past the "good friend" stage.

Eli Wallach (RIP!) is also the charming neighbor that Kate's character befriends. He brings a charm and warmth that the movie thrives on. You can't not love him. It's a beautiful friendship. I need an "Arthur" in my life.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

31 Days of Film - Day 27: A film from your childhood

Sleeping Beauty is the first movie I ever remember being obsessed with. I had it on VHS and wore that sucker out. I loved (and still do) everything about it. Samson was an awesome horse, Prince Phillip dashing, Aurora beautiful... the fairies were hilarious and Maleficent is the most awesome villain EVER. She turns into a DRAGON!

I loved the sounds that Samson's hooves made on the cobblestone. How he dumped Phillip into the water. I loved how Maleficent flew into her rages, and how she mocked Phillip in the dungeon.

That Merryweather, like me, hated pink and wanted the dress to be blue. And I laughed at how stupid Flora was trying to make a cake. (I have been known to quote her "what's a tsp" while in the kitchen.)

I've had a crush on Prince Phillip since age three. He's my favorite prince of all time (which is why I'm always so bummed that Once Upon A Time doesn't give him a good storyline... so much potential!).

And really I love everything about Maleficent. She is just so... deliciously evil. And she turns into a Dragon... that makes her pretty much the most awesome thing ever. The movie starring Angelina Jolie does not do the mistress of all evil justice. They wimpified her.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer days driftin' away...

Summer is winding down here on the Kenai Peninsula... and, once again, I did a poor job of documenting this time of year. I wish I had a better excuse, but the truth is I'm lazy... and broke... and my car is not reliable... so I didn't get out much.

But, the other day I did go out and take some pictures... just as the fog decided to roll in. So the photoshoot was short lived. I was shooting some stuff for our church's website (which I am webmaster of) so they were shot on the church grounds... but I actually got a little creative in a few...

Can't believe fall is pretty much upon us already! Only 19 days till Disneyland!

31 Days of Film - Day 26: The film that should never have had a sequel

Just about every Disney animated film should not have a sequel - the only exception I can think of is Lilo & Stitch (I love the second film, though I can't watch it after losing Yuka last year).

I just don't understand why Disney thinks this is a good idea. Okay, I get that they're a business and it's an easy buck - but most of these films are total throw aways! They have no real quality of storytelling, characters, or animation. They are cheaply made from start to finish. It's not just disappointing, it's disheartening.

The Walt Disney name deserves better.

I know some of my fellow Disnerds will disagree, but honestly I just don't get how they can ignore the quality factor.

Monday, August 25, 2014

31 Days of Film - Day 25: Film that makes you want to be a filmmaker

I was 10 when I saw Jurassic Park for the first time. Not in theaters, but on a big screen TV at my dad's friend's house and he had surround sound. That movie was epic. Dinosaurs came to life (they were scary man eating dinosaurs, but they were still dinosaurs). My imagination was in hyperdrive.

When in Jr. High I thought it'd be awesome to work for Lucasfilm and do the special effects for Star Wars or other films like it. But by the time I hit High School I realized that the computer graphics took a lot of science and math knowledge and those are two subjects I struggled with. It was around this time I really started putting two and two together and realized I love putting creative projects together. I love telling stories and capturing stories...

And I was getting really fangirly about Spielberg films. I was beginning to pay more attention to the credits and the people behind the film, not the ones starring in them.

Jurassic Park still sparks my imagination and is the movie that always makes me want to go back and try and get that dream of becoming a film director. I want to have an epic film series. I want to have dinosaurs or something else HUGE. I want to tell a story that generations will continue to pop into their media players and enjoy them again and again.

I want to be a director like Steven Spielberg!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

31 Days of Film - Day 24: Your favorite "guilty pleasure" film...

Does Mr. & Mrs. Smith count as a guilty pleasure? I suppose it depends on what makes one feel guilty? I can't think of a single movie I own or watch that make me feel guilty about something... now if we're talking TV I have one (Terriers... hey it's been a while since I did a Michael Raymond-James shout out... oh, wait... I did a review about a movie he's in two days ago... whoops.)

I was not a fan of Brad Pitt's when it was popular to be a fan - story of my life, really. I'd never been a fan of Angelina Jolie's either. I just felt both were very overrated as actors (and as hotties) and so I didn't pay much attention. For the record, both are very good at their job, but I wouldn't say I'm a fangirl of either. Still this movie looked interesting and friends wanted to see it in theaters so I tagged along.

Jolie and Pitt are a pretty awesome duo. They definitely had chemistry (this IS the movie that destroyed Pitt's marriage to Jennifer Aniston, afterall) and the script was charming. I love the idea of two assassins being unaware that they married their main rival and are now tasked with killing the other.

Who knew paid murder could be so sexy?!

The movie wouldn't have done as well, I think, if they'd played it straight on serious. That it's really in many ways a comedy is what makes it work. Otherwise they could've taken it the soft porn route (like the coming attraction of "50 Shades Of Grey" which I have no desire of ever seeing), and I wouldn't be gushing about the film had it gone that way. Granted there is sexual content in the film, but it's definitely of the PG-13 variety.

I guess I feel guilty liking it because of all the "controversy" and tabloid fodder than surrounded it... so that's my guilty pleasure...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

31 Days of Film - Day 23: Funniest Film you've ever seen

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase. This movie is a classic Holiday film, and is timeless. It's one of the many movies I can quote backwards and forwards (and I often use it in every day conversation), and yet I laugh just as hard as I did the first time I saw the film when we watch it.

Tradition with my aunt is we watch it the night of Thanksgiving after dinner is over, people are gone, and the football is over. We get out the boxes of Christmas stuff, grab another slice of pie, and pop the movie in. And laugh.

It's one of the many things I miss with my aunt living in California these days - it's just not the same without her. My parents aren't about getting Christmas out in November... and they don't appreciate Christmas Vacation like my aunt and I do. Sure they laugh here and there, but they'd rather watch Elf or A Christmas Story. Gag me.

What makes this movie so funny is - we've all had that Christmas/Family function. We relate SO WELL to the film. We recognize ourselves and our family members in the zany cast of characters... and we're so thankful that Cousin Eddie hasn't come around our place in decades.

I'm half tempted to throw this movie on right now (hey, it's closer to Christmas than it's not!) but it'll just make me miss my Aunt Judy even more than I already always do.

Movie Review: Road to Paloma

I have a confession, I wouldn't have watched this movie all the way through (or at all) had it not been for the fact that I wanted to see Michael Raymond-James in something other than Once Upon A Time or Terriers. If you're an MRJ fan like me wondering if it's worth it or not, this review will probably be more for you than anything else.

The story was written and directed by its star Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones), and follows Robert Wolf as he goes on a journey to spread his mother's ashes at a lake of special meaning to the family. Problem is Wolf is a fugitive - he's wanted for murdering the man who raped and beat his mother (ultimately causing her death).

Wolf's mother was attacked on the reservation by a white guy - meaning he would not see tribal justice, he would go through a federal court. Somehow the guy got off, so Wolf took matters into his own hands (towards the end of the film he confesses to his sister, "I'm not sorry for what I've done, I'm sorry for what I've lost.") Wolf's father (Wes Studi) is tribal law enforcement and did not approve of Wolf's actions, but understands them. He does his best to keep the law while protecting his son. The system failed their family, so he's not as trusting of the system as he once was.

The Feds want Wolf, and are unhappy with how the local law enforcement has handled the situation (he is slow to find and apprehend Wolf, and even suggests in several scenes that Justice has been done in his mind). They send one of their best agents, who is a brutal guy, to go after him. And go after him he does, he'll stop at nothing to get his man - including threatening Wolf's family with jail or worse. The local guy tags along giving help where needed, but drags his feet as much as possible.

After meeting with his father on the reservation to tell him of his plans and ask about his mother's ashes, he finds out that his sister is the one who has them. He heads her way, coming across another down on his luck guy (named Cash) and together they make their way. Honestly, I don't understand why Cash is brought along or what his story is (he keeps calling a woman about selling a house but that's never fully explained). I guess Wolf just didn't want to be alone?

There are a few significant scenes as they make their way across country (state?) as well as just some beautiful cinematography of the area. Pretty inspiring photography, actually.

Wolf's sister is married to Wolf's best friend Irish (Michael Raymond-James). While Irish is mentioned many times throughout the film by many of the characters, he isn't in the film until close to the end. This is disappointing for fans of MRJ who are looking to watch this movie for his performance, but at the same time he doesn't disappoint. (Note, as a fangirl, I realize I am biased.) Irish and Eva (Wolf's sister played by Sarah Shahi) are happily settled with a new son when Wolf shows up at their door. Irish is overjoyed in seeing his friend and the scene is genuinely happy. (Seriously, who doesn't want an MRJ hug? I hate hugs and I want one!) Irish introduces Wolf to his "godson" (and nephew) named... Wolf.

Wolf's reunion with his sister is equally happy, but quickly turns serious as they discuss his lack of future. He asks her for their mother's ashes, and while she agrees that scattering them at the lake is what their mother wanted, she isn't ready to give them up. Wolf assures her he only wants to take a little bit - the rest can be scattered on Eva and Irish's property. The two agree, and share an embrace and tears. Meanwhile, the Feds have figured out where Wolf is headed - and where Irish lives. They're quickly making their way to catching up with the fugitive.

After some bro time late into the night, Irish asks Wolf if he's ready. The guys, along with Cash, hop into Irish's truck and he takes them out to the lake. Irish returns to find Eva and baby Wolf inside and they have company. The scene that comes next is intense and horrible. The Feds have found them, and when they don't get the answers they want out of Eva and Irish they arrest Irish, and take Eva out of the house - taking baby Wolf away from her. While holding the child - threatening to take the child away permanently - Agent Williams continues to badger Irish with questions on where he took Wolf.

Michael Raymond-James gives off a very emotional performance as a man who is torn between protecting his son, and protecting his friend and brother. Knowing the Federal Agent has the upper hand and can and will make good on his threat to throw Eva in jail and revoke their parental rights, Irish relents and agrees to show Agent Williams where he took Wolf and Cash. It's a heart breaking scene, and every other word out of MRJ's mouth is pretty foul (and even Agent Williams quips "your daddy has a potty mouth.") It's dark and ugly and both actors are intense in their roles. It's probably one of the better scenes in the film, all things considered.

*Highlight below to see my take on the ending*

Wolf is able to make good and scatter his mother's ashes. Irish does his best to give Wolf enough time, but Agent Williams prods on. Williams asks Schaeffer (local law guy) to bring along a gun, presumably to stop Wolf from running. As they come up on the ridge Irish yells out to Wolf to watch out that they were there. Agent Williams knocks Irish out (hey, at least MRJ doesn't die this time, right?) and orders Schaeffer to take the shot. After a brief argument - during which Wolf begins to run - Schaeffer takes the shot. He doesn't shoot to kill (I think he takes out a leg), but Wolf does not want to be caught. He stabs himself and bleeds out in Cash's arms. And that's the end of the film.

Overall this movie is not a feel good movie. It's well directed from a cinematography standpoint, but in places it's rather slow. The story, while interesting, has a few "squirrel" moments that don't fully get explained and left me with wondering what the heck they went down that path for. My biggest question mark is the character of Cash - I just don't understand the need for him (presumably since he was played by one of the other writers the need came from the guy needing a part in the movie ha ha) and there were parts of his character in scenes that seemed to be significant - but it was never explained why it was significant.

I honestly would not have watched the entire film had it not been for the fact that I wanted to see what MRJ brought to the table. Aside from the scenes with Wes Studi (Wolf's Father), the Irish & Eva scenes had the most heart and were the most "enjoyable" (I can't think of a better word, but not all scenes were enjoyable). Most scenes leading up to the Irish/Eva scenes I think are written to humanize Wolf and show that he's not a bad guy - that he was somehow justified in killing his mother's rapist/murderer.

The movie touches on the Native American community's distrust of the Federal Government. Hey, I get it. The same tensions are here in Alaska with Native Alaskans and the rest of the world/Government (shoot, most Alaskans no matter what their ethnic background share those feelings!)  I also understand first hand how rape is treated in our judicial system, in so many cases it seems they bend over backwards to protect the rapist and ignore the victim. And I, somewhat hypocritically, love a good vigilante story (I'm a big fan of the TV show Arrow, based on the DC comic Green Arrow... and I grew up loving Batman). I think the movie could've focused more on the subject, and been a little less one sided (how/why did the guy get off, for example).

The family scenes/emotions/themes in the film really drive this film. Momoa is a big dude, and has an intimidating look, but his character for all his rough ant tumble qualities seems to have a big heart and it shows in the different scenes with friends and family. As I said earlier - I really loved Wolf's reunion with Irish and Eva. They are the only *warmth* in the whole film (and that's shown not only in the acting but the lighting of the film as well). Not really surprising that MRJ was cast as Irish. He had great chemistry with everyone on screen. Very believable. Actually most everyone in this film was spot on.

Overall from a storytelling/acting/movie perspective I give it a solid 3/5. This is NOT a film for someone looking for a clean dramatic film. There's some nudity/sex... and a LOT of language. I didn't try to keep count of the F-bomb... and they went further than that in their language. It wasn't really needed to get the point across (though in all honesty I don't blame Irish for going nuts in the scene with Agent Williams). But I knew going into the film to expect it (I mean when several actors are fans of being on shows on HBO and FX because they get to curse, an R rated movie for them is a dream! haha).

I actually expected more offensiveness in the movie, and was surprised that it was mainly language that was bothersome. The other stuff that I was expecting was very short or non-existant. So if language is your thing use your best judgement at whether or not to watch - I'd rank it pretty similar to "Book of Eli" content wise... but with a less wholesome/positive message at the end.

For MRJ fans specifically wondering - like I did - if the movie was worth getting/watching/renting. Yes, it is. Not just for Michael's performance (which was far too short) but for the movie itself it's worth it. If you can stomach the language (which I assume most can) then you should get a lot out of the movie. Irish is a great character (and is a typical MRJ role), and Mikey lights up the screen like always. I really really liked his scenes. They come at the end of the movie so you have to be patient but it's worth it. I didn't get emotional in the parts that were supposed to be emotional, but that's because I'm dead inside - not because they weren't well acted.

You can rent the movie from Netflix if you want to check it out (I would), or it is now on sale on Amazon and in stores. I might look at adding it to my collection.

Friday, August 22, 2014

31 Days of Film - Day 22: Film you should like, but don't.

This was three hours of my life I wish I had back. I do not get the obsession with this film (any more than I do the obsession with Titanic). I know that there are a lot of good things about it from a film making perspective. It is probably the world's first actual blockbuster (though JAWS gets the official title of first) and is one of AFI's top 100 classic films.

But I don't get it.

Quite frankly everyone's whiny, the movie is dreadfully long, and the stereotypes are typically over the top. And this is supposedly a serious and dramatic piece. Sometimes I think the only real reason this movie gets the critical acclaim that it does is that it opened the door wide open for movies to allow swearing. It's also the only line I remember from the movie.

Because it's the one everyone repeats when they talk about the movie. Like it's the only one that matters. Because, really, it is the only one that matters because it signals the end of an insanely long movie. Three hours you will never, ever, get back.

And I don't want to hear about how great this movie is; it's great if you like it. I just don't, and I don't really care who thinks I'm wrong because...