Watchmen Review

So I finally got around to watching Watchmen. I’ve read and appreciated the graphic novel.

Like many other book/movie adaptations, I feel that the attempt to stay rigidly true to the source material hurt the movie. When I read the book, I was into the character development, background, and side stories. But when I watched the movie, a lot of it felt plodding.

Watchmen (either version) is basically a three-page big reveal writ long. I felt the movie could have cut more.

The movie was very graphic, wasn’t afraid to be bloody or brutal. It worked well.

I felt the film’s Rorschach was more tangible and interesting than I remember the book’s being.

I also especially liked the opening credit sequence. It’s artistic style and method of conveying the alternate Earth’s important events in short scenes were very well done.

Good soundtrack.

Death Note

I’ve begun watching the anime show Death Note, after seeing my brother Pete watching it.

I’m only halfway through, but I like it so far. In particular, I like its anime-typical story arc that is designed from the start. The anime lasts 37 episodes but no more. Like a long-form movie.

Second, it makes you root for the evil protagonist, which is kinda cute. It follows the action from his point of view. The show presents challenges for him, and you are thinking, “How is he going to get out of this? Oh no, he’s in trouble now!” You find yourself hoping he escapes so that the episode ends in equilibrium again.

Lastly, it reminds me of a long-term 2-player game of mafia. The protagonist and his pursuer come in frequent contact and suspect each other. The pursuer keeps trying to test him to see if he’ll reveal himself as the killer.

Wizard People

So, last month, Nick hosted a Wizard People, Dear Reader party, wherein we watched Wizard People, Dear Reader.

Wizard People is an alternate sound track for the first Harry Potter movie. The idea is that you start the DVD and the downloaded audio track at the same time, turn off the TV volume, and enjoy.

It is way funnier than it sounds. The reader’s voice, choice of vocabulary, frequent cursing, and running gags are hilarious. I laughed so hard it hurt.

Crystal Skull Review

I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night with Elaine. I went into it with low expectations, but it was really quite good.

While it was a little silly and a bit heavy on the fight scenes, I recall the others in the series being pretty similar. I’d say it was as good as Raiders, better than Temple (a low bar), and worse than Crusade.

I thought the age thing would be more annoying than it was. Make no mistake, Ford is notably older. But the movie takes place in 1957, whereas Crusade was in 1938. So they allow for him aging by 19 years, adequately explaining his worse-for-wear look.

It was a good sequel to the existing trilogy. His sidekick wasn’t too annoying, it was appropriately supernatural (given the previous movies), and had plenty of action.

Ocean’s Twelve Review

Ocean’s Twelve really annoyed me. For one, the plot was too fast and too complicated for me to follow closely. And since it was a heist movie, where the plot twist and turns and motives are the movie, I eventually gave up trying to understand it and just watched the stunts.

Warning: plot spoilers ahead!

But two things really stand out. One is that the ending was total deus ex machina. To quote from Stephen Hunter‘s review:

“It all ends on one of those infuriatingly sloppy notes where, having dramatized narrative events WXYZ for us, which we have taken on good faith, it suddenly and arbitrarily delivers narrative events STUV, which completely invalidate events WXYZ.”

Second, it gets all meta in an infuriating way. Julia Roberts plays Tess in this movie. But partway through, they say, “Hey, you know… Tess looks like Julia Roberts. Why doesn’t she pretend to be her?” So she does and that fools some people.

And that’s a little silly and a bit rabbit-out-of-a-hat of the writers, but it’s at least forgivable. The celebrity actors are consistent in their portrayal as normal people. Though there is some fourth wall breakage because one of those normal people references celebrity actors.

But then they do something heinous. Bruce Willis is sitting in a chair in a lobby and whoa, would you look at that, he’s actually Bruce Willis. This conceit is too much for me. If Bruce Willis can play himself, then why isn’t the audience allowed to go, “Hey, what is Brad Pitt doing robbing people? He always seemed so nice.”

It seems too much to have some famous actors in your movie being normal dudes and some randomly playing themselves. It’s supposed to be a pleasant fiction that the audience doesn’t recognize your actors. Asking them to selectively do so is awkward.

I would have rather watched a more classic heist movie, like the original Ocean’s, with just one big elaborate heist. It’d be much easier to follow and have more direct causes and effects. Point is, I don’t think I’ll see Ocean’s Thirteen.

A Funny Games Apology

Paul and Peter converse

Funny Games is a controversial movie among my friends. Every single one to whom I have shown it has reviled it. Often quite forcefully. It’s something my roommates love to hate.

Which has always somewhat surprised me, because I like it a lot. But I’ve never felt like I’ve explained why to my satisfaction. So here is my attempt. Warning: There are spoilers ahead.

Funny Games is sort of a modern retelling of Job through an atheist’s eyes. It’s a portrait of despair in a cruel, unfair world.

There are two things I particularly like about Funny Games: It’s unremitting sense of despair and its criticism of popular cinema.

Make no mistake, Games is a depressing movie. The family is relentlessly physically and mentally tortured. They appear to do nothing wrong and everything right, but to no avail.

Watching them struggle with their hopeless plight, the expectation of their imminent death, and their love for one another is heart-wrenching. And while I don’t enjoy watching such pain, I do appreciate a movie that can provoke me so intensely; it’s a touch cathartic. It’s all the more effective for being such an uncommonly provoked emotion in cinema.

Games is notably aware of audience expectations for its movie format — Paul directly states that the audience would prefer the family to win the bet and drags out their deaths to match feature film length.

Peter and Paul even give them several hope-inspiring attempts to escape their clutches, but at the same time, the audience knows it is empty hope. Paul demonstrates his god-like ability to rewind the movie if the family successfully fights back.

So it becomes clear halfway through the movie that the family is not going to do well. Yet, the movie continues. And continues to mock the audience’s expectation that it will all come out alright. That the victims must be the victors.

And it appropriately ends with a notably callous anti-climax, purposely refuting earlier foreshadowing.

So in toying with audience expectations, refusing to make a concise happy package of the story, questioning cinema’s relationship with violence, and evoking strong emotions from its viewers, Games has earned my respect. Again, I’m not saying it’s an easy film to watch, but I think that in itself adds to its power, not detracts.

Ordinary People Review

I rented Ordinary People because I was searching for Robert Redford movies. This was the first movie he directed. As an extra bonus, it starred Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore!

It was really, really good. Very comparable to American Beauty — a wealthy family is falling apart and everyone struggles with the pieces. Mos def made me cry.

I was really impressed with the acting and the believable characters. The pacing was a little slow at the beginning, but I got into it.

Mary Tyler Moore’s Golden M

Mary Tyler Moore statue

Alright, I confess to a thing for Mary Tyler Moore. She had spunk, as Lou would say.

Point is, I’ve watched a fair bit of her nominal show. Enough to notice that she has this giant golden metal M on her wall.

I want it. It would be a funny thing to have in and of itself as some sort of prideful badge of my name, but the reference to Mary would be priceless.

But I don’t know how to get one. I suck so bad at getting one, I can’t even find a picture of it on the Internet, which is surprising to me.

I would go so far as design one and order it through eMachineShop, if I could find a detailed photo. Can anyone help a brother in need with either a pointer to a replica site or a good photo?