Ah, you thought I’d forgotten…

Well, I haven’t forgotten, and I will continue immediately with more movie review of 2009! Yeah, that doesn’t sound as cool now that it’s February, but still. It’s a fun exercise for me. Before I start however, I feel the need to give some update about the status of Fij. As is, I’ve been secretive to the point of misleading someone to think that I’m not even working on it.

Things are going rather well with the game. The game itself is up and running, although the features are quite minimal at the moment. I may or may not have a video soon. I’d like to have something more interesting looking before I show it off. The editor and the game have split off developmentally, so that I can continue work without having a huge mess of code that’s unrelated to the game. Although it would be nice to have a one button game-test inside of the editor. I feel that I’ve made the best decision for the moment. The game engine itself is designed to hopefully be the start of something I can reuse on more projects. Although I haven’t gone overboard on making it reusable. The important thing is to complete this game, after that, if I have some pluggable elements for the next one, then that’s just an extra bonus. I’m also in the process of looking for music that suits the themes of the game. It’s a bit difficult though, as I need to find either royalty-free music, or pay-licensed music. Of course, I could write my own music, and I may still consider that option if I can’t find anything better.

Now, on to some more reviews:

Up

Pixar movies seem to just fall from the sky every few years. And 3D animated movies are certainly a dime-a-dozen. But Pixar’s films have always had something special about them. The stories in the movies rise above the usually mundane writing of children’s films. Which is great, because while I may be a child at heart, I’ve certainly matured a lot since I was eight.

So, Up is no exception to the history of Pixar’s film aptitude. The story is interesting and funny and cute and just all around good. And the imagery in the film is quite mesmerizing and beautiful. Although not super-realistic, the film has a very painted sensibility to it’s art. Pixar continues to create great films that just happen to be computer animated.

Simply put, see it if you haven’t already. It’s much better than the Incredibles. (Why did anyone like that movie, am I missing something?)

Overall: 9/10

Sorry I don’t have more to say about the film, but I don’t really have anything to complain about. The only problem was that I saw the film in 2D, and it was a drive-in theater, and the last reel of the film had a bruned spot in the middle of every frame that sparkled. So I don’t really remember the last little bit of the movie, as I was too busy focusing on the sparkle. But what I remember was a good ending.

Precious

Ah, yes. It seems a typical example of an independent film. A movie which tries so hard to be meaningful but mostly ends up depressing the hell out of you. I don’t think that it’s just me, but getting older, I have less interest in movies that just make me feel bad. I mean, life has enough reasons for you to feel bad without going to the theater to feel bad some more. Maybe it’s that when I was younger I felt like I identified with the pain that the characters were experiencing in the film, maybe I was just angsty. I just feel like I deserve to come out of the theater feeling refreshed and hopefully happy.

Precious doesn’t do that. Not at all. I’m not intending to imply that it is a bad film. There’s nothing particularly bad about it. The writing is quite excellent, and the cinematography is brilliant and loaded with tricks which make such a low-budget film really stand out visually. But the overall story is not one of triumph, as much as the premise (an inner city teenage mother, pregnant with her second child, who is struggling in school) would suggest it. Really the story is a stifling testament to just how difficult it is to escape the unhappy life which comes out of a terrible childhood and misguided parents.

SPOILER: I mean, by the end of the film, Precious Jones has finally achieved some independence, and she no longer has to live with her abusive mother, or be raped by her father. But she has AIDS! I mean, I guess the story is based on a true story, but that’s just awful. That’s not inspiring at all. The littlest triumph in her life, which may have been the only triumph she ever really felt–getting away from home–has to be framed in the film with her learning that she has AIDS. So now Precious is destined to be unhappy and alone forever, apart from her two children. She will never know the real love of a man. I suppose I should feel happy that she will be able to start anew with her kids, and give them happy lives. And she will be happy because they will be happy. But I don’t know that for sure. And the movie just ends on that note.

Overall: 7/10

Not because it was a terribly made film, but because it got me so invested in the happiness of a character, just to end without me ever seeing her smile.

Monsters vs. Aliens

Honestly, I don’t even know why I’m writing a review of this. It’s just one of the films that I was unfortunate enough to see this year. Not because I went to the theater to see it, but because it just so happened to be playing at the drive-in theater, where I went to eat a double cheeseburger with my fiancee and one of my friends. (Don’t laugh, the Midway cheeseburgers are the best cheeseburgers in the universe.) So I ended up watching this movie just because it was on while I was there.

The story, in a word, awful. Although there are some likable characters. The movie never outreaches the confines of a “children’s movie” and certainly doesn’t rival any of Pixar’s efforts, Incredibles included. The story just has moments where I feel like the director of the film said “Ah, they’re just kids, they won’t care!” The attitude taken by some of the writing choices is beyond lazy, and borders on stupid and immature. The movie is written as if it were a 2 hour epic story, but the film is 90 minutes at the most. After only 20 minutes of knowing these monsters, the main character gives a sentimental speech rivaling Braveheart. I mean, geez, am I really supposed to identify with how attached she is to a goat thing, a blob of goo, and an oversized caterpillar–when she’s only known them for less than half an hour of on-screen time. It’s not like the movie has a title saying “6 months later”, even. It literally seems like they’ve only been together for that time. Worse still is a point in which the Alien wierdo sends out his clones to attack the “heroes”, and he breathes the oh-so-thought-out line “Aliens, attack all Monsters!” Why in God’s name would an alien refer to himself, or his own kind as ALIENS!?

I don’t even remember the end of the film, so whatever…I don’t even care that I didn’t see it “In RealD!” If this is the kind of crap that people have been serving the world in 3d, it’s no wonder that Avatar is such a game-changer.

Overall: 3/10

I guess I have to give it that, I did watch all of it.

Drag Me to Hell

Horror movies aren’t typically known for being good movies. I don’t intend to put down all of the people who really like Horror as a genre. It certainly explores  interesting territory that many films don’t go into very deeply. However, it’s obvious that Horror films simply don’t have the level of artistic grandeur that some of the greatest films have achieved. They are simply a guilty pleasure among movie-watchers.

Quite unusually for a horror film, Drag Me to Hell received great critic reviews. After all, the director (Sam Raimi) was responsible for the Evil Dead trilogy– perhaps the only horror film series to have gone over well with critics,–as well as the Spider-Man trilogy, which was definitely the first of the recent films which redefined what a comic-book adaptation can be.

Although Spider-Man was no Dark Knight, I felt that it would still be worth investigating Drag Me to Hell. And as you can gather from the tone of my writing thus far. I wasn’t terribly impressed. Now, it’s not that the movie is badly constructed or poorly written. The acting is quite good, considering that the heroine’s boyfriend is “that guy” from Dodgeball. However, the movie just didn’t have a lasting impact in my film-watching experience. It’s not a film that I can see myself watching again.

SPOILERS: Of course, one could blame the un-rewatchability of the film on the plot twist, but I think that might be unwise. I would certainly watch The Sixth Sense over again, and I’ve watched Fight Club innumerable times. Both of those films have shocking plot twists which only work once. But also, those films have another thing in common, that the entirety of the experience of watching the film changes on a second viewing. In a sense, the movies are constructed around a plot twist. The stories can be seen from multiple angles, and this is precisely what makes them interesting for a second watch. The fact that they have such shocking plot twists makes the reexamination of the story seem necessary.

STILL SPOILING, MAYBE MORE THIS TIME: So, the plot twist of the film is fairly simple. So simple in fact, that my fiancee pointed it out about 30 minutes before the end of the film, when the twist finally makes it’s appearance. The twist happens because there are two similar looking sealed envelopes which both contain similarly shaped objects. One happens contains an object very important to the third act of the film, and the other one contains a collectible coin. So, they get mixed up, and although we think that the heroine has saved herself, she is still doomed to be “dragged to hell,” right before the credits roll.

Yes, it’s a shocking plot twist, which I feel was well executed. But I believe that my experience of the film was partially ruined because I knew about the envelope switch-a-roo way before I was supposed to. I don’t think that normally people find out about plot twists that early. But my fiancee just seems to have a knack for examining stories in-progress. Hey, she figured out Ender’s Game before the end.

Or maybe I’m just slow.

Overall 7/10

An interesting an rather well-written horror story. However, my experience is somewhat unusual and I can’t rate it higher than this. I wouldn’t watch the movie again.

Alright, still got Bruno, World’s Greatest Dad, The Princess and the Frog, and Up in the Air left. Oh, and I refuse to acknowledge having seen the Hannah Montana movie. Seriously, another review of that won’t help anyone…

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