hudebnik: (devil duck)
We went to the theater to see "The Imitation Game", but there was too much of a line (partly because the same theater was also showing "The Interview", which is probably not a particularly good movie but has become a free-speech cause celebre), so we drove to another theater to see our second choice, "Into the Woods". We had some trepidation: what would be left of such a dark, ambiguous plot after Disney got through with it?

OMG. Disney respected the original pretty darn well. It's still dark and ambiguous, and the sympathetic characters who die for no good reason still die for no good reason. And it doesn't read like a stage musical ported to the screen: it actually makes sense as a movie, as though it had been written that way.

The cast is kick-ass (I imagine talented actors must have been lined up for the opportunity to do Sondheim on the screen): Meryl Streep is the witch, Emily Blunt is the baker's daughter, Johnny Depp is the wolf, Chris Pine is one of the princes. Anna Kendrick, whom I must have seen somewhere before, is Cinderella. James Corden, who played a secondary role in "Begin Again", is the baker. The kids playing Jack and Little Red Riding Hood (Daniel Huttlestone and Lilla Crawford) can not only act but sing (as can all the adults).

The theater was crowded, including a significant number of children whose parents may not have been clear on exactly what sort of fairy tale this was. And I overheard somebody in the row behind us saying "it's not a comedy, it's a musical. I've never liked musicals." Their loss. See it.
hudebnik: (Default)

I'm not complaining about taking liberties with the book -- every movie-from-a-book does that. There are some slight spoilers in the following, but most of them are either well known or pretty predictable so I make no apology.

Yes, they added a lot more fight scenes, because an action movie needs a lot of fight scenes. Yes, they renamed the "goblins" of the book as Orcs, because they already had Orc costumes in the Weta warehouses and it's simpler than explaining the difference. Yes, they inserted Legolas into the movie, because Orlando Bloom. And they inserted hot-elf-maiden, because otherwise there would have been no female characters at all, and because "Hunger Games", and "Brave", and "Hunger Games". And they had Stephen Frye, who might have been good as a dwarf but those parts were all taken so they had to write a sort of schizophrenic Stephen Frye character into the story.

What bother me are the inventions and insertions that make no sense at all, except as an excuse for a cool visual effect or star fan-service. Many of the fight scenes are preposterous in the same ways as those in "Pirates of the Caribbean": no, there's no reason for the characters to do this, but wouldn't it be cool to see them do it?

A small example: Legolas is fighting some Orcs with a knife in a small room, then pulls out a bow and shoots one at a range of a foot. Why? Five minutes later, he faces the baddest Orc of them all at 10-15 yards range, so this awesome archer pulls out... a sword. WTF?

A larger example: you're in a dragon's lair, with your life threatened from second to second. So naturally you find "the forges," which haven't been used in fifty years (and you seem surprised that "they're stone cold"), light them with a handy dragon (and no visible source of fuel), and start an industrial manufacturing line in order to melt a couple thousand tons of gold so you can go surfing on it, then cast a 100-foot-tall gold statue (having presumably built the mold in a few seconds off-camera) which, as soon as everybody's gotten a good look at it, starts spontaneously re-melting so you can try to drown a dragon (who lives, eats, and breathes gold and fire) in molten gold. Gee, who wouldn't think that was a good plan?

hudebnik: (devil duck)
After we saw "Frozen" a few weeks ago, [ profile] shalmestere wanted to refresh her memory of the original Hans Christian Andersen story, and came across the 1957 animated version by Russian director Lev Atamanov, which sticks much closer to the original story.  The animation is beautiful (for 1957 technology), and allegedly was a major inspiration for the young Hayao Miyazaki.

But something struck me as oddly familiar about the Atamanov movie: the "frame story" narrated by a pudgy magical guy who carries an umbrella, and who (a minute or two in) suddenly realizes he hasn't introduced himself yet, so he does.  Later on, when particularly scary or sad things happen in the story, we break back to the frame story to see him shivering or sobbing in sympathy.  Does that sound familiar?  What if the character were voiced by... say... Burl Ives?  "Rudolph" was filmed seven years later, in 1964, so it's not much of a stretch to imagine some conscious imitation going on.  (It might not have been popular to be viewed as "copying the Russians" during the Cold War, but an English-language dubbed version of the Atamanov film had been seen on U.S. television in 1959.)
hudebnik: (Default)
So [ profile] shalmestere and I saw the movie this afternoon, after having read the book a week or two ago.

They did a good job, all things considered. Both District Twelve and the Capitol looked pretty much the way I imagined them: parts of District Twelve were location-shot in North Carolina, with ramshackle Depression-era houses and appropriately Appalachian topography and vegetation, while the Capitol was appropriately colorful, high-tech, fantastic, and shallow. The Arena was also shot in North Carolina (convenient for Katniss that things are basically familiar).

omissions and additions )
hudebnik: (Default)
[ profile] shalmestere and I walked to the neighborhood theater to see "The Artist". (We were also thinking of "Tinker, Tailor" in case "The Artist" was sold out, but it was "Tinker, Tailor" that sold out -- although there weren't a lot of empty seats for "The Artist" either). Highly recommended, if you have a theater near you brave enough to show a black-and-white, pseudo-silent, 2-D film in this day and age. I won't bother to review it; there are plenty of reviews on the Web, or you could just take my word and go see it.

Just one thing. It has an inexplicable PG-13 rating: the most offensive things in the movie are one character giving another the finger, and a couple of people smoking. Oh, and an attempted suicide.
hudebnik: (Default)

I walked a few blocks to the chiropractor, and passed a van labelled "Cars for Film", inside which were two really wild-looking motorcycles: spherical tires, elaborate gold-painted manes and spoilers and stuff that doesn't have a standard name. I pulled out my phone, and somebody standing near the van said "No pictures, buddy. Not until the movie comes out.". Turns out they're filming parts of "Men in Black 3" in our neighborhood.

I was a good boy, and didn't take any pictures :-)

hudebnik: (Default)
So [ profile] marchforth2 says her corner of South Carolina got its first white Christmas since 1963.

We saw the first flakes on this morning's dog walk; rooves and lawns were white by late morning. By mid-afternoon it was maybe six inches deep and coming down heavily (the forecast says one to two feet). Fortunately, we had little need to leave the house: the fridge is overflowing with leftovers, we had several holiday specials on tape or DVD yet to watch, and lots of holiday music on CD still to play.... We walked to the theater this afternoon (because we could) to see "The King's Speech", then came home to the chili that had been in the crockpot all day. And Christmas cookies. Hmm... hot chocolate, or hot buttered rum? Or molten-centered chocolate cakes? Decisions, decisions....

To all our friends out in this weather, don't do anything stupid, do get home safely, and if you happen to be stranded in our neighborhood, we have a spare bed....
hudebnik: (Default)
For those of you familiar with the SCA, but not from the greater New York City area,...

The Crown Province of Ostgardr holds a monthly business meeting, called "Commons". Since we don't have any free sites at colleges, churches, etc. for meetings, it happens at people's houses, rotating from month to month, and for the last several years [ profile] shalmestere and I have claimed the December meeting, which turns into an Xmas party as well. This year I gave my last final exam at mid-day, then caught the next train home and started cooking and cleaning; [ profile] shalmestere took half a day off so she could come home early and start cooking and cleaning too. Grilled butterflied leg of lamb, hummus, tapenade, pita bread, carrot slaw (which we made from multi-colored carrots from the farmer's market), six kinds of Xmas cookies, mushrooms stuffed with an onion/Brie/pesto mixture, mulled cider, veggies and dip, Brie tarts, "heroin" chicken wings... and that's not counting the stuff other people brought to contribute to the table (some soda pop and a bunch of desserts).

Anyway, it's over. Several bags of trash have gone out, the second or third dishwasher load of the day is running, the leftovers are put away, and we found people to take home the most egregious of the desserts so we wouldn't have to have them in the house. Tired.

In the morning, I have to finish grading my last final, and a few homework problems from that class (which I really should have graded weeks ago!), and assign letter grades, and my semester is over! I have no shortage of "to-do"'s, of course: read and referee a few high school science papers (some of which, in past years, have been really good), choose a textbook for one of my spring classes (this should have been done at least a month ago), test software and send it to the Computing Center for installation before spring semester starts, write up a glossary of assessment lingo (what exactly is the difference among "goals", "outcomes", and "objectives"?) so the various committees on my campus are speaking the same language, write more exercises and chapters for my nascent programming textbook (and update the existing chapters to agree with the latest software release), shop the aforementioned textbook around to some publishers, prepare for next semester's classes....

So those are my "to-do"'s. The joint "to-do"'s are more fun: the obligatory pre-Xmas inspection of holiday lights and storefront displays in Midtown, wrap and unwrap Xmas gifts, write checks to Worthy Causes, see some movies (there's a sizeable backlog of recent offerings: Beowulf, Enchanted, Golden Compass, Sweeney Todd, Persepolis, and the DVD of OotP, all of which have been postponed until my final exams and Ostgardr Commons were over).
hudebnik: (Default)
is Sweeney Todd, directed by Tim Burton (who should do it justice if anyone can). Starring Johnny Depp as Sweeney, Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin, Timothy Spall as the Beadle, and Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G, Borat) as Pirelli.

OK, some of you I'm sure had already heard about this, but this is the first I've heard about it.
hudebnik: (Default)
So [ profile] shalmestere and I went to see "The Jane Austen Book Club" last night. Lots of fun, but I kept thinking "I need to see this again, probably several more times; the allusions and parallels are coming too quickly for me to catch them all."

Possible spoilers )


Aug. 12th, 2007 11:45 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
This will be a rich couple of months for fantasy films: Order of the Phoenix in July, Stardust in August, The Dark is Rising in October, Beowulf in November, and The Golden Compass in December.

Order of the Phoenix, which everybody reading this has already seen, was well done, although as others have pointed out it's so fast-paced that it would be incomprehensible to any of the nine people on earth who haven't read the book, and there were (of course) a number of lines that I thought important that were either cut or transplanted to different characters, changing their meanings.

Stardust, which we saw tonight, is also quite well done. Robert DeNiro has way too much fun playing a pirate captain; Michelle Pfeiffer does as good a job as one would expect as a wicked witch; Clare Danes is (of course) radiant as the fallen star, and relative newcomer Charlie Cox is quite believable in the hero role of Tristan. The smaller role of "young Dunstan", Tristan's father, is played by the "yummy" (to quote my wife) Ben Barnes, who I gather is also playing Prince Caspian in the upcoming Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It's a straightforward fantasy romance with interesting, non-formulaic side characters. Now I have to finish re-reading the book.

I have low expectations for The Dark is Rising: although I enjoyed Susan Cooper's series of books thirty years ago, it looks from the previews to be fairly Hollywoodized (migrated from the UK to the US, among other things), and to have lost a lot of the Welsh-mythology atmosphere that made the books for me. I suspect that since this series is much less well-known than Harry Potter or Chronicles of Narnia, the studio felt they had to play heavily to an American teen audience. But I'll probably go see it anyway. And maybe re-read the book, although I fear the book may suffer from being read by an adult.

Beowulf, from the previews, appears to have little to do with the saga, other than starring a powerful warrior (Hrothgar is corrupt? Grendel's mother tries to seduce Beowulf?), but has a lot of big-name stars, and another Neil Gaiman writing credit, so maybe this will all make sense somehow.

The Golden Compass looks more promising: the visuals are close to my mental image of the world, the casting matches my mental image of the characters, and the screen adaptation (from the previews) seems to "get" the same things I thought were important about the books. This looks like a "must-see".


hudebnik: (Default)

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