Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Halloween anyone?

This one is for the monster in all of us.

I was just wondering what scary movies you will be watching? I love to hear about what people will screen this time of year.

The theaters seem to be pretty weak. I think there are two titles to choose from if you are in for a scare. Although I have heard that "Paranormal Activity" is pretty scary (very "Blaire Witch"), I think the most frightening part of it is how much money Paramount is making off of this film. I think it was a win-win for everybody and I am hoping to get to the theater to see it soon. It is pretty interesting that Halloween has become synonymous with the "Saw" movies at the box office. How do you think the 6th film will turn out? Without shame, I will admit to seeing four of the five films so far. Not in order and I skipped the fourth "Saw" and went straight to the fifth installment-I don't think it affected the plot at all. Really though, I cannot wait until they have made all nine "Saw" films (yes, 9!) and I get to go to a movie marathon of ALL of the films. That might be the ultimate torture, the final game that Jigsaw will play-we will all walk out of the theater red-eyed and crazy.

Personally, I have been feeling pretty nostalgic lately. I think I'll see "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and then "The Thing" to get me ready for Halloween. To me these two compliment each other nicely with a combination of fantasy, sci-fi, horror that is splashed with holiday cheer. Also you really can't go wrong with Kurt Russel in a jump suit. What will you be watching?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

It was over forty years ago that Maurice Sendak’s story of a rambunctious child named Max visited the land of the Wild Things. Over four decades, this story has been brought to the bedrooms of children everywhere and now director Spike Jonze has brought it to the silver screen. Staying true to the book “Where the Wild Things Are” beautifully captures what it means to be a child, but it may not be as universally fulfilling as the children’s book.

This is the first time that director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Dave Eggers have partnered together. Eggers is an interesting choice, being that he is new to screenwriting but is a famous novelist and the founder of the publishing house McSweeney’s. Together they took on the difficult task of making a feature length film from a loved simple story. Credit must be given to Eggers for staying true to the book, only expanding on the ideas that were given. But herein lies the problem; the book does not give much text to work with. Within the world of the children’s story it is simple and compelling for both children and parents but the film takes on the larger theme leaving it only for the adults to understand.

Max is introduced as a creative and emotional child. He can make up stories on the spot but cries when things do not go his way. It is when his mother, played by the lovely Katherine Keener, scolds him that he lashes out by biting her and then running away. After running through a forest, he comes to a boat that he boards and sets sail to anywhere. He arrives at the land of the Wild Things and watches as Carol, one of the beasts, breaks houses in rage. To avoid being eaten, Max tells them that he is a king and they make him king of the Wild Things. The fun begins as they sleep in piles together and throw dirt clods at one another. But when Max is unable to fix all the problems of the Wild Things, it is discovered that he is not a king and he needs to return to his mother.

There are six Wild Things, all with their own personality that grow on you slowly, like a good friend. Carol, voiced by James Gandolfini, takes Max under his wing because he believes that Max can keep away the sadness and loneliness that has settled on the Wild Things. Carol has the idea of building a place where everyone is happy and Max decides that they should build it. But the different personalities of the Wild Things create friction within the group. Judith, voiced by Catherine O’Hara, is always negative and KW, voiced by Lauren Ambrose, does not want to be a part of the arguing any longer. The imperfections of the group start to chip away at their idea of happiness.

But this is a film about being a child and so often children do not know how to handle or even describe the emotions that they are feeling. In the beginning of the film, Max experiences such an emotional rage that he storms in his sisters’ room and destroys a piece of artwork he made for her, then sadly reflects on what he had just done. Much like Carol, who in rage tears down houses and destroys his handmade city. He is often so overwhelmed by these feelings that he cries, unable to understand why he cannot get what he wants.

Visually, "Where the Wild Things Are" captures the awesomeness that is a child's imagination.
Everything that they play with and the spaces that they inhabit are all very natural and tactile, always handling sticks, dirt and stones. The island itself has different mediums of nature including forest, desert and mountains that make it seem so large, but never threatening. The Wild Things provide the contrast. They stand out on the island so much, always filmed within a large landscape, making the natural seem unnatural and special.

There is nothing to resolve in "Where the Wild Things Are" because the conflict is simply growing up. You cannot always get what you want, or more importantly, do we really want that? As a child there is always a sense of adventure and new experiences bring up new emotions that one must
react to. Unfortunately, it is not always as playful and lighthearted as we would like it to be.

“Where the Wild Things Are” reminisces on growing up and where the fine line of playful childhood blurs with harsh reactionary emotions. When the beasts don’t know how to describe something, or they cannot put it into words they howl. Perhaps we should take a cue from them and not reflect too much on the film, but simply enjoy it and howl because we can.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mini Munch: Zombieland

I shouldn't really have to say that to get in the mood for Halloween you should see "Zombieland"- it is not a scary movie and you should see it anyway. I guess it is fitting for the holiday though, there are zombie and lots of blood.

The story is simple. The infectious crazed apocalypse has already happened. Zombies are everywhere and humans are just fighting to survive to not become one of them. Columbus is our narrator- the characters are given names by the cities they are from- and he has found an interesting way to get by, based on his own set of rules. When he meets Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrleson, they decide to travel together by default. They are overtaken by two females, Wichita and Little Rock on their way to a theme park that is considered "safe". Along the way, they learn to stick together for their own safety and share how they each get by. For example, when Tallahassee gets really angry he takes anything he can find and tears it up. This makes for a fun scene when they all take out their frustration in a gift shop.

Without ever getting too emotional the film hints at how afraid and alone they all are, realizing that they only have each other in this crazy world. Characters fall in love and a new family is born, all while they each kill zombies to avoid getting bitten. The film starts off where most zombie films end and it makes for a different twist on the genre. A warning- the gore is intense in this film, but it is never frightening, just uncomfortable to look at sometimes. Also, "Zombieland" has one of the best cameos I have seen in a while, but no, I will not give it away. This film is so delightful because it never takes itself too seriously-it knows exactly what it needs to do to keep your attention, getting the audience to gasp and laugh at the same time. In the vain of films like "Shaun of the Dead" this film makes fun of itself, but brings fresh ideas to the living dead.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

DVD Munch: The Proposal

Here comes a romantic comedy about marriage with a twist. Instead of marriage being what are two main characters are striving for, it is a bond that they are desperately trying to get out of. “The Proposal” humorously presents a new way of looking at what it means to be attached to somebody, without ever getting too serious.

We are immediately introduced to our two leads and how different they are. Sandra Bullock is Margaret Tate, a pushy and demanding book editor who runs on her treadmill every morning and reads scripts while eating breakfast. Her assistant, Andrew Paxton (played by Ryan Reynolds) can’t get up on time and while running into the office spills coffee all over himself. Margaret finds out that she will be deported to Canada so in order to keep her in the US she blackmails Andrew into marrying her to keep her Visa status. To make it look real and announce their engagement, they fly to Alaska to tell Andrew’s parents. To add to the pressure of the relationship, they are threatened with jail time if this proves to be a plot to keep Margaret in the states.

Once Andrew’s family finds out about their engagement, they want them to be married by the end of the weekend at their home. The wedding festivities begin—complete with

Bridal shower lap dances and hand-me-down dress fittings. As they are both bombarded with family members, Andrew and Margaret desperately try to stand one another all while faking a loving, lasting relationship.

To no surprise, Reynolds and Bullock have wonderful chemistry. Bullock plays a tight-lipped and tightly dressed boss perfectly, never letting her guard down for one moment. Even until the very end of the film, she stubbornly protects her feelings. Reynolds plays Andrew so confidently that you don’t really know why he continues to be bossed around; almost always slightly sarcastic, he brings a youthful and witty charm to the screen.

They don’t end up getting married, but after spending a weekend together forcing emotions, they actually develop feelings for one another. The last scene in the film has the predictable kiss that is part of every romantic comedy. Andrew tells Margaret that they must get married so that they can date-or else she will be deported. Those are some interesting terms, perhaps a new way to look at the bond of marriage? Not only does “The Proposal” endorse divorce, because that is their easy way out, but it makes it seem that it isn’t the kind of bond that is supposed to be “forever” anyway.

I enjoy that the film never tries to be something that it isn’t. It is simple and has fun making fun of itself, all while slowly opening the characters up. Unfortunately, the characters never really expose much of themselves so the final connection seems a bit far-fetched. But then again, so is forcing someone into marriage. If people can fall in love in three days and proposals can be the new way to date, I’m interested—and apparently there is always an easy way out.

There are many fun DVD extras that are worth taking a look at for “The Proposal”. The Alternate ending is definitely worth taking a look at. It is interesting to see how and why the film ended the way that it did. It is also comes with director and writer commentary which is perfect for understanding the choices made. For anyone that likes Deleted Scenes there are a couple of fun ones to take and look at and the “Set Antics” is great to watch because Reynolds and Bullock are so funny. There is also a feature for audio commentary by the director and writer for the entire film. Accompanied with this DVD comes the Digital Copy, therefore easily uploaded for on-the-go viewing.