Category Archives: Viddy

Movies, videos, etc. In theaters, on computer, on disc, or via Roku.

Jungle Book troubles me

We saw the Jungle Book today. (We were the only ones at the 10:30am screening in the downtown theater at Central and 2nd.) It’s beautiful and very well made. However, I’m troubled by two things.

First, I’m uneasy about artificial reality. That is, fake video. We’ve learned to ask of any photo “is it Photoshopped?” Now, we have to ask is that really video or is some — or all — of it fake? At first, I wondered why we try so hard to fake that which we can just record. I suppose, writers want to invoke a scene and many artist seek to faithfully recreate what they see. The same energy flows into motion pictures and technology makes it possible. But it bothers me.

However, not as much as such extreme anthropomorphism. Animals don’t have councils, they don’t have credos or slogans, they don’t even have a Law of the Jungle or a Peace Rock. When we project human society onto wild animals, we ignore their truth and validate our own. It’s unfair to the natural world of which we are a part, yet increasingly, apart.

I preferred Zootopia — you know it’s made up, yet, without any human characters, it illuminates our own nature.

Only Lovers Left Alive (5 stars).

The movie “Only Lovers Left Alive,” written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, springs into my Top 10 of all films I’ve seen. Amazing. Rich. Delicious. Funny at times (this will be one area viewers will react differently — it might actually be more of a comedy than I took it for).

I’ve come to think of Tilda Swinton as I do about Christopher Walken: both elevate any role and any movie, both have an extraordinary physical presence. I can’t imagine anyone else in her role here. However, all of the actors are great.

As I watched this movie, I thought, I’ve got to tell John Stewart about this (he may recall I’ve mentioned it before.) Steve O’Neill will like this. Then, Jas Mullany, Riley, Marj, and Maddy — all the Mullanys, who at times are a single being like a gorgeous aspen grove. Here’s where Walking Raven will laugh (twice) and Merri Rudd will say “see, I’m telling you….” Eventually, the circle grew so large that, for a moment, I thought not only is this the best movie ever made but absolutely everyone will love.

I’ve come down a bit — I know someone’s going to hate it, and, worse, someone will think “it’s ok, but what’s wrong with Mark.” I hesitate to watch it again. (That ruined Walkabout and Bad Timing for me, much to my sorrow decades ago.) I won’t watch it with someone else — I can’t bear to witness another person’s reaction, especially if it is disappointment.

I’ll warn that it is slow. And I’ll warn you away from reviews or trailers. This is a tapestry of shiny threads — the more you know going it, the more likely you are to think “when do they get to [blah].” (If you’ve seen it, please, no spoilers here.)

Although the movie is 90% unconventional, it veers into convention and predictability but recovers from that.

Wadjda (2012) – 4+ stars

We enjoyed this movie, filmed in Saudi Arabia by a female director. The lead actress is terrific. The film gently conveys how similar and how different life is between the US and SA.

Wadjda (2012) – IMDb

An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school’s Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.

Wadjda (2012) – IMDb

StarTrek: Into Darkness (1 star)

I streamed StarTrek Into Darkness, though it was much too long. So much potential wasted. I’m sure the NRA will be delighted to find machine guns are widely used in another 250 years. Why do StarFleet dress uniforms look like Soviet uniforms? Is the militarization of space a fait accompli? (Rhetorical, already true, but with fewer weapons, as far as I know.)

In the previous movie, I objected to a technique Abrams seems to love: the fake flare, the sliver of light across the screen. It’s just annoying and pointlessly overused.

Why do so many major characters have blue eyes — even a Klingon? Why touch base with the original series (Pike, Mudd, tribbles, Kahn, Nimoy) but depart so radically from that story line? I assume this is an alternate timeline.

Quinto as Spock is the only reason to watch this or future episodes. Of course, Spock is every nerd’s favorite, but he is the only character or actor who isn’t locked into mimicking the original. This is a different, and better Spock. Certainly, Spock has to be different thanks to most interesting twist: His girlfriend, the action-figure away-team member Uhuru. (That worked with Sheldon on the Big Bang, not to compare AFF to Uhuru.) I hope he sports a goatee in a future episode. (However, Spock’s wig flops oddly when he runs.)

I hated the old Bones, so duplicating him is no accomplishment. Ditto Scotty and Checkov. I do like the new Sulu. I enjoy seeing John Cho in any role. I wonder how he feels as a Korean-American playing a character with a Japanese surname.

Congratulation to Pino and the writers for making me hate this Kirk even more than the original. This guy is a raging bull in a china shop, completely out of control. And almost a superman himself, kicking the warp drive into gear. Gah!

What happened to the science in science fiction? One joy of the series (plural) was they peppered their dialog with real science. They inspired discussions of light speed, tachyons and so much more. (I can’t be the only one who thought “Jefferies tube!” in one scene.) More money just means more CGI for bigger crashes. Even Kahn, as superior as he is, is an ass-kicking ninja foremost.

Oh, don’t get me started on Kahn, one of the finest villains in TV history. Montalban himself rebooted the series from TV to movie. Now, a guy who could play Data in a future movie replaces the charismatic, sexy Kahn.

I think every TV series of this franchise has contributed more in character, plot, and science than any of the movies. What a waste. All of it. I hope that reanimated tribble eats the whole damn ship.

The Croods (3 stars)

We watched The Croods, an animation about cave people. Nicholas Cage voices the protective dad Grug, and Emma Stone gives voice to the voluptuous, bold daughter Eep. Despite a fast-paced opening, it wasn’t engaging until about a half hour in. There is almost too much action. However, some of the effects were probably beautiful on a big screen. Suspend all disbelief that there is any historical context for this fantasy.

If IMDB is to be believed, this movie did very well. I’d heard of it, but don’t know anyone who mentioned seeing it.

The Cloud Atlas (4 stars)

When I heard about the book a couple of years ago, I read the first chapter. It was fine, but not enough to take me further. I hope it’s not a spoiler to say this 3 hour movie weaves 4 separate timelines together. (Actually, the modern timeline consists of the most characters and stories.) Several of the actors play multiple roles (a few are unrecognizable). It doesn’t seem to be simply a tale of two souls finding each other over and over again. There are more characters whose lives overlap and intersect over these timelines spread out over centuries.

The two stories set in the future interested me the most. The nearer future was well-imagined but ultimately disappointing, reminding me too much of Blade Runner and The Matrix — I don’t doubt a future in which corporations rule us, but I don’t think they’ll need machine guns to do so. However, the 4th timeline in a post-apocalypse was the most original and interesting. I don’t think either of the first stories could be movies on their own, but either of the last two could be.

Red: Werewolf Hunter (2 stars)

Sadly, I can’t recommend this movie, despite Felicia Day. The music on the soundtrack was straight out of a video game. No doubt, there is one of the same title. This movie is very serious without being frightening. It’s on a par with NBC’s Grimm. To its credit, it doesn’t have a happy ending. (Less to its credit, it hints at potential sequel, but actually too briefly.)

To see why Felicia Day might draw one to a film, see Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog or The Guild.