Archives For film

mako pacific rim

People are angry about Pacific Rim. Maybe “angry” is too strong of a word, but there’s definitely a fair amount of disappointment going around. At the risk of sounding block-headed and completely naïve, I was shocked (yes, jaw-droppingly so) when I read the Internet rants, disapproving of the way women were portrayed in the film. Usually my feminist radar is fine-tuned and rearing to go off at the slightest hint of dehumanizing or anti-feminist tropes. Even my favorite films will usually trigger my radar enough for a laundry list of gripes. So why didn’t my radar alert me when I saw Pacific Rim?

The film takes place in the not-too-distant future, where the world has banded together to fight giant monsters (kaiju) with giant robots (jaegers). Each jaeger must be piloted by a team of two, and in order to successfully control the man-made wonder, the pilots essentially meld their minds to act as a single unit, letting the other pilot peek into all their thoughts and memories. It’s pretty intense, to say the least. Our two main characters are Raleigh Becket, famed kaiju killer, and Mako Mori, novice but enthusiastic pilot, whose adoptive father has only just recently and reluctantly encouraged her to take the jaeger helm with Raleigh.

In this high-concept, action-packed film, the biggest complaint from my fellow feminists is that there’s a lack of female characters and lines. One of the main characters is a woman (Mako) and there’s a nameless Russian woman who pilots another jaeger, but that’s not to say that these complaints aren’t well-founded. It’s easy to see that the film definitely fails the Bechdel Test. “Only three lines are spoken by a woman in the entire first half-hour of Pacific Rim,” says an article from Vulture. An article from Kulture Keeper adds, “The only two actresses… barely register as characters. They’re more like plot-objects in the shape of female bodies.” Ouch. The women in this film are products of a writer and director who brought us full-fledged and interesting female heroes in films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, so there must be more going on here.

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lois

Well, I didn’t think it was possible, but Man of Steel actually made me like Lois Lane. Not only was it the first time I believed she was a journalist capable of winning a Pulitzer, but she also seemed like a good person. Say what you will about the newest Superman movie (I liked it, despite the criticisms), it features the best Lois Lane ever featured in comics, television, or film.

I liked that Man of Steel took time to show Lois Lane’s character, letting the audience see her curiosity, quick wit, and intelligence, rather than just telling the audience that’s she’s smart. Lane’s passion for her career and her unwavering desire to find truth showed an interesting, driven individual. This is all very different from the Lois we usually see, who can’t take care of herself, let alone tell if a guy is Superman when he puts his glasses on.

Not only is Lois pretty dense in most depictions, but she’s also downright mean, and it’s difficult to see why Clark is so head-over-heels for her. She’s always firing off some snide remark about Clark being from a small town, or making fun of his clumsiness. And since she’s mean and dumb, we’re only left with one conclusion: “Clark must be into her because she’s hot.” Either that, or he’s a glutton for punishment.

In this latest Superman rendition, however, Lois shows kindness, trustworthiness, and honesty. She shows she’s a person who Clark can count on, and it’s clear that they have a deep and meaningful relationship, rather than one simply built on Lois getting in trouble and Superman saving her every 10 seconds. Because of her kindness and sincerity, Lois brings hope to Clark—hope that the world’s capable of change, nuanced thinking, and acceptance.

Lastly, I loved Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She doesn’t look like previous Lois Lanes, and I think that’s a very good sign indeed. Like any actress, Amy Adams is attractive, but she’s also not too young—she shows some laugh lines, and she doesn’t have a supermodel body. She looks like the woman next door—and therefore, she looks like the kind of woman who very well could have devoted her life to journalism, rather than facials, working out, and tanning. And I like that.

If nothing else, I dare you to argue that Man of Steel didn’t feature the best Lois Lane of all time.

django-unchained-fan-poster-foxx-waltz

This is a spoiler-free review. Tune in soon for a review so full of spoilers, you’ll cry.

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A Real New Hope

Ashley Walton —  November 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

So by now, the Star Wars stuff is old news. Disney bought Lucasfilm and they’re gonna make episodes 7, 8, and 9 with episode 7 projected to come out in 2015. I hear a lot of the same things from Star Wars fans– some relieved, some angry, but I thought I’d throw in my two cents (this is the internet, after all).

I’m not gonna lie– I’m excited. I sent texts to brothers and nephews, and I went nuts on Twitter and Facebook during the live conference call. Now let me clarify, my excitement is not naive. I’ve been burned by Star Wars before. I’ll never forget my supreme disappointment when I skipped school to see Episode I in theaters opening day, only to find it was about trade legislation (this was only after I’d bought Episode I action figures, gushed over Darth Maul’s look, and dawned Queen Amidala’s makeup for the opening). I think episodes 1 through 3 are beyond boring, and I think Empire Strikes Back is the only truly well-made Star Wars film, though I love the world with all its creatures and characters.

Having established my scorn, I’m still elated that the baton has been passed and someone else is going to give it a go. Will it suck? Maybe. But looking at Disney’s relationship with Marvel, I have hope for Star Wars yet. And whatever happens, I’m thrilled at the prospect of episodes 7–9, which have only been discussed in hushed tones, and I’m relieved they’re being made by someone other than Lucas. If Lucas were making them, I don’t think I would even see them.

Lucas came up with a wonderful world, and he is one admirable philanthropist– I don’t think anyone should ever let him write or direct. Neither of those things are his strengths, nor his talents (geez, the guy made Natalie Portman look like a bad actor, for crying out loud). I know Lucas has had a hard time coming to terms with his angry fans and trusting his beloved ideas to others, but in the end, selling Lucasfilm is the best thing he could have done for his fans, and it’s the most selfless thing he’s done for his fans in years. I’m optimistic about the future (er, or the past, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away).

Best Halloween Movies

Ashley Walton —  October 25, 2012 — Leave a comment

Here are my picks for best movies to get you in the Halloween spirit. Let me know what you think. Argue. Suggest. Taunt.

10. The Devil’s Backbone

I love Guillermo del Toro with an unrivaled passion. This is probably my second favorite movie of his, after Pan’s Labyrinth. If you haven’t seen this unconventional ghost story, it’s about time. It does have subtitles, so not the best movie for background noise at a party.

9. High Tension

As the title suggests, this film highlights the art of tension-building. I’ve never bitten so many nails.

8. Shaun of the Dead

This is the pinnacle of horror-comedy. Perfect watch for a Halloween party.

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This is my kind of comedy. Fair warning: I don’t like a lot of comedies that other, more socially adept people enjoy. When I’m asked to name some of my favorite funny films I might say, Amélie, Being John Malkovitch, or The Cabin in the Woods. Most wouldn’t name any of those as a laugh riot comedy, but hey, to each her own. Sleepwalk with Me takes some of the dark, uncomfortable parts of life and makes them something to laugh at. The star and writer Mike Birbiglia might be likened to a less suicidal-sounding Louis C.K., a man who knows how to make sad humor sound honest, which is why it works. The main character’s narration is at once deeply personal and relatable. It’s also based on true events (and not like how The Exorcism of Emily Rose was based on “true events,” but actually based on personal essays by the writer, which have been featured on NPR’s This American Life).

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Robot & Frank is set in the near future, when robots can cook your meals, clean your house, and create a garden in your backyard. Frank suffers from memory loss in his older years and receives a robot as a gift to help him with daily tasks.

While I waited for this film to start, I sat in an artsy theater, surrounded by people who were obviously many years my senior, and I wondered if I’d made the right decision in seeing this film. Apparently I’m ageist, but I wondered if I’d be able to relate to the main character enough to enjoy the experience. It turns out I related to him terrifyingly too well.

As someone who fears the loss of tangible media, as well as the thought of robots someday being much smarter than me, I had no problem seeing Frank’s point of view. But as Frank’s mind deteriorates, the robot becomes a sounding board, reflection, and retainer of Frank’s thoughts, fears, and talents. Initially, I was turned off by the film’s tagline: “Friendship doesn’t have an off switch.” But by the end of the film, I had an emotional connection to the robot, too, since it represented an “out” for a crumbling mind, not the actuality of a sentient friend.

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Geeky Get Well Package

Ashley Walton —  September 7, 2012 — 2 Comments

The husband has been a bit under the weather, so I put together a little care package for him. It included Pass the Popcorn (movie trivia game), season one of Batman: The Animated Series (a favorite from our childhoods), Drag Me to Hell on blu-ray,  Scrabble Slam, and Borderlands, Dead Rising 2, and Monster Madness: Grave Danger (games for PS3). Oh, and some super dorky Got Milk? straws that magically turn your milk into a cookies and cream flavored treat. Being stuck on the couch was as fun as possible.

A recent rental release, The Raid: Redemption is totally worth the drive to the nearest Redbox. As far as kung-fu movies go, it doesn’t get much better than this. Be warned, The Raid is pretty damn violent– the entire movie is almost packed end-to-end with fight scenes, which include various weapons, plenty of hand-to-hand combat, copious amounts of blood, and some visceral details. To be sure, this film has some of the best fight scenes I’ve seen since Oldboy (without all the weird familial relations). In the brief intermittent scenes between scores of violence, this film masterfully builds tension. I suggest finding a teddy bear to hug or some food to gnaw on, lest you bite your nails incessantly (though on second thought, the food might not be a good idea given the gore). In addition to the awesome fight scenes, this film also has a satisfying story, which many kung-fu movies lack for me. If you’re even marginally interested in kung-fu movies, this is a must-see.

* Note: Not surprisingly, I completely disagree with Roger Ebert yet again. Between this and his Avengers review, I’ve decided he hates films and fun, and I vow to never mention him again on the blog.

Talking to Tarantino

Ashley Walton —  July 17, 2012 — 7 Comments
Hey readers! Jeff here. San Diego Comic-Con was a few months ago, and looking back, I have to say that my favorite moment was watching my wife finally get to meet her filmic idol, Mr. Quentin Tarantino. We camped out on Friday night, braving the brightly-lit San Diego streets in the hopes that we could make the 11 a.m. Django panel. Camping out paid off–and in some unexpected ways.