Archives For film

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.

Before seeing Prometheus, I was bombarded by mini-reviews from Facebook and Twitter friends saying, “meh,” and I have to say, I think this film is better than mediocre. Perhaps everyone set my expectations low, but I thought it was enjoyable and engaging. Having said that, it definitely has its problems.

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Feminism and Avengers

Ashley Walton —  May 16, 2012 — 1 Comment

I’ve now seen Avengers a couple of times, but I hadn’t written a post because I didn’t know what I could say that hadn’t already been said. It was awesome, everything I hoped it would be. Whedon stood tall and rose to all my expectations. The arrangement of strong characters was well-balanced and well-written, each contributing a unique personality to the whole. Roger Ebert is an idiot. Moviefone is sexist. The end.

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At this point, it’s no secret that I’m a sucker for horror movies, but this one takes the cake. This is one of the funnest horror movies I’ve ever seen (yes, I might even like it more than Jennifer’s Body, which is a statement I haven’t yet uttered about a horror film until now). Not only was The Cabin in the Woods a celebration of all things horror, it was clever, shocking, and different. It gushed (pun intended?) with originality, a rarity in contemporary horror.

In the era of the postmodern smarty-pants viewer, well versed in genre constructions, we are in the age of meta-horror. It seems that every film since Scream has tried to point out its own constructedness, paying homage to the horror genre and referencing the horror conventions that have come before. The Cabin in the Woods (we’re talking the 2012 version here, of course) forces this agenda to a new level, pushing the purpose, commentary, and conversation of contemporary horror. This isn’t self-referentiality for the sake of street cred– this is self-referentiality that propels itself and the genre to something new, one of the markers of a great work.

And in case you were wondering, yes Joss Whedon is an incredibly talented writer who has grown a lot since Buffy and Angel. Moments of serious horror and gore are undercut with witty and thought-provoking humor that fits into a story that pushes its premise to its limits. I can’t wait to see what this guy does with The Avengers. To all you nervous, Whedon nay-sayers who worried if he’d be able to shine on the silver screen, I just want to give you an inelegant and irritating (but well deserved) “I told ya so.”

Go see Drive. Like, now.

Ashley Walton —  September 20, 2011 — 3 Comments

 

I sat in the theater, long after the credits had ended, long after several pubescent theater workers grumbled while shuffling around me. I had never been so shocked into silence after watching a film. I remained thoughtful and quiet walking out of the theater and to the car and throughout the car ride home (much to the worry of my boyfriend who was with me). Okay, I wasn’t completely silent. Right after the film ended I looked at my boyfriend and said, “Holy shit,” but that was it.

 

Drive is the kind of film that doesn’t come around often. It’s a film that reminds you of the potential artfulness of filmmaking. Actually, it’s a film that reminds you that humans are capable of making things that are so incredibly beautiful that they seem to transcend the physical space that they inhabit. As cheesy as it sounds, I left that theater with a renewed hope in the creative powers of man, and I don’t mean that as hyperbole. I don’t have a single negative thing to say about this film—and I can’t recall any other time in my life-long career as film critic (and critic of all things, in general) that I’ve uttered such a phrase.

 

This film was exceptional. The acting, writing, editing, cinematography, music, pacing—everything—was impeccable. That’s not to say it was safe. As Guillermo del Toro said of the film at Comic-Con, this is balls-to-the-wall filmmaking. It’s gutsy and experimental in the way it’s put together, and I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s rare to see something so fresh and new that actually works as a harmonious whole.

 

I now have an enormous amount of respect for Nicolas Winding Refn, who rightfully claimed best director at Cannes for the film, and also for Ryan Gosling (turns out he’s a total badass—could’ve fooled me). In fact, as I learned at a Comic-Con panel, it was Gosling who had the rights to the book Drive is based on, and it was Gosling who sought out Refn to be the director. After a horrible first meeting over lunch, the two bonded through an REO Speedwagon song in Gosling’s car and realized they shared the same vision for the film, as Refn broke down into sobs and they discussed their vision of a character who cannot feel real emotion unless he’s driving (and listening to ’80s pop). Crazy, right? The stuff of fairy tales.

 

At Comic-Con, I was stunned by the footage that was shown, and I was equally stunned by Guillermo del Toro’s gushing over Refn, but being the cynic that I am, I worried that they had showed us the best scenes. How could every scene in the film live up to the scenes that they had shown us? Oh, my friends, how wrong I was. The scenes shown at Comic-Con were even better in the context of the film, and those scenes were not the exception to the rule. Every scene was phenomenal.

 

For those of you who were fooled by the marketing ploy and believe this to be Fast and Furious 6, it’s not. In fact, I heard many disappointed movie-goers leave the theater with complaints: “That was so slow and boring” and “That did not have enough action.” Yeah, I’m sorry you guys were tricked into seeing a brilliant film.

 

P.S. I bought the soundtrack. Of course, it’s awesome.



I’m just gonna forgo any pleasantries, along with any pretenses that I can look at this film in anything approaching an unbiased manner. I like Woody Allen. I like Paris. I like writing and I like art. I loved this film. Sure, it had its problems, but I was charmed by the main character, Gil, played by Owen Wilson (a blatant representation of Woody Allen) and his sincere (if sometimes sappy) dialogue. Some of my favorite lines that I’ve ever heard were in the film, like when Wilson insists that “No work of art can compare to a city.” 

Although it’s difficult to talk about a work of art in terms of feelings, I couldn’t help but love the feel of this film. Yes, no work of art can do a city justice, but this film captured the feeling I had gallivanting about Paris.Some would say that the film romanticized Paris from a tourist’s perspective, but I would disagree and toss in my lot with Allen. I think there are cities that can be appreciated as a work of art, regardless of whether you grew up there or whether you’re visiting for the first time. And Gil’s enthusiasm for Paris is contagious and understandable.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, because I didn’t know much about it, and I found myself giddy as certain events unfolded (I even slapped my viewing companion in the arm, grinned, and sat up straighter in my chair a few times in sheer excitement). That’s not to say it had a perfect plot. In fact, I was disappointed that for such a creative premise, the film ended up making some pretty cliché moves, and I was surprised that the film had such an elementary take-home message. Despite its plot clumsiness, I loved the film and I would happily see it in theaters again, which is not an action I take lightly.

X-Men: First Class

Ashley Walton —  June 5, 2011 — 6 Comments
I really enjoyed this film; I think we can safely agree that it’s the best X-Men film so far (which I guess isn’t saying that much, but it was good, I swear). Above all, Magneto and Xavier were well cast. Michael Fassbender (Magneto) and James McAvoy (Xavier) pulled off some pretty cheesy lines with sincerity and depth, and it actually worked.
The thing that made this film great was that it was Magneto’s story, and you sympathized with and understood a more complex character than a mere villain. All the story development of Magneto’s character and past was interesting, evocative, and well developed. I even enjoyed watching his relationship unfold with Mystique, although I would have preferred that she had refrained from throwing herself at him… and that she was played by a different actress—I thought she was grossly miscast.
Speaking of miscasting, January Jones as Emma Frost drove me nuts. I was shocked that she delivered her lines like a mousy Betty Draper. Even as ‘60s Emma Frost, playing right-hand to Shaw and bending to his every whim, I could never imagine Frost as a soft-spoken submissive, and I didn’t think any of the other women in the film had this problem.
But back to the things I loved. There were a few choice cameos that made my day, but I’ll forgo the specifics. I highly recommend seeing this film in theater for some pretty awesome special effects and shots. Plus, I thought it was a much more interesting story than Thor.
Side notes: there’s no extra scene after the credits. Also, upon seeing First Class, several people have asked me for X-Men comics recommendations, and my glowing recommendationis the first four trades of Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon. It’s a self-contained story arch that features the likes of characters from First Class. Enjoy.