Feeds:
Posts
Comments

As the  years go by, and as I get older, sometimes it’s harder get into the holidays spirit.

But if I ever need to get that instant jolt of Christmas Cheer,well then I look to these flicks to help me. And no, this is not going to be one of those list in which I put movies that are SET on Christmas but are not actually about Christmas (I.E. Die Hard, Gremlins, Lethal Weapon etc.) Nope, this will be a list of legit Christmas movies.

Truth be told, it doesn’t feel like Christmas unless I’ve seen  at least a few of these movies, and it certainly doesn’t feel like Christmas unless I saw a full viewing of my number 1 movie.

5.)

Director Jon Favreau was able to use Will Farrell’s most famous (and now most overused) schtick , a manchild, and made it into this generations first iconic holiday character. Nearly a decade later, ELF only gets better for me. It’s quotable, funny as hell, sweet but yet has a enough edge to make the adults not roll their eyes.

Here is the scene that I quote every time I think about this movie.

4.)

Funny enough, I wasn’t a big fan of this when I first saw it. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but I was a bit disappointed, thinking that it was TOO many stories. But as the years go on and the more I watch it, the more I get suckered in to it and more I fell for it. You gotta love the cast too. It’s pretty great seeing so many great actors, most of them known for their dramatic roles, and to play in something like this was just fun. You can tell that they where having fun.   And for me, it’s all about this scene.

How can your day not brighten up after hearing that score?

3.)

For a tale that gets told over….and over….and over….and over……this version still one works on me. Maybe it’s because I’m such a Bill Murray nut. While it’s fun to watch their modern take on Charles Dickens classic, the end scene is what makes it such a big deal for me.

Murray’s speech is great, and Murray performance is wonderful. It’s my favorite of the “Scrooge realizes” moments in movies. It’s the reason why it’s so high on this list.

Oh, and this bit…

“Put a little love in Your Heart”  is my favorite part of the whole ending. God, I would have loved to have seen this movie in the theaters when it came out.  To be in the audience when Murray is asking them to join along. I hope people joined in with Murray, because this was still a magical moment even for me when I was watching at home.

2.)

A cliched answer? Perhaps, but I have a reason.

Back in 2005, I took a job doing sound for a play version of It’s A Wonderful Life. I knew the director, and he asked me to do it. I said yes, mostly because I was flattered by the idea that someone wanted ME specifically. I then realized that I never did sound for a theater production before.What the hell was I doing?

So, the week before rehearsals, I asked one of my friends who DID do sound for theater to give me a crash course on the mixing board. It seemed easy enough, and after a few weeks of rehearsal, I pretty much got it. The whole time during rehearsal I played it like I knew what I was doing, and tried my hardest to not mess up. Even still, we did a two night performance of the show, I didn’t miss a single cue. I apparently was so good, when I told the rest of the cast that I actually never did it before, they were all stunned! It was a pretty proud moment for me.

So thanks to the play, I got to know the story of It’s A Wonderful Life really well…but the truth is I actually haven’t seen the film yet! That Christmas eve, my brother let me borrow his copy of the film and I finally watched it. There’s something about seeing it for the first time that you never forget. Your heart swells, you gut gets punched, and you go along for the ride with George Bailey. It will always be my personal favorite Jimmy Stewart performance. So yes, I love the film dearly and for me, personally, I will always associate it to the memory of accomplishing a goal, I just have to try hard enough.

1.)

Flat out, it ain’t Christmas, unless I’m watching a full viewing of  A Christmas Story at least twice!

It’s that movie that will always be there for me. That sure thing. That movie that will take me back to my childhood, no problem what so ever.

It’s a movie that gets the whole child mentality of wanting THE gift. The gift that, when your a kid, will make your whole year.

But it’s not just getting into the mind set of being a kid that I love. I love that how for a Christmas movie, it’s a bit grimy, unpolished, and just a tad bit dark.

And when the flick it is on TV, everything is fresh again. The characters are still great. The writing is still sharp. And this scene  still gets me every time.

Fra ra ra ra ra indeed.

BONUS PICK!

I actually haven’t seen this in years, but I wanted to talk about this for a second. You see, whats cool about this film is that, for all the MILLION different versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL that they made, this was my first exposure of the tale. It was also my introduction to Scrooge McDuck, who I love now thanks to Ducktales.

And while I’ve seen many versions of this tale (ahem, look at number  3 again.) this one will have a special memory for me because THIS was how I was introduced to it. Thanks Mickey!

Well, that is it everyone. I hope you all have a very Happy Holidays!

When it concerns current popular books, I’m really behind. I’m so movie obsessed I tend to forget about books. It’s not like I don’t like reading, on the contrary, I LOVE reading! For some reason I read less and less books through out the years. So when I first heard about Harry Potter, Twilight, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games my reaction was always a giant “never heard of it.” Of course, all of these books have been out for years and have amass a huge fanbase…and I was left behind.

Well, late this year I decided to do a better job of catching up on my reading.  I’ve been doing pretty good so far. Read some Sherlock Holmes, the great, fun as hell book READY PLAYER ONE, and the first of The Dresden Files book, STORM FRONT.

Then came The Hunger Games. Ahh yes, the current young adult novel series that is ALSO a world wide sensation (aren’t they all? 🙂 ) Well, the movie adaptation is coming out soon, so instead watching the flick without reading the book , I’ve decided nows the time to jump in.

I can see why this book is popular. I may not get why TWILIGHT is popular (That will be the last time I will mention that series from here on out. I know it has it’s fans but I am just simply not one of them. Lets move on.) but this book, I totally get why people love it.  The characters are good, the world building is fantastic, it’s well paced(for the most part) and the action is sensational.

Katniss is a great character, and a good role model for readers. She’s tough, smart, has a good heart, but she can make mistakes, and she’s short tempered.  I love that she’s got these great qualities but there’s still enough flaws to make her relatable.

I  love the adult characters. Haymitch, Cinna…hell, even Effie. I think Collins does a great job of hinting the deeper characterizations of the adults. Sure, on the surface they are following the rules of The Capital, but I can sense the inner rebellion the characters have.

Oh, Peeta. Peeta, Peeta, Peeta…I really don’t know how I feel about him. Since the book is told from the point of view from Katniss, I don’t quiet get him yet. I always feel cold after reading his scenes. Maybe I will like him more by the second book, but as of right now, I really don’t know.

I’m not particularly fond of all the scenes that take place in the cave. I felt the flow of the book slammed it’s brakes, as it seemed like we where in that cave for a long time.

But, the when the action came back in, it was insanely well written. I see every beat, every moment. Very exciting stuff.

At the end of the book I instantly saw how this can be made into a great flick.

And today, we get a good look at what to expect from the movie version of the film….

Looking good so far. The tone feels right on, and I’m digging how the future world looks.

I also hope this trailer convinces people on Jennifer Lawrence, but looking at some of the comments from my Facebook friends, some of them are apparently less convinced.  That’s a shame, I think she’s selling it really well .  I’m a Jennifer Lawrence fan (and believe that the film, Winters Bone , is all the proof you need) and I truly think she has all the qualities to play this role. Her moment in the Reaping scene was quiet good.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta was the only casting I wasn’t sure about, but I think his delivery (granted, the only line he has in the trailer) surprisingly worked on me.  I’m not totally convinced yet, but I’m not writing him off either.

I’m curious to see if the trailer works on somebody who never read the book.  Right now, I’m down. Even if I never read the book, it still looks like it could be a cool sci-fi/action film.

May the film odds be in it’s favor when it comes out March 23, 2011.

Sometimes you just need to watch an old favorite.

Today was one of those days where I needed a comfort film. You know the kind I’m talking about.

A film that you’ve seen a million times, yet you know it brings you back to a place that makes you happy.

It sorta funny what films become those movies for me. They sorta sneaked up into my life when I wasn’t looking and all of a sudden I see a movie that represents a part of me.

High Fidelity struck a big chord with me when I saw in 2000(yikes! 11 years ago?) The obvious thing I noticed was how funny it was. I mean, it’s pretty damn quotable (Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?) but what struck me the most was the dialogue.

Whenever I hear geek talk in movies or T.V. it always feels so inaccurate, but in High Fidelity, geek talk has never felt so authentic. Sure these guys are talking about music, but their geek talk is EXACTLY the kind of discussions I have with my friends. Making list, daydreaming about hanging out with creative types, bitch and hate on things that are not of our taste, the need to have endless conversations about the crap we’re passionate about, and even being a bit snobby when we see other geeks who are “worse” then us.

I was so blown away by this. I may not be as big of a music guy as Rob(John Cusack) and the rest of the staff of  Championship Vinyl, but replace “music” with comics and or films and the discussions are exactly the same.Those were the things that drove me to this film.

I also wanted to be Rob when I was teenager. I wanted to have his attitude, his clothes (surprisingly I actually use to OWN the maroon jacket that Cusack wears throughout the film before I saw the movie. )and I wanted his ability to talk to women (I was a super shy teenager). I thought Rob was the coolest.

I of course eventually grew up and realized very quickly that Rob….was a mess. He’s selfish, he cheats, and wears his emotions on his sleeves. You would think that would ruin the movie for me, but surprisingly it made me love it more.

I may not want to be Rob any more, but I love that the story wasn’t afraid to give our protagonist huge gaping flaws. Obviously this was an element that novelist Nick Hornby (in which this film was based on his novelof the same name) had in his book, but Cusack’s own personal charm allows us to still like Rob…even when he’s an asshole. It’s one of Johns best roles (right next to his performance as Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything.)

And that’s really the cool thing to have a movie like this that I can revisit again and again every few years. I get something new each time. As a young adult I saw the cool “older” adult lifestyle and I wanted to be a part of that. As I’m now an “older” adult, I now saw a film about a guy who needs to stop making bad decisions and stop being so afraid to make the right ones. It’s a movie that still gives me things to appreciate and relate to.

That is why this film one of my all time favorite films of all time, and yes…obviously…it is in my TOP FIVE.

If your a comic book fan, most likely your also a film fan. And if your like me, you grew up in a time when Superman and Batman had big budgeted films, yet you knew there was so much more to the comic book world then those two. So you dreamed and dreamed how they would make films out of your other favorite characters. We all had a version of a Spider-Man film, an X-Men film or even a Darkhawk film (ok…so I’m alone in that one, I know I am.) It took years, but eventually  they made those movies, and what a time it’s been for us comic book fans! Some of the adaptations were great and are as close as to what I dreamed of for that character, sometimes they made some twist to the characters and the mythology but work amazingly and sometimes they were GIANT fails. So in a way, Captain America was the last great one for me, and like many fans, I had dreamed up a Captain America film.

I wanted it to be to be in World War II. I wanted to see Cap lead armies. I wanted him to fight crazy, ridiculous , not realistic technology.

I think this image from this 1996 comic by John Bryne explains it all for me…

I wanted to see THAT , but as a movie.

So…you have to imagine my excitement when I was watching the Norway sequence of the film.

Outside of the Church, something huge roles up….A. BIG. ASS. TANK.

I squealed  like a little girl in my seat.

And that almost sums up my feeling about the whole film.

It was the Captain America film that I’ve dreamed of since I was 12. A blast of pure enjoyment. A film with a ton of heart. A film that refreshingly has no cynical bone in the it’s body.

It’s no surprise that the director of this was Joe Johnston. His film The Rocketeer (click here about my previous blog post about that film) had the same energy and tone, but I could tell that  he was able to let loose even more on this film. The film was full of style that fits the era, and I could sense the fun Johnston had with this film. German expressionist films for the Red Skull flashback, the recreation of 1930’s serial films for the Captain America “movies” with in the movie, and musicals for the USO scenes. God, do I love the USO montage. It not only is fun and entertaining, but it also helps build the mythology of Captain America, having him be a great national hero before he even truly fights. The action was also fun to watch, and for the first time I truly do get to see the power Captain America does have, as we see how fast, how strong and how agile he is the fight scenes. It truly is spectacular to see Cap in action.

But what would the director be without a strong cast and good characters? He thankfully had  a strong script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (with some uncredited help from my beloved Joss Whedon) and a fantastic cast.

Chris Evans blew me away here.   The cocky funny guy that Evans is  typically typecast as does not show up. The most important part of the whole film, and my favorite moments in the film, is the first act. Chris is so good in the pre-Cap sequences as Steve Rogers. The film works because how much I love Steve Rogers. Not Captain America mind you, Steve Rogers. The film nailed Steve Rogers as he was note perfect. His good heart, his courage, and his reasons to fight. When Erskine asked him “Do you want to kill Nazis?”, Rogers answer couldn’t have been more perfect.

Ah, and Erskine. Stanley Tucci is so wonderful in this part. His scene with Rogers before the procedure could have been a terribly clunky,filled with exposition. It wasn’t. Tucci played it perfectly, and really selling his relationship with Rogers and his reasoning as to why he picked him, and it makes his eventual faith even more painful when it happens.

Haylee Atwell’s Peggy Carter is…wow. She plays the “Marion” in the film, and she’s  instantly iconic. How could you not fall in love with her? She brings all the appropriate spunk and charisma need for this part, and most important believability.   Her scenes with Pre-Cap Steve were great and you can sense she started to care for him before he got tall and superheroic looking.  Her last scene at the end with Steve over the radio was appropriately heartbreaking and she sells it.

Tommy Lee Jones Col. Phillips is exactly what he needed to be….Tommy Lee Jones as a tough colonel, and he’s great. He’s tough but has a wicked dry sense of humor…the kind of role that Tommy Lee does in his sleep, and it’s perfect for this film. His interrogation scene with Toby Jones Dr.Armin Zola is one of the best uses of Tommy Lee Jones in the film.

The way they used Zola is also fun and unexpected. Zola was portrayed as a brilliant man who was starting to realize he was into deep in something he might not wanted to be in, and Toby Jones brought all the fun and subtle quirks that makes him something a bit more then the main villains toady.

Red Skull may not the most original bad guy, but when your villain is a super Nazi that believes that the Nazis aren’t doing enough then how much character motivation do you need? And for a film that’s as old fashioned as this, you need an old fashion bad guy and Hugo Weaving plays classic bad guy to the “T”. He’s just over the top for this film, and Hugo eats up the scenery with just the right vigor. And my god, the way how the Red Skull LOOKS just like a Jack Kirby drawing is amazing!

There are  times that when I watch a Marvel movie it FEELS like I was watching a MARVEL movie. In Spider-Man 2 when they recreated the SPIDER-MAN NO MORE page. In X-Men when Hugh Jackman first said “Bub.” In Iron Man, seeing him shoot repulsor beams out of his hands. Those are the moments that made me go,”Hey, I AM watching a Marvel movie!” For me it’s seeing the Red Skull perfectly translated from comic to movie that gave me that moment.

Lets not forget the Howling Commandos… though the film DID forget to call them that, hell, the film forgot to even name drop the characters, so there is THAT flaw in the film. That being said, there is a good amount of characterization economy as each actor in the Commandos (Neal McDonough as MOTHERFUCKIN DUM DUM Dugan to Kennith Choi.) does a great job giving each character personality and selling their relationships. My other nitpick is that I would watch a full MOVIE of Captain America and the Howling Commandos, but that’s because I love the montage of them kicking ass so damn much.

One character who IS named is James “Bucky” Barnes.  This is where things get interesting for me. When I used to daydream a Captain America film, I knew I didn’t want to have Bucky in the full costume. I wanted Bucky to be more like Cap’s best friend, not sidekick. No mask, and the name Bucky would be a nickname, not a code name. I didn’t want any Robin comparisons. Well…look what the filmmakers did! Sebastian Stan brings his fair amount charm in the part, and his chemistry with Evans is great. They truly sell that they’ve been friends for years. Also, great seeding of his possible future as the Winter Soldier.

I don’t want leave out Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark. I first saw him in The Devils Double, which he was INCREDIBLE in, and I loved his Howard Stark! It’s fun to see how much Tony Stark must have gotten from his father, and Cooper has fun in the role.

The score by Alan Silvestri  might be one of the best he’s done in years. Evoking all the right emotions, it’s one of the best scores in any of the Marvel Movies thus far, and captures the spirit in all the right ways. Oh, and the Alan Menken’s USO song? Fucking brillant.

I’m going to go into the most spoiler part of the film which is the ending montage.

One of the important things I wanted to see in the film is to see the importance of Captain America to this alternate history. To see the effect of loosing Cap. To sell that there is a bit of tragedy to Captain America’s story.  That montage really nailed it. The way how the Commandos had a toast to their fallen comrade. Howard trying desperately to look for Rogers in the Arctic. Peggy looking at the picture of Steve before he was Cap. That shot of the kid with a homemade Captain America shield. It’s the perfect ending to this film. (Though I do wish the Nick Fury scene was held off AFTER the animated credits)

Simply put, I love this film. I have a huge affection for films that nostalgically look back at this era. I eat this stuff up, and I’m giddy that we got one that I think is so good.

I’m glad the film is doing well in the box office, because it seems like the film is working on the people that want a film about a TRUE hero.

The character in the comics is one of the last real heroes heroes, and he finally has a film that shows us why that can still be a great thing.

 

Yesterday, the website Ain’t It Cool News had a contest. The prize was two free tickets to the screening of the 20th Anniversary of  The Rocketeer at The El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. In order to win, we had to write our memories on seeing The Rocketeer on June, 21, 1991.

I started thinking about the my memories that day and I figured it was worth a shot to enter.

So, here below is my email to Ain’t It Cool News….

“It was 1991, I remember the trailer. The music, the 1930’s era, and most of all….that rocket. The dream of flying was more real to me after seeing the trailer. Superman flew…but I could BE the Rocketeer.

I remember that whole year I couldn’t wait to see The Rocketeer. My older brother, the film buff who shaped me into being a film buff myself, started showing me some 1930’s adventure serials as little cinematic appetizers before I saw the film . King of the Rocketmen (which I loved!) and Radar Men from the Moon (in which I realized that it was the SAME footage as King of the Rocketmen!)

It was THE film for me that year. I used to pretend that my backpack was the rocketpack. I used to have a cheap black helmet that I put on just like Billy Cambell did in the film’s trailer and asked an imaginary Peevy how do I look (I WAS seven…it was ok for me to talk to myself back then…right?) I “flew” all around my house. Fought bad guys. Mind you…this was BEFORE I saw the film.

You could imagine how much worse it was after I saw the movie, and I did….at the El Capitan. On June 21, 1991. Yes, twenty years ago I was there on opening day with my older brother. It was a magical day for me. I’ve never been to a theater like this before. It was big, and it was gorgeous. And the movie…it was better then what I ever thought it would be.

Rocketeer shaped the things that I loved today, and I have remained a fan since. I’ve bought all the fantastic comics from writer/artist Dave Stevens, (who we lost too early) and have since dreamed of more Rocketeer stories, be it another film or comics.

It’s still one of the best comic book films I’ve seen, and the day that I saw it at The El Capitan Theater is a childhood memory that I cherish to this day.

Whenever I hear the James Horner theme I’m 7 years old all over again.

I would to like revisit that day again, with me and my older brother. Thank you.”

Sadly we didn’t win (click here to see the Ain’t It Cool page for the contest and the winner) but strangely enough, just thinking about that day and my memories of seeing it was enough for me.

It seems like a movie that still works on a lot people to this day. It’s timeless, fun, has heart and yes, still one of the best superhero/comic book films made.

Thanks again Kuya (my older brother) for taking me to see this film 20 years ago, that day and that movie still means a lot to me.

I have a great fondness of used bookstores. My brother used to take me to several in our area when I was a kid. Aladdin’s Books in Old Town Fullerton and Book Baron on Magnolia in Anaheim were my favorites. I loved walking around in these places, looking at the different cover art and the variety of books. Who needs Barnes and Nobles, these books have history, other people have read, enjoyed (or even hated) the books on the shelves. God, I even love the smell of the slightly  stale air of the books.

Sadly both stores are gone, as well as all the other used bookstores that I used to go to. But once in a while, you sometimes can discover another one, waiting to be found.

As I was driving around in Huntington Beach, I saw a store front that just simply had a sign that said “USED BOOKS”. I figured, what the hell…it wouldn’t hurt to look around.

This is what I found when I walked inside…

I nearly cried. In an age where bookstores (big and small) are going away, I find one that’s just like the ones I remembered. Walking around brought back all my memories of the used bookstores of my youth. I couldn’t have been happier.

I saw on YELP that people say that it’s a terrible store because of the disorganization…well those people don’t get it. Seeing piles of books on the floor, that to me is used bookstore heaven. This place isn’t disorganized, it’s just right.

I mean, you gotta love a bookstore that has Doc Savage to buy on the shelf…

Or a store that has signs like this….

And yes, I did buy something from the store, a nice hardcover of Sherlock Holmes mysteries (this one containing both A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of Baskervilles) that was $6. Oh yeah…you also can’t beat the price of these places.

If you live near Huntington Beach, CA here is the address of this place…

Sandcastle Used Bookstore

16582 Gothard St
Unit E
Huntington Beach, CA 92647

(714) 847-9944

But you know what, I’d advise you to just drive around your area, because who knows, maybe you’ll make your own discovery.

Midway through the film, Babydoll (Emily Browning) is mowing down robot solider after robot solider in a spectacular action scene, a thought quickly went to my head….I stopped caring.

Before I get into that, let me give you guys my expectation on the film.

I knew going in that this was going to director’s Zack Snyder’s “Get it out of his system” film. What does that mean? It means that he most likely wanted to make the following  films: A fantasy film, a samurai film, a futuristic film, a musical, a war in the trenches film, a steam punk movie, and some kind of animes style film. He wanted to make films using all those great iconic images, but he figured it probably take him forever to make all those films.

His solution? Make it one movie.

I was down the moment when I heard about the film back in 2008. I was even more excited when I saw the footage at Comic Con, BUT, I was apprehensive about it. It looked good, but will the narrative work? As much as I love Snyder’s other films, I won’t deny that his story sensibilities and characterization tend to fall short.

Sadly, Sucker Punch, more then anything he’s done before, accidentally highlights those flaws that he has as a filmmaker.

The film’s characters are lacking. They’re idea’s of characters. Concepts, not fully fleshed out characters. It seemes like the film’s idea of fleshing out a character is to have them cry. In my opinion the only character with any spark of life is Rocket. Rocket has the clearest motivation, and the clearest character traits. Jena Malone does a lot to bring out that charisma in the character, but I do think she’s the best written one.

Actually, the whole cast of girls I will say did their best to bring the characters to life. It was only because of the fact that Emily Browing, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens and Jaime Chung were good in their roles did I start to notice that they didn’t feel like they were fully written. Hudgens and Chung actually brought a good amount of charm in their parts in which I started to like them, and that is when I noticed that I actually don’t know their characters at all. Those two in particular were mostly left in the sidelines while Babydoll, Sweet Pea and Rocket does most of the heavy lifting both in the action scenes and in the story.

Going back to not knowing the characters, lets look at Babydoll. Babydoll is the lead in the film, and while I knew the reasoning of why she’s in the mental institution,  and why she’s in the mental state that she’s in….I don’t know HER.  Why does she have these dreams? Why is it both a brothel, and then a crazy mixmash of a teenage boy fantasy? Why those images?

That becomes the issue with the story. There is no reason any of these “worlds” that Snyder sets up, the mental institution, the brothel, and the world of fantasy, has any reason for being in the same film. Snyder’s rules of the film aren’t really defined.

The truth is, these aren’t Babydoll’s fantasies….they’re Snyder’s.  The whole conceit of this being his “Get it out of my system” film kinda backfires because he didn’t make a strong enough story and characters to justify this whole film.

But in that regard, the film can work as pure eye candy. If you want to be dazzled by great, stylish film-making, then Snyder does that well.

I can certainly say that I didn’t get BORED while watching this. The interesting use of covers of popular music (the brothel sequences are so clearly MOULIN ROUGE inspired I’d half expected Nicole Kidman to walk in.), the cutting, and the imagery and yes, …the action is great. Every single action sequence is pure Snyder, and if you still like his style, then your won’t be disappointed. The action is fantastic, with the World War I/steam punk sequences being my favorite.

I certainly hope Snyder got out whatever he had to get out of his system. His next film is Superman, and hopefully this time out he can focus on the story and characters just as much as he focuses on his visuals and action.

In the end, I define Sucker Punch for me like this. If I end up getting the DVD, I will just jump to a sequence in the film to rewatch. But will I sit down and watch the whole thing again? Probably not as much. It’s a misfire…but it sure is an entertaining one.