Thursday, February 25, 2010

Movie: Shutter Island

The last movie that Leonardo deCaprio did with Martin Scorsese directing it was 'the Aviator' which my Wife and I saw on our first date, so I'm not entirely unbiased about this, but nevertheless, I enjoyed it a great deal. The quality is good and it doesn't try too many gimicks, especially unfair gimicks to get its point across.

The basic premise of the movie is that two Federal marshals are called in to an asylum for the Criminally insane (note that it is not called Arkham) called Shutter Island 11 miles off the coast of California. The girl is gone when they get there, and the staff and patients are all behaving rather erratically, as if they are clearly hiding something. One doctor wants to use benevolent treatments while the other believes in old school treatments like Lobotomy, and there are hints early on of associations with the horrific German experiments at Auschwitz. The main character helped liberate the death camps in WWII and as such is highly suspicious of the older doctor.

In short, I liked it. The acting and the directing were perfect. The music score was occasionally a bit too overbearing and loud but I didn't notice it until after the fact when it was pointed out to me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Movie: Batman - Gotham Knight

So the idea that a bunch of DC comics writers and Japanese anime artists collaborating to make Batman sounds neat...on paper. In practice what it means is that you end up with something similar to 2 out of 6 segments having awesome animation; 3 out of 6 segments having awesome writing and only 1 out of 6 segments having both. I think one of the things that hampered this was the idea that they were tying it in to the Dark Knight universe from Batman Begins (ie the highly popular movies) setting the story between them. They were obviously trying to go for something similar in scope to the Animatrix, but the thing is with the animatrix, the artists (I think) wrote their own scripts as well. I mean, had the anime people been able to take their own twist on Batman (as the whole video was originally marketed) I imagine that they would have been able to tell stories much more suited towards their animation style. I mean you could have had an homage to the 60's era Batman or the 90's cartoon or the Graphic Novel Dark Knight or even something wholly original. Instead they told a series of interlocking stories that could have been interesting but for the most part weren't.

The lesson from this is that one or two neat ideas might work in synergy...but three or four and you'd better wait to try it first with something simple before you take a huge leap into the abyss.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Play: Mama Mia!

Mamma Mia is an excellent play. It is essentially a story written around a stuttered medley of Abba disco songs. You can tell they created the plot primarily based on the lyrics of the songs but they mesh together in an almost seamless format. There was one minorly uncomfortable moment where the main female young lead sings what was clearly written as a love song but with ambiguous lyrics to her father “What’s the name of the game” in a much more different context, but in the end it managed to work well. The play itself is just plain fun and contains a high amount of energy. The costumes are well done. The set is fairly minimalist but since this is a quasi surrealistic musical it doesn’t really need stunning vistas. More over, they are able to cram an extremely large number of characters into only almost two hours and still make them dynamic, believable and quasi realistic. I highly recommend seeing it if you get a chance.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Movie Review - Terribly Happy

Terribly Happy is an interesting move entirely in Danish. The showing that we saw had a bizarre bit of Danish Film Festival propaganda about how cool Denmark was and how they were essentially the center of all things cultural, without actually seeming arrogant about it. It wasn’t really that bad but it was an interesting chaser right before the movie.

The basic premise of the film is that an out of favor cop from Copenhagen is sent to the middle of nowhere (and they spend like, the first three minutes of the film showing just how in the middle of nowhere it is) to be given a second chance and ‘do his time.’ The film states that it is based on ‘actual events’ however a careful search on my part could find absolutely no indication anywhere what those events were. I’ll explain below.

On the whole I enjoyed the movie. I found the actors and the plot moved at a reasonable clip and it had enough twists and turns that it easily drew you into it. The self described genre of the film is ‘Thriller’ and I found that appropriate. It has also been compared to Twin Peaks meets Northern Exposure. I think it has a little bit more Northern Exposure than Twin Peaks, because while there are no supernatural elements they do do a very good job of portraying just what life would be like in a very small Danish town in the middle of Southern Jutland (which is apparently the middle of nowhere.)

(Spoilers follow)

So, I spent like 30 minutes looking everywhere I could find on what the hell these ‘actual events’ were. The movie was based on a Danish novel called Frygtelig lykkelig by Erling Jepsen. After googling all of these people there was nothing mentioned about the actual events. Was it just a few events, like the fact that people died and they made wild speculation about it, or was it pretty damn close to the bizarre plot of the movie? The reason I wanted to look this is up is because, quite frankly, there is absolutely no explanation about how anything is discovered.

I know I said spoilers, but I don’t want to give too much away. But people DIE in this thing and the bodies are discovered, and the killer and many people involved end up going on their merry way (and yes, that’s not by itself the biggest spoiler of the damn movie….). So how did anyone see anything? As near as we can tell, the little girl who witnessed everything might have put the pieces together when she grew up and written a tell all or gone to court?

Who knows.