Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Red Shoes (1948)

Hi!  We're back from our vacation.  We had a really great time.  And now we are back reviewing films.  Today's film is The Red Shoes.  I am especially looking forward to watching this because I love ballet films.

The film is inspired by the ballet of the Red Shoes, which is loosely based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson.  When I say "fairy tale", I don't mean a cute bedtime story for kids.  I mean a cautionary tale where the main character dies.  Moira Shearer plays the star ballerina, Victoria Page.  She is fantastically beautiful.  The director of the ballet troupe, Lermontov, sees great promise in her and helps her to become the very best dancer she can be.  You can tell he has feelings for her but I don't know if Victoria sees that.

The actual ballet in this film is amazing and beautiful.  The backdrops are painted and there's a combination of the stage, the fields, and the ocean that is mixed nicely.  The ballet took over 6 weeks to film.  I think that even people who are not fans of ballet will enjoy this particular scene.

Vicki falls in love with the ballet's composer, Julian Craster.  Lermontov gets jealous of him and kicks him out.  Unfortunately, Vicki goes with Julian and marries him.  I think Julian is jealous of Vicki's artistic talent.  She was a great ballerina star and he was just a composer that was known for writing her first ballet.  That's it.  Vicki goes back to Lermontov's ballet troupe and begs to dance again.  Of course he's going to let her because he still likes her.  But jealous Julian can't have that.   He refuses to let her dance in any ballet and blackmails her feelings by telling her that if she dances, she doesn't really love him and he'll leave.  What kind of asshole does that?  Vicki wants to be able to pursue her dream, because it is just as valid as Julian's dream to be a composer.  But she just cannot handle it and leaps from a balcony, wearing her red shoes.  The symbolism of the red shoes in the ballet has shown itself again in Vicki's death.  I thoroughly enjoyed this film, not just for the ballet, but for the jealousy, the drama, and the art.  I will give it an 8/10.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

On Vacation

From now until Friday, we will be on vacation.  We will be going to a garden festival and hopefully get some great photos of flowers and native butterflies.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Home on the Range (2004)

Normally my daughter and I will never say "no" when you ask if we want to watch a Disney animated movie.  But we're going to have to say "no" to this movie.  Today's animated feature is Home on the Range.

The usual cute animal stars are replaced by three cows, one voiced by Roseanne, who travel to catch a cattle rustler for a ransom in order to save their farm.  The cattle rustler uses the profits from the stolen cattle to buy up all the land in Nebraska for some sort of revenge plan that I don't understand.  Also there is a plot twist in the middle that is pointless and doesn't affect the story so don't worry about it.

You know what the best part about Disney movies is?  The memorable songs!  We love singing.  Even my daughter, who cannot speak, will sing the melody of the Disney songs.  This movie has a couple country western songs that we couldn't remember ten minutes after viewing the movie.  They were really bad.

So this was one of the worst animated films we have ever seen.  We cannot recommend it to anyone and anyone involved in its production should be ashamed of themselves.  We will give it a 2/10.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Xiao cheng zhi chun (Spring in a Small Town) (1948)

Today's film is Spring in a Small Town, and it was released in China one year before the Communist Revolution.   It shows the devastation after the second Sino-Japanese War and a rare glimpse of life before Communism took over.  Still, it is a universal tale of love, jealousy, and loyalty.

Yuwen lives with her husband and his 16-year-old sister, Xiu.  Her husband, Liyan, believes he is seriously ill with tuberculosis, but nobody else buys it since he has no symptoms.  (Yes, latent tb shows no symptoms, but he wouldn't act sick if this were the case.)  His sister and his wife think he's suffering from a mental problem, probably since he's depressed about the state of the house and his family.  His family's home was mostly destroyed in the war and he feels responsible for ruining the family's fortune.  He sounds depressed, which can explain why he feels tired and sick.

One day, Yuwen's childhood friend, Zhang Zhichen, comes to visit. He has come to visit her husband and has not realized that Yuwen married him.  Yuwen, being forced to live in a loveless marriage, is torn between her old feelings for Zhichen and her loyalty to her husband.  Liyan is at first oblivious to this and even asks Yuwen to talk about setting up his sister with him.  But after a party, he realizes the truth.  Much drama happens.

In 2005, the Hong Kong Film Awards Association declared this film the "greatest Chinese film ever made".  That is definitely a stretch.  If I were to name the top ten best Chinese films, I wouldn't have considered this one.  It's almost like a Lifetime movie.  There are no new ideas present, sets are minimal, acting feels stiff, and it is overall predictable.  It's an okay film, but it's not the greatest film of anything.  I will give it a 5/10.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Ariel (1988)

Today's film is Ariel, and it's from Finland.  It is a crime drama but is lighthearted and quirky.  If you enjoyed films like Buffalo '66, then you will definitely enjoy this film.
One day, in faraway Finland, the coal mine closes.  What are the miners going to do to earn a living? The story focuses on Taisto and his struggle.  First, his dad, who is also a miner, feels hopeless and kills himself.  But, he leaves his convertible to Taisto.  How is he supposed to drive a convertible through the snow?  He can't even get the roof down.

He withdraws some money on his way to find a job and a place to live, but that quickly gets stolen.  He finds work as a day laborer but that pays next to nothing. He meets Irmeli by chance and goes on a date with her.
Everything in this movie happens so quickly, so spontaneously.  Taisto and Irmeli fall in love almost immediately.  Taisto finds the guy who stole all his money and tries to attack him.  He is sent to jail for a year and 11 months because of this.  He can never catch a break.  Still, Irmerli comes to court to support him.  While in jail, Taisto asks her to marry him.  Since he doesn't want to spend almost 2 years in jail, he and his cellmate plan a daring escape!

This movie is funny at times and absurd at times.  Hardly anything goes right for Taisto and we keep hoping for the best for him.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kjærlighetens kjøtere (Zero Kelvin) 1995

Today's film is Kjærlighetens kjøtere (Zero Kelvin) and it's from Norway.  It is a drama filled adventure set in the brutal arctic climate.

Larsen, our main character, is a poet who for some reason goes to Greenland for the trapping season.  I believe it is to get inspiration for his writings.  He is in love with Gertrude, and proposes to her.  She rejects his proposal and wants their "love to be free".  We also see her eyeing a handsome soldier riding a horse.  So I'm not sure that she really wants to be with him.

In Greenland, he meets Randbek the trapper/hunter and Holm, the scientist in their remote camp.  Randbek is not pleased at all that this scrawny little writer with his eyes set too far apart could even think he could help out as a trapper.  Larsen's talents are playing his fiddle and writing poetry.  He's not the kind of person I see spending time in the wilderness.

Gard B. Eidsvold, who plays Larsen.
His eyes bother me.

Larsen soon surprises everyone by proving he is very good at trapping foxes.  Everything looks good now.  But there's one huge problem: Randbek.  This entire movie is about Randbek's personal problems.  First of all, he's filthy.  Dude has lice.  Then, he has personality problems galore.  They seem to stem from when he caught his girlfriend cheating on him with a soldier.  This causes him to randomly outburst and destroy everything.  Unfortunately, Larsen is constantly a target for his rage.  Holm, the scientist, gets tired of their shit and leaves for the nearest town.  

So it's just Larsen and the spiteful dirty man alone in a cabin in a remote winter wonderland.  How about no.

In one of Randbek's ragefests, he accidentally burns down their cabin, so they set off on the dogsled to the nearest town.  Still, they continue fighting.

The final straw comes when Randbek beats up Larsen's favorite sleddog, Jane.  He keeps hitting and hitting her while she helplessly yelps.  Larsen comes out and shoots him.  I didn't really think he would come out and kill him.  I thought eventually they would learn to get along as mature adults and might be friends.  But sometimes assholes are just assholes and I don't feel sorry for a vicious animal abuser.  Larsen blames Randbek's death on the fire and everyone buys his story.  Even his girlfriend finds him more attractive, probably because he was on a dangerous adventure, but only Larsen knows the truth of what happened.

This movie was drama and suspense filled, and Randbek's fiery rage (and the fire itself) was a stark contrast to the beautiful snowy landscape.  I learned that sometimes you can't get along with some people, and you should just shoot them.  Randbek does everything he can to attack Larsen, by putting him down to downright attacking him, and he beats on Jane because he shows her affection.  He is a hateful, cruel being.  I am glad Larsen got away with it even though it will take time to get over it.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Lego Movie (2014)

We watched the Oscars last night, and Azalea stayed up late just to hear the Frozen song, "Let it Go", live.  However, it was cut to 2 minutes and felt rushed and she was very disappointed.  This was the first time I let her stay up to watch the whole show since she watches most films with me.  It appears that White Guilt won best picture this year.  So we decided today we would watch a fun movie.  Today's film is The Lego Movie.

"Everything is awesome" about The Lego Movie.  There are over 3 million unique Lego bricks used in this film.  I didn't how how Azalea would react to this movie since she doesn't know what Legos are.  Part of her sensory issue is that she mouths everything.  She knows not to swallow what she's mouthing but I can't take any risk.  So she's not allowed to play with them until she gets out of this stage. But she loved this movie.  It's funny and family friendly.  All of the pictures are actual set pieces from the film.

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a generic construction worker who lives live by the rules.  He does this so well that he's almost a blank slate that has no personality at all.  He is identified as an extraordinary person and a master builder by the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman).  But he's no master builder, however, he does have some rather unique ideas.  Such as a bunk-couch.  Turns out his ideas aren't as pointless as everyone believes.

This movie was surprisingly good for one based on a toy brand.  Most of these are made only to sell toys, you know, look at the Transformers cartoons.  But this film celebrates what we love about Lego.  Some people like buying the sets and carefully putting the pieces together following the rules.  Some people are true master builders, like the people who built the giant Maleficient.  Most people are like Emmet.  We like to put random pieces together and see what unique pieces we can build.  There is no right or wrong with playing Lego.

This movie has lots of cameos, from superheroes like Batman and Wonder Woman, to the actors who voice them.  There's even Gandalf and Dumbledore, and some Star Wars characters, too.  The only problem is that the movie is almost too fast paced.  So much happens that some parts can be forgettable.  Other than that, this movie was well done.  We will give it a 9/10.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974)

Today's animated feature is Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too.  My co-film critic requested that we review this film.  It features the beloved characters that everyone has grown up with, and they're all introduced in the beginning song.  Each character has their own quirks, and they are also the stuffed animals of Christopher Robin.  There's Eeyore the depressed donkey, Rabbit the high-maintenance gardener rabbit, Piglet the worrisome, well, piglet, Kanga and her son, Roo, Owl, and most importantly, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too.

I think my daughter likes Tigger because he is the most like a three-year-old out of any of the characters.  He's hyper and bounces all the time.  He has enough energy for five people.  My daughter is always bouncing, on the floor, on the couch, on the bed, outside, everywhere.  Especially when I'm trying to relax, she'll take a flying leap and land on me, like Tigger takes a flying leap and lands on Rabbit all the time.  I can see why Rabbit gets fed up with him.

Rabbit gets the brilliant but cruel idea to lead Tigger into the woods and get him lost.  This will somehow make him stop bouncing.  Piglet and Pooh come along with them.  Piglet, Pooh and Rabbit ditch Tigger but instead get themselves lost in the misty forest.  Tigger, who never gets lost, helps lead them home.

Later, Tigger takes Roo boucing through the forest and they bounce all the way up a tree.  Being a feline, Tigger can't get down from the top of the tree. Since there are no firefighters in the Hundred Acre Wood, Christopher Robin and friends come to the rescue.  Tigger swears that he will never bounce again if he is rescued.  When he comes down, he is so happy he wants to bounce, but Rabbit reminds him of his oath.  Eventually Rabbit and everyone realize that they want the happy, bouncy Tigger back.

A lot of Disney animations are based on books, but the Winnie the Pooh movies actually take place in a book.  Tigger even has a conversation with the narrator, who helps him out by tipping the book.  The characters also interact with the letters and words in the book, too.  These movies are short and perfect for young children.  We will give it an 8/10.