Posted by under *mixed, Movies, Technology | Leave a Comment |

I avoided seeing Avatar for a number of reasons (including Angie and my own first hand experiences) but when I realized it would be leaving our local theater last month to make room for Alice in Wonderland, I thought I should give it a shot. I even declined a screening of Hot Tub Time Machine to give it a chance. With the DVD available this Thursday, I’m ready to talk about it.

I like most of James Cameron’s movies. Although I wasn’t crazy about Titanic, I have to give him credit for showing every recorded death from the event on screen. Unfortunately, Titanic has become something bigger than a movie and that turns a lot people off. The same thing happened to Avatar and I know it was part of what kept me (and Angie) away.

I had heard a lot of mixed reactions going in. I even had people telling me “you have to see it in 3D” or “you have to see it on IMAX in 3D,” so we went whole hog and saw it under the optimal conditions leaving no reason to think it wasn’t what it was supposed to be or any question about what it could have been.

Did it live up to the hype? I think that’s impossible after hearing it touted as the greatest achievement in the history of film. Was is good? I think I can say yes. It wasn’t great, it didn’t change my life, but it was decent.

Was it worth $30 for the two of us? That’s debatable. On one hand, we couldn’t see it on that screen in 3D any other way, so for the experience we had to pay that much. On the merits of the film itself, ignoring the technological marvel that it was, it wasn’t worth more than any other movie.

Coming out of the theater, five things stayed with me:

  1. Michelle Rodriguez in no way hurts this movie.
  2. “Papa Dragon” was perfect as a villain. He was vile, completely unredeemable and played masterfully.
  3. The exposition regarding the central conflict was incredibly heavy handed. “The people with the technology come in to an untouched paradise and want to take what’s under the ground and turn it into a parking lot after having destroyed their own world.” I thought it was a little on the nose until I heard the name for what was under the ground.
  4. Unobtainium. Seriously? Why not just call it “Can’t-get-it-ite”?
  5. I could have done without the 3D arrows. The majority of the movie used the 3D technology brilliantly, but they just couldn’t resist poking at the audience’s eyes in the final scenes.

I won’t be buying the DVD. I don’t know that I’d watch the movie again if the opportunity presented itself. I know for certain that I’m not interested in having 3D in my home. A lot of movies are going this route, but the technology’s just not there yet for any of them. Even Alice in Wonderland looked dank and grey through those glasses.


82nd Academy Awards Winners

Posted by under *like, Movies | Leave a Comment |

Over the last few weeks, one of our new writers, Ryan, gave us his thoughts about the nominees for Best Picture (here and here) as well as his predictions for a total of 10 categories at this year’s Oscars.  The show was last night, all the winners have been announced, how did he do?  Ryan managed to hit 9 out of 10 from his prediction list, and got all the big awards.

While anyone could argue that these were easy calls to make, I disagree. Particularly in the case of Best Picture and Best Actress as Avatar and The Hurt Locker had fairly close odds as did Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep at Point-Spreads, Gambling 911, and Sharp Bettor (I guess people really do bet on these things).  I wouldn’t have been able to get nine right, but that’s why we had Ryan contribute his thoughts on the awards. He didn’t even need to see every movie.

I just don’t know why he didn’t throw out a pick for Best Foreign Language Film. Anyone could see ‘El Secreto de Sus Ojos‘ was a sure thing.  Or is it funnier to say ‘The Young Victoria‘ was a shoe-in for Best Costume Design?


Oscar Night in America, week one

Posted by under *mixed, Movies | Join The Discussion |

Over the next three weeks, I will be doing a little bit of an Oscar preview for MLD, posted every Friday.  The Oscars will be televised on March 7 at 8pm on ABC.  I do not know who will be hosting, but I am sure it will be someone hilarious.  This year the Academy decided to change the number of Oscar nominees for Best Picture from five to ten, since every year we have so many great movies.  Each of the ten movies will be discussed at length (I’m sure at too much length for some people’s attention span).  The third week will have Oscar Predictions along with several other movies that will be remembered from 2009.

And to the list:

Everyone loves Avatar. It is beautifully shot, well directed, but too long. Netflix tells me if I like this movie I’d like Aliens (Liked), Alien (Liked), Battle for Terra (Never Saw), and The Fifth Element (Liked). Since I liked three of the four recommendations, it is clear that I probably should like Avatar. The truth is the Alien movies are tightly constructed pieces of sci-fi horror. The Fifth Element is campy sci fi, through and through. They know what they are and executed it well. Avatar, on the other hand, tries to be everything to everybody. It really is just a bloated mess with a lot of shiny objects.

Avatar should win all of the technical achievement Oscars, though it may not deserve it. I always thought Cameron’s underwater documentaries created the 3D tech for Avatar, but this may be overlooked come voting time. It has a shot at Best Director, even if the movie has a weak script. Best Picture: Probably not. You need a great writing. The other action-oriented epics that won Best Picture had better writing. See: Brave Heart, Gladiator. Yes, Gladiator is a better film. Pitch Black is a better film, but that is another discussion for another day.

An Education
I never saw An Education. Hopefully it is great and I will be blown away when it comes around on Lifetime three years from now.  I know nothing about it, so I will relay the synopsis: A girl is in school (high school, I think) and meets an older guy.  They have a relationship of some sort and it may be bad for her.  It sounds like garbage and I will not watch it unless they sneak it into a Saturday marathon of Top Chef.

Netflix tells me that the movies like this are Almost Famous (Liked), Lady Jane (Never saw), Big (Liked), and American Graffiti (Mixed). That can’t be right. I want to refresh this list and try another, but I cant. This movie cannot be as funny as Almost Famous or Big. After reading the description, I’m starting to wonder whether Netflix knows anything about movies.

An Education will not win Best Picture. The lead in this movie is some girl named Carey Mulligan. She has no shot at winning Best Actress. She’s up against Sandra Bullock and her fake blonde hair, Helen Mirren, Gabourney Sibide from Precious, and Meryl Streep. Actually, I hope Carey Mulligan wins after reading the list of nominees. The Best Actress nominees are getting as bad as baseball’s Gold Glove winners: It is the same people every year regardless of how good they are. I’m officially on Team Carey.

Inglourious Basterds
This is the best all around movie of the year. It was a Tarantino film, which means it could be bloated and talky for some people’s tastes. For the first time, though, this QT movie had a well-constructed central plot. The dialogue built character, rather than reinforced a level of “cool” that permeates other QT pictures. It may be his best movie. Not his most influential. Not his most quotable. His best.

It will win Best Supporting Actor, Christoph Waltz. It is a strong contender for Best Picture, along with The Hurt Locker and Avatar. With three strong contenders, this could become one of those Give-Everyone-An-Award Years. Cameron could get Director, Hurt Locker could win Best Picture, and QT would walk away with Original Screenplay and Cinematography. Kathryn Bigelow, from The Hurt Locker, may win Best Director, which would be the first time a woman has ever won the award. The Academy likes first time-things. It shows they are progressive. Anyway, we will see if this ends up being a spread-the-wealth year.

Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
I never will see this movie. Okay. Maybe I will come around to it. It’s about some girl that had a rough life. One of the problems with movies like this one is that they always try to one up each other. In a few years there will be a movie about a person with a more fucked up life than Precious, or whoever the worst-life-ever “it” boy/girl is at the time. That is why I will not watch it. I know I have seen it before, but with a life a notch less crappy.

Mo’Nique should be the only Oscar winner. The rest of the categories appear out of reach. This seems like a movie that may have a Best Song or something. I wouldn’t know. I am not even going to check. This could win Best Song.  I think Mariah Carey is in it.  She has to sing something.  Netflix names similar movies as Milk (Never Saw), A Walk on the Moon (Never Saw, though I probably should… Diane Lane), Quinceanera (What?), and The Kite Runner (Never Saw). All of these movies smell like awards garbage. Precious seems terrible by association.

Up! was great. There really is nothing bad to say about this movie. It is sad at the beginning, it is very funny in the middle, and it is touching at the end. I hate the term “life affirming” because I am only 28 and nothing bad has ever happened to me, but this movie seems like it fits the term.

Up! should not have worked. Talking dogs should have been corny. Quirky colorful birds should have been cheesy. The fat kid should have been annoying. The old cranky guy should have been cliché. None of this should have worked, but it did. It all did. It was great.

Up! should win best Animated Feature. It has no shot at Best Picture, though I would rank it either #2 or #3 behind Inglourious Basterds. If it won, which it wont, then no film should feel slighted.

Go to Oscar Night In America, week two.


Avatar Sneak Preview: ML3D

Posted by under *ambivalent, Movies, Technology | Join The Discussion |

avatarA few months back, Kevin got us in to see a 15 minute preview of the new James Cameron film Avatar.  The event was similar to the Dark Knight preview we saw a few months before that premiere, but I have to say this was disappointing by comparison.

The problem I had with the preview was that none of the five scenes we were shown were in any way complete.  We saw enough to get the idea: the human military has some interest in a strange alien world, they send in operatives who have uploaded their consciousnesses into the bodies of the indigenous people, mayhem ensues.  The main protagonist appears to be a disabled marine who is made able to walk again in this new body and serves as the viewers’ guide to the alien world.  However, without any real context for the scenes, it was hard for me to get into.  The preview for The Dark Knight gave us the full bank heist scene, and I think anyone who saw it was completely on board for what to expect.

The real showcase for this event was the 3D IMAX technology used to produce the film.  It looks gorgeous when things aren’t really moving around, but the action scenes fell apart.  I struggled a bit having prescription glasses under the 3D goggles, but eventually found a configuration that worked.  Although it was amazing to see the way the scratches and imperfections of my lenses were intensified.

It was kind of interesting to see Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) and Sam Worthington (Terminator: Salvation) working with James Cameron given his success directing properties that made them sci-fi stars.  This movie may be great, but I wasn’t convinced enough to buy advance tickets for the December 18th opening as we walked out.

photophoto 2