Category Archives: Movies

So this is what she does in her spare time.

I found a copy of Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan” and played it for BratzBasher.  Being a connoisseur of various fandoms, she immediately thought of Loki from the Avengers movie.  A couple of days later, I caught her putting the following video together and decided I had to share it with y’all.

Please let us know what you think of it.  She just loves feedback.

Should I feel guilty that I enjoyed it?

BratzBasher and I saw The Hunger Games today.  I’ve read the books, so I was prepared to be disappointed by the movie adaptation.  I was pleasantly surprised.  They did a good job of keeping with the spirit of the book.  Yeah, they had to edit out a few things, but they managed to cover all the important stuff.  I’m especially glad they didn’t focus group it to death — you know, when the movie is just a mishmash of things that will supposedly appeal to various markets?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, the country is divided into thirteen sections: the capital and twelve districts.  Ever year, to commemorate the war that resulted in the current government, each of the twelve districts sends two representatives (male and female) between the ages of twelve and eighteen as tributes to the capital.  These tributes compete in a battle to the death until just one victor remains.  Yeah, gruesome.  The victor is promised a life of luxury — plus, in the book, their district receives extra provisions for the year — such as food.  When Katniss Everdeen’s little sister is chosen to be the next female tribute for District 12, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

The difference between the capital and the districts is extreme: wealth vs. poverty, excessive indulgence vs. desperate need.  The capital is the only region that doesn’t offer a tribute.  Instead, the tributes provide entertainment for the citizens of the capital in the form of morbid reality television.  People can “sponsor” tributes by providing them with needed supplies such as food and medicine, so there is a need for the kids to play to the audience to gain the sponsors’ favor.  As Katniss’ mentor –District 12’s only previous victor — says early on in the movie, you need to make the people like you in order to survive.

I read somewhere about the irony of a book that condemns the mentality behind such “entertainment” being made into a movie that’s intended to entertain.  I suppose that’s true to some extent, but I think the message of the book still comes across stronger than the violence. For me, the most memorable scenes are its softest, most human moments.

There’s very little gore, considering how violent the movie had to be.  It’s definitely too violent for younger kids.  If you ask me, the book is just as scary — if not more so.  I knew BratzBasher could handle it.  She’s mature enough to see the big picture, and our discussion afterwards proved me right.  If you’re worried about it, I’d recommend screening it first.

Nothing to say, but why should that stop me?

I realized that I haven’t posted on this blog since Valentine’s Day, so I thought I’d better do it today.  I’ve got nothing to say, though, so I’ll talk about a whole lot little bit of nothing.

BratzBasher is back from Girls Camp.  She had a great time in Nauvoo, although the little house was crowded with young women.  The girls got to do baptisms in the Nauvoo temple.  Merkin drove up at dark:30 in the morning to make it to their 8:00 am session.  I chose to sleep in.  I’m not a morning person.

Merkin and I had a great weekend, but we’re glad BB’s back.  One of the things we did while she was away was go to the $1 theater to see Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.  It was entertaining, but hard to follow at times.  Merkin suspects that some explanatory scenes were cut in the editing process.

For anybody who hasn’t seen it yet — because, let’s face it, who wants to spend the money these days on a movie they’re not sure they’ll even like — Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is once again playing chess (figuratively speaking, though they do involve an actual board at one point) with his archnemesis Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) and dragging now-reluctant sidekick Watson (Jude Law) along for the ride.  Watson would much rather focus on his upcoming wedding plans, but Moriarty puts him and his fiance on the top of the list of people to have killed.  What else can a man do but toss his fiance into the river and chase after the big baddie?  Well, it wasn’t actually Watson who did the tossing.  Did I give too much away?  I think, given Robert Downey Jr.’s tendency to speak rapidly while in British mode, the dialogue would be much easier to follow with closed captioning.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the price of a rental.

Hey! I actually went to see a new movie!

A group of ladies from our ward had a Girls Night Out last night.  We went out to dinner and then saw The Help.  I hadn’t read Kathryn Stockett’s book, although I’ve heard wonderful things about it.  I’ve heard wonderful things about a lot of books, but I can’t read them all right this minute.  I will, however, be reading it now.  I loved the movie, and I’m a very firm believer in the old “the book is way better” argument.  I’ve heard the audiobook is awesome, too, but I want to be able to go back and reread certain passages and whatnot.  You can’t do that easily with an audiobook, but I’ll probably download it through Overdrive eventually.

On the surface, The Help is about Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan’s quest to write a book about her world in Jackson, Mississippi, as seen through the eyes of the help: the black maids who do all the cooking, cleaning, and child raising.  Unlike all of her socialite friends, Skeeter wants more than a rich husband and a nice home.  She stayed in college the whole four years and got her degree.  Now she wants to be a writer  — a serious journalist, or maybe a novelist.  When advised to write about a topic that really means something to her — something that no one else will write, she comes up with the idea of life in Jackson, Mississippi, from the viewpoint of the maids that do all the work.  Assisting her in this endeavor are Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, the first two women with the courage to share their stories.

Aibileen and Minny are the real stars of the show.  Fully aware that their actions are illegal by Mississippi Law, they join the cause for different reasons.  Aibileen is inspired by a sermon at church about courage.  I wish I could remember the exact words, but the preacher talks about courage being more than just enduring.  Courage is standing up and stepping forward.  Minny has recently lost her job for daring to use her boss’ indoor toilet, rather than walk through a hurricane to get to the outdoor one built especially for her use.  Aibileen has a quiet, gentle dignity.  Since the death of her son, she has found her happiness mainly in caring for Mae Mobley, her employer’s two-year-old daughter.  Minny is a no-nonsense mother of five who has trouble keeping her “sass” to herself.

There are enough comical scenes and lines to keep the movie from getting too heavy, but not enough to detract from the overall message of inequality and the hypocrisy that society showed toward the people who played such vital, albeit humble, roles in day-to-day life.  One of my favorite scenes plays the juxtaposition of comical and serious quite well.  (If you don’t want to read this before you see the movie yourself — or read the book, you can skip to the next paragraph, but it isn’t a key scene in the plot.)  Skeeter plays a joke on lead villain Hilly Holbrook by changing a request in the local newsletter from “Please drop off your old coats at the Holbrook home” to “Please drop off your old commodes….”  In the midst of the media frenzy at Hilly’s house, complete with gawkers and reporters snapping photos of all the old toilets spread out around Hilly’s “lawn of the month” sign, little Mae Mobley shows off her new potty training skills to her mother by going in the nearest toilet.  Her mother is appalled and rewards Mae’s efforts with a scolding and spanking.  Poor Mae turns to Aibilene, who comforts her with their daily mantra of “You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important.”

I feel it’s important to point out that not all of the maid’s stories were negative.  One old woman tells of an employer who bought a significant chunk of his neighbor’s farmland just so she could use it as a shortcut to work.  All of the scenes with children show a positive relationship between child and nanny.  It’s obvious that Aibileen loves Mae Mobley and would put up with just about anything in order to remain her caregiver.

Just go see it.  And if you are prone to crying, bring tissues.  There are a few scenes where you’ll need them.  Language warning: mostly for the “terrible, awful thing” and related scenes, but also for Mr. Golden from the newspaper, though we don’t see much of him.

P.S. — I got my driveway back yesterday!

Trust me, son — this hurts me way more than it hurts you.

When the Hannah Montana movie came out (if there was more than one, than it was each time a HM movie came out), Merkin used it to keep BratzBasher in line.  He’d say, “If you won’t behave/clean your room/etc, I will take you to see Hannah Montana.”  I think BB only half believed him, but half-belief was enough to make the threat good.  Knowing Merkin, I’m sure he would’ve followed through if she’d called his bluff.  I thought it was a pretty creative idea, but a coworker (we’ll call him Bob) recently one-upped him.

Bob’s 4th grade son had a full-blown temper tantrum at school.  Reinforcements had to be called in to subdue the boy.  Bob asked Merkin, “What sort of punishment can I inflict on him to convey the seriousness of his transgression without resorting to corporal punishment?”  I think he expected Merkin to say something like: “Dude, I don’t know, but I feel for ya.”  Instead, the response was: “Take him to the Justin Bieber movie.  Point to all the crazy, screaming fangirls and tell him that’s what he looks like when he throws a tantrum.”  Yes, folks, it was the Hannah Montana punishment reborn.

The great thing is that Bob actually did it.  He dragged his son to the movie, and sat through the whole, excruciating performance while his son begged and pleaded with him to take him home.  The boy broke into tears no less than three times.  Now, Bob just has to sing a few bars of a Justin Bieber song, and the kid falls right back in line.  I think that man deserves an award.  (Merkin gets credit for the idea, though.)

Tangled: a pun-free review (except for the poster caption — which isn’t mine)

I know, I know.  I said I was going to review this on Thursday.  Don’t tell me you really believed that.  Yet, here it is, in case you haven’t seen the movie yet — or if you have and just want to read about it to recapture your happy experience.  Or whatever.

Bratzbasher and I celebrated Winter Break with a trip to the full-price movie theater (matinee rates, of course) to see Tangled.  It was worth the extra money.  We laughed hysterically* (although our butts didn’t fall off — or our heads, for that matter).

Even if you’ve never heard of it (in which case, what rock have you been living under?), it’s obvious from the poster that it’s a retelling of Rapunzel.  There were a few key changes of which I approved — despite the cheesiness of “magic hair that glows when I sing.”  Rapunzel is not taken due to a contract with a witch; rather, she is stolen because of the magical properties of her hair (think fountain of youth), which are lost if it is cut.  Rapunzel is also a much stronger figure in this version, wielding a frying pan with so much success that she starts a new trend in combat weaponry.  Gallant hero Flynn is no prince (in fact, he’s a thief on the run from the local authorities), and his coolness factor is eclipsed by Rapunzel’s unexpected superior capabilities.  As usual, there are animal sidekicks — a must for all Disney movies (except for the noted exceptions such as Kung Fu Panda, which features a cast made up entirely of animals and, therefore, renders cute animal sidekicks pointless) — and these are two of the best:

  • Maximus is a horse belonging to the Captain of the Guard (who manages to fall off early on in the movie, leaving Maximus to pursue Flynn alone).  He exhibits behaviors more typical of a bloodhound than a horse: tracking Flynn by scent, snuffling along the ground, growling, and thumping his hind leg when Rapunzel gives him affection.  Maximus is clever, sweet, fierce, and willing to call a temporary truce with Flynn for the duration of their adventure with Rapunzel, though he still doesn’t approve of the rogue.
  • Pascal is, by far, the cutest sidekick Disney has ever come up with.  He’s Rapunzel’s faithful playmate, but he doesn’t really fulfill any purpose other than adorable, comic relief/nonverbal commentary.  His presence is justified by his cuteness, though, don’t you think?

My two favorite scenes are the musical number featuring the thugs in the Snuggly Duckling, wherein each burly and unsavory character shares his secret dream in life, and the moment Flynn realizes the solution to Rapunzel’s cumbersome tresses when he spies four sisters braiding each other’s hair.  The looks on their faces when he asks for their help is priceless.

It may be a musical fairytale, but the cheese factor is fairly low.  We’re already planning a second viewing when it reaches the $1 theater.

*Bratzbasher wants credit for this word.

Isn’t that from Fantasia?

Unbelievable as it may seem, I’ve actually seen a movie that just came out in theaters.

I knew when I saw the first trailer for this movie that I’d want to see it first-run.  I’ve always liked Nicholas Cage (not a fan of this hair, though), and the preview seemed promising.  You won’t see Mickey Mouse in the wizard’s robe and starry cap, but there is a definite nod to the famous scene from Fantasia.

For those of you who don’t already know, the basic premise of the story is this:

Balthazar (Nicholas Cage) is a student of Merlin who has spent the last thousand years searching for his teacher’s successor, the “Prime Merlinian”, and finally finds it in Dave Stuttler (Jay Baruchel) — an intelligent, but socially inept tweener.  After an initial contact that leaves Balthazar trapped in an urn with baddie Horvath(Alfred Molina) and young Dave publicly humiliated in front of the girl of his dreams, you can imagine how reluctant our young hero is to embark upon the great adventure that is magic.  Of course, if Balthazar never got out of the urn, and Dave never became his apprentice, there wouldn’t be much of a movie, would there?  So the two team up ten years later to battle various evil wizards and, ultimately, the supreme baddie Morgana Le Fay in order to prevent the end of the world.

Dave is a great blend of geeky/awkward/charming without drifting into annoying.   His dream girl, Becky, is as two-dimensional as one might expect for a minor, supporting role, but Dave’s attempts at courtship are fun to watch. Horvath’s apprentice, Drake Stone (Toby Kebbell), is hideously ostentatious (but in an entertaining way).  His outfits are a design consultant’s worst nightmare, but he doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time so you aren’t forced to look at them too much.   Cage is sufficiently cool without detracting too much attention from the real star of the show, which is Baruchel — don’t let the poster fool you.  I’m no expert, but the special effects impressed me — particularly Balthazar’s steely, winged friend and the grim hold. Oh, and Morgan Le Fay is played by none other than Borg queen Alice Krige.

I enjoyed it very much.  It’s definitely worth the price of a first-run theater ticket — unlike most movies these days.  I’ll be seeing it again when it hits the dollar theater.