Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

The Princess and the Frog: fun movie, great music

January 2nd, 2010 by Reinder

When I was a kid, it was a family tradition to go see a Disney animated feature every Christmas vacation. Yesterday, after 25 years, my parents, Aggie and me restored that tradition, complete with ice cream after the showing. The feature this year was The Princess and the Frog, which Aggie and I were a bit skeptical about when we saw the early trailers, but we both warmed to the idea over the past few months. It just so happened that we wanted to go to the movies and had to pick one that my parents could follow without subtitles, so as with last year's Tales of Despereaux, we picked an all-ages feature. And we loved it. It is not up there with the very best of the Disney features, but it had the strengths of the ones that I remember from when I was growing up, and kept the weaker aspects, such as the sentimentality and the trite moralism, to a minimum. It had fast-paced humour, action and engaging characters. Most of all, it had a very strong villain in Facilier, the Shadow Man.
Overall, the characterisation is done in broad strokes, but those strokes are well-placed: Facilier is thoroughly evil, powerful and scary, but it was clear what he wants (to control New Orleans) and why he wants it (he is in debt to the spirits that gave him his powers and is going for broke). He is also armed with a strong understanding of human nature and the weaknesses of those he manipulates. Plus, he is well-designed for maximum scaryness. Likewise, debutante character Charlotte LaBouff is convincingly portrayed as greedy and spoiled (not to mention dumber than a bag of hammers), yet kind-hearted.

The racial politics of New Orleans in the 1920s are mostly danced around, but they are not avoided entirely. It helps to know a bit about New Orleans, but adult viewers won't have much difficulty filling in the blanks there.

Visually, the movie is a treat, with the stylized dream sequences that look like posters and postcards from the era being especially beautiful. But what lifted the movie to a higher level for me was the music. I immediately recognized Randy Newman's writing style in the first notes of the title sequence (indeed I mistakenly thought it was him singing when it was in fact Dr. John) and knew that the combination of Newman's writing and the setting meant I was in for something special. As in Ragtime nearly 30 years ago, Newman nailed it. At every moment, the music fit the rhythm and pace of the movie, the lyrics expressed the action and the humour in a natural, effective way, and the melodies and arrangements sounded simultaneously like the speaking voices of the character and the writing voice of Randy Newman. I never rated his singer/songwriter work all that highly, but Newman's score made the case for what a great songwriter he is. Indeed, at many times it seemed like the music drove the action and the plot instead of merely accompanying and supporting it. I bought the soundtrack record the next morning, something I almost never do.

As I said, The Princess and the Frog isn't up there with movies like Snow White, but it is a very good movie and a feast for the eyes and ears. Go see it and listen to it. If you're going with a small child, you may want to hold its hand during some of the Facilier scenes, and you WILL want to have ice cream afterwards to cap it off.

Speaking of things that are underrated…

December 28th, 2009 by Reinder

... the Julie sections in Julie and Julia are much better than critics have given them credit for. Granted, Meryl Streep acts the pants off of everyone else, but the sequences set in modern times were actually very cute and engaging.

One movie I want to go see

May 2nd, 2009 by Reinder

I hope Anvil! The Story of Anvil makes it to a theater near me. Documentaries don't always get international releases.

YouTube channel for the movie.

[Adam Cuerden] Hogfather Sketches

December 25th, 2007 by Adam Cuerden

Sketches from our group viewing of Hogfather while I was in Groningen. More under the fold.


[cmkaapjes] Keep your cash in your pocket

February 16th, 2006 by cmkaapjes

The genre of biopics is not one that has given us many memorable titles, at least not many come to mind: Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, Bird seem to be happy exceptions. I always hope a picture will exceed my expectations, but in the case of the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the line this sadly did not happen. Though Johnny Cash's life was interesting enough, the makers of the movie concentrated solely on the lovestory between him and June Carter. The result: a sappy run-of-the-mill love story with a great soundtrack.

Joaquin Phoenix tried hard to mimic Johnny Cash's voice and movements, and though he's not a great actor, succeeded well enough. The screenplay however, lacks in originality and nowhere in the story we get a clear picture of the man Johnny Cash. We only get clues in the form of the death of his brother and his relationship with his father. But American Christian morality is poured over it like a thick nauseating gravy, so that we're never sure about his true feelings. I suspect he hated the man that put him down like that, but honouring ones parents seems to be the prevailing sentiment. June Carter is portrayed as a prom-queen goody-two-shoes, and we get absolutely no idea why she puts up with the pill-popping rock star Cash.
The movie starts out promising with a glimpse of the famous Fulsom-prison show. Then we're treated to the obligatory flash-backs of his youth, the obligatory flash-backs of his early tours with the likes of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. This part of the movie is quite enjoyable though, mainly because of the many musical scenes. These scenes seem to be for name-dropping purposes mainly and do little to speed the story forward. The name dropping reaches its height with Cash's friend Waylon Jennings being featured in two scenes, without the audience once being told who this long-haired guitar-toting guy is, or what his relationship with Johnny is. Cash's friendship with Bob Dylan is also hinted at, but never plays a role anywhere.
When due to his addiction to amphetamines the touring comes to an end, so does whatever momentum the movie had. I was very glad my friend had brought a small bottle of scotch to the theatre. It was the only thing keeping me going through the long and tedious scenes of Reese Whitherspoon (who could do with an extra couple of pounds in my book) getting Cash to give up his addiction. After a grueling half hour of family-oriented scenes he beats his addiction and we get on with the show. Thankfully the soundtrack picks up here to guide us through the last romantic scenes.

I was very surprised to see that rottentomatoes gives it a fresh rating of 83%. Apart from it being about Johnny Cash, and thus having a good soundtrack, it really is a mediocre lovestory at best. No doubt it'll do great at the Oscars...

Curse of the Were-Rabbit

November 4th, 2005 by Reinder

Curse of the Were-Rabbit was hilarious, every bit as good as I expected it to be. Go watch it. What I like about the Wallace and Gromit series in general is that it isn't just funny but very well staged, lit and shot, and this new episode made for the big screen was no exception.
The movie was clearly a subtitler's nightmare. Many puns went untranslated or had very tenuous translations. Luckily the audience picked up on them anyway.
Sidsel was slightly bothered by the showing of a short animated cartoon before the movie: a computer-generated story about penguins getting into trouble during Christmas. I liked both the short itself and the fact that they were showing it before the main feature; I'd love to see that tradition permanently restored, in fact.

And another one in a series of mental notes…

July 27th, 2005 by Reinder

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari is one of many public domain movies on the Internet Archive. Me want, so me will download when on the iBook. So should you. (Via)

Did they even watch the show?

July 19th, 2005 by cmkaapjes

I knew she's not the smartest person in showbizz, but to forget the doors to the General Lee are (supposed to be) welded shut?
Watch the video (beware, errors in Firefox and Opera) here, (and you'll have to watch some commercials first).

Edit: another link to the video thanks StatusNil
For your convenience, I made some screen-shots (behind the cut):


Modern day Robin Hoods, those Warner brothers

July 19th, 2005 by cmkaapjes

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Not long from now the modern day Dukes of Hazard movie will appear in theatres: the gang of modern day Robin Hoods now played by Seann William Scott, Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson, with Willie Nelson and Burt Reynolds as Boss Hogg. With this cast I have very little hope they'll do the series much justice, it seems to become more of a spoof like the Starsky and Hutch movie. In that light I tried to imagine what our heroes would drive these days: (pictures behind the cut)


“I’ve seen it. It’s rubbish”

April 10th, 2005 by Reinder

Planet Magrathea reviews the Hitch Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy movie and piles steaming heaps of hate on it. In the short version, linked here, it looks like a lot of writer MJ Simpson's opprobium is of the "how dare you deviate from the Holy Writ in any way" variety, but the long version of the review, with spoilers, highlights some things that I too would have difficulty with. The final, damning verdict is that

That's the movie we've been waiting 26 years for. And let me tell you, it was not worth the wait, not for this. The whole film is true to neither the letter nor the spirit of Douglas Adams' books and scripts.

I'm really sorry to hear that. (via cmkaapjes who got it from Fark)