Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kitten Mittens

Keep in mind, the kittens are already dead for this, rather than killing them. And, it's doing good for the homeless as well. Second paragraph; the first is less useful stuff about what bears think about what humans do after we poop.

And no, I'm not making this up. This is the internet, you know.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fuck You, Penguin

Because cute animals are even better when a blogger calls them on their shit. Go, laugh.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Movies of 2008

Last year I did my list of movies seen during the previous year, and enjoyed going back through my memories and thoughts on them so much that this year I kept careful track of each film watched. But before I get to that, let me go through a few other aspects of the year in movies. First off, we moved in August, although honestly didn't see a huge increase in the number of screens. In Prince George there were six screens in total, so the movies we saw coming through were somewhat limited. Here in Saskatoon, there are two first-run multiplexes, with a total of (I think) 18 screens, a second-run multiplex (directly across the mall from the smaller of the two first-run complexes), and two repertory theatres that show smaller films that don't get picked up by the conglomerates (although one of them only opens on weekends).

So yes, we do get a wider variety of films here, but even so there is still no sign of Milk, Happy-Go-Lucky only lasted for a week (and it was a week I wasn't able to make it), and there are other important movies still hiding their heads. This is very similar to last year, which you'll see as I present my list.

After we moved, we got a 40 inch LCD 1080P TV, a Blu Ray player, and a hi def PVR, all to go with the surround sound system. Blu Ray makes a really big difference: it's astonishing to watch a movie that you know from regular DVD and see how much better it looks in the new format, especially when done right. A shining example is the Blu Ray transfer of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which just pops off the screen. I gave my dad my old DVD copy, but not before seeing the difference for myself. A good place to go to get all the (OCD-influenced, it sometimes seems) scoop on Blu Ray releases is High-Def Digest, which reviews every Blu Ray release for all sorts of aspects, most importantly picture and sound quality. It's a good way to know what releases it makes sense to steer clear of and which ones to seek out.

My Blu Ray collection is still quite small, of course, but prices are slowly coming down. Sitting on my shelf so far are Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood (the colours of this are remarkable, and the extras are fabulous), Baraka (this was a 70mm original, and it shows in sharpness and overall quality. The only problem is that some discs shipped with a flaw, and mine was one. However, the production company has already told me to mail it to them and they'll replace it), Cloverfield, The Dark Knight, Galapagos (a National Geographic hi-def doc), The Golden Compass, Iron Man, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Perfect Storm, Wall-E, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

And now, on to the movies I saw this year. An asterisk means I saw it in the theatre, as opposed to at home. Again, keep in mind that there are movies here considered 2007 product (and one from 2005):

*Juno - Funny and clever and moving, we were pleased that this finally came to the cinema just as 2007 ended. Yeah, you could argue that it's too clever for its own good, but me, I think there's nothing wrong with a clever movie. The dialogue was a pleasure to follow, and the relationships rang true.

*Cloverfield - The best monster movie of the year. It came very close to living up to its hype, close enough to own it. As a matter of fact, we re-watched it today, and Aidan spotted something that we missed in the theatre: at the end, when the tape (or, so they sometimes say, SD card), flips back to the two of them at Coney Island the month before the attack, in the background something falls from the sky and splashes into the ocean, unnoticed by anyone on land. Nice touch.

The Italian - A lovely Russian movie (made there in 05, but brought to us later) about a small boy who is to be adopted by Italians but instead runs away to find his birth mother. Well worth seeking out.

The Kingdom - Worth seeing if only for the opening credit sequence. The movie itself descends into something of a conventional cop thriller, but its location and some of the cast help redeem it.

Kinky Boots - This was the 2005 release, but I had to include it because it was so fun to watch. I'm a sucker for most movies starring Chewitel Edjiofor, more so when he's a cross-dresser.

Offside - Another foreign film, this is an Iranian entry about women dressing as men to sneak into a soccer game. In Iran, women aren't allowed to attend public sporting events. Funny stuff.

The Assassination of Jesse James By That Coward Robert Ford - The most gorgeous cinematography I saw this year. Perhaps it was sometimes a little too wrapped up in its beauty, but still a good movie.

*No Country For Old Men - If not for the fact that this is really a 2007 release, this would have been my movie of the year. The Coen brothers were at their very best here, and yes, I did understand the ending.

Venus - Starring Peter O'Toole, my favourite actor, and he was a wonder to watch. Best love story of the year (and yeah, I know this was another 2007 film).

*The Spiderwick Chronicles - Enjoyable family fair, and a good thriller for all ages as well. Seth Rogen started as a voice actor in Shrek 3, but this is the first one where I noticed him. It's becoming big business for him now.

Gone Baby Gone - Disturbing and tense thriller with a fabulous turn by Casey Affleck, and for my money a better film than Mystic River, which suffered from a ridiculous ending (both are from novels by Dennis Lehane).

The Martian Child - Based on the book by my friend David Gerrold, this was small fare, enjoyable as video fodder, and with an actor (John Cusack) I'm partial to, but they went all Hollywood with some aspects of the film, which doesn't come as a surprise but still spoils things a bit.

Michael Clayton - George Clooney's excellent thriller that showed a rather unconventional face. No pyrotechnics, just tense, thoughtful action.

Beowulf - I'm already biased against this style of animation, which to me is wooden and silly and too reminiscent of the uncanny valley, but when Beowulf was running naked through the long house to first face Grendel, each time something handily got in the way of showing his penis (including his sword), it smacked so much of the first Austin Powers movie that I just had to shut it off. Maybe I missed something, but by that point I didn't care any longer.

Into the Wild - I read this piece when it was first just an article in Outside magazine. Sean Penn directed a fine, sad movie, with some great acting. There are times when you know what is coming will spoil the movie, but this time Penn was so sure-handed that it didn't matter what we knew.

*U2 3D - On Imax, the 3D so effective that I kept wanting to yell at those idiots standing in front of me to sit down. And then I would realize they were a part of the movie. A concert movie that doesn't pretend to be anything else, and therefore it rocks. We saw this on vacation in Vancouver, since neither Imax nor 3D were available in PG.

Bee Movie - Blah. I suppose much of this might be clever for young children, but the whole relationship between the human and the bee just weirded me out.

*Leatherheads - An enjoyable romcom, this would have been more suitable for rental if something better had not been playing in town that day, but we had family visiting and therefore free babysitting. You take it where you can get it.

The Mist - Second best monster movie I saw this year, and with an ending that freaked me out for a week or more. As a matter of fact, just writing about it sets the butterflies off in my stomach.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep - Another enjoyable family movie, but like so many of the others, nothing that set my world on fire.

Charlie Wilson’s War - Good fun watching both Hanks and Roberts play against type. I don[t think I carried away any lasting impressions of this, aside from Philip Seymour Hoffman's wonderfully slimey operative.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - Tim Burton did a fine job giving this his particular vision, and Depp was great. But then again, he always is.

American Gangster - Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, and Ridley Scott. This combination should be enough for a great movie, and it says something that I'm disappointed it's only quite good.

*Iron Man - Second best superhero film of the year. Second best Robert Downey Jr. movie of the year.

*The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - Yuck. Glad to see that Disney has pulled the plug of a third installment. This one was a mess, and the sorry thing is, it didn't have all that much to live up to from the first movie.

*Speed Racer - An unholy hyperkinetic mess that I still very much enjoyed. Worth seeing on the big screen just for the near-epileptic seizures it induced.

Untraceable - I like Diane Lane and pretty much anything she's in is worth watching, at least when she's on the screen, but it says something about this thriller that I had to look it up on IMDB to remind myself what it was about.

*Get Smart - There aren't many things that surprise me seeing movies these days, but the genuine audience applause at the end of this one was a surprise, and a nice one at that. Fun an funny, although not my favourite comedy of the year.

*Wall-E - I won't rank this as the best animated feature of the year, since I've arbitrarily decided that any winner can only be a winner in one category. So, unfortunately, this can only rank as best picture of the year. A silent film at the beginning, coupled with wild ideas about how to present humans, both as live action and as very cartoony, which plays very much against the amazing photorealism in the earlier sequences.

*Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Third best superhero movie of the year. Some great choices in that genre this year.

Rescue Dawn - This one I had tried to see earlier, but events conspired against me. I'm glad I saw it, though. Tremendously moving and sad and exciting, and proof that Christian Bale is one of our best actors today.

*The Dark Night - This one was the best superhero movie of the year, and now ranks second on my all time superheroe movies (after The Incredibles and above Unbreakable). And yes, Heath Ledger was all that and a bag of chips. What a loss, after seeing this and comparing his role to everything else he's done. Interesting to watch this one on Blu Ray, and see the changes in format on the screen as it jumps between the regular film format and the Imax it was filmed in. Watch for that.

*Journey to the Center of the Earth - Typical Brendan Fraser fare, an enjoyable enough ride, but disappointing because we didn't see it in 3D. And I say typical Fraser fare knowing that he's been in movies that are much more, including Gods and Monsters and The Quiet American.

*Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - Holy crap, what a let down. This one qualifies as the biggest disappointment of the year.

*Tropic Thunder - Funniest movie all year. Oh man, did I laugh. This was the best Robert Downey Jr. role of the year.

Be Kind Rewind - Brennan's choice, and not one I would have sought out, but fun enough in its own way, and some of their movie versions were top-notch.

Son of Rambow - My favourite family movie this past year. This one is for movie lovers and people who remember all the fantasies of their childhood.

The Bank Job - Who knew a Jason Statham movie could be both good and intelligent at the same time?

Run Fatboy Run - Not the best movie Simon Pegg has ever made (as if), but still good, light fun. With a brief cameo by Stephen Merchant, which mostly only means something to Extras fans.

*Care of Footpath - This is an odd one. We saw it at the children's film fest here in Saskatoon. It's an Indian movie, directed by the star, who happens to be a young boy. He plays a lower-caste child who wants to go to school and learn like the other, wealthier children. Not a bad story, but a lousy print with poor sound, and the acting was, to put it politely, bizarre, with everyone wagging their heads like Bobbleheads.

*Body of Lies - Another Ridley Scott movie that was good, although not great. That said, Russell Crowe was mesmerizing in how banal he was and yet so utterly nasty.

*City of Ember - Very disappointing, with all sorts of shortcuts being taken, and a near-comatose walk through by Bill Murray.

*Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa - I never saw the first one, but this one was insane and freaking funny. Especially anything with the lemur king (Sasha Baron Cohen, full of incredible non sequiturs) and the penguins (and here I single out the strike negotiations with the chimps, when they ask for maternity benefits. I still laugh thinking about it now).

Kung Fu Panda - Best animated feature of the year, based on criteria mentioned above. I honestly didn't expect much from this, but it was a pleasant surprise through and through.

The Orphanage - This was the scariest movie of the year. Spanish language, produced by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth), it has no gore, no sudden scares, just a quiet, nerve-wracking buildup to an ending that is both incredibly sad and deeply gratifying. As a bonus, I can't remember the name of the game theu play there, but it's similar to what we think of as "Red Light, Green Light." I'll not look at that game in the same light ever again. Chilling.

*Bolt - This one came close to Panda. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who saw it that the hamster stole the show.

Hancock - The second-worst superhero movie of the year. I didn't mind it, but it was deeply flawed and, even for a story built on unlikelihoods, just a little unlikely.

The Incredible Hulk - Worst superhero movie of the year. But yet again, I didn't mind it. That's probably just the comic book geek in me talking, though.

Burn After Reading - The Coen Brothers, taking a radically different path from their last film. Fun and funny and disturbing, but a pretty light snack that doesn't add much to the day.

*Marley and Me - My second favourite family movie of the year. I read the book a couple of years ago, and the movie was quite true to it, with the added benefit that Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston showed us a very real family relationship.

Horton Hears a Who - Certainly better than other recent Dr. Seuss adaptations. No great shakes, but fun and funny enough, with some great voice work.

And that was it. Lots to see this coming year, including, I hope, The Watchmen. Happy 2009, all.


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