Friday, December 23, 2011

My 5 Christmas Movies/Specials

With the holidays here, naturally, these posts are going to be popping up. A lot of people have a few of the same opinions, but that's not going to stop me. My posts will range from sentimental and nostalgic, to comedies, to action movies (try not to guess those)

5) The Year Without A Santa Clause (1974)
This was one of the first Christmas specials I remember seeing as a kid. I always remember it being very funny, and having a really great story. It still holds up really well today, with great voice-acting headlined by Mickey Rooney, and classic songs from my favorite characters The Miser Brothers. The worst thing about this film is it was featured in "Batman & Robin," in the worst possible way.

4) How The Grinch Stole Christmas (animated-1966)
Another classic, the best parts of this special that I can single out are it's animation and music. Since this was made by Chuck Jones, I sometimes feel like this could fit in seamlessly with his Warner Bros. cartoons. The only exception is a longer run-time and the moral at the end. Through, and through this is a "pen and paper" animated classic, and only a few cartoonists of that era could have translated Dr. Seuss this well.

3) Batman Returns
Among all of Burton's "Batman" (that includes "Batman Forever"[producer]) this is easily my favorite. Does it consistently capture the spirit of the season during it's runtime? No.
Is it the farthest thing from a traditional Christmas movie? It's up there.
Is it a great film? Yes.
"Batman Returns"is a great film because of it's mix of production design and performances. The best live-action Gotham I've seen, outside of Christopher Nolan's movies, is showcased throughout this movie, and it, of course, sets the tone for the entire film. As for the performances, there's still a great chance we will never see a better Catwoman than Michele Pfeiffer, (we'll know for sure this summer) and The Penguin is probably my favorite Danny DeVito performance.

2) Die Hard
First of all, if anyone (most likely women) disagrees with "Die Hard" being a Christmas movie listen to the last week or so of ESPN's "Mike Lupika Show." There's a great debate on the whole thing. Other than that, it's just a top-notch action movie/thriller and there's nothing more I can say about it.

1) The Nightmare Before Christmas
It was really almost anyone's game at this point. Between this, "Elf," and "Bad Santa," I had to make a decision. So, I went with the easiest decision. I love this movie for everything that it is, and because it's one of the few things I have in common with my sister. It has some of the best original songs, stellar performances by the cast (Chris Sanders, Danny Elfman, and Catherine O'Hara), and one of the best original premises for a film (based on a poem from Tim Burton). This film also takes first place because of its impact on stop-motion animation, an art that is still influencing films today.

Honorable Mentions
The Santa Clause (Second one is good, and the third one is terrible)
Love Actually (Part of the ESPN debate, made me more aware of the film)
A Christmas Story (Will finally see this movie in the next two days, when's that marathon?)
A Christmas Carol (I've only seen animated versions, so I disqualified it from the running for now-Although my favorite is the Zemeckis/Carrey one)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The League and Always Sunny In Philadelphia

The FX Network is known for their slogan "FX has the movies." Well, if FX just ran their original shows I'd be happy enough because tonight was great.

Always Sunny's episode "Thunder Gun Express" was all about the gang trying to make the showtime of a new movie called Thunder-Gun. Unfortunately they are caught in a traffic jam and must go their separate ways to get there. Dennis gets left with the car, Charlie and Dee take advantage of Charlie's knowledge of the sewers, Mac attempts use a motorcycle, and Frank steals a tour boat full of tourists.
Each segment is full of great moments, but I'd have to say my favorites were Frank telling tourists about some of the adventures he and the gang have been on (all from past episodes), Charlie's use of "Thunder Gun" as a verb, and the realization that Dennis is absolutely a sick man. I just have to expand on that for another minute. Dennis does have limits (no one under 18), but that's it. He is still clearly a rapist in nearly every sense of the word, except, strangely, the word itself. It's just seems a little too far for comedy sometimes. In the end, the gang, naturally gets screwed. What's surprising is how, and I didn't really catch it until I re-watched the episode. If you're looking for an episode that parodies 24, without actually parodying it, watch "Thunder Gun Express." 8/10

Now, I don't watch The League a lot, but I should. When it's on, I'll keep it on, and I have a firm enough grasp on the characters, definitely better than my grasp of football (outside of The Jets). In this episode, "The Out of Towner," the league decides to attend a cocktail party hosted by Andre, to welcome back one of their friends Chuck, Will Forte, who has recently decided to lead a life of sobriety. Before the day of the party Jenny and Kevin decide to spend the night in to get baked, Ruxin pulls his hamstring, and Taco faces eviction. All of these stories mesh perfectly, and cause a lot of laughs in the process. My favorite moments include Ruxin stealing Andre's prescription pad to get stoned, and then acting as Taco's lawyer to handle his oncoming eviction. The only problem with the episode was I had to watch it twice because there was a lot of details I seemed to have missed the first time around. I think that's due to not watching this show a lot, but I won't be making that mistake again. 9/10

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and The League are on FX at 10:00 and 10:30, respectively, on the east coast.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pulp Fiction

I almost bought Pulp Fiction this week. I have one space left on my shelf, and I'm trying to keep it reserved for 50/50, but it's a tough thing to do. I lucked out though, I found Pulp Fiction on a premium channel. I made sure I wouldn't miss my first real chance to see it, and it was great.

Pulp Fiction follows the stories of several different people over about 2-3 days, and it's about all the unfortunate situations these people find themselves in. Characters are played by an ensemble cast featuring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, and Peter Greene. And everyone here is just fighting to survive in a world full of underworld type activities: fixed fights, drugs, sadism, and lots of killing. Pulp Fiction is told in a, according to my father, "disjointed" fashion. I think it works, he doesn't, but that's just a difference of opinion. The dialogue and cinematography are really where this movie shine.

One of my favorite exchange in the movie is an early one. Travolta and Jackson are making small talk about drugs and television, and it's small stuff I found pretty interesting by itself. Then the dialogue just smoothly transitions into the story, and the other characters. I'm just as interested then as I was a few minutes ago, maybe more, and it's one of those things that carries me through the 150 minutes of the film. The dialogue in this film never disappoints, but it's only being captured because the camera is never in the wrong place.

I remember reading once that one team of writer/directors will storyboard their entire film first, even if it's live-action. I can definitely see Tarantino doing this. Every shot was amazing, every camera technique well used, and it makes the film that much better. This leads to wonderfully shot death scenes, and that's another issue for me. I'm guessing Pulp Fiction pushed the R-Rating at the time of it's release, and I know it pushed my limits as far as tension. I just want to say that you should know what you're getting yourself into and keep children as far away as possible. This movie would scare a kid the same way Freddy Kruger or Jack Nicholson would, and I mean Nicholson in a horror movie or just walking around town because he's a scary guy.

Beyond all that Pulp Fiction seems to be the ultimate blend of a mainstream and cult film, and I can't wait to see it again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Super 8

I've discovered a small revelation tonight. I haven't done anything on the films of this summer. That's amazing to me because this season is like a four month long Christmas thanks to all of the movies I see in theaters every year. The last thing I saw in theaters is Super 8, and it was actually the second time I've seen it. It's still great. 

Super 8 tells the story of a group of young teens making a movie, using an old"Super 8" camera, to compete in a local film festival. While filming, these kids witness a devastating, and amazingly shot, train crash. Less than a day after the crash, weird things start happening in the town (Lillian, Ohio). Dogs are escaping in every direction, cars are being salvaged for parts, and the electricity is going out every once in a while. What unfolds is a mystery until the very end. 

To some viewers, all of this, at times, is just the background to the character-driven story of two of the kids. Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) has recently lost his mother. He, and his father, Deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), are still coping. They have lost any real connection they may have had with each other.   While filming the movie, Joe meets Alice Dainard, who is not so different from himself. The cast is filled out with Alice and Joe's friends and fellow filmmakers. All of these kids are given at least one major moment, but even when they're not doing anything important, they are still enjoyable to watch with the rest of the cast. 

This films viral campaign is dependent on not revealing much more of what happens. The trailers for this film were amazing; they gave away nothing and kept me very interested, months before the movies release. J.J Abrams and Spielberg work great together, and it makes me wish I saw Star Trek, Close Encounters, and other Spielberg films like it. To some, that's the problem. The bare-bones plot of this movie is like E.T, and a lot of people say this movie is too much like it and other Spielberg movies I actually haven't seen. But, I still wouldn't have cared about that, even if I saw the other Spielberg films. This film is just great, it has great acting, directing, writing. It has tension, mystery, suspense, romance, humor, and I would give it 4.5/5 stars. 

Super 8

Friday, March 11, 2011

(500) Days of Summer

  From "When Harry Met Sally..." to "(500) Days of Summer," I seem to be finding the best romantic comedies ("The Breakup" wasn't terrible either, but I don't feel like ever writing about it, it's just a sidenote). Over 20 years between the two movies, and countless terrible movies between them, it shows that the genre isn't dead. Romantic comedies just need two things: the courage to go off formula and good performances.
  "(500) Days of Summer" shows the turbulent relationship between Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) from when they meet until their relationship ends. In case you're wondering, I did not spoil the ending. Most people know, or figure out, going into the film that it ends that way. This hour and a half is all about seeing how it all happens from day one to 500, skipping a few days here and there, and backtracking every once in a while.
  The most interesting aspect of the film is the backtracking and non linear storyline. Almost everyday is labeled before the scene and you can tell if it's going to be a good day or bad day. The movie will shift from a good day (when the movie is very funny) to a bad day (when the movie is still very interesting), and back, as a way to see the relationship deteriorates. The one problem with this is you can lose track of which day you're currently watching. It doesn't cause a lot of problems with the progress of the movie, but it can take you out of it once or twice. That's not the only thing interesting to this film, it loves to utilize a great narrator (Richard McGonagle) and splitscreen to great effect.
  The performances by the cast are phemonenal, and one thing I'm wondering about the filming is did they film the good days and bad days separately? I need to single out Gordon-Levitt. Tom is the major character of the movie. We almost only see his point of view on the ups and downs of the relationship, so I feel he had to bring a little more to each scene. One major member of the supporting cast, that stood out to me, is ChloĆ« Moretz in a pre-"Kick Ass"role. She plays Tom's sister Rachel and seems to be the only person that can get through to him in times of crisis. Marc Webb directed this film amazingly, and I now have some real hope for the new Spider-Man movie.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When Harry Met Sally...

  I had wanted to watch this film for a long time. I've been slowly getting into Billy Crystal films, starting with Monsters Inc., and watched one pretty good Meg Ryan, You've Got Mail. I have watched almost all of the film in pieces on cable, but I finally found the whole thing on Netflix. I'm glad I finally got a chance to watch a romantic-comedy that makes me, as a guy, not want to puke. On the opposite side of that, this is a movie that girls will fall in love with; no gross humor or "unnecessary," to some girls, vulgarity.
  The story starts with these two taking an eighteen hour trip with each other from Chicago to New York City. During the trip they develop initially rocky chemistry by discussing how men and women can't be just friends because sex gets in the way. This is Harry's belief, and my belief, but not Sally's belief. After the trip they go they're separate ways, only to meet up again five years later, and then meet up again another five years later. This third time they become friends, just friends, and this friendship is explored. Between the ten years a lot has happened to both of them, and it becomes a contributing factor to the dynamics of their friendship.
  This film's greatest strength is it's dialogue and performances. Each line is perfectly sentimental, sharp, or sweet when it needs to be, and none of it feels forced or out of place. The other great thing about this film is it's format. While we see Harry and Sally explore their relationship we are treated to video interviews of couples talking about their first meetings and relationships.
  The film is a joint effort from Nora Ephron (writer) and Rob Reiner (director) and they do great work with Crystal, Ryan, and a great supporting cast that includes Carrie Fisher, as Sally's friend Marie, and Bruno Kirby, as Harry's friend Jess.
  I highly recommend this movie to anybody over the age of sixteen. I say that because it's rated "R" for a damn good, funny, reason. Those who know why would agree with me, and those who don't are probably going to be very shocked if they watch this movie with their parents or partner.

When Harry Met Sally... (Collector's Edition)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Gangs of New York

  I was watching "Gangs of New York" with my ex-roommate, and we just finished the almost three hour movie. My roommate told me he has a homework assignment involving the film. He just has to write about his thoughts on it. Well, these are my thoughts.
  This is definitely a different movie for Martin Scorsese. It takes place in the late 19th century. It takes place in the Civil War era. The story basically a man, Amsterdam Vallon (Leo DiCaprio), returns to NYC, after being in an orphanage, to avenge his father's (Liam Neeson) death. Along the way he meets people he was forced to leave behind and learns of what's changed in the city. He joins a gang of immigrants and people trying to stay out of the war and avoid the first U.S draft. The leader of the opposing side is, of course, the man, Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), that killed his father. This man is a "native american" with a deep hatred of immigrants and others who aren't white. His main goal is to rise in power through illegal activity and murder. Rounding out the cast is Cameron Diaz as Vallon's love interest. Her name is Jenny Everdeane, and she is a sneaky pickpocket and volatile woman. This is a different role for Diaz, I've only seen her in things like "The Mask," "The Holiday," and "What Happens in Vegas." She, along with the rest of the cast, give great performances.
  My roommate was writing down his thoughts while he was watching the movie. He picked up on some things I didn't think too hard about. This movie has a lot of different themes associated with it. All of these themes are seen in various small moments, but add to the movie as a whole. "Gangs of New York" keeps people pretty high-strung through the use of knife violence and the anticipation of some slightly gruesome scenes. On-screen knife violence never really agrees with me, it's can just be too much sometimes. It wouldn't seem so overdone after a second viewing, and that's something I would love to check out.  Overall this is great movie and it has a pretty amazing final scene that can only be appreciated after sitting through, enjoying it or not, the whole film.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I don't think I introduced myself.

    My name is Eddie Thomson. I'm 18. I'm a college freshman attending Alfred State College. I'm learning computer animation, and have just started working with high-end software, Maya 2011. Other software I use is Blender 3d, photoshop, and gimp-which is basically free photoshop. I've used other Autodesk software like Inventor and Autocad.
    I plan on not transferring to another school except for a possible grad school. After school I'd like to start working on short films and commercials.
    My favorite sports teams are the Mets, Jets, and Rangers. I can't wait to see the Jets game tonight. I actually do play football, basketball, and baseball. It's all recreational. My favorite tv shows include family guy, simpsons, house, always sunny, and south park. Favorite movies can't be listed, too many to choose. My favorite genres are comedies, animated, and action movies. I also really like mob/gang movies like Godfather, Scarface, Goodfellas, and Public Enemies-although it's been a while since I've seen that one. Least favorite genre is horror.
    I started this blog as a way to make some money, but more importantly I use it to relax. That's all I have to say about myself for now, I'll add more later.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Duck Dodgers In The 24 1/2 Century

One cartoon I remember watching several times when I was little was Chuck Jones' "Duck Dodgers." I hadn't seen it in a while, but I was able to recall several little details when I saw it in class, and again earlier today. For me watching these cartoons again after many years is about remembering those little details-the giant eye in the beginning of the film, the disintegration pistol, navigating to planet "X." The navigation scene has a classic facial expression from Daffy at the end. Those are still all my favorite parts of the cartoon, but I picked up on some new stuff-the story around the voyage to the planet is hilarious nonsense, and I was able to read the ultimatum bullets. Last time I saw them I could only read "OUCH!"(I was really young). At least I was able to respond to Daffy getting his face blown up. Daffy and Porky are a classic team, and they're hard to compare to any other classic Looney Tunes duo, you can't pick Daffy and Bugs because their relationship is too different. Porky is kind of like the "straight man" and Daffy is just crazy. I can't think of a single moment I didn't enjoy watching this, my only problem is it seems to run short.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon

     When a DreamWorks Animation movie makes you feel something it's special. When a DreamWorks Animation movie makes you question which film will win Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes and Oscars it's interesting. When a DreamWorks Animation movie makes you wonder if this is the same studio that has become known for cramming pop culture references and farts into it's movies it's "How to Train Your Dragon."
     How to Train your Dragon is the classic story of the kid who is different from everybody else. That kid is Hiccup, and if you didn't know, that voice is Jay Baruchel's. Hiccup is a small, weak kid who wants to at least fit in with his fellow vikings. He's not seeking extreme popularity, and he KNOWS being accepted for himself is a long shot. His own father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), won't even accept him. However, he figures fitting in would be nice. The way to fit in is to kill a dragon.
     Along comes a "Night Fury," the most dangerous breed of dragon. Hiccup has trapped him and left him defenseless. With a blade in his hand, Hiccup looks into the dragon's eyes and sees a plea for mercy. Hiccup frees the dragon and starts their slow building secret friendship. Hiccup names the dragon Toothless, because he has retractable teeth, and together they are able to change their world for the better.
     The best part of this movie is that it's different from anything else DreamWorks has ever come up with. As I said before, no overly crude humor or cheap laughs. The goal of "How to Train Your Dragon" is a little less about laughs and more about creating "oohs and aahs" among the audience. This is accomplished through the action scenes. This film has some of the best flying sequences scene in any film. The 3D only makes it better, as it is done subtly and isn't overused.
     My only problem with the plot is that Hiccup's story arc and his dad's are familiar and have been done before. The good thing is they've never been done quite like this, so it's just a minor problem.
     Will "How to Train Your Dragon" beat "Toy Story 3" at the Oscars? Hell no, but it is still an amazing movie on par with some of Pixar's other best works and older DreamWorks Animation movies like Antz and Shrek.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Planes,Trains, & Automobiles vs Due Date

     I'm going to come out and say it, "Planes" is better than "Due Date." "Due Date" tries to be a bigger and better version of "Planes" and fails, so instead of having the flight land in a different city there's a ridiculous bomb threat. Instead of one major story point we have multiple plot details that didn't have to be written. These things and more amount to an ending that should've been reached through a faster and easier route.
     The characters are exaggerated to the point where Ethan (Zack Galifianakis) is just the most grating idiot anyone can meet and Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) is a ticking time bomb. They both have their redeeming qualities, but you don't always see them shine through. Instead Peter physically and verbally assaults Ethan, and Ethan seems unintentionally hellbent on ruining Peter's trip. While you will laugh at the movie a lot you'll notice something is missing, even if you've never seen "Planes." If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm talking about the heart of the movie.
     "Planes" has several scenes that won't make you laugh, but will leave you thinking something like,
"What was this movie really about?" "Due Date" doesn't really have that, you go in, have a laugh (a pretty good laugh at times) and get out.
     Both movies are great, one just does the genre (road movie) justice. This is what it boils down to, "Planes" did it first and did it best. Does that make "Due Date" terrible? No, it's a great movie. It's just in second place.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Those Aren't Pillows Edition)       Due Date (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hair Raising Hare (Bugs Bunny)

     Some of the best of Bugs Bunny and Chuck Jones are shown in this film. What I really noticed about Hair Raising Hare is it shows how many different ways an action or emotion can be animated. And if I'm right, it's the directors job to pick out the best way to go for a particular scene. They decide how a scene plays out based on the script, am I right? Bugs goes through several different walkcycles, a take where he goes through several facial expressions of fear (complete with "Yipe!" sign), and several other animation exercises. Bugs has his greatest moments of breaking the fourth wall in this cartoon, my favorite being his response to the "doctor in the house." The monster is very funny, and part of his own set of interesting gags, from being in a suit of armor to "Canned Monster." His single line of dialogue-single word-is hilarious.The two things I didn't like-Bugs is WAY too smart to fall for the mechanical rabbit in the beginning of the cartoon, the second time makes up for it though.  Also that scientist guy is too creepy, if they could have made him kind of funny-just a little-this would be perfect. 

The King's Speech

   I walked into this film with no idea what it was about and no real expectations because of that. I knew it was generating a lot of buzz and great reviews, but I didn't have the faintest idea of what it was about. I just knew I wanted to see a movie that day and I picked "The King's Speech." I walked out of the theater amazed.
     This film is about Prince Albert (Firth), A.K.A Bertie, becoming the king of England during a period of personal and international crisis. Colin Firth gives a marvelous performance in the title role as a man with a severe speech impediment, a stammer, and self-doubt. To help cure the stammer Bertie sees a speech therapist, at his wife's (Helena Bonham-Carter as Queen Elizabeth) insistence. The speech therapist is Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and he changes the lives of The King and the people of England. While all this is happening England is rocked by political controversy and WWII on the horizon. 
     The highlight of "The King's Speech" is the acting. Everyone onscreen gives it their all, each working off a great script by David Seidler and Tom Hooper's direction. Firth and Rush are able to play off of each other perfectly and through that we see the characters develop. Firth himself plays the role extremely well. He never makes the stammer feel fake in any way and he shows how much more there was to Bertie's life, his love of wife and daughters, concern for his brother and country, and grief and resentment toward his father. Rush comes in as a sympathetic friend and, more importantly, equal to his counterpart and plays the role gorgeously If you've only seen her in Tim Burton films and the Harry Potter series then Helena Bonham Carter is almost unrecognizable in appearance and demeanor. She, first of all, does not appear like she's escaped from a prison or asylum. Queen Elizabeth, in this film, is shown mainly as a wife. A very supportive wife who only wants the best for her husband, but isn't always sure what the best thing is when it comes to treatment. 
     I recommend you see this film at least once, I saw it twice (once with a friend). The second time around I was able to pick up certain key moments I missed much more quickly-and became more immersed in the films story.