Movie Diary

a) Veronica Mars
My wife watched the first season of "Veronica Mars" in college with one of her friends, and then the next year we moved in together and she made me a convert to the great cult show. So when the crowdfunded movie came out, she went with her college friend to see it in the theater, and then she decided it was good enough to watch again and rented it on Amazon Prime to watch at home with me. Being aware of the pitfalls of translating episodic television into a one-off feature, I was really happy with this and thought they did a great job. The fan service aspect of the plotting and the dialogue was undeniable but it worked, and more often than not it really felt like they slipped right back into the old rhythms of the show. In fact, the way it ended really would set up a nice continuation of the series, which really just made me want them to go ahead and find a way to finally do a 4th season.

b) Frozen
My son stayed over at his grandmother's house recently, and when I went to pick him up, they were watching this, so I finally got to catch up on the movie with the funny snowman and the insipid song that had surprised me to somehow become one of the biggest and most profitable pop culture juggernauts in recent memory. And it was pretty good! I'm still a little mystified by its massive popularity, but it's not bad. I wanted to hate on the Josh Gad snowman but it was a really funny character. And as usual I appreciated the presence of Kristen Bell, I always figured she'd be a good voice actor since so much of what made "Veronica Mars" great was her delivery of the dialogue, so it's nice that she got to be in a really big animated film.

c) Monsters University
Now, Monsters, Inc. is a classic both in my personal canon of modern animated movies and in my son's own limited cinematic vocabulary. So I was pretty excited to sit down with him and watch this, which was announced right around the time the original was becoming one of his favorite movies. I like that instead of trying to repeat or revisit the original story, they just did a prequel, set the characters in college, and did a Pixar version of a college movie.

d) The Great Gatsby
I thought Baz Luhrmann's early movies worked with their audacious conceits pretty well, if you were able to buy into the premise, it was generally a fun, impressive ride. This just kinda felt stilted and silly, though. I don't know too much about the movie's relationship to the source material -- I started but never finished the novel as a teenager -- but it definitely felt like the directorial style dominated over the content. I thought the way Moulin Rouge was stuffed with songs written decades after when the story was set was playful and fun, but there's something kind of obnoxiously dumb about setting a roaring '20s party scene to the sound of Kanye West saying "this is something like the holocaust." The nice, thing, though, is that I'll never want to see this movie again and will quickly forget it, which means I can still read the book someday and hopefully not think about the film at all.

e) Byzantium
Sexy vampire movies are a dime a dozen these days, but this one at least had something of a unique premise and idea about how to depict vampires, and Gemma Arterton is, well, a ridiculous babe. Didn't find it super compelling overall but it was a pretty good flick.

f) Oblivion
I was surprised to find out that this was based on a graphic novel, because I'd never seen a movie where the direction seemed so plainly modeled on video games, I figured it had to be a game adaptation. The plot parts and the twist were pretty decent, it just looked kind of silly at times, even for a Tom Cruise sci-fi movie.

g) A Good Day To Die Hard
I had to stay in a hotel room for a few nights for work recently, and the TV in the room was really hard to operate or find anything so this was the movie on the movie channel I finally settled on as a default when I was trying to find something to watch. It took me a while to figure out if it was even a Die Hard movie, since I've never been that big a fan of the franchise and Bruce Willis is in so many other generic action movies. It was alright, though, the villain lady is super hot.

h) Searching For Sugar Man
My mom lent me the DVD of this after really raving about it. I'm surprised I never heard anything about the singer the movie is about, Rodriguez, through any of the music nerd circles I travel in, but I'm glad I didn't, because I got to just watch the story unfold and be surprised. It's really well made, one of those documentaries where they use some inventive visual style to tell a story for which there's not actually much existing footage of the original events. And I kind of liked how even after they solved the mystery of who this obscure American singer-songwriter was, there's still really no sense of how he became hugely popular in South Africa, which is where a lot of the story ends up taking place. Apparently they willfully omitted some stuff about how the guy was also popular in Australia and toured there ages before the South Africans tracked him down, but still, in terms of the narrative of the film it worked for whose perspective they were mostly telling the story from.

i) Ruby Sparks
I wasn't sure I wanted to see some kind of high concept, satirical indie rom com, even if it was taking aim at the whole 'manic pixie dream girl' paradigm, but I was pretty impressed by this movie -- even moreso after finding out after watching it that the lead actress, Zoe Kazan, wrote it. It really ends up being kind of a dark, scathing look at not just certain kinds of movies (movies that Kazan could easily be cast in), but certain kinds of relationships and the way men sometimes treat women. The climactic scene was almost a little over-the-top but I felt like the movie kinda needed that, to fully get away from it being a cute, silly parody of cute, silly movies.

j) 6 Month Rule
This is an indie rom com that pretty much plays by all of the rules of the genre, other than looking a little low budget and not having big name actors. In fact the male lead, who's the least recognizable or polished or likable of any of the actors on the screen, is somewhat unsurprisingly also the director and writer of the movie. It's not bad, though, and the supporting cast is packed with guys like Martin Starr and Dave Foley and John Michael Higgins who have some funny moments, and Patrick J. Adams from "Suits" gets to kinda show off his comedy chops and play a really over-the-top character.

k) Flawless
These days it's hard for me to turn down any opportunity to see a Philip Seymour Hoffman role I hadn't seen before, but in retrospect I could've skipped this one. He does a pretty admirable job of playing a drag queen without embarrassing himself or taking it too far in a bad direction, but there isn't much to the movie and it's pretty poorly directed (by Joel Schumacher, no less).
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