matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Black rose)
**** out of *****

This is not your grandmother's ballet movie... It's dark as hell and as twisty as "Inception".

Natalie Portman is awesome as Nina Sayers, an aspiring young ballerina who lives her dream of dancing the Swan Queen in "Swan Lake", only to see that dream turn into a nightmare, when she crosses paths with a dark, sensuous rival who wants her role... Or does she even have a rival?? Swan Lake" is somewhat like "The Scottish Play" of ballet --some dancers have reportedly suffered nervous breakdowns while learning the part of the Swan Queen-- and the things that happen to Nina rip the covers off the depths of the dark places in her soul. Or is it all in her head?? Is her attempt to become both sides of the Swan Queen destroying her from the outside or from within?

The art design is fittingly monochrome, fitting the virginal White Swan and the seductive Black Swan -- a role traditionally danced by the same dancer. The soundtrack is largely a melange of Tchaikovsky's score and an original score that heavily evokes it. My only carp is that some of the sexual content got a bit much for my comfort level: I think a "less is more" approach would have made it more effective. ...but then again, we *are* seeing the inside of the mind of a girl as she confronts the darkness and weirdness she's been avoiding for so long, and even the most innocent can have some unpleasant stuff hidden away.
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Default)
****** out of *****

Yes, I know it's 6 out of 5 stars, bear with me, it's that bloody good.

This was the movie of the summer that everyone was raving about, but I didn't get a chance to see on the big screen, and now I wish I had. Might get the DVD and watch it sometime on our flatscreen downstairs, since there are some visual shots that need a big screen to be appreciated.

It's like the George Clooney version of "Ocean's 11", with hints of every "What is real...?" movie from the past twelve years, from David Cronenberg's "eXistenz" (layers within layers reality), "The Thirteenth Floor" (the hazards of surfing between layers of reality), "Dark City" (bendy urban landscapes), to -- of course -- "The Matrix" (gravity-warping stunts that dovetail into and define the movie's philosophical premise). There's even a little bit of "Blade Runner" in there too.

I wanna see it again. Soon.
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Sky Captain)
***1/2 out of *****

Hokay... I've been on the fence about this one since I'd heard rumors it was based on the concepts that went into "Repo! The Genetic Opera", which allegedly were swiped by some exec at Universal, when Terence "Graverobber" Zudnich and Darren Smith were shopping their concepts around to the big studios (Before Darren Lynn Bousman got on board). But I discovered it was based on a novel "The Repossession Mambo" by Eric Garcia -- which I've read (and which was fascinating, but the main character's personality just irritated me: he was a little too cocky and blunt for my tastes). As far as I can tell... the concept of a future in which there is repossessing artificial organs is a bit of a broad idea; the use of the term "repo-men" in this context is irksome, but I did a little digging and found that it's been used as a slang term for guys who repossess cars. I think the only thing that can be copyrighted here is the execution of said depiction of a future in which artificial organs are being repossessed.

But... but... but... Jude Law is in it (squee!!)! And he humanized the character that he played, making him much more pleasant to hang out with: book!Remy is irritatingly rough around the edges, but while movie!Remy is still rough-natured, he's got a heart (all puns intended) and a soul. His developing a conscience once he's the one with the "artiforg" is all the more convincing and credible, even tragic.

The similarities with "Repo! The Genetic Opera" are interesting, but mostly cosmetic: completely different plot and execution. Plus, the world of "Repo Men" has more in common with that of "Minority Report" than that of RtGO: it's more CrapSacchrine than Crapsack (pristine futuristic monochrome and neon lighting contrasted with burning trashcan squalor, rather than moldering gothicism contrasted with burning trashcans). They do have the similar tongue-in-cheek attitudes toward the guro elements, but... this soon starts to take a backseat as Remy starts to realize what his job really entails.

And... and... and... Jude gets an almost Matrix-like fight scene at the climax, wielding two knives against a bunch of Repo Men, security guards and corporate types (to say nothing of upgrading the weaponry to include a plastic bag, a hack saw, and a ball-peen hammer).

Not sure what to make of the ending, and it irritated me a bit (I like my happy endings to be the real deal, we'll say), hence the three and a half out of five star rating. Also, Jude's son Rafferty gets a cameo role as a younger Remy in a flashback scene.

While I'm at it, I gotta tell a funny story from when I was a kid: I had several medical problems at birth (crossed eyes, and an abdominal hernia that could have killed me), which required several procedures to repair. My folks had no health insurance at the time and so they'd had to pay for my eye operations on the installment plan. Well, we missed a payment, and apparently my mother got panicky over it. To which my dad jokingly replied, "What are they gonna do? Repossess our kid?" Still funny, but there is a side of me that cringes just a bit when I think of it...
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Edward Dalton)
****1/2 out of *****

If you were worried that TwhineliteTwilight had put a stake through the heart of vampire movies, then fear not: this one puts the fangs back into the mouths of the blood-drinkers.

Get ready to root for Team Edward... Edward Dalton, that is... )
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Sin City -Gail and Dwight)
I have to be honest: this movie may not exactly be "Citizen Kane" or "The Godfather", but it's not as bad as some of the critics have made it out to be. It's fun to watch (and is it me, or would Gabriel Macht make an interesting Harry Dresden? He's not exactly tall enough, but he has the look and he looks good in a long billowing coat), the cinematography is cool (even if it looks a little too much like "Sin City" at times), the script is a bit uneven, but the actors manage to make it engaging (Hey, it's got Samuel L. Jackson as the big bad of the piece: he took "Snakes on a Plane" and turned it into something incredible). It managed to capture Will Eisner's at times quirkily bizarre humor. The behind-the-scenes documentary was very interesting: turns out Will Eisner was Frank Miller's mentor, even though they disagreed very widely on a lot of things. I can definitely see that happening: Will Eisner has this innate sense of the good hiding in every human being, even the most crooked and depraved, and Miller has a sense of the dark shadows even the best of us try to hide. I've read comics by both and I have to say, they're almost the yin to each other's yang, flip sides of the same coin.
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Watchmen)
Last night was a bittersweet night in MxO: old friends and old enemies came out of the codestream, and Sieges left the Matrix surrounded by her closest family. I didn't get teary-eyed right away -- mostly because the client software froze at shutdown and I had to use the Task Manager to shut it down -- but I did tear up this morning as I went out to run a few errands, since I knew, at the end of the day, I would not have this world within the world waiting for me.

I picked up a few DVDs to watch over the next few days, to whit: "Hitman" (haven't played the games, but the concept is interesting), "The Spirit" (just read the "Best of 'The Spirit'" collection; I'm aware the movie is a departure from the -- excuse the pun -- spirit of the series, but I hope it'll just be fun to watch anyway) and the long awaited "Watchmen", which I literally just finished watching.

Whoa... WHOA!!! If this movie does not get some Oscar nods, especially for Cinematography and screenplay, as well as a supporting actor nod to the fellow who played Rorschach and/or split the award with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, I am going to be gravely disappointed. They might have changed the climax, but somehow, it worked better than Alan Moore's fake giant squid from outer space; that always threw me off, much as I love the book. I know the purists will yell at me for it, but they're entitled to their opinion as much as I am to mine: I think it improved it immensely and tightened the story up a good deal.
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Hellsing vs Twilight)
Whoa!!! Okay, yeah, I started with the last installment of a trilogy: couldn't find the other two, but I'm working on that. Sure, it's a toushe-backwards way to watch a trilogy, but man, it's one hell of a ride.

I think I figured out where Blade disappears to at the end...

He took out friggin' Dracula, so he's goin' after the Oedipal* Cullens. Okay, yeah, a bit of an anti-climax, but it would damn fun to watch *THAT* vampire undeath-match.

-----------------------
*Yes, this is a literature geek's cheeky censoring of an expletive. Whoever gets it, there's a bowl of Count Chocula waiting for you.
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Alucard with hellhound)
Someone turn the Frog Brothers loose on the damn sparkle-pires, stat. Great movie, great vampire effects, great script with a lot of hysterical lines. No wonder it's such a classic.

"Death by stereo!"

"'Burn rubber' does *NOT* mean 'warp speed'."

"One thing I could never stomach about Santa Clara: All the damn vampires."

Kieffer Sutherland does not need vampire prosthetics to be scary... 0.0
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Neil_Gaiman)
***** out of *****

Though I think I should re-read the book to get myself reacquainted with the original version of the story... However, I like this visualization of Neil's clever, creepy little world(s), and I personally think he and Tim Burton (who did the art design) need to collaborate more often, considering how at times weirdly similar (ie. creepy-funny-clever) their outlooks are.

And ye dragons need their clickys to grow up.

Adopt one today! || Adopt one today! || Adopt one today! || Adopt one today! || Adopt one today!
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Celtic cross)
****1/2 out of *****

And the only deduction I'd give it is because the pace seemed a little too quick, plus I would have liked to have seen more made of Claus von Stauffenberg's devout Catholicism (and the fact that the Church allows for tyrannicide in cases where the death of the tyrant would clearly save more lives). But other than that, this is an impressive film, and a testament to the men of the German military command who put their lives on the line to save their country from itself. I was almost a little concerned that Tom Cruise's star power would overwhelm the role he took on, but he managed to vanish into the character.
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Constantine)
Which I saw at an IMAX theatre with Mark, who's in town this week...

****** out of *****

I Am Impressed. This is one of those rare times when a movie is as good as, if not better than the book it's based on. I like how they improved the pacing of it: we don't actually see the vampires until about a good fifteen to twenty minutes into the movie. which makes their appearance all the more frightening. I know one reviewer described the vamps as being more like zombies, but they reminded me of one of the Greek incarnations of vampires, specifically the vrykolakas (and I *KNOW* I'm not spelling that right).

Will Smith puts a lot more depth into Robert Neville's character; in the book, the character comes off more than a bit too emo for my taste, but the Fresh Prince gives him a spine. I like how they've adjusted the character to make his survival skills and planning a lot more convincing. They even put a human slant on the otherwise barely-human vampires, particularly the lead vampire.

The atmosphere is incredible and the grunging-up of NYC (broken windows, downed signs, fallen Christmas decorations, grass and large weeds growing in the cracks of the pavement on Broadway) is so meticulously rendered, you feel like it really happened. I also liked the intersection between faith and cold reason that was brought in later in the story, which I think is a testament to director Francis Lawrence (who also directed "Constantine"), whom I suspect is Catholic.

I think this movie is best enjoyed in IMAX, but I say this about most movies. Just don't sit on the edge of the theatre if you have Asperger's Syndrome: I think my seat was directly over one of the sub-sub-woofers since every time there was a loud bit (not many in this movie, but there were more than a few in the six minutes preview for the new Batman movie), my seat started to rumble.

*******

Funny comment from Mark, on IMAX screens and the light show they had playing on it before the movie began: "Doesn't it remind you of a big ocean aquarium? Like a big whale or something might go swimming by?"
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Stardust--Lamia)
Just got in from running a couple of errands and seeing one of the three movies I really, really want to see (the other two being "I Am Legend" and "Hitman" [really!]). I bumped into my good friend "Jake the blind guy" on my way into Wal-Mart, and I should have heeded his warning not to go in there: I got stuck in a line to buy the gift cards I was getting for the Giving Tree at St. Francis.

Also priced the fabric we need for the Jane Austen gown we're having made for my Christmas present.

And now, what you've been waiting for...
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Autumn_Road)
Which I saw last night with my folks. Wow. WOW! ****** out of ***** (Yeah, I know that's six out of five stars, but it's that good!) The costuming, the music, the acting. Anne Hathaway simply *WAS* Jane Austen: she excellently captured our girl's poise and spunkiness. I could listen to her read Jane's writing for hours: she's really matured as an actress and a presenter of the written word. She's really learned how to bring the written word to life and make it bloom for the ear.

I never knew that Jane Austen had such a tragic romance, and in some ways, I see in it a dim reflection or at least a paralell of my own botched engagement. So, in seeing this film, I think it's helped me to heal even more, especially in light of how messed-up I was earlier this summer. Can't wait for this to come out on DVD, so I can watch it and Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence" when I hit another bump in the road like the last one.
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Neil_Gaiman)
My good buddy Mark was finally able to get his car to behave and he's out here for a week. I probably won't see him again till December, but we had a good, long visit, the high point of which was seeing the movie we've both been wanting to see, namely, the film version of Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess's "Stardust". I give it six stars out of five: incredible visuals, great editing, beautiful art design, wonderful adaptation of the story, wonderful acting (Claire Danes as Yvaine the star utterly *sparkles*, while Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia the witch is deliciously nasty; unfortunately, I didn't get the name of the lovely young fellow played Tristan Thorne, but he's utterly delightful. And Robert DeNiro as the not-so-dread pirate Captain Shakespeare almost steals the show), just an all around *GREAT* film.

We spent the rest of the evening chatting about stories we're working on (Mark told me about a series that blends sci-fi, fantasy and fairy tales he's working on, and I told him about "An Issue of Blood") and watching vids online.
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Alucard)
*** out of *****

In the history of bad sci-fi movie scripts, this one is atrocious. I could barely follow the story or the logic to it when I usually have little trouble with strange logic, so I pretty much sat back and watched the action pyrotechnics. Whoa! The helicopter-motorcycle chase, the library fight scene, and the climatic flaming sword fight were worth the cost of rental alone. Also on the plus side, Mila Jovovich managed to make the terrible dialouge they gave her engaging and even a bit convincing: she'd definately pass the "phonebook test". Good movie if your head is in a mess and you just need some fun eyecandy to watch to get your mind off your troubles for a bit.

Also have watched the first episode of the "Hellsing" OVA and I found a fansub of episodes 2 and 3 (though the fansubs were not as much fun. No Crispin Freeman as the voice of Alucard. :: Pouts:: )
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Sin City -Gail and Dwight)
***1/2 out of *****

Wasn't quite as good as I hoped it would be, though I still enjoyed it for the most part: I just wish the screenwriter and the director had chosen to stick closer to the book (which I utterly loved reading) and gone for less of a "burning trashcan" dystopia angle. But the two central actors, Clive Owen as Theo and Claire-Hope Ashitay as Kee, were excellent and believeable, plus Michael Caine as Jasper the hippie philosopher was an unexpected delight. As itself, it's a gripping movie that holds your attention and catches your emotions and it doesn't bury the message of hope, despite the fact that the last twenty minutes basically amount to a war movie.

Spoilerish )
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code ("Welcome to my Life")
****1/2 out of *****

Very edgy and paranoiac, disturbing without making your skin crawl, and the graphic novel-like effect created by the rotoscope animation only adds to the off-kilter feeling. I'll have to read the novel it was based on to decide how good an adaptation it was, but that's something I've been meaning to do (I discovered Philip K. Dick wrote it in 1977, the year I was born, which gives it some personal significance). It's a little bit of a challenge to follow, but that's the nature of the beast. We can also add this to the growing list of lower-tech, social science fiction movies that have started to make the genre more accessible to people who normally don't watch or even think much about science fiction. And the acting was so natural, you often forget you're watching a sci-fi movie: I particularly liked Robert Downey jr as the imperceptively malevolent know-it-all Barris and Woody Harrelson as the slightly hyperactive Luckman (who reminded me of my crazy friend Mark, at least in terms of personality and energy). Keanu Reeves as Officer Fred/Bob Arctor counterpoints these guys' scene-chewing antics very well: he may not be Laurence Olivier, but his ability as an understated actor brings balance to the film. I think if they'd cast someone who emoted more strongly, it would have unbalanced the film, plus, it would undercut the poignancy of Fred/Arctor's predicament and his descent into a self-created oblivion... or an oblivion that has been foisted on him...
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Aeon Flux)
As of this morning, my buddy Mark headed back to Ohio to a summer conference at the University of Steubenville, where he's been attending college. He came over Tuesday night, and we went out to see M. Night Shyamalan(sp???)'s "Lady in the Water", which I'd been wanting to see. Possibly spoilerish review behind the cut )

I'd given Mark a couple of G.K. Chesterton books I had that I realised I had duplicates of (I've been reorganizing my bookshelves lately), but by some fluke, he forgot to take them with him. So, he stopped by last night to pick them up and say one last goodbye.

And tonight, I'm going to a going-away party for one of the gals at work, since she's moving to Georgia in a few days. Lots of comings and goings...
matrixrefugee: the word 'refugee' in electric green with a background of green matrix code (Sandman quote)
***** out of *****

Utterly delightful to watch! It may be clearly a low-budget film (part of it being culled from home movies taken by Mark Bittner, the main *human* focus of the film, who co-authored the book it was based on), but it's clearly a labor of love, following the antics of a flock of cherry-headed conures that naturalized themselves among the native wildlife of San Francisco's Telegraph Hill. Bittner, a local eccentric who had come to the city as a young man hoping to follow his dream to be a musician, describes himself as having "a lot of time on his hands" in between the odd jobs he runs to support himself... but this "time on his hands" gave him the unique oppurtunity to notice a flock of parrots that had taken up residence in amongst the sparrows and scrub jays roosting in the neighborhood. The more he watched them and the more the birds grew accustomed to his being around them, the more he noticed each bird had a distinctive personality. He started naming them -- most notable in the flock are "Mingus", a clown who loves to dance when Bittner sings; "Connor", a cuddly curmudgeon who looks out for the younger members of the flock; and the delightful couple he called "Picasso and Sophie" -- and even looking out for the little rascals. Of course, some otherwise well-intentioned environmental "experts" have wanted to see the birds relocated, lest they become a threat to the local wildlife, but as the film shows, even though the parrots have successfully adapted to the climate and are even breeding, they share the same struggles to survive as the local birds do.

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