Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Mixing Things Up with Netflix Instant Watch November 4, 2010

Filed under: 1980s,Memories,Movies — Emily @ 3:36 pm
Tags: , , , ,

While we have had access to Netflix Instant Watch for over a year, we didn’t really start using it until this past summer. This week I fell even more in love with it after discovering tons of children’s programs that appeal to Benjamin (namely Dora, Caillou, and his latest craze, The Backyardigans). I’ve also developed an interest in the PBS news program Frontline, since Netflix offers several of its episodes via instant watch. Here’s a run down on the various instant watch titles we’ve been watching over the past few weeks:

  • Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – I had already watched this once, when it was available on Hulu, but it was worth checking out again. It reminds me how talented and funny Neil Patrick Harris is, and how much less interesting the tv landscape is without a Joss Whedon show.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – My biggest complaint about this movie is that it was simply too long. Surely the director/editors could have figured out a way to trim the middle section by a half hour or so. I was fascinated by the first hour (seeing “old man” Benjamin learn to walk/talk/read, etc.), bored by the second (almost to the point that I gave up on the movie), and satisfied by the last 45 minutes (especially the way Benjamin grieved the impending loss of life as he knew it, since he would soon be a child). It’s definitely an unusual story, and I wasn’t sure what it would look like for someone to be born as an old man. They way the story was written made it all make sense. This movie is entertaining because of its concept (a man who is born old and goes through life aging backwards), but it felt like they were trying to make it into a Forrest Gump type of epic. So on that level, it failed – that is, it didn’t feel grandiose enough to me. The acting and writing  weren’t that great either. Still, Brad Pitt’s old man to young man make up was rather convincing, and I was emotionally invested in the story enough that I cried at the end. If you have nearly three hours to spare, this one is worth watching. I had to watch in three or four installments, but I’m glad I finished.
  • Frontline: Digital Nation – For the past couple of years, ever since I joined the Facebook culture, I have been fascinated by this topic of how technology is affecting the way we communicate and interact with one another. So I thoroughly enjoyed this report on just that – how smart phones, Facebook, online gaming, etc. are changing our relationships and daily lives. As a college English teacher, I was interested in the segment about how students are “multitasking” in the classroom – texting, Facebooking, and googling while also taking notes or listening to a lecture. It was interesting that a research study found that these students weren’t as good at multitasking as they thought. Doing so many things at once greatly diminishes their ability to retain information, to concentrate, etc. I also enjoyed the segment about online gaming. It focused on the way that gamers form online communities and friendships, and sometimes evenmeet their future spouse in the game. I do wish the reporters would have investigated how these online relationships affect these individuals’ “real life” relationships. Something just seems wrong about being so absorbed in a fantasy world, even if you are “meeting” the same people there every day. Doing so makes them miss so much of the physical world around them!
  • Teen Wolf – Yup, a classic Michael J. Fox ’80s movie. I’m pretty sure a teenager watching this movie today would think it was awful. I must admit it is pretty bad – maybe “campy” is a better word. But if only for nostalgia’s sake, I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. One of my favorite thing about watching old movies is getting on IMDB and finding out what the actors have done since. In the case of Teen Wolf, most of their careers fizzled out by the end of the ’80s (it was released in ’85 – the same year as The Goonies). Doug Savant of Desperate Housewives had a minor role as one of teen wolf’s basketball teammates, but other than him and Michael J. Fox, no one else has had much success since. It was interesting to learn that Jerry Levine (the wolf’s goofy sidekick Stiles) has gone on to a successful career as a tv director, working on such shows as Life Unexpected, Monk, and Everybody Hates Chris. Who knew that someone who started out car surfing in Teen Wolf would go on to succeed behind the camera?
  • Babies – This documentary was surprisingly fascinating. I expected it to be cute, but it also managed to provide a lot of insight into the similarities and differences of babies in different cultures – all without a single line of narration. A camera crew followed the lives of four babies from birth until they were about one year old. The babies lived in the San Francisco, Tokyo, Mongolia, and Namibia. There was a recurring contrast of the U.S. and Japanese babies’ sterile, perhaps overprotected environment, and the Mongolian and Namibian babies’ less structured, more “anything goes” environment. Of course, you can’t base your view of an entire culture’s way of raising a baby based on one family, but still it was eye opening to see things like the Mongolian mother cleaning her baby’s face with breast milk and the Namibian mother putting mud on her baby’s head.It was strange to see families living so “in the wild” even in our modern world. The Mongolian family seemed to be farmers, and they lived in a one room hut in the middle of their fields. The baby would crawl right out the opened door and hang out with the cattle. One time he was sitting in a basin for a bath, and a goat walked up to the door and started drinking the bath water! The Namibian mother was always shown sitting with other mothers and children, outside, with dust blowing around them and flies buzzing around. She was shown nursing the baby and her older child at the same time, and the atmosphere was very relaxed. They let the babies put rocks in their mouth, crawl around in a stream drinking from shallow water full of sediment, etc. Such a stark contrast to the hippie San Fran parents who were taking their daughter to some kind of New Age music class (“The Earth is our Mother and provides for us all…, or something like that), or the Japanese mother taking her daughter on play dates at the park with all the other moms/babies/strollers/baby wrap. This was a fun movie to watch with Benjamin. He was just as fascinated as I was!
  • The ‘Burbs – This Tom Hanks comedy/horror movie from 1989 is one of my favorites from that decade. I have watched it so many times, and yet I still thoroughly enjoyed it this time. First of all, it is simply funny. Sure, there are some cheesy moments, but the predicaments that these curious/paranoid neighbors find themselves in are very awkward and amusing. Secondly, there’s a lot of truthful commentary here about how things really are in the suburbs. People often wonder about the “Boo Radley” of the neighborhood – the one who doesn’t mow his lawn, take out his trash, ever go anywhere, etc. (Yeah, we have one of those.) It’s fun to see characters in a movie actually do the investigating that most people would never actually do in a real life situation. Tom Hanks has had tons of success as a dramatic actor, but I really prefer his older comedy movies (Big is another of my favorites). And if these reasons aren’t enough to love The ‘Burbs, just remember that it features Corey Feldman and Carrie Fisher, as well as that creepy red-headed kid (Courtney Gains) from the original Children of the Corn! I don’t know how anyone could watch this movie and not like it. Please leave a comment if you disagree with me.

So that sums up what I’ve been watching lately. I have about 40 more titles in my queue, many of them documentaries and episodes of Frontline. But my favorite instant watch titles are those that take me back to my younger days (in addition to the ones listed above I’ve watched Flatliners, Soapdish, and Interview with a Vampire, and have Clash of the Titans, Police Academy, and Clueless in my queue). I hope that Netflix will continue to add new ’80s and ’90s movies to Instant Watch. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will enjoy revisiting them! Let me know what you’ve enjoyed viewing on Instant Watch.

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Spring Movie Roundup May 21, 2010

The tv season is winding down, but since I’m having trouble collecting my thoughts about shows like Lost, 24, and Fringe, I’ll share my thoughts on some movies I’ve watched recently:

  • Rain Man – This Oscar-winning movie from 1988 was fun to watch, as much for the 80s cultural references as for the well developed story. Since I was only ten years old when the movie was released, I’m not sure I had ever watched the whole thing before. It was thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. Dustin Hoffmann won best actor, and the movie also won Oscars for best picture, best director, and best screenplay. Most people these days still associate Tom Cruise with his “crazy phase” from a few years ago, with the sofa leaping on Oprah and whatnot. I don’t have much of an opinion about Cruise as a person, but he has been in a lot of good movies that represent a variety of roles. Some of my favorites include Collateral, Minority Report, and A Few Good Men. In this movie, Cruise and Hoffmann are a great team with good acting chemistry. The 80s cars, clothing, music, billboards, etc. were a nice backdrop to a story that would work well during any time period: self-centered Charlie discovers he has an older, autistic brother – Raymond – and during a cross country journey the two brothers develop an unlikely bond and Charlie’s perspective on the situation changes. If you’ve never seen this movie, I’d definitely recommend it, and it’s also worth a second look.
  • Soapdish – This campy comedy has been on my rewatch list for awhile, since my appreciation for all things Robert Downey, Jr. has increased over the past couple of years. The character Downey plays (a spineless producer for the show) in this soap opera parody isn’t very likable, but the movie is entertaining and represents the flavor of early 90s cinema (it was released in 1991). It features an appropriately histrionic Sally Field and Kevin Kline, a fresh-faced Elisabeth Shue, and a pre-Lois and Clark/Desperate Housewives Teri Hatcher. The convoluted story, which involves a power struggle between soap divas, a love triangle, and a surprise paternity revelation, is understandably ridiculous – as it is a soap opera parody, but the main characters are just likable enough that it also works as a romantic comedy. I watched this through Netflix Instant Watch – if you are home one night with no tv shows to watch, this is a fun way to pass the time.
  • An Education – This movie caught my eye only because author Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay. I always enjoy his books, which include About a Boy and A Long Way Down, so I was curious to see how his knack for creating interesting characters and situations would translate to the big screen. While the movie lacked appealing characters, it definitely presented flawed, complex individuals. The story centers around a 16 year old girl, Jenny, who falls for a much older man, David (he must be in his late 30s). The disturbing thing to me is that her parents actually encourage the relationship. David is a charming guy who sweet talks his way into Jenny and her parents’ lives, and the audience spends most of the movie uncertain about his true intentions/motivations. The title of the movie refers to how this experience affects Jenny’s world: she certainly learns some life lessons, and she also begins to question the goals that had always been straightforward before meeting David – to finish at her prep school, make it into Oxford, and study English. After becoming involved with David, she comes to regard school as boring and leading to a dull future, and regards life with David as exciting and full of possibility. If this movie were set during modern times, it would play out a lot differently (for example, Jenny’s parents would probably have David arrested instead of inviting him over for tea!). But, I can only assume that things were different in 1960s England, which is the time period during which we see Jenny’s story unfold. This is not a feel good movie, but it’s not a complete downer either. It’s worth seeing for the excellent writing and acting, and because it makes you think about the expectations society places on young women when it comes to getting an education and finding someone to marry.
  • The Proposal – I was surprised how much I enjoyed this movie. It’s far from Oscar worthy, but its entertainment value is off the charts. I smiled or laughed just about all the way through it. The story is your typical cliched romantic comedy fluff: New York editor Margaret forces her personal assistant, Andrew, to agree to marry her when she finds out she’s about to be deported to her home country of Canada. The business arrangement soon turns into something more as they take a weekend trip to Alaska together to share the “happy news” with Andrew’s family. Not surprisingly, we learn that Margaret isn’t the evil witch that everyone thinks she is, and she learns that there’s much more to Andrew than she had given him credit for. The real fun in the movie can be attributed to the “fish out of water” aspect of city girl Margaret adapting to life in the Alaskan wilderness, whether she’s dancing with Andrew’s grandmother (scene stealer Betty White) in the woods as a tribute to the gods, trying to prevent a hawk from stealing her cell phone, or enduring special attention during a performance by the local male exotic dancer (Oscar from The Office in an unlikely and hilarious role). But Bullock isn’t the only thing to love about this movie. Everyone was well cast, and I was really charmed by Ryan Reynolds, an actor who I had previously written off as someone who specializes in a brand of silly movies I have no interest in. It turns out that in addition to being quite attractive, he is a pretty good comedic actor. The final thing I’ll say about this movie is that parts of it were filmed on location in Rockport, Massachusetts, where I went on vacation a couple of years ago. It is a quaint, scenic little town close to Boston, and I loved it. I recognized the red barn that is a Rockport landmark, in the scene where Margaret and Andrew climb into a boat to ride to his family’s house. Seeing familiar sites in the movie made me happy. As far as romantic comedies go, this one is a definite winner, and one I could watch several more times before tiring of it.
  • The X-Files: I Want to Believe – As an avid X-Filer, I should have watched this movie in the theater, but I heard so many negative reviews of it that I kept putting it off. It’s not that the movie was bad – it just wasn’t great. For me, it was enough to see Mulder and Scully together again, investigating a string of mysterious disappearances. It was nice to see them years after the events of the series finale, settled into a comfortable domestic existence, with Mulder “hiding out” from the feds and Scully working as a medical doctor. A supposed psychic’s discovery of a human limb buried in a field, and his insistence that he is having visions of a woman’s abduction, leads the FBI to enlist Mulder and Scully to help investigate a case that involves a serial kidnapper, black market organs, and a connection to the psychic network. Many fans of the show were disappointed that Chris Carter didn’t take this opportunity to provide more answers to the show’s many unresolved conspiracy theories and alien investigations, but I was entertained. I agree with a review I read that the movie played out like an extended “episode of the week.” Was the movie as memorable as X-Files: Fight the Future? No. Is it worth watching again? No. But it was comforting to revisit these old “friends,” so I’m glad that I watched it.
  • Where the Wild Things Are – What an odd little movie this was. When the trailers first surfaced on the internet, the buzz among people of my generation was crazy. We grew up reading this book, and now Spike Jonze, the mastermind behind Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, was bringing it to the big screen! When the movie actually hit theaters, the buzz turned into more of a shoulder shrugging, “eh, it was okay” attitude. I even heard some people say it was depressing. There was debate about whether this was a movie intended for kids, or a movie geared toward the 30 somethings who first made the book popular. It seems to be a mix of both. The shenanigans of Max and the “wild things” he meets on the island are very silly at times, but Max’s home life that leads him on his adventure, and his complex emotions about his life and relationships, can only be appreciated by the adult audience. Most kids’ movies don’t delve beneath the surface to explore the reasons that a child is feeling lonely, alienated, or neglected, and this movie did an excellent job of that. However, I think the movie would have been better if Jonze had chosen one specific direction rather than dividing his vision between the two extremes.
  • Up in the Air – I had been looking forward to this George Clooney movie for awhile, and was curious to see if it would live up to all the Oscar hype. It was very good, but not at all what I was expecting it to be. The writing, acting, directing, soundtrack, cinematography were all top notch. The story was clever and kept me completely engaged. My husband and I appreciated the business traveler aspect of the movie, since he travels quite often for work and is familiar with the never ending sequence of airport security checks, hotel key cards, airline/hotel/rental car points, etc. It was the tone of the movie that was a surprise. I was expecting it to be a dry comedy, and it was at times, but there was a persistent theme of loneliness, isolation, and even despair that made it difficult to watch, particularly as it neared its end. I wasn’t sure what to take away from such a movie. It left viewers with no hopeful message, and really no message at all. We weren’t sure what to think about where the main characters ended up. As the credits rolled, I just said “huh” and felt a little gypped. Despite my disappointment with the direction of the plot, there is much to appreciate in this movie, so if you can handle your comedy with some twists, turns, and drama, give it a look.

Next on my movie list are Dear Frankie, my current Netflix rental, and Iron Man 2, a necessity for me to watch since it stars my beloved Robert Downey, Jr. What have you seen lately?

 

Holiday Movie Roundup January 19, 2010

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, I watched several movies – some funny, some exciting, some nostalgic. From Chevy Chase to Robert Downey, Jr., from Christmas miracles to mastermind detectives, I enjoyed all of these movies:

  • Yes ManI enjoyed this Jim Carrey comedy more than I expected to. It had some hilarious moments, particularly those involving John Michael Higgins (Best in Show) as Carrey’s friend who had been transformed by the “Yes” program, and Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) as Carrey’s hopelessly awkward boss. It was also nice to see Bradley Cooper play a nice guy for once (he is also the reason that I will go see The A-Team this summer). The basic premise is that Carl (Carrey) has been living a pointless, lonely life, in which he makes excuses all the time in an effort to not have to do anything or spend time with anyone. After encountering an old co-worker, Nick (Higgins), who has been transformed into a Yes Man, he finds himself learning to leap into new possibilities. The story takes many interesting turns as a result of Carl’s newfound willingness to say “yes.” As with most male-centric comedies these days, there were a few unnecessarily crude moments, but aside from that, my only complaint is the age difference between Carrey and his love interet co-star, Zoey Deschanel. He is 18 years older than she is – practically old enough to be her father! Maybe Carrey was playing someone younger than his real life age of 47, but the age difference just made the pairing seem “off” to me. Despite this flaw with the casting, this is an amusing movie that’s worth renting.
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – I watch this movie every year during the holidays. It is definitely my favorite Christmas movie, and I consider it a classic (as do many children of the 80s). Cousin Eddie’s words of “wisdom,” a pre-Seinfeld Julia Louis-Dreyfuss playing the yuppy next door neighbor, the grandmother reciting the national anthem during the family’s mealtime prayer… What’s not to love? And as crazy and over the top as Clark’s lights display is (the entire house is covered in lights), it seems like these days people really do go to such lengths in an effort to outdo the neighbors. I hope no one ever tries to do a remake of this movie, because it needs to stand alone in all its comic glory.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceI’ve read all the books twice, and have seen all the movies, so it drove me crazy that I had to wait so long to watch this sixth installment in the film series. (We never got around to seeing it in the theater, for various reasons.) Well, it was worth the wait. I thought it was fantastic. The special effects, the adaptation from book to film, the acting… I was especially touched by the deepening friendship between Harry and Hermione, and the beginnings of romance between Ron and Hermione. These relationships worked because of good chemistry between the actors, and a good script for them to work with. I was also impressed by Draco Malfoy’s turmoil over the dark task he was assigned by Voldemort. It’s interesting to see these actors growing up on screen, and for the most part, their acting improves with each film as well. I look forward to the next installment!

Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law were terrific as Holmes and Watson.

  • Sherlock Holmes – Color me impressed by Guy Ritchie. I haven’t always been a fan of his work, but his distinctive directing style worked very well for this fun update on the classic detective. Of course, all the credit can’t go to him. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law were perfectly cast (and looked great!) as Holmes and Watson. It was fun to see a buffer, more rugged Holmes than the traditionally more subdued and proper one. The ending left things open for a sequel – I’ll go see it if it happens.
  • Avatar – We had hoped to see the movie that everyone’s talking about at the IMAX, but when we got there it was sold out. We “settled” for regular old digital 3D, and we weren’t disappointed. While the story didn’t wow me (it’s been called a rip off of Dances with Wolves or Pocahontascheck out this amusing comparison), the special effects and 3D amazed me. The picture was so clear, and the world of Pandora so richly and completely imagined, that I was mesmerized from beginning to end. I especially loved the night scenes, when all the plant life was glowing, and with the 3D effects, I felt like I was right in the middle of it all. This is definitely a movie that should be seen in the theater, and in 3D, to be fully appreciated. While I liked it, I don’t think it deserves the Oscar for Best Picture. Let’s not have another Titanic on our hands, where a movie is given the top honor because of great special effects, while ignoring some pretty big problems with other aspects of it.
  • Daybreakers – I actually just watched this movie last weekend. In case you aren’t familiar with it, it stars Ethan Hawke and is a vampire/science fiction movie. It’s set in the near future, at a time when vampires have become the majority in society. They control the government, they are news anchors, they run corporations; children go to school and the cities come to life during the night, while everyone sleeps during the day. The problem is that with the human race nearly extinct, the vampires are running out of their blood (aka food) supply. Thus begins a race to find a blood substitute, but Ethan Hawke and some other rebels hope to find a cure to restore the human race. The movie was entertaining, and the vision of a world run by vampires was interesting. It was much gorier than I had expected (lots of exploding bodies, spurting blood, flailing limbs, etc.), and the end of the movie was a bit too campy for my taste – not to mention that the plot kind of fell apart. So, if you are interested in the vampire/sci-fi genres, you should check this one out, but perhaps you should add it to your rental list instead of going to the theater.

What movies have you seen recently? Any thoughts on the ones mentioned here?

 

Into the Wild: A Closer Look December 14, 2009

Into the Wild is a movie based on a book based on a true story. Sean Penn directed and wrote the screenplay for the movie, and Jon Krakauer wrote the book based on Christopher McCandless’s experiences. While the movie is well executed (I assume the book is as well), McCandless’s life choices left me feeling disturbed and disappointed, and with a lot of questions to ponder.

A Well-Made Film

  • Cinematography – From the opening shots of McCandless trudging through the snowy terrain of the Alaskan wildnerness and his mother waking up from another nightmare about her missing son, it was clear that this would be a beautiful and emotional movie. The cinematography certainly highlighted the amazing wonders of the natural world, all right here in the United States of America. I was watching the blu ray version, and I enjoyed the breathtaking views of everything from snowy mountains to waving wheat fields to winding river canyons. This aspect of McCandless’s journey – the ultimate, no limits tour of America – was inspiring, but everything he sacrificed to pursue this adventure gave the story a darker tone.
  • Soundtrack – The music enhances the viewer’s experience of the landscapes and McCandless’s rollercoaster of emotions. At Sean Penn’s request, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder took on the soundtrack as a solo project, and the results are fantastic. The songs have a consistently “grunge folk” sound that works very well for this particular story. I may have to add this album to my collection of movie soundtracks.
  • Screenplay/Directing – Sean Penn weaves the tale of this recent college graduate by jumping around in the story, rather than going chronologically. We begin and end in Alaska, which throughout the movie is McCandless’s ultimate destination, and in between we see how his journey began, how his family dealt with his disappearance, and where he went before settling into his “magic” bus in the Alaskan wildnerness. Sean Penn is no stranger to tragic stories – two of the most difficult to watch movies I’ve ever seen were Mystic River and 21 Grams – and he brought a similar tone to this movie. Even though the mood shifts among inspiring, suspenseful, humorous, and dramatic, there is always an underlying tone of loneliness and loss. So, no, this isn’t necessarily an inspiring, feel-good movie, but it is certainly well worth watching.

Before she was Bella, Kristen Stewart played along side Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild.

  • The Acting – The movie features an all-star cast, and all of them did a great job portraying their characters. Emile Hirsch played the idealistic, adventureous Chris McCandless, and he also provided narration, along with Jena Malone, who played his sister. Their parents were played by Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt. Harden was disturbing with her artificial cheerfulness, and Hurt was her abusive husband, who was usually quiet but had a simmering anger and bitterness just beneath the surface. McCandless meets many people on his trek across America, some quirky, some lonely, but all well-meaning. Catherine Keener is great as McCallum’s surrogate mother, Kristen Stewart (before she achieved international fame as Edward’s beloved Bella) plays a teenager who falls in love with him, Vince Vaughn is impressively understated (as opposed to his typical comedic role) as a man who hires McCandless to work on his farm, and Hal Holbrook is memorable as a reclusive old man who develops an unlikely friendship with him. These actors bring the characters to life so well that it was heartbreaking to see McCandless eventually leave all of them behind on his stubborn quest to achieve fulfillment in solitude.

Trudging alone through snowy terrain in the Alaskan wilderness

Christopher McCandless

So now we come to the boy himself, Christopher McCandless – or, as he liked to call himself, Alexander Supertramp. Chris wasn’t the first person to find solace in the wild. Timothy Treadwell, the ill-fated subject of the documentary Grizzly Man also comes to mind, but I am sure there are countless others. What makes McCandless’s story so memorable? For starters, it is the way he started his journey. He wasn’t just taking a summer road trip, one last hurrah before finding a job with the college degree he had just earned. Instead, he was in it for the long haul. He wanted to make a complete break from society, so he gave away his life savings ($24,000!!) to charity, cut up his credit cards and drivers license, abandoned his car, and changed his name. By doing all these things, he made himself virtually invisible. Christopher McCandless no longer existed, and so it would be impossible for his family to find him unless he wanted to be found. In my opinion, McCandless’s decision to erase his identity and go off the map was a selfish and irresponsible one. In trying to understand what he did, I’ve divided his actions into four categories below:

  • Rejecting Family – Shortly after graduating from college, Chris followed through with his plans to leave life as he had known it behind. According to the movie, his main reason for doing this was that he wanted to distance himself from his parents, who had been a negative presence in his life, from their dishonesty with him, to his father’s domestic abuse, to their desire to control his future. Perhaps he wanted nothing to do with the traditional path of an upstanding American citizen, since career and marriage had brought his family so much pain.
    • During the years of his unhappy home life, Chris took comfort in the words of writers like Emerson, Thoreau, and London, and their portraits of nature and solitude seemed like his perfect escape from his family. Maybe he had a right to disappear and do his own thing – after all, he was over 18. But just because it was his right doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do, at least not the way he did it. Why couldn’t he pick up a phone and call his sister? Write them a letter? Send them a postcard? He left with no warning, and thus he, his sister, and his parents were never able to resolve their issues.
    • I’ve heard of people disowning their families and never speaking to them again, which is really sad. But in most cases, these people have other friends who become their family. Everyone needs at least one person to share life’s ups and downs with. Chris had the chance to be “adopted” into new families several times along his journey – the hippie couple, the farmer, the old war veteran… But each time they tried to get close to him, he rejected them in the name of his quest for individual freedom. Just think how his life may have played differently if he had fostered any one of these relationships. Perhaps someone would have joined him on his Alaskan adventure, or at least checked in with him from time to time. Instead, he found himself truly alone, at the time when he most needed someone’s help.
  • Rejecting Society – This is the part of Chris’s plan that I can understand the most. Sometimes it’s nice to feel invisible. He achieved that by changing his name to Alexander Supertramp, giving away all his money, and cutting up his identification. He was basically saying that he had no interest in the American dream of pursuing a successful career, making a lot of money, driving a nice car, getting married, having children, sending his children to college, etc. He had only seen the hardships that come with those choices, and so he rejected them. Even though I can understand him wanting to choose another path, his methods were still selfish. Wasn’t that his parents’ money, set aside for his education? And hadn’t they already paid his way through school? Since he bothered to graduate, he should have either tried out a job, or if nothing else given his parents an explanation for why he didn’t want to. Up until the point he became trapped in the wilderness of Alaska, his journey across America did seem exciting and fulfilling. He had no responsibility except to himself, no schedule to keep, and no limits to what he could do or see. Most people have to save up money and take time off of work to even take a small road trip, but he was able to meet new people, take on river rapids, hike mountains, swim in the ocean, etc.
  • Embracing a Life of Solitude – If Chris had been content to “establish” himself as a nomad, traveling from one place to another, one adventure to another, with some of his new friends, then I would have felt like he had a good thing going on, at least for awhile. He could have traveled with Rainey and Jan, or helped an old man live the last years of his life to the fullest by taking on Ron as his travel buddy. Instead, he left them all behind to live life alone. I can understand wanting to get away from the world for awhile, but he seemed to be in it for the long haul. He spent over 100 days completely alone, with no one to talk to, no physical contact. These are things that keep us healthy and sane! I got stir crazy just watching him go through his days of solitude. I don’t believe that anyone could find true happiness or fulfillment just by experiencing nature and not being attached to society. My guess is he eventually realized that his ideal was just that, an unreachable goal.
  • Experiencing Nature – I love nature. I always notice the full moon or a beautiful sunset, I’ve stood in awe beneath the huge, majestic trees of Muir Woods, and I would love to visit some of the places featured in the documentary Planet Earth. However, I don’t understand why he wanted to experience all these things alone. Chris came to this realization in the movie as he sat alone in his magic bus in Alaska. He had been marveling at the beauty of the mountains and the animals, but he didn’t have anyone to share his joy with. He wrote this simple, sad statement in his journal: “Happiness isn’t real unless it’s shared.” That statement was at odds with what he had believed throughout his journey – that relationships don’t bring satisfaction the way that true freedom does. It seems that Chris forgot to respect the darker side of nature. It’s not all big sky, clear water, and surmountable mountainsides. There’s a reason that humans have built homes, grocery stores, hospitals, and other comforts. You don’t always know what you’re going to get from nature, but you can always count on a warm place to sleep if you have a house, a hot meal to eat if you have a few dollars, and some medical attention when you need it if a doctor is in the area. In the end, Chris needed warmth, food, and medical assistance, but because he had cut himself off from society, he instead faced a grim outlook.

The saddest part of Chris’s story to me is how he was missing some vital information that may have saved him from his fate (I read about this part of his story elsewhere, since it wasn’t included in the movie). After about 90 days in the Alaskan wilderness, he prepared to return to civilization, but when he arrived at a river crossing, he discovered that the river was much wider and stronger than it had been in the spring. Rather than attempt to cross, or to walk along the bank and look for another way over, he simply returned to his bus. If he had had a decent map with him, or if he had walked 1/4 mile up the river, he would have discovered a hand-operated tram that would have easily transported him across the river.

I think that if he had really wanted to return to society and deal with some of the relationships he had formed and broken, he would have found a way across. Since he quickly gave up and turned around, I wonder if he was willing to accept the consequences of what could happen if he stayed in the wilderness alone. Maybe for him, it was all worth it, but to me, it looks like a life wasted. Christopher McCandless’s story is a grim reminder about the importance of maintaining relationships and respecting the power of nature.

 

New Moon: A Review December 13, 2009

I read New Moon a little over a year ago, and my review of the book was not very kind. I ranted about how self-centered and whiny Bella was, how sappy and lovesick Edward was, and how uneventful the book was as a whole. Strange, then, that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie when I saw it in the theater last week. While Twilight’s film adaptation played out like an unintentional comedy, New Moon translated well onto the screen, and had a satisfying blend of drama, suspense, romance, and humor.

Jacob and Edward are both in love with Bella. If I were her, I know which one of them I'd choose.

In case anyone is reading this who isn’t familiar with the story, New Moon is the second book in the Twilight series, and it focuses on Bella’s separation from Edward and subsequent deepening friendship with Jacob. Near the beginning, a freak accident during Bella’s birthday party leads to the Cullens leaving town. Edward convinces Bella that he doesn’t love her and that he’s trying to make a clean break. Edward’s sudden departure sends Bella into a deep depression, and the only time she feels alive is when she gets an adrenaline rush, because at those times she has visions of Edward telling her to stop what she’s doing. Her need to live on the edge is what initially brings her and Jacob together, since she asks him to fix up an old motorbike for her. Over the course of the school year, they become closer, but meanwhile Jacob goes through a life-altering transition of his own. Eventually, Bella’s recklessness sets off a series of events that lead her and Alice to Edward’s rescue in Italy. When the movie ends, Bella is anxious to be turned into a vampire, but finds herself  caught between two guys – Jacob, who wants her to live a “normal” life with him, and Edward, who wants her to marry him.

What I Liked

  • Jacob – I’ve never been a big enough fan of the series to choose a side, but after seeing this movie, I am definitely Team Jacob! He was so easy to like and cheer for, not to mention easy to look at! I wasn’t crazy about the long hair, but once he got it cut, I was a fan. Liking Jacob so much only made me dislike Bella more. This was true in the book, too. I still think that she was way too self-absorbed and selfish, taking advantage of Jacob’s feelings for her. Taylor Lautner did a nice job with this role.
  • Bella’s character development – I may not like Bella, but at least the writers translated her character well enough that we understood why she was acting the way she was. Whether we were seeing her staring blankly out her bedroom window as the months passed by, listening to her terrified screams when she would wake up from nightmares, or watching her cling to Jacob for attention and affirmation of her worth, she was clearly a deeply damaged and troubled young woman.
  • Charlie – In the first movie, Bella’s dad may as well have been Barney Fife. He was a bumbling, goofy deputy. However, in this movie he was portrayed more as a caring father who was only trying to protect his daughter and help her through a hard time. It was nice to see a strong parental presence.
  • Jane – Who knew that Dakota Fanning would be such a convincing, well cast Jane? She was great as the old in years but childlike in appearance vampire who can torture people with her mind. Fanning played the character as quiet but strong, a force to be reckoned with. She was the most interesting of the Volturi. The vampires who sat in their thrones during the proceedings were creepy, but a little too campy to fit the tone of the movie.
  • Bella’s high school friends – In Twilight, Bella’s human friends were mostly just annoying, but this time around I was thoroughly entertained, especially by Mike and Jessica. They provided some needed comic relief during the mostly gloomy proceedings of the movie.
  • The Music – I don’t remember much about the music in Twilight, but the New Moon Sountrack is full of great songs. It features artists like Muse, The Killers, and Death Cab for Cutie. The music helped set the appropriate tone at different moments of the movie. If the Twilight series is an experience, then it makes sense that music would play an important role in helping viewers experience the theatrical version.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Edward – Yep, you read that right. I did not like Edward. To be more specific, I didn’t like Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Edward. It was hard to imagine Bella still choosing Edward over Jacob when the two guys had their confrontation toward the end of the movie. On one side, there was buff, healthy, glowing, passionate Jacob. On the other, there was pale, skin and bones, sour-faced, and solemn Edward. Throughout the movie, sweet Jacob had either a winning smile or an understandable scowl on his face, but in either case it was easy to root for him. When we saw Edward, he mostly just looked constipated. Perhaps that was just bad acting on Robert Pattinson’s part, but it didn’t do anything to make me happy about the Edward and Bella reunion.
  • The Cullens – In their defense, they didn’t have much screen time, or much to do or say when they did appear, but I just wasn’t interested in them at all. In particular, Jasper just looked crazy, with his huge eyes and bird’s nest of hair.
  • Quileute Pack – Just because I liked Jacob doesn’t mean I liked his “brothers.” They didn’t have much screen time, but when they did the acting wasn’t great. Just about the only moment in the movie that got a bad reaction from the crowd was when one of the Quileute guys said “Well, I guess the wolf’s out of the bag.” (Someone in the audience reacted by shouting out an annoyed, “Give me a break…”)

So there you have it. There was more to like than to dislike, and it was a vast improvement over the first movie. As for me being Team Jacob, I know that may change eventually. As one of my friends pointed out, things get weird later on, with Jacob imprinting on Renesmee and such. But for now, I’ll wish for that which will never come to pass – a Bella/Jacob romance. Now it’s up to the writer/director of Eclipse, along with Robert Pattinson, to make me change over to Team Edward.

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Twilight: The Dance Musical? October 30, 2009

No, Twilight is not being made into a Broadway extravaganza – at least not yet. But, if you will humor me for a few minutes, I’d like to propose the all-star So You Think You Can Dance lineup that would fill out the cast of a dance-infused musical version of the Twilight series. The reason I started thinking about this topic is that, as I mentioned in a previous post, season six contestant Nathan Trasoras rivals Edward Cullen’s striking good looks (translation: he’s a pretty boy). However, Nathan is actually a better fit for the role of Jacob. Let’s take a closer look at which Dance contestants would bring the Twilight characters to twirling, leaping, poppin’ and lockin’ life:

Danny, beautiful person and dancer that he is, would play the important role of Edward Cullen.

  • Edward Cullen – Danny Tidwell (season three runner-up) – As one might expect, Edward was the most difficult character for me to cast, since strangely enough, there haven’t been very many staggeringly beautiful guys on SYTYCD. In fact, I ended up going against type and casting non-white dancer Danny. He may not be pale, but he certainly qualifies as beautiful! His quiet, mysterious demeanor and rare smile make him a natural to play introspective, withdrawn Edward. Edward’s habit of running at top speed through the woods and glittering in the sun will translate well into Danny pirouetting around the stage and shining in the spotlight. Glitter away, Danny, glitter away!

Jeanine would be my pick for a dancing Bella.

  • Bella Swan – Jeanine Mason (season five winner) – The first time I saw Jeanine, I saw a resemblance to Kristen Stewart, so it seems perfectly fitting that the season five champion would portray dark-haired, fair-skinned Bella in the Twilight Dance Spectacular. She and Danny would make a fine pair as epic couple Bella and Edward.

Nathan Trasoras would make a terrific Jacob Black.

  • Jacob Black – Nathan Trasoras (season six) Nathan has the darker complexion, intense stare, and youthful charm to portray Jacob Black. He would just need to bulk up some to play werewolf Jacob. I can just see the special costume now, with the wolf represented by a furry jumpsuit and elaborate head dress. Of course, when dancing as Jacob all he would wear is a pair of khaki shorts, since he would want to stay true to the book, in which Jacob wore as little clothing as possible since changing into his wolf form always resulted in the destruction of his clothes and shoes.

Small-statured Sabra would make a great Alice Cullen.

  • Alice Cullen – Sabra Johnson (season three winner) In the books, Alice is described as “pixie like, with short spiky black hair.” Sabra is definitely petite and adorable, and has a positive, contagiously upbeat personality. Since she and Danny worked together during season three, they would have good chemistry as close foster siblings Alice and Edward.
Anya and Pasha

Our favorite ballroom partners, Pasha and Anya, would be perfect in the roles of Carlisle and Esme.

  • Carlisle Cullen – Pasha Kovalev (season three) – I was quite displeased with Carlisle’s clownish appearance in the Twilight movie, so I am thrilled to have this hypothetical chance to redeem that casting (or at least makeup department) error. Pasha is perhaps my favorite SYTYCD contestant ever, and so I had to find a place for him somewhere! Since he is now teaching other contestants choreography, thus in a sense acting as a mentor, what better role for him than that of foster father Carlilse? He brings a kind spirit and maturity to the role.
  • Esme Cullen – Anya Garnis (season three) – Esme is described in the book as having “caramel-colored hair; she also has a heart-shaped face with dimples, and her figure is slender, but rounded and soft.” I think Anya resembles that description enough, plus what better person to play Carlilse’s wife than Pasha’s ballroom dance partner? We know they already have great chemistry, so they are the perfect couple for this role.

Kayla would be convincing as undead beauty Rosalie.

  • Rosalie Hale – Kayla Radomski (season five) – This was another difficult spot to fill, since Rosalie is described as “being the most beautiful person in the world; she is tall, statuesque, and has long, wavy blonde hair.” I decided Kayla was best for the role – she is beautiful, and a bit haughty (just as Rosalie often comes across), and she also has the pale skin that makes it easy to believe her as a vampire.

I'd split up this ballroom couple, making Ryan good-guy Emmett, and Ashleigh vampire villainess Victoria.

  • Emmett Cullen – Ryan Di Lello (season six) – Emmett is described as “being tall, burly, extremely muscular, and, to most humans, the most intimidating of his adoptive siblings. He has slightly curly dark hair and dimpled cheeks.” I couldn’t think of a more fitting contestant for this role than the strongest man to ever join the SYTYCD competition, Ryan. He actually seems more like a lumberjack than a dancer, and so he would bring the necessary strength and stage presence to the role of Emmett.

Travis would win people over as Jasper.

  • Jasper Hale – Travis Wall (season two) – Jasper is described as “tall with honey blond hair, and is muscular but lean” and has the ability to manipulate others’ emotions. Travis sort of fits the physical description, and as a choreographer, he certainly seems to have put the judges and viewers under his spell. His contemporary piece that Jeanine and Jason performed last season even inspired them to kiss at the end! He was a participant in one of the most famous dances in SYTYCD history: Mia Michaels’ bench piece, which was very sweet and heartfelt. Based on his experience on the show, and now as an impressive, emotionally affecting choreographer, he would create a new group of Twilight fans: Team Jasper.

If Mollee danced as Renesmee, she'd have to dye her hair black, but otherwise she'd be set.

  • Renesmee Cullen – Mollee Gray (season six) – Okay, so Mollee doesn’t have “brown curly hair,” like the Renesmee in the book. However, you can’t get much closer to childlike than Mollee when picking from SYTYCD contestants. The judges have repeatedly called Mollee out for dancing like a child. It would definitely be interesting to see her dancing on stage with Jeanine and Danny playing her parents. Strange, indeed.

Kupono dances "evil" very well, and so he would be very suitable for the role of James.

  • James – Kupono Aweau (season five) – James, the merciless tracker who stalked and nearly killed Bella in Twilight, was too campy for my taste in the movie. Kupono can be overdramatic and theatrical, but I think he has the intensity and dedication to make this a memorable role. I immediately thought of him for this part when I remembered his deeply affecting contemporary performance with Kayla from last season, in which he personified addiction, and in the process ruthlessly held her down, preventing her from escaping his grip. That was the most powerful performance of the entire season, and so I know he can be a great villain.
  • Victoria – Ashleigh Di Lello (season six) – Victoria is the “red-haired, cat like” vampire who plots to kill Bella in revenge for Edward killing her lover, James. Ashleigh may not have red hair, but that can easily be solved with a little hair color. She already has the sultry disposition, and quite a bit of attitude (in her performances). The wardrobe department could have fun with her elaborate clothing.

Russell is my pick for vampire Laurent

  • Laurent – Russell Ferguson (season six) – The only good-intentioned member of James’ coven, Laurent is friendly with the Cullens but still has the occasional lapse into drinking human blood.  Russell would bring a serious tone and quiet power to Laurent’s character.

Picture this: Adam in a police uniform, Mary as a minor league baseball player's wife, and Nigel as a tribal elder? Say what?

  • Charlie Swan – Adam Shankman – Ok, I realize that I’m reaching with this one. I’m envisioning the role of Charlie as one of comic relief, and what would be funnier than Adam Shankman dressed in law enforcement duds, playing a clueless, “trying to be cool” dad?
  • Renee Dwyer – Mary Murphy – Again, there was a shortage of bubbly, talkative, middle-aged women to choose from, and so Mary would end up playing Charlie’s ex wife, Bella’s mom.
  • Billy Black – Nigel Lythgoe – In the biggest stretch of all, I chose Nigel to portray Jacob’s Quileute father. It’s almost as bad as John Travolta playing an overweight woman in Hairspray, but if it worked in that movie, then surely Nigel can dye his hair black, wear a fat suit, and mask his British accent.

Say hello to a dancing Mike Newton

  • Mike Newton – Neil Haskell (season three) – As those of you who read my blog during season three already know, I was never a Neil fan, so I am relegating him to this rather thankless role of the “cute, baby-faced boy with carefully spiked pale blond hair.” He can pine away for Jeanine while Danny and Nathan fight over her.

Perhaps Katee and Courtney could recycle these season three costumes while playing Twilight's Angela and Jessica.

  • Jessica Stanley – Courtney Galiano (season four) – I have nothing against Courtney, but her exuberant personality and appearance make her a good fit for the role of a “chatterbox with curly dark hair.”
  • Angela Weber – Katee Shean (season four) – Katee was likely one of the nicest contestants to ever be on the show, or at least she seemed that way, so she is a good fit to play the “tall, shy, quiet, and very kind girl” that Angela is.

So there you have it. I didn’t do a comprehensive list of characters, so feel free to make suggestions about other SYTYCD contestants who would make a good member of the Volturi, one of Jacob’s Quileute friends, etc. Also feel free to challenge my casting decisions. There are so many factors at play, that there is surely more than one dancer who would work well for most of these characters.

As for what the Twilight dance extravaganza would look like, I’m sure there would be a lot of costume changes, elaborate lighting, and variety of dance styles. The early scenes when Edward and Bella are falling for each other would have to rely on contemporary, and the showdown between James and Bella might work well as a paso doble, whereas the baseball scene might translate into a goofy broadway bit. It’s fun to imagine Twilight as a musical, and I am sure that will become a reality one day. Until then, I will have fun imagining my favorite SYTYCD contestants turning this epic vampire tale into a dance sensation…

 

Double Feature: Doubt and District 9 August 16, 2009

What do a movie about a Catholic priest suspected of inappropriate conduct with an altar boy, and one about an alien refugee camp where things spiral out of control, have in common? Not much, except that I watched and thoroughly enjoyed both of them last week. Characters and plot are more important to me than any other elements in a movie, and both of these films scored high in those areas.

Doubt

  • Plot Summary from IMDB: “It’s 1964, St. Nicholas in the Bronx. A charismatic priest, Father Flynn, is trying to upend the schools’ strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the iron-gloved Principal who believes in the power of fear and discipline. The winds of political change are sweeping through the community, and indeed, the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller. But when Sister James, a hopeful innocent, shares with Sister Aloysius her guilt-inducing suspicion that Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald, Sister Aloysius sets off on a personal crusade to unearth the truth and to expunge Flynn from the school. Now, without a shard of proof besides her moral certainty, Sister Aloysius locks into a battle of wills with Father Flynn which threatens to tear apart the community with irrevocable consequence.” The movie was written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, who I was amused to learn also directed Joe Versus the Volcano. That’s quite far removed from this one. Among his other writing credits is the Oscar-winning Moonstruck. The screenplay for Doubt is very strong and captivating, which seems appropriate since it is based on a play.
  • Main Cast
    • Meryl Streep – As always, she does a phenomenal job with her character. She portrays Sister Aloysius as a stern, stone-faced principal, and although she initially comes across as a villain (at least when it comes to the students she rules over with an iron fist), the audience begins to see how much she cares for the children and her fellow nuns. With every word spoken, every threatening stare, and every deliberate step, Streep was Sister Aloysius.
    • Philip Seymour Hoffman – He is always so good, whether playing an eccentric literary figure in Capote or a ruthless criminal mastermind in Mission Impossible III. So it was business as usual when he donned the clerical collar and vestments as Father Flynn. Viewers don’t know whether to despise him or sympathize with him, or how much or how little to trust him. But behind all his smiles and words of wisdom lies a strong-willed individual who is willing to take on the formidable opponent that is Sister Aloysius.
    • Amy Adams – She’s come a long way since playing Tara’s cousin, Beth, on one of the less stellar episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lately, Amy Adams seems to be everywhere, and is definitely still on the rise in Hollywood. Just this month she and Streep reunited for the comedic biography Julie and Julia, but their roles were much more serious in Doubt. Adams’ character, Sister James, is a young, idealistic nun who sees the best in her students and is more interested in nurturing them than in disciplining them. She certainly seems out of her league against Sister Aloysius and a classroom full of kids ready to walk all over her, and out of place living amidst a group of ancient, gray-haired nuns. Despite these odds, she seems perfectly happy and fulfilled with her role as one of the sisters and as a teacher, and it is interesting to see Sister Aloysius take her under her wing and mentor her on the finer points of discipline and faith. On a less rosy note, Sister James finds herself caught in between the dueling Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn, and in addition to not wanting to doubt either one of them, she has a crisis of faith, since she can’t accept that Father Flynn is anything less than a noble priest who genuinely cares for the children and the community.
  • Overall Assessment – Doubt has been dubbed a drama and a mystery, but I would add to that list psychological thriller. It isn’t a thriller in the strictest sense of the word – there are no knife-wielding lunatics, car chases, or explosions. But there may as well have been, because the searing battle between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn got my heart racing, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Everything from the cinematography to the acting to the script came together to create a tense and intense, ever escalating, moral and relational conflict within the walls of St. Nicholas. “Doubt” is, indeed, the key word to this story, and by the end of the movie, everyone, including the viewer, is left unsure of what to believe.

District 9

  • The Plot: One of the reasons I enjoyed this movie so much is that I hardly knew anything going into it. Therefore, I was surprised by each and every turn in the story. This type of movie is best enjoyed if you don’t know what to expect, and so I won’t reveal much of the plot here. Instead, I’ll give you this summary of the basic premise: An extraterrestrial race is forced to live in slum-like conditions in a refugee camp in Johannesburg, South Africa, where, in the 1980s, their ship came to a halt and has remained hovering ever since. The movie chronicles the shaky relationship between the humans and “prawns” (as they are called because they look like giant shrimp), and examines such themes as injustice, greed, loyalty, and other facets of human nature. After starting out like a documentary, the movie settles into the more familiar action thriller territory, but never falls short of being a top notch sci-fi film.
  • The Cast: Over the past few days, amidst tons of buzz about District 9’s opening weekend, I’ve been asking myself, “Why haven’t I heard anything about this movie until now?” It has sci-fi classic written all over it, and it was completely off of my normally excellent pop culture radar. The simple answer? There’s not a single American actor in the cast, much less a well known actor. Typically, movies don’t get a fancy promotional campaign in the U.S. unless there’s a big name attached to the project. The big name here is Peter Jackson, but he doesn’t exactly make the talk show circuit rounds like Brad Pitt or Meryl Streep. The central character, Wikus Van De Merwe, is played by Sharlto Copley. This is Copley’s first acting role (he has some behind the scenes credits to his name), and he did an excellent job of portraying Wikus. If I recognized any of the other actors, I don’t know where from, but my guess is that they were all totally new to me, and to most Americans. But they were all terrific, and the fact that they were unfamiliar to me helped achieve the feeling that this was a documentary about real events, happening to real people.
  • The Visual Style – I’ve heard the term “faux verite” used to describe the visual style of this movie. That refers to the use of handheld cameras, news coverage (complete with scrolling text), and archival footage that, combined, make the movie feel like a documentary uncovering events that spiraled out of control. This style is reminiscent of Cloverfield, which gave a more realistic (therefore more terrifying) spin on creature features. While I enjoyed Cloverfield (see my review here), District 9 is more compelling because it asks a similar question on a larger scale. While Cloverfield asked, “What would happen, and how would people react if a giant creature paved a huge path of destruction through New York City?”, District 9 asks, “If seemingly non-hostile aliens landed on Earth, what would happen and how would the human race react?” District 9 doesn’t provide a final answer to that question, but the tale that it spins is oh so fascinating and surprising.
  • The Blood and Gore – Be forewarned: this movie is rated R for language and violence, yes, but mostly for the sometimes staggering amount of gore. I can’t remember another movie during which I’ve exclaimed “Ew!” “Gross!” “Yuck!” so often. I usually keep my mouth shut during movies in a theater, but I couldn’t help but react to many of the gory moments in this one. Let’s just say that the alien weaponry was mighty powerful, and that wasn’t the only source of the gore.
  • The Buzz – I’m happy to see that District 9 finished the weekend atop the box office, earning an estimated $37 billion, nearly $18 billion more than the next closest new release, The Time Traveler’s Wife. If everyone else loved this movie as much as I did, then positive word of mouth will continue to make this a “little movie that could.” It’s a shame that dreck like Transformers 2 rakes in hundreds of millions at the box office, while an instant classic like this has to prove itself to an unfamiliar audience. Trust me – go see this movie! If you like sci-fi, don’t mind a healthy dose of blood and guts, and just enjoy watching a well made movie of any genre, then you won’t be disappointed. And it is worth the price of admission to see it on the big screen, since like Peter Jackson’s more well known works (King Kong, Lord of the Rings, etc.) there are plenty of sweeping views and overwhelming (in a good way) sound effects – not to mention all the other special effects.

So there you have it. Doubt and District 9. Two very different movies, but both absolutely engrossing and both exhibiting excellent directing, cinematography, acting, and scriptwriting.