Monday, April 24, 2006

The Chronicles of Narnia

I really enjoyed the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I'm sure it was a bit nostalgic for me because I escaped into this story during a particularly hateful stint at summer camp when I was eight years old. I was drawn into the story with it's magic and battle between good and evil. I found the movie excellent, aside from a couple of technical faults, and can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Tilda Swinton plays the White Witch and she's excellent with her guile and evilness. I have to hand it to the costume design team which dressed her in the most amazing evil queen raiment. During the battle scene, for example, they gave her a collar made from Aslan's shorn mane which provided a chilling effect. What better way to demoralize your opponent - wearing the fur of their leader? It looked sick.

I was really impressed with the CGI and costumes of all the magical creatures. It really worked in the film and was very believeable. I had a tiny problem with the river scene when the kids got soaked. They were on an ice floe yet didn't seem to suffer too much afterwards. "Peter, may I have my coat?" When it's freezing cold I need folks to act it.

The battle scenes were bloodless based on the PG rating. I could go along with that. In a way I was glad they didn't give it too much edge since blood and gore was never a focus of the story. And although the CGI Aslan couldn't compare with the real life White Witch I would have liked to have spent more time hearing from him. The White Witch's strength and power of her magic gave her the authority to lead all those evil beasts. I could have used more than my memory to flesh out Aslan's character. Still, this one is a keeper.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Serenity: Too TV or not TV?

Arrrgh! I don't know how I feel about this movie. Arrrgh! That's pirate in case you didn't recognize it. I'm frustrated because Serenity came highly recommended and I don't feel I watched it correctly because I didn't like it.

Serenity is based on the Joss Whedon-created sci fi series Firefly which I've never watched. I heard that it would stand on it's own so didn't worry about that. I'm still trying to figure out if it can or not. The story begins 500 years in the future with the abduction of a teenage girl who is in the process of being horribly tortured in a lab. She gets sprung by her brother and escapes to a spaceship with a swashbuckling captain and corresponding witty, good looking crew. Adventures ensue while a deep cover government agent pursues the team, trying to get the girl back.

While watching this movie I noticed something after a while. The actors all had strange, slightly irish accents and there was no heavy metal music. Lately when Hollywood tries to reach the teen crowd (my mentality) they employ hard hitting pop tunes that remind me of the flick when I listen to my radio. There was none of that here. There was lilting, celtic sounding music that I typically avoid like the plague. (Hey, I used to live in Boston so I'm no stranger to Irish music - RUN!) I'm not saying it was awful, just unexpected.

If you're a super duper sci fi geek then watch this movie. It had some cool ass-kicking scenes. The boo hoo stuff at the end didn't hold enough water for me, however. I didn't buy the captain's change of heart. Perhaps if I'd seen the show in advance I would have had time to fall in love with him and then not care.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This movie is a colossal inside joke. If you've never read the book(s) your eyes will enjoy the flashy flashy, and you might get a few yuks but it will be *really* difficult to appreciate the full spectrum of Douglas Adams' wackiness. For example, about a third of the way through my better half announced "I don't get it" and set off to bed. He's not a sci-fi geek and so a sci-fi spoof was a reach for him.

The Guide centers around a sad sack British guy named Arthur Dent who is rescued from certain death by a friend he didn't know was an extraterrestrial named Ford Prefect. Ford does so by hitching a ride on a space freighter just seconds before earth is destroyed. (Since everyone has read the book this is not a spoiler, I hope). Arthur, Ford and shipmates Trillian, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Robot begin having adventures in a spaceship named The Heart of Gold.

The Hitchhiker's Guide provides useful tips in the spirit of The Lonely Planet guides - geared towards the worn-heeled traveler using less well-beaten paths. For example, the guide recommends that a towel is an immensely useful item to keep with you while traveling. I admit I had one stuffed in my backpack at all times when I was an exchange student. It makes a nice pillow on a rattling train to Portugal and a nice beach blanket once you get there. But most of the tips are just plain kooky and hysterical.

I knew I would find this movie funny but my laugh out loud moments really surprised me. Mos Def played Ford and he was so straight - just spot on with the humor it killed me. And Sam Rockwell as Zaphod just about put me away. He had the whole Vince Neil rockstar thing going on - bleached blond rock and roll hair, and an "I'm fabulous," groupies welcome, ditzy personality. I cracked up.

Super hardcore Hitchhiker fans were shaking in their boots about this film worried that it would get screwed up. But it did not disappoint and I could see the franchise easily continuing. I hope they keep getting it right.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Murderball: The most badass sport played while seated

I had heard really good things about Murderball but this documentary exceeded my expectations. I thought there might be some boo-hooing from some of the individuals portrayed in this movie but it turned out to be completely devoid of self pity. Murderball was SO good I just have to tell everyone.

The story centers on a segment of the United States Quadriplegic Rugby Team, the game typically called Quad Rugby. If able bodied rugby is considered a rough sport (no helmets, no pads) then you should check out Quad Rugby. Each player is assigned a number of points based on their physical ability and there can be no more than 8 points total on the court at one time. The game is played on a basketball court with players using Mad Max style reinforced wheelchairs. Those things rock!

We learned how the players came to be disabled and their stories were chilling. But instead of making us feel sorry for them we see how these guys continued to find purpose in their lives. The movie also gives us a close look at a newly disabled person, Keith, who was injured a little less than a year prior to the time of the film. But even Keith was stoic, working hard at rehab and showing interest in his future. For example, he asks his doctor about what he should expect when having sex - how will that work? That leads to a eye-popping informative video (serious stuff) on how a quadriplegic male might engage in sexual relations. I needed to fan myself afterwards.

A great part of the story centered on the rivalry between the United States and Canadian teams, specifically between player Mark Zupan and the Canadian Coach Joe Soares. The backstory is that Joe was a player for the U.S., was cut when past his prime, and then burned his bridges. Exchanges between the two teams is colorful and builds excitement for the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. The filmmakers included coverage from the actual Paralympic Games that was so cool looking I plan on catching the games in 2008.

Murderball was so compelling I watched it twice. I even indulged in some of the extras offered on the dvd. One of the deleted scenes "Frogs" showcased Joe's sister's frog collection at her home in Providence, RI. Anyone who has an eccentric relative will find this scene hysterical. For all of it's hard hits I found Murderball's central themes to be strength, teamwork, mental fortitude, love and family. It told a terrific story.