Director – Mel Brooks
Cast – Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga
I had always heard of Spaceballs as one of those movies that, while not exactly critically well received, had a great cult fan base. With quotable lines, the trademark Mel Brooks sense of humour, and a shameless willingness to parody, lampoon, and generally mock the great science fiction epics, it is supposedly tailor-made for a nerds love.
Now, I consider myself a nerd. I have seen most, if not all, of the movies referenced in this movie. I like many of Mel Brooks movies. I love Blazing Saddles, and even the musical version of The Producers. Having said all that, I have to say Spaceballs is one of the most distressingly unfunny movies I have ever seen. It has a couple funny bits, I suppose, but nothing on par with the absurdist “Telegram for Mongo!”, or the satire of “Springtime for Hitler”. Heck, it doesn’t even have anything on par with the Blazing Saddles farting scene…
This movie mainly relies on what I call the “Sound-alike Joke”. An example of this dreaded beast is when we see an oozing mass of melted cheese and pepperoni slide into frame and announce himself as “Pizza the Hutt”… or when Lord Dark Helmet says he is a Master of The Schwartz. I suppose we are meant to laugh because Pizza the Hutt sounds like Jabba the Hutt, and The Schwartz like The Force… well, it’s supposed to be funny.
I did find a couple of scenes mildly funny I guess… John Hurt’s chest-burster scene was nice, and there was a fairly well done scene where the bad guys located the good guys by bringing out their own VHS copy of Spaceballs and fast forwarding it to the correct part; and anytime spent riffing on Princess Vespa’s (Leia’s) hair is well spent.
John Candy and Rick Moranis appear, apparently because it’s the 90’s and, well, future archeologists have to be able to date it somehow. Bill Pullman (Paxton? Something like that…) is there as well. Joan Rivers does the voice of Dot Matrix (C-3P0), and this is a blessing; mainly because if you didn’t see her in the credits you might not think of sullying her reputation with this.
Mel Brooks, where have ye gone!? Oh, there you are; walking out on your knees in green face paint and floppy ears, proclaiming yourself to be the great and wise Yogurt…
To put it bluntly I found Spaceballs to be lazy, reliant almost entirely on tired jokes, and it just felt bland and dry. Brooks seems to have lost his energy, his impeccable timing, and apparently his sense of humour. Well, at least we still have The Producers!
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A Single Man REVIEW
Director – Tom Ford
Cast – Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult
Colin Firth stars as George, a man whose long time boyfriend (played admirably by Matthew Goode) dies. He decides to end his life, and sets his mind to the task. The film follows him as he goes about his final day, and it turns out he may not have made up his mind as much as he thought he had.
Of course, Colin Firth’s performance is extraordinary. This is a given, we expect this. The surprising performance here is given by Matthew Goode. His mannerisms are subtle and sweet, and we have no choice but to fall in love with him just as much as George had. This is vital, of course, for us to understand George’s heartbreak. Julianne Moore also appears, as George`s friend and past lover. She is a flighty character, but her flightiness is just a cover for her inner turmoil and pain. She is really a tragic figure, and I think this is actually the first performance I have liked her in.
A Single Man looks great; it is restrained and classy, and a little desaturated. It’s look changes a few times, whether going into flashback, to show the beauty of random moments throughout his last day, or even for random dramatic effect. This movie is certainly beyond reproach in that regard. It’s gorgeous. I suspect this may have something to do with director Tom Ford’s “day-job”, as a fashion designer.
In fact one of the main points of the film is the beauty of everyday life. Throughout his day he has chance encounters with a young girl, a young man who wants to pick him up (or be picked up I suppose), a young student etc. Each time he has one of these beautiful moments the film loses most of its de-saturation. The color floods back into the film momentarily, and we really get a sense of George’s feeling. Now this is a bit unsubtle; I wouldn’t say ham-fisted, but it’s damn close. It happens a few times, as well. Perhaps less would be better in that direction.
Despite that, A Single Man certainly makes its point. One of its little points seems to be that gay relationships are just the same as straight ones, and we definitely get that. It is never even mentioned that George is really gay, they just show him with his boyfriend. It’s simple. It doesn’t turn itself into an “issue movie”; it just gets over it so that we can follow the story. We get right to Firth’s heartbreak, and then on to his process of life re-building. It is a very human story. You don’t have to be either gay or straight to get this movie, it’s something we can all feel.
A Single Man is beautiful, both in emotional content and in its look. The acting is note perfect, and while we may get confused as to a particular or tow now or then, it comes together in a wonderful package. Let’s hope Tom Ford continues this other career. Recommended!
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Harry Potter and the Death Hallows Part 2
Director – David Yates
Cast – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Cirian Hinds, John Hurt, Bonnie Wright, Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, Jason Isaacs, Matthew Lewis, Tom Felton
– followed by fan dejection
Let’s take a moment to review the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the concluding chapter to the series, and as such we can not help but take into account what has come before.
The Potter series was launched in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, depending which side of the pond you are on.) It continued throughout the decade, attracting more amazing actors (the call sheet reads like a role call of important British actors of the last two decades), and increasing critical acclaim. There are precious few other franchises that can boast such great respect, such box office numbers, such a great cast, and such a large fan base. There are no others that can do that with EIGHT movies. There is certainly a case to be made that Harry Potter is the greatest film franchise of its sort. The characters have becoming pop icons, and, more importantly, have grown significantly throughout the series. After a decade of films, with which many of us have grown up, the final movie is upon us…
…which brings us back to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which of course is the grand finale. It is a very good movie, and one that certainly ends the series on a good note. (It is also the best reviewed movie of the series so far according to Rotten Tomatoes.) In fact it might be my favorite of the series as well, although I do enjoy the underplayed and muted quality of the fifth one, The Order of the Phoenix.
Story-wise, Harry Potter and friends have collected and destroyed half of the “Horcruxes”, items into which ultimate bad guy Voldermort has deposited parts of his soul. They narrow their search to Hogwarts Castle, during which Voldermort essentially lays siege to it. While the walls are crumbling down the Order of the Phoenix, the school’s staff, and students try desperately to mount an adequate defense.
People die here, completing the 180 degree turn the series has made since the first, ever-so-innocent Chris Columbus films. Actually, to do it justice I should say people drop left, right, and centre. One of the movie’s biggest successes is how it deals with these deaths. We are not shown most of them dying, but only realize they have fallen when we see a lineup of bodies in a makeshift morgue. This under-dramatizes it all wonderfully, and it packs a greater punch because of that. When we are shown a death it surprises us, coming utterly out of the blue (at least to those of us who haven’t read all of the books.) Again, this packs a great punch.
One thing which I will criticize the movie for (and really any of David Yate’s Potter movies) is its random lack of attention to detail in some places. Seemingly important plot points are sometimes rushed over, and it feels like we are being pushed at top speed through the pre-Hogwarts scenes so that we can see the big battle and big revelations that come from it. In fact the first third of the movie feels like that. One sequence in particular, where our heroes break into the vaults of Gringott’s Bank, feels tacked on, rushed, and absolutely inconsequential. It might fit in better if we view Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 as one move, but still, more needed to be explained. They end up stealing a dragon from the bank (as you do) and riding it to Hogwarts, only to randomly abandon it and jump into a lake. Why they do this is never really explained, though it felt like it was because to arrive at Hogwarts with a dragon would present story problems. (Though who among us wouldn’t want to see a Vodlemort vs. Dragon fight, eh?)
The previous films have taken such good care of the characters that I was surprised that the ending felt so rushed as well. The example that is often quoted is that they didn’t want an ending like Return of the King, which is often criticized by other for having “too many endings”. Personally, I would have wanted more resolution. Instead of the movie ending a couple minutes after the big climax, I wanted to see what happens after in the characters lives (and I don’t mean a short “19 years later” epilogue”.) Maybe we could have been shown a glimpse of Hogwarts School being rebuilt? Of the mourning the characters surely must have to go through, what with so many deaths of important characters? It was all over much too quickly.
However most of the movie hits the nail right on the head, especially when the battle starts (which takes up most of the final two thirds of the movie). In Deathly Hallows Part 1 the action was cut much too quickly and was over too quickly to understand what happened half of the time. Here though it is carried out well, not cut too fast, but not too slowly either. (In fact we even see in a few of the dialogue scenes that director David Yates has figured out how to move his camera for good effect, something which he annoyingly seemed to resist in the last two Potter movies.)
When it comes to standout scenes I of course have to mention the “Snape flashback” scene, which fully explains many secrets about our favorite love-to-hate-him character, and does it to great effect. He really becomes, in hindsight, one of the great tragic figures of the series. Another scene I would mention is the “Resurection Stone” scene, in which Potter asks the ghostly figures of his parents and dead friends to stay with him as he goes off to what is surely certain death. It is probably one of the best scenes in the whole series; it is played with real delicacy and a deft touch.
So, Harry Potter has run its course. It has all ended, as the posters have been teasing us. That seems such a strange thing to write. It must feel for most of us who grew up with Harry and his story that a favorite TV show has been cancelled. I know that’s how it is for me.
And now… we wait for the DVD…
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a great ending to one of the great movie franchises. It is emotionally rich, has very involving action set pieces, and by the end is very satisfying. The cast and crew who have stuck with this series is to be commended; they have created a series that is good in an artisitic sense and in a crowd-pleasing sense. Definitely highly recommended.
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UPCOMING MOVIES – The Hobbit (2012-2013)
The Hobbit is easily one of the most anticipated movies of the next while. The tone of this prequel to The Lord of the Rings is going to be a tough one to nail down, as it is quite honestly a bit sillier than the later book and movie. Fans will be waiting on December 14, 2012, when the first of the two parter will be released (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), followed by The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Information is slowly being released to us, and I’m here to sum up all that we know so far.
Peter Jackson is teasing us with behind-the-scenes videos and the occasional picture, and we do have a complete cast list of course. In fact the movie is about 20% shot. The excitement builds!
Returning cast members include Sir Ian McKellan as Gandalf, Andy Serkis as Gollum, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Elijah Wood as Frodo, Orlando Bloom as Legolas ,and Christopher Lee as Sauruman.
New cast members include Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Smaug, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakensield, Stephen Fry as the Master of Laketown, and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown.
(For the full cast list, head to IMDB.com.)
1. Martin Freeman as Bilbo (below)
2. Sir Ian McKellan as Gandalf (below)
3. Three Dwarves Dori, Ori, and Nori (below)
4. Two Dwarves Oin and Gloin (below)
Peter Jackson has released two behind the scenes videos, available below.
1. Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum, is also the second unit director of the two movies.
3. Robert Kazinsky was originally cast as Fili but had to drop out for personal reasons.
4. The two movies are being shot at 48 frames a second, a first for a major film. To read Peter Jackson‘s explanation, see the article at SlashFilm.com. (You should be checking that site often anyway, it’s a great one.)
5. The Master of Laketown’s “conniving civil servant” Alfrid (a character who I believe is invented for the movie) will be played by Ryan Gage, who originally had a much smaller part but was “promoted” to the larger role.
Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below!
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