Have you ever taken a movie-themed vacation? (Friday Question Fun)

Click here to see all Friday Question Fun entries

This week, my Friday question is a bit special and I’ll explain that a bit more later.

Have you ever taken a movie-themed vacation?

Where would you want to travel for a movie-themed vacation?

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Decalogue VII (11/17/12)

Movie Two Hundred Sixty Four

The Decalogue is a series of ten films loosely based on the ten commandments.

At a glance, it would be easy to write off Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue as religious propaganda or something similar, but that does not seem to be the intention. This is not a heavy handed approach to religion, or even morality. Though there are ten films in the series, each film does not explicitly follow a single commandment. In fact, the series focuses more on people than religion. The films are simple but powerful and though originally shot for Polish television, they are shot beautifully. The quality of the picture is not amazing and the translation seems a bit loose at times, but once you find yourself wrapped up in the story, you likely won’t even notice these things.

Decalogue VII

Majka (Maja Barelkowska) lives at home with her mother, Ewa (Anna Polony) and her young daughter, Ania/Anika (Katarzyna Piwowarczyk). Since Majka had Ania at such a young age, with an older man, to avoid scandal, the family decided to portray Ewa as Ania’s mother. Even Ania thinks Ewa is her actual mother. Majka wishes to leave the country with Ania but needs her mother’s approval to do so, but she decides to kidnap Ania instead after a school play.

Decalogue VII should have been a great film but something about it simply did not work for me. I don’t know if it was Majka as a character or the actress that played her, but I could not connect at all. It’s a shame too, because the ending of this film is one of the more moving pieces of the series and it fell flat for me. As with the other films of The Decalogue, the moral ambiguity presented here is fascinating, in fact the story is one of the better ones so far. Did Majka really kidnap her daughter or did she have the right to? Will the family ever be able to come back from this? I will admit that Decalogue VII had me thinking but unfortunately watching it was a bit of a chore.

I give it 3 out of 5.

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Decalogue VI (11/17/12)

Movie Two Hundred Sixty Three

The Decalogue is a series of ten films loosely based on the ten commandments.

At a glance, it would be easy to write off Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue as religious propaganda or something similar, but that does not seem to be the intention. This is not a heavy handed approach to religion, or even morality. Though there are ten films in the series, each film does not explicitly follow a single commandment. In fact, the series focuses more on people than religion. The films are simple but powerful and though originally shot for Polish television, they are shot beautifully. The quality of the picture is not amazing and the translation seems a bit loose at times, but once you find yourself wrapped up in the story, you likely won’t even notice these things.

Decalogue VI

A young postal worker named Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko) has been obsessively spying on an older woman, Magda (Grażyna Szapołowska), living in a building across the way. He devises plots to see her by sending her notices to get her to come to the post office and picks up a milk delivery route as well. Finally, Tomek decides to tell Magda that he has been peeping at her and he loves her, though she has long abandoned the idea of ‘love’.

I didn’t want to give too much away about the plot of Decalogue VI, since the latter half of the film is very interesting. Though Tomek and Magda’s relationship originally struck me as very odd and off-putting, I eventually found myself being a bit more understanding. Though, if someone came up to me and told me they had been stalking me, I’m not sure I would invite them up to my apartment. Still, I think Magda’s motivations are more understandable by the end of the film, though a bit weird, perhaps. The weird dynamic of rooting for a stalker held Decalogue VI back for me, I wanted to sympathize with Tomek but still found Magda more endearing. One thing for sure, Decalogue VI is one of the most unique romantic dramas I’ve ever seen. Decalogue VI was also released in an expanded form, called A Short Film About Love, which I would be curious to see how it compares.

I give it 4 out of 5.

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My interview over at The IPC

I’m sure many of you may already read Isaacs Picture Conclusions and his series of interviews, but if you don’t check him out HERE!

This week, it was my turn to be asked the burning questions and you can read it by checking out Isaacs Interviews – Andy Watches Movies

It was a lot of fun taking part in the interview and a huge thanks to E over at The IPC for interviewing me.

The Royal Tenenbaums (11/15/12)

The Royal TenenbaumsMovie Two Hundred Sixty Two

The Royal Tenenbaums is the story of a family brought back together by their ailing, estranged patriarch.

The young Tenenbaum children are all prodigies; Chas is business savvy, Margot, who was adopted, wrote a successful play, and Richie is a tennis star. Their parents, Royal (Gene Hackman) and Etheline (Anjelica Huston), are getting a divorce. Twenty two years later, Royal is getting evicted from his hotel room where he has been staying. After hearing that his wife’s accountant, Harry (Danny Glover) is trying to marry Etheline, Royal devises a plan and says he is dying of cancer and wants to stay in their house and reunite the family. As adults, the children are all in post-success slumps. Chas (Ben Stiller), is still in business but has become obsessively protective over his sons after their mother’s death. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), is married to a neurologist named Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) but hides her life from him. Richie (Luke Wilson) had a breakdown as a tennis star.

When a film has a huge ensemble cast, it is easy for the plot to get lost in the mix but Wes Anderson not only keeps the characters unique and interesting in The Royal Tenenbaums, but the plot is one of his best too. Each character has their own cross to bear and when they are under the same roof again, their stories are interesting on their own, but together they become something special. Admittedly, there is a lot to take in and some of the quirk that is special to Anderson’s films may put some people off but I would argue that The Royal Tenenbaums is possibly Anderson’s most accessible film.

I watched The Royal Tenenbaums again after watching Moonrise Kingdom for a second time and when viewed back-to-back, the films are actually very different in some respects, though both very Anderson-y. Where Moonrise Kingdom cranks the ’60s nostalgia and colors all the way up, The Royal Tenenbaums is brightly colored but also kind of washed out. The Royal Tenenbaums feels more realistic but also has many of the same fantastical things that Anderson is known for. The Royal Tenenbaums is clearly intended for adults but Moonrise Kingdom would likely be enjoyable for young teens and adults for different reasons.

It’s difficult to speak of Wes Anderson’s films since he has crafted such a unique “formula” for his work. While, at times, this style can be a bit too much or get in the way of the storytelling, but The Royal Tenenbaums is more of a character story with great, innovative set pieces and shots. That’s not to say that The Royal Tenenbaums is a serious film, it’s actually quite funny, but the camp aspect is scaled back a bit.

The Royal Tenenbaums was recently released on blu-ray by the Criterion Collection and is an improved package over the DVD edition they also put out. The special features remain the same, but they are spectacular for fans of Anderson’s work. The commentary and behind the scenes footage are worth it alone, but the set offers much more. The picture and sound are both spectacular, as expected.

The Royal Tenenbaums was my favorite Wes Anderson film before Moonrise Kingdom came out. I had a guy stop me in Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago asking my opinion of the movies he was holding. He had Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums in his hand and said he had never seen a Wes Anderson movie before. I gave my brief impressions of each and asked which sounded the best to him, he picked Rushmore and I went along with it but urged him to check out Moonrise Kingdom if he liked it. If I had seen the blu-ray presentation of The Royal Tenenbaums before that conversation, however, I would likely have steered him differently.

I give it 4 Mordecais out of 5.

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Tree of Life (11/12/12)

Tree of LifeMovie Two Hundred Sixty

The Tree of Life chronicles the life of a young boy growing up in Texas interspersed with the creation of the universe and the meaning of life.

A family is torn apart after receiving a letter that their son has died. In the present day, Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn) calls his father to apologize and reflects on his childhood. The universe is created, life is created and evolves, and an asteroid crashes into Earth. In the 1950s in Waco, Texas, we see the O’Brien family; the mother (Jessica Chastain), the father (Brad Pitt), and three boys, including a young Jack (Hunter McCracken). We see scenes from Jack’s life, including the drowning of his friend and the subsequent funeral and the joy of having their overbearing father leave for business.

Disclaimer – if you haven’t seen The Tree of Life, it is a very polarizing movie. The plot is minimal, there is a lot of esoteric and existential narration and visuals that may seem like they have nothing to do with the movie.

I’ve seen Tree of Life four times and each time I’ve come away with a slightly different experience but I’ve always liked the film. It is an artsy film, there is not a straight line from A to B like most movies and this can be interpreted as a lack of plot or rambling, but this is largely open to how you view movies. If you see movies strictly as entertainment, you may be bored to tears by Tree of Life but if you can appreciate movies as an art form you may “get” Tree of Life a little more. However, that’s not to say there is much to “get”. Tree of Life is writer/director Terrence Malick’s very personal story and you will likely either connect with it or you won’t.

There is not much I wish to say about Tree of Life because it’s a film that could easily be dissected and have short books written about. It is a film you will love or hate; Very few people I have talked to that have seen it fall in the middle. When discussing the film with people that don’t like it, I have a hard time defending it because it’s like defending vanilla ice cream to someone that prefers chocolate. Still, Tree of Life is a movie I would recommend everyone watch at least once to form your own opinions on. If you didn’t like it, I would be curious what your impressions would be after repeat viewings.

I give it 5 dinosaurs out of 5.

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From Hell (11/11/12)

From HellMovie Two Hundred Fifty Nine

The hunt is on for an investigator to find the identity of Jack the Ripper in From Hell.

After the kidnapping of a prostitute in London, followed by the murder of another nearby, Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) and her peers find themselves part of a large conspiracy and manhunt for the killer. Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp) becomes involved and through his opium binges, gets visions of the case. Several more prostitutes are brutally murdered and Abberline suspects the killer is medically trained, and involves a royal family physician, William Gull (Ian Holm). Soon, Abberline finds the hunt for Jack the Ripper is more intricate than he imagined.

While I’ve never read the graphic novel that From Hell is based on, I honestly can’t say that I would look forward to it. I was always put off by its length (nearly 575 pages), despite my interest in the Whitechapel murders and Jack the Ripper. From Hell is a serviceable movie, though it plods along for far too long in the middle and by the end, the pacing was ruined and I didn’t care so much about the outcome. Even though I had seen this film before, I had forgotten the finer details of the plot, including most of the ending.

One thing that really stood out in From Hell is the widely varying accents of the actors. While some of the actors are, in fact, British, Depp and Graham are obviously not and they both choose very awkward manners of speaking. While this isn’t the type of detail that would normally ruin a movie for me, I found myself disinterested in the plot and focusing on their forced accents. At least it made From Hell go by quicker.

Still, as far as Jack the Ripper movies go, From Hell is one of the better ones I’ve seen. While the Whitechapel murder cases are famously unsolved, From Hell does have a sound theory on who the killer was. It’s a theory that makes a lot of sense, but is brought down a bit by the rest of the movie. From Hell is definitely recommended for Jack the Ripper fans, but looking at just the movie, without the lore, it’s bland and uninteresting.

I give it 3 substituting absinthe for opium out of 5.

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Do you buy or rent movies? (Friday Question Fun)

Friday Question Fun

Since I think this is strictly a US thing…for those of you outside the US, the day after Thanksgiving most stores have huge sales/promotions in an effort to kick off holiday shopping called Black Friday. Malls become filled with pushy shoppers, streets become littered with idiotic drivers, and wallets become empty and abused. But man, some deals can be had!

So the question this week is split:

Do you normally buy or rent movies?

If you are in the US, what Black Friday deals are you taking advantage of?

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles (11/18/12 & 12/28/12)

Planes, Trains & AutomobilesMovie Two Hundred Sixty Five and Two Hundred Ninety Nine

An ad executive desperately tries to get home to Chicago from New York in time for Thanksgiving in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Neal Page (Steve Martin),an ad executive, is in New York on a business meeting trying to catch his plane back to Chicago to be with his family. While trying to snatch a cab from a sleazy lawyer, someone else gets in and Neal chases after it, startling the passenger. At the airport, Neal arrives at the gate just in time but the flight is delayed. While waiting, he sees the man that stole his cab and finds out his name is Del Griffith (John Candy), a shower ring salesman. Neal is annoyed by Del but after a string of bad luck and misfortunes, the two stick together trying to get back to Chicago.

I skipped ahead to make sure this one got published in time for Thanksgiving. I hate summarizing comedies because it’s impossible to make a movie sound funny in a paragraph talking about the plot. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a film that is funny regardless of the season, but there aren’t a ton of Thanksgiving movies out there so why not watch it around this time of year? The ‘everything that can go wrong, will go wrong’ series of events always has me in stitches and individually, Martin and Candy are two of my favorite comedic actors, so naturally, together they are a riot.

There are scenes in Planes, Trains and Automobiles that make me laugh uncontrollably every single time I see it. It’s not that the moments are a surprise, they are just completely hilarious to me. The series of events that befall Neal and Del is always a bit of a surprise to me since I never quite remember the exact order of everything, which helps keep Planes, Trains and Automobiles fresh regardless of how many times I’ve seen it. As with most other John Hughes movies, Planes, Trains and Automobiles has a heart to it between all the comedy and if you’ve never seen the film before, the ending may surprise you.

A while back, I wrote about another Hughes/Candy film, Uncle Buck, where I state that it’s my second favorite Candy film after this one and watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles again solidifies that point for me. Hughes had such a talent for writing and directing and he and Candy worked amazingly well together. Not only is Planes, Trains and Automobiles one of the finest films of both their careers, it’s one of my favorite comedies ever.

I give it 5 “those aren’t pillows!” out of 5.

Happy Thanksgiving!

PS – It kills me to write out the title of the film with an Oxford comma

[Update] I was lucky enough to get to see Planes, Trains and Automobiles at a midnight showing in a theater and it was better than I imagined. The owner of the theater even got dressed up as Del Griffith (check out my Facebook page for a picture). While my eyelids started getting heavy after their car burns, the whole movie was a joy to see in the theater. Candy and Martin’s expressions and movements were somehow exaggerated and I thought the film was even funnier than normal. We had a great time.

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