Follow Me, Boys!

Tonight’s movie was Follow Me, Boys! from Disney. Being a Disney movie of a certain age, it therefore stars Fred MacMurray and, not so much, Kurt Russell. I was amazed to see it also featured Lillian Gish. She was only 22 when she appeared in Birth of a Nation, so it’s not like she was ancient in 1966, when this movie appeared, but, still … Lilian Gish!!

The movie itself was like watching It’s a Wonderful Life, only not nearly so hard on the protagonist. Like Jimmy Stewart, he never got to do what he always wanted, but unlike him, he learned better all along the way instead of all at the end. And he had plenty of rewards at the end, too. The plot didn’t have an arc so much as a train with lots of individual box cars, to the point when you began to wonder if there would ever be a caboose.

My favorite line: “Oh, the Troop Committee? They’ll gum everything up!”

No Serenity 2, I Guess

I really liked Firefly. The movie Serenity wasn’t — couldn’t be — as good, but it had its moments:

A year from now, ten? They’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people… better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin’. I aim to misbehave.

Now from Joss Whedon comes this tidbit downplaying any possibility of a Serenity 2:

It’s nice to know that people still care about Firefly but it’s actual grief that I feel. It’s not something you get over, it’s just something you learn to live with.

Via @AdamSBaldwin who adds “amen.”

Inception

I had a chance to see an actual in-the-theater movie today, so I went to see Inception. I thought it was pretty good, in a the-dream-is-reality Matrix-y kind of way.

I was kind of shocked to see that movie tickets here cost $12.50. That’s the 4:00 pm showing. If they charge more after 6 pm, I don’t want to know how much it is.

I didn’t buy anything from the concession stand, so the theater didn’t make anything off me there, but they did rent my eyeballs to some commercial-packaging service for the last 20 minutes before showtime. I saw ads for some summer replacement program on TNT and various foods and drugs. Then showtime came, and I got another 10-15 minutes of ads for coming attractions.

I don’t care how bad the economy has gotten, it can’t be a depression. Because in the depression, people could still afford to go to the movies.

I guess part of the reason so much money changed hands was because the movie used a 4K digital projection system. Most of the time, that was fine, but for some shots it looked like it needed to be a 6K or 8K system. The theater was showing a 3D movie in the other room. I don’t know if that’s something you can do with a 4K projector or if they needed separate systems for each. But all that fancy equipment has to get paid for somehow.

Three Things I Like

The first thing is a song called “Turkish Delight,” by the David Crowder Band. It’s a disco song straight out of the 1970s, and you can find it on the record Music Inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia. But you can’t find it on Amazon. It seems to be available only on the iTunes Store.

The second thing is the movie Shakespeare in Love. Joseph Fiennes stars as Shakespeare, and Gwyneth Paltrow won an Academy Award as the love he was in. (Ahem.) There was enough skin and bawdy talk to merit its R rating, I suppose, but only just barely. I’ve never been a great fan of the Bard, but this movie made me wish I was.

The third thing is the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. I liked it so much, I actually posted my first-ever review of a book on Amazon.com:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Miller’s story about “editing his life.” His sense of humor makes the book delightful to read. (His suggestion to a friend about how to answer the question “What’s a movie with a car chase?” was hysterical.) But the larger point – how to have a life that is a story worth reading – is what makes this book so good. As you read his story, you realize you have the same challenge as he had. I’ve given my copy to a friend, and since I only had one copy, I’ll simply recommend it to everyone else.

The Lives of Others

I finished watching The Lives of Others. That makes two subtitled foreign films this century! Awesome. It’s the story of a secret policeman with the East German Stasi and a couple he is assigned to investigate.

I’m no good at movie reviews, so I won’t try. I think the story and the characters were both excellent. There is almost no “action” — and yet at moments your heart is pounding because of the intensity. (More like a thriller or old-school horror movie, in that way.) No special effects, no CGI.

The main character is Gerd Wiesler, played by the late Ulrich Mühe. His life story is interesting in its own right.

I’m glad I saw this movie. It’s an excellent critique of the totalitarian state — the best I can remember; perhaps as good as Animal Farm. But it’s also an enjoyable movie to watch.

Nazi Movies

I see someone has already come out with a new Hitler Parody. This one is about the special election in Massachusetts to replace Ted Kennedy:

I saw the other day (redirected from I forget where) an interview with the director of the original movie, who is “pleased, nay, thrilled” about the development of this unique art form derived from his work.

I saw so many of these Hitler parodies that I finally Netflixed Downfall, the original movie from which the video is excerpted. It makes the third Nazi movie I’ve seen in the past several months.

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Seven Pounds

I watched Will Smith’s Seven Pounds. It’s a pretty interesting movie. “Interesting” is such a weak word, I know — but I can’t pick a better one. I certainly can’t say the movie’s a feel-good joyride. How about “thought-provoking?”

Smith’s character is “Ben Thomas,” a man struggling under a burden of guilt, and, apparently, trying to make things better by helping various strangers.

I don’t want to spoil the movie, so I can’t say much. Let’s say, first, that I sympathize with the Ben Thomas character. I have to say that, because I disagree with what he plans to do to assuage his guilt. I approve of all of his secondary decisions, but the primary one I can’t support.

That’s what makes Seven Pounds so thought-provoking. It gives you a scenario and makes you think about ends and means, and whether one can justify the other. (What, for Ben, is the end? Is it helping strangers? Or is it the other thing, and helping strangers merely a rationale?)
Ultimately, the flaw with this movie is its presentation of despair as a valid option.

It's not enough to bash in heads…

I finally saw Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It’s awesomely wonderful and bizarre and funny.

I don’t know what the best line was, but one of my favorites is from “Everyone’s a Hero,” when Captain Hammer sings about how his girlfriend has taught him to care about the homeless:

She showed me there’s so many
Different muscles I can flex
There’s the deltoids of compassion
There’s the abs of being kind
It’s not enough to bash in heads
You’ve got to bash in minds

I appreciated Whedon’s take on Dr. Horrible as a lonely geek with no social skills rather than a demented monster. But even more, I appreciated that his character arc went from sympathetic-and-humorously evil to tragic but no longer funny evil. There’s a lesson in there, something about about getting burned when you play with fire.

My only complaint is the needless sexual innuendo in a few places means it’s not family-friendly. I’d love to show this to my kids, but it will have to wait a few years.

Get Smart

I finished Get Smart (2008) last night. It was fair, but slightly better than I expected. It wasn’t a great spy movie, of course, but it wasn’t as funny as I expected. I was expecting nonstop slapstick, and this was simply a comedy. A fair amount of its humor was sexual, but it wasn’t always quite as heavy-handed as I was prepared for.

What was interesting to me was the problem the filmmakers set for themselves: a boy meets girl movie. How do you do that, when the boy is a bumbler — interestingly, Max was only a bumbler and not an outright idiot, as in the TV show — and the girl is an ultra-competent Jane Smith | Vesper Lynd | female Jason Bourne type? What could 99 find attractive in 86? (Answer: — spoiler alert! — he’s a good dancer.)