Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Knight's Tale

A Knight's Tale

When movies start with Queen's "We Will Rock You" there's a good chance they're not going to be high cinema. When that is accompanied by medeival peasants stomping and clapping to the beat, there's a good bet you're not in for Orson Welles, or even The History Channel.

I'll admit up front that I absolutly hate intentional anachronism.
n 1: something located at a time when it could not have existed or occurred [syn: mistiming, misdating]

Almost always, when people do this kind of thing on purpose, it's played for laughs. Filmmakers usually try to make the things fit, by quaintly changing them to make them more accurate but still pointing at the modern concept.

There are also those cutesy little moments that are put in films where people go talk about something in their time period, and since they aren't the viewer, they don't know that what they're saying is ironic or amusing. That's like a scene I've been told is in Titanic where somebody says Picasso or Van Gogh won't amount to anything. Oh, teehee, we as the audience know that Picasso and Van Gogh are way famous! That means it's funny! This phenomena is exactly why I don't bother every watching Shanghai Knights even though I loved Shanghai Noon.

All that being said, my outlook towards A Knight's Tale was rather absymal. I thought it might be amusing, and my best friend liked it so I thought, why not? So I rented it.

Two things happened in the opening credits that proved that I would at least enjoy the film: the names Alan Tudyk and Paul Bettany. Tudyk could make faces to the camera and I'd be amused, he's great. Bettany actually made me like a romance movie like Wimbeldon, the likes of which I usually get bored with.

And really, Heath Ledger is quite a looker. Not to mention that jousting is neat.

So let's say I went in with low expectations. I was served them back with only a small return on the investment in the end. Tudyk was fantastic, and as usual every time he opened his mouth he said something funny.

Bettany was a little different, as he was the only real "known" player, taking on the role of Geoffrey Chaucer, affectionatly called Geoff. He was the source of most of those "teehee" moments I mentioned. He tells some men who threatened him that he will "eviserate [them] in fiction." And I'm sure if I could remember much of the Chaucer I read in high school, I would have gone, "Oh, that's funny because in Cantebury Tales..."

But I forgave him, as I did most of the things that usually bug me. In the end the only fault that still bothers me is that well, it was kind of boring. That doesn't make sense even as I type it, since it was a movie full of grown men bashing each other with sticks...but still, I was bored.

Maybe it was that the characters were all so one-dimensional that they could have put up cardboard cut outs and animated moving mouths and it would have worked just as well. No, not the acting. The acting was fine, it was the script that I'm talking about. You have William, the stalwart young man determined to change his lot in life. His father, the man who didn't get a chance but is determined his son will have one. Wat, the funny one with the bad temper. Roland, the wiser, happy guy (who can sew!). We can't forget Kate, the girl-blacksmith who is just as good as the boys, even better because she invents better armor.

Along with our merry band is Jocelyn, the beautiful woman who hates that she's so beatiful people don't respect her, so sad. There's also the eeeeeevil Count Adamar, a man so sinister he needed a handlebar mustache. He's there to poke men with big sticks, knock them off their horses, take the woman as his prize, and sneer at anyone who isn't him.

Of course, overall this was really just a sports movie. As a sports movie, it did really well. There were plenty of heartbreaking moments where you wondered if the hero would win or fall off his horse. He even does the last tilt without armor so you can see his pretty face.

I'm making more critcisms than I meant to. In the end, it wasn't a wasted evening. I had fun, watching it with my friends. We wanted to fast forward a few times, but the urge wasn't as strong as say, Dragonfly, which I didn't fast forward through because I was cleaning my living room and couldn't find the remote.

It's not a bad Saturday afternoon rental movie. But I wouldn't put off mowing the lawn to watch it either.

Oh no, I just discovered that Alan Tudyk is in Dodgeball: A True Underdog story. I might have to watch a Ben Stiller movie...whatever am I going to do?



I just finished watching an older film, Dragonfly, with Kevin Costner and Kathy Bates and a lot of other people I can't remember right now.

I have this slight problem when reviewing films, I tend not to want to outright bash the people involved. I want to make excuses for them and such. But I just can't with this one.

It began kinda promising, and I almost actually cared about the characters. When the first "supernatural" event happens, I was actually getting into it. There's a kid that's flatlined, and suddenly he wakes up again. Spooky stuff.

Then the "too much, too fast, too small" syndrome starts. The point is to give the main character, whose name is Joe by the way, Emily's Joe, a mystery to unravel. He's got to follow the clues to figure out what his wife is trying to tell him.

But we get each clue hard and fast, and smaller characters run on and off the screen so quickly you're not sure they were even there. Some mystery, we don't even get a chance to try to figure it out because he's already got one thing down and is moving to the next.

Several reviewers compared it to The Mothman Prophecies. I wouldn't be that kind, because the Mothman Prophecies actually spooked me out a little. Of course, it could be because I live close enough to where that all happened.

Not to mention that the END of that movie is not really an up or down ending, it just is. It really felt like it was telling a true story, which the author felt it was. I'm sidetracked.

Dragonfly would have been a decent enough movie if the mystery unveiled something interesting, something neat or unexpected. I don't need a real twist really, but something.

Instead I get the most sentimental peice of crap I've ever seen put on my television. This is yet another one of those cases where I sat at the beginning of the movie going "I wonder if...nah, that would be too stupid!" and then it happened. This hasn't occurred since Urban Legend.

The ending is wretched, absolutly wretched. And Kevin Costner's reaction to said ending made me laugh so loud I scared my cat. People don't fall to their knees in real life, very rarely anyway. It's gotta be something dang good to make you fall to your knees, and while this revelation probably was pretty dang good for that character, he waited until about five minutes AFTER to fall over.

You think his brain couldn't keep up the pace, or did the editing just chop in a few too many seconds before they panned out? Because as it is, it's more like "*COMPLETLY SHOCKING ANNOUNCEMENT!*"
"My wife really did have something to say..."
*dramatic pause*
*more dramatic pausing*
*uncomfortable shifting from the extras*

Then after all that junk, as if that wasn't enough to make your brain slowly start to leak out your ears, then we get a voiceover.

Note to directors of the world: voiceovers often equal the death of your respectability as a film. Esp. when said voiceovers only occur once. If you have a narrator, sure. If one character's thoughts play an important role in the film, sure.

But if you start the movie with a vo, or end it with one, you're just spoonfeeding the audience what you didn't have the time or skill as a storyteller to show them before your producers said "That's it, no more budget for you!"

To top it all off the VO was so ultimatly sappy that I had to brush my teeth afterwards. Guh.

You know, I let movies get by with an awful lot of things that probably couldn't happen. Heck, one of my favorite action flicks is Independance Day and we all know that it's completly unbelievable.

But our stunning and shocking finale in Dragonfly? That's just too far out even for me. It's so completly impossible that it makes me want to remind the writers that since they're getting paid, they probably should actually write something that doesn't sound like a fifth grader chanting "And they all lived happily ever after."

Bad movie. Only rent it if you've got time on your hands, and a friend to mock it with.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Directors: Wes Craven

The Directors: Wes Craven

I've been watching this series created by the American Film Institute, where they profile various directors that have made a big impact on Hollywood. So far I've checked out Steven Spielberg (of course), Rob Reiner, Ron Howard, and a couple others.

What probably drives my enjoyment of these short documentaries is my love of the director themselves, or the actors that are interviewed. But at the same time, when I watched the one for a guy that was in Monty Python, I had seen next to none of the films mentioned but I still found it a really fascinating documentary.

Now, with Rob Reiner and Steven Spielberg my intense love for their movies really helped. But even Ron Howard had a lot of things to say about the way he worked, and the actors interviewed gave me great insights into what makes a director they want to work with again.

I can't say that about the Wes Craven volume I just watched. In the end, I had seen next to none of his movies. After a bad experience watching Nightmare on Elm Street as a six year old, I never watched any of the Freddy Kreuger movies. I saw The Serpent and the Rainbow and found it pretty darn boring. The only movies that they discussed that I really cared about were Scream and Scream 2. Both of them only got a really cursory examination.

It was pretty interesting to learn about Craven's background in academics, but in the end I didn't really learn anything. The actors didn't have much to actually contribute much besides a neat talk about how Robert England tried to protray Freddy as a "dark trickster" I think it was.

On the whole, I would only tell really big fans of Craven to pick it up. Even if you just like directors or the Hollywood process, there are others out there.

Dawn of the Dead

Dawn of the Dead

Last night Cyn, Shoka, and I got together to watch Dawn of the Dead, one of THE zombie movies. Also a movie that along with Night of the Living Dead changed the genre of horror in America.

I would like to formally hit George Romero with a tennis racket for that. He changed us from a society that got the proper heebie jeebies from Vincent Price's creepy laugh, to a bunch of teenagers begging for the next bloody corpse. Yay, bloody violence!

Sure, violent movies have their place. I for one really enjoyed Resident Evil and it's sequel. But the thing is, I wasn't scared by them. I liked the action, not the blood and intensines. I think Shaun of the Dead is one of the best movies I've seen in ages, but that's despite the gross disembowling, now because of it.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I'll just say Dawn of the Dead does not equal frightening or scary in the least. Guess I'll have to go and get kicked myself for saying it.

Romero did have a vision, and it was an interesting one. The parallels between consumer culture and zombies were a very nice touch. But we were also beaten in the head with them until even the most inattentive moviegoer would get it. Okay, shoppers = zombies. Got it, please please move on.

The idea of building your own little hiding place inside a mall was brilliant and well executed. But when it started to get interesting and we realize that these three people are going to go nuts by themselves, random raiders show up and spoil the character development by having a pie fight with the zombies.

Sure, it was really funny to see that some people had figured out how to deal with zombies, by just moving faster than them. I think that's one thing most zombie movies never really think of, that we've got several distinct advantages over the undead.

Oh, and to quote Randy in Scream, a movie that found a good balance between story and gore, "They got the blood wrong. It's too red!"

Maybe it's just the jaded eyes of a later generation, but while I felt Dawn of the Dead is worth watching for it's cinematic contribution, as a story and a film on it's own it's not really the best. Yes, you have to remember that it was one of the first and that many films rely on the stage set by Romero's trilogy. But you also have to realize that one of the brilliant things about movies and art is that those that come later often take a formula and improve on it, honing it into something even better.

I'm glad I sat and watched Dawn of the Dead, but I don't think I'll ever watch it again. I would reccomend it to anybody that likes to poke fun and laugh at movies, as we had a great time imitating the characters as they got stupider and stupider.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Towel Day

Okay, I'm mostly just testing to see if the add settings I'm trying to fix are working.

I'm trying to get Google ads to post on this page, so that it will help a little with the cost for server space. But I'm having issues with it not seeming to read the content properly to give me a good selection of ads related to what I'm talking about.

So I'm going to try to get it to talk about something else by rambling about a specific topic: towels.

You see, I just learned that Towel Day is coming up, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to try to participate this year. I'm trying to decide which towel I should carry with me all day. On the one hand, I'd love to have this towel but since I don't have the money to run my own website then I can't very well be flitting off and buying a very cool "Don't Panic" towel.

So that leaves me with the towels I have at home, which include quite a few decorate options. I have towels with sunflowers, with cherry blossoms, with purple paw prints, with haunted houses...I went through a phase where I was buying cute matching towel and washcloth sets for my towel rack.

But they're all very small, and what kind of statement does that really make? Should I go for my larger than beach-towel sized Lessard Architectural Group option? It's very bright blue and one of my favorites. Or should I perhaps go with my "tea towel" that I got at Harrod's, since it is an authentically British towel from my biggest trip I've ever taken?

These things might seem trivial, but with the mind-boggingly bigness of the universe I feel they can be construed as important.