As a connoisseur of films, I’ve seen a lot of Christmas movies, special episodes, and the like. A lot of them serve their purpose of spreading good cheer fairly well, and most are kind of treated as background music (hence the 24 hour marathons of A Christmas Story, among others). But just because there’s a smorgasbord of holiday entertainment out there doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few special ones you should check out- or avoid. Below, I’ve put together a list (in no particular order) of the five best and five worst Christmas themed features. It wasn’t easy; I love theChristmas episodes of everything from Frasier to Scrubs to Adventure Time, and Lifetime has enough Yuletide garbage to make a “Bottom 50″ list. But consider this introductory list my gift to you!!
So, I’ve actually seen a ton of movies lately. Not all of them fit the pop culture/”geek” vibe I skew towards on this blog, but I figure I’ve sunk enough money into ticket sales that it would be a waste not to get another blog entry out of it. And besides, I know hearing my thoughts on films is what you guys live for. So without further ado, here’s Movie Review Lightning Round!!
I liked Cloud Atlas quite a bit for the sheer scope of it. It’s best synopsized as “Six visually stunning short films with broadly similar themes and the same cast in variously garish makeup, running together simultaneously.” The diversity of locations, effects, and especially tones (the story set in 2012 is largely a comedy in the vein of Monty Python, while the next story chronologically is a technicolor dystopian romance/tragedy) could have been too schizophrenic, but deft editing ties all of them together continuously while maintaining the right emotions for each. My only complaint is that after the wonder of these characters interacting and influencing one another over and over in different contexts wears off, the film is somewhat hollow. Statements like “love is good, freedom is good, selfishness is bad” apply here, but it’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff, and a film of this magnitude deserves themes that will be talked about along with technical proficiency. Still, it’s one of the most interesting film experiences I’ve had all year, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out sometime.
RATING: THREE STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
As a fan of the Canadian Caper, I was really looking forward to this movie, and it did not disappoint. Argo captures the tension and stakes of the operation perfectly, and managed to keep me hooked and on edge even as I knew from the get-go how it would end. Ben Affleck’s eye for detail and period elements is great, and there are a number of phenomenal performances, especially by bit players like Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman. Affleck’s acting is good but not great, but if a starring role for him is the price we have to pay to get movies like this and The Town, I’m more than willing to pay. A clear Best Picture contender.
RATING: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
You can read my review in full here, but suffice to say I enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph immensely. Great characters, fun concepts, and although I think it loses a bit of imagination as it goes on, it’s a worthy addition to the Disney Animated Films legacy.
RATING: FOUR STARTS (OUT OF FOUR)
I didn’t review Skyfall as much as I philosophized on it at length. If it wasn’t clear, I loved it. It’s the best Bond film in about two decades, and one of my favorites overall. Daniel Craig finally “becomes” James Bond, and the film establishes a clear way forward for a franchise which struggles to stay relevant. A treat for the eyes and ears.
RATING: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
I was glad to see Robert Zemeckis finally let go of his dream for all films to involve weird motion-capture animation, at least for now. That said, I was a little disappointed with Flight. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got. This may have been as much my fault as the movie’s, but there it is. Denzel Washington does a great job portraying the realities of alcoholism, and the meditations on religious faith were interesting (and not something I’ve seen often in Zemeckis’ work), but overall this felt like a film taking a lot of time to say very little. The plane crash scene may be the most gripping sequence I’ve seen in theatres this year though, and I can’t stay mad at a movie with John Goodman as a freewheeling drug dealer for too long. (As a sidenote, can we get John Goodman as a small but scene-stealing role in every film from now on? Cool, thanks.)
RATING: TWO STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
There’s a lot to like in Lincoln. Great performances by Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sally Field, among others. A great score. Some beautiful cinematography. But at the same time, it felt like this movie was lacking something important. It’s rather myopically focused on the passage of of the Thirteenth Amendment, and it lacks the varied viewpoint characters teased by the opening scene, in the aftermath of a battle. It dives quickly and deeply into a political landscape almost totally alien to viewers in 2012, and is a bit dry and heavy to follow easily. My brother offered the comparison of “a really weird period episode of The West Wing,” which isn’t too far off. I didn’t come away from it feeling like I had any greater insight to Lincoln, the president, nor Lincoln, the man. But it does contain a number of rousing speeches and great character moments, and these are worth seeing at least the one time.
RATING: TWO STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
Shark Week is once again upon us. As hard as it is to believe that Discovery can make an entire week out of footage of sharks jumping out of the water, the event has proven itself to be a ratings powerhouse for several years running. Turns out people just can’t get enough sharks. With that in mind, I’ve written up a list of some of the scariest, funniest, and toothiest sharks ever to grace the screen. So without further ado, here’s the top five fictional sharks!!
Ah, Jabberjaw. Created as part during a past wave of shark-themed entertainment, he was the star of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon series which was a surreal mashup of several other Hanna-Barbera series. Jabberjaw is a talking shark who plays drums in a teenage band called the Neptunes who travel around solving mysteries and fighting crime in underwater cities in the year 2076. Hey, write what you know, right?
I enjoyed Captain America: The First Avenger quite a bit. I didn’t mention this in the review, but I actually saw it twice in a row, and I’d totally be willing to see it again in theaters. Since I’m still running on a patriotic high, I decided to make a list of patriotic superheroes. Although Captain America is probably the most famous star-spangled hero, he’s not the only one, or even the first. There have been a number of cool-looking, inspiring, or at the very least interesting red, white, and blue heroes over the years. So without further ado, here’s the top five patriotic superheroes who aren’t Captain America!!
5. U.S. Agent
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Secret Identity: John Walker
Ok, so the guy isn’t super different from Captain America, but bear with me. John Walker was a U.S. soldier who briefly took up the mantle of Captain America after Steve Rogers left the government. Rogers had issues with following the directives of the U.S. government, and Walker was recruited and trained to be a Cap who more willingly followed the chain of command. Walker served as a more aggressive, lethal Captain America until suffering a breakdown and being replaced by Rogers. He eventually resurfaced as U.S. Agent, a government-sanctioned superhero who served on a number of Avengers-related teams.
Everybody loves robots. (If you disagree with this statement, Gentlemen, Behold!! probably isn’t the blog for you.) From Johnny 5 to the Terminator, robots provide a wealth of storyline possibilities and character ideas for all kinds of fiction, including books, movies, video games and a couple really weird episodes of Family Matters. Seriously, the only thing more off-the-rails than a Steve Urkel robot was a Steve Urkel robot who joined the Chicago Police Department.
Anyway, partially in honor of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and partially because I’m just a huge nerd, I’ve pulled together the top five robot civilizations, as in groups of robots who hang out together and do robot stuff. The qualifier for a civilization versus just a bunch of robots is that the robots have their own goals and interactions independent of the humans (or other things) which created them. Without further ado, here’s the top five robot civilizations!