The Christmas break gave me a chance to get back in the movie watching groove.  Kristin and I saw a couple together, then we watched a couple back at the farm with my mom and dad.  Don’t the let “the farm” fool you, “the farm” is more technologically with it than my own home theater setup.  I only have a bigger screen.

Bolt, DVD @ home

This is fantastic movie that Disney released last year.  It was always sorta-kinda on my list to see, but we had never made a priority out of it.  Seeing the backlog of 150 movies in our two movie a month Netflix queue, it is amazing that we got it for Christmas.  Kristin must have bumped it to the top, so I’ll give her the credit for the excellent selection.

The story of Bolt is relatively simple – a dog (Bolt) thinks he has super powers because a studio has been using him in a TV show and has always kept him in the dark to preserve his method acting.  An evil exec shows up on set, shakes it up and Bolt ends up getting mailed across the country because he thought that his Person, Penny, was in trouble.  As Bolt journeys back from New York to Hollywood, we meet several amusing groups of pigeons that stereotype each region, a cat with some emotional issues (aren’t they all crazy?) and the most awesome hamster ever in a movie.  I don’t even need to see G-Force to reach this conclusion.  Amazingly, there is some pretty witty and laugh out loud funny dialogue that results from this setup.  Paired with the technical prowess showed in the gorgeous CGI rendering, this was an incredibly easy movie to enjoy.

Grade: A-

Avatar, AMC 3D @ Roseville

You’ve heard about this movie.  I tried to go opening night but the sellout crowds were a put off seeing as my parents and sister were up and we wanted to also get in some family time.  When Kristin and I tried to go again on Christmas day, the show we wanted to see was sold out, so we got tickets for the next one and got in line, 3D glasses in hand.  It was definitely worth the wait and the $13 per ticket it cost to see.

The movie was fantastic on several levels.  Technically, in 3D it was gorgeous and it was one of few movies where I felt like the big theater experience was worth the coin.  Check this movie out in the nicest theater you have available to you.  You’ll be getting immersed in a new world, and you owe it to yourself to do that in the best environment possible as it is a nearly three hour time commitment.

Next up, the story was a great chunk of sci-fi.  Maybe it was watered down a touch for more general consumption but I still thought it was engrossing.  This a brand new world, brand new story and originality was refreshing and it was nice that they didn’t feel the need to use an existing piece of sci-fi and then vulgarize it for a movie.  It is very accessible and yet you can ponder the movie afterward if you so desire.  To anyone who wants to discuss the question “How does it feel to have betrayed human kind?” I’d be more than willing to engage.  The drive to Iowa on the 26th gave me a great opportunity to reflect.

This is a technically advanced Braveheart (which I also loved) that puts you literally onto a different world.  Its a sensory experience that you’ll be sorry to have missed that you don’t need to be a science fiction fan to get into.  That said, this movie is going to be in theaters a long, long time.

Grade: A

Inglorious Bastards, Blu-Ray @ The Farm

A fictional movie that is set in World War 2 France, this movie is a testament to Quent Tarantino’s film making prowess.  Lightning paced, viciously meticulous dialogue and astounding set and camera work layer the experience of this movie.  Yet, like our beloved Ogre once pointed out the Donkey, not all layers make everyone happy.   And if everyone truly loves cake and parfait, this movie is more like an onion.  Its violence and parallel universe type story line might be very off putting for some.

Inglorious Bastards is the type of movie you should prepare to watch.  The lights should be low, your cell phone off, your popcorn and beverage set before you.  Then hit play and and pay attention to all the detail.  If you do enjoy the movie, I am imagine you’ll be seeing it several times as there will be new details, new implications and foreshadowing in the dialogue and a host of other minutiae that are impossible to catch in one pass.  Sadly, I own this on Blu-Ray but have no player of my own.  I guess I’ll have to wait a bit to view it again, but that is OK.  I have other movies to see for the first time.

I’m torn on grading this movie.  I typically really enjoy Tarantino’s work… yet I didn’t find this movie supremely entertaining.  On the flip side of that, I appreciate its cinematic quality.  When you are up for a “good” movie versus a “fun” one, this would be an excellent choice.

Grade: B+

District 9, Blu-Ray @ The Farm

Another day, another alien movie about a guy who becomes an alien who has what humans want.  This one is quite a bit different than the Avatar experience, however.  It is done in a documentary fashion, in which live action scenes are played out interjected with interviews from the future about “the incident.”  A story about a simple yet ambitious man who loves his wife who is the head guy in charge of an alien relocation program that doesn’t go quite as planned, there is plenty of action, violence and gross out there for the summer action crowd.  At the same time, there are a lot of heavy themes pertain to individual rights, greed, and the ability of humans to act inhumanely that are also there in Avatar but played out much more forcibly and with greater emphasis.

Instead of relying purely on the concept of humans wanting the ground the aliens inhabit, ala Avatar, District 9 reveals that the aliens have technology that humans desire as well.  Weapons, to be exact, the kind that make people explode and that can only be operated when held by an alien.  Well, our good(ish) guy is infected by an alien fuel container and quickly starts to become a alien himself.  Handily, in his metamorphosis  state he is able to operate the alien weaponry which makes his body quite the valuable commodity and it is decided that his body should be donated to science post haste.  He doesn’t quite see it that way, as most people could empathize with, and takes off.  That’s where the movie puts the action into high gear and the bodies start splatting.

This is another movie that I didn’t quite get into like I would have expected too.  Be well rested, mentally prepared, and cut out the distractions to get the most out of this movie.  It is worth your time and attention.

Grade: B+
Wrap Up

You might be wondering why I piled this all into one post.  The fact of the matter is that I saw one movie a day for four days and that changed the way I regarded each of them.  As such, it is important to capture how each movie impacted the ratings of the others.

First off, Bolt to Avatar highlighted the growing versatility of CGI.  In Bolt, the computer renderings allow for great abstraction of locals and artsy interpretation of traveling, etc and for that it worked fantastically.  Bolt is a beautiful movie.  In Avatar, a new world literally sprang from the screen, drawn down to the smallest detail.  You were there.

From Avatar to Inglorious Bastards (IB), there was a crazy shift in story detail.  If Avatar is a huge mural that doesn’t have much detail when you stand too close to it but is breathtaking in its entirety, IB is large painting that continues to show more detail the more you scrutinize it.  There is so much detail that IB is broken down into chapters which I think is done to give you a chance to commit what just happened to your brain before it starts to fill your ears and eyes again.  It is a complicated movie and and seeing it backed against Avatar reveals  that while there can be pleasure in these details, it can be very off putting.  Considering Bolt in this mix, you realize that movies nearly everyone will enjoy have a lot of value in the fact that movie snobs and people who like to watch movies can enjoy them together and have a common ground.

District 9 doesn’t stay on rails like Avatar did which adds a layer of complexity and believability that ultimately forces you to consider the issues both movies raise.  Avatar can be considered wide appeal entertainment whereas District 9 isn’t the kind of movie that softens its message for the sake of the audiences enjoyment.  While many will walk out of Avatar impressed by the technology and satisfied they saw a fantastic battle play out before them, District 9 uses its violence and technological prowess to underline the points it is making so that most will leave the movie with more questions than answers.  Humanity has a history of treating minorities and those it considers less educated or capable than themselves as inferior.  Inferior enough to be killed or enslaved, actually.  Regarding that, it is important to keep asking questions.

In all of these movies, there was plenty of greed and human confidence in understanding how the universe works at the root cause of the issues.  Aside from Bolt, there was also an awful lot of human brutality against “aliens” on display this weekend.  In that regard, this was an exhausting set of movies to see.


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