Why is it that the after-effect of yelling at someone feels like a fresh kill?

Bunnies at the movies

I've been spending quite of bit of down time amusing myself with bunnies. Before you jump to the wrong conclusion with your twisted brains, I refer to the 30-second short reenactments of famous movies over at Angry Alien. There are an impressive list of films, but frankly the ones I enjoy the most are the horror films, Texas Chainsaw, Night of the Living Dead, and The Ring. What is notable is that I actually haven't seen any of those films. Horror films tend to scare me, but bunny horror films are interesting. (And a little scary.)


Best Bond Since Connery?

Dark Horizons points to an early review of Casino Royale, posted after a Sun reporter saw a screening of the nearly-finished film. Did he like it?
    I WONDERED if I should do two versions of my review — one for the Bond fans who prefer the tongue-in-cheek Roger Moore and another for those who long for a return to Sean Connery’s classic From Russia With Love. To be honest, those 007 fans who want more Moore — or Pierce Brosnan back — will not like what I am about to say.

    And that is: Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery.

    Craig’s performance is so strong he could even make moviegoers forget there was anyone between himself and Connery. He plays the gritty, tougher-than-nails secret agent novelist Ian Fleming meant the world to see. With his bulked-up frame, intense blue eyes and don’t-mess-with-me attitude, Craig makes Brosnan look a bit girlie in comparison.
The sound you are hearing is the rubbing of my two hands together in eager anticipation for this film. I've spent the last fifteen years waiting for another (I am referring to the last great Bond film, Living Daylights) Bond film to catch my eye, to make me hunger for the old Bond. The wait is nearly over.


The Prestige: Entertainment without 'Illusionist'

At first glance, two films released this fall dealing with magicians from times past, The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton, and The Prestige, starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, would seem to invite comparison. However, like the trickery employed in each movie, this is only from a cursory glance. Having recently seen both films, I found the former to be, while enjoyable, rather thin and easily predictable, and the latter to be dark, sinister, complex, and containing a thoroughly satisfying finish, one that I'm still grasping and relishing in its concept. In short, a far superior movie to its apparent cousin.

While it is true that to discuss The Prestige in any sort of detail is to begin to reveal its secrets, I can contrast the two movies with vagaries to explain why I found one to be much more satisfying an experience. First, The Illusionist, a tale of a poor child who becomes a mysterious conjurer in 18th-century Europe, by coincidence reunited with his childhood love who was ripped away from him and now the fiance of Austria's jerk-of-a-prince. I don't need to go any further to tell you this is a tale of romance, and that no matter what you are shown during the film, you can probably deduce the truth fairly quickly. In fact, probably too quickly; I'm not one to analyze films during the action -- I have a healthy case of disbelief and I like to enjoy the experience the film is supposed to deliver. However, if it's obvious to me what is going on, well, you get the picture.

Additionally, the movie ends without any of the magician's key tricks being revealed. While I know this isn't the sign of any true magician, it leaves you feeling that there's no way this stuff could be accomplished, which, again, is probably the intent of the moviemaker -- we feel a bit like the 18th-century audience. However, from the perspective of the filmgoer as opposed to the theater-goer, this ends up feeling like a screenwriter who didn't know how to write conclusive storytelling.

One particular instance happens at the end of the film, when one of the characters is given his wish to learn how one of the magician's tricks works. He is looking at the notes (we are given cursory glances at them), chuckling and saying 'oh, ho!' to himself, revelling in his understanding of the deception. Now, at that moment, I'm hoping that the filmmaker will let me in on the little secret, too, but alas, I realize that one of the reasons why I can't see how it's done is that no one knows, which cheapens the movie.

Which is not to say that The Illusionist isn't entertaining, nor worth the four bucks to rent. It's a handsome movie with excellent performances by all involved. As long as you stay with the trick and try not to peer into its 'secrets', you'll be fine. However, once you begin to look closely at its secrets, you'll find you're looking a little more than thin air.

'Are you watching closely?' is the tag line of Christopher Nolan's uniquely different magical film, a tag that invites, almost dares you to figure out the deceptions hidden in the movie. We know that something isn't right, that there are to be twists and turns, and like any good trick, the clues are right there for you to see. Only, like a good magician's presentation, they are nearly impossible to see even if you know you are a looking right at them. And when they are revealed, and all the tricks are indeed revealed, there is an exhilarating rush of disbelief, bewilderment over the commitment involved, and, just a little bit of giggling over how you've been had. The Prestige's payoffs are absolutely stunning.

But of course there's more to it than just tricks. Nolan creates a atmosphere of chilling tension throughout the film, using slippery, mysterious supporting characters and wonderful and invigorating settings. But the most tension comes from the two leads' amazing hatred of the other, which is unveiled through a series of mortally threatening tricks on each other. The ends to which each man will go to get the best of his rival knows no bounds, and after finished, is truly breathtaking to comprehend.

Are you watching closely? The difference between the two films is that one is light supper, and the other is a pulse-pounding unexpected treat. One is indeed an illusion, while the other a well-executed cinematic conjurment. Abra cadabra.


The Anticipation

If you haven't noticed by now, I'm a fan of movies. And not just movies, but I'm one of those people who get the special edition DVDs and occasionally watches the movies with the commentary ON. I love to hear the inside tales of production, the director or writer's angles, and the occasional funny story.

I also love to read reviews for movies. The more eruditic or witty the reviewer, the better. (Walter Chaw is my favorite.) And reading reviews for great films is almost as fun as reading for bad. (E.g., X3: "It's Michael Bay's Schindler's List!")

Unfortunately, the downside of this saturation is that I'll be dissuaded from seeing the film altogether (e.g., the reviews of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 were less than enticing, and haven't bothered with it), or worse, I'll be looking forward to it with unattainable expectations.

Such may have been the case with The Departed, a film that had everything going for it: a great cast, a cool story, a great director, and nearly unanimously praising reviews. So, why when I went to see it on opening night did I come away with a 'very good -- but not great' feeling? The performances were outstanding, the dialogue was funny, there was genuine tension throughout. But I just couldn't put my finger on it.

Maybe it was the repeated references to Goodfellas in the reviews. Some even went on to say it was 'as good as'. I was expecting more contemporary music, for sure, but really I think that I was sitting there saying, "This is no 'Goodfellas'" rather than appraising the movie on its own merits. As such, I'm going to wait 'til I see it again to pass judgment.

That said, I'm a little nervous about two more movies I've been rabidly looking forward too. The first, The Prestige, is already getting a few reviews in, and although I wawnt to read them, I'm fairly skeptical of a couple things. First, of the above expectations being led one way or another. Second, in a statement to the press, Chris Nolan (the director) wrote:
    "The Prestige is a mystery structured as a cinematic magic trick. In order to allow audiences to fully enjoy the unfolding of the story, we respectfully ask that you not reveal too much about the deceptions at the heart of the film."
In short, I've been burned before by some idiot or reviewer who either tries to be too clever in their puns or is too insensitive to not reveal a secret. And besides all that, I'm going to see it anyway, so I'm going to attempt to avoid reviews this week. (This is more difficult than it sounds on a slow work-week.)

The second movie is next months' uber-anticipated revival of the James Bond series, Casino Royale. I have been rabidly consuming regular viewings of the outstanding trailer and the many tidbits from the official site. Of course, I will see this film in the theaters, but I worry about my expectations being too high. It does look like the Bond film I've always wanted, Daniel Craig acts liks a Bond I've always wanted, but I've been fooled by trailers before. Still, very tough to downplay the first Bond film I've actually anticipated since, well, I can't recall when. Unfortunately, on one of the video blogs on the site they mentioned a late scene involving a character that I thought was a surprise (i.e., a deviation from the book's character), so I'm going to have to wave-off seeing any more spoilers. Arrgh.

You know, I guess there's a good reason for having a need-to-know basis.

Air in tires

I just took my 1999 Jetta in for a series of electrical repairs, from fixing the intermittently-working taillight to the never-working AM radio. (Truthfully, I don't think that the AM radio ever worked, but I'm listening to a lot more talk radio than I used to. Yes, a sure sign of aging.) The dealership is diligently making the repairs as I type this.

I could have picked a better week to bring it in, since it is and is forecasting to rain all day. Chilly rain isn't great biking weather. Still, I've had worse.

My curiosity led me to Google common Jetta problems, just to see if my issues have come up with others. Didn't see any, but I did find an interesting 'feature':
    1999 Jetta: If the vehicle is driven with a rear flat tire, the fuel-tank filler neck can wear, causing a fuel leak and possible fire.
So, note to self: make sure to stop at local gas station on way home to fill up tire and avoid explosion. Good times.