The Golden Compass (movie)—Beautiful and Complex

The Golden Compass movie poster
The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass is based off the book of the same name. It follows Lyra Belacqua as she seeks the truth behind the Magesterium and the reason they’ve been kidnapping children.

1—World

There’s a lot of world-building going on in this movie. Lyra lives in a world parallel to ours, where people’s souls live outside their bodies in the form of daemons, which take the shapes of animals—animals that can change shape while a person is still a child. There’s the Magisterium, a church who controls most of the world, but not Jordan College—though the college and its free-thinking traditions feel under threat. There’s Dust, about which we sadly get to know little, only that it’s connected to the soul and adulthood. There are the witches, who can fly and whose daemons can travel further from them than humans’s can. And of course, there’s the Golden Compass itself, a machine that can divine the truth of anything and which is a great threat to the Magisterium—Lyra comes into possession of the last one. And there’s so much more. Continue reading “The Golden Compass (movie)—Beautiful and Complex”

The NeverEnding Story (movie)—Holds Up Pretty Well

The NeverEnding Story movie poster
The NeverEnding Story

The NeverEnding Story is a movie about a bullied boy who recently lost his mother and who finds a magic book. It’s also about the adventures of the boy-warrior in the book as he tries to save his world from destruction by the Nothing.

1—Amazing Look

The look of The NeverEnding Story is spectacular, with lots of makeups and gorgeous scenery. There’s the Ivory Tower, a glowing needle-like spire topped with a stone flower of a castle, surrounded by a hollow mountain. There’s the Swamps of Sadness and and a river with man-sized crystals growing beside it, the gigantic sphinxes of the Southern Oracle, and spectacular cloudscapes. There’s all the creatures in the movie too—a giant Rock Biter and ra acing snail, gnomes, the creepy wolf-like Gmork, and the beautiful Luck Dragon Falkor. Atreyu looks just like a normal human boy though, presumably to increase audience identification. The music is pretty awesome too. Continue reading “The NeverEnding Story (movie)—Holds Up Pretty Well”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (movie)—Improbable Fun

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie poster
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie is a science fiction comedy that follows Englishman Arthur Dent and alien Ford Prefect after the Earth has been destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass. The movie is punctuated with humorous asides from the titular Hitchhiker’s Guide, which Ford writes for.

1—Beginning Again After the End of the World

Arthur wakes up to find bulldozers outside his house. Shortly thereafter, the Earth is surrounded by a Vogon Constructor Fleet and destroyed. But before that destruction, Ford and Arther hitch a ride on one of the spaceships—and shortly after that, they’re captured and subjected to Vogon poetry. After then getting tossed out of an airlock, Ford and Arthur are improbably rescued by Zaphod Beeblebrox, the President of the Galaxy who has stolen a ship with an improbability drive and kidnapped himself, and Trillian, a girl Arthur met once at a costume party. The improbable adventures continue from there. Continue reading “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (movie)—Improbable Fun”

Mamma Mia!—Strange and Silly

Mamma Mia! movie poster
Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia! is a musical romantic comedy utilizing the songs of ABBA. It follows Sophie as she tries to discover which of three men is her father so that one of them can give her away at her wedding.

1—The Plot

The plot is a little convoluted. After finding her mother’s diary from the summer during which she was conceived, Sophie invites all her potential fathers—Sam, Harry, and Bill—to her wedding without informing her mother Donna. When the men coincidentally arrive at Kalokairi together, Sophie must explain to them that they weren’t in fact invited by Donna, and also can’t tell her that Sophie invited them to the island. Donna’s two best friends also arrive on the island. From there…it gets hard to explain. There are further misunderstandings and secrets kept, and love affairs, and it’s all set to music. Continue reading “Mamma Mia!—Strange and Silly”

The Emperor’s New Groove—Ridiculous Nonsense in the Best Way

The Emperor's New Groove movie poster
The Emperor’s New Groove

The Emperor’s New Groove is a Disney Movie that follows the Emperor Kuzco after he’s cursed and becomes a llama. He then has to rely on the peasant Pacha whose home he’d planned on destroying. It’s a buddy comedy that makes the most of using humor to get away with any and everything.

1—The Nonsense

We start the movie off with Emperor Kuzco narrating how his life got so off-track. He occasionally stops the story to do things like scribble over the top of it. Also, we get one instance of story-Kuzco arguing with narrator-Kuzco, with is very meta. There are plenty of anachronisms, like an electric floor buffer, and animals that don’t belong in a jungle, like a squirrel. During the final chase scene, Yzma and Kronk get taken out by a very localized lightning storm, only to reappear at Yzma’s secret lab and not know themselves how they got there. But oh well, on with the assassination attempt! The visual gags and use of “cartoon” physics just works in this movie. Continue reading “The Emperor’s New Groove—Ridiculous Nonsense in the Best Way”

Van Helsing—Monster Mash-Up

Van Helsing movie poster
Van Helsing

Van Helsing, directed by Stephen Sommers, follows the titular character as he fights Dracula, the Wolf-Man, and Frankenstein’s Monster. The horror movie is both tribute and homage to the classic Universal Horror movies, as well as the original books.

1—Born Dead

The plot is as follows—Dracula—played by Richard Roxburgh—commissioned Dr. Frankenstein to create a creature to power a machine that would bring to life the children of Dracula and his brides. They’re nasty little monsters birthed by the hundreds and would destroy all human life. Enter Van Helsing—played by Hugh Jackman—sent by the Vatican to save the souls of the Valerious family. Their ancestor swore they’d not enter heaven until Dracula was killed, and there are only two members of the family left. There’s also a mysterious link between the amnesiac Van Helsing and Dracula. And oh yes, they have to figure out how to finally kill Dracula. Continue reading “Van Helsing—Monster Mash-Up”

Mary and the Witch’s Flower—Flights of Fancy

Mary and the Witch's Flower movie poster
Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is an animated children’s fantasy film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and produced by Studio Ponoc. It follows Mary Smith as she finds the rare fly-by-night flower, also known as the witch’s flower, which gives her temporary magical powers.

1—The Start of an Adventure

We start off with a building engulfed in flames and a young woman running, and then flying on a broomstick, away. She crashes and the magic seeds she’s carrying go flying off into the woods. Fast forward some years later, and we come to Mary, a bored little girl who’s moved in with her great aunt. She’s waiting for for her parents to move out there as well and for school to start so other kids will be in the village for her to play with. A pair of cats lead her to a mysterious flower, which she picks and brings home. Later, one of the cats leads her to a broom stuck in the undergrowth. That same cat then gives her a bud from the flower and Mary accidentally squashes it, getting sticky stuff all over her hands and the broom handle. Strange marks appear on Mary’s palms, and the broomstick takes off with Mary and the cat, taking them through the clouds to Endor College for Witches, where the first rule is “trespassers will be transformed.” Continue reading “Mary and the Witch’s Flower—Flights of Fancy”

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle—Fun Fluff With Heart

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle movie poster
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a stand-alone sequel to the original Jumanji movie. It follows five kids after they get sucked into a video game that that used to be a board game. Once there, they must conquer obstacles and survive to return home.

1—The Beginning

In the beginning—1996—the board game Jumanji was found on the beach and taken home to a kid who says “who plays board games anymore?” and goes back to his video game. So in the middle of the night the game changes itself into a game cartridge. The hapless kid puts it in his console and is never seen again. Continue reading “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle—Fun Fluff With Heart”

Get Smart (2008 movie)—Many Kinds of Humor

Get Smart
Get Smart

Get Smart is a movie based on the ‘60s parody sitcom tv series of the same name. The movie follows Maxwell Smart, the best analyst in the US government secret agency CONTROL. When the identities of CONTROL’s secret agents are leaked by a mole, Max finally gets his dreamed for promotion to agent.

1—The Humor

As stated above, there are many kinds of humor in Get Smart. Slapstick, situational, puns and wordplay, etc. But it’s all character driven. I liked most of it, but as with all humor, your mileage may vary. Max—played adeptly by Steve Carell—is at the heart of much of the humor, as befits the main character, and some of my favorite moments come from his outspoken candor and self-honesty. But everyone else gets their moments too. Continue reading “Get Smart (2008 movie)—Many Kinds of Humor”

The Hitman’s Bodyguard—Unexpectedly Romantic

The Hitman's Bodyguard
The Hitman’s Bodyguard

The Hitman’s Bodyguard, directed by Patrick Hughes, stars Samuel L. Jackson as the hitman and Ryan Reynolds as the bodyguard. Michael Bryce (Reynold’s character) is contacted by his ex-girlfriend, Interpol Agent Amelia Roussel, after a mission to transport a witness goes horribly wrong. She asks Michael to protect hitman Kincaid and take him to The Hague so he can testify against a genocidal dictator. It’s more fun that it sounds.

1—Great Chemistry

The chemistry between Jackson and Reynolds is great. Kincaid has tried to kill Reynolds in the past but that’s quickly set aside for the mission. Rather, uptight, has-a-plan-for-everything Bryce and…I wouldn’t call Kincaid laid-back, precisely. More that he just goes with the flow of life while ending the lives of others. Anyway, they spark off each other and bicker throughout the whole movie. It’s great. Continue reading “The Hitman’s Bodyguard—Unexpectedly Romantic”