WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT [2005] review

June 11, 2006

I really like the Wallace & Gromit animated shorts, the only previous existence of these characters until the feature length WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT came out. The shorts were, well, short…giving them a feeling of intimacy and concentrated magic that was lost in a 90-minute film. It seemed too big. Wallace & Gromit were not meant to be in a story that long.

Still, the larger budget showed in the production value of the film. It looked gorgeous. Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes did great work voicing there respective characters. I don’t think anyone would recognize Ralph at all. It would be nice to see in out-takes him in the recording studio while speaking like his character Victor.

I hope Nick Park makes another Wallace & Gromit short next, not another movie.

STAGECOACH [1939] review

June 11, 2006

STAGECOACH was the second half of my rainy Sunday western double-header. While it was completely outshone by RIO BRAVO, it still had some very good moments and it was nice to see a younger John Wayne. In the latter film, he was the fatherly figure. In the former, he is literally called “Kid” throughout the movie.

STAGECOACH begins with sweeping shots of the coach loudly rolling through great western American landscapes, just after introducing each peculiar character soon to hop in it. After the coach was initially loaded with people (4), I thought there was really no more space for anybody. Yet several times later, there was room for one more. The characters were all interesting, but I was much less invested in them emotionally than in RIO BRAVO. I still don’t clearly know why Dallas was so shunned by everyone. What could she have done that was so bad?

STAGECOACH was a very entertaining movie, but it lacked gravity and character weight, save for the relationship between Dallas and the Ringo Kid. Still, it is worth checking out to get a sense of what it must have been like to travel the vast expanse of the west crammed into a bumpy, horse pulled box.

RIO BRAVO [1959] review

June 11, 2006

I have been saving RIO BRAVO for a rainy Sunday when I don’t go play ultimate for a long, long time. So when I woke up this morning too hard rain, I knew I finally had the conditions I wanted for watching it. I remember watching westerns as a kid on Sunday mornings. (I also remember watching Tarzan movies) I wanted to have that feeling again. I was inspired to start watching westerns again because of the movie podcast Cinecast (now FilmSpotting). I was looking forward to seeing the Duke, and most of all perhaps to hearing Dean Martin sing, “my rifle, my pony, and me . . .”

…I want to see these same characters in another movie. RIO BRAVO is so strongly about it’s characters since the plot is quite simple, keep safe in jail the murderous brother of a rich rancher until U.S. marshals can show up to take him away. … Sheriff Chance (played by the Duke of course) guides all the characters with his firm, but wise hand.

These also include Stumpy, faithfully guarding the brother in the jailhouse; Carlos and his wife as the hotel owners, also loyal to the Sheriff; Feathers, a sassy young girl who falls for the Sheriff (which was semi-strange watching since John Wayne was then 52 and Angie Dickinson was only 28 and hardly looked that old; and Colorado, a smooth, quick young man with a gun.

The aforementioned song took place toward the end of the movie, and it was a great reprise before the final scenes. It showed how people had to pass the time back in the day before any of the electronic distractions we had now. And the value of a good singing voice to soothe the harsh surroundings. “My Rifle, My Pony & Me” has a perfect tinge of the sadness, loneliness, and hope of the great American West.

Rio Bravo, watch it on a rainy Sunday morning. The Cinecast boys mentioned it was Quentin Tarantino’s favorite film. It’s not my favorite, but it could be my favorite western.

THE SQUID AND THE WHALE [2005] review

June 10, 2006

How much of the current condition of society can be attributed to the fact that 50% of married couples get divorced? A sacred vow taken, and then broken 50% of the time. It may make a person question what, if anything, has meaning in the world of Men. My parents divorced. The Squid and the Whale shows the story of a divorce in the mid-80′s of a couple with two boys, one in high school and the other in middle school. On the screen we watch how each son sides with one parent. Yet things are not at all one-sided.

Written and directed by Noah Baumback in a most penetrating style. The viewer feels like they are in the room with the characters. It makes the the peculiar way all for family members act all the more peculiar. All 4 family members try to act like adults, in mannerisms and vice no less. In trying to act like adults, the children adopt vice and borrow academia, and the adults adopt the hormonal tendencies of teens.

It is easy to sympathize with the mother, and be on her side, but with the knowledge the story tells us, there is absolutely no reason for us logically to be on, yet we are. Is it because her trespasses took place in the past and off screen, while presently we see the boorish father’s actions grate every scene he’s in?

The ending is open. I don’t know exactly what to think of it, or where the characters eventually end up. There seems to be promise for all but one.