CINDERELLA [1950] review

December 31, 2007

I didn’t watch CINDERELLA like a usual movie. It was for a job checking the subtitles for accuracy. At first I jumped around checking the parts of the subtitles that I was told were most troublesome. I immediately found the voices of the mice very annoying, perhaps because it was so hard to understand them, and it was my job to accurately write down what they were saying.

…However, when I began checking the subtitles from the beginning of the movie this afternoon, I quickly fell for Cinderella, basically from the first second she appeared on screen. I was impressed by how she treated animals and how they all loved her. I also liked how she was still able to sing and dream while enduring such harsh treatment by her stepmother and stepsisters. I don’t really understand why she did all that work, why not just refuse?

…The actress who was Cinderella’s singing voice, Helene Stanley, enchanted me with her soothing way of singing. It made me feel at ease.

…The animation looks much better than any CG animation done today (or ever). There is a warmth and a glow to all that surrounds Cinderella. I wish people would realize that just because there is a new technology available, doesn’t meant it should replace what was used previously. There was life in Cinderella’s hand drawn eyes, and malice in the eyes of her stepmother. The use of shadow and light (always something I look for in a movie) was very effective. It seems the stepmother always was cut away from as her face withdrew into shadow, or a shadow fell across it.

…The pure fantasy of the magical pumpkin carriage careening through the town on its approach to the castle piqued my sense of wonder and shows me what I want movies to show me, something I can’t see in real life.

KNOCKED UP [2007] review

December 30, 2007

I had heard a lot of hype about KNOCKED UP and had pretty high expectations, considering I really liked previous Judd Apatow creations FREAKS AND GEEKS, UNDECLARED, and the 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN. And yes there were a few parts that made me ha! But, there was also a lot of malice in the characters, and the hard swearing at members of the opposite sex was too much for me. The hard swearing between the male characters was spot on, but I just found it too unrealistic when Seth Rogan’s character used such strong language at the recently impregnated Katherine Heigl. Also the married couple were really, really full of malice.

Do people like Seth Rogan’s character really exist? Are guys really that clueless around girls? I just think he would have started changing much faster than he did in the movie, but then again, he was high most of the time, so I guess that makes it much harder for one to change one’s behavior.

I had heard this movie had a big heart, at least somewhere underneath, but even by movie’s end I had a hard time feeling it. Maybe it’s just too hard to get used to a pregnancy comedy that is not light hearted and manic, but instead cynical, full of flawed character with high levels of malice and not actually that funny.

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE [1946] review

December 25, 2007

It might be hard to imagine, but until this Christmas, I had never seen IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. I know, how does an American boy go 33 years without seeing it? I guess it was just never a tradition with my family and I established my own traditions with Rudolph and Charlie Brown and the Grinch and Garfield. Even though I really like LIFE, and recognize it as a film made with passion and sincerity and art, I don’t think I’ll watch it every Christmas. Or maybe I will.

Jimmy Stewart is great in acting out first a boy with big dreams, then a young man still holding onto those dreams, then a grown man coming to terms that his dreams didn’t need to come true in order for his life’s dream to come true. He became a rich man not by seeing the world as he wanted to, or making a fortune like some of his classmates, but as the movie declares, having the most friends in town. Yet I felt for him each and every time he was literally seconds from getting out, only to be pulled back in by another crisis, be it family related or family business related. The deflation on his face each of these times was masterful acting. Not overly done, and it certainly didn’t stop him from being a hero to the folk of his town.

He was a man of honor in a time and place that desperately needed one, and all those sacrifices he made accrued him a great amount of respect and capital in friendship.

On a side note, I am glad I never saw this movie before reading any of the Harry Potter books as LIFE definitely put an evil association on the name “Potter.”

Takigo-yama — 6th hike

December 16, 2007

I thought this time I set out much earlier than I ever had before, but in actuality it was exactly the same time! The hike felt a bit hard this time, as I really pushed the pace, but didn’t think I was so much. It helped that now I have the trail almost memorized, so I could pace myself really well.

…It was a beautiful late fall day, and as always Sasago station was un-staffed, so thank you JR East for the only ¥130 train ticket for the 1.5 hour trip. I passed three groups of people on the way up, a pair of ojisans, two obasans and an ojisan, and a lone middle-aged male hiker. All of them still were able to make it up to the summit in impressive times though. I estimate I summited only 30 minutes faster than the lone hiker and the group of three.

…Upon reaching the summit, as usual, I was met with the same majestic view of Mt. Fuji I’ve had on all but one of my past 5 summits. There were less people at the summit than at times past as well, which was fine with me. To my surprise a young j-couple arrived shortly after me, coming from a different trail than I did. … Also at the summit had a small conversation in Japanese with an ojisan about the mountain and if I’ve summited Fuji-san, the usual stuff. The lone white birch tree on the summit is still doing well. … I usually hike up Takigo-yama in November, so a benefit of hiking it in mid-December was an improved snowy view of other mountain ranges.

I got to debut some new gear this time too. I wore my Mountain Hard Wear softshell Synchro jacket and a skintight fleece baselayer by a Japanese outdoor company, X-gear or something like that.

…It was just me on this hike, but of course on the way to and from the mountain Jack, Bob and Joni were with me.

FIELD OF DREAMS [1989] review

December 15, 2007

I have heard FIELD OF DREAMS called a “new classic,” but I wouldn’t got that far. Having never seen the movie, its premise and a few of the lines from the movie were of course very well know to me, i.e. “If you build it, he will come.” I found, however, the execution of this premise to be a little bit too light and automatic. I didn’t really want an explanation for how he heard the voices or where the players go when they walk back into the cornfield, but I would have liked the buildup to take a bit longer. Within like five minutes the field is already built. And I would have liked the magic to be contained to the farm and field itself. The fact Kevin Costner heard voices out at Fenway Park made things a bit silly for me. Also, I never had an opinion either way on how good an actor Costner is. I can see why some people think he is a terrible actor after seeing him in DREAMS. I don’t know exactly what it is, but there’s just something off about his performance, as well as the performance of his wife by Amy Madigan. She just seemed to willing to let him follow these crazy ideas and her whole soapbox speech at the school assembly, that could have been left on the cutting room floor.

DREAMS did evoke a good bit of nostalgia about sports, but also showed that not only modern sports lacked innocence. Controversy and scandal rocked baseball in its infancy as well. What a farm house they have though, up on a bit of a rise, with that huge wraparound porch. A great portrait of the American midwest.

I AM LEGEND [2007] review

December 14, 2007

I saw this movie as part of a guy’s movie night. All day I ended every e-mail with “LEGEND!” However, after I walked out of the theater of a Friday night showing of I AM LEGEND, I wasn’t singing its praises anymore. I was just left with the distinct feeling, “this film did not need to be made.” I was very surprised by the ending, not because of its content, which was also a bit ludicrous, but by the fact that it came at a point when I felt the movie should have only been about half-way finished. I felt no build up to that point at all. The ending seemed to come out of nowhere.

There were some tense scenes, and seeing an abandoned and grown over New York City was pretty cool, as was watching Will Smith’s strict daily routine. I liked that he was still trying to save the creatures and return them to normal humans. But other than this, I found little to like, and it didn’t help to have that excruciatingly long Shrek scene. I find it hard to believe that Will Smith’s character would be such a big fan of the movie. He seemed to be too busy being a scientist.

It seems really hard to produce a good action movie these days unless the main character’s name is Bourne.


December 8, 2007

I recently rewatched the two previous Bourne films (IDENTITY, SUPREMACY) in preparation for the release of this year’s THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM. The latter stands as the only good action movie I’ve seen this year. I think Bourne is at his best when he is protecting a woman he cares about, as he was in the first movie, so I was glad to see him having to rescue and protect Nicky for a good portion of ULTIMATUM. I also like how Bourne only kills when absolutely necessary.

We learn many things about Bourne before he was actually Bourne and how he came to become Bourne. I feel this exposition fully fleshed out the character, and if there ever is a fourth movie, it will have to be on something in the present as his past is all known now. As the three movies stand now, they are the best pure action trilogy in a very long time.

Kanda Gawa (river) ride

December 8, 2007

Distance: 6.15 miles

Time in motion: 49 minutes 01 second

Average speed: 7.5 mph

Max speed: 21.5 mphDue to various reasons, it’s been a kind of long time since my last ride. So despite feeling lethargic and groggy, I took the Trek 7.3 FX out for an easy ride along the nearby Kanda River. This isn’t a real river, it’s one of those cement ones, but it’s car free, tree-lined, and a pleasant place to just enjoy being on a bike. As you can see from my very low average speed, it really was just a nice Saturday afternoon joy ride, the kind you used to take as a kid. I think it’s important to take these kinds of rides, not just hardcore rides trying to set new speed records as I often do. Plus, it’s great to not have to share the riding area with cars and red lights.

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