Friday, January 31, 2014

Miracle [2004]

"Do you believe in miracles?"
-Al Michaels, a sportscaster for the USA v. Soviet hockey game in the 1980 Olympics

My brother's birthday is in this early segment of the year, and his favorite sport is Hockey. Since this is one of his favorite movies, he watched it for his birthday, and I thought I'd review it. Huzzah!
Miracle is about the 1980 USA men's Hockey team. The country at this point in history was not in a very happy mood, and what everyone really needed was a victory. Unfortunately, the Soviet's hockey team was the team to end all teams. Faster and more confident, they were pretty much superior to our boys in every way.
Miracle takes a few story-telling liberties to what really happened, but for the most part it's very true to history. In some of the hockey sequences, they even used some real footage from the actual game!
Something I really liked about this is that the Soviets aren't demonized. A lot of the time in sports movies, the opposing team is painted evil. Here though, they're just the other team. The other team who happens to be extremely good. Another common sports movie trope is averted too (probably because it's a true story), and that is the "We have to win it for little Billy!" trope. I haven't actually seen a movie with this, but apparently a lot of sports movies like to have the team motivated by some sick and dying kid who adores them.
This movie also doesn't have any inappropriate content. There's swearing, but nothing too bad.
Miracle doesn't really go too deep into the personal lives of the players, mostly putting the focus on their coach- Herb Brooks. The characters aren't extremely deep or moving, but get this! I did not mind at all. This is a movie about Hockey, and the underdog team that won when everyone said they couldn't. It's not so much a movie about individuals, but rather, putting aside individual problems to work together as a team.
Storytelling and characters aside, this is quite a well made film. The sequence of the USA/Soviet game is very well shot, and most of it doesn't have music, so it's very effective. And for the last ten or so seconds, they use the real commentary from the actual game!
I wasn't around to see the 80's, but according to Mum and Dad it totally looks like the 80's. Right down to the plaid pants. ;)

The Verdict: B+ [My brother insists that it get an A. So that's your other rating.]
Sports movies aren't my preferred genre, but I love this movie. It's inspiring and heartwarming, but not in the sappylicious Hallmark movie sense. It's a true story, and that's the reason I find it inspiring. Not a perfect film, but whether you're a die hard hockey fan or not- Miracle will have you cheering for our team.
This is one of the best kinds of true stories. The kind that just couldn't be fiction. As Al Michaels said during the medal ceremony: "No scriptwriter would dare!"

Monday, January 27, 2014

Les Miserables 2012 References to the Book

Upon viewing the Les Miserables film after reading the book(which took a whole month!), I noticed a whole lot of details and plot points that were influenced by the book. Which I thought was really cool. Here's a list of the ones I noticed. Why? Because I'm a geek and I totally get exited about this kind of thing. XD

  • In the scenes that take place at the Bishop's house, they kept in his sister and housekeeper, Madamoiselle Baptistine and Madame Magloire. Huzzah for keeping in totally minor characters!
  • Jean Valjean's factory makes black glass. More specifically, black glass beads that are strung onto Rosaries.
  • After Javert thinks he made a mistake in suspecting Valjean of being a convict, he requests to be fired from his position. I'm glad they kept in this detail from the book, because it shows how devoted to the law Javert was, and how he wouldn't ever make exceptions- even for himself.
  • Okay, this is a super minor one, but it's Christmas Eve when Valjean arrives at the Thenardier's Inn to rescue Cosette. I don't know if that's how it's staged in the musical or not. Oh, and he gets Cosette her doll, too! Oh for cute.
  • Jean Valjean and Cosette actually get pursued through Paris by Javert, and escape by hiding in a Convent. They actually show him using a rope from a streetlamp to haul Cosette over the wall. And then Fauchelevent is working in the garden, and they ask him to let them stay there. The only way this could have been more awesome is if they had a song where the Cemetery incident happened. :D
  • Gavroche lives in the old Elephant statue! I know there is no way you can do that on stage, but I liked how they kept that in here.
  • After A Heart Full of Love, Valjean comes outside and looks around the fence, with Marius hiding just out of sight. After Valjean goes inside, Marius picks up a handkerchief, and is later seen cuddling it during Drink With Me. I am of the mindset that Valjean left the handkerchief there, to see if anyone was serenading Cosette by the gate. Because if they were adding in that bit from the book on purpose, I'm one happy fangirl! :)
  • Probably the most important and obvious change was that Eponine stole Cosette's letter and kept it until she was shot, then gave it to Marius. I really loved this change back to the book, because it gives Eponine more depth and inner-conflict than in the musical. This of course, leads to a myriad of other changes, like Marius joining the revolution because he wants to die (since he thinks he won't be able to see Cosette again), and Gavroche delivering the letter Marius wrote at the barricade.
  • The Army Captain yells "Who's there?!?"
    and Enjolras replies... "FRENCH REVOLUTION!"
    When I was done laughing, I remembered that that was in the book. XD
  • Marius threatens to blow up the barricade with a powder-keg of gunpowder, in order to make the Army retreat. This gets mixed reactions from the various students. XD
    "What were you thinking Marius, you could have gotten us all killed!!"
    "Marius, you saved us all!"
  • Eponine dies taking a bullet for Marius.
  • Enjolras and Grantaire are killed by a firing squad while cornered on the top floor of the Wine Shop.
  • While going through the sewers with Marius, there's a brief moment when Valjean almost sinks into a cesspool. I remember that part really freaked me out when I read the book!
  • Marius' Grandpa is in this! And they sort of worked him into Every Day. XD
All the book goodies almost make up for the way they made Master of the House even more crude and disgusting.
If they had kept in Grantaire's verse in Drink With Me, that would have made the whole "I'll die with you, Enjorlas!" thing a tad more significant, and that would have made up for Master of the House. XD Oh picky, picky, picky.

-Xochitl (Who is too tired to put up any Walk for Life pictures at the moment, so enjoy this random post which was written in advance.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

October Baby [2010]

October Baby is an independent prolife film about a young woman named Hannah, and her road-trip journey to find her biological mother. However, there's a twist. Hannah's mother gave her up for adoption after her abortion failed and Hannah was born alive.
This is a pretty good premise for a prolife film, and an original one too. Usually prolife movies focus on the struggle of a woman and her choice. This is a good story template, but it's been used a lot. Despite that however, the execution of October Baby was... not that great.
Let's start with the leading lady, Hannah Lawson.
Hannah is not a likeable character. At all. She's petulant, she's whiny, and she pities herself to no end. I know that Hannah has problems. She was almost aborted, and that's terrible. She's grown up with these people she thought were her parents, only to discover that they aren't. That really is upsetting.
But. The film's tagline is Life is Beautiful. Hannah is rich, she has a boyfriend, she's landed the lead in the school play, she's beautiful, she lives in a great part of the countryside. Her life is so obviously beautiful that this tagline actually feels kind of insulting to those with less perfect lives.
I'm trying to keep my personal grievances out of this, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Then there's Hannah's boyfriend, Jason. He's your generic nice guy, except when it comes to Hannah's real father. There's a shouting match between the two, and it ends with Jason yelling "You're not even Hannah's real father!" That is a horrible thing to say to someone!
What does her dad do? Smack Jason and state that he is Hannah's father, even if not biologically so? Of course not! He lets the little squirt get away with it because for a prolife movie, this movie really seems to resent adoptive parents.
Hannah goes on and on and on about how her life is a lie, and that her parents aren't her real parents. And she's portrayed as being perfectly justified in saying/thinking so. Nobody and nothing in the movie sends the audience anything to counter that message. Nobody comes forward to remind her of all her adoptive parents sacrificed for her. And then there's the issue of why they didn't tell her she was adopted. The movie shows us how hard it is on Hannah- but we never see how hard it would be for her parents to break this news to her. It's all about poor Hannah. I'm sorry, Hannah. Other characters have problems too. Let me make this clear. I am not saying that the trauma of abortion is something you can get over in a day. It's a horrible tragedy that affects the lives of everyone involved. But at some point, somebody needs to tell Hannah to get over herself.
Aside from those issues, there are storytelling problems.
I like the basic idea, Hannah goes on a roadtrip with some friends, and hopes to track down her biological mother while she's at it. It's kind of fun, and some of her friends are really funny.
The problem comes in when, soon after they start the roadtrip, their car gets ticketed for being parked in a no-park zone.
The cop starts writing them a ticket, and Hannah comes up and tells him the story of how she's trying to get to Mobile Alabama to find her mother, and how this is her last chance to do so. So the cop, being a nicely sort of fellow, lets it slide and sends them on their merry way. Weee! Now they can go to Oz! But...
Two problems.
One. Her last chance to find her mother?! Is Hannah dying?! Is she not going to have a car?! Is she going to be chained to the floor of her stupid fake parents basement as soon as she gets home?! What is all this business about this road trip being her "Last Chance"?
Though Hannah's sob story is true, there's no way the cop could have known. Police officers and law enforcement hear this kind of excuse every day. It is highly implausable that he would buy her little sob story and let them go. And suddenly my thoughts drift to Javert...

"I have heard such protestations, every day for twenty years,
Let's have no more explainations, save your breath and save your tears."

Then there are Hannah's phantom health problems. We're told that, as a result of the failed abortion, she had a ton of hip surgeries as a very young child. She also has asthma and epilepsy.
However, Hannah doesn't so much as walk with a limp. There's a part in the movie where she walks for a couple of hours under the hot sun, while heaving a luggage bag. Is she panting? Is she short of breath? Nope.
Hannah is shown with a lot of pill bottles on her nightstand in a hotel one night. She even gets taunted by some evil blonde girl (Why's it always the blonde girl? One of my best friends is Blonde and she's awesome!) for having that many pills.
You want to guess how many times her medications are mentioned again?
Yeah. None.
And aside from her collapse at the beginning of the movie, Hannah's epilepsy is never mentioned again.

I realize that I'm being extremely negative on this well-meaning, decently made movie. Well, sorry about that. I give this movie's prolife message a standing ovation, but the film itself is just way too irritating. To me at least, I have friends who love this movie, and I understand why. Maybe it's because I'm not fond of Christian rock. Which this movie has plenty of. So if you really like Christian rock, this might be the movie for you. :)
In all seriousness, it takes a lot of courage to make a film like this. Just take a look at the iMDB page for this movie, and you'll see people tearing it to shreds because of it's statement that all life is precious and beautiful.
Then again, maybe things would go better for them if they had shown us someone more like... I don't know, Tiny Tim or George Bailey. Those are lives with problems that are also shown to be beautiful.

There is a very good message about forgiveness. Hannah's meet with her mother doesn't go as well as hoped for, and she basically gets the cold shoulder. However, Hannah meets a kind priest who tells her all about the importance of forgiveness and living, etc. This is one of the best things about the movie, and it's nice to see a Catholic priest and a Baptist heroine getting along and having a meaningful conversation.

The Verdict: C+
October Baby has a good, solid prolife message, and has genuinely poignant scenes. There aren't a lot of movies who do what this one does- delving into the tragedy of abortion and showing how it not only hurts the child, but the woman also.
However, there are much better prolife movies. Bella springs to mind, especially since October Baby's opening shot is reminiscent of the butterfly motif in Bella.
October Baby has quite a few story telling flaws, and a really annoying heroine. I guess I would recommend it, but not enthusiastically. Just because you're prolife doesn't mean you have to like every prolife movie that comes along.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Desmond and Charlie


I hope I rendered Charlie Brown decently. XD He belongs to Charles Shultz, by the way. Just in case some internet busy-body comes along and accuses me of stealing a beloved character that's older than I am.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lost (Season One) Original Television Soundtrack [2004]

It's not secret that I really like Lost. It's not a flawless show, and there are quite a few things I would change about it, but one of the things I would keep exactly the same is the music. Michael Giacchino's score for the show is one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard (in my relatively short time on yon earth), better than some movie scores I've heard. The music really is the soul of the show.
Because the soundtracks are quite long, I thought I'd just pick my favorites to ramble drunkely about.
Just kidding. Don't drink, kids. ;)

Track 4: Credit Where Credit is Due
This is the music that plays over the opening credits in the pilot episode, while Jack is walking through the wreckage. It's a very mellow, sort of wistful melody that pops in lots of different tracks, kind of serving as the main theme.That's something I love about Mr. Giacchino- his use of leitmotif. It feels like the music develops with the characters. I know a few people who say that repeating a theme is just lazy musicianship, but I think it's beautiful.

Track 9: Crocodile Locke
Rather ominous and dark sounding, this track uses some interesting percussion(sounds kind of like water droplets) and sounds like the persona that John Locke is trying to project- the Mr. Confident Super Survivor type. Hence the title. XD

Track 10: Win One For the Reaper
This is sort of a lighter, more upbeat sounding version of the Life and Death theme, heard later on the soundtrack. I love this one because there's some very nice guitar work in the background. Mr. Giacchino mostly uses piano, strings, harp, and percussion in his music for Lost, so it feels kind of special when there's a track with guitar or ukulele.

Track 12: Charlie Hangs Around
This track has some classic 'Lost' sounding action music. That is, pounding drums, shrieking violins(I mean that in the best possible way), and booming brass. Later in the track is another version of Life and Death, with a harp playing part of the melody.

Track 16: We're Friends
Otherwise known as 'The Claire Theme'. This song is very gentle and bright sounding, and the melody is carried mostly in the strings.

Track 18: Thinking Clairely
I think this plays after Claire escapes from the others, but has lost a lot of her memory. Then Charlie and her take a walk and my sister goes "Awww, they're together!!". It's got the same kind of feel as We're Friends, but with a slightly more up-tempo melody.

Track 19: Locke'd Out Again.
Remember Crocodile Locke? Well this song sort of represents what a sad, hurt man there is underneath Mr. Confident Tough Guy. Even though he becomes more ruthless and even kind of evil as the series goes on, Locke just strikes me as a very sad character. he desperately need something to trust in, something to hold onto and grasp, and at this point he's just lost. In every sense of the word. I think that his later lapse into evil is largely influenced by that. This song really gives us a look into the sad, confused mind of the character. Aside from being intense and powerful, this is a very gorgeous song.

Track 20: Life and Death
This song plays over the first major character death, but also right after Claire gave birth to her baby. Hence the title. Ahem. The Life and Death leitmotif plays over nearly every character death in the series, and appears in every season. It's beautiful and bittersweet, and perhaps best of all- easy to play on the piano! :D

Track 22: Shannonigans
This one is basically a reprise of Locke'd Out Again, but softer and less intense sounding.

Track 23: Kate's Motel
After listening to various tracks and seeing where they play, I have deduced that this is the Kate theme. The title might also have something to do with it. ;) [Hooray for Psycho puns!]
This track is kind of suspenseful, and I thought it sounded kind of like the Latin funeral hymn Dies Irae. Not the version by Mozart, but the plainchant version.

Track 24: I've Got a Plane to Catch!
Whoa, this one is a really abrupt change from the past few tracks. I've Got a Plane to Catch plays in a flashback sequence that shows Hurley rushing through the airport to- you guess it. Catch his plane. There's guitar in this one, and it's just a very playful sounding song.

Track 27: Oceanic 815
Here's the song that finishes out the season, so it's a combination of suspense and emotion. There's a very beautiful reprise of the Life and Death theme (how many times am I going to be saying that in these reviews? XD), and a little bit of Credit Where Credit is Due.

The Verdict: A+
Top Three Favorite Tracks: Locke'd Out Again, Life and Death, and Kate's Motel.

...It's fun to embed videos.
Adios Amigos!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

O Solo Spidey

Spiderman is the only happy superhero left. Well, I don't count the avengers, because they're a big group of superheroes, so what I mean is Spiderman is the only solo superhero with any happy left.
Don't get me wrong, dark and moody is cool and stuff... when it's Batman. But seriously? Superman has to be angsty too?
Ahem. Sorry, ranting again. :)


Monday, January 13, 2014

Les Miserables [2012]

Okay, this is the Japanese poster, but I liked it. Despite the fact that Jean Valjean is totally giving us the death glare. "Grrr!"
And Javert looks like he smelled something really rank. But to be fair, he almost always looks like that.
And I did my best to translate the white caption on the side, and if my Kanji dictionary is to be believed, this reads- "The Power to be able to Love and Live"

When I watched this movie, it had been a while since I listened to our CD recording, so it was kind of like a re-introduction to the story, in fact it was partially the reason why I read the book (the other part was that it was sitting there on the shelf calling my name.).

So... For the most part, I really liked it.

I really liked all the things they kept in from the book. It makes the movie feel like a fusion of both the musical and the book together, which is really neat. It helped to flesh out the parts of the stage play that wouldn't have worked on film. The execution of the story was really good, and I loved the way they moved Stars to before Look Down/Paris. It made for a really cool transition.
The sets and costumes were really well done, too. I loved the Rue Plumet garden and the Barricade.
Look at that, it's just lovely, isn't it?
Hm. Coffins. Subtle. Very, very, subtle. I wonder which
student thought it would be a good idea to put those
Okay, I'm very interested in filmmaking, specifically: Cinematography. When I watch a new movie, Cinematography is outranked only by the Soundtrack in terms of what I'm anticipating. In this movie, I thought the Cinematography was sort of a mixed bag. I thought the crane shots were really powerful, and there were a few scenes where I was just blown away. Like in Stars for example, in the second verse, there's a shot where the camera goes in a half-circle around Javert. It's shot from below, and you can the sky around him, and it looks really neat.
Then there was the jitter-cam and the extreme close ups. I thought the jitter-cam was effective in the battle scenes, adding to the chaotic feel, but sometimes it got a little hard to tell what was going on. And as for the extreme close ups... Well, they were fine when they weren't too close. But there were  a few shots where I was like "AH! PULL BACK, PULL BACK!!"

Now. The Music.
I thought that they did a stellar job with the orchestrations. Seriously, they were beautiful! The one complaint I have is that usually there's a flute solo at the end of A Little Fall of Rain, but in this they give it to a violin. Hey! No fair! That was the only flute solo in the whole thing! But that was compensated for during In My Life and A Heart Full of Love. The flute in those songs sounded like butterflies, and I think that flute actually does fit Cosette better. XD And excellent use of Cello, Piano, and... heck, every instrument.
Oh, I feel like I'm forgetting something... something important... oh right! The performances... give me a minute to find out all the actor names. :P

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman)

 His singing was a little patchy sometimes. I thought he got a bit off-key sometimes, and when singing Bring Him Home, he looked and sounded like he was in a bit of pain. That having been said, his acting was great, and so was the rest of his singing. I loved the way he acted the scenes with Cosette. They have a really good Father/Daughter dynamic, and I think that Suddenly really amplified that. (Sniffle... that was such a sweet little song.) I think he does my favorite versions of Valjean's Soliloquy and Who Am I. You know how in the latter song, the actor usually belts out the line- "I'm Jean Valjean!"? Here he sort of just says it, but I thought it was really cool. He sounded like he totally meant business.

Javert (Russell Crowe)

Okay, it took me a while to get used to his voice. It's very different from what I was used to hearing, but after a while it started to grow on me. I feel like Russell Crowe brought out a side of Javert that isn't usually there. He seemed a lot more thoughtful and calm than usual. There were scenes where he just was Javert, and others where... well, I don't want to be uncharitable. But let's just say that the scene where Valjean let him escape from the barricade was interesting. But overall, I thought he was pretty good!

Fantine(Anne Hathaway)

I am not allowed to say anything bad about Anne Hathaway's performance unless I want the secret service to kick down my door and drag me off to Room 104. But in all seriousness, I think she did a pretty good job with the character. I love how her Fantine didn't just sit around and let herself get fired, she was literally dragged out! She had a certain toughness about her, and I liked that. Her singing was pretty good (when she wasn't sobbing), but I felt like she could have been a little more... I don't know, less sobby with I Dreamed a Dream. Okay, I'm gonna hold up in my room until the angry mob leaves. ;)

Cosette(Amanda Seyfried)
I hate to say it, but she was originally the reason I was reluctant to watch the movie. XD But now, ironically, she's one of the reasons I like it so much. Her Cosette is very well acted and sung, you can see how much she loves and respects Valjean, even if she gets impatient with his secretiveness. The lyric changes in In My Life helped too. And her acting during the Epilogue... oh my goodness, it was so heartbreaking.

The Thenardiers(Sacha Baren-Cohen and Helena Bohnam-Carter)
They were pretty much like the Book Thenardiers. Really disgusting and slimy. But they were still really funny at times, even if I think Monsieur Thenardier had an irritating fake accent. Seriously. They're all French! And nobody else talks like that. Just him. Why? [eye twitch]

Marius Pontmercy(Eddie Redmayne)
Well, let's just get this out of the way now. I thought his voice sounded like Kermit the Frog, and I wasn't exactly fond of it. Now that I've got that out of my system, allow me to say that I liked his acting. He was so adorkable in A Heart Full of Love, the way he was stumbling over his words, it was so cute! And his performance in Little Fall of Rain... wow. His version of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables was pretty good (aside from the aforementioned Kermie voice.), but I wish that he hadn't looked STRAIGHT into the camera. [shivers]

Eponine(Samantha Barks)
I loved Samantha Bark's take on Eponine. Her singing was really beautiful, and her acting was more than just being sad. I also noticed some rather strange eye twitches, and you get the sense that she really resents Cosette. Of course, she wasn't mentally unstable like in the book, but she was tough. I like how in Attack on Rue Plumet, after she screams, she totally hits Thenardier. Her version of On My Own was so pretty, and even though it was softer than other versions, it's still just as powerful. And I loved A Little Fall of Rain. I don't even care that they cut half the lyrics, I loved it.

Enjolras(Aaron Tveit)
As was the case with Javert, he was really different from the guy on our CD. Where CD guy was all hyper and loud, this guy was more calm and thoughtful. In that way, I think he was pretty close to Book Enjolras. I like how he had more emotions than just being loud and obnoxious (But I still love you, CD Man! Whatever your name is!), and his singing was fairly decent. My sister describes his voice as sounding 'Like a Muffin', and I think I'll just leave it at that. He has some really good Blink-And-You'll-Miss-It moments in The Final Battle, helping guys into the Wine Shop, etc. And he was comforting Marius at the end of A Little Fall of Rain. :D

Gavroche(Daniel Huttlestone)
I liked this kid, he was good! I had a minor problem with him, and that was that sometimes it's a little hard to tell just what he's saying behind his charming cockney accent. (Why do French orphans talk like Charles Dickens characters?) Something I really like about Gavroche is that he's just as brave as (maybe even more so than) the grown-ups he hangs around with, and I think this came across quite well in the movie.

The Verdict: A
I was forced to deduct points for Master of the House(it was funny, don't get me wrong, but YIKES! I do not remember it being that rude.). But that's pretty outweighed by all the stuff that I did like about this movie. The sets, the actors, the orchestrations, the actors, etc... I loved the way it took the stage play and adapted it so well for the cinema. It was neat how they stuck in little odd details from the book and melded them in, too. Huzzah!

-Xochitl (why do I even bother with the alias anymore if I accidentaly stuck my real name in a comic? XD)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pan's Labyrinth [2006]

[NOTE: This movie has some strong violence and language and is definitely NOT for kids.]

In a time when most movies are reboots and remakes, an original movie is a rare find indeed. Pan's Labyrinth is a very unique film. It's about a young girl named Ofelia, who's living during the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War in the 1940's. She and her pregnant mother move to the country to be with her Step-Father who's an army captain. Almost right away, fantastical things start happening to Ofelia.

Now, the plot of this movie is just like a fairy tale, even if it is an extremely dark one. In the opening narration, we're told that the one day, the curious princess of the underworld escaped into the human world. However, the brightness of the sun blinded her and made her forget who she was, and eventually, she died. However, it was legend that the princess' spirit would someday return home. Now, it turns out that Ofelia is the lost princess, and has to complete three tasks to prove that she is worthy.

This movie features some very good acting performances, the most notable being the lead, Ofelia. She was absolutely terrific, and really made you feel for the character.

As a fantasy, there are tons of stunning visuals in this movie. There's some really good costumes and CGI, though perhaps the most engaging of all the various fantastical elements in the movie were two characters called The Faun and The Pale Man.

The Faun is the one who gives Ofelia her tasks, and, despite looking otherwise, is not evil. The costuming on him is so strange and cool to look at. You can't get the full extent of it from a picture, you also have to see how he moves, too.
He moves almost stiffly, kind of lofty but also sort of graceful in a way. If any of you have seen The Nightmare Before Christmas, think about how Sally walks around and you've sort of got the idea.

Now for the other creature, The Pale Man, who I feel sort of mirrors The Faun in a way (They were actually played by the same man- Doug Jones.). As you can see from the picture, The Pale Man is quite terrifying to look at, and even though he's just in one scene in the movie, he leaves such a big impression. I mean that is just pure, un-cut nightmare fuel. I'd question the practicality of having eyes on your hands, but we must remember that this guy is a monster. Monsters, by their nature, meant to scare the living daylights out of you. So when you think about it that way... XD

This movie is very dark and atmospheric, and beautifully executed. The scenery is gorgeous, and the cinematography was just... wow. There was heavy use of segue, and the scenes were lit so that you see just enough. It was dark, but not poorly lit. If that makes... any sense?

The music in this movie is probably one of my favorite things about it. The music is actually the reason we rented it and watched it! I all happened one day when I was browsing around YouTube, and found a song from it-

Isn't that one of the most beautiful pieces of music you've ever heard? The whole soundtrack is consistently good, and fits the movie perfectly. I'd actually like to devote a whole post to the soundtrack, kind of like what I did with the Spirited Away OST, so I'll be moving on for now.

The Verdict: A
Pan's Labyrinth is a visually stunning film with a moving story. It's executed beautifully, and the end product is a terrific work of art. Not to say that there aren't flaws, though. It should be noted that this movie contains some very bad language(most of it is spoken by nasty stepfather), and scenes of violence. Most of these are lit so you only see the outlines of what is happening, but it's still brutal. There's also some moral ambiguity concerning some characters. However, in the important aspects of morality, this movie gets it right.
This movie, while not for everyone, is a chilling dark fantasy, and a unique change from the usual fare.

Friday, January 10, 2014

More Fun With Lonely Souls

Heh heh, I finally put a caption up on the blog header. It's from Phantom of the Opera, just so you know it's not random. XD
Anyhoo... Comic!

Then my sister thought it was extremely mean and cold-hearted of me to draw that, so the following drawing was inspired. :)

Of course, she didn't really chase me with a pitchfork and a torch. :)
That's pretty much a given.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Man of Steel [2013]

Sigh... Superman is no longer the bright, optimistic protector of the American way. Now he's dark, moody, full of angst, and destroying lots of city property.
With that intro, you'd think that there's absolutely nothing I liked about this movie. Well... no, there were some things I liked about it.
The Kyrpton part, for example. I think it was rather daring of the film makers to imply that artificial population control was part of their downfall. That was very interesting, and the first fifteen minutes actually take place on Krypton. I liked that, it was pretty action-packed and to me, had more emotional tension than the fight scene at the end.
I still firmly believe that the Krypton scenes had a lower body count than the fight scene at the end.
Russell Crowe was also pretty good in this, though sadly, all I could think of was "NOW PRISONER 24601! YOUR TIME IS UP AND YOUR PAROLE'S BEGUN!" Don't ask why I type the Russell Crowe Javert's lines in all caps.
And throughout this dark film, there were a few scattered funny moments. Like when Superman was learning how to fly, that was pretty good. There were a few pretty freaky moments, too. Well, by a 'few', I mean the scene where General Zod was broadcasting his message to all the electronic devices in the world. Fairly chilling.
Unfortunately, the Man of Steel himself isn't that great. We don't get to see his personality because he's too busy being dark and moody through the whole movie. Um, I thought it was Batman's job to be dark and moody! And yet I feel like even The Dark Knight had more humor in it than this movie... Lois Lane was... well, for one, she was a little profane of speech. Secondly, aside from being your generic, intrepid, independent-girl-who-eventually-gets-a-boyfriend-anyway, she's bland. Doesn't have any chemistry with Superman, either! When they kiss towards the end, it feels really sudden and doesn't have any build up.
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who was bugged by all the destruction in the fight scene at the end. Seriously! I get it, loads and loads of people died because of the terra-forming device that Zod set up. But I'll bet a lot more died when Superman and Zod were fighting! Yeah, they flew through buildings, knocked over a parking garage, pretty much laid complete and total waste to the entire city! Um we're supposed to be on Superman's side, right? Well how can we when he seems to have a total disregard for innocent human life? Isn't it possible to punch out a bad guy without destroying a city?
Of course though, he's really upset when he has to snap Zod's neck to keep him from killing a family.
I can think of several alternatives to killing him, Supes.

1. Now, Zod was using his fire-laser vision to slowly corner them, why couldn't you use your ice breath to freeze the laser? Or him, for that matter?
2. Knock him out? You know, whack him on the head? Incapacitate him in some way?
3. Also, didn't look like the family was totally helpless here, either. They could have moved out of the way before they were cornered!
4. If Superman was strong enough to snap his neck, then surely he could have wrenched his head around to give the people time to escape!

Or maybe the filmmakers could make a happy Superman movie, where he doesn't have to kill
And now for my other major gripe with the film, and that is the Messiah imagery.
Through the movie, there are various instances in which Superman is compared to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

1. Constantly spreading his arms out in a Cross.
2. Superman states that he is 33.
3. In the first half of the movie, Zod threatens the world saying that if Superman doesn't turn himself in, he'll... kill people? I think? Anyway, Superman goes into a church and talks with a Priest about whether or not he should turn himself in. I whole-heartedly applaud the positive portrayal of a Priest, but what makes me roll my eyes about this scene was the stained glass window behind Superman. Yeah. The Agony in the Garden.

I don't have a problem with Jesus imagery in movies and books, but there has to be a good reason! Did Superman die to save us from our sins? Um... noooo. And remind me of the part of the Bible where Jesus let his uncle get sucked into a tornado and destroyed a city.

The Verdict: C+
I liked the minor Pro-Life message, and the way the film looked. It was a nice lookin' film. The music didn't really jump out at me though. So I didn't hate this movie, but I didn't love it either. It doesn't help that I'm not a huge fan of comic book superheroes, but you should be able to enjoy a good movie regardless of the genre.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Playmobil Les Miserables

Hi, this is the little sister! Here are my playmobils doing Les Miserables. I got the stage for Christmas and it originally had a rock band on it, that explains the flashing lights!

This is the Confrontation. Javert is the Pirate, and Valjean is the Plummer. There's dead Fantine back there, too. [Nice earrings, Javert. :)]

This is Look Down(the one in Paris). Gavroche is the one in front.
This is A Heart Full of Love. :D
This is 'Building the Barricade'. Enjolras is the guy standing on top [You mean the one with the Bieber Hair?], and keep an eye out for Gavroche!
This is in The First Attack, when Valjean pretends to kill Javert.
This is The Final Battle.

This is Enjolras. He's not dead, he's just drunk. ["hiccup... Freedom... hiccup..."]

Now this is the WHOLE stage during the Final Battle. 
This is the beginning of Javert's Suicide. And... Marius still has his happy playmobil smile. XD

And this is Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. Okay, from left to right. The guys behind him are Combeferre, L'aigle, Enjolras, and Courfeyrac. Because he has a hat. :D [Sniffle... I'm so proud to have a sister who knows the names of the Friends of the ABC, but can't name all the members of One Direction. XD But wait, the Friends of the ABC are kinda like a boyband I suppose... Oh my... now I'm so conflicted.]
Ahem, who's post was this again, Xochitl?
That's all I got for now, but thank you for looking at it! I really enjoy playing with the stage. :)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Attention Span

A while back, me and my mom were talking about how short attention spans are like little faerie versions of you that are constantly vying for your attention.
Diagram that sentence. I'm quite terrible at explaining things, as you see. :)

As you can see, I have some issues. I also forget to block out my real name. Whatever. XD
Oh, and the tag 'still life' refers to comics that are based off real life. Just in case you thought I was dumb enough to think this qualified as a real art still life.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Blue Umbrella [2013]

The Blue Umbrella is a short film by Pixar. I mentioned it before, but I wanted to gush about it some more in a post all it's own. This is the short film that came with Monsters University, and as fun as that was, I think Blue Umbrella was more memorable. Here are my reasons why.
The animation in this short is just beautiful. At first, it's almost impossible to tell they animated it!
I mean, look at that. It's almost photorealistic. Of course, the problem with photorealistic animation is that the people look creepy and mannequin-like. This problem is averted in Blue Umbrella, since you never actually see a human face. The faces on the Umbrellas are animated, very simple faces with just eyes and a mouth. And yet they emote better than a lot of live action actors. The scenery is alive too, and there are faces everywhere. It might be creepy, but I was pretty enchanted by it. This short really reminds us how lovely a rainfall can be.

Telling a sweet little love story in about five minutes
The titular Blue Umbrella falls in love at first sight with a red girl umbrella who he sees standing out in a crowd of black. I'm going to go off on a tangent now and just say that I love how much personality they gave umbrellas. And I like how the girl one is kind of curvy and more feminine looking. XD
Anyway, the whole short is about the Blue Umbrella trying to find the Red Umbrella again. It's funny, it's clever, even kind of sad for a few moments when you starting thinking he won't find her again. The ending is very sweet, as it ends with both umbrella's owners going out for coffee(with the two umbrellas, of course.).

The music for this short was really nice and well done too. It's rather whimsical, and the instruments sound a little rainy. Very fitting and beautiful. :) Dangerously catchy though.

The Verdict: A+
Okay, if you think too hard about it, it is a little weird. But if you use your imagination and just watch, The Blue Umbrella is a work of art. I mean, who says that short films can't be art? I think that Film making can be a really beautiful art form, and this is a charming example.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Professor!

I'm not sure how Mr. Tolkien would feel about me portraying his characters in such a horrendously cutsey art form, but since I can't write in Dwarfish runes yet, this will have to do! :D

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Phantom of the Opera [2012]

Well, the actual musical was written in, what? The 1980's? But the one me, mom, little sister, and little brother watched off the DVR was a production put on in 2012.
This would be the first time I've actually seen the whole thing all the way though, so it was nice of Grandpa to leave it on the DVR for us.
Oh, and it's 2014. Howabout that. :D
Oh and I have to warn you, when I rant, I rant incoherently, so I apologize in advance for any ineloquence that lies ahead.
Why does the poster have a full mask,
but he only wears a half-mask in
the actual thing?

So we sat down and skipped the opening pledge drive muckety muck (It was on KQED), and right off the bat, my brother starts asking "Which one is the Phantom?" over and over and over again.
The Overture is just... oh my goodness, that is one awesome piece of music. I really liked that.
Next up came the Hannibal Rehersal (I'm looking up the tracklisting for all the song names. XD), and we were a little confused as to when 'stuff' would start to happen. Not like I don't enjoy ballet in moderate doses, it's just that when you've got a musical, it's nice to have some story to go with it. Ahem.
Think of Me was pretty, the lady playing Christine did a really good job there. She seemed a little nervous at first, but when it transitioned into the actual performance, she seemed like she was really enjoying it.
Then Madame Giry came up, and we were so sure that she was evil, what with all the black she
wears, and the evil hitting-stick. But it turned out she wasn't, she just really likes black, apparently.
I like Christine's friend, Meg. Even if she doesn't do anything besides panic and announce the Phantom's presence. After Meg congratulates Christine on her good performance, Christine's ol' sweetheart Raoul (now a rich guy who patrons the opera house.) comes by and invites her to dinner. It was really funny how he just brushes off her 'Father sent me an angel of music!', and insists that they go to dinner. Unfortunately, that makes the Phantom allmightlily angry, and as soon as Raoul leaves, he ceases to be the Angel of Music and becomes the Angel of Snippiness. There was a neat effect where Christine 'walked' through a mirror and the Phantom took her down to his lair.

This part was probably my favorite, the sets, the music, and everything made a great atmosphere. The guy playing the Phantom was really good too. I thought his voice had kind of a rocker edge to it, and his acting was great, maybe a little hammy at times though.
Anyway, the sets totally blew my mind. I mean, I have no idea how they did all that, so for somebody ignorant of theater ways (like me) it is quite mysterious.
So then he welcomed Christine to his palace where all must pay homage to music. Muuuuusiiiiiiiiic. And then I got to thinking that I should deck up the garage like that... Get a load of candles and statues... when people come in, I'll welcome them in the same way...
And now... the song that makes all the ladies swoon! Music of the Night!! Besides the icky bad touching, and eternal length of the song, it's very pretty. I can see why it's prime swooning material, too.
Ahem. Music of the Night was very well sung. In The Phantom of the Opera, I mentioned that his voice sounded kind of rock-ish, but here he did really well in the softer parts too. Quite nice to listen to. After Music of the Night, the Phantom mashes his organ keyboard, and then Christine wakes up. Not from the keyboard mashing, mind you. She actually wakes up because of the music box. Huh?
So there was a nice little instrumental reprise of Angel of Music, which is cut short because Christine pulls off the Phantom's mask, and he goes loco crazy. That freaks out Christine, and after he gets his mask back on, the Phantom decides that the field trip is over and Christine needs to go back up.
Meanwhile...  Some guy is terrorizing the ballerinas with horror stories about the Phantom. Then Madame Giry tells him off. Now that guy, he belongs in a seedy pub more than anyone else I've ever seen. Anyone else I've ever seen outside of a Masterpiece Theater adaptation of a Dicken's novel, that is.
The goofy opera house owners, I think they were called Andre and Firmin, are also going loco crazy because of all the letters they're getting.
One was from the Phantom, and he insisted that Christine play the lead in an upcoming opera. Well, that made Carlotta, the prima donna, none too happy. So we get a song about how Carlotta will be playing the lead.
This part was pretty funny, especially the Phantom's letter. "Carlotta plays the part of the pageboy, which is silent. So you can see that my casting is in a word... ideal." I don't think I got that quote quite right, but you get the gist of it anyway.
So we have an Opera, within an Opera. Christine ended up playing the pageboy, though she didn't seem to mind much though. Actually seemed to be enjoying herself. XD Things went all well and merry until the Phantom showed up and was displeased that Christine wasn't playing the lead. This leads to him dishing out total pownage to Carlotta, making her voice all... croaky and worse than usual. Wonder how he did that.
So they go to the ballet from Act III, which also goes well and merry until the magic lasso guy gets murdered by the Phantom, and thrown onto the stage from the rafters.

 Naturally, this sends everything into chaos, and Christine and Raoul run up to the roof where she has a panic attack. This part has a lot of Raoul grabbing her shoulders, then Christine grabbing his jacket.

First we were joking that Christine was surrounded by men who grab her by the shoulders and shake her. Then All I Ask of You started, and I took back all bad thoughts I had on Raoul. Sure, he could have just been manipulating a panicky woman to make her love him, but I choose to sit on the idealistic side of the bench, and say that he was genuinely comforting her. I mean, they spun! If that's not a sign of true love, then there is no sign of true love.

Oh, I just neglected the scene before All I Ask of You.  I really liked it when Christine sang to the tune of Music of the Night. And part of what makes All I Ask of You so sweet (in my opinion, that is) is that Raoul doesn't believe Christine about the Phantom even existing, but he still comforts her about it anyway. It just makes my heart feel so fwuffy and melty just thinking about it.
So, after this song, any happy feelings you might have for Raoul and Christine all but disappear when the Phantom emerges from his hiding spot, utterly heartbroken. I mean, you could just see the moment where his heart split in half.
His actor was so good at this part. And that line- "You will curse the day you did not do all the Phantom asked of YOOOOUUUUU!!!" .... wow. I don't know whether to be happy about how cool it sounded, or creeped out by the angry oath of revenge.
Then he brought down the chandelier. Or rigged it with explosives, cuz' that's what it looked like. XD My little brother really liked that part. I mean, he's been doing impressions of the Phantom's crazy yell thing ever since New Year's Eve when we watched it.

Now there's another really pretty instrumental bit, and after that, Act II starts. There's a really long masquerade ball. Not so popular with the little brother, but me and mom are going to sing a variation on it next time we go to a potluck, or other party! "POTLUUUUCK!! EVERYBODY BRING A DISH!!"
Anyway... Raoul and Christine are now engaged, but for some reason they're keeping it a secret. The festivities are interrupted when Guess Who comes in, accompanied by his theme music.
Dude, that is a fabulous sombrero. I'm wearing that outfit if I ever get invited to a Dia de Los Muertos party! :D
So the Phantom gives them the score for an Opera he's composed, and of course, he wants Christine to play the lead.
So he leaves, no doubt to attend a Dia de Los Muertos party, and everyone scatters.
Raoul chases down Madame Giry, and she explains some backstory, yada yada, yada, Raoul gets mean when he gets panicky.
Now they have to practice the Opera the Phantom wrote. This part's serious, but I had to laugh when Madame Giry came in...

Madame Giry: I have another note.
Everyone Else: [disgruntled sigh]

The Phantom's also kind of funny in sort of a mean way, at least in his letters. XD
Anyway, everyone goes NUTS. Raoul and Carlotta are chewing out Madame Giry, and Christine totally flips out. At first I was like "C'mon, Christine!", but I quickly remembered all that was going on and came to the conclusion that anybody would flip out. Raoul does his best to reassure her, but mere minutes after telling her she doesn't have to be in the opera, he tells her she has to.
But that (understandably) does nothing to soothe her mood, and she runs off. Raoul goes nuts and yells at the Phantom, who was probably listening.
Next we've got more rehearsal, in which they can't figure out a rhythm, and a piano plays itself.

Then we change scenes, and shivers are sent down many a spine, because there's this gorgeous violin solo. I mean, wow. The next song is Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. I had a few issues with the fact that Christine went way out of tune towards the end (Mom says it wasn't out of tune, but rather some weird Opera technique. I dunno.), but besides that, this part was so pretty. Her costume was lovely, and song is one of my favorites from this.
We've got Christine at her most confused and scared, and this song demonstrates how much she misses her father, which was really touching. Judging by the applause, this seems like the 'big' solo for Christine.
Then, the Phantom shows up. Again, the singer really surprises me with how soft and calm he can make his voice. After he sings to Christine for a moment, Raoul arrives, and I start to wonder just how many people followed Christine to the graveyard.
There's a confrontation, cool pyrotechnics, yelling Raoul(which is becoming a scene requirement, at this point.), and the Phantom declares that now it's war between them all.
The night of the Opera, Raoul has some army guys or cops come to stand guard to watch for the Phantom. He tells them that if they see the Phantom shoot, and shoot to kill. Yikes. On one hand, it is very sweet you would do that for Christine. On the other hand... Uh, doesn't that sink you to his level?
The Phantom's opera begins, but not before Raoul yells at some more people.

At one point, the Phantom swaps places with the lead actor and sings a duet with Christine. There's about two problems with this scene. First. I know he was wearing a cloak over his face, but Christine didn't recognize the Phantom's voice? Second. This song had some rather icky lyrics, and there's waaaaaaaayyyy too much touching. Ew.
But the tune is so brilliant, it's title is very fitting for the intense feel it has- Past the Point of No Return.
Gradually, Christine notices the difference (about time.), and pulls the hood off his face. He sings a rather sad reprise of All I Ask of You, until Christine pulls the mask off too, and everything goes crazy!

In the chaos, the Phantom takes Christine down to his lair, Meg discovers the dead body of the lead actor, and an angry mob forms to hunt down the Phantom. Madame Giry helps Raoul down to the lair (well, partway there, anyway.), and we enter the Finale.
This part is, well, it was really cool. The singing, acting, and music, they were all really good. The makeup on the Phantom too- wow. I think my younger siblings were a tad traumatized by that. They kept commenting on it and wondering if that was his real hair, etc. [They're fine, by the way.] But really, the part that squicked me out were his lips! I mean, I bet kissing him felt like rubbing your mouth against cold, uncooked hot dogs!
So, Raoul arrives as the Phantom and Christine are arguing, and you know, the poor guy does his best to rescue his sweetheart, but...
You tried Raoul, that's what counts.
C'mon Raoul, I know that you're under a lot of stress at the moment, but did Madame Giry not warn you about the lasso?
Well, too late now, I guess. So now the Phantom gives Christine one of those impossible choices- Spend your life with me, or I'll kill him!
Things get rather chaotic, musically, for a few minutes. Everyone's singing and yelling at once (Even Raoul, from his noose), and it was a little hard to pick out everything everyone was saying. The Phantom was saying something about however she chose, she wouldn't win, Raoul was off about how if she chooses to save his life his life is over without her, and Christine was understandably upset about the whole Angel of Music thing.
In the end, Christine chooses to stay with the Phantom, and she shows him that he's not alone by totally kissing him. The look on the Phantom's face when she did that, was just wow. And then there was Raoul. He looked pretty brokenhearted to see Christine kissing another man throwing her life away for his sake.
Christine's act of kindness must have really touched the Phantom, because the next thing he does is let them go. You can tell it was torturing him to see Christine leave, and the guy playing the Phantom really hammed it up for this scene. So he's left there all alone with the wedding veil, and a creepy monkey music box, and just when you think it couldn't get any more sad- Christine comes back to return the ring he gave her.
And it ends with Christine and Raoul going off, presumably getting married sometime in the future, and the Phantom all alone down in his lair, utterly heartbroken. Then Meg comes down, and finds nothing there except the mask.
The. End.

The Verdict: A-
First off, the music was absolutely gorgeous. The songs aren't really easy to sing along with, like they are in a certain other musical based on a French book, but they are so pretty to listen to. The sets and costumes too, at least in this version, really had me impressed. The singing was good, with a few minor complaints. So yeah, I liked it. XD Romance isn't really my big thing (or I choose to believe it isn't.), but I'm willing to make some exceptions. :)

Now if you excuse me, I must make my way to a Dia de Los Muertos party!
Good-morrow to you.