11 December 2007

Movie Review: Enchanted

Enchanted (4/5 stars)

It's a routinely classic Disney fairy tale - brought to life! The first portion of this film is completely animated, full of vibrant color, over-exaggerated characters, and lyrical songs every five minutes. Right away, the prince and princess meet, fall instantly in love while singing together and are about to marry when, you guessed it, the evil step-mother tries to prevent this matrimonial event to preserve her crown. She shoves our main character Giselle, into a fountain-well, where on the other side, exists New York City.

Hilarity ensues as we observe Giselle (Amy Adams) struggle to understand the ways of 'normal' life outside of ceaseless happiness, love at first sight, and talking animals. Upon entering New York, she immediately meets Robert (Patrick Dempsey), a divorced divorce lawyer with a 6 year-old daughter. He assumes Giselle is crazy and reluctantly decides to help her, with strong motivation from his star-struck daughter. Meanwhile, Prince Edward (James Marsden) dives into the portal to rescue his princess, blissfully ignorant to the fact that his step-mother is the perpetrator.

Life for Giselle is tremendously different in a big city, than what she is used to in fantasy-land. Adams does a wonderfully superb job of acting inappropriately naive throughout the entire film. Her facial expressions and body language are painfully over-done, but for this film, it's perfect. The first 3/4 of the movie genuinely mock Disney's artificial formula, showing us how ridiculously far-off their films are to real life events. However, because it’s Disney doing the mocking, I can give them a friendly nod for knowing perfectly how to add to their monstrous profits.

Marsden offers us a large chunk of humor in this film, already encompassing animated princely features, even though he has only a quarter of screen-time as the other actors. His subtle, yet engaging facial expressions are so quick, you really have to pay attention to his reactions. He also acquires some of the best lines in the movie, notably calling New Yorkers 'noble peasants' throughout the film. Susan Sarandon, as Queen Narissa and step-mother to Prince Edward, has a commanding voice (animated or not) and a sleek, midnight outfit that I would don immediately, if ever given the opportunity. Although she's animated for most of the film, when you finally get to see her in real life, it's worth the wait.

However, the last part of this film really took a dive back into Disney-animated dribble, but in unpalatable human form. Disney wants to make sure you remember that it’s their product you're viewing, by force-feeding you ‘popular’ moments from their classic animated films. The poisonous apple makes an appearance (as it annoyingly did in Pirates), as well as the single shoe left behind at the ball, and a terrorizing dragon (formally a queen). Normally, I'm all for dragon-appearances in any movie, CGI or animated; but all that the freshly-transformed Narissa did was blather on while trying to narrate her haughty frustrations and dispose of Robert and Giselle. Once the dragon is defeated (sorry, was that an unapparent spoiler?), Giselle realizes she would rather stay in the real world with her newly-discovered true love (oops, that was a spoiler). But not to worry, it's a Happy Ending for everyone, if you were curious... it's Disney you know!

Overall, because this film was so mockingly and consistently funny for the majority of its running time, I give it 4/5 stars. The script was a comfortable mix between animation and real-life speak, and the costumes were an exact replica of what they would be, had animated people stepped into the real world. It's just too bad the strong plot declines toward the end, turning it into a bona fide Disney flick. But the situational humor, well-executed during the bulk of the film, makes it worth seeing!

06 December 2007

Movie Review: Death Proof

Death Proof (4/5 stars)

Released in theater's as one part of a two-feature Grindhouse special, this film features bad-ass car chases, breath-holding stunts, and indomitable women. Quentin Tarantino directs two separate groups of young women, both harassed by a former Hollywood stunt-man, turned serial killer, played by Kurt Russell. Strange as it sounds, he purposefully murders them with his car - something I don't think I have ever encountered as the theme of a movie before.

Tarantino’s captivating story leads you by your hand, curiously through this movie, only to be disrupted in mere moments by bouts of fear, violence or shock. This plot exists in two parts - the first group of women brutally murdered by Russell, followed by a time lapse to the next group of women, unrelated to the first. Although one of the women involved with the first group feels that something is not right with this stunt-man, they ultimately brush off his behavior and unwittingly end up his victims. Next we meet the second group of girls, much more tough (physically and mentally) than the latter.

What interested me greatly with this film, is that rather than give the first group of women just an opening scene of the film, Tarantino spends about half of the movie with character development for these girls. Unconventionally, most films would demonstrate the killer's personality and power with unknown, expendable victims. What Tarantino does is greatly increase our hatred for the antagonist, so at the end of the movie, you feel a great deal of satisfaction when Russell is dealt with in a satisfactory way.

Even though the previews for this film didn't do it any justice, my main interest for seeing this movie was Zoe Bell. I saw her awhile back in a documentary called Double Dare. It features the lives of some famous stunt-women, starting off with Jeannie Epper and her family's history of Hollywood stunt actors. Zoe Bell, a New Zealand native, becomes the featured girl of the documentary, and the camera follows her from the final episode of TV show Xena: Princess Warrior, to her audition with Tarantino, and ultimately the production of massive fight-scenes in Kill Bill, as Uma Thurman's stunt-double.

In Death Proof, Bell plays herself, visiting a fellow stunt-woman and two friends in the U.S. In what (unfortunately) feels like an hour, we see the girls interacting together, setting us up for the big car-chase climax of the film. I highly enjoyed seeing Bell perform deadly car stunts, at full speed, while acting very naturally for her first time. She absolutely loves what she does, and shows it without restraint while playing herself, with enjoyable giggles while trying out new stunt equipment in Double Dare. I can’t help but adore and admire this woman! :)

Russell, on the other hand, isn't an actor I have ever cared for, or care to see in any movie; but he didn't bother me at all in this film, and I actually enjoyed his portrayal of unpredictable, calculating stunt-man Mike. Towards the end of the show, you start to realize what a deeply disturbed person he has become - or was it out-of-work boredom that has provoked his lust for murder?

Tarantino's thing lately has been featuring intensively strong women in his films, giving them fight scenes normally reduced to stereotypical male roles. In a couple scenes, these women are lusty and sexual; but presented by a stronger character, it's always of her own accord. Either way, I love what he has been doing for women in films, and highly anticipate his next venture.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. The acting was natural, the characters intriguing, the stunts are the most realistically done in any film for a long time (no CGI!), and I can never resist movies that feature girl-power! However, some of the character development felt a little stretched thin, which made the under-2-hours film feel a bit long at some points. And although you can fast-forward through a lot of the mid-movie jabber, this film is worth seeing, even just for the perfectly-coordinated, vengeful car chase!

05 December 2007

Movie Review: The Mist

Stephen King’s The Mist (3/5 stars)

When I saw the previews for this movie on TV, I thought “meh... another ‘scary’ movie I’ll probably never see”. But when I read the official review on the Strib website, it was brought to my attention that Frank Darabont directed this film. He's most known for graciously adapting two Stephen King novels into films, being The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Right then, my expectations and desire to see this film (in theaters) greatly expanded.

However - yes, there's a 'however'... sad, huh... the movie was not even worth the $5 twilight show. It started out curiously, but twenty minutes into the film, they showed the first instinctual, blood-thirsty creature. Now, if you're going to make a film with this creepy mist where you can't see an inch in front of your nose, obviously one should take advantage of this situation to scare the sanity out of people, and let their minds come up with what's killing the characters off (regardless of the novel). But once this [opposite of "scary" word here], poorly-executed, CGI monster showed up, I knew from then on that the movie would be a disappointment.

I have not read the book, mind you, nor have I ever finished any Stephen King novel, but from the Netflix reviews online, people say that the ending of the book is definitely not as appalling as the ending of this movie. Without giving anything away, I will say that I did enjoy the unexpected turn of events. The main criticism is that it was for shock-value - a Hollywood ploy to make the film more dramatically enticing. But by the time you reach the end of this film, you'll be aching for an incredibly out-of-character moment, that it'll be hard NOT to appreciate. This movie runs a little over 2 hours long, but I never felt the need for a bathroom break. Yet, there are a lot of painfully slow dialogues between characters, and I felt a strong desire to yell at them to get over it and move on with the show.

The plot of this film is human nature in the midst of something supernatural - something King-readers (or viewers) will understand. You’re more afraid of what's happening inside the store, where a large group of townspeople are trapped, more so than the invisible, instant-death-giving creatures outside. Humans pitted against other humans in times of survival-induced stress really demonstrate the vast differences in personality, and what odd reality the less stable-minded people will conjure up. Of course, for these peoples' unfortunate luck, the town's hypocritical, 'god-speaks-through-me' religious-fanatic is inside the store as well. Played irritatingly beautiful by Marcia Gay Harden, you will literally stand up and cheer when something ultimately 'bad' happens to her (for a moment, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen at all!). The rest of the actors are not well-known, which creates a great mystery of who will live and who will die.

The creatures themselves are actually quite intriguing, sans the first one they show which I mentioned earlier. Their faces are subtle mimics of our skulls, and according to ONE line in the movie (with no back-story), they come from an alternate dimension. I deduce that these monsters are in a 'Jurassic' stage of their evolution, as their sizes range from four-foot long insects to ginormously-tall 'striders' (think brontosaurus, but with long legs instead of neck). I was highly interested in understanding the creatures' origins, as they are the reason the mist has arrived (and why the mist in the first place?); but the movie gives us no other explanation, besides their appearance being the military’s fault. I suppose I'll have to read the book, eh? :)

Overall, I give it three out of five stars. The script was stretched-out to the point of being unrealistic, the dialogue ran long and dry, and the CGI in one part of the film was terrible (these days, poor CGI doesn't cut it, even if it's only five minutes of the movie). I did enjoy the IDEA of survivalist-tension between groups of characters in the store, but it wasn’t executed very well. The ending was nicely unexpected, but not enough to make me watch the film ever again, or recommend it.

11 November 2007

Halloween Pics, con't.

Here's these amazing pictures that Crystal took of me during Halloween. I cropped and edited them for color, density, and a more artsy appeal. :) [click to enlarge an image]

08 November 2007

Movie Review: Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (3/5 stars)

This documentary definitely made me depressed; I already hated Wal-Mart before renting it, and now I hate them even more, if possible. There was a lot of good facts and information given, along with un-scripted testimony by former employees, managers, and general victims of Wal-Mart's reign. But as far as documentaries go, I thought this one was directed very poorly. The camera movements were inappropriately shaky and the people being interviewed were sometimes cut out of the shot entirely. This might be viewed as artistic or more 'realistic' in the documentary world, but to the viewer, it's just annoying.

Normally in documentary films, the director will offer other points of view, or at least some positives to outweigh the negatives. Even if the positives are crushed moments later by negative truths, at least they're there - but in this film, it was all negative. (Don’t get me wrong - I'm happy there's nothing positive to say about Wal-Mart, but I am still disappointed that the director didn't provide both sides to a debate.) The director also commissioned a handful of fake commercials, mocking Wal-Mart's advertisements from a few years back. Shown once in the film, with the rest in the Special Features section, each cut humorously shoved Wal-Mart's hypocritical treatment of their employees in your face, with quick, witty scripting. Three of these ads had two famous actors involved, playing a couple who live next door to a recently built Wal-Mart store.

This film was also edited very poorly, with overlapping segments not quite balancing each other out and the audio levels were all over the place, so I had to keep my remote control nearby to constantly adjust the volume level. The only aspect about the editing I found to be well-done, was cutting bits of the CEO's "Wal-Mart is Amazing" speech, then showing you the truth behind the comment he just made. The interviews were also improperly balanced, with some peoples' stories getting drawn-out for large chunks of the movie, and others getting just a few minutes of screen time. But only running at an hour and a half, the film didn't seem overly long or boring.

Overall, I give this film three out of five stars. The negative information was very upsetting and appalling, but the documentary itself falls just short of a good, sturdy film. Worth seeing, but I'll never watch it again.

07 November 2007

Potato Bites of Death!

Okay, maybe not death, but holy crap, my body is unable to handle greasy food less and less each day. The lunch venture today consisted of Taco John's. I rarely eat fast-food anymore, and just a few months ago, I was able to say I DON'T eat fast-food at all; but lately I've been feeling like it's okay to indulge... a lot. Once you dive off the wagon for just one day, it's all down-hill from there. I wasn't even going to get the potato bites, but while standing at the cashier, ordering my rice-in-place-of-meat soft taco's, the words "small potato's with a side of cheese" just flew out of my mouth! Two taco's just didn't seem like enough food, and actually, I could have ordered just one taco... or just the potato's! Now I'm feeling the wrath of deep-fried, over-salted, dehydrating grease-bites soaked in ingredients-unknown nacho cheese... and it hurts. :P

The rest of the lunch crew ordered soda - appalled to find that a small soda is what used to be a medium, and you can assume what a medium soda looks like! My only comment to this observation was "no wonder we're all fat", as I chowed down my potato’s...

Whenever I eat extremely well, even for a few days, I feel SO good! I feel good all-around - digestion-wise, mentally, physically, etc. But when there are treats-galore at work, I just can't stop myself... but who can resist free food? It's literally a cold-turkey quitting situation, with me and chocolate or treats. Once I get past a week without any of it, I'm okay, and the cravings are gone. Luckily my body bounces back quickly.

Now, I’m off to the bathroom...

02 November 2007

Halloween Pics

Here they are! (click on the images for a larger view)

I'm goth... my usual last-minute costume. Actually, I recently bought that shirt at Khol's for $15! It worked perfectly though... I do love purple and black together. :)

Here's Margaret's costume... hand-made, and so awesome! For those of you who don't know who she is, she's Princess Mononoke (it's a movie you must see!). Thanks to Don for sculpting the mask.

Margaret and Otto (Auto?).

I loved this pic... what a great look/angle! :)

01 November 2007


This is by far my most favorite holiday. Bear with me this a.m., as I'm only running on 5.5 hours of sleep. My best bud Margaret hosted a wonderful party last night, and I had meant to take work off this morning as I knew I'd be out late, but my boss scheduled a team breakfast for 8:30, and there was no way I was going to miss out on FREE breakfast! I did contemplate calling in sick, too, being mindful to apologize for not being able to attend the breakfast, but I always seem to wake up more easily on less sleep. Does that make sense? The body is weird... it's like when I get up to use the bathroom at 2 a.m., I usually have a little trouble falling back to sleep.

Anyway, I dressed up goth. It's my last-minute costume always, since I own goth-type clothing and a small amount of makeup. I also never wear makeup usually, so I must admit, it's fun to put on sometimes... it's amazing how different it makes people look. Just a little eye-shadow, eye-liner, and lipstick make a WORLD of difference! Since I got home so late last night (1 a.m.), I don't have any photos to put up yet. I'll bring them tomorrow though, or just the ones I took. Margaret's roommie Crystal is going to school for photography. She has this wonderful SLR digital cam with multiple lenses and flashes. I never got into the flash experimentation, but it's so great that she's so excited about it all. Her and I ended up doing a mini photo-shoot last night for about an hour! It started by her wanting some striking lighting effects, and eventually I had some props and a samurai sword! It was a lot of fun. I love doing both the shooting and modeling, I've realized. Shooting is wonderful because of the experimentation and creation of artwork; but modeling is also fun, as it means you'll have some beautiful photos of yourself, plus it does make one feel really gorgeous. Crystal gave me so many compliments! Her frequently used one was that my eyes were 'so striking'. I've heard that once before, from Don, so I guess perhaps it's true. :)

Well, however fun the shoot was, the highlight of the evening was playing Catch Phrase ALL night! Omigod it was a blast... my throat is SO sore today from all the yelling! That game gets my adrenaline going so quickly... plus the beeper/timer makes things 100 times more excitable. We weren't even keeping score or doing teams, but it was still fun to get super worked-up about timing and not getting stuck with the buzzer on your turn. But I must brag - I am DAMN good at that game! I kept whipping out answers left and right, and one time, I didn't even need the person to speak, and I got the answer from one simple hand-gesture! LOL. I don't think gesturing is legal, but we didn't care. Progressively throughout the evening, the game became more dirty as we went on - naturally. I said something about "I invite people over to my house to 'blank' them" ('blank' being the word they needed to fill in). Everybody cracked up! It's funny because you don't even realize you're being dirty, or potentially dirty. Then much later, Cathy said something incredibly dirty and she couldn't stop laughing! I can't remember what it was... but it involved the 'blank' word. That became a running joke the rest of the evening, of course. “No more blanking. We’re not blanking right now. The blanking is done.” Etc. :)

Anyway, back to my costume... as a treat to myself last weekend, I bought a shirt at Khol's from their 'Candy' section. It's this purple tank top with built-in bra, sort of corssette-looking (and only $15!). Sewn in all over it, is this silver flourish which gives the shirt a nice shine, yet dark- and mysterious-style. I didn't even buy it for my 'costume' originally, but it just worked out! I also wore my black above-the-knee skirt I got from Hot Topic ages ago. It's flat black underneath, with a spider-webby, transparent layer on the top. A classic. And of course to complete the look, I wore my knee-high lace-up black boots with fishnet stockings. Those fishnets look so great, but are not very comfortable or practical. They kept sliding down all night, so the crotch ends up half-way down your thighs! It's not something you can feel though, or even that bothersome, but it's just annoying. All for fashion, eh? :)

Again, I'll post pics tomorrow... I won't be getting copies of Crystal’s until next Wednesday, but I'll be sure to post them asap! I can't wait to study them more... just as thumbnails on her camera display, there were a few we both said 'omigod' to, because of the lighting, and sometimes how awesome and dark I looked. I can't wait to show people!

30 October 2007

Movie Review: Flightplan

Flightplan (3/5 stars)
I'm apathetic to this film... it wasn't really good or bad, it's just something that exists. Jodie Foster plays her more recent typecast role yet again - recently widowed woman in peril who's forced to become a hero. She is fun to watch, however unrealistic these events are. In the first part of the film, she shows us her acting strengths of playing a character who is pushed to the limit emotionally, having to question reality and her own mind. You as the viewer even start to question the reality of the situation and whom to trust, gathering evidence together to make a decision. But before you can make a distinction of good and bad, the film snowballs into action after a very predictable twist. It's now a race against time to stop the professional criminals, save many lives unbeknownst to them, and save yourself. Luckily, Foster's character has intimate knowledge of plane engines (she's an engineer, afterall), which somehow means she also knows the plane's skeletal structure, too. (This reminded me of Panic Room, where she ends up sneaking around the house, timing her steps to avoid the bad guys at just the right moments, giving herself tactical advantage.) Her expertise gives her full-advantage over the antagonist, when dealing with the peak of her dilemma.

Sean Bean, although only a small role, does a fine job portraying a character whom you don't know if you can trust or not. The entire movie, every time he enters a new scene, you're questioning his loyalty. The same goes for flight attendant in-training, Erika Christensen (who looks like Julia Stiles). Once the entire plane gets involved in her child's disappearance, the film presents alternate pathways in which the story could go - from terrorism to conspiracies to cover-ups. Unfortunately, large portions of the story's detail was conveniently left out, leaving us to question how certain events took place to bring everyone together. Even though the movie will keep you guessing most of the way through, there are large chunks of it that are painfully predictable. About the only thing that held my interest was the sheer size and overall design of the plane. Nearly all of this film takes place inside this huge aircraft, but you never feel claustrophobic. I felt myself itching for the moment when someone would venture down into the bowels of the jetliner, just so I could see what the off-limits area looks like.

Overall: very original story, intricate set design, predictable at times, cheesy but fulfilling ending, and satisfactory script. Not something I'll ever watch/rent again.

Movie Review: Man on Fire

Man on Fire (3/5 stars)
I must admit, this film was a lot different than I imagined it would be. It takes place in Mexico City, and involves an underground kidnapping-for-ransom problem (children and adults). With an R rating, this film was violent in spurts, all revenge-related, but nothing a desensitized mind can't handle. The director, Tony Scott (Deja Vu, Enemy of the State), uses his typical sharp/jumpy editing and rack-focus camera work throughout the entire film, which means I think it's over-done. Although, aside from that, I thought the cinematography was very beautiful, with strong color contrasts and monochromatic schemes, appropriate to the scene mood. At over two hours long, it doesn't feel lengthy by any means, but a lot of the film time was taken up by character development, which might be disappointing to people who are expecting an in-your-face action film.

Denzel Washington did a great job, of course, adhering to his typical forced-heroism role. Contrast to that, there is a scene in which his character portrays a moment of ultimate defeat, attempting the 'only-way-out'. Dakota Fanning is only in about half the movie (you can probably guess why from the premise), but as far as young actors go, I think she's fairly decent. She's a fast, articulate talker in everything I've seen her in, which to me screams intelligence hidden by a harmlessly cute facade. There are some very tender and cute moments of bonding between these two characters, thankfully not over-done by either actor or script direction. Rhada Mitchell plays the mother, and I always love her in anything, however similar she plays her characters in any genre. She gets one explosive scene in the whole movie, which was like a time-bomb, so much that it gives you a little jolt and a moment of panic.

Overall: good acting, beautiful cinematography, standard script, typical storyline but with a few twists, and decent ending. But because I gave it 3/5 stars, that means it's not something I'd ever watch or rent again.

29 October 2007

My First Post

Work is so boring today, that I decided to start a blog! Hooray, yes? I hope so... I'm not even sure people will venture back here to read it, but in any case, it'll be a nice way for me to purge or rant about things in my head. I do love to rant... :) Oh, and this blog is called Becky Babble, because not only is it so clever, using two B-words in the title, but it's also very pertinant to my personality, of having this writing condition in which I babble on and on, creating paragraphs for an otherwise short story. So deal! :D And I'm sorry in advance if my grammar sucks or I mis-spelled something... I do strive for perfection usually, but I won't always have time to proof this stuff. Well, since this opening paragraph has gotten longer than I expected, I'm going to split up the next writings to another post - so now I have TWO posts! Woo!