movie thoughts: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I really had no idea what this movie would be about.  I only knew the basic facts – Woody Allen wrote & directed, Scarlet Johanssen was invovled, and I have no problem with Javier Bardem or Penelope Cruz. 

There’s probably a reason I knew nothing about it; attempting to describe it without telling someone the whole movie is pretty difficult!

Vicky and Cristina are friends who decide to spend a summer in Barcelona, both of them for different reasons: Vicky is working on her Masters degree while Cristina is bouncing back from the end of a relationship.  While there, they happen to meet Juan Anotonio, a local painter.  He invites them to come away with him for a weekend.  Cristina is very excited about the idea, so Vicky tags along to watch out for her…and things just get more complicated from there.

It was an interesting movie to watch once.  My biggest gripe was the narrator.  I felt like this role was superfluous.  I am not sure why Allen decided to do this.  Was it to make the story seem like a fairy tale?  Did he not think he was getting the information across fast enough?  I think ever thing the narrator said was portrayed well enough on screen.  I found it really distracting. 

It’s a visually stunning film – and the city isn’t too bad either. *ba-ding* Thanks folks, I’m here all week. 

The core of the film is about what love means and what love is for every person, and how it differs yet at the same time we all want the same thing (even if we don’t know it). 

It’s worth watching (though I feel like Rebecca Hall got the shaft – she plays Vicky yet she’s not even featured on the cover!  Her role is pretty important.  Oh well).  A solid movie but not something I could sit through multiple times.

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book thoughts: Berlin: City of Stones & Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon History of Hiroshima

I just happened to pick up both of these books at the same time, each of them recommended by two different friends for different reasons.  But I found it interesting to read them one after the other, since they are connected in a few different ways.

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Keiji/ Project Gen (TRN)/ Spiegelman, Art Nakazawa

‘Barefoot Gen’ is the story of a Japanese family living in Hiroshima during WWII (based on the actual life of author/artist Keiji Nakazawa).  Their father does not agree with the war or Japan’s part in it.  My knowledge of the pacific front is very low – everyone tends to focus on the European front in school, books, movies etc. And even less do we hear about what life was like for the normal people living in Japan at the time.  When Gen’s father openly criticizes the Japanese government (and by doing that, insulting the Emperor), his family is shunned by the town.  Abused even. 

I found some of the violence a bit shocking, but then again, its a very militaristic culture.  The father is constantly beating the boys when the misbehave, and other random people also smack them around!  Not sure if this is just a convention of the manga medium or actually reflective of the time.  Still, it happened a LOT. 

The drawings are very simple, reminding me of Persepolis, where the point was for this man to tell his story, not make great leaps and bounds in the art and style of Manga. 

I found this book fascinating and think it would be great to give to a teen who loves manga, slip a little history in there.  I’ve only read volume 1 but I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and seeing what happens after the bomb falls.

Berlin: City of Stones is about Germany before WWII.  Again, the focus is on everyday people, their lives, and their reaction to what their government is doing (the rumor of weapons being stockpiled even though Germany wasn’t supposed to be doing that).  Again, I felt as though I learned a bit while reading through the stories, especially about the Communist party in Germany. 
The art is a bit more advanced than Barefoot Gen, but not by much.  A few times I had an issue with telling the female characters apart.  If it hadn’t been for their male counterparts, I might have had issues following the story. 

If you’re looking for a way to vicariously learn about history, these two books should fill that need and get you thinking about the other side that we don’t really get to see in ‘Band of Brothers’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan’…not that they were misunderstood, but just in general what was going on with the average person during those war years.

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movie thoughts: Bolt (2008)

Bolt is the star of a tv series.  Only he doesn’t know its all make-believe.  At the end of every shoot, he is whisked away to his trailer by his owner, Penny, and hidden from the cameras and crew, left to think it was all real.  But one fateful day he managed to escape the trailer and he soon discovers the truth. 

It’s a cute movie, and truly a fun movie for the whole family…once.  Something tells me that this predictable story will wear thin after multiple viewing by adults who are familiar with these story lines.  I think kids will want to watch it over and over, but it lacks the rewatchability of such Pixar classics like WallE and Finding Nemo that makes adults want to sit down again.  It doesn’t work on the different levels that those films do. 

But it’s fun and a good movie for a night when you’re not in the mood for deep thinking or violent battles.  It’s heart is in the right place and its hard not to laugh out loud at several of the animal antics (especially if you have pets). 

Definitely worth a viewing, and the DVD looks stunning on an HD-TV (I imagine the Blu-Ray version will melt your screen).

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movie thoughts: Star Trek (2009)

So, after seeing J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise on the IMAX this afternoon, I understand why everyone has been so cryptic when they discuss it.  There’s so much to say, but too much that you don’t want to spoil.  Abrams manages to create a movie that works (convincing my yet again that he should only be allowed to make 2-hour films and not TV show…but that’s a rant for another blog).

Just so you know where I am coming from, I’m not a hard-core Trek fan, but I grew up watching The Next Generation and have probably seen most of the original series, plus a handful of DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise.  I’ve seen most of the movies (Wrath of Khan and First Contact are my favorites, though this one might now beat out First Contact…maybe).  Anyway, I knew who all these characters were but I hadn’t been immersed in the mythology of the series. 

But that didn’t matter.  My knowledge was enough to help me get all the little throw away jokes (though Bones insulting Spock is funny whether you know their history-to-be or not) and the rest of the time the movie did it’s own thing.  The writers created the perfect plot, one that would allow people just wanting to see some sci-fi fun to enjoy themselves but also not belittling the fans who have loved this series their whole lives. 

The actors manage to portray these characters in their own way, instead of just trying to impersonate the actors that came before.  Chris Pine’s over-confident Kirk really works, Zachary Quinto uses the skills he honed as Sylar to play it cool as Spock.  Simon Pegg was clearly having more fun than he should have had.  Karl Urban managed to utter the phrase “DAMMIT!” in just the write tone that you knew he would one day grow up to be our cranky old Doc McCoy.  John Cho as Sulu worked better than I expcted, and who knew that Chekov was so adorable?  Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is a hottie with brains and attitude.

It has action, adventure, really wild things, it’s sexy, and includes a plot twist that makes everything work out just right.  This movie was made for summer and popcorn.  It’s just FUN! 

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