Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cinematic Retrospective

I recently polled my friends again, because that's obviously the best way to make decisions, and one thing that came out of the poll was that many of them would like to see me do more reviews in my blog. Movies, books, video games, things like that. I'm a little surprised by this, since I would have expected the people who know me best to want me to be less eager to express my opinions, not more. But hey, a request is a request, so here we go.

I decided that for the last blog post of 2010, I'd take a look backwards at the movies I saw in theaters this year, and offer my opinion on them. The only problem with this is that I -- being moderately frugal and even more moderately broke -- tend to not go see a movie unless I have good reason to believe I'm going to enjoy it. So if you were hoping for vitriolic reactions, I'm afraid you're in for a disappointment.

Offhand I don't remember exactly how many movies I saw this year. Six, at least, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed and most of which I saw at least twice. So that's how many I'm about to review. I should note in advance that three of these had strong personal meaning for me, which naturally colors my opinions of them.

My most recent trip to the theater was to see The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn-Treader. I had high hopes for this film, because the book is my favorite of the Narnia series. But I was unnerved by some of the critics' reactions, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. As usual, I should have ignored critics. Apparently, what a lot of them found annoying was the fact that this film placed a greater emphasis on faith than the two previous incarnations did, particularly in the context of Lucy's subplot of being envious of her sister. This was one of the movies that meant something to me personally, having gone through a very difficult period a little earlier in the year; like Lucy, I spent a lot of time doubting my own value and trying to run away from myself. So hearing Aslan's remarks to her on the subject was powerful. I liked the increased emphasis on faith. And meanwhile, it's just a really good movie. It's visually stunning, the returning actors have all grown into their roles, and special mention must be given to Will Poulter, who plays obnoxious cousin Eustace. Wow. If I hadn't gone into the movie knowing what kind of character development to expect from him, I probably would have spent a lot of time hoping for a rock to fall on him -- he's that annoying. I was only disappointed by one thing, which was Reepicheep. I loved Eddie Izzard as the voice of the mouse knight and I still don't know why he didn't return; the actor who took his place did an excellent job, but it just wasn't the same.

Prior to visiting Narnia, I dropped in on the wizarding world with a viewing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One. The Harry Potter books are some of my favorite things in the world, so I have yet to miss one of the movies. Sadly, some of them have been rather a letdown (I'm looking at you in particular, numbers 3 and 5), so I wondered what to expect. Happily, this movie was incredible. I have all the books practically memorized, and they still managed to scare the living daylights out of me. They also broke my heart in the first five minutes, by showing something that in the book was only spoken of after the fact. One thing in the movie even improved on something in the book -- I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but let's just say that a minor supporting character's death is given much more satisfactory treatment in the film, at least in my opinion. So yeah, when is part two coming out again?

Let's see. If memory serves, the next most recently seen movie on this list is Despicable Me. This movie was pure fun, start to finish. Everything about it was silly and goofy and yet heartstring-tugging. It's just adorable. The protagonist is the most awesome villain-wannabe ever, the orphans are precious, the real villain is ridiculous, and the Minions alone were worth the ticket price. Also, my two partners in crime (Jess and Andrea, mentioned in previous blog posts usually involving Rock Band) and I have been able to add "IT'S SO FLUFFY!" to our repertoire of running gags, along with the translations of Minion quotes. I did mess up one thing, however; up until five minutes ago, I'd been in error about one of the voice actors. I thought that Vector, the villain, was voiced by the guy who plays Howard on The Big Bang Theory, and here it's the guy who plays Marshall on How I Met Your Mother. I kind of think the Howard actor would have been a funnier choice, mostly because I like TBBT much better than HIMYM. Oh well.

Before Jess insisted that I go with them to see Despicable Me, I insisted they accompany me to see How to Train Your Dragon. This is another one that had personal meaning for me, mostly in terms of the ending, so I can't even tell you why. I can tell you, however, that the main character Hiccup reminded me very strongly of my husband in quite a few respects. (That's meant to be a compliment to the character, not an insult to my husband.) I'm always a fan of the underdog, for whatever reason, so to see the underdog of an entire Viking village finally gain respect as their future chief was awesome. The whole supporting cast was brilliant too, with extra props going out to Craig Ferguson as the walking Swiss Army knife Gobber.

Also, I could swear that Toothless the dragon was modeled after my cat Maddy; the resemblance was extraordinary. His breed was a Night Fury, so our nickname for Maddy is now 'the Night Furry.' Random, meanwhile, is a 'Snuggly Gronckle.'

Over the summer, I discovered that I actually really like Jake Gyllenhaal. I was always lukewarm at best toward him, but that all changed with the advent of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Wow. Regular readers of this blog will of course acknowledge that I'm a video game nerd, and my fellow video game nerds will likewise acknowledge that movies based on video games have an overwhelming tendency to suck. The truth hurts, but there it is. This movie, however, was the very opposite of suck. It had a little something for everybody -- action by the bucketload, comedy, adventure, thought-provoking mythology, and wonderfully understated romance. There was betrayal. There was bloodlust. There was a beautiful and yet intelligent and competent female lead (always a plus). There was a shirtless hero with the moves of a dancer and the quick wit of a street performer. There was a compelling villain -- played by Gandhi no less -- with creepy and fascinating accomplices. There were funny supporting characters and a magic reset button and did I mention the ostrich racing? I think ostrich racing may possibly be an underused film tactic. But what really made me like Jake G. concerning the movie was his method of research. He played the Prince of Persia games in order to get a feel for the character, and even requested that specific moves be written into the action. I can respect that high-quality level of nerdiness. Over at TV Tropes, we like to say that Jake is one of us.

That brings us to the final selection for this overly long blog entry, which is none other than Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I mentioned this movie in a prior post, when I complained about being unable to see 3D movies thanks to my monocular vision. I didn't get too far into my feelings about the movie itself, as it wasn't the point, but I did mention that I loved it. And I still do. This movie holds the record for the most times I've seen anything in the theater -- I went to see it a total of nine times. I never connected with any version of the Alice story prior to this, but Burton's movie meant something to me personally. It took me a while to understand why I was so fond of the White Queen; my dear friend Ella was the one to figure it out. Mirana, the White Queen, spends most of the movie in a gilded prison, and has to rely on her friends to help her find the means to free herself. The Frabjous Day, the day on which Underland was destined to be liberated, finally came and she was restored to what she was always meant to be. It took me a little while longer, but my Frabjous Day eventually came too; and until it did, and even after it did, it was my friends that kept me going. So while the critics have almost unanimously shredded this movie for one reason or another, and I've spoken with a lot of regular people who hated it too, I can't.

And there you have it. My six favorite movies of 2010. With just a day and a half left of the year, you wouldn't think the list could get any longer; but I'm about to head out with my partners in crime to catch Megamind at our local dollar theater, so who knows? In any case, thank you all for making me a part of your 2010 -- HAPPY NEW YEAR!


  1. Ooh, I'd really like to know what you think of 'Megamind.' I had SO much fun at that one. Great post!

  2. I've only seen a couple of these, but I'm thinking you may have an UMPTEENTH potential job as a movie critic/commentator in the cards, pumpkin! xo


Photo contest! Check it out! (These are mine.)