Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

October 12, 2009 1 comment

Where the Wild Things Are

Happiness isn’t always the best way to be happy.

What do you get when you mix an artistic director, unlimited budget, and cameras that assumedly were purchased from Best Buy? You get Where the Wild Things Are the latest film by the too-weird-to-be-mainstream yet too-mainstream-to-be-too-weird director Spike Jonze.

The debate surrounding this film over the past few weeks has been whether or not Wild Things is a kid’s movie. It is based on a kid’s book. It features a kid. It has a kid-friendly PG rating. But I am here to tell you that this is NOT a kid’s movie. Granted, I am at that awkward age where I am too old to identify a movie that will please kids and too old to have kids that can tell me. However, what are the three rules for a kid’s movie? Bright colors, lovable characters, and an easy to follow plot. What does Wild Things feature? A full spectrum of colors (assuming the entire spectrum is olive drab), frightening characters, and one-liners like the one posted above that leaves even myself scratching my head.

This is the movie for people like me who loved the book as kids and wanted a movie as adults.

Spike Jonze has crafted the perfect story about a kid for adults. Where the Wild Things Are filmed entirely by handicam puts the audience directly in the hero’s, Max, shoes. Every angle, every shot, is filmed down at Max’s eye level. There are no above shots looking down on Max. This is not omniscient, the audience IS Max, and Max is taking us along for the ride.

The story is a familiar one. Max, played by mostly newcomer Max Records, has too big of an imagination to be left alone. Yet his older sister has seemingly just reached that ripe age of “too old to play with my little brother” and his mom (Catherine Keener, The 40 Year Old Virgin) is doing her absolute best to ignore Max as much as possible so that she can focus on her stupid job and her stupid boyfriend (Mark Ruffalo, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).

During an outburst at a dinner-date at home with The Boyfriend, Max hops up onto a table and exclaims “Woman, feed me!” and storms out of the house.

And he sailed off through night and day… to where The Wild Things Are!

One thing that needs to be mentioned is Max Records’ fantastic performance. Every director knows the Golden Rule of “No kids! No Pets!” but that sentiment did not seem to phase Jonze. Max gives an almost Cast Away-like performance considering he’s the only human for about 85% of the film. Additionally, the animation of the Wild Things along with the voice acting is some of the best I have seen. There are many scenes where the animation is shown off through shadows and wind where one gets the “too real to be fake but too fake to be real” thoughts. James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone), Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine), and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) create a stunning ensemble of indie-stars.

My only qualms with Where the Wild Things Are go back to the kid-friendliness of the film. Maybe I have read into the marketing wrong, but this a kids book. And it is not like a Harry Potter kid’s book that is also rather adult themed. Where the Wild Things Are is one of those short picture books to put the kid to bed to. Yet the film is very dark and at times scary. And I am hard-pressed to believe that any child will be able to come away with the plot or the theme.

Despite the film not being a good choice for children, this film is a great choice for adults. The “indie-style” filming technique keeps the film visually appealing and the acting is an absolute delight. The best part of Where the Wild Things Are? Fans of the book do not have to worry about the approximately 5-minute story having any parts skipped in this 104 minute film.



Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

Have you ever wished that Hollywood would get off of its high horse and stop making movies to please the masses and finally make a movie about you? If so, look no further than (500) Days of Summer starring former-child-actor-turned-adult-actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Angels in the Outfield, 3rd Rock from the Sun) and indie-queen (princess?) Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous, Elf). Despite what the narrator proclaims in the opening scene, this is a love story. At the very least you will find yourself falling in love with this movie.

Tom (Gordon-Levitt) is a hopeless romantic who believes that he cannot be fully happy until he finds that elusive “one”. Summer (Deschanel) is her own person who is out to enjoy life and not worry about being attached to anyone or anything for too long. If these roles seem backwards to you, it’s because it is. This is the first instance where first-time writers Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter pull away from the tradition rom-com formula.

The film lets us know that Tom’s ship is doomed from the start. The opening scene shows a nearly incapacitated Tom who has just been dumped by Summer, the love of his life. Tom’s wiser-than-her-years sister (Chloe Moretz) comes to his rescue and wants to hear the entire story. From there we begin the 500-day journey starting at day 1.

In addition to a wonderful script, free of over-the-top dialogue found in most independent films today, is a unique form of story-telling that involves jumps in time and clever architecture. But this is not Memento, this is a romantic comedy, remember? You might forget that fact while watching this film. First-time director Marc Webb, who is responsible for one of my favorite music videos of all time, uses an animated flip-card system so that the audience always knows what day of the ill-fated 500 we are witnessing and how Tom’s mood is on that particular day.

The unique aspect of this film lies in the perception. The entire movie is told completely from Tom’s viewpoint. There is not a single scene where Tom is not present (if he was not there, it did not happen, right?). Summer’s character may seem flawed by the fact that she is too much of the perfect girl. But one has to remember that this story is how Tom remembers her. Tom thought that Summer was “the one”, so he will rightfully describe her as so.

I dare you to go see this movie and not somehow relate to Tom. Whether you are a man or a woman, everyone has had a Summer in his or her life. That perfect person who you thought was “the one” but the other person just was not having it. Later in life, you realize you were never meant to be, but at the time it is devastating. Summer is based off of a real-life experience by one of the writers and because of that the whole story just feels real. Tom and Summer do average things together; lunch in the park, shopping at IKEA, seeing movies. This is not a typical rom-com where the characters go on some grand adventure that makes your own romantic life look depressing.

Additionally, I dare you to go see this movie and not have the pants charmed right off of you. (500) Days of Summer is funny, but it will not have you rolling in the aisles. It is sad, but it will not have you crying the whole way home. Instead, (500) Days of Summer will leave you appreciating the fact that it seems like someone out there is not interested in making a cliché romantic comedy and that someone truly gets what it means to be heartbroken. (500) Days of Summer is not only fresh romantic comedy in a world of staleness, but also a sigh of relief for the independent film market and will completely redefine both genres. This is not a love story. And this is not a typical romantic comedy.


First Impression: Ultimate Ears 700

Size does matter. Especially in the consumer electronics industry. That is what makes the Ultimate Ears 700 so appealing. On paper, you have a super-powerful dual-driver headset that is housed in a casing that is smaller than the ear-tip itself.

Earbuds are all the rage these days. Most audiophiles have sworn them off because of their lackluster sound performance compared to the headphones that make wearers look like the Napster logo. Ultimate Ears 700 is supposed to be a closer gap to those massive cans.

Does it deliver?

So far, absolutely. I have only had these babies for around a day which is hardly enough time to break them in. However, I can already tell the Ultimate Ears 700 have far superior bass support than any other earbud I have ever owned. The small design of the driver makes them lightweight and the buds virtually “disappear” when in the ear and can be worn for hours.

I have never understood an audiophile’s claim that MP3s are inferior to CDs or even analogue, but for the first time the Ultimate Ears 700 have brought me closer to understanding. The high performance of these ‘buds easily enhanced imperfections in the encoding. I guess that can be looked at as a negative, but it is hard to label an imperfection from being too good.

I will whip up a more refined review in the near future. For now, I am too busy re-ripping all music in a higher quality format.