Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cloudburst (1952)

Sometimes, I just randomly select a movie off Netflix instant viewing.  Not too long ago, I picked Cloudburst, starring Robert Preston.  It's a movie I'd never heard of, but Robert Preston is an interesting actor, and this one made me curious enough to watch.  It was a lot darker and more violent than I expected.

The movie follows a man (Preston) as he hunts down the two escaped cons who ran down his pregnant wife in a hit-and-run car accident.  The movie is set post WWII, and I liked how his contacts from the war, as well as his training, come into play.  He is a specialist in cryptography, who now runs a team in England deciphering various coded messages.  It's not entirely a straight-forward revenge tale, as a Scotland Yard detective finds a coded message (dropped by Preston when he catches up to one of the killers), and comes to Preston to have him decode it.  Preston ends up helping track himself down.

My favorite parts of this film were the tie-ins with WWII.  Preston's combat experience, his friends in the Resistance with a wealth of knowledge on tracking and avoiding being detected... even Scotland Yard has two detectives who served with Preston and carry the same combat knowledge.  As Preston basically reverts to a wartime mentality in his hunt for vengeance, his friend has moved on and knows the things Preston asks him to do in the movie -- things that once kept them alive in the war -- are no longer acceptable in a peacetime setting.  I found that fascinating.  I wish it had explored that contrast even more, but it was a fairly short movie with a brisk pace to a satisfying conclusion.  I also enjoyed watching the detective (Colin Tapley) put things together. 

This is not a film I'll probably watch again, but it was quite intriguing.  I also liked watching the team of cryptographers working hard on decoding various messages.  That's definitely not a job I could do!  Would take way too much patience and systematic thinking.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Favorite Animated Movies

With a six-year-old nephew around, we watch a lot of animated movies, although I'm still amazed how many animated movies (old and new) I have not seen yet.  Of the ones I have seen, here's my personal top ten favorites list.

I made this list by looking at all the animated movies I love (which is a large list), and then asking one simple question:  "if I never see this movie again, would I be okay with that?"  If the answer is no, it makes the favorite list, which I then narrowed down to ten.  If the answer is yes, the film stays on the "I love this movie!" list, but doesn't advance to favorite status.  I've been revising all my favorite list using this criteria.  It's quite a useful question and really helps me narrow down my current favorites.  I find I answer "yes" and drop a movie off the current favorite list for multiple reasons.  Sometimes, I've simply seen a movie so many times, it's part of my consciousness and I can quote it, etc., but I've overdone it and have no desire to actually see it again right now (although if it came on, I would still watch it).

As for which movies I love, (and this applies to every favorite movie I have), I have to want to be one or more characters in the film, and those characters almost always have to be protecting someone, or some ideal, or some place, or some thing.  There's also almost always some kind of beautiful scenery or locations in my favorite movies. I've come to realize that beauty is a key element that draws me to one movie over another.  It's actually mostly why Kung Fu Panda makes this list.  It is such a beautiful movie -- I might even rank it the most beautiful of all of these -- with the most exquisite colors and scenery.  I oooh and ahhhh every time I see it.  There are so many moments in Kung Fu Panda that I want a picture of to put on my wall.  I love the story and characters, beside, but man, do I really love how they chose to animate this movie.

1. Rango
2. Epic
3. Tangled
4. Up
5. Wall-E
6. The Lorax
7. How to Train your Dragon 2
8. Brave
9. Wallace & Grommit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit
10. Kung Fu Panda
11. Puss in Boots

Okay, I cheated and included eleven, but Puss in Boots is sort of a tie with Kung Fu Panda, sooooo...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

I went to see this movie over the weekend with my sister and six-year-old nephew.  I liked it so much, I will probably go back and see it a second time before it leaves the theater.

I've only seen the first one on DVD.  I remember when it came out in the theater, but the trailer didn't really grab me, and I skipped at the time.  That was a mistake!  After I finally got to see it on DVD, I was surprised and delighted to find out it was a totally different movie than what I had been expecting.  I loved the characters, loved the story, loved the dragons -- particularly Toothless, who ranks as my second favorite cinematic dragon behind Dragonslayer's Vermithrax.  How to Train Your Dragon popped right onto my top ten favorite animated movies list.

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that the trailer for the sequel didn't grab me either, but once again, the movie turned out to be quite different and far better than my expectations.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is set in a bright, colorful, and beautiful world.  The first one used a much darker and somber color palette until the very end, and that is not a bad thing.  It's exactly what the first film required.  But, I can't help but love how beautiful the second film is.  This is a world I want to go into.  I also loved the characters a lot more in the second movie. All of the setup is out of the way, the initial character conflicts are behind us.  Everything has moved forward, there are new issues, everyone works together, and I really like the direction the movie took.  The second movie has more lighter moments than the first one (Ruffnut was particularly hilarious), and at the same time, the sequel has the same wonderful heart as the first film.  I cared even more for what happened to the characters, and I personally found the plot and outcome very satisfying.  Lots of action, lots of dragons, lots of beauty, lots of emotion.  John Powell's score was quite good, better than the first movie's score.

I wasn't sure when I got out of the theater on Saturday which of the two movies I liked better, but we watched the first one again tonight, and yep, as much as I love it -- which is a lot -- I enjoyed the second one even more.