Jurassic Park in 3D

Since we found out about Tiny Baby almost four weeks ago, Mika and I have been make a concerted effort to spend more time with each other.  This isn’t an easy thing to go through, and the least we can do is shoulder the burden together.  We don’t always do anything exciting when we go out, but we always get to go something together and without the kids.

Today, we went to see Jurassic Park in theaters.  As many of you have heard, this year they have decided to re-do the Jurassic Park in 3D.  At first, I was skeptical.  First, this is one of my favorite movies of all time. Furthermore, movies not originally filmed in 3D have a tendency to look dark, muddy, and confused when studios do a 3D conversion.  Finally, I was concerned that they would try to modernize the computer graphics from the original movie and make it worse.

Jurassic Park is probably my favorite movie of all time.  It is one of the first movies I remember being able to go and see by myself.  There was a theater in our hometown that showed movies for $0.50.  They even had special days when a movie was only $0.25.  They kept Jurassic Park running in that theater for over a year.  As a result, I saw the movie well over 10 times in theater that year.  As a kid, I loved it for the dinosaurs and action.  As an adult, I grew to appreciate the movie for its technical accomplishments and interesting characters.  I appreciated the movie even more after reading the book.  I was worried that in the re-release, the studio would try to add in deleted scenes, or otherwise change the movie (I’m looking at you, George Lucas!).  I am happy to announce that all of the things which make the original movie great are still there!  As far as I can tell, no new scenes were added, and the splendid pacing, character development, and soundtrack of the original remain.  Experiencing the movie in the theater once again was truly enjoyable.

Movies that are converted to 3D seem to fall flat.  Because of the process used to create 3D movies, the movies can often end up looking muddy and dull.  My only previous experiences with movies converted to 3D were Clash of the Titans, and The Last Airbender.  Both films had botched conversions and ended up looking substantially worse as a result.  While there were certainly times when the 3D conversion in Jurassic Park looked more like a pop-out book than an actual 3D movie, by and large, the 3D was quite impressive.  There were no gimmicky tricks added in, and the film did not suffer horribly from the conversion.  There were even several scenes that I felt were enhanced by the addition of the third dimension.  In this end, this is really all I can realistically ask in a 3D movie.

Beyond the addition of 3D, there were no noticeable alterations to the computer graphics from the original.  The computer generated dinosaurs were a monumental achievement at the time of the original release of the movie.  Even now, I often watch the movie and marvel at how much better the graphics were in Jurassic Park than in many modern movies (I’m looking at you, Jack the Giant Slayer).  Part of the charm of the original Jurassic Park is the creative and innovative combination of animatronic dinosaurs and computer generated dinosaurs.  I was very relieved to see that the old graphics remained unaltered.  I honestly still found them to be impressive on the big screen.

Overall, I truly enjoyed the movie!  Whether you are an old enthusiast, or seeing the movie for the first time, I definitely recommend catching Jurassic Park while it is in theaters.


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Review

When I first heard that Peter Jackson was at the helm of the movie version of The Hobbit, I was fairly excited.  Then I heard that they were going it in two movies, then it was three movies.

Regardless, I was excited to see the movies, because I enjoyed the book as a child, and I enjoyed Peter Jackson’s rendition of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.  Mika and I made the effort to see the movie.  This is kind of a big deal, as we typically make it to only one or two movies together in a given year.

I am surprised to see myself saying this, but here it is: skip this movie.  While I enjoyed the parts of the movie that were actually part of the book, the movie felt ill-paced, boring, and forced.

The pacing of the storytelling was horrendous.  It felt as though it took a good 30 minutes to just get to the movie!  There is a reason that movies leave out certain parts of books.  Not all aspects of a book, even the most well-written books, are fit to be put on the silver screen.  Now imagine that instead of trimming parts of a book down to the parts best suited for visual adaptation, you keep in all of the parts regardless of how well they work.  Not only that, but you’ve added in extra parts to make it feel longer.  Imagine a Lord of the Rings film where they not only included Tom Bombadil, but also the biography of Tom Bombadil’s wife as recorded from Tolkein’s private notes.  With all of the unnecessary parts added in (or embellished from the book), the movie did not flow well.  While the parts of the movie that were actually in the book were interesting, were well thought-out and were able to maintain my interest, there was at least an hour of material that were not.  The 30 minute introduction, and the additional 15-20 minutes spent on Radagast, and another 15-20 minutes spent on the white orc completely ruined the natural flow of the story.  The experience felt like the makers were trying to justify making three movies, rather than tell the story of The Hobbit.

This led to the next problem, the movie was boring.  One might assume, and justly so, that in a movie lasting 2 hours and 40 minutes, you would walk away feeling entertained.  You might hope that you would walk away feeling like you knew the characters.  However, it was to the contrary.  The portrayals of the characters were muddied by the additional parts added in Jackson and his crew.  By two hours in, when the movie had finally reached full steam, I was already worn out by tales of dragons, how dwarves mine, and a wizard covered in bird-feces.

Finally, the movie felt forced.  The Hobbit, by its nature as a children’s book, was a much lighter tale than The Lord of the Rings.  It is much more a fairy tale, and much less an epic fantasy novel.  It is filled with silly songs, riddles, and lighthearted banter.  While the movie still had these things (how can they justify cutting anything when stretching a story this much?), it also felt as though it were trying to be as serious and somber as The Lord of The Rings.

In short, when I walked out of the theater, I thought, “I don’t want the director’s cut; I want the audience cut.”  I want a version of The Hobbit with only the best parts of the book.  I want a version without the extra bits added in.  I want The Hobbit that I can sit down and watch two hours and forty minutes and get the whole book!

Dial M for Murder

Sometimes, I can’t stand watching old movies.   I remember one time in particular when Roni and I were staying in a bed a breakfast that only had old VHS movies, and we tried watching one.  It was horrendous.  Terrible sound, terrible acting, and terrible story.  Really horrible stuff.  Much to my chagrin, I have even found that there are some “classic” movies that I just don’t like (I’m looking at you, Soylent Green).

But every now and then, I come across a older film that has truly earned the title of classic.  Alfred Hitcock’s Dial M for Murder is such a film.  The film is as intense and suspenseful today as it was in 1954.  Hitchcock did a wonderful job with this film adaptation of a play; everything from the casting, dialogue, to the pacing is spot on.  In short, Dial M for Murder is the perfect suspense film.

The actors play their roles with such perfect execution that it is easy to forget you are watching a movie.  Grace Kelly plays Margot Wendice, the wealthy wife of a famous tennis player.  She plays the part with such, well, grace that it isn’t hard to feel sorry for her predicament.  When she’s fighting for her life, you want her to live.

Ray Milland also has a standout performance as Tony Wendice.  He plays Margot’s husband with such cold, methodical, calculation that you cannot help but be unnerved.  This is a man who has spent years figuring out how to kill his wife and avoid all suspicion.  As the audience behind the fourth wall, you are the only ones aware of his double-faced act.  As such, when he acts suavely with such faux-concern around Grace Kelly, your skin crawls.  When he details his plan to his accomplice, you cannot help but shudder at the fact that there are such people in the world; he plays his part with such sincerity you cannot doubt that such people exist.  He is one part Christopher Walken, one part James Bond, and three parts terrifying.

The plan put forth by the husband seems so flawless, that you spend the first half the film worrying that the plan will work, and the second half of the film – well, I suppose you will just have to watch to find out.

Acting: 5
Screenplay: 5
Videography: 5
Sound: 5
Overall: 5

tl;dr: amazing example of classic cinema.  Must watch.

Impressive, most impressive

I was wrong.  I take it all back.  Well, almost all of it.  Not that long ago, I said some disparaging things about 3D movies.  Today I transcended 3D and watched How to Train Your Dragon in 4D.  Let that sink in. 4. D.  If there is one things that Koreans love, it is doing things bigger and better than everybody else.  Especially if it involves a gimmick.  When Fox announced that Avatar would be released in 3D, the Korean branch decided that its moviegoers deserved a little bit more.  For about a year before the movie was released, several theaters were retrofitted to give a “4D” experience.  What does this extra dimension add?  Time travel?  Not quite, but it was pretty awesome.

The 4D movie experience means that not only is the movie projected in 3D, but each chair is rigged with special enhancements.  When the camera dips and pitches, your seat the the same.  When there is wind, your chair blows air  in the direction of the wind; if something jumps out of the water, you get a little splash.  They have even gone so far as to coordinate smells.  SMELLS!  Is it a gimmick?  yes.  Does it work?  yes.

Of course, it helped that the movie I was was absolutely magnificent.  The only movie playing in 4D theaters right now is How to Train Your Dragon by DreamWorks.  I knew just nothing about the movie going in, other than it was going to be played in 4D.  I don’t want to ruin it for any of you, but this a movie that is worth seeing.

The story follows a young boy who is coming of age in a viking village.  This village is like any other, well, except for the pests: dragons.  The animation in the movie was really top notch.  The vikings look as vikings ought to, big and burly.  The dragons are varied and detailed.  The music was also engaging and well done.  Even the 4D effects were well done.  When the dragons breath fire, you get a burst of air and the smell of smoke.  When the characters fly through the air, you can feel the wind on your face and you dip and turn with them.  Explosions cause an extra flash of light as the whole theater to shakes and rumbles.

Despite the movie’s impressive presentation, the best part about the movie is the characters. They were very easy to relate to; I think most teenage boys have felt like Hiccup, the main character, at some point: alone, awkward and like you’ll never get the girl.  The dialog was delivered very well by the actors, and each one played their role convincingly.  It is very hard to find anything that I don’t like about the movie.

At first I wanted to say, “this could be a Pixar movie” because it was so good.  But it is distinctly different than movies such as Up, Wall-E, and Toy Story; in this case, that isn’t a bad thing.  I admire DreamWorks for taking a different approach to making an animated movie.  They didn’t try to copy Pixar, and instead came up with something that is altogether unique.  If you enjoyed Flushed Away or Prince of Egypt (or if you have any boys), you will have a good time watching it.  The movie is genuinely enjoyable; there aren’t any of the fart jokes or pop references that plague the Shrek series.

In short, How to Train Your Dragon is an excellent movie with relatable characters and stellar presentation.  See it.  Please.  If you are in Korea and don’t mind spending more on your ticket, see it in 4D.  I give this movie 4 and a half breaths of fire.  It is worth seeing in the theater and buying a copy when it is released on DVD; I know it will end up on my “to buy” list very soon.

Terminator Salvation

With the recent revival of the Alien and Predator series, it was only a matter of time before this iconic 80s action franchise was brought back from the dead.  I’m pleased to say that this movie was actually quite enjoyable.

I have one major complaint about the progression of the terminator series, and I might as well get it out in the open right now.  It seems like the terminators are becoming less and less threatening as time goes on.  The first terminator was an (almost) unstoppable robot.  The second terminator movie introduced us to the wonderful world of CGI liquid metal terminators.  Terminator three seemed like they were stretching it when they combined the first two terminators to make a liquid metal terminator that still had the (almost) invincible robot shell.  How is this more threatening than a robot that can squeeze through any tight spaces.  Nothing in this movie was as cool as the scene where the second terminator walks through the bars in the jail.

I was interested to see what they would do for the robots this time around.  I don’t want to spoil it for anybody, but I don’t think they managed to match the awesomeness of the liquid metal terminator in this movie either.

The events of this film take place after the robot apocalypse (Judgment Day).  Humans exist in small communities and are actively fighting against the terminator armies.  The atmosphere of the movie is well done.  You are left feeling that all these people live in a vast wasteland and are fighting for survival.  Kind of like Las Vegas.

Both sides of the war are searching for a cure-all which will end the war for good.  Both sides think they have found it.  Spoiler alert, it backfires on both of them.

The movie was well made, with great attention to detail (though not necessarily plot).  Particularly the sound effects for the robots was spot on.  This may seem like a minor detail, but in a movie about a war between robots and humans, it is important.  The special effects were also well done; I never once missed the old stop motion terminator.

It was a good action flick as long as you don’t think too long about the first three movies and the timeline of events.  If you need a good action flick, this one wasn’t quite as good as Alien vs. Predator, but was better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  My one major comlaint would be that Christian Bale talked in his batman voice the entire movie.  It was a bit much.  Despite this, I give this movie three and a half “I’ll be backs.”

Disney, Disney, Disney

When I heard that Disney was making a princess movie set in New Orleans, I was a little bit confused.  A princess?  in New Orleans?  When was there a kingdom in New Orleans?  I knew this wasn’t going to be a movie I rushed to see in theaters, but I am glad that I had the chance to watch it.  One some levels The Princess and the Frog exceeded expectations, but on other levels it disappointed.

I am pleased to say that Disney did not do anything so ridiculous as attempt to create a kingdom of New Orleans.  In fact, they seem to acknowledge that the “princess” in the firm is stretching what it means to be a princess (the main character’s response to who the princess is, “Wait, does that even count?”).  The main character isn’t a princess at all, but is a waitress.  She is also perhaps the only genuinely likable character in the movie.

Tiana believes that hard work and dedication will help her achieve her dream of opening her own restaurant.  She finally gets enough money for the restaurant, if she can only manage to make it through the big catering gig with the richest family in town.  Of course, it is at the party that everything goes horribly awry.

We are also introduced to prince Naveen of Maldonia, who is perhaps the least likable character in the movie.  He starts the movie as a jazz-loving spoiled ladies man.  He stays this way the entire movie until one of the musical numbers, where he suddenly changes.  Now he is a selfless prince whose heart is dedicated to one woman.  It was just a bit too much all at once; there was no buildup to the moment of transformation.

Though I didn’t especially like the movie’s prince, I did enjoy the animation.  The animation was wonderful; it was obvious that a lot of work and care went into making the film beautiful.  The movie also met the #1 criteria of any movie, it was entertaining.  However, it was not without flaws.  The musical numbers were uninspired and boring.  And some characters seemed  were pulled directly from other popular Disney movies.  The prince’s bumbling and scheming sidekick seemed to be an exact copy of Nathaniel from Enchanted.  The evil voodoo shadow man seemed to borrow heavily from The Little Mermaid’s Ursula.

Despite its flaws, the movie is worth watching but probably not worth buying.  If you have netflix and you enjoy Disney movies, it you should add it to your que.  The film gets two and a half ribbits.

Isn't this familiar?

A lot has been said about Avatar.  It made tons of money, and lots of people liked it.  While zipping through the air in an aluminum tube some 30,000 feet in the air, I had the chance to finally watch it.  I know what a lot of you may be saying, if you didn’t see it on a huge screen and in 3D, you didn’t really see Avatar.  Let me first say a few things about 3D.  Is that really what makes a movie good?  Watching it in 3D in a theater?  Does that add anything to the plot?  Do the characters develop better in the third dimension?  To me, 3D is mostly a gimmick that is meant to distract from a lack of any real content (though I admit I did hear that Avatar did a good job of incorporating 3D).  Also, watching 3D movies makes me feel sick.

I will be honest, I did not expect to like the movie.  I had been hearing so much about how it was just Pocahontas in space, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t really care for Disney’s version of Pocahontas.  That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed Avatar. The visuals were stunning, and despite stereotypical characters and a predictable story, it was enjoyable.  To me, this movie illustrated that sometimes, it is not the story that is important, it is HOW you tell the story that matters.

That being said, let me illustrate this point (spoiler alert).  You have a corrupt corporation that has come from a world which has been depleted of all resources.  The corporation is bent of making a profit, and so they explore new planets to make a profit.  They come to a world with vast resources, but come into conflict with the natives, and because of their superior technology, win a quick victory.  But there is a problem, the air on the planet is poisonous to the invaders, and they cannot access some of the resources they most desire.  In order to remedy this, they try to make a peace offering to the natives in order to entice their cooperation.  This ends up backfiring, and the natives become inspired to defend what is rightfully theirs.  Relying on ancient methods and rallying under a new hero, a former puppet of the corporation, the natives lead an uprising against the corporation.  Despite almost losing, the heart and virtue of the natives win out, and they are able to overthrow their oppressors.

What movie is this?  Why, it is Battlefield Earth, of course!  Or it could be Avatar.  Battlefield Earth is one of the worst movies ever made, and everything about it has been derided (even by me), but Avatar, with almost the same basic story, is considered to be one of the best movies ever made.  The true difference here is in how the story is told; and James Cameron knows how to tell a story.  James Cameron took a generic story (seriously, “unobtainium” is the best name you could come up with?), and told it in a way that was enjoyable and moving.  If you haven’t seen it by now, you really ought to.

But, you don’t have to take my word for it.