A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

State of the blog update

For the first time today we’ve reached the one-year-remaining mark!

That’s right – there are only three hundred and sixty five DVDs left in our collection that we have not yet reviewed. (Give or take. We may be adding some VHS tapes we own to the mix because we can’t get them on DVD so that would add at least five more movies.) Never fear however: we’ve got more movie on the way from Amazon already and plenty more on our ever growing wish-list so there’s no danger of our running out of movies to review any time soon.

This does, however, work as a good excuse to debut a new feature on the blog today. Over on the right there where we have listed how many movies are left to review I have added a link to a spreadsheet that contains every movie in the project and links to all the reviews we’ve done so far. Now you can look to see if we own and are going to review your favorite movie, and if we’ve reviewed it already you have a quick way to click through to those reviews.

It’s not the most elegant solution, but it does add some much needed functionality. I hope you all enjoy it. Feedback is, of course, welcome.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | we want information | Leave a comment

Movie 79 – Iron Giant

Iron Giant – May 18th, 2010

Man, I am such a grown up. When the giant makes the train crash? Dude, so not cool. My thoughts at the time were all about how much of a mess that would be and what was the train carrying? Hopefully not passengers, or livestock, or anything dangerous. And those poor engineers! Such a grown up. But that’s only at the outset of the movie, and my other grown up concern was answered in full (how the heck was a kid going to keep the giant supplied with metal? Oh, scrap yard, okay) so that’s good. I do wonder about the historical time period and just how much metal scrap was lying around in 1958. Sure it was over a decade after the end of the war, but still. I did mention I’m a grown up. Alas.

I ended up getting into the movie, though, so while I did make a comment here and a comment there about historical accuracy and continuity (I don’t care how cold the water was when Hogarth went swimming – snow a day or two later, even in Maine, seems odd to me), it was mostly in jest, because I can’t help but comment on movies. It’s a thing. I mean, how can I not? I comment about movies I love and movies I hate. I try to be equal opportunity in my riffing.

I don’t know if I love this movie. Not yet. But I did enjoy it. A good chunk of that is the story, which is a rollicking adventure story about a boy who finds a big robot who’s crash landed near a small town and the trouble the boy goes to in order to hide the giant and teach it about earth and humans and comic books. Obviously a giant robot would frighten the townspeople, so of course he has to be hidden, but he also likes to eat metal, which could get a little costly and/or destructive, so the boy gets a local scrap dealer, a beatnik-type artist, to hide the robot and feed him. And then of course the Army shows up. Duh. Now, that story – boy finds giant robot, boy hides giant robot with help from friendly adult, military shows up to confiscate/destroy robot – could probably be set in several different time periods. It could be set today. But the other chunk of what I enjoyed about the story is the time period of the late 1950s. Early Cold War, fear of atomic weapons, duck and cover, etc. It’s the perfect time period for the story and the movie is based on a book written in 1968. I’m going to have to find it and read it, because I’d like to see what was changed.

The movie does a great job with the setting and the characters, making them distinctly of their time without making them completely ridiculous caricatures. There’s some great humor for adults in a lot of the lines, especially little asides and throwaways from Hogarth’s mother and the beatnik, Dean. The movie’s villain, Manley, made me feel a real urge to slap him, and that’s the sign of a good movie villain to me. But again, what I really liked was the time period. The movie makes it clear, through the duck and cover filmstrip in Hogarth’s classroom, the music, and the eventual atomic missile climax, just when this is all taking place. And obviously stakes are high, as are tensions. But it doesn’t drag the movie into something more serious than it can handle. Sure, it’s got serious themes of the dangers of escalating violence and arms races, as well as losing perspective. And that’s on top of the less militaristic themes of choosing your own path and being yourself. But this is also a cartoon made for a wide age range, not just adults, so it’s got to have humor and charm and fun to balance all of that out. Of course, movies made for adults can have all of the above as well, but it’s kind of required for family fare. And it turned out great.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie tonight. No musical numbers to get stuck in my head and while it didn’t have Rene Auberjonois, it did have Vin Diesel, so that’s cool. I’m hip to that.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iron Giant

May 18, 2010

Iron Giant

I have an amusing story to relate to you regarding this movie. So well loved was it in my family that the year it came out on DVD everybody in my family bought it for everybody else that Christmas. I bought it for my Father. My brother bought it for me. My sister bought it for me as well (and I gave my extra to my other sister in turn.) It’s just that kind of movie. You can’t watch it without enjoying it and wanting to share it with somebody else.

The plot of this movie is rooted in fifties cold-war hysteria. When a mysterious giant robot crashes of the coast of Maine it is damaged, losing its memory. It is befriended by Hogarth Hughes, a local kid with a grand imagination. Hogarth, and eventually the hep local artist and scrap dealer Dean, try to hide the robot and teach it about life in rural fifties America. But there is a sinister government agent bent on finding and destroying the robot. An epic confrontation is inevitable.

It’s also the movie that made me fall in love with Brad Bird. His name on the credits for this movie was the first time I remember consciously hearing about him. Of course I later discovered that Brad Bird had been responsible for many of my favorite Simpsons episodes from early in the show. He cannily molds a clever work here blending moments of great humor, adventure, nostalgia and heart all into one solid gleaming piece.

Brad Bird is your guarantee of a great animated film. He has an intuitive sensibility for what the medium is capable of. Check out the interrogation scene in this movie with it’s ominous lighting effects. (You may have seen a similar thing to great effect in the Simpsons episode “Krusty gets Busted” when Sideshow Bob first reveals his sinister side.) And he uses his talents to great effect in this movie. There’s a lot of very slick style to the whole film. From the hep late fifties feel to the great pop culture references. The whole movie just oozes cool.

I could fill the whole rest of my review with examples of the cool. Things like the nod to War of the Worlds in the giant’s eventual transformation, Hogarth’s home town being named for Norman Rockwell because it embodies an idealized America. Things like Dean (clearly named for James Dean) the amazingly cool beatnik. Things like the cheesy horror movie that Hogarth watches on TV at the start of the movie with the telepathic brains (Amanda’s reaction was “That looks like an awesome movie! Why can’t we watch that tonight?”) Oh, and keep an eye out for the two train conductors in this movie – apparently they’re based on friends or mentors of Brad’s. They show up in The Incredibles as well I think.

Furthermore the animation itself in this movie is astonishing. It’s a smooth blend of hand-drawn 2-D animation and slick CGI, so well mixed that at times it’s hard to tell what is what. (Example: Hogarth first appears in the movie riding up to the diner where his mother works on his red bicycle. I think the bicycle is a CG model, but I can’t tell for sure. Anther example: when the giant is eating the power station it grabs a big metal structure and rips it up and chomps it down. The metal structure is hand drawn… I think.)

All in all this is a not-to-be-missed gem of a movie. It resonates powerfully with the sci-fi obsessed kid in me, and it never fails to astonish me with it’s slick production values and clever direction. One of my all time favorites.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment