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The Chipmunk Adventure (viewed at home 9 May 2012)
Gave this movie to my sister for her birthday—we both have fond memories of it from when we were kids, so watching it again was a trip down memory lane. The Chipmunks and the Chipettes trying to “out-rock and roll” each other is always the best part. I hadn’t realised when I was a kid, though, how much blatant lack of respect for other cultures there is in this film. It’s nostalgic, but it’s also completely problematic.

Captain America: The First Avenger (viewed at home 7 May 2012)
Watched this with my sister in partial preparation for Marvel’s The Avengers, which came out in theaters May 4th. We’ll be watching them lead-in movies in chronological order (that is, in regards to their respective story lines, not in the order they were produced). Captain America was actually better than I was expecting. (Maybe I just have really low expectations for superhero movies? I don’t know.) Sister had already seen it, but she didn’t mind watching it again. I liked Tommy Lee Jones character the best, I think, and Bucky. Looking forward to Iron Man, which is next on the list, even though I’ve already seen it.

The Voice New Testament (31 March 2012 via eReader)
This new translation is written in stageplay format with a lot of “context” added in by Biblical scholars. I like the context itself, and I thought I would like the format, but instead the format ended up being very distracting; it reminded me of a Myspace webpage with popups and music and glittery annoyances every few words. Okay, it’s not that bad, but the format was still distracting. I hoped to get into it, but the “context” sections kept pulling me out of the narrative, and that seems like a flaw (possibly a fatal one) when the scholars’ very purpose is for a new generation to read Scripture as a narrative (as opposed to verse by verse).

Midnight in Paris (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 25 February 2012)
AMC saved the best for last, in my opinion (though the Academy didn’t agree with me on that count, so take that as you will). I didn’t like this film the best because it was the best film, but because it was so much better than I was expecting. Neither my sister nor I like the actor who plays the main character (and actually, he was about as I expected in this movie, too, so) but the story was really neat. Maybe I liked it because it was about a writer trying to find his voice or maybe I liked it because it features some of the most-lauded writers of the early twentieth century, but either way, I was pleasantly surprised. Someone mentioned it was full of geek, but really it was full of smart. Hell, I don’t even like Fitzgerald’s or Hemingway’s writing, but I got excited anyway because WRITERS! I did like Gertrude Stein (in the film and otherwise), though, so.

The Artist (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 25 February 2012)
The second-to-last film on the docket for the second day. A silent film with an epic score and only about a single minute of non-silent material (literally; I’m not joking). Also the second movie of the day about making movies (the first was Hugo). It was all right, and the audience was strangely quiet during the showing, but I felt like I was holding my breath the whole time. (Maybe everyone else felt that way, too, and that’s why no one was speaking under the actors… because there were no lines to speak under.) It was all right, like I said, and it won the Oscar for Best Picture, so I guess yay?

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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 25 February 2012)
Two difficult movies in a row. The main character (the child) reminded me of Bennett. I didn’t like seeing the towers fall again, though at least this time it wasn’t over and over again like it was on “The Worst Day”… I liked the idea of a Sixth Borough, but it hurt my heart to see so much of New York City that I miss so desperately. I felt sick afterward. I don’t know what that means for someone else, but I think for me it’s still too soon.

The Help (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 25 February 2012)
Oh man, The Help was a hard movie for me. Racism sucks no matter the era, and I’m still having a really difficult time being okay with the agent of change being a Southern white woman rather than the main characters themselves. As a young white woman writer myself, I identified with Emma Stone’s character and cringed at the bleach-blonde racism of the other white (women) characters. I think part of the reason it’s so hard for me is because I don’t I’m that much better. When was the last time I stood up against racism? Is it a regular thing for me, or do I hide behind my privilege just like most other white people in this country? I fear/suspect/know it’s the latter, not the former. And I hate that. And I hate being confronted with it even though I know I should willingly do so.

Hugo in 3D (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 25 February 2012)
This was the first film my sister and I saw on the second day (of two) of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase. It was in 3D! We spent the first five minutes swatting the air because we kept thinking it was snowing on us. Obviously, we (1) see a lot of snow, and (2) see a lot of movies in 3D. >_> Obviously. Anyway, it was a cute story, and I liked the lesson I got from it, which was “if all the Earth is a machine, and machines only come with exactly the number of parts they need (and not any extra), then each of us an important part of the Earth since we can consider ourselves all necessary parts.” Although I’m not so mechanically inclined as Hugo, I think someone telling me that when I was feeling desperate in high school and college might’ve helped. I don’t know, but it made me think of my younger self and wonder what someone else could’ve done to better reach out to me. As a side note, I went into the film thinking it was a cartoon, but it isn’t, so just be aware of that if you watch it for yourself.

The Descendants (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 18 February 2012)
Sister and I actually arrived late for this film because I miscalculated how long it would take to eat dinner. Turned out it didn’t matter much that we were around 15 minutes late because it was thankfully nothing like The Tree of Life and we were able to pick up the story after a short while. George Clooney was really good, actually, and I liked the story. In the end, though, I at first thought the plot was too realistic (if I wanted real life, I wouldn’t go to the movies, after all, right?) and then that it wasn’t realistic enough (because of the way the family predictably ended up handling the sale of their inherited land).

The Tree of Life (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 18 February 2012)
Holy sheesh what is this movie I don’t even. Seriously. Also, Brad Pitt again? Really? I mean, it was billed as an imppresionistic… and it most definitely is. It’s allegedly about a son’s relationship with his father but it has the beginning of the world and dinosaurs and everything I mean what. It was Art with a capital ‘a’, If you know what I mean. It was good, I guess, but it felt like one of those movies that rich snobs talk about. Wing better than the others over expensive glasses of wine and I’m standing there with a root beer and totally out my depth. I didn’t understand it and it was exhausting to watch.

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Moneyball (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 18 February 2012)
Part of the first day of AMC Theaters’ Best Picture Showcase. It was all right, but I don’t particularly care about Brad Pitt or the Oakland As (or baseball at all, for that matter), so it didn’t blow me away or anything. Based on a true story, for what that’s worth. Sister taught me about tasks (something an actor does so that his or her character seems more human/relatable/realistic/credible) and then expressed her frustration with Pitt because all his characters seem to have the same one: eating. I didn’t notice until she pointed it out, but yeah.

War Horse (viewed as part of AMC’s Best Picture Showcase 18 February 2012)
Saw this as part of AMC’s BPS (first day of two) with my sister. Decent film. Epic panning cinematography and depictions of war, as one expects from Steven Spielberg. Il liked the boy’s mother the best, I think, and her statement to her husband when asks if she’ll leave him if he loses the farm: “I may hate y’more, but I’ll never love ye less.” It was nominated for an Academy Award, after all, but I mean… it’s about horse, soo…

17 Again (viewed at home 2 February 2012)
Stupid movie with an unoriginal plot, but one I’d probably watch again if I didn’t want to think too much. Perfect for my mom because—although she’s not stupid—she dislikes violence and movie sex and likes happy endings. Corny through and through. The kid dresses as “K-Fed” and subsequently (of course) gets made fun of, so the next day he shows up dressed as… Tom Cruise. I’m not kidding. Also, the puns. OMFG. I thought it was cute that he kept forgetting he was 17 again, though. Yeah, I’d probably watch it again, even if it was just to show it to my mom. Such a dumb movie, though. Uuuuuugh.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (viewed in theaters 29 January 2012)
I chose this film because it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor (among other nominations) but then realized that it also has in it one of the actors I follow. (Yes, I follow some actors’ careers, okay? Don’t judge me.) Went to see it with Bobby, and it was okay, but it wasn’t what I was expecting (I don’t know what I was expecting), and I don’t think it really turned out to be my cup of tea. I mean, it’s a war movie, but with no actual war. (That’s the Cold War for you, I guess.) It’s set in the ’70s, so while I understand the rampant sexism, I still didn’t like it. I did like the hush-hush insider names for everything, though: Control, Circus, etc.

the Alice stories (read 17-25 January 2012)
And by that I mean Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, which I finally made the point of reading myself after having seen quite a few TV and movie adaptations of said. Here’s the thing. It really pissed me off that in every single adaptation I’ve ever seen the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen are combined into one character, so I thought that reading the original stories would help deflate some of that anger. Unfortunately, it only made the anger righteous instead of tamed, so. Really, though, I would honest-to-gods love to see just one screen version of the Alice stories that doesn’t conflate the two. They’re not even from the same game! Grr argh /knashing of teeth.

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The Immortals, Book 1: Wild Magic (finished 24 December 2011)
I started this book on a trip to San Francisco in late October—there’s still a plane ticket sticking out of it, actually—and didn’t actually read it until later in the year. A friend of mine recommended this book to me as a good introduction to Tamora Pierce’s writing. I remember when the Circle of Magic books were published around the time I was in junior high; they were popular but I never read them. Wild Magic isn’t bad; I can find nothing glaringly wrong with it, at least, except that it is—quite obviously—simply an introduction. (There are three other books in “The Immortals” series.) I’d read the others (or, at least, the second) if they showed up on my desk somehow, but I probably won’t seek them out.

Red Riding Hood (viewed at home 10 December 2011)
A retelling of the ancient fable that’s part drama, part mystery—with a dash of romance for flavor. I was pleasantly surprised to see Galactica‘s Tigh in the film, though I wish he’d played a bigger part. The film itself was all right—I didn’t immediately figure out who the werewolf was, but I’m not adept at mysteries, so there’s that. I wasn’t really surprised when it was revealed. Definitely a fantasy, but not in an overt kind of way, which I liked. Also, I kind of liked the ending; romantic, in a strange sort of way, though I can see why it wasn’t well-received at the box office. Whatever. It was all right. Not “super awesome you must see this right now”, but okay.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn, part 1 (viewed in theaters 26 November 2011)
I don’t care enough about this series (the books or the movies) to give it more than a mention here. It wasn’t a good movie. In fact, it was pretty spectacularly bad—bad characterization (there is none), bad for women (are you kidding me, S.Meyer?), and a non-existent plot—and this is still the only series that involves vampires that has ever made me root for someone not the vampires. I mean, really. It’s just pathetic. This is the first movie in the series that I didn’t (attempt to) read the book beforehand. I’m pretty sure reading the book was unnecessary, since the very first Twilight movie was actually an improvement over the book upon which it was based. Just… ugh, Twilight; ugh.

Sleeping With Money (finished at home early November 2011)
I’ve said I’m not really one for yakuza/gangster stories, and yet recently I’ve read a few without even seeking them out. I don’t know why that keeps happening. Either way, this novel was… eh: so so. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible. That might have been the translation (it was translated from the original Japanese), but I just… didn’t really get into it. I finished it, but the most it had going for it was the pictures (seck-say woo woo) and my desire to finish things I start. Otherwise, meh.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated (viewed at home 14 November 2011)
Made me want scream. I realize the documentary is slanted against the MPAA, but seriously… it wasn’t like these guys had to try very hard to make the Association look bad. If the stuff in this documentary is true, the MPAA rating system—and its implicit censorship and the use of complete secrecy—is complete bullshit. Also, way to go, sexist/anti-gay/anti-sex movie industry… of which the MPAA is only a symptom. Made me want to just strangle someone. You think violence is okay and sex somehow isn’t? Not going to lie: that’s pretty fucked up. I’ll give you some violence. /garrrrrrr /tears out hair

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Alcohol, Shirt & Kiss (finished 28 October 2011)
Well, I can’t complain about two guys kissing each other, but I tend to like more explicit yaoi manga. The interaction between the two main characters isn’t too realistic, I don’t think—it is erotica, after all—but suspending my disbelief wasn’t a problem. The short at the end, “Moon Kiss”, was cute and ended unexpectedly. Kind of nice to be pleasantly surprised, you know?

Ai no Exorcist (viewed at home as it aired online April-Ocober 2011)
An anime that doesn’t really do anything new but held my interest long enough for me to watch all 25 episodes. I thought, by the end, that perhaps the younger brother (Yukio) had been the protagonist all along, even though much of the story centered on the elder brother (Rin). I think my favorite characters were Shiro (the brothers’ adoptive father)—even though he’s barely in it—and Mephisto (the school’s headmaster/chairman).

Garbo’s Cuban Lover (viewed at Macha Theatre 08 October 2011)
Went to see this stage play in West Hollywood with a friend, Joyce. Really enjoyed it, even though we got lost on the way there. ^_^;; Notes: two restrooms (one unisex, the other women only), no outside food or drink allowed, a can of Coke at the bar costs $2, one glass of White Zinfandel costs $10 (reason #837259 I don’t drink). The theatre is smaller than I was expecting (makes for an intimate experience, at least, right?), but the play itself wholly made up for that. Well written, well staged, and well acted. Also, lesbians kissing/being frisky/sexin’ it up, and who doesn’t like watching that? Would definitely see it again (after reading up on Mercedes de Acosta and Greta Garbo), if I could afford it. T_T See also.

The PhD Movie (viewed at Caltech‘s Beckman Auditorium 22 September 2011)
We meant to see the first showing (we didn’t know there would be another showing after the first), but the auditorium was full up right as we reached the steps up to the door. Saw this with Dad (his suggestion), sister, Mom, and Grandma. It’s really funny in an “ouch, that’s actually true” kind of way. If you haven’t read the comic, start here. Highly recommended for anyone who has worked toward a degree in higher learning, and for everyone who’s thought about it! Brother will be seeing it on his campus in November!

Seven Days in Utopia (viewed in theaters 04 September 2011)
It was (I think) Dad’s idea to see this movie, so the whole family (Dad, Mom, me, Bunny, and Grandma; not Johnny since he’s out of state) piled into the car and then piled into the theater. For a movie about golf, it was… okay. My mom really likes Robert Redford Duvall (Redford, too, probably), so she thought it was pretty good. It pretty spectacularly failed the Bechdel Test (no surprise there), but I was pleasantly surprised when the lady love interest told the main character, “No. It’s too soon” when he tried to kiss her. And then he didn’t pressure her. The sports commentators at the end were really, really irritating (all the talking over the action is about half the reason I dislike watching sports in the first place), but overall I didn’t mind sitting there watching it, even if the entire film turned out to be, as my sister said, “the longest, most elaborate website advertizement I’ve ever seen.” Like I said, meh. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t absolutely terrible.

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Beastly (viewed at home 22 August 2011)
As someone who collects “Beauty & the Beast” stories, I meant to see this movie in theaters and didn’t manage to, so I rented it. I actually have the book upon which it’s based (in storage in New Jersey), but I haven’t read it, so I could only go on my knowledge of the fairytale itself. In terms of “how great was this movie?” it’s not spectacular, but I’m still putting it on my “need to own this someday” list. In terms of “how interesting was this adaptation of the fairytale?” it ranked somewhat higher. I’ve never seen or read a version that more fully incorporates the witch/enchantress who transforms the beast into a… well, a beast. Usually, that character is in the prologue or Beauty learns the beast’s story through other characters (or the beast himself, sometimes) telling her about something that has already happened. In this film, the witch is more active, and she doesn’t just do her thing and then disappear. It made me want to learn more about her character over the other two.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (viewed at home 22 August 2011)
My sister and I had been talking about “seeing that movie that Heath Ledger was making when he died” for a long time, and today we finally sat down and watched it. Neither of us knew anything about it, except that it was Ledger’s last film (so “last” that he didn’t even get to finish acting in it), so it turned out… stranger than I was expecting. Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting (I hadn’t even seen a preview before watching the film), but it wasn’t… so fantastical, I guess? I liked the Mercury character, by far, the best. It was kind of the other actors that were cast in Ledger’s role after he died to take up his mantle, so to speak, and the transitions actually worked quite well. It was all right. No complaints, but nothing to really write home about, either.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (viewed in theaters 10 August 2011)
I went to see this with Daylin (visiting from out of town) when she suggested it, though I hadn’t heard much about it and have never been really impressed with Steve Carell (the actor who plays the main character). Well, this movie was much better than I expected. I was actually surprised by the surprise twists, for one thing. It was a “light-hearted romantic comedy” but it also—I think—showed a truer side of life; confusion, heartache, revenge, anger. And it was honest: at the end, things were still not completely okay, just like life. Totally recommended, but if you’re prone to crying in movies, bring some tissues.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, season 1 (completed 04 August 2011)
The first two episodes were completely ridiculous, but I liked the original My Little Pony enough when I was a kid that I decided to overlook how terrible contrived it was and watch a few more episodes after that. I ended up watching the entire 26-episode season without even realizing it. My favorite pony from when I was a kid, Firefly, isn’t in it because most of the characters from that era (excepting Applejack and Spike, the baby dragon) are out of copyright or something. (Seriously, though, how does a company lose the copyright on most of the characters but not all of them?) Decent show, though; I did watch the whole season, after all. Strange that it’s popular with the 12-35 male demographic, though.

Cowboys & Aliens (viewed in theaters 31 July 2011)
My dad, sister, and I went to see this because we had to get out of the house to let my mother work on her PhD. My sister (the film major) pretty much hated it. My dad and I went in thinking it would be a good, if pretty ridiculous, movie for just sitting back and being entertained, and we were right. It’s not the greatest, but I’ve seen far, far worse; pretty good fodder if you just want to turn off your brain for a while. I did notice, though, that: it fails the Bechdel Test, the main female protagonist—after proving she’s actually an important character—sacrifices herself (why am I not surprised?) for “the cause” or whatever, and that it was an interesting take on “the Native American metaphor fights the American military metaphor”… Also, the driving force behind this invasion is… gold? Weeeeeeak. Manifest destiny? Goddamn. Obviously, it’s not without its problems, but I’d watch it again.

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Ludwig II 1 by You Higuri (finished 26 July 2011)
Almost 300 pages of historical yaoi—based loosely on the King of Bavaria who built Neuschwanstein—is totally awesome. I was slow to warm up to this manga (I bought it last October at Yaoi-Con and didn’t even flip through it after that until this month) but when I finally sat down to read it, I wished I had read it sooner. I think I have a thing for military and royal courtship yaoi. I will definitely be getting the second volume when I go to Yaoi-Con this year.

North Country (viewed at home 19 July 2011)
I first saw this my senior year of college and 99.9% of the film just made me so furious. My sister, dad, and I watched it on my request and I was practically furious the entire time watching this time, too. I cried I was so angry. It’s a great movie to watch so that people understand that sexual harassment isn’t as innocuous or harmless as people might think. The only thing that worries me about it is that some watchers might think that the work has been done. (The film is set in Minnesota in 1989, after all.) But that’s not true. We have a long way to go. This movie is a good discussion-starter. Definitely recommended.

The Book of Eli (viewed at home 18 July 2011)
My dad and I watched this after my sister insisted we bring it home from the video store. Post-apocalyptic, books and reading, dusty western town run by a warlord? Check, check, and check. All things considered, it was decent. My dad and I quipped that we’d be surprised if it turned out that the main character and the warlord actually got a long and worked together, and we correctly predicted that wouldn’t happen. Interesting use of blindness, and I’ll admit that I didn’t expect the ending to happen as it did. The title references the way the books in the Bible are titled and… let’s just say that’s not a coincidence. As my dad said, “Meh, it was worth maybe half an hour.” (To which I responded, “Yeah, too bad it was two whole hours, then, right?”)

Doctor Zhivago (viewed at home 17 July 2011)
When my dad, sister, and I sat down to watch this, we didn’t realize how long it was (200 minutes!). It won five Academy Awards, and my dad had never seen it, even though he’d heard it was “an epic”… Well, it was, at least, epically long. We couldn’t figure out anyone’s name, so they ended up being “Creepy guy”, “Glasses guy”, “The title character’s adoptive sister”, and “Wait, who was that again?” The film is so long it had a damn intermission, for Christ sakes. Most definitely historical fiction, but it’s not history with which I’m very familiar, so a lot was probably lost on me. Best line: (in relation to a pianist’s playing for a small audience) “Darling, this is genius!”—“Really? I thought it was Rachmaninoff.”

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (viewed in theaters 9 June 2011)
The first Pirates was genius/epic/awesome. The second was… pretty good. The third was meh, okay. This one is basically just a romp with Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. If you like watching Depp/Sparrow run around and fight Redcoats (and Spaniards) with swords, then this is the movie for you. Since I like those things, it was worth the price of admission. Otherwise, though, I’d just skip this in theaters and catch it on DVD on a night when you want to sit back and not have to think for a while.