Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category
Multi Movie Review
Posted by benjamin on December 24, 2010
With the holidays comes a great time for friends, family, and movies. Well, here’s my gift to all of you with my reviews for several past Netflix viewings that I haven’t shared. These reviews will be as short as the predicted snowfall will be in the southeast of the US.
Enjoy these quick reviews and the holidays.
Director: F. Gary Gray
Release Year: 2009
Genre: Action, Adventure & Epic | Mystery & Thriller
Runtime: 108 minutes
I really need to stop focusing on the trailers for films as they will always let you down. This movie had promise but then fell apart when the “villain” went from out smarting everyone to making a stupid mistake. I hate that.
A documentary on an interesting subject that just falls flat. I think of LARPs as just nerds doing nerdy things instead of people doing something interested to them.
Director: Pete Docter, David Silverman, and Lee Unkrich
Release Year: 2001
Runtime: 92 minutes
After only one day removed from Toy Story 2′s disappointment, I found Monsters, Inc. to help return my trust in Pixar. Here was a film that was beautifully made that carried a very sweet story and lovable characters. Maybe at this point I should continue with the Pixar “marathon.”
Director: Guy Ritchie
Release Year: 2009
Genre: Action, Adventure & Epic | Mystery & Thriller
Runtime: 128 minutes
This is not your father or grandfather’s paper based Sherlock Holmes but RDJ and Jude Law create a great buddy tandem that works in the movie, just not well enough. This movie fell short but maybe with a potential sequel the true Holmes villain will thrust the film and franchise further.
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Release Year: 2001
Genre: Action, Adventure & Epic | Family
Runtime: 125 minutes
Alice in Wonderland meets Wizard of Oz. Truly a beautiful movie with sweet characters, great art, and an interesting story. Even those that are normally negative towards anime will find enjoyment within this film.
Director: John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, and Lee Unkrich
Release Year: 1999
Runtime: 92 minutes
Sure, I’m probably the last person in the world to see Toy Story 2, but at least I finally did. Of course, it turned out to be my least favorite Pixar movie. Too many characters, too many jokes that seemed out of place. Overall it was a film that seemed to only return for money. Here’s hoping Toy Story 3 turns me around.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Posted by will on September 16, 2010
Director: Seth Gordon
Runtime: 79 minutes
Plot: In the early 1980s, legendary Billy Mitchell set a Donkey Kong record that stood for almost 25 years. This documentary follows the assault on the record by Steve Wiebe, an earnest teacher from Washington who took up the game while unemployed.
My earliest memories of arcade games were at Lupino’s Pizza in Thomaston’s Northside strip mall (Treasury Drugs, anyone?). The specific game was Joust, a game where knights on ostriches tried to knock each other off in a 2D multi-platformed landl. I don’t think I was good at the game and I do recall grade school classmate Kali Gray lending me a few more quarters to subsequently get pummeled by the opposing knight bearing ostrich. Good times.
Suffice to say, I was and still am not very good at arcade games, although I do love playing them. My counterpart on this blog and I loved, as college roommates, saving quarters to waste an afternoon playing Time Crisis II. I once spent $10 to beat The House of the Dead II with Ennio Sanders in middle school. Trice’s dream is to one day own The Simpsons Arcade Game (that would cost him around $900 on eBay).
As much time and money we have wasted in front of these machines, it pales in comparison to the characters you will find in The King of Kong.
The basic premise finds newly unemployed Steve Wiebe as he attempts to break the legendary Billy Mitchell’s Donkey Kong score of 874,300, a mark that had for decades, never been topped.
Immediately, you figure this sets very specific roles for Wiebe and Mitchell. Wiebe is a soft-spoken father of two who we find, through interviews with his family and friends, has been unable to catch a break all of his life. In other words, he is the underdog protagonist. Mitchell, he of the long, flowing mane, dark, villainous beard, and pomp and pride is the perfect foil as the former classic gaming prodigy cum hot sauce king. A true enigma who wields ridiculous amount of influence in the classic gaming community.
These very specific roles have been set not only through natural progression but clever editing. Yet, as hard as I try, I kept coming back to Wiebe obsession’s with topping the high mark, really the crux of the plot (forget the character development). Eventually, as the plot progresses, our hero starts to take on the appearance of the negligent father, ignoring his two kids and wife, spending countless hours in front of the joystick screen, and extreme obsessive. Of course, Mitchell, appropriately, comes off as a pretty loathsome individual, but Wiebe, with his preoccupation, really left a poor portrayal when it was all said and done – at least, in my very humble opinion.
Through the course of events, Wiebe is certainly wronged on many fronts by Mitchell, the governing body of video games (Twin Galaxies), and the classic video game establishment, which we eventually discover, Mitchell has much sway … but there is no way I can relate to the focus and energy Wiebe puts into his gaming efforts. As much as I love video games, the amount of spirit and months he invests, I just simply can not relate to.
Is this supposed to be some type of statement on how much importance our culture and society can put on trivial, trivial things? I don’t know. I do know I left a little unsettled when the credit began to roll, despite the ending. I don’t know if it was the director’s intention to make a statement on a small slice of our civilization or our fanatical behavior, but even if it was not intended, the results were all not that pleasant.
The Movie Game
Posted by benjamin on July 5, 2010
On this Fourth of July weekend, many people will be heading to the movies (home, theaters, or both) and those of us here at The ACG will probably be no different. However, I did want to pass along a fun game for movie buffs if you find yourself in need of a way to pass the time. This game was first introduced to me as a drinking game, but you can still enjoy it without the need for a drink.
No boards, notes, or additional pieces of any kind are needed. You just need a group of people that love movies and know many of them. Here are the rules:
1 ) Someone starts off the game by naming a movie or actor/actress.
2 ) Each person, in turn, responds with someone from the movie or another movie that the actor/actress appears within. I.E. if the game starts with Batman Begins, then the next person would respond with Christian Bale or Michael Caine. Or the game could start with Tom Hanks, then the next person would respond with Toy Story 3 or The Da Vanci Code.
3 ) The game continues and changes based on each person’s answer.
4 ) Each person always has two options to respond: Another actor/actress in the movie or another movie based on the previous actor/actress that was mentioned.
5 ) The time allowed for each person playing to respond can be customized based on those playing. Advanced players might want to allow for shorter time.
6 ) No movie or actor/actress can be repeated.
That’s it. However, while playing the other night, my friends and I decided to add to the game with inclusion of a Lightning Round (LR). A LR is started whenever a predefined list of actors/actresses are mentioned. Here are the rules of the Lightning Round (LR):
1 ) Once a LR actor/actress is named someone else must call out “Lightning Round.”
2 ) Everyone must now only name a movie that the LR actor/actress is in.
3 ) If someone can’t name another movie, they are out and must take a drink.
4 ) The remaining players continue until only one player remains who can name a movie.
5 ) The last player must provide one last movie before the LR ends.
6 ) Once the LR ends with a winner, the winner can restart the game with a new movie or actor.
7 ) If no winner results from the LR, everyone drinks and the game starts back with the player who initiated the LR.
8 ) The predefined list of actors/actresses can be modified and changed prior to the start of the game so that all players are in agreement and have a list that matches the types of movies/actors/actresses that everyone enjoys.
Here is the current list of LR actors/actresses:
1 ) Tom Hanks (Beginner)
2 ) Tom Cruise (Beginner)
3 ) Sandra Bullock (Beginner)
4 ) Julia Roberts (Beginner)
5 ) Will Smith (Beginner)
6 ) Robin Williams (Beginner)
7 ) John C. Reilly (Advanced)
8 ) Meryl Streep (Advanced)
Enjoy for those interested in playing.
Please Vote for Me
Posted by The Amateur Critics Guild on February 14, 2010
Director: Weijun Chen
Language: Mandarin (English Subtitles)
Runtime: 58 minutes
Plot: Democracy in China exists, that is, in a primary school in Wahun where a grade 3 class can vote who they want as class monitor.
Disclaimer: The following might read as a bunch of yapping nonsense but we promise we are going to get better. I mean, holy thumbs, give us a break. — ACG
I believe that Please Vote for Me has some great qualities and some poor qualities. Before I go any further, though, I would like to say that I would recommend this movie to anyone. The subject matter (the high point) is extremely interesting, even if the style of the movie leaves room for improvement. I believe that the director had a very clear vision of the message that he wanted to present while making this movie.
The film showed us three levels of participation in the democratic process: the candidates, their campaign teams (in this case, their parents), and the constituents (the candidate’s fellow classmates). Even in such a meaningless vote (for class monitor), we see these outrageous characters and stereotypes which we, here in the United States are accustomed to seeing on every level (local, state, federal). To me, it was eye-opening to see the same tired stereotypes unearthed. To be frank, it was a little bit disturbing.
The message is never unclear, and the documentary never waivers from the theme. I believe that is this movie’s strong point, and is the reason that I would recommend it. The children clearly have very little concept of democracy, and the adults even seem unable to explain it beyond a high level “It means that you have a voice” statements, and this is where the message shines. The children have never experienced democracy in action, but they all fall right into the actions that we would recognize as “politics.” I believe that Weijun Chen did an excellent job of saying what he wanted to say, and doing it in just under an hour.
But doesn’t the subject warrant exploration for longer than just 30 minutes?
I don’t think so. I think a longer inspection would have either lost the viewer’s attention or it might have suffered from coming off self-righteous.
I think it would depend on how it was approached. Judging from the style of the rest of the film, I think that the director and editor were right to make it the length that it is. I don’t know that the style would have held the audience’s attention for any greater amount of time.
On the technical side of things, this documentary is not bad. To this untrained eye, the shots work, and I had a good feeling of space inside the school. It would have been nice to have a few more shots that showed the surrounding areas so that viewers could get more of an idea of the layout and size of the city in which the children live, Wahun, but I realize that the focus was not the city, but the children.
I completely agree that the kids’ entire environment is what influences them and their ideals. These ideals are the foundation of how they choose to run his/her campaign.
However, I’m not impressed with other elements of the documentary genre. We don’t really get a viewpoint or voice from the other side (parents, administrators, etc.). Yes the movie is about the kids, but those kids have been placed into this situation by those around them and understanding why these kids or why make this change in the selection process. A documentary should give me the theme and all sides to it.
It was nice to see the homes of the children, and see how they dress and act at home with their parents (whitey tighties!), because you get the kind of insight into who they are that you would not get from the interactions with their peers.
It would have been a huge flaw if we did not see the candidates’ parents. These interactions really showed what kind of clout external powers can have on the campaign’s centerpiece and it also shows what are possibly the motivations of the contenders.
The parents help to make the children who they are in a huge way, too, but this leads me to one of my gripes about the film.
This problem is inherent to most documentaries, but I just cannot help but bring it up for this movie. It is the old problem of observation changing the subject’s behavior. I cannot help but think about how differently the adults in the movie would have acted without a camera watching. My question is, did the parents act the way that they did for the camera hoping that they would not look foolish or look like bad parents?
The three students’ personalities stand out from one another very well in the movie. Children seem to give a purer view of reality in front of the camera than adults, and these children are no exception.
That statement right there just hits the nail on the head so hard it hurts.
Overall, I was not very impressed with this film as a documentary because it did not take me any where I had not already been at the start of the film. The film started with a goal of high expectations and didn’t seem to follow through as well as the subject would have allowed.
I, on the other hand, thought the movie accomplished what it set out to do. Again, as I said before, this movie really gives you an unsettling viewpoint of the democratic process.
A follow-up at the end of the film to learn the students’ thoughts as well as those of the teacher and parents would have added more depth to a film that was pursuing a “revolutionary” idea. Truly the best element of the film was, as William pointed out, the natural progression of the characters in becoming stereotypes and following practices that most people who generally participate in democracy dislike (bribes, name calling, spreading rumors, etc.).
I agree with both of you. From a technical and plot standpoint, I believe that the movie is lacking. The cinematography is just ok, only showing us what we need to see, but in no interesting way.
Yeah give me something more than just standard viewpoint.
The characters are wonderful, in my opinion, but the story surrounding them does not seem to go as far as it needs to. I do believe that some kind of short interview with the kids at the end would have furthered the theme. But who knows, maybe they did the interviews and they did not fit with the rest of the documentary.
I did get a lot out of the film. The director really kept the theme of the movie on track and hammered home what he wanted to say. The cheating, bribing, and manipulation are very familiar, and, as you put it, Will, “disturbing.”