Once again, It's my plan to chart the movies I watch and books I read in 2015. It's called 50/50 because the idea comes from a challenge to watch fifty new movies and read fifty new books within a year. I've failed to meet that challenge every year since my sister first recommended it- at least as far as books are concerned- but it's not a bad way to push myself. Also, while it may not be very interesting to most of you out there, but it's helpful to me to keep a record of this stuff; otherwise, I tend to forget. Case in point: I watched Big Hero 6 at the start of March, and as far as I could recall, it was the first new movie I saw this year. I'd forgotten I'd started this list, and had several titles on it already.
Read or Dream, Volume 1
I've failed miserably at getting any reading done so far this year. I've said this before, but I regret that I no longer live across the street from the library, where I can go and sit and read without any distractions. I didn't want to post the first installment of this list until I had at least one book to add to it. It's a manga, but it still counts.
I'm a fan of the anime R.O.D. the TV, which is partly based on this manga, though think I believed that it was the other way around at first. The main characters are a trio young women (the Paper Sisters) who have magical or telekinetic powers over paper. Normally, being an avid bibliophile seems to go hand in hand with this ability. I'm not sure what the Paper Sisters would think of me, this being the third month of the year and I've only managed to read one book so far.
This is a collection of stories, some humorous, some surreal and some sweet. I think I preferred the sweet ones- my favorite was the one where Maggie, the middle sister, reads to a blind girl. I wasn't blown away by this manga or anything, but it seemed worth getting, as a fan of the anime. I have the other three volumes, so I'll probably be reading those in the near future.
My Little Pony Equestria Girls
Up until recently, I never managed to get myself to sit down and actually watch an episode My Little Pony Friendship is Magic (though that didn't stop me from writing an irate email to NPR a few years ago when their quiz program Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, made fun of the recent brony phenomenon). The most I'd seen was a couple minutes of the pilot. But I've been curious what the big deal is. As a Star Trek fan, I became much more intrigued after I learned John de Lancie voices a character on the show. Finally, after I watched a series of parody videos on YouTube, I figured I should check out the genuine article. It took me several episodes to get into the show, just as it took time for me to get used to Fluttershy not talking like Fat Albert... if you've seen the parody videos of which I spoke, you'll know what I mean.
In spite of having fully caught up with the entire series by this point, I still would not call myself a Brony- if only because I don't wish to feed into some of the negative stereotypes. It's a cute cartoon while not being overly saccharine like its previous incarnations are accused of being. The writing is usually pretty good; it doesn't talk down to the audience, and the characters are likable- I admit, I got a little misty eyed watching the third season finale. I think it's kinda cool that it's developed the following it has, but I'm still at a bit of a loss to explain why it's attained such massive popularity. As my sister said, sometimes things are just popular because they're popular because they're popular.
So, I found out after I watched this movie that a lot of fans weren't crazy about it. I liked it okay, but my expectations weren't super high to begin with. I probably wouldn't have gone to see it in a theater, partly out of embarrassment and partly because it feels more like a home video release.
My Little Pony Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks
The general consensus seems to be that the sequel is much better. Again, I didn't have a problem with the first movie, but after thinking about it, I guess I would say that I enjoyed this one a bit more, largely due to the music. I also like that the villain from the first movie, Sunset Shimmer is a good guy in this one, since I often have a soft spot for villains who redeem themselves in some way. Oh, I just realized why that character is named Sunset Shimmer. Because she was Princess Celestia's student before Twilight Sparkle and sunset precedes twilight. Duh.
Fun little movie where Rutger Hauer plays a badass sword-wielding blind Vietnam vet.
The Mad Room
This is one of those movies I stayed up late to watch on TV and then found out I didn't have to because it's on YouTube.
Stella Stevens plays a secretary to wealthy widow Shelly Winters and is engaged to Winters' stepson. When she was a girl, her younger brother and sister were committed after their parents were murdered. Supposedly, one or both of them did the killing, but they blocked it out and the authorities were never sure which one was responsible, so they just locked them both up. So anyway, they get released and Stella Stevens takes them back to live with her in the rich lady's home.
Spoilers! Another murder occurs, and it's once again not certain who did it, with the two younger siblings blaming each other. Instead of calling the police, after some initial shouting and hysterics, Stella Stevens' character and her brother and sister cover the whole thing up, which is interesting partly because it shows Stevens' character isn't as squeaky clean as she initially seems. It's gonna sound like I'm kidding, but in a sick way, it was kind of nice to see the siblings working together like that. It would have been interesting if they'd just been able to put the whole incident behind them and gotten on with their lives, but of course things don't turn out that way. It's probably not too tough to guess who the murderer is; I kinda guessed it from the beginning, to be honest. The ending is really abrupt and odd.
I did not like the original "Underworld" that much. I barely even remembered it. But the movie was among a few DVDs I got at a garage sale last summer where they were going for a dollar or fifty cents apiece. At those prices, I regret not picking up more titles than I did. Anyway, I got around to finally rewatching "Underworld" and I still didn't think that much of it. My main problem is that I didn't really care about what was going on until they finally reveal the root of the hatred between the werewolves- excuse me, lycans- and the vampires, which doesn't happen until like the final thirty minutes or so. Up until that point, everything felt rather senseless- just a lot of mindless action and violence.
But by the end of the movie, I apparently felt curious enough to check out the sequel, and I have to say I thought it was an improvement over the first one. This time around, I actually found myself caring about the characters more, now that I finally knew something about them. Also, the first movie doesn't really feel like a complete film; it's setting a lot of stuff up for the sequel. Watching them both back to back was more satisfying. It's almost like the first two movies are really one story, broken up into two films.
I did notice one strange discrepancy between movies, though. The first one appears to be set in some generic American city, but in the sequel, which takes place right after, even though they haven't gone anywhere, they're suddenly in what looks like Russia to me.
Now I kind of want to see the other sequels.
Big Hero 6
Well, I thought this movie had a unique look and I laughed several times- mainly during the scenes with Baymax- but overall, I found the story far more interesting before it went down the standard superhero route. There was certain stuff I just found too predictable, like the identity of the villain. Also, there's a character who dies early on... it's not much of a spoiler if you've seen the trailer, but I didn't remember having seen the trailer and I still could predict that this character was doomed. I don't necessarily mind death in cartoons- I thought it was cool that "The Incredibles" didn't pull its punches when it came to death, for instance- but killing of a character just to provide the protagonist with an arc and/or character growth is pretty cliche at this point; it's part of the reason I didn't like "How to Train Your Dragon 2."
This is one of those classic movies I've been meaning to see for forever, but never got around to it. I taped it on TV over a year ago, then forgot what tape I recorded it on. By the time I found it a couple weeks ago, I needed to tape over it to record something else.
But I'd discovered that the library had it on DVD, so I just checked it out from there.
In case you don't know, "Laura" is about a detective who falls in love with the woman whose murder he is investigating. If I didn't know it was considered a classic, I'm not sure I'd give it a second thought. I can believe that someone might fall for a person they'd never met, but I can't say that the movie really sold me on the idea. There's really nothing to indicate that Dana Andrews' detective has fallen for Laura until another character accuses him of such. Still, it's a better than average film and worth watching; I just think perhaps my expectations were too high.
80s movie about a rag-tag group of kids who team up to fight classic movie monsters. It shouldn't even be on this list because I actually watched it last October, only I neglected to make a note of it at the time. See? This is why I need to write this stuff down. So, here are my thoughts on it now.
The Nostalgia Critic put this at the top of his list of modern Halloween classics, devoting an entire show to it, but I'm not sure if he was kidding or not. In his review, he acknowledges that the movie has serious problems, but then decides that- screw it- the stupid and horrifyingly outdated stuff about it is what makes it fun. I think you would have had to have been a kid when you watched this to think it was a good movie.
The only part that made me laugh occurs about thirty seconds in, when you see armadillos wandering around Dracula's lair- an obvious homage to the Bela Lugosi movie. Much of what follows ranges from lame to outright offensive. Like the fat kid (who everyone actually calls Fat Kid) proving to some bullies what a badass he is by demonstrating how good he is at killing with a shotgun. Especially viewed from a modern perspective, the message that sends is just jaw-droppingly awful.
Then there's the part where this group of boys find out they need to get a virgin to read some passage out of a book to send the monsters back to wherever it is they came from, only the sex of the virgin is never specified; the kids and the filmmakers seem to assume that virgin automatically means female. I'm pretty sure none of those boys had ever had sex either; I don't know why one of them couldn't have just read the magical incantation.
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
Like "Monster Squad," this is another movie that I watched in October, but forgot to make a record of it at the time and forgot about it. I actually watched this movie on my birthday. I'd wanted to go see "Jurassic Park," which was screening at the public museum, but had a headlight out in my car and didn't want to get pulled over again. I had a promo code for a free rental from RedBox, so morbid curiosity drove me to check out "Legends of Oz."
This movie bombed badly at the box office. I didn't have high hopes for it for several reasons. For one thing, I don't know the whole story, but something about the production sounded a little shady- like the movie cost way more than it should have, suggesting that perhaps the producers were heavily lining their pockets.
Also, the movie is based on a book by Roger Baum, the great grandson of L. Frank Baum. I've never read any of his stuff, but from what I've gleaned, he's not well regarded among Oz fans; he sounds like he's just making a quick buck by riding his famous relative's coattails. Apparently, he's admitted to not even having read the original books.
Why is it so hard for filmmakers to go to the original source material? They could have adapted one of the other 13 Oz books L. Frank Baum wrote and not had to pay for them because those books are public domain. I got really annoyed when I watched a behind-the-scenes video for this movie and the editor says, "We've waited over seventy five years to find out what happened to Dorothy." Uh, no, we haven't... at least, anyone who's taken the time to read the books hasn't. And even if someone hasn't read the books, there's also "Return to Oz" and "Journey Back to Oz," etc.
Even though the filmmakers wouldn't have minded if audiences laboured under the misapprehension that their film was an official sequel to the 1939 movie, it very much wasn't. In fact, I read that part of the reason the movie got delayed by a year was because they had to go back and remove elements that hewed too closely to the classic musical. The final product is still clearly influenced by that movie, however, sometimes confusingly so.
The movie starts the day after the tornado tore through Dorothy's town and her house is condemned... but wait a minute, why does she even still have a house? Shouldn't it be back in Oz on top of the remains of the Wicked Witch of the East? Yeah, the house was still there at the end of the Judy Garland movie, but that's because it was all a dream. However, in this movie, Oz appears to be a real place. So, it's kind of a big plot hole.
Then there's the extremely sketchy guy who condemns Dorothy's house in the first place, along with a lot of other houses. Apparently, everybody in Dorothy's town is extremely naive because nobody even thinks to check this obviously shady guy's credentials; they all just believe whatever he says. It's also a little weird that the Kansas stuff appears to be set in the present day; Uncle Henry and Aunt Em just look wrong as modern people.
The movie gets better once Dorothy ends up back in Oz. Honestly, it's not the train wreck I'd been expecting; I was hoping for nothing more than a chance for a good laugh at how bad the movie was, but I ended up being kind of charmed by it as it went along. I think perhaps critics were overly harsh in their reviews because of unfavorable comparisons to "the original movie." It definitely isn't anywhere near as good or as memorable as that classic film or modern animated films like "Frozen," but it's not that bad either; I think perhaps audiences' standards have gotten ridiculously high as far as animation goes. Aside from the humans in the Kansas scenes, the animation seemed okay to me. Maybe I just don't have a good eye to spot weak animation, which is an odd thing for someone who is supposedly an artist to admit. I suppose it wasn't as well animated as something like "Frozen" or "Wreck it Ralph," but it's closer to those movies than the horrible "Food Fight." Even so, "Legends of Oz" probably would have been better if they'd kept it direct-to-DVD instead of releasing it theatrically.
I guess it didn't make a big impact on me, considering I forgot I'd even watched it. I said at the time that I might consider adding it to my DVD collection it if I found it used somewhere, but I actually found it at Half Price Books for two dollars (which is strange for such a recent release) and I still didn't buy it.