Saturday, December 27, 2008

Xmas Movie Marathon 2008

Every year, on December 25th, D and I spend all day at the movies. We were excited this year because we now live half a mile from Cinetopia, an all-digital venue which is the third best theatre I've ever visited.*

We were less excited after the record snowfall here in Vancouver, and when we saw our slim pickings for movie choices. After checking Rotten Tomatoes, I ruled out The Spirit (17%) and Seven Pounds (28%). Here's what we ended up seeing:

Yes Man
Nothing new or special here, but passably entertaining. Jim Carrey does basically the same schtick he did in Liar Liar, except this time with Zooey Deschanel and Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords' band manager Murray) providing background color. The best scene involves the song "Jumper" by Third Eye Blind, but you can wait to see that on DVD.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The best of the lot by far. Absolutely not what you'd expect from David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club), except maybe the visual effects. It wasn't quite as literally magical as I had been hoping, but they just chose to tell a different story than I would have with this Big Idea, and everything worked. I missed Fincher's last film, Zodiac, so I've just added it to the top of my Netflix queue. That's high praise from me.

If you're really into Tom Cruise, WWII trivia, or eyepatches, enjoy! It wasn't badly made, but as D says: "They told us what happened, but not why we should care." Unless you slept through high school history classes, you know what the ending of this story is, and it's up to the filmmakers to tell it in a way that's interesting despite the foregone conclusion. On that front, FAIL. (For reference, movies that succeeded at this: The Perfect Storm, Apollo 13, Titanic, Recount.) On the bright side, it was amusing to see a raft of great British actors--Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Tom Wilkinson--playing German military men with both gusto and whatever bloody accent they felt like using.

Marley & Me
IMHO, it's actually a stretch to call this one a movie. It feels more like a ten-year-old's recitation of the form "and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened"--a meandering sequence of events with only a vague dramatic shape. Yes, it is a tear-jerking experience, but only at the end, and only because of the bulletproof subject matter (the family dog); it's affecting despite its often egregious shortcomings as a story.**

As a bonus, we got to see a flurry of huge snowflakes come down in the afternoon, making for a wondrous white Christmas. Who says there's nothing good at the movies?

(Click through to PicasaWeb to see the snowfall video.)


* Numbers one and two were the Pixar screening room in Emeryville and the Arclight in Los Angeles.

** Re: Valkyrie and Marley: I suspect makers of many "based on a true story" films feel excessively beholden to historical facts at the expense of narrative drive and coherence. For inspiration, I would refer those people to Joss Whedon, who had the cojones to retcon his own story when making Serenity--the backstory explicitly depicted for Simon & River in the movie directly contradicts what was stated in the preceding series, Firefly, but Whedon recognized that changing it was the best way to tell the story, continuity be damned. He was right.

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