Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Witness" (1985)

Last weekend was the first time I'd watched this movie in many years.  And Cowboy had never seen it, so it was a great treat to snuggle up with him on the couch and drift back into an oh-so-familiar movie world for the first time in probably over a decade.  When I was in high school, we had a taped-off-TV copy that I watched many, many times.  A dozen at least, I would say.  I still knew almost all the dialog by heart.

And yet, despite being so very familiar with what happens, the finale had my heart pounding and my fists clenched.  It's that powerful.

It all begins with an Amish funeral for a man named Jacob Lapp.  Some time later, his widow Rachel (Kelly McGillis) and young son Samuel (Lukas Haas) embark on a train trip to visit relatives.  In the bathroom of a train station in Philadelphia, Samuel witnesses the murder of an undercover cop.

Captain John Book (Harrison Ford) arrives to question Samuel and begin investigating the murder.  Things get exciting and complicated (trying to avoid spoilage here), and a wounded Book ends up driving both Rachel and Samuel back to their Amish farm.  Rachel's father-in-law Eli (Jan Rubes) reluctantly agrees to hide the injured detective, since the people who shot him will be trying to kill Samuel too, to cover up that murder he witnessed.

Book convalesces and finds himself attracted to Rachel.  She clearly returns his feelings, and of course this could create big problems if they were to act on their attraction.  I get the feeling that Rachel was not particularly happy in her marriage to the now-deceased Jacob, because... yes, this is Harrison Ford in his prime, but if Cowboy had just died a few months earlier, I don't think I'd be spending time trying to entice the second guy to show interest in me.  I don't think I'd be drinking lemonade on the porch with the neighbor boy either.  This probably just means Cowboy is a far superior husband to Jacob.  On the other hand, Cowboy says that happily married people whose spouses have died are more likely to remarry -- and remarry much sooner -- than unhappily married widowed people.  So maybe this means Rachel and Jacob loved each other a lot.  Who knows.

So then things get really exciting again, and there's a bunch of mayhem and shooting and general exhibitions of manly bravery and quick thinking from John Book.

Anyway, why do I love this movie?  Besides the presence of Harrison Ford, I mean.  Partly, it's the fish-out-of-water angle, as I love those kinds of stories.  Partly, it's the forbidden romance -- yes, I'll admit it.  People falling in love who shouldn't is a big sweet spot for me.  (Jane Eyre, Rebecca...)  Partly it's the good-outsmarts-evil-and-saves-the-day.  And partly it's just that the Amish are pretty fascinating.

I think what I might like best, after Harrison Ford, is the way it's filmed.  Peter Weir directed this in an almost orchestral way.  Fields of waving winter wheat, a barn's frame being lifted high into the air, a woman pouring a cup of lemonade -- he brings together all kinds of simple images and turns them into a beautiful symphony, each small piece contributing to the whole. 

Is this a family friendly movie?  No.  It's got violence, quite a bit of very bad language, and some nudity.  However, if you have something like ClearPlay or a friend who knows what to mute and fast-forward through, it cleans up easily.  Or a copy you taped off TV, those work really well.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fellow ISFJs, or, I'm Going to My Thoughtful Spot Now

So, you've probably heard of the Meyers-Briggs personality tests by now.  Hannah, aka Indigo Montoya, did a neat post on her blog here in which she showcased a bunch of fictional characters she loves that share her personality type, which is INFJ, so a lot like mine, since I'm an ISFJ.  Just so you kind of know what that means, here's a breakdown:

  • Introversion -- tend to be quiet and reserved
  • Sensing -- tend to prefer concrete information to abstractions
  • Feeling -- tend to place more emphasis on personal considerations than abstract information
  • Judging -- tend to be planners and well-organized

ISFJs are also called "the defender" or "the knight."  Remember a couple weeks ago when I said I feel really protective of Thor?  I get that way a lot for characters I love.  And real-life people I love.  Do not mess with my kids!  I will go medieval on your hindquarters.

So here are some famous fictional characters who supposedly are also ISFJs:

Ophelia in Hamlet
(Julia Stiles in the 2000 version of Hamlet)

Hero in Much Ado About Nothing
(Kate Beckinsale as Hero in the 1993 version)

Bianca in Taming of the Shrew
(Larisa Oleynik as Bianca in 10 Things I Hate About You, which is a modern Shrew)

What I find super interesting about those three is that they popped up on a lot of lists that I found, all three very solidly ISFJ... and those are my three favorite Shakespeare plays!  But those are very far from my favorite characters in those plays.  Hmm.

So here are some others that are commonly agreed to be ISFJs like me.  And I'm very fond of all of them.

Dr. Watson from all the Sherlock Holmes stories
(Edward Hardwicke as Watson, with Jeremy Brett as Holmes)

Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings
(Sean Astin as Sam)


Fred from Angel
(Amy Acker as Winnifred "Fred" Burkle on Angel)

Captain America/Steve Rogers from The Avengers comics and movies
(Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America)

Chewbacca from Star Wars 

Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter
(Matthew Lewis as Neville)

Colossus/Piotr Rasputin from X-Men comics and movies
(Daniel Cudmore as Colossus in X-2)

Desmond Hume on Lost
(Henry Ian Cusick as Desmond)

Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility
(Emma Thompson as Elinor)

Anne Elliot from Persuasion
(Amanda Root as Anne)

Interestingly, I come up as Elinor in about half the "Which Jane Austen character are you?" quizzes I take.  And as Anne Elliot in the others.  Guess those must be really accurate!

And here are some real people that supposedly were ISFJs, though I'm not going to add pictures because this post is already reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally long:

John Wayne
Louisa May Alcott
James Stewart
A. Conan Doyle
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Robert E. Lee

As you can imagine, the fact that John Wayne may also have been an ISFJ makes me fell all warm and glowy :-)  Of course, there's some disagreement about a lot of these, especially the fictional characters, so I tried to only list ones here that showed up on multiple lists as ISFJs, or who were more often classed that way than as other things.

If you want to take the Meyers-Briggs test yourself, there's a free version available here.  Or just Google for it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

More Thoughts on "Thor: The Dark World" (2013)

I went to see this again yesterday, and my goodness, what a difference a second viewing makes!  Where my first viewing threw me into a week-long funk, my second one has me all happy and smiley and absolutely loving the movie.

Actually, a big part of the difference is that I have finally accepted that I thoroughly dislike Loki.  I'm sorry, Loki's Army, but it's true.  Now, before you hack my blog or something, please know that I find Tom Hiddleston amazing.  He's one of the best young actors around right now, and I really enjoy his performance as Loki, not to mention in the other things I've seen of his.  And he seems like a really cool person, with all his charity work and everything.  Also, I can appreciate what a brilliant villain Loki is.  He's a great villain.  So great that I find him despicable and horrid and absolutely unlikable.  Now that I've stopped trying to force myself to like Loki, I think I actually enjoy him more.  He certainly made me laugh a lot more during this viewing.

I don't have a lot of new things to say, other than that.  But I do have two questions rattling around in my brain after this second viewing.

First, why is Odin so against Thor marrying Jane?  Sure, she's a human mortal and Thor will live for several thousand more years, but... so what?  Thor and Jane get married, she dies sixty-odd years later, and then Thor can marry some Asgardian and spend the rest of his life with her.  Is Odin worried about half-Asgardian, half-human children and how that will all work out?  I can kind of see that, what with his own blended family not working out so well.  But still, kinda lame.

Second, who braids Thor's hair?  In this movie, he's got a couple of little braids on each side.  Does he braid them himself?  He's kinda got big, muscly hands, and the image of him braiding his own hair is amusing me greatly.  If he doesn't, who does?  Frigga?  Jane?  Some random barber?  Is there a hiring protocol, or do they take volunteers?  I'm having a terrible time finding any photos of the braids, but in this you can kinda see one.

So anyway, yeah, I totally love this movie now.  I'll end by linking to this article from the BBC that discusses the ways that Shakespeare has influenced superheroes.  I once compared Thor (2011) to Hamlet, so wanted to share it :-)

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Ten Favorite Fantasy Movies

I define fantasy as involving magic or something supernatural somehow.  Which is why you'll find Raiders of the Lost Ark here -- it has all that stuff about the Ark of the Covenant melting people's faces off.  So these aren't necessarily all swords-and-sorcerers stuff, but they do all involve non-real, magical things happening.

Sorry it's taken me like two months to do another of these -- I was going to do superhero movies next, then decided to wait until I'd seen Thor:  The Dark World, and now I think I need another viewing before I can decide if that one goes on the list or not, so... silly me, I can do a genre other than superheroes!  Some of the titles link to previous posts about those movies.

1.  The Princess Bride (1987)

After Buttercup's (Robin Wright) true love Westley (Cary Elwes) is murdered by pirates, she agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), but gets kidnapped before the wedding.  I'll never forget the first time I saw this movie -- it changed my ideas about humor and fantasy forever.

2.  The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Nine companions from the four races of Middle Earth begin the journey to destroy the One Ring and thus defeat evil Lord Sauron and his plans to take over the world.  But you knew that already, didn't you.

3.  Willow (1988)

Two companions from the two races of someplace-or-other journey to protect a baby princess and thus defeat the evil Queen Bavmorda and her plans to take over the world.  Basically George Lucas' version of The Lord of the Rings, but Val Kilmer is so awesome it doesn't really matter that it's kind of a rip-off.

4.  The Return of the King (2003)

The final battle for Middle Earth results in the (very spoily) title.  But you knew that already, didn't you.

5.  Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), noted professor of archealogy, spends more time out chasing down antiquities that have mystical powers (or are worth lots of money) than he does teaching classes.  Who can blame him?

6.  Pirates of the Caribbean:  The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) resorts to commandeering, raiding, pillaging, plundering, and otherwise pilfering his weasely black guts out, all to regain his beloved ship.  More fun than a barrel of undead monkeys!

7.  The Two Towers (2002)

Eight of those nine companions keep trudging around Middle Earth, trying to destroy the One Ring and defeat Sauron, etc, etc, and so forth.  But you knew that already, didn't you.

8.  The 13th Warrior (1999)

An Arab exile (Antonio Banderas) joins a band of Norse warriors in their bold attempt to defeat the freaky bear-men-things that are attacking a bunch of small villages.  Swords and danger and glory galore!

9.  The Mummy (1999)

A librarian (Rachel Weisz) and her brother (John Hannah) convince an adventurer (Brendan Fraser) to lead them on an archaeological expedition that quickly gets way more exciting than they ever expected.  I like the sequel almost as well.

10.  Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

Peasant Jack (Nicholas Hoult) and career soldier Elmont (Ewan McGregor) rescue a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) and defeat a race of giants.  The best of the recent spate of updated fairy tales that I've seen.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

"Thor: The Dark World" (2013) -- Initial Thoughts

I have such mixed feelings about this movie.  As a whole, I really liked it.  Better than Thor (2011).  But there is something about it that bothers me a LOT, and so I think in the end, I don't love it.  I do hope to go see it again next weekend with a friend, and I may come to grips with what bothers me and then love it, we shall see.

First off, I must write a small ode to the wonderfulness of Thor.  Gone is the arrogant, war-hungry boy.  Gone is the giddy boy enjoying the admiration of a woman who drools at everything he says.   Gone is the blind trust he continually offered Loki in The Avengers, when he thought he could save his brother.  Thor has grown up at last, making measured decisions, trying to find ways to serve the greatest good, no longer blinded by his love for Loki.  I am so very proud of him.

Second, the plot has more to it than just Loki-is-petulant-and-trying-to-hurt-his-adoptive-family, which is refreshing.

Third, there's a nice lot of Darcy (Kat Dennings), and she's as quirky and delightful as always.

Fourth, I liked the fight scenes a lot better in this than in Thor.  They seemed more realistic, less CGI and over-the-top.  Kind of gritty and crunchful.

However, there are a couple things that annoyed me, and one that has me angry.  I'm annoyed that Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgaard) is turned into a punchline.  One shot of him acting crazy was enough.  Two was too many.  Also, there is this one completely pointless, lingering shot of Thor washing his face while shirtless that has no point whatsoever other than to make girls drool, and I felt pandered to.  I also felt bad for Chris Hemsworth for being momentarily reduced to beefcake.  He's worth more than that, folks.

But here is what makes me angry:  the writers cheated, and it feels like they just did it to please fans.  But the thing they cheated about is VERY SPOILY, so I beg you NOT to read any farther if you have not seen this yet and are intending to go see it.  Seriously, this will totally ruin the emotional impact of part of the movie.  You don't want to read past this until you've seen it.  Stop here.  Come back when you've seen it.  I'll even put a very nice picture of Loki here so you can remember where you stopped reading.

You've been warned.

I feel like they cheated by bringing Loki back at the very end.  His death, saving Thor and Jane, was magnificent.  One of the best deaths I have seen.  I forgave him for all the times he'd hurt Thor, for all the bad and nasty and mean and awful things he'd done.  I really did.  I was at peace with Loki.  I almost liked him.

And then they threw that all away!  Oh, ha ha, Loki was faking!  Psych!  Not dead after all, just broke Thor's heart because he wanted to.  La la la la la.  NO!  You can't do that!  That's worse than "It was all a dream," to be honest.  Because now Thor went through all the anguish of losing his brother for nothing.  And yes, Loki's death brought Thor peace too, and the opportunity to forgive him, and so I appreciate the closure Thor has now.  Except it's all a lie!  GRR!  ARGH!

It just really feels like they wrote this amazing death scene, this great redemption arc for Loki, and then said, "Oh, wait!  Loki has fans!  They will hate us if we kill him!  Let's just bring him back, then."  And I'm sorry folks, but that's not good storytelling.  That's just catering to what they think people want, not what the story needs.  And that angers and disappoints me.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Thorsday Report

Wow.  Yesterday was extraordinarily fun.  I'm still digesting the experience, to be honest, but I want to write about it before it fades.  I'm not exactly going to be reviewing Thor:  The Dark World here -- I'll save that for its own post.  Instead, I'm going to tell you what it was like to be in a theater with more than a hundred other fans, most of whom had already seen both Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2013), and some of whom were even more obsessive fans than I.

I didn't bother stopping at concessions on the way in, as I planned to get something after the first movie.  I got there about twenty minutes before the first movie started, and I wish I'd gotten there earlier.  I got in a pretty good row, but was way off to the right side.  Not my favorite place to be for a 3D movie, as I generally have a better experience if I'm closer to the center.  But I was glad I wasn't way up close in the pit seats, at least.  When I arrived, I got a free poster (my choice of Thor or Loki) and a lanyard with a little sign showing I was there for the marathon so I could get back in the correct theater after going out between movies.  I didn't know it, but it also meant I could go get outside food and bring it in if I wanted.

So anyway, I had never seen Thor on the big screen before.  I came to the Marvel Cinematic Universe when The Avengers was released last summer, and caught up on the previous 4 movies on DVD once I'd fallen in love with those six superheroes.  And on my TV (a 21" CRT that Cowboy won in a raffle on our very first date, more than 13 years ago), Asgard and Jotunheim look really fake.  Almost plastic, to be honest.  And that annoyed me so much that when I watched it, I just sort of endured most of the scenes that took place there so I could get to the Earth scenes.

But on the big screen, Asgard is glorious.  Radiant and golden and real-looking.  And Jotunheim still looks a little odd, but in an otherworldly way, not a completely fake way.  And the rainbow bridge?  Scintillating!  So I would be glad I got to attend this marathon if only for my new appreciation of Thor.  From now on, when I watch it on my humble TV, I can remember what it really looks like.

So, after Thor, I went out and bought a big bag of popcorn and a Cherry Coke.  I also chatted a little with fellow fans.  I was wearing my Thor t-shirt (I bought it here), and got several compliments on it.  A couple of people asked me where I got it, so I hope they get their own.  (There's a Loki version too.)  Then I went and settled back in, but before The Avengers cued up, they hosted a little trivia game and gave out t-shirts, hats, and more posters as prizes.  I didn't win anything, as they never picked me when I raised my hand for answers I knew.  They did the trivia game after The Avengers too, but I didn't win anything then either.  But oh well -- I still got my Thor poster and lanyard thingie, so I'm not complaining.

And then... The Avengers.  My sixth time seeing it on the big screen.  It was like coming home after a grueling year at college.  Love and friendship and peace and joy.  For me, of course, not for them (most of the time).  I was so happy, I teared up when the Avengers logo came twisting into view, with that well-known and so-beloved soundtrack filling my being.  I also cried when Loki stabbed Thor, but that always gets me.  I spent the rest of the movie laughing with delight.  And so did everyone else -- it was one big, happy gathering of fans.  Like a reunion of people who didn't know they were friends.

This was my first time seeing it in 3D, and I really didn't notice a big difference most of the time.  There was one point when Thor reached out to call Mjolnir and I almost put out my hand to touch his, and during the Battle for New York there was a lot of debris flying at me sometimes, but nothing overly showy.

And then during the end credits, there was an impromptu sing-along during Soundgarden's "Live to Rise."  Totally cracked me up.  Also, I was amazed by how many people had never seen the Schawarma stinger!  There were all these people saying, "Is this new?  Did they add this for the event?"  Out loud, yes -- there was a lot of talking during the end credits.  When they weren't singing.  Which sounds annoying, but it totally wasn't.  Because I was there alone, I could tune in to these little conversations and smile to myself at all the enthusiasm.

After The Avengers, I went and bought a hot dog and a bag of Snickers bites.  Waste of money.  The hot dog bun was hard and the Snickers bites don't have the right ratio of chocolate to other stuff.  So I ate the hot dog bunless and saved the candy to take home and give my less-picky kids.  I was glad I still had more than half my popcorn, as that became my oh-so-nutritious supper.  Well, no less nutritious than the hot dog and candy, I guess.  Wish I'd known I could go get outside food from the mall.  Could at least have gotten a schawarma.

And then, the lights dimmed and the crowd hushed and we sat through the trailers for some very lame movies to get to... a whole fight scene from Captain America:  The Winter Soldier and its trailer.

And then we got to Thor:  The Dark World.  And I'm definitely not ready to really blog about it yet.  Still mulling it over.  Still digesting some stuff, trying to sort out why I didn't like some parts and why I absolutely loved others.  Overall, I really liked it, more than Thor, I think.  I may hold off on reviewing it until I've seen it again -- I hope to see it next weekend with a friend (probably in 2D, whew), so I might wait until then so I can do it justice.

So I'll just leave you with this picture of Thor in his wonderful leathery cloak.  And tell you that he is absolutely magnificent in this movie, and my fondness for him grows and grows.  Because I don't exactly have a "thing" for Thor.  Yes, Chris Hemsworth is hot.  But Thor... Thor is something akin to me, and I feel almost protective about him, if that makes any sense whatsoever.  And even if it doesn't, oh well.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

This Thorsday

My husband is amazing.  He decided to take Thorsday off this week so that he can be with our kids while I go to the Thor Marathon at our local theater.  So I will be watching Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), and Thor:  The Dark World (2013) back-to-back-to-back.  In 3D.  Told you he's amazing.  But, of course, you knew that already :-D

Monday, November 04, 2013

"The Desperadoes" (1943)

This is another of those B-grade westerns that I enjoy so much.  It's not pretending to be Great Drama, it's simply telling an exciting story the best way it knows how.  And it surprised me in one way:  I quite enjoyed Randolph Scott's performance!  Usually he kind of bores me, but he had a good-but-not-pure character here that intrigued me.

Okay, so the story is this:  Cheyenne Rogers (a still-baby-faced Glenn Ford) keeps trying to go straight after getting mixed up in some unsavory business years ago.  Only whenever people find out who he is, they assume he's up to no good and throw him out of town.  (This might be because of his habits of things like trading a worn-out horse for a fresh one at gunpoint or using phony names like "Bill Smith."  I'm just sayin'.)  Anyway, he winds up in a town where one of his good friends is The Sheriff (Randolph Scott).  The bank got robbed a few days earlier, and he's suspected of it because of his lawbreaking past.

And yes, it was a little disconcerting to hear Glenn Ford called Cheyenne, as that's a name I associate with the character Cheyenne Bodie played by Clint Walker in one of my favorite western shows.  But Ford wore it well, so I got used to it after a while.

I did mention he was "baby-faced," didn't I?

Being played by Glenn Ford and all, Cheyenne Rogers has two women vying for his attention:  a childhood friend called The Countess (Claire Trevor) who runs a local dance hall, and the fresh and innocent Allison McLeod (Evelyn Keyes), who helps her dad (Edgar Buchanan) run a livery stable.  Allison's been kind of keeping company with The Sheriff, but you can guess what happens when Rogers hits town.

Now, you're going to be shocked when you read this, but there is a character in this movie that I like even better than Ford's.  That's his comic sidekick "Nitro" Rankin, played by Guinn "Big Boy" Williams.  He was sweet and loyal and brave and trustworthy (or as trustworthy as a guy who blows up bank safes can be), and whenever he was on screen, I paid him 95% of my attention.  I have a soft spot for really big guys who get used for comic relief (think Dick Peabody as Littlejohn on Combat!), so that's probably why.

Glenn Ford, Randolph Scott, and Guinn Williams

Is this a family friendly movie?  It's got some rootin'-tootin' western shootin', but other than that and a couple low-cut dresses on The Countess, you betcha!