Best of 2008

The Legendary Awesomeness of Kung Fu Panda

by Alan Rapp on November 11, 2008

in Home Video

  • Title: Kung Fu Panda
  • IMDB: link

“Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose Kung Fu skills were legendary.  His enemies would go blind from over-exposure to sheer awesomeness.”

The son of a noodle making goose (James Hong), Po (Jack Black) the Panda dreams only of Kung Fu.  His wishes are granted when Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) names him the Dragon Warrior.

The pronouncement is met by skepticism by the Furious Five, the best warriors of the valley who include Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross), and sheer incredulity by their teacher Shifu (Dustin Hoffman).

Despite his large size, and even larger heart, the Panda is destined for greatness and possibly the only one who can stop the evil Tai Lung (Ian McShane) who has broken out of prison and is returning home to face the newly proclaimed Dragon Warrior and take the Dragon Scroll (which holds the secret of ultimate skill in Kung Fu) for himself.

[click to continue…]

Rachel Getting Married

by Alan Rapp on November 7, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Rachel Getting Married
  • IMDB: link

I hated Margot at the Wedding (read that review) about an ulikable character coming home for her sister’s wedding.  You might be surprised then that I fell hard for Rachel Getting Married with a similar, though more natural and believable, premise beautiful shot by Jonathan Demme and providing Anne Hathaway the chance to shine in a role very much against type.

“I am Shiva the Destroyer and your harbinger of doom for this evening.”

Kym (Anne Hathaway) is released from rehab for her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding.  Although sober, Kym is still a bit shaky with deep unresolved issues which will be brought into sharp focus over the course of the weekend.

Director Jonathan Demme, having learned much from his time making documentaries, gives us a chance to view the action as if we are one of the other guests attending the wedding.  The natural low-key approach gives the film a loook at feel more like a documentary than a feature film.  There are several moments including the rehearsal dinner where the events unfold so naturally I wonder how much, if anything, was scripted.

[click to continue…]

Miracle at St. Anna

by Alan Rapp on September 26, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Miracle at St. Anna
  • IMDB: link

“I know who the Sleeping Man is.”

The latest from Spike Lee is an adaptation of James McBride’s book itself inspired by events in Italy during WWII.  A murder and the discovery of a priceless artifact lead to a tale forty-years before involving four African-American soldiers in a Tuscan village and a disturbed child, the lone witness to a monstrous act.

Aside from the beginning scenes and the epilogue the majority of the film takes place in 1944 where four members of 92nd Infantry Division (Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson Miller) find themselves cut-off from their unit and trapped in a small Italian town in the Tuscan countryside surrounded by German troops.

The film is about secrets which are slowly unveiled to the audience, though not necessarily the characters, over the course of the movie.  The discovery of the small child (Matteo Sciabordi) in 1944 who survived the Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre and the murder and discovery of the artifact by the police at cub reporter Tim Boyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in 1983, at the beginning of the film, are but two pieces of a much larger story.

[click to continue…]

A Better Batman

by Alan Rapp on July 17, 2008

in Movie Reviews , Theme Week

  • Title: The Dark Knight
  • IMDB: link

“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Christian Bale returns to the role of Bruce Wayne, and his pointy-eared alter-ego Batman.  The sequel takes place months after the end of Batman Begins.  Batman and Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) have been busy squeezing the Gotham mob, and with the help of the golden-haired District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), they hope to make real changes in Gotham.

However, there’s a new player in town.  A psychotic mystery man named the Joker (Heath Ledger) who, after robbing them blind, offers his services to Gotham’s crime families to kill the Batman.

There’s so much to discuss.  And I haven’t even mentioned the love triangle between Bruce, Harvey and Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal, taking over the role Katie Holmes played in Batman Begins) or the in-fighting among the mob, or the cops on the take.  Whew!  The film is a bit long at 152 minutes, however it’s also chocked-full of plot; there’s barely a wasted moment.  This is the Batman movie fans have been clamouring for.  I’m betting good money that more than one fanboy will wet himself.

[click to continue…]

Young at Heart

by Alan Rapp on May 8, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Young@Heart
  • IMDB: link

“Oh yes we can, I know we can can, yes we can can, why can’t we?  If we wanna, yes we can can.”

young-at-heart-posterThe documentary by Stephen Walker follows the the Young@Heart Chorus as they learn new songs and prepare for their next live performance.  This, however, isn’t your average chorus.

The Young@Heart Chorus is made up of senior citizens, all over the age of 70, from the New England area.  Led by director Bob Climan, the group has been performing since 1982, although not the type of music you might expect from a senior citizen group.  No, the Young@Heart sing contemporary and classic rock and pop songs such as “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash.

For their upcoming concert the group is practicing hits ranging from “Yes We Can Can” by the Pointer Sisters to “Schizophrenia” by Sonic Youth.  We get to meet each some of the members of the chorus, including two former members who have returned after serious medical conditions to perform one last time with their friends.

[click to continue…]