I’m pretty sure this was listed as A Piece of Paradise in Air China’s in-flight entertainment guide, even though the subtitles call it The Heavenly Corner. The Russian title is Pайский Yголок. According to Google Translate, the two words correspond to the words ‘paradise’ and ‘corner’.
My college friend who studied Russian expressed extreme surprise when I said a Russian movie I’d watched had a happy ending, but it does!
The basic idea here is that the female protagonist has everything she ever dreamed of (a successful husband, two lovely kids, and a comfortable life) but is unhappy in her marriage. She gradually realizes that her husband has become a real lowlife. He gets his comeuppance and she gets a new guy. Ta-da! That’s it, really. Still, it’s interesting because of the setting and language. I mean, how often do you get to watch a Russian movie? Not often, right?
For more information, you could follow this link, but it won’t help you much unless you or your web browser can read Russian. I’m just not finding anything in English on this movie at all.
The Lobster certainly qualifies as a movie—er, film?—that I wouldn’t normally watch.
When I’m on planes, I try to watch movies in different languages or genres than the ones I tend to pick up off the shelf or pay to see in theaters. I watch a lot of mainstream children’s animated films and Hollywood action flicks. They’re usually pretty sparkly and happy.
In contrast, The Lobster was a bleak dystopia that had a kind of a science-fiction premise but absolutely zero sci-fi eye candy. The movie exists to make us feel weird about rules governing relationships. Ours as well as the ones on screen.
The premise is that the government does not permit people to be single. Those who separate or whose spouses die are sent to a kind of dating boot camp at a hotel where, if they do not find a ‘suitable’ partner in 45 days, they are turned into the animal of their choice (by means of some scientific process whose results we see but which is largely outside the scope of the film). The name of the movie is the animal that the protagonist wishes to become if he is unable to find a partner.
Parts of the movie seemed (and were probably intended to seem) disturbing. The ending is ambiguous, and felt (and was probably intended to feel) unsatisfying. The movie was interesting in that it was genuinely, uniquely weird (intentionally absurd, in fact), but I wouldn’t recommend it unless your tolerance for grotesqueness is a lot higher than mine, or you’ve got at least five or ten hours of time to pass on a long-haul international flight… and something cheerful lined up to watch next.
For a plot summary with SPOILERS, keep reading.
Continue reading The Lobster (2015)
This French comedy, the title of which in English is The New Adventures of Aladdin, was the first and best of the ten movies I saw on my latest trip to the US.
It’s a story within a story; the frame story is set during Christmas and is about a guy who is planning an after-hours robbery of the department store where he and his buddy work. Before the time arrives, however, his boss makes him tell a story to a group of kids, and he chooses to narrate a ‘remix’ of the fantasy story of Aladdin.
This version of Aladdin is a mixture of the familiar 1992 Disney cartoon, the traditional Arabian Nights story, and the filmmakers’ own ideas. Some of the new ideas are wry anachronisms inserted by the character who serves as narrator; others are suggested by the children in the audience as the story progresses.
The whole thing is utterly hilarious, and of course there’s a happy holiday ending: the narrator—the proverbial thief with a heart of gold—decides not to go through with the robbery after all.
For more on what I liked, with SPOILERS, keep reading.
Continue reading Les Nouvelles Aventures d’Aladin (2015)
From the Wachowski siblings who created pop-culture touchstone The Matrix (1999) as well as personal favorite Speed Racer (2008) comes Cloud Atlas (2012), a clever and ambitious positive spin on the novel of the same name by David Mitchell. I like it in some ways but not others.
It’s not a movie that can be easily summarized; it spans six different timelines that are tied together in surprising ways.
I’ve now watched the movie three times: once on a tiny screen on the plane, where much of the subtlety went straight past me; again via iTunes on a laptop screen; this time via iTunes on a huge TV shortly after reading the book.
For more on what I noticed about it this time (including SPOILERS), and ways the movie differs from the book, keep reading.
Also see my post on the book Cloud Atlas.
Continue reading Cloud Atlas (2012)
I was not particularly optimistic about Rise of the Guardians. But I should have trusted Dreamworks. They have made the best clap-if-you-believe-in-fairies movie I have ever seen. I thought I was over the whole childlike-holiday-spirit movie ethos, but apparently not. The movie was amazing. How on earth did it not make a profit? It was way, way better than the creepy adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel Hogfather, which covers a lot of the same ground. There are also maybe some echoes of Epic here, but Epic wasn’t nearly as good.
Apparently, Rise of the Guardians (like that weird, weird mess, Meet the Robinsons) is the brainchild of writer William Joyce. Oh, hey, wait, Epic is his too, actually. Huh. He must really have a thing for hummingbirds.
Anyway, the premise of Rise of the Guardians is that a lonely magical teen named Jack Frost is called in to help four others (Santa aka Nicholas St. North, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman) who guard the children of the world because the Bogeyman, Pitch Black, is trying to gain power again by making them afraid. If he succeeds, he could destroy belief, and with it, the guardians themselves, along with all hope and happiness. But Jack is just a carefree punk who doesn’t know where he came from. What could he possibly do?
For more on what I liked (with SPOILERS), keep reading.
Continue reading Rise of the Guardians (2012)
In The Legend of Tarzan, the fascinating, civilized man-beast who’s at home in the jungle and gets the anachronistically spunky girl is buried in a narrative tailor-made to showcase a whole roster of white men’s offenses.
I mean, really… what is this movie about? Because it seemed to me to be, start to finish, about The Evils of Western Civilization.
My advice? Go and watch the other CGI jungle animal movie about a human raised by animals. Mowgli’s story doesn’t even demonize the villain.
For a list of other vaguely related fictional works I prefer along with more on this movie (including SPOILERS) and a bit on the actual history of the Congo, keep reading.
Continue reading The Legend of Tarzan (2016)
When I was a kid, I thought flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles, which I did maybe twice and which takes about five hours, was unimaginably far, because the flight from Atlanta to Nashville, which I took many times, only takes about one.
These days, if I don’t watch five or six movies, the flight feels like it’s over as soon as it starts.
Below is a list of the movies I watched on United Flight 1 from San Francisco to Singapore on June… actually I don’t know what day it was, technically, since we left on the 16th, flew for more than 16 hours, and arrived on the 18th.
- 13 Going on 30 (2004)
- Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
- Capture the Flag (2015)
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- Independence Day (1996)
Until my flight from San Francisco back to Singapore, I had never seen Independence Day. I knew it had a famous scene where an alien spaceship destroys the White House, but I didn’t really know anything else about it. I was disappointed.
I guess I was expecting it to have more subtlety. (I know, I know. It’s a disaster movie. Why did I think it was going to be subtle?)
See below for more of what I thought of Independence Day, including SPOILERS.
Continue reading Independence Day (1996)
I did not want to be one of those people who think Paul Newman is “that salad dressing guy?” and my movie-watching experience is appallingly thin in the popular area of westerns, so I watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on the plane.
It was depressing to realize I was going to have to watch the characters circle the drain. In a way I didn’t, though: I fell asleep. So not the best movie experience ever.
The screenplay was written by William Goldman, the man responsible for The Princess Bride (1987)!
Maybe that accounts for the similarity in the protagonists’ behavior when chased by some really persistent trackers to that of Vizzini, Fezzik and Inigo when chased by the Man in Black.
Capture the Flag was listed as an international movie in United’s online entertainment panel because it’s Spanish. So I was surprised to realize that the movie’s animation matched the English audio, and that the movie was about Americans.
The premise is that some kids break into a rocket and launch it to the moon, thus thwarting an evil businessman who wants to extract some kind of power-generating resource from the moon and destroy the flag of the original moon landing and simultaneously gratifying the grouchy failed astronaut grandfather and healing his relationship with the astronaut father.
I wanted to think it was cute, but I found it too implausible. Actually, I fell asleep. So it was really slow, or I was sleepy, or both.