The Invention of Dr. Nakamats (6/6/12)

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The Invention of Dr. Nakamats serves as a brief biography about the world’s most prolific inventor that you’ve never heard of.

Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu (aka Dr. Nakamats) is a brilliant mind and an eccentric fellow that currently holds the world record for having the most patents. While The Invention of Dr. Nakamats is about the man himself, it is not always the most flattering of him. While Dr. Nakamats holds many patents and invents many things, their usefulness is debatable and Dr. Nakamats’ opinion of himself may be his greatest invention.

The film centers around Dr. Nakamats’ 80th birthday but he gives an oral account of his life story and clips are shown of various awards and ideas of his over the years. In preparation of his birthday party, there are several scenes with a hotel manager fighting over changing the name of the ballroom to incorporate the name “Nakamats”. When the hotel manager is unbending in the ability to do this, it’s a great blow to Dr. Nakamats and his fragile pride.

At a very lean 58 minute runtime, The Invention of Dr. Nakamats is almost too short but perhaps it is long enough to not overstay its welcome. The documentary had me laughing, both with and at the subjects, and I was glad I watched it. While Dr. Nakamats is not quite the level of infomercial inventors like Ron Popeil, there are some inventions that are so ludicrous you’ll be left scratching your head. His method of inventing is also one of the most bizarre things ever.

The Invention of Dr. Nakamats is an interesting documentary that I would recommend to everyone. Whether or not you like Dr. Nakamats himself becomes almost irrelevant by the end because you don’t need to like him to enjoy watching. The Invention of Dr. Nakamats is a bit weird and irregular as a documentary, but that’s OK, so is Dr. Nakamats.

I give it 4 self-defense wig patents out of 5.

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The Emperor’s New Groove (6/4/12)

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In Walt Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove, a young Peruvian emperor has to learn how to be a better person after being turned into a llama.

Kuzco (David Spade) is the spoiled bratty emperor of ancient Peru that wants to build his summer house on the hill that Pacha (John Goodman) lives on. Soon after, Kuzco’s advisor Yzma (Eartha Kitt) decides to poison him with the help of her assistant, Kronk (Patrick Warburton), to control the empire. Instead of poison, the two use a potion that turns Kuzco into a llama and Kuzco is disposed of. He then has to make his way back to defeat Yzma, right his former wrongdoings, and also turn back into a human.

Say what you will of the quality of Disney’s animated films from the past 15 years, but for me, The Emperor’s New Groove is one of my favorite Disney animated features ever. If you’re wondering why, I would assume that means you haven’t seen it and I can’t say I blame you. Even Hercules and The Hunchback of Notre Dame got more marketing and sustainability while poor Emperor’s New Groove was released and quickly forgotten. I’m sure its troubled development is largely to blame. It’s a simple film that I find pretty hilarious that also has a great artistic style and soundtrack.

While the film is not up to the level of quality of say, Lion King or Aladdin, but The Emperor’s New Groove doesn’t seem to try to be those films. It is unique enough that it’s almost surprising it’s Disney. Even as an almost-thirty year old that has seen it several times, I laugh out loud during multiple scenes. Most of the credit belongs to the amazing cast assembled. David Spade is the obvious weak link, especially since he is in the lead, but his personality and mannerisms transfer perfectly to the character, even if you aren’t a fan of his.

I love proselytizing in the case of The Emperor’s New Groove mostly because no one else seems to. Very few people I know are even familiar with this lost gem of the Disney catalog so I feel it’s my duty to recommend it. There are few films quite like it, even if the story is taken from the tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes, the spin put on The Emperor’s New Groove is fresh.

I give it 4 multi-linguistic “Boom, baby!”s out of 5.

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Until the Light Takes Us (6/4/12)

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Until the Light Takes Us is a documentary about the black metal scene the emerged from Norway in the early 90s.

This is normally where I lend a paragraph to summarize the plot or subject of the film, but in the case of Until the Light Takes Us I am having difficulty doing this. While the film intends to be a bit of a history lesson about Norwegian black metal, it’s meandering and at least 15 years too late to be shocking. Even Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for what the film is about.

While black metal has made headlines for the past 20 years, it is mostly for church burning, self-mutilation and even several murders. All of this is discussed through interviews with band members and people involved in the scene. Some of the tales have been embellished or exaggerated, most are true to some extent, which makes the subject itself interesting, at least.

As I said before, Until the Light Takes Us is at least 15 years too late to be shocking or, apparently, interesting. I have limited knowledge of the metal sub-genre and learned very little by the film. In fact, in studying for this review, I actually learned more on Wikipedia’s pages for some of the artists interviewed. If you aren’t a fan of black metal you will not only be totally disgusted by some of the things shown, but also likely bored and annoyed by the film. As far as documentaries go I found Until the Light Takes Us  a bit directionless but at least I was partially entertained.

I give it 2 Varg Vikernes Wikipedia pages (seriously more insightful and informative than the film) out of 5.

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Goin’ South (6/1/12)

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Goin’ South is a pseudo-Western about a fugitive that gets saved from the gallows by marrying a woman in town.

As Henry Moon (Jack Nicholson) is running from the law, he thinks that crossing the border to Mexico is going to save him. That is, until his pursuers cross the border right behind him and drag him back to the States. Moon finds himself in a small town in Texas where the sheriff (Christopher Lloyd) wants to see him hanged. Before he is about to be hanged, Moon finds out about an ordinance that allows a woman to save a man from his death for his hand in marriage. Moon winds up married to Julia Tate (Mary Steenburgen), who only wants Moon’s help mining, but their rocky relationship ends up turning into more than they expected.

Goin’ South is a weird movie. It’s part Western, part comedy, part romance, but even the comedy is uneven. Nicholson actually directed this too, but his best work is done in front of the camera (both here and in general). One thing that I found quite distracting his Nicholson’s speech in this. I couldn’t tell if his Texas accent is just weird sounding or if he spent the entire production doing cocaine. I would believe both.

There is a lot to like about Goin’ South, especially if you’re like me and love watching Nicholson on screen. While Nicholson’s role in this one is not one of my favorites it’s worthwhile. The best recommendation I could give for this would be as part of some amazing Nicholson marathon, which I think I should do sometime. Goin’ South is mostly forgettable but at times is genuinely funny and for the most part, is entertaining.

I give it 3 “How’s about a little desert?”s out of 5.

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May Movies Round-Up

First, I am truly sorry for the delay between my last post and this one. When I was doing my April round-up post I thought I had messed something up with my stats and I wanted to overhaul a few things on my spreadsheet before I did May and time just slipped past me. Before I realized it, I was through writing my May reviews and hadn’t even looked at my stats-tracking sheets.

However, now I’ve got things all worked out and while I will need to go back through my previous monthly round-ups to make sure they are correct (and updated) I can finally get May done! One thing I have retroactively added to every review so far are links to Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB for every movie where available. This is something I wanted to do from the start so I’m glad I finally did it.

Here are the films I watched in May:

  1. Midnight in Paris
  2. Melancholia
  3. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop
  4. A Trip to the Moon
  5. Cashback
  6. The Wolf Man [1941]
  7. The Avengers
  8. West Side Story
  9. Jaws
  10. Psycho
  11. Ides of March
  12. Goodfellas
  13. Tokyo Story
  14. The Godfather Part II
  15. Léon Morin, Priest
  16. Martha Marcy May Marlene
  17. White Dog
  18. RoboCop
  19. Tyrannosaur
  20. Them [2006]
  21. My Week With Marilyn
  22. The Prestige
  23. Network
  24. The Matrix

Some May Statistics:

Movies watched / Days in the month = 24/31 = ~77%
My average movie rating = 4.000 out of 5 (8/10)
Average IMDB rating = ~7.8
Average Rotten Tomatoes rating =  ~87%
First time viewings = 16

Method of watching:

  • Blu-Ray = 5
  • DVD = 5
  • Netflix (DVD rental) = 4
  • Netflix Instant Watch = 8
  • Theater = 1
  • Hulu Plus = 1

Year to Date Statistics:

Movies watched / Days elapsed = 133/152 = ~87.5%
Percentage of my goal complete = 133/300 = ~44.3%
Percentage of year complete = 152/366 = ~41.5%
Percentage ahead = ~2.8%
Movies remaining vs. days remaining = 167 vs. 214
My average movie rating = ~3.947 out of 5 (7.894/10)
Average IMDB rating = ~7.3
Average Rotten Tomatoes rating = ~77%
First time viewings = 87

Method of watching:

  • Amazon Instant = 1
  • Blu-Ray = 34
  • DVD = 21
  • Netflix (DVD rental) = 16
  • Netflix Instant Watch = 43
  • Theater = 16
  • TV/TiVo = 1
  • Hulu Plus = 1

So I have 167 movies left to meet my goal of watching 300 movies in 2012 and I have 214 days left (as of June 1st). I think I can do it!

For those of you that follow my blog, thank you so very much. I continue to enjoy doing this immensely and it never seems like a chore. The problem now is finding time to do it while also keeping up with all of your blogs!

The Matrix (5/30/12)

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A man who moonlights as a hacker finds out that “reality” is not always as it seems in The Matrix.

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is an IT guy by day and a hacker by night under the name “Neo”. One day he finds strange references to “the matrix” on his computer and soon meets Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) who tells Neo that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) wants to meet him to help him understand. After being pursued by agents of some sort (Agent Smith is played by Hugo Weaving), Neo and Morpheus meet where Neo is brought to the actual reality outside the Matrix. As we learn the secrets of the Matrix, we also learn Neo’s true role.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I fully grasp everything that happens in The Matrix. I have a broad idea of what is going on but there are certain sections of dialogue that, try as I might, simply can’t focus enough brain energy to really let it sink in. I could give a synopsis of what happens in the film, but anything beyond that would be a bit of a stretch. Luckily, The Matrix has enough eye candy to keep my brain from exploding.

When The Matrix came out in 1999, it was a special effects monster of a film, utilizing techniques never attempted before. I had been skeptical that, thirteen years later, The Matrix would hold up as well as I remembered and it has. The Blu-Ray shines on all fronts, sound more than anything else (I’m pretty sure my subwoofer was shaking our whole house for most of the second half of the film). If this was only a “special effects movie” it would not have stood the test of time as well as it has, thankfully.

The acting, on Reeves’ part especially, is wooden. Reeves spends most of the film looking absolutely stunned at everything around him and his surfer/stoner tone comes through more than a few times. With everything happening on screen at any moment, it’s easy to overlook the small things that tend to detract from pictures like this, namely plot holes. While the plot in The Matrix is good (if not confusing), it’s not perfect. Check out the goofs from IMDB. Still, The Matrix is a very good film. When the DVD came out, it was the most compelling reason to make the switch from VHS. Now the Blu-Ray is spectacular, but the film is not the stand-out it was over a decade ago. The Matrix will stand as one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made and that is debatable, but it is certainly has a place for important films.

I give it 4 decoded matrices out of 5.

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Network (5/29/12)

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Network centers around the decisions of a TV network after a news anchor threatens to kill himself live on the air and the ratings spike.

After learning that his career as a news anchor will be coming to an end due to poor ratings, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) goes on the air and announces that he will kill himself live on the air. The network executives freak out, but eventually agree to let Beale get one more carefully scripted time on the air before being fired. Beale uses this time to rant about the state of the world and calls his life bullshit. Once the ratings see a noted spike, the executives, spurred by Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), decide to not only keep Beale on the air, but to highlight his now public meltdown.

It’s amazing how poignant and true to life Network is, even nearly 40 years later. I feel that the only satire that does everything better is Dr. Strangelove, which is saying a lot considering the amazingly high regard I hold that film. Since Network, we have been inundated with “reality” television and an increasing movement in a very similar brand of shock television that is cultivated in Network. While we haven’t reached the levels of mania depicted in this stunning Lumet film, it is not that far-fetched today.

While Network is a film that has a dark sense of humor, mostly due to the writing of Paddy Chayefsky, at times it is also very serious. I suppose that part of the humor is the absurdity happening, but also because it wants to be so ridiculous that there is an underlying humor there. Even when discussing alongside Dr. Strangelove, there really are no other films quite like Network. Sidney Lumet has directed yet another wonderful film that is absurd and thought-provoking. I’m not sure if I would recommend Network to everyone, but I’m sure almost everyone watching will have a slightly different takeaway from it.

I give it 4 “I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore”s out of 5.

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