Tag Archives: movie review

Best Disney Movie I’ve Seen: Treasure Planet (2002)

I didn’t see this Disney cartoon as a kid because I figured it was lame. It was the biggest flop in Disney history (I think it cost $140 million and domestic box office was $38 million). Anyway, now that I’ve seen it, all I can I conclude is that the box office gods are inscrutably whimsical & beyond understanding.

It’s the best Disney movie I’ve seen. It’s even better than the good stuff like Mulan or Tangled (or the older stuff like Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, etc.).

It’s still a kid’s movie, but one that touches on real stuff in a real way that makes it funny and moving, because life is like that. OK, I’m doing a bad job explaining it. Just go watch it–its only 90 minutes and it’s free on Netflix.

So this clip won’t mean much to you if you haven’t seen the movie already. And it’s kind of a spoiler. So go watch the film first if you haven’t yet.



Since I was 9 or so, every couple of years I go through a phase where I am intensely homesick for something I never had. First it was the High Elves, the Elder Days, dimly hinted at in Lord of the Rings. When I finally had the courage to read the Silmarillion years later, it was good, better than I’d imagined, but still, it wasn’t that.

And then as a hyper-romantic teenager it switched over to Victorian medievalism, Tennyson style. That proved false pretty quickly, and so then I moved on to the Celts &  medieval Ireland. But their mythology and fairytales wasn’t that either. Then a few years later in undergrad, it was seventeenth & eighteenth century Poland. The nineteenth century nationalist romantic nuts had nothing on me, guys.

Yes, it had everything to do with an golden age, with something that has been lost, something living and ancient, something to do with fresh rain on earth, with trees in a windstorm, and starlight on deep pools of water. Of large families long gone, of farmyards, of heroes, of courage, and of men calmly giving up their lives in desperate last charges.

I went through my last homesick-phase in 2008, I think. I thought I outgrew it, but I’m going through one again. This time it is about….East Asia before modernization. The world my grandfather used to look at nostalgically in the black and white photos from his war-torn childhood, the woman in their white hanboks and long dark braids, with children on their backs. I don’t know what is triggering it this time–possibly my grandfather’s passing feeling more permanent and his generation being the end of something lost forever (my foray into modern korean pop shows was extremely dispiriting… it iss completely blank, materialist, and modern–up to the gills so, like America). I’m embarrassed to say it, but I also think that part of what brought this on is watching the whole Nickelodeon show of Avatar the Last Airbender. Rant/Analysis for another day….the show was both charming & funny and incredibly epic, but parts of it were badly mauled by some Western hippie screenwriters who screwed up the end and made all the characters act out-of-character.

But part of what made the show so good before that was its constant references hinting about British/Japanese imperialism, Korean occupation, the tragedy of communism, the perks and flaws of nationalism, the corruption of ancient religion, technology vs. tradition, and all that. The best and most breath-taking character arc was that of the tormented Imperialist Japanese prince who is crazy obsessed with honor…and then has to figure out what honor really means in the first place.

Also, the show was gently hilarious, with characters that were so endearingly real in their quirks & flaws (until the hippie scriptwriters got involved and messed it up).

OK, I admit it. I got really into the show, and was pretty upset at the cop-out ending. Yes, it is still in the top 5% of shows I’m sure, and it’s a blooming miracle something that deep came out of Nickelodeon at all. But still….sigh. It could have been so perfectly epic & sweet. I’ll write more about it later.

But the odd thing is, it fills me with such a longing homesickness…for…I’m not sure. All I know is that I want to study Korean and Japanese, and the tragedy of would-be-heroes who fell for virulent nationalism, and of all the human decency and goodness that still happened by ordinary folk, between the horrors.

Maybe it’s the best mark of any piece of literature (be it a story, song, movie, cartoon, or videogame) that it makes me achingly homesick for something beyond itself. Something to do with the broken goodness in the human heart, and the wind racing through the sky. Something that somehow, I feel like people have been chasing for thousands of years, and perhaps have found long ago.

The Desolation of Smaug Movie Review – my initial reactions

Let us start this out with this: this is not The Hobbit, this is not Tolkien, and this is most certainly not Middle Earth. I am not even comparing this to the book, because at this point it is impossible. Just enjoy it as something entirely separate, a thing unto itself.

Now, for the review of Peter Jackson’s fanfic film Desolation of Smaug.


OK. The snippy junior high lines. The mascara. The effeminate expressive movements (when he is talking to Thorin and kind of sliding around him).

This is Hugo Weaving gone delirious. Now it is the protective father of his son, not his daughter, and he is catty… which makes him completely unsympathizable.

On top of the snob factor, he has to be junior high catty snob….

I think Jackson might be hinting to us that perhaps, perhaps Thrandil is not a good guy.

It got to the point where I had to cross my eyes when he came on screen. It was too painful to watch.

What is it about Peter Jackson. He just can’t do complex villains. Denethor had to be a gluttonous slob only obsessed with his own bloodline— not the dysfunctional, proud, grief-stricken father, tormented by regret (e.g. over how he treated Faramir) and a proud honor.

But even his tomato face-stuffing Denethor and scowling Hugo Weaving…. sigh. Weren’t this annoying.


Richard Armitage tries so hard. Proud and bitter, self-less and powerlust… He’s a brilliant actor. Some moments, its just painful to watch him attempting to wring some semblance of dignified complexity from such painfully awkward scriptwriting and loony-toon-worthy gymnastics. But about half the time he actually succeeds, and this is what makes the film worth watching at all. I won’t go much into here, because this is the part that shouldn’t be spoiled.

The Ninja She-Elf, Orlando Bloom, and Awww Dwarf Love Triangle

Yes. A dwarf and an elf romance. You didn’t read that wrong. By the end of the film, the ninja she-elf is holding hands with the dwarf as he asks her to be his girlfriend, while Orlando glares, sulks, and punches a few orcs to vent his anger.

The most ridiculous part: they have you rooting for it too. It’s an easy choice—on one side, Mr Pompous ex-Teen Heartthrob—and on the other side, Mr Little Guy, sweet and stupid and hopelessly in (puppy) love. I don’t even know how to start explaining it. Oh, and it is a tad Oedipal. But I keep laughing. It’s hilariously perfectly insane. Or as my little siblings would say, O My Word.


Smaug vs. Bilbo: Benedict Cumberpatch vs. Martin Freeman (or Sherlock gone crazy)

This actually works. The crazed megalomaniac, unpredictable and a little too dangerous. The side kick, trying to calm him down and trying to keep him from being set off. Except now Watson is way more adorable, and now Sherlock way more crazy (and more fiery and scaly). It really works. Brilliant casting.

SkyRim, Marvel’s Thor, and WWs

Mix Ian McKlellan, the Destroyer from Marvel’s Thor (nee Sauron), and Sky Rim mage power blasts. Let’s just have it all! What could inspire fear and adrenaline more than this? ACTION!! TONS OF ACTION!!!! ACTION!!!!!!

Beyond underwhelming. So the great foe of LOTR is….supposed to be…this. Its like when Darth Vader turned out to be….Anakin the snivelling insecure teenager. Though like Star Wars, I refuse to believe it. This just isn’t true.

Fairies and Goblins and the Good Little Kids

Bard’s kids cower in the thatch roof house, as Goblins and Elves fight it out. This is actually incredibly charming. Taps into some kiddie fairy tale thing. (all of quaint little lake town does)


…this is the most annoying part of the film. This (I suspect) reflects the shift in attitudes towards Native Americans (or Nature?) from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first. In the former, is an odd kind of respect mixed in with the racism, and in the latter, in an effort to make amends for it….a complete victimization, with no dignity left. There is nothing outside their person left except their victimhood. Gone is the dignity, the odd respect laced with cultural imcomprehension, the quirky awesomeness. Now, all twitching exploited victimized disturbedness….

Minor other things….

PJ can’t do subtlety (Bard’s melodramatic character, Bilbo attacking a giant crab for the precious…), and hence the humor in book is all removed. Having Richard Armitage, sulky and dignified, saying to the wood elves “we were starving” ten times would have been terribly funny, he could have pulled it off.

Tolkien’s The Hobbit had a very late nineteenth/early twentieth century feel. People (different species—e.g. nations) are all basically good, but too hung up on their species’ rights and dignities (i.e. nineteenth century nationalism) that causes unnecessary war and suffering. And there are all kinds of cultural misunderstandings/clashes that are hilarious (e.g. when the dwarves are running off the path to the lights—they feel lured on by magical wood elves….and the wood elves think the dwarves were crashing their party, though they kept trying to reconvene farther away). Or even Beorn, with his dignity and touchy etiquette. The Middle Earth in The Hobbit, like Jane Austen’s England, is, in part, a novel of manners.

But that whole Jane Austen/WWI feel of The Hobbit, in a world that is lyrical and sad, simultaneously wondrous and staid, is long gone.

And I suppose Peter Jackson figured that out.

Favorite Music Video of the Year

Basically, this song is a modern take on the medieval poem, ‘The Pearl’.

Warning….*spoilers* of the HUNGER GAMES……………………..

So…for anyone who has cried their way through the end of the Hunger Games trilogy, this song is balm. I think the symbolism in this video is pretty obvious (the dead bouquet, the burned home, the graves, the white gauzy ghostly dress…). It is Prim’s ghost singing to a depressed and alive Haymitch & Katniss….and the roles are reversed now, Prim is telling Katniss she is going to be OK, and that they will both be allright “come morning light”…..which is….the afterlife. In the meantime, Katniss is on the earth in the night, and Prim is in some hazy grey-sky ghostworld…but they are going to reunite “come morning light”….death isn’t the end, they are going to meet again–in a world more bright and fair and REAL than this one.

So much of human relationships are like that….You lose the people you love the most. It is as if they are trapped in an alternate universe….the sun is going down, all is darkness and cold, and you’ve lost them….

But ‘come morning light/ you and I will be safe and sound’.

It isn’t yet…and things are hard here, the world is burning. But dawn will come. “Aure entuluva!”

This is intensely comforting right now. It is a grieving song. There is pain in Prim/Taylor’s face. Nothing it is sugarcoated…it is hard. So hard. But ‘Come Morning Light!”

Hope. Resurrection.

The Hunger Games

I finally saw the Hunger Games, in the dollar theatre. My sisters dragged me to it, they found it deeply moving, anti-death, etc.

I came out of it numb. I said it was stupid. That night I felt a bit angry. It was a bit hard to sleep. This morning, a quiet, dry, pain.

(1) There is no romance. Peeta is a pathetic little boy that the heroine smooches just to give him something to live for. He is willing to die for her from day one, but he seems just a bit…well, he has nothing to live for. He’s passive, because he’s already broken from day one. Of course girls care about him. Of course I want him to cheer up, and flings will (temporarily) do that, I suppose. But its treating cancer with aspirin….

(2) Why does the heroine–who breathes moral courage and defiance–so….passive?! Why does she go along…..why does everyone go along….even dear innocent little Rue goes along when she points to the mutant wasp nest….and when they blow up the food. It is all war, it is all meant to kill. Why do they all kill? Oh yes, self-defense and all this….but for heavens sake, it was all artificial, all fake and constrained, the sky itself was some kind of computerized screen….

After she leaves her normal Appalachian hometown, the only two moments that I actually felt human were when (1) Gale refuses to watch the games and stares up at the (real) sky in the wilderness, (2) District 11 rioted when the little girl was killed.

Of course they were forced, of course they felt hopeless, of course there appeared to be No Other Option. But….then you are already in hell. The human spirit is broken, there are no heroes. The only vague *heroism* we get is at the end when the heroine (finally) refuses to kill…but of course it has to be the sweet, depressed, pathetic little boy desperately in love with her asking her to shoot him. It was about as heroic as Leonardo DiCaprio in the Titanic deciding to let Kate Winslet float on the table while he froze to death in the water. I mean–what else was he going to do….kick her, screaming and yelling, into the water, paddle off on the table, and watch her freeze to death in betrayal and pain before his very eyes? And hormonal love was making everything foggy anyway. Heroic, yes….but barely so. Is that the only kind we have left?

Why couldn’t the heroine have tended to Peeta’s wounds BEFORE the Gamemaster announced that they could both come out alive? Why couldn’t she have put flowers on Fox Face’s body too–not just Rue? Why couldn’t she have refused to kill someone who deserved it—like maybe a critically injured Clove or Cato? Or give up her life for that nerdy boy from District 4, with the afro? Why couldn’t they just sit in the trees and sing their swan song, and refuse to be broken?
Where was the real heroism? The kind that insists on Beauty when all you can see on ugliness, that shouts in the dark that the Dawn will come again.

But instead, it was all death, death that won. A smidgen of heroism, and no redemption.

Good. In the literal sense of the word.

Bella http://bellathemovie.com

This movie isn’t about emotional manipulation or entertainment. It makes your heart think, for days after wards.

Most movies are ‘nice’ ‘cool’ ‘artsy’ ‘bad’ ‘clean’ ‘dirty’ etc. But they are basically entertainment, or someone on a platform pushing a message, clumsily.

This isn’t. Its just GOOD. Good as in goodness. Its about Life. About living in a messed up world, where kids die. About Love.

This movie isn’t snippy, or manipulative, or ‘entertaining’. Its sad and beautiful and funny like real life is; neither a manipulative tear-jerker nor an unreal romance.

Its just beautiful. Its good.

I didn’t cry when I watched it, but peculiarly, days after seeing it, you feel like loving all those around you in your real life, doing something for your life for people.

And it makes you think. Think inside, think with your heart–not under the influence of adrenaline/endorphins/Hollywood soundtracks.

Really, it makes you think with your heart. Your real heart.

Watch it.