Two of the Battlestar Galactica webisodes are up on scifi.com now. They're not badly done, but seem to suffer from the two-minute format. The long-format show crams a lot into forty minutes. Splitting it up so sharply might be making it hard to build the tension (some might say melodrama) that has been a trademark of the series.
From a futurist standpoint, the webisodes (a neologism I find less annoying than I thought I would) are a good mid-point between a typical Web non-presence and the in-depth obsessiveness of Lost's alternate reality games. Galactica has been good about rewarding fans online for a while, with the commentary podcasts and video blogs. Clearly it takes a lot of work to put these together, and I hope it pays off for them.
From a storyline standpoint, there seem to be a few callouts to civil war in Iraq coming up next season. Specifically, I'm thinking about the resistance infiltrating the Cylon police and hiding weapons caches behind religious icons. How much is coincidence and how much is intentional? That's never an easy answer with Galactica, which featured a torture scene with waterboarding in its first season. I'm looking forward to seeing if Ron Moore has anything to say about it on his blog.
The Triplets of Belleville
It is not a trick: the English audio track on the DVD for The Triplets of Belleville is almost completely in French. I think there's some English at the start and the end, but it was muffled and it might have just been my imagination. But the charm of this movie is that it doesn't matter. There's almost no dialogue in The Triplets. Instead, it merges an art style that's reminiscent of 1930's caricatures with the attention to movement detail of Miyazaki. The story is ostensibly about an old woman and her dog, who set off to the distant city of Belleville to find her grandson, who was kidnapped while riding in the Tour de France. It's a surprisingly dark little story, with moments that are strange but not surreal. By the end, you haven't really learned any profound lessons, but you weren't really meant to. The old woman is charming, the sense of humor is sly and understated, and the sound design is exceptional.
You have probably heard good things about Brick. It's a throwback to film noir, but set in a rough suburban high school, complete with drama club femme fatales and a kingpin who runs drugs from his mother's basement. I watched it twice--partially because I enjoyed it very much, and partially because I couldn't catch it all the first time. It helps very much to be familiar with the conventions of noir, because Brick doesn't go out of its way to explain the plot, which is complicated and filled with doublecrosses. Almost every character is lying about something, and the hard-boiled mumbling can be hard to follow. But if you don't sweat the plot too much and crank the volume, some real gems can make it through the marble-mouthed dialogue, like when the main character tells the manipulative gangster's moll "I can't trust you. If I got your help, I'd have to tie up one eye to watch both your hands, and I can't spare it." Like any neo-noir after Memento and The Usual Suspects, Brick can be too complex across acts for its own good, but scene by scene it's razor sharp.
This is a movie about the last days of Hitler's life, stretching about two and a half hours. I couldn't make it through. It's not that it's badly done. It's more that we are already aware, I hope, that Hitler was an insane jackass. No matter how cunningly acted and shot, there is no real sense of discovery here, unless you are realizing that you are really glad you weren't in a bunker with Hitler. Again, that shouldn't be a kind of revelation.
The UK office for Microsoft has commissioned training videos starring David Brent. Unlike the AV Club Hater, who writes "I don't really know what these videos are supposed to train you for, other than comedy," I think these are brilliant training tools because Brent is such a blatantly horrible person. The method is simply to point out a "Microsoft Value," let him riff off on some hilariously wrong direction, and let the contrast illustrate the point for you. It's perfect for a software company, because it's a little dorky and quoteable, but it doesn't beat the viewer over the head with the obvious point.
Wong Kar Wai has a style of framing a scene that I have honestly never seen from anyone else. He constantly uses negative space, shooting around walls and through small windows. There's an awareness of space in Wong's movies, emphasizing how people move through them, and how our man-made environments bring us together, or pull us apart.
2046 takes those elements, as well as most of the principle actors, from In the Mood for Love and Chung King Express. But where those movies were more focused, and their characters more distinctive, 2046 drifts from place to place. It does so beautifully--the cinematography lingers on the rich surroundings, and its color palette is saturated without being garish--but it doesn't really satisfy.
Theoretically, this is a follow-up to In the Mood for Love, taking place after Chow (Tony Leung) has moved on from his affair with a next-door neighbor in the previous film. He's now a playboy, sleeping around with a number of women. The scenes are shuffled, and interspersed with a sci-fi story Chow has been writing, about a man on a train to "2046" who falls in love with a broken android. Somehow, this story is meant to be tied to Chow's various flings, as he becomes involved with his new neighbor (Zhang Ziyi), remembers a past relationship with a professional gambler (Li Gong), and flirts (though without much heat) with his landlord's daughter (Faye Wong).
All of these are fine actors--Faye Wong in particular stole the show from Chung King Express, and Leung is usually convincing for both his comic and dramatic roles. But Wong Kar Wai seems to have locked almost everyone down into themselves for 2046, as if he's less interested in them as characters than as static elements for his composition. Zhang Ziyi is allowed the occasional character quirk, and Chow's editor Ping (a phenomenally ugly man) lends energy to the few minutes he has on screen. But the rest of the time, these characters are too bottled up for anyone to care--there are no cracks in Leung's debonair mask, and as such it's hard not to feel a little repulsed by him, if you feel anything at all. In the end, we're left without much character, much plot, or much spark.
Long story short: 2046 is a pretty slow two hours to look at beautifully-shot hotel rooms.
Because I'm mad with power.
Could be worse, I guess.
Just a quick note for anyone who hasn't checked out Battlestar Galactica: Scifi.com has an option now where you can watch whole episodes, including a full-screen option. It's a flash player, a little bit lower quality than the iTunes version.
Right now, they're playing Scar--which, granted, is probably one of the three weakest episodes from season two, and it might be a little hard to get into mid-season. But even at its worst, Galactica's still better than anything on network TV. Take a look.
Yes, it is basically a movie about Al Gore giving a slideshow. Go ahead, get the jokes out of your system ("Perhaps we could put global warming... in a lock-box.") And then once you're done snickering, go see An Inconvenient Truth. It's really very good, and it's really very important.
The most frustrating thing about the movie is knowing--knowing--that if you try to talk to someone about it (and it really does give you a drive to action, makes you want to save the planet), they're probably going to bring up the same tired objections that all ignorant people use against global warming. "I'm not convinced it's us," they'll say, or "I heard that wasn't solid decided science yet." (Right: because "teach the controversy" has turned out to be such good, ethical advice.) And all those kinds of questions are actually answered by the movie. Gore explains why it is man-made, why there is no scientific controversy, and why we have to make changes now. It is a chilling demonstration, even as he delivers it with wit and good humor.
There are really very small things we can do. Change your light-bulb for one that uses less energy (it'll last longer, too). Move your thermostat up or down by only 2 degrees. There's more good advice at the movie's supporting website, ClimateCrisis.net. You're helping the planet, and you're lowering your energy bill. You'd honestly have to be malevolent to not support this fight.
I know I'm a soft touch, but I honestly walked out of the theater fired up and looking for ways that I can help. One of them, I hope, is to encourage you to go out and see the movie--but even if you don't (and I understand, money can be tight and it's not out everywhere), just take a look at ClimateCrisis.net and see how you can help yourself and the planet at the same time.
Shorter Final Fantasy: Advent Children:
"Beautifully stylized fight scenes, physics-defying motorcycle chases, and a large cast of shallow but well-costumed characters? You know, this would make a really good video game."