Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Project 365: Movies 237 - 240

237 / 365: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
© Warner Bros.

This is one of those movies that I had admittedly never seen, and knew that was a kind of embarrassment for someone who considers themselves an all-around movie fan. So this viewing was a must for this Project 365 challenge.

A naive adult man named Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), living in a perpetual childhood surrounded by toys, contraptions and his little dog, Speck, has one possession he cares more about than anything in the world: his beloved red bicycle. When the bike is stolen, Pee-Wee sets off on a grand adventure to get it back that takes him all the way to the Alamo and back.

The Danny Elfman score is probably one of his best, it's electric and fun like it was written to entertain audiences under a circus big-top. E.G. Daily (aka Tommy Pickles) plays Pee-Wee's (sort of) love interest, Dotty, and she's the cutest thing in the world. Perfect pairing for Pee-Wee's childish manner.

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. But I can tell right away it's a movie you need to be in the mood for, otherwise getting irritated with it might come easily. Thankfully, when I put this on, I was in the mood for something a little more silly. Pee-Wee is selfish and childish, but it all kinda works in his favor, because almost everyone he comes across in his travels naturally wants to help him out.

Rating: ★★★½ / 5 stars
Watched: Netflix
Seen Before: No

238 / 365: The Mummy (1999)
© Universal Pictures

There's something about my favorite movies from 1999 standing the test of time. Next to The Matrix, which granted, is a masterpiece, The Mummy still looks incredible after 16+ years. It's also some of the most fun you can have watching a movie, because even though the stakes are high, a good laugh and some impressive action is never far away. It's the whole package, and one of my go-to movies on a lazy day.

A British Egyptologist and librarian, Evelyn 'Evy' Carnahan (Rachel Weisz), enlists the help of gun-happy American soldier, Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser), to lead her and her brother, Jonathan Carnahan (John Hammond), to the ancient Egyptian city of Hamunaptra—otherwise known as the City of the Dead—in search of the Book of Amun-Ra, and what is rumored to be the wealth of Egypt. What they don't know is that deep beneath the desert sands covering the city is a cursed mummy, the High Priest Imotep (Arnold Vosloo), who will wreck havoc on the world if ever released as he searches for his murdered love, Anck Su Namun (Patricia Velasquez).

I have a bit of a crush on Arnold Vosloo as Imotep, I'm not going to lie. Sure, he's a creepy psycho murderer who hates cats, but there's just something about him. Maybe it's his beautiful hands? Either way, despite having very few lines, he's a charismatic villain that counteracts the fun and games happening around him with some downright scary hijinks. This was the first big role that I saw Weisz in, and it's hands-down her most charming. She's adorable, strong, and smart, and I love watching her light up the screen with Fraser. She elevates him a new level by giving him a touch of class, and their chemistry is the better for it.

The sets and costumes are stunning. Everything is strung up and presented in just the right way to spark your imagination. Even if you aren't like me, who was obsessed with Egypt mythology as a kid, there's something in this movie for everyone to enjoy. Excitement and true action/adventure at its most harmless.

Rating: ★★★★ / 5 stars
Watched: DVD
Seen Before: Yes

239 / 365: Crimson Peak (2015)
© Universal Studios

New movie release, reviewed previously on Through the Reels. Read the full review here.

Rating: ★★★ / 5 stars
Watched: Theater
Seen Before: No

240 / 365: He Named Me Malala (2015)
© Fox Searchlight Pictures

What was I thinking walking into this movie without a single napkin or Kleenex? It may have been a blessing that at my Saturday morning screening, I was the only one in attendance, because my sniveling, tear-drenched exhalations rang through that theater with unapologetic abandon at intervals no longer than 90 seconds apart. I wouldn't even have been embarrassed with other people around, because I doubt I'd have been the only one blubbering.

The inspiring documentary, directed by Davis Guggenheim, of girls' education pioneer, 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who suffered a bullet wound to the head at the hands of the Taliban for daring to suggest all girls had a right to attend school. Her story has spread the globe since the assassination attempt occurred in October 2012, followed by Malala's fight for her life, recovery, global activism, and eventual win of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. The story perfectly frames Malala's vision of the world through her happy childhood, exposure to education, and the upheaval that near-fatal gunshot caused within her family.

At the center of this empowering story, though, is a much more grounded tale. That of a father and a daughter, and the love he has for her. It was Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who instilled in her a love of learning, and watching him talk about her, the work she's doing, and the risks she's taking, is overwhelmingly moving. Littered throughout the story are animated re-imaginings of the stories both Malala and Ziauddin tell. A commonly-used (at least recently, see Montage of Heck and Searching for Sugar Man) documentary story-telling solution for missing pieces of the visual puzzle, animator Jason Carpenter literally paints a stunning picture of this young girl's life, fantasies, and terrifying experiences. Brushstrokes that are soft with pink and yellows, the lack of realism in the style makes it feel like a storybook we might flip through as a child. It's a beautiful contrast to the harsh reality of the rest of the film.

One might argue that this documentary suffers from over-sentimentality. In fact, I know that's a criticism, but those critics would be wrong. Not that the film is sentimental (it's up there with some of the more emotional that I've seen), but rather that it suffers as a result. If anything, the inspiring swell of emotions it elicits is why the documentary—and likewise, Malala's story—succeeds in connecting with us all. If you've read her book and enjoyed it, or even listened to her speak publicly, you'll fall in love with this movie.

Rating: ★★★★ / 5 stars
Watched: Theater
Seen Before: No

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