Monday, January 26, 2009

Children of Men

Children of Men
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Wow, this was a much more emotionally involving movie than I expected. I really should have seen this when the film first came out, but I am still glad that I was able to view it. I remember some fellow students in my classes praising this film, and they were correct!

The question is what should I focus on writing about. There are so many aspects of this film that could be discussed. One thing to think about is how this movie would have been crafted in a Post-Obama election. Although the film takes place in England, there are definitely Bush era policies that have been taken to extremes. Illegal immigrants are treated like animals and unceasingly hunted down and captured and sent to live in concentration camp-like prisons. There is a constant distrust of the government and even of those who are fighting against the tyranny of the government.

One aspect of the film that particularly stands out is the government surveillance of its citizens. In the film, surveillance cameras have gotten so advance that it is possible to completely track a person's movements. The government also issues propaganda requesting the citizens to turn in any illegal immigrants even if it might be a friend or relative. The are huge video billboards in the film that have an image of eyes that changes to text that says, "Are you watching?" Not only does the government watch its citizens, it relies on the citizens themselves.

Children of Men presents a very disturbing vision of the near future. One of the great things about genre films (this is definitely of the science fiction genre) is that they can present views in such a way that can illustrate issues more clearly than a film such as a drama could.

Rustin Allison

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Directed by Shakur Kapur

This was a film that I actually had on DVD when it first came out and I have never gotten around to watching. Well, now I have finally watched it.

The film had much more to do with religion than I would have thought. This was a nice aspect of the film and religious studies is an area that I have a great interest. The film uses the story of Elizabeth to also illustrate how Protestantism came to be the dominant belief in a previously Catholic England. The film makes a parallel between Elizabeth becoming the Virgin Queen and the Virgin Mary in Catholicism. I thought this was a very interesting aspect of the film.

I believe this was the first film that brought Cate Blanchett to the public eye. I greatly enjoyed her performance in the role of Elizabeth and I look forward to watching this film's sequel that was released last year. Hopefully, it won't take me ten years to watch it.

Rustin Allison

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
Written by Neil Gaiman

This was a great book to read. I have always enjoyed Neil Gaiman's books. My two favorite books of his were Coraline and Neverwhere. I think this one has just topped the list. The Graveyard Book tells the story of a boy named Bod who is raised by the spirits that haunt a graveyard. Much like Coraline and Neverwhere have parallels with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Graveyard Book has parallels with The Jungle Book

This is going to be a very short post (I am a bit pressed for time this week), but this is one book worth checking out. Gaiman has such a great way of telling a story and any fan of his will not be disappointed!

Rustin Allison

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ray Harryhausen: The Early Years Collection

Just watched the first disc of this collection. If you are a stop-motion animation fan or Harryhausen fan, it is great viewing. Most of the shorts on the first disc are fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The shorts are entertaining on their own, but also stand up to closer viewing. Harryhausen is a master animator and the gestures and movements his models make are so fluid and life-like. My favorite out of the shorts was Little Red Riding Hood. 

One of the great things on this first disc is the inclusion of test films and abandoned projects. Oh, what might have been?! I was greatly intrigued by the test footage for both War of the Worlds and Baron Munchausen. Both sounded like great ideas and it would have been wonderful if they had been made into feature length films.

Rustin Allison

Monday, January 12, 2009

Under the Greenwood Tree - Book 2

Under the Greenwood Tree
Written by Thomas Hardy

This is the second book that I have read from the 100 Classic Book Collection.

The novel follows the romance of Dick Dewy and Fancy Day who live in the small English town of Mellstock. The plot also involves the church choir being replaced by a new organ.

I enjoyed reading this book. The books gives a great description of English town life in the late 1800s. The courtship of Dick and Fancy is very complicated and I'm glad that we aren't quite as governed by rules and etiquette in the present. 

Technology also plays a role in this novel. The organ replaces the traditional role of the choir in the town church, which reflects how technology often replaces the traditional in many instances.

Thomas Hardy writes very descriptive prose. There were many passages in the novel that felt cinematic, and I could actually imagine camera shots and movements while reading some of the passages.

Rustin Allison

Death Becomes Her

Death Becomes Her
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Death Becomes Her is a black comedy that came out in the early 90s. It has three great leads: Goldie Hawn, Meryl Streep, and Bruce Willis. The film centers around two women insanely jealous of the success of the opposite. Both women go to great lengths to make the other miserable and Bruce Willis is the man caught between them. The women resort to a potion in order to look more younger and glamorous. The film could be read as a comedy about the dangers of taking plastic surgery too far. I was reminded of the drug Botox by the youthful transformation scene of Meryl Streep. Once the women start down the path of maintaining their youth, they are stuck in the process and can't escape.

One other thought that entered my mind is that for an industry focused on appearance, it is odd that this was a big studio movie with an obviously large budget. It pokes fun at the reliance of movie stars on their appearance. 

The movie also relies greatly on special effects. Computer effects are used to bring youth to the appearance of Meryl Streep. The latest film from Zemeckis, Beowulf, is reliant entirely on special effects as it is computer-generated. The film goes for a hyper-realistic appearance, where the characters are created specifically for a certain look and feel. Beowulf didn't have to rely on actors for the look of the characters (although certain actors' likenesses were retained). It just struck me as odd that the director of a movie about people's fixation on appearance went on to direct films where he is totally in control of the appearance of its characters. 

Rustin Allison

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Adventures of Pinocchio - Book 1

The Adventures of Pinocchio
Written by Carlo Collodi

This is first book that I finished from the 100 Classic Book Collection for the Nintendo DS. I have decided to post a few thoughts after finishing each one. 

Well, this is first time that I have truly read the story of Pinocchio. I have only ever seen the Disney version of the story. The original Pinocchio comes across as a very, very bad boy. In the Disney version, Pinocchio is a boy who is just a little bad (I would actually go as far as saying he's just too naive to be good). The original Pinocchio is easily swayed by temptation, and knows that what he is doing is wrong.

Children's stories often have a dark streak, and The Adventures of Pinocchio is no exception. There is death, dismemberment, and other morbid themes throughout. Pinocchio, even though he is made from wood, has his feet burned off at one point.  This actually reminds me that I need to read a book called The Uses of Enchantment, which is supposed to deal with these same topics.

It was a very quick read, and it was fascinating to observe the changes the were made for the Disney version.

Rustin Allison

100 Classic Book Collection - Nintendo DS

I just picked this up last week, but I do love it. Imagine having 100 novels (actually over 100 with the downloadable titles) available for reading on a single DS cartridge. The software allows you to choose font size for more comfortable reading and there is a fun little quiz that you can take to help make book selections. I might just post my thoughts on each novel as I get through them on this blog.

The books included range from plays by Shakespeare and classics from Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Jules Verne, and Victor Hugo. It contains many books that I have always wanted to read, but just never have had the chance. Now they are all together on a single cartridge at a great price.

Rustin Allison


Directed by Kevin Lima

There are so many things to enjoy about this film. The best aspect of the film is that it leaves you feeling so happy by the end. 

Being a HUGE Disney fan, I loved all of the references to other Disney films that are spread throughout Enchanted. I won't go into all of them here, because there are plenty of other sites that have screen by screen comparisons. Everything from the music, plot, and shot set-up is a loving homage to the classics of Disney animation. It really makes me hope that the upcoming Princess and the Frog will be a return to this wonderful style.

Another facet of this film that deserves mentioning is the wonderful Amy Adams. She really made the film for me. Her performance as Giselle is funny and touching. Giselle's hopeful optimism (though tarnished a bit by the end of the film) is played so well by Adams. She truly deserved all of the accolades that she received for this role and I look forward to watching future performances from her.

Rustin Allison

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Scary Movie

Scary Movie
Directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans

Ah, the first film in the Scary Movie series. Is it funny? Yes. Is it offensive? Yes. What I actually felt motivated to write about this film is how (like Scream) it re-invigorated a genre - the spoof film. Both films are very knowingly self-referential. Scream was a breath of fresh air for the horror genre. It was funny (poking fun at genre conventions) and scary (using these same conventions to terrify). Scream also led to the making of many more teen-focused horror films.

Scary Movie took Scream to a new level. While Scream used a balance of comedy and horror, Scary Movie (using pretty much the same plot) takes its humor as far as it can. Scary Movie itself was a success, and there have been many spoof films in the past few years. 

Rustin Allison

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Don John

Don John
29 December, 2008
Kneehigh Theatre at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon
Directed by Emma Rice

I went to see this because I absolutely loved Kneehigh's theatrical version of Brief Encounter. I did enjoy this show, but not quite as much as their previous effort. 

Don John takes the narrative of Mozart's Don Giovanni and places it in a small English town in 1978. Don is a womanizer who does not care about the broken trail he leaves behind him as he goes from one woman to the next. 

Kneehigh uses a combination of drama, film, dance, and music. In Brief Encounter, all of these elements created a wonderful whole. In Don John, it felt a bit disjointed.

It was a good show, but it is not high on my list of plays that I have seen in 2008.

Rustin Allison


Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Well, after seeing Hellboy a few years ago, I have become a del Toro fan. His movies draw on such great imagery. There is always a great balance between the fairy tale and sadness. I have been slowing watching Del Toro's earlier films, and it is always interesting to see how an artist has developed and evolved. 

Cronos tells the story of an old antique dealer who discovers a mechanical device in the base of an old wooden statue. The device actually contains an insect of some kind and, when activated, injects the user with an age-defying substance. Of course this comes at a price, and the old man develops a taste for blood --  essentially becoming a vampire.

There are some great themes in the film. One is obviously age. Another theme would be family. These two themes are intertwined between the two big relationships in the film. There is the relationship between the old antiques dealer and his very protective young granddaughter, and the relationship between the dying millionaire and his thuggish nephew who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the device. The grandfather-granddaughter relationship is presented in a very haunting and whimsical way. The young girl actually carries the device around for her grandfather in the back of her teddy bear. The millionaire and his nephew have a much more dysfunctional relationship. The millionaire often beats his nephew, and the nephew is just waiting for his uncle to die.

The film is definitely worth watching. It is very stylish and haunting. It is one of del Toro's earlier films, so definitely worth seeing if you are a fan.

Rustin Allison

New Year

One of my resolutions for this new year is to write whenever possible. One of the ways that I will be doing this is through this blog. So keep an eye out for short (or long) thoughts about movies and theatre (or whatever else strikes my fancy).

Happy New Year!

Rustin Allison