Monday, December 5, 2011

Devil in a Blue Dress/How to Train Your Dragon

Devil in a Blue Dress
seen online via Crackle

How to Train Your Dragon
seen on TV @ HBO on Demand

Okay, this is an unusual doubleheader, I admit, but I totally did not plan it this way. I thought about separating these into two different entries, but that would mess up my schedule, and I wanted to write about them sooner rather than later. Plus, one of them is a LAMB Acting School entry, which I'm sure will look weird to people coming here from the LAMB site, but whatever. This has never been a conventional movie blog.

Recently I read a Walter Mosley "Easy Rawlins" novel for the first time. It was Bad Boy Brawley Brown, a later book in the series. Mosley is one of those authors that I was interested in sampling, but never got around to for whatever reason, until I acquired this book at a book swap several months ago. It's deep into continuity and it refers to events from previous books that I had never read, but I was still able to get into it.

This is actually kinda ironic, considering my reading habits in the past. Take comics. As a kid, I thought nothing of coming into an individual issue of a comic book that references past events if the story I was reading right then and there was good. As I got older, that changed. Suddenly, I needed to start from the very beginning on a new series or I'd be less likely to read it. That shouldn't matter quite so much, but a lot of times it does.

Serialization has become much more highly valued - in film, in television, in books. I remember watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it first came on TV, but then it moved to a different night, one I wasn't able to watch it on, and when I tried to come back to it weeks later I was lost. (Now, of course, one can watch episodes of certain current shows online or even read recaps, but I didn't have that option back then.)

One reason I liked The X-Files so much was that it was a mixture of stand-alone episodes and ones that advanced the ongoing plot. Not every episode had to feed into the major story. Then again, the first time I saw 24 was on DVD and I was utterly captivated by the ongoing plot, advanced with each individual episode, and was hungry for more. So I suppose I can see it both ways.

Devil in a Blue Dress is much earlier in the Easy Rawlins series, and it's a shame that the film version never took off into a franchise of its own. Rawlins is a character straight out of the classic films noir of the past, yet being black, his experiences are different than those of Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade, and Denzel Washington embodies him to perfection. I'd love to see someone revive the Rawlins character for the movies. Idris Elba could easily fill Washington's shoes.

Devil was Don Cheadle's breakthrough film, if I'm not mistaken. His impact on the story, as Rawlins' loose-cannon sidekick, is powerful. I've enjoyed him in his subsequent films as well; he projects a strong, confident masculinity and an assured cockiness no matter which side of the law his characters are on, but he can also go deep emotionally. In addition to Devil, I've seen him in Rosewood, Boogie Nights (very subtle performance), Bulworth, Mission to Mars, Traffic, Swordfish, Ocean's Eleven, Talk to Me, Iron Man 2 and The Guard. Fine actor.

Okay. Switching gears now.

I met Rachel at a comics convention several years ago. She was pushing a superhero comic she wrote and she was there with her artist. I'd see her off and on a few times at cons and then I lost track of her for awhile. I found her again on Facebook and it turned out she switched gears to filmmaking, specifically screenwriting and producing. She's thrown herself pretty deeply into it too; on her FB page she writes about going to industry events both here in New York and on the West Coast, networking with Hollywood executives trying to promote not only her screenplay(s), but herself as a film and/or television producer. She has some experience in the field, having worked on videos for various people here and there. She currently offers her services as a screenwriting coach. And she's ambitious as hell - she says she wants Denzel Washington for her movie (there's your connection to Devil, I guess).

Anyway, we've been hanging out together a bit in the past few weeks, getting to know each other better. I had invited her to a movie last Friday, but I didn't realize that she had recently injured her foot and that she was still recovering. So out with the movie plans. She did invite me over to her place in Manhattan, though, so that's where I went yesterday evening. She cooked dinner, she showed me pictures of her family, we talked a whole lot about movies, and eventually we put one on - How to Train Your Dragon, which neither of us had seen.

I kinda wish I had seen this theatrically in 3D. While the story follows many of the same hero's-journey cliches and offered few surprises, visually it's spectacular, especially the flying sequences. I had told Rachel that Pixar has spoiled us so much that sometimes it's easy to see everything else in animation as... not inferior - that word has the wrong connotations - but not on the same level at the very least. Dreamworks Animation is unquestionably good, but Pixar has set the standard so impossibly high in every category. Still, this was very entertaining. It's easy to see why this was a hit.


  1. Glad you finally saw 'HTTYD'! Love that one, perhaps one of my top fave animated features.

    "I kinda wish I had seen this theatrically in 3D" ... yeah me too!! The aerial sequences are wonderful, it must have looked spectacular on 3D. I just love Toothless!

  2. I didn't expect Toothless to be so... cute. I thought he should've been scarier, especially since all the other Vikings were scared of him.

  3. Thanks for the mention, Rich. I just shared your blog to my facebook page, not even realizing that you were going to mention me. As we discussed and I thought upon,

    I guess what I liked about this film other than the visuals was the script had a lot of depth of characterization and character moments.

    The voice direction was quite good, too, matching the script and the visual direction.

    The voice over tag at the end of the story rubbed me the wrong way because it didn't match the visual or the character feelings; but we found out later that the movie was based on a book. I'd likely win a bet that the tag was a line from the book.

  4. I guess I forgot to mention that. Yeah, as you can see, I don't do reviews in the traditional sense.

    'Dragon' had characterization, sure, but I thought it mostly indulged in familiar tropes seen in other movies. Not that it was bad - like I said, it was entertaining - just overly familiar.


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