The Aviator (2004 - DVD)

When I first saw The Aviator in a theater several years ago, I really enjoyed it because the whole Howard Hughes story was completely new to me. But I fear it doesn't hold up so well on a rewatch, mainly because it raises more questions than it answers. Since most of the movie is just showing Hughes doing things without explaining why they were important or what his motivations were, it may be one case in which "Show, Don't Tell" was taken far too literally.

Hughes had OCD, and he's shown doing bizarre things because of it, but the movie doesn't really explore it. Nowhere is it explained that addiction to painkillers after a near-fatal plane crash may have worsened it. The crash does happen in the movie, but it's like the lines weren't connected between the dots. It's also never really explained just how important and influential Hughes's contributions were to modern aviation, especially since the climax of the film is him flying a giant plane (the "Spruce Goose") that, yes, flies, but doesn't do anything else.

The movie is still entertaining to watch and is quite beautifully shot (although the lack of green in the first hour gets a little silly when they're playing golf on a blue golf course). The sequences near the beginning where he is shown making the movie "Hell's Angels" are breathtaking. But it just isn't enough to show Howard Hughes as a crazy guy who occasionally makes movies and crashes airplanes. His motivations need to be explored more.

Am I the only one who kept getting confused as to who Cate Blanchett was portraying? She's supposed to be Katharine Hepburn, but everyone calls her "Kate", and her actor's name is "Cate", so I kept wondering... why do they keep calling her by her real name, and wait, who is she again?

I seem to recall some controversy over Million Dollar Baby winning the 2005 Oscar instead of The Aviator. I haven't seen MDB in years, but I almost am thinking now that it was a better movie.
Rating: 3/5

How to Train Your Dragon (2010 - Theater)

My favorite real-life animals are cats and my favorite fantasy animals are dragons, so a movie that has dragons that act just like cats is probably going to be a winner in my book no matter what. Despite last month's ragging on modern cartoons in the "Rango" review, I liked this movie for more reasons than just the cat/dragon connections. I liked Hiccup better as a lead character than Rango because he was funnier and actually clever (as opposed to being just lucky). HTTYD is also a lot funnier and while the "racial/cultural tolerance/understanding" plot is fairly standard, I'll still take it over Hollywood backpatting "actors are great" morals.

The only thing I noticed (but maybe this couldn't be helped since it's a kids' movie) is that (with one major exception) they went to such great pains to keep from showing anything get killed that after awhile, I stopped worrying that anything bad would happen to anyone no matter the situation. Yet it still manages to pull off a somewhat-gutsy ending despite that. And, oh yeah, the visuals are nice, too, even though I did not see it in 3D.
Rating: 3.5/5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Original Movie (1990 - DVD)

TMNT is one of those of things you either like or hate, and if you hate them, this movie isn't about to change your mind. But if you liked them at all, then it isn't a bad way to spend a couple of hours. For something that's essentially a kid's movie about giant talking reptiles, the action scenes and turtle costumes work surprisingly well. It's funny, too, although lacking some of the personality of the cartoon show. Donatello shows no signs of being a genius inventor, and Shredder is now 100% more like Darth Vader than the comical cartoon incarnation, and yet Casey Jones is taken far less seriously than what I remember of the hockey-masked cartoon counterpart.

Generally, the movie doesn't take itself too seriously, which is what makes it a lot of fun. I had also forgotten how many pop culture references the movie makes, and some may have gone over my head when I was younger, like the one about the Great Gatsby.

The inclusion of Casey Jones was definitely a huge plus. I remember how disappointed I was that he wasn't in the sequel, but that turned out to be the least of that movie's problems.

(And yeah, I'm scoring this higher than The Aviator. I've seen both multiple times and this held up better and I enjoyed it more, so bite me.)
Rating: 3.5/5

Seinfeld, Season 3 (1991 - DVD)

I watched Seasons 6 and 8 of Seinfeld last year, and it's clear from watching Season 3 that at this point, the show hadn't quite hit its stride yet. It's still full of plenty of great and funny moments (Elaine screaming "Stella" while high on painkillers, the car refusing to start in the parking garage) and this season is the one that contains the infamous JFK parody, which also happens to be the same episode with the infamous "Say Vandelay Industries!" scene. That one alone makes the price of admission worth it, although it is far and away the best episode of the set.
Rating: 4/5



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