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Journey into Movies #1, 2 and 3: Across the Universe, Alice in Wonderland, and Almost Heroes

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were discussing what we wanted to watch that evening. A bit ambivalent about it, I told her that I had had an idea about watching every movie we owned, alphabetically. There were several movies I owned that I had not watched (some still sealed). It would be a fun way to spend nights rocking the baby to sleep.  My wife liked this idea.  There were some of my movies that she had never seen, too, and some of hers that she hadn't watched in years.

The benefits of an alphabetical order include ease of tracking, randomization on ownership, and especially variation in genre (until we get to Star, where we own 13 Star Trek movies, 9 Star Wars, Stargate, and Starship Troopers).  The first five movies on the list are a musical, a Disney cartoon, a dumb (in a good way) comedy, a superhero movie, and a romantic comedy.  This will make most movie nights different, which will be fun.

We agreed to do it. Every night we were planning on staying at home, we would put on a movie. We agreed to some basic veto rules (I'm not making her watch Beavis and Butt-Head Do America), but otherwise we would watch it all.

1. Across the Universe (2007)

The first movie in alphabetical order was the Julie Taymor musical Across the Universe, made using music from the Beatles.

I love Beatles songs, and the singing performances of the six lead actors were quite good.  In particular, their adaptation of I Want You (She's So Heavy) as being sung by Uncle Sam and soldiers during Max's induction into the army was wonderful.  Songs by side characters were enjoyable too, especially Joe Cocker doing Come Together and the young boy and choir singing Let It Be.

The problem is that the movie has six leads and no cohesive plot.  The one best described as our protagonist, Jude (played by Jim Sturgess) has a good storyline, but it can't stand out because of the separate plotlines of the five other main characters.  It comes across as "watch six people exist in mid-to-late 1960s New York."

If you enjoy Beatles music or musicals in general, give this movie a watch.

2. Alice in Wonderland (1951)

I bought the original Disney Alice in Wonderland, directed by Geronimi, Jackson, and Luske, on DVD after watching Tim Burton's 2010 remake.  But I had never sat down to watch it.  It turns out what I like is Tim Burton's aesthetic applied to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and not the story itself.

My first impression was that Alice was unlikeable.  She had lots of imagination, but hated reading and learning, which offends me deeply.

The entire story could be summarized as "Alice chases a white rabbit into Wonderland; sees weird things as she searches for the rabbit."  This isn't a plot; it's a hook that should lead me into a plot.  Without a bigger story, it was just a collection of individual, silly vignettes, some of which were fun, but others annoying.

Neither my wife nor I cared for this movie.  Even though we have a small child at home, we will likely be getting rid of it.

3. Almost Heroes (1998)

I will say this up front; I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of objectively stupid comedy movies.  Some I love, but others I can't get into.  I can love Bio-Dome but hate Bad Santa.  Chris Farley movies are movies I tend to love, and Christopher Guest-directed Almost Heroes is a fun one.

Almost Heroes is the story of a high-society man (Matthew Perry) and a tracker and general outdoorsman (Chris Farley) in 1804 as they try to beat Lewis and Clark at being the first to map a route to the Pacific ocean.  Perry's character is a weakling while Farley plays the same character he always plays: a very loud, bumbling oaf who somehow manages to succeed despite his idiocy.

The sequence where Farley needs to retrieve the egg of an eagle holds up as one of the funniest movie jokes I've seen.

It's not the best Farley movie, but it's fun and it made me laugh.  That's all I want from such films.

The next three: Amazing Spider-Man, Amélie, and Anastasia!


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