small screen, small reviews

I got an iPad (more precisely, I got my wife to get me an iPad) primarily for use as a reading/storage device for scientific papers (if you read/scan/at least look at 300-400 papers a year, the paper can really, really pile up.) And to be sure, I use it for that, quite a lot.

But it's also a great way to watch movies on airplanes.

Since I logged just shy of 13 hours in the air this last week--and since I wasn't traveling for work--I took in a few flicks. Here's a quick rundown:

Iron Sky--A Finnish film, mostly in English and German, with a completely ludicrous premise: at the end of WWII, a contingent of Nazis escaped earth and set up base on the dark side of the moon, plotting their eventual return and revenge. This is a film that makes no attempt to be taken seriously, yet manages to be incredibly smart satire at the same time. Equal parts Battlestar Galactica (2003 version), Dr. Strangelove, and Hogan's Heroes. I loved it. (If the trailer appeals to you, you probably will, as well.)

Cabin in the Woods--Written by Joss Whedon, this might be the most innovative horror movie I've seen in a very long time. Both genuinely scary and genuinely funny. To get into the plot would be to ruin the movie. Horror movie geekery is rewarded. I recommend it highly, as long as you don't have a problem with horror movie gore.

Sound of my Voice--A small indy about a couple who infiltrate a cult to make a documentary. Some very good film making of the "get a lot out of a little" school. The pace is deliberate and the tone is understated, but it works at an hour and a half. It's a long way from being a "thriller" but they manage to milk an awful lot of tension out of some scenes. Brit Marling (who wrote it and stars as the cult leader) pulls off ethereal and menacing at the same time, which strikes me as a bit of a feat.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part I--Though this animated adaptation of Frank Miller's classic graphic novel is a direct to video release, it's actually quite good. It's very faithful to the plot and and overall look of the book, though the animation is much cleaner than Miller's characteristically dirty-to-the-point-of-grotesque style of drawing. Some scenes--particularly those involving contrasting light and rain--are quite beautifully done. The rougher edges of the content are reigned in a bit as well to give it a PG-13 rating. Personally, my favorite thing about the comic was the first-person narration that was often superimposed on the action--I guess it wouldn't be practical to do this with an action scene moving in real time--the timing would be off--but I would have really loved to hear a few lines like "It was tough work, carrying 220 pounds of sociopath to the top of Gotham Towers — the highest spot in the city. The scream alone is worth it," in Peter Weller's voice.

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