Post-Christmas in America

So, being newlyweds this year but still not living in the same country on account of the need for proper immigration channels to be followed, the wife and I decided we should at least spend our first Christmas together, together.

To that end, she flew up here to St. John’s in the midst of blizzards and storms, and spent 5 of the snowiest December days I can remember here through Christmas Day.  (Her additional help in shovelling was much appreciated.)  On Boxing Day, however, both of us packed and headed down to Philly to spend the remainder of the holiday break with her family.

I was greeted with this.

Phil the Dog
Phil the Dog, failing to model his bow tie collar successfully.

It took a while for him to warm up to me, since he is not very smart and forgot that we had met and played quite a lot on my previous visits.  We never could get him to stay still long enough to model the bow tie I bought him, however—every time I put my camera down low enough to get a picture, he came toward the camera with his tongue ready for licking.

Anyway, we visited with all the rest of the wife’s family, ate far too much food, and went to the movies a few times, which was great—I was able to catch up on my viewing.  Also, we saw Batman.

LEGO Batman.  In person.  Well, plastic.  Sort of.

Ugh, just look at the picture.

Lego Batman
He’s (Lego) Batman

Needless to say, I am looking forward to the upcoming Lego movie.

Anyway, while there I saw Frozen and 47 Ronin.  Not surprisingly, I have thoughts on each.

Thoughts on Frozen

Disney’s Frozen has done exceptionally well for the House of Mouse, and for good reason.  It is a thoroughly enjoyable movie that both feels like a classic Disney fairy tale movie while avoiding and gently skewering some of the more questionable tropes of the genre that they built.

The computer-animated visuals are fine, but rather par-for-the-course these days.  While is is excellent character and visual design, I find all the 3D computer animated look largely the same.  I prefer traditional 2D animation—I can think of lots more examples in that arena that simply blow my mind.

The voice work was also good.  I am a fan of Kristen Bell from her, shall we say, less family-friendly work in movies like Fanboys and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but was surprised that she also sang her character’s part as well—she’s really good!  Broadway star Idina Menzel’s strong singing and voice work was less surprising but no less impressive, and the film really revolved around their relationship.

Though I  enjoyed Disney’s previous effort, Tangled, it felt a little too modern and Shrek-ish (which is not necessarily a bad thing, as I very much liked some of the Shrek movies) for me to reconcile its feel with that evoked by their prior classics.  Frozen fits right in there among them.

The songs are catchy, too.

Thoughts on 47 Ronin

The wife is good to me.  From the trailers, 47 Ronin did not look like her kind of movie—it looked like it would be a kind of terrible movie with Keanu Reeves, 80 minutes of gory, over-the-top sword fighting, and 10 minutes of plot.  That would have been exactly the sort of thing I would love, but no one else was interested, so she went with me.

It turns out the trailers were completely misleading.  It wasn’t a bad movie.  It wasn’t brilliant, but it wasn’t bad.  There were cool action sequences, but they were hardly the focus of the movie—it was actually kind of slow paced.  And Keanu Reeves was not the main character—or at least not the only one.  Hiroyuki Sanada as Oishi—the leader of the titular 47 ronin—was the real driving force of the movie.  There were large chunks with no Reeves at all.

The story is a retelling of one of Japan’s most famous legends, about a group of samurai who avenge their master despite the personal costs.  This version has hidden magic, a demon-trained half-breed warrior (Reeves), a sneaky witch, and a forbidden romance woven throughout.  The action sequences are brief but interesting, and the plot and motivation of all the characters was well-explained.  The pacing, however, felt… loose.

The wife said it reminded her of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and that comparison is apt.  In recent years we’ve seen some really well-done epic films with tight pacing and plotting.  47 Ronin seemed like it would have blown my mind if it had come out 20 years ago, but now it’s just okay.  It’s not bad, it’s actually quite interesting, but it is the sort of movie that I wish could go beyond that to be awesome, but doesn’t quite.  If the premise sounds interesting to you, however, it is certainly worth seeing.

The New York Visitation

So, now that I’m done talking movies, I needed a new header so that the end of my 47 Ronin discussion would be clear.  It does provide a convenient segue for next bit of blathering.

On December 30th, the wife and I took the train into New York City.  We saw the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center!

Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center
Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center

Unfortunately, everyone else was there to see it, too, which made getting to the Lego Store difficult.  Once we made it in, I didn’t dare stop long enough to actually get anything.  (Fear not, faithful readers—on the 31st we stopped into the Christiana Mall in Delaware which had both a Lego Store and a Cinnabon.)

The reason for our visit to New York was that the mother-in-law had gotten the wife and I some tickets for Waiting for Godot, starring Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen.  It turns out that I did not like the play very much, as there is no plot to speak of and there’s a lot of self-indulgent monologuing, but Stewart and McKellen were fantastic.  They owned their parts, they played off of each other perfectly, and occasionally even cracked each other up.  During the curtain call, they even did a little dance.  They made that play worth watching.

The only drawback to this New York visit was that I thinked I picked up a bug somewhere that hit me on New Year’s Eve in DC.  (That happened the last time I took the train to New York and then later went to DC, too…. Hmmm…..)

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