Friday, September 30, 2011

The Bridge On the River Kwai [1957]

I liked THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI – but honestly I wished I liked more. The movie was 2 hours and 45 minutes – and it felt every bit of it. It was two different stories – and they weren’t blended together well – even though I understood why and liked each story it just felt like “we showed the British officer’s side of the story – let’s now show the American soldier’s side of the story”. There were some great performances – and I really liked the build up to the conclusion (even though it’s become one of those famous scenes that you can’t help but run into – so you kind of already know how it ends). I’m glad I finally watched it – but I’m also glad I didn’t purchase it like I intended to at the Half-Price Books Labor Day sale – it’s not a keeper to me at the moment.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Thing [2011]

I will sit and bitch and complain with you in regards to how annoying all these unnecessary sequels, prequels and remakes are. Hollywood is addicted to proven commodities and not willing to take any risk in exploring new ideas - and potentially great films. There's just too much money involved these days.

That being said, I will happily hold my tongue about this prequel.

John Carpenter's interpretation of THE THING is amazing as a stand alone 80's horror film - but it also left a lot of backstory that could easily fill an interesting movie - and from the trailers - it looks like someone actually nailed it...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Win Win [2011]

I love how Thomas McCarthy captures what on the surface seems to be a bleak experience and makes it into heartwarming hopeful film. A down on his luck lawyer decides to take advantage (ever so gently) of one of his elderly clients in order to make ends meet – and when his client’s teenage grandson comes into the picture – he brings him under his wing. Just like with THE STATION AGENT and THE VISITOR he takes his lead character’s want for one thing and flips it on its ear in order to show that they actually need something completely different. I really love how the high school wrestling element of the story is just a glue for binding the characters together stronger – much like trains in THE STATION AGENT and music in THE VISITOR. Great performances by the entire cast and great story – make WIN WIN a wonderful movie.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Video Game Challenge - Progress of weekend Sept 24 & 25

As I predicted – LuLu politely listened then called me a nerd – and Toad is unresponsive (probably rolling his eyes) – so since it’s of interest to me I’ll blog about it.

My video game challenge is going like this after this past weekend.

Fallout: New Vegas: Apparently, I’m at the point of no return. If I go and talk to one character – the entire region erupts in war – and once I complete the war – the game is over. Not in a Fallout 3 – download the expansion and you get to keep playing after the credits roll sense of over – it’s over over. Even if I want to play Old World Blues or Dead Money expansions – I will have to start from an old save file.

This gives me pause.

Do I complete the game? Or do I continue to fuck around?

For example - I cleared the way to recruit all the possible followers (achievement points – yay!) – but declined each opportunity when originally presented and decided to keep Veronica because she was able to use this really great weapon I found (which she went and fucking lost between saves – stupid fucking glitches!). So, do I go with the points – and possible extra side quests? Or just wrap this fucker up? Which is the whole point of my challenge!


Speaking of fucking around in this game - I do really want to walk into the Ultra Luxe casino and shoot the place up with a mini-gun - it's not a side quest or anything - it's just something that needs to be done (even if I don't save it)

The Saboteur: Still not sure how far I am – I could check that little percentage thingy in the game – but I was wrapping shit up in New Vegas. I checked fairly early on and it said 15% - and that was after not doing much – so I’m betting I’m around 40% or so by now.

Crysis 2: Still in the cellophane – but I think it shifted around in the drawer when I opened it – so it has at least moved since last update.

I’ve got 46 days until Skyrim is released – and my challenge should be completed! I may have to play a bit more than just weekend mornings - and with my lack of interest in any TV shows that aren't BREAKING BAD and COMMUNITY - I may take up doing some night-gaming...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Video Game Update - The challenge begins

I bought an XBOX 360 a couple years ago to play FALLOUT 3 – a game in which I refuse to play all the way to the conclusion of the game. I’ve been having too much fun playing the game for the open world environments – plus the main story kind of bores me. I’m still on the same character – hundreds of hours into the game – but I haven’t played it in months.

I have been playing FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS though – and despite how glitchy it is – I find it fun. The main story is kind of disjointed – but I decided recently that I will be playing that through to the conclusion soon – because I have pre-ordered SKYRIM.

I have not played an ELDER SCROLLS game but decided that with how intriguing the previews are for SKYRIM - I decided this will be the one I will start with. Looks epic and fun – the fact that it’s developed by the same team that did FALLOUT 3 – has me sold it will be solid.

The problem is now I have been also playing THE SABOTEUR and ordered CRYSIS 2 (when it was a PENNY when Amazon had a *glitch* sale) – and I feel the need to complete all three of these games prior to the release of SKYRIM on 11/11/11 – and who knows maybe I should plug in FALLOUT 3 and complete that one too. (This is not counting a few other games started but not completed in my game drawer – ARKAM ASYLUM – looking at you bud)

I am NOT a gamer – and I could imagine others thinking this is NOT challenge – but to me this will be epic. I typically only play a couple hours while drinking coffee in my underwear on weekend mornings - but I did beat BULLETSTORM, LA NOIRE and a couple of LEGO STAR WARS games during that time this year – which is odd enough – but also means I’ve got a bit of momentum on my side in beating video games.

I will try and give updates on how I’m doing on my blog because I want to talk about it and LuLu will only humor me and Toad (my little brother) will probably roll his eyes at me (as he is a big gamer).

FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS – have all the allegiances – just need to declare which side I’m going to play for.

THE SABOTEUR – I have a hard time understanding how far along I am in this game – but I’ve cleared out a lot of areas of Nazi’s.

CRYSIS 2 – still in the cellophane.

Honestly, as this is scheduled to post - I will be sitting on my couch - drinking some coffee and playing my XBOX

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Drive [2011]

By night he’s a getaway driver – by day he’s a Hollywood stunt driver – when he gets mixed up with a girl and the mob - things get violent.

First of all, I have been anticipating this film for several months now. The talent in front of the camera (Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks & Bryan Cranston) as well as the talent behind the camera (Nicholas Winding Refn) got me pretty psyched up for what appeared to be a hard hitting fast paced action film.

I really did not expect the film that I watched though. My presumption disparity was blown out of the theater – and though I expected something with more pep – I got an intelligent, beautiful film that’s going to linger with more far longer than what I went in expecting. I should have expected this considering Winding Refn was at the helm – as this was an essentially an extension of VALHALLA RISING – slow build ups – questions everywhere – and graphic acts of terrifying violence.

The film was all about building tension – the slow thoughtful pacing of the film – the long pauses in conversation – the low key ethereal synth music soundtrack – the static camera – was all carefully crafted and used in order to really help build up the underbelly of the film. When an act of violence would happen – it was graphic and startling – just the way it should be – it was realistic and horrifying. I gasped – LuLu Danger jumped – it was satisfying.

The acting was top notch – Ryan Gosling at times has an approach of being blank and not showing anything and it bothers me (FRACTURE) but when given a different context that bored/blank look of his has underlying issues – there’s nobody better. His lack of emotion – his lack of dialogue – just made his character endear to me more. LuLu and I walked out asking each other back and forth questions about him – agreeing there’s ton more that we’ll never know about him – and we loved it.

Carey Mulligan was sweet and complex – there was a certain level of complete perfection about how she behaved – the elevator scene will go down as one of the greatest scenes of her still very early career – she showed a maturity unlike many actresses and hit every emotional queue in such a broad spectrum like a fucking pro.

Albert Brooks is one of my favorite comedic actors of all time – but in DRIVE he terrified me. As much as Gosling kept it internal – Brooks allowed it to flow through his pores a bit more – and I got the feeling he was a man willing to do anything (there’s early Oscar talk for Brooks in this role – and I agree – I was seriously terrified of him). Bryan Cranston has a knack for acting fatherly and believable in whatever role he tackles – which he mixed with a slimy fast talker into this role – and he did it with a certain expertise.

I don’t have any complaints about the film. There is no other director that could have pulled off a film like this – the tone – the artistic styling. The acting was all exactly pitch perfection for what this film became. Maybe it needed more driving considering it was called DRIVE – but that’s not the point.

The comparisons to exploitation films are fair – with a slow building sense of tension exploding into graphic and perverse violence. I can see how this film wouldn’t speak to everyone’s tastes – as I realized how the tone of the movie was being set very early on – I worried LuLu wouldn’t like it – but I think it’s the reality of the film’s story and the compelling performances - really proved me wrong and she loved it. I did too.

P.S. LuLu and I were enthralled by Gosling’s white satin jacket the entire film – there was a certain fucking badass look to that jacket – though it was a dated look. It really reminded me of how Christina Lindberg looked in THRILLER with the eye patch and trench coat and how there’s something simplistically amazing about it. If LuLu and I ever make it to a Comic Con – I think I know what I would like for us to dress up as.

P.P.S. I'll throw my hat in there and say even though I've been incredibly picky about what I've watched this year - this is my favorite of the lot thus far in 2011.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I don't get it...

I don’t understand how certain major movie blockbusters are referred to as ‘cult films’ (Star Wars, Blade Runner, Star Trek) – I understand that they have a very strong following (a “cult following” as they say) – but doesn’t that just make them ‘popular’?

You wouldn’t find people calling Disney or the Harry Potter films ‘cult’ films – but they have huge strong following.

It rubs me wrong in the same way as when people call the Star Wars prequels ‘independent films’ – they may have been made outside of the “major studio” system – but with the same money and with the same distribution major films get.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New York, New York

It was a beautiful day – a day without a cloud in the sky – perfect weather and a slight breeze. One of those days that is so nice – but should’ve been very forgettable.

On my way to my favorite class, a film study class, I overheard on a truck’s radio about a helicopter crash at or around the Pentagon – I didn’t really think much of it – other than maybe it was a small bump that the news was calling a “crash” or if it was something else.

When I finally got to class I picked up a copy of The Northern Star – which was an amazing school newspaper that was really well presented and well written. One of the lead stories was that Michael Jordan was making a comeback – so when I entered the auditorium (the same that a few years later was the scene of a Valentines day mass shooting) – I figured the buzz that was apparent in the room was in regards to Michael Jordan.

The teacher came into the auditorium a few minutes late and said that there was something we needed to see. He turned on our big screen projector – the same screen that we’ve been watching Kubrick, Coppola and Orson Welles films – some of the finest works of fiction ever put to film – and we watched as Tom Brokaw speak to us over images of a couple big buildings smoking.

He said that America had been attacked – and no group has claimed responsibility – and replays of planes crashing into these buildings replayed in front of our eyes. I was in shock – not really understanding what was going on – that’s when one of the buildings collapsed. It didn’t seem real.

Our teacher said that America was going to move forward – and not let these terrorists disrupt our lives – and after a few minutes turned off the screen and began his lecture. I tried my best to listen – but I knew that my father was always traveling to the east coast – and things were so confusing and it was reported that there were more planes missing. Once class ended I ran home and called home – to find out my dad wasn’t traveling that week – and my mom said I could come home if I wanted - and I did want to – but I didn’t.

I called my best friend who signed up to the Marines not but a year before – and his base was locked down with him inside – and his wife and I spoke for a little while and it calmed me.

The rest of the day I was pretty numb – even though classes went on like normal. I settled down at home – without cable (a luxury that my roommate and I decided to do without) – and I listened to the radio - listened to music that reflected how I felt being in that moment and reflected on life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Quick Picks - Sept 4, 2011 Edition

Peep World [2010]

A bunch of adult kids have taken divergent – yet miserable - paths in life after they left the nest – and it’s all their asshole daddy’s fault.

I didn’t like this movie. All the characters were fairly weak caricatures and that made them boring. One son is aloof (Rainn Wilson) – the other is struggling architect (Michael C. Hall) – the daughter is a bitch (Sarah Silverman) – and the youngest son is profiting off their misery in his thinly veiled novel about the family (Ben Schwartz) – and they all hate their father with good reason. I felt the writer of this movie has some daddy issues – and made a movie – not that there’s not potential in it but you got to do better than this. I wanted to shake each and every one of them and tell them to grow up and make your own decisions – live your own life – grow up!

I hated the penis joke – so fucking dumb – I almost turned off the movie at that point – make a dark comedy and have fun – but a penis joke? Why not make some poop and fart jokes? I didn’t hate the movie – I really hated parts of it – I kind of liked other parts – but it’s not funny in a way that I would recommend.

Rango [2011]

A pet lizard finds himself lost in the desert and wanders into a town of desert creatures – where he saves the day and takes over as the town sheriff.

I really enjoyed this fun little spaghetti western homage. I loved the two “cameos” in both a nod to Depp and a nod to the genre – and because I was pleasantly surprised the cameos will go nameless in my blurb. The animation was beautifully done – though it’s animated it’s not a film made for kids – kid friendly most certainly – but too much over the head dialogue. I liked how the town animals were modeled after Leone’s town folk characters – even the snake was a nice nod to Lee Van Cleef. Overall, there’s not much to say – it appealed to some of my likes – but it was a good enough movie – never really grabbing me and pulling me in – but also not disappointing me.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Quick Picks - Sept 3, 2011 Edition

Love and Other Drugs [2010]

A shallow guy meets a hot girl – they have a bunch of sex – then fall in love – they do it some more – break up – and get back together.

Anne Hathaway has an amazing rack – and she shows it aplenty in this film – they even give her some “drama” to do while she’s not naked. Jake Gyllenhaal is becoming an interesting actor – and he coasts for the most part through this movie – hitting his marks when he needs to be shallow and when he needs to be sweet. Not spectacular but lots of boobs – more of a romantic dramedy – with lots of boobs – could Hathaway be the lead in a remake of NUDE ON THE MOON please?

The Company Men [2010]

A bunch of guys lose their jobs and have to cope with being unemployed.

The problem with this movie is they followed the plight of a bunch of well off guys who get fired. Who the fuck cares? If they cut their fucking spending – took a “lesser” job – they would be able to coast. Does Affleck do that? No! Do I feel sorry for him? No! Boo hoo he has to work blue collar – until he’s offered out of the fucking blue a job that pays a fuck load! I call bullshit all over this movie – though it was scary because everyone got fired after their company got bought out – and my company just got bought out a week or two before I watched this movie. There was some good yet very muddled messages mixed in there – but the problem was they took the wrong approach to get to them.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

13 Assassins [2010]

The Shogun’s younger brother is an evil man with hate and cruelty in his heart. When the depth of his evil becomes apparent to a senior government official he hires the samurai Shinzaemon to assassinate him before he can ascend in power. Shinzaemon goes on recruit 11 more samurai for the mission – who are joined on their journey by a hunter – making it the tale of the 13 assassins.

This is a remake of a film of the same name and though I can’t find the original to rent and compare – it seems moot as it’s the exact plot of SEVEN SAMURAI – with the main differences being the number of characters – and the threat is from the government rather than bandits. Let me remind you – Rule #1 – originality is overrated. You’ve seen this movie before – I promise you – but the story is compelling never-the-less.

Given the nature of the heroes of this film are samurai – and samurai are not normally known for being expressive – that leads to what can be perceived as little character development – that perception is mostly reality. This lack of character development though – does not lead to any less desire to wanting to see them succeed with every ounce of your being. The majority of the real character depth is with the villain – and he is such a wonderfully evil villain. With his apparent evil and condescending above the law nature – you wouldn’t care if smurfs were after him – as long as someone was.

The villain’s character development is a major triumph for this film – because if you consider giving 13 characters a personal sense of purpose – goals – motivations – and the like would be exhausting and make the film 4 hours long – much like SEVEN SAMURAI (which is one of my top 5 favorite films of all time – so I’m not knocking it). But if you give the bulk of the character development to the villain – you come to accept the assassins as being in the right even if you don’t know them – and it makes each of their deaths equally sad.

The film – in the cut that was released to Blu-Ray in America is roughly 2 hours – with the final 50 minutes of the film being essentially a bloodbath. Not once through the final battle did I think that it was taking too long or getting boring. I saw it as less of an extended action scene and more of a dramatic scene that kept me engaged throughout. There was no music playing over the bulk of the battle – as to not falsify the emotion and give you the traditional movie triggers to tell you to care. The clangs of the swords, the screams and shouts and the visuals of the mud and blood – was enough to jar me into caring and kind of leave me dumbstruck.

That’s not to say the film was essentially a build up to the action scene – as the assassin’s quest prior to the battle was an interesting story. There wasn’t a cheap scene in the build-up – which is just strong storytelling. The conclusion of the story was extremely satisfying – and even a little bit of a twist that didn’t exactly fit in with the exact nature of the story – but it was pitch perfect to resolve the film (though I interpreted it one way – and considered it the only solution – I guess some could want to believe the other).

For some, I can see how the lack of character development could lead to a lack of recognition while they fought and died muddied and bloodied – but with such beautiful noble samurai deaths – it didn’t phase me. Several of the assassins were given a small bit of this or that that allowed me to recognize them upon their demise – several were not and I didn’t recognize them as being X or Y – but like I said – it didn’t worry me.

I guess I found a few small instances of new technology a tiny bit distracting – but it was used so few and far between that it didn’t impact me that much. I would say for the most part – a lot of old school directing techniques and action sequences helped sell me.

Netflix refused to send this movie to me for a while – though it sat on the top of my rental queue with no wait – which brought up my excitement – and could have easily made the presumptive disparity hard to overcome – but it met and exceeded my expectations. This is not just a renter – but a movie I want to own and kind of wish I didn’t already returned it because I want to watch it again already – I highly recommend it.

* I apologize for lack of pictures – I like to use them to break-up the text – but it appears that once I Googled some up most have been removed due to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act – which is a shame it’s a visually stunning film and would like to showcase it in my review