Friday, January 31, 2014

Random Thoughts at 5:20am

I love the cold, especially on my lungs, which lately feel like deflated balloons at the end of a party.

I think I'm done with things as they were in one respect, but am I controlled by my environment?

One day, seven out of seven say thank you, today eight of eight said nothing.

In the past four days, casual acquaintances have hugged me, thanked me and given me unsolicited advice. It's been nearly as much attention as I've received by those I label "friends."

Have you ever looked at someone every day, who is 100% unattainable for a variety of reasons and got lost in admiring them? It's an awkward, but not altogether unhealthy feeling, I assume.

When you care for those you can't really help, it hurts. When they turn around and help you, it almost stings.

There's a silly thing called a Twitter crush and I think I have one.  Do you tell?



Quickie Review - Lone Survivor

I'll preface by saying that I am not a fan of highly stylized, music video type war pics. I don't find war glamorous and I'm bothered by senseless killing. I also have personal reasons to not want to see this violence, yet I gave it a try. The movie is excellent. The story is thrilling, but you know from the title it won't be pretty. The soldiers ate respected as are the people who helped. War is deadly and we're not allowed to forget that. It's important. Much better than Zero Dark Thirty or the more similar Blackhawk Down. Much better!

Quickie Review - The Hunt

Haunting is the only word for this story about the worst possible accusation and the toll it takes on not only the accused, but the entire community. It's a movie about how our desire to keep the honesty of innocence, can turn a story into an indictment and how once it reaches this point, there is never a way all the way back. Mikkikelsen is masterful in his portrayal, but it's the terrifying performance of the innocent little child that got to me. In the end, the film is about love. Love of family, friends and community, but also in the fragile nature that is our society.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Quickie Review - American Hustle

I am shocked that Russell had a part, as the writing was awful. You have four of the best actors out there and the film's highlights are Louis C.K. and Jeremy Renner?

Lawrence is wasted. Bale mumbles so much I was hoping for subtitles and Cooper has the most cliched character of all (minus DeNiro in his 700th stereotyped mob role). Adams tries to save the film, but her lines are so lame. Granted her sideboob is getting a lot of attention, but she's handcuffed by this miserable script.

I could be wrong, but the entire film felt like it was trying to be epic, but all the time I'm thinking "a tighter script and this cast before they were all Hollywood's A-List!" It truly suffered by such lofty expectations and that's a shame. I am truly shocked, because I absolutely adore Lawrence, Adams & Bale, but this movie fell well short of anything I expected.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Quickie Review - The Wolf Of Wall Street

What starts off so strong, turns into an absolute disaster. The film feels about ten hours long thanks to an abomination of a final hour. That being said, McConnaughy and Reiner are wonderful. Hill has some moments, but DiCaprio is venturing into murky waters. He's starting to seem a little Deniro/Pacino-esque in that his characters are all getting very familiar.

While I haven't had the chance to fully absorb the film, I despise the types of people portrayed and I hate even more how Hollywood glamorizes them. Scorsese & Leo can say all they want that this is a precautionary tale, but it's a story written by a misogynistic jerk about his exploits and in the end, that comes through and derails the movie.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

Critiquing a master like Kurosawa is difficult. Like Hitchcock, most find greater difficulty in voicing their displeasure than in actually experiencing it. Dreams is, for lack of better words, a pretentious bore. It feels like a neverending sermon, cleverly distracting us with bright colors and beautiful landscapes. Sadly, the keen eye sees through this.

Broken into eight vignettes, it has it's high points, such as The Blizzard and The Tunnel, but has it's very low points, like Mount Fuji in Red, which looks like a high school project on the dangers of nuclear power.  The Crow is a bold idea, but us tripped up by the casting of Martin Scorsese as Vincent Van Gogh, who comes of like a bad Mel Brooks impersonator.

The biggest problem with Dreams is not in the direction or cinematography, but in the fact that tge misleading title leads you to believe you're going to be welcomed into the colorful mind of one of the greatest directors in film history, but all you are given is a look into a pessimistic mind, filled with tails of regret and lost hope. What starts as a bright feast for the eyes, turns into a drab display of weak metaphors and apocalyptic anecdotes.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Super Quickie Review - Blackfish

Blackfish is absolutely heartbreaking, but a story that should be heard. You may not care about Killer Whales, or as in my case, know nothing about them, but Blackfish tells us that our amusement isn't worth the torture these animals endure. The documentary is short and concise. It doesn't choose sides so much as it shows how it takes human tragedy for us to recognise our own atrocities. What is do compelling us that the story is told by those who had a hand in it, either knowingly or not. The picture grabs you in the first few minutes and, like the tormented Tilikum, doesn't let go.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Quickie Review - John Carpenter's The Thing

It's been 30 years since I first and last saw this movie. As a young teen, I remember finding this movie incredibly funny. Not the intended dark comedy, but the violence and gore.  it was so fake, I laughed non-stop. My memories told me the movie was good, but far less deserving of the cult status it has achieved.  So tonight, I have it another shot.

Much like other John Carpenter films, character depth is nonexistent.  I must admit, I had forgot how similar it was to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Both movies build tension through the process of letting us know the affliction, but not the afflicted. The problem with the Thing is, we're never tricked until the end, which is ambiguous if you miss one small wrinkle, even though they actually screw that up slightly.

So here's the deal. Horror needs to be fun. This movie is fun. It needs to build tension. It builds it initially, but falters towards the end.  It needs moments of levity, which this has acted, but one amazing one.  It also needs closure or a possibility for a sequel. This has neither. One could argue for either, but look at the film closely and it's not possible.  So what are my feelings after 30 years? About the same if i had to rate it, but more appreciation for the tension and the intentional humor, but less for the character development.  In the end a good film, but not nearly the classic it gets credit for.

My Bieber Status aka WTF Is Wrong With Us?

Don't get me wrong, I posted a joke, but the amount of energy spent on comments on Justin Bieber today is a direct reflection of our society's decay. We have tens of millions who are sick without care, tens of millions poor and hungry, hundreds of thousands of veterans not getting proper care, over a million out of work with benefits cut and a congress who is paid to stand up fir them on vacation two weeks after returning from one. I saw no posts about anything important, but tons about Bieber, reality stars, homeless animals and, as I am guilty myself, discussions of food excesses. I am not complaining for myself and I know I don't change many minds via Facebook, but lets really grasp what the likes of MLK were saying when we think of others first. Even if it's once a day.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Free Writing - Take 33

Snow day or not? Of course it will be, but I sit, checking the sites for new information.  My class of kindergarteners will be missed, but maybe some day sleeping will be in order. So bored and sleepy, but when the head hits the pillow it's thoughts galore. A random hug, a look and a smirk. Crazy. The thoughts and memories as fuzzy as the moment. A sharp pain in my temple. This headache that has lasted for days. Subtle but persistent.  Typing away with just a thumb, stopping to bite an egg sandwich. Dinner was ten hours ago, yet the morning started without a yawn or stretch. I'm off, for hopefully an hour, maybe two. Goodnight!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sorry I Forgot Your Birthday Mom!

Mom died at the much too young age of 62. On Monday, she would have been 72. Ten birthdays and each one I've had a moment, spoken to her and told her I missed her and on most occasions, made a toast to her memory.  This Monday, my personal woes, my ineptitude in handling certain things intelligently and my overall dissatisfaction with this new year, caused me to forget.

I woke up Tuesday morning and it as the first thing I thought of. Sadness, regret and a little bit of shame overcame me. As the week has gone by, it's gnawed at me. It's caused me to feel a little lost. I think it's because she had always been my rock and I needed her, but couldn't and it caused my mind to become cloudy. She'd of course forgiven me by now and I'd have made it up by making her laugh, but I don't have those realities anymore. I only have memories, do to forget brings me immense sadness.

Time alone always takes me back to better times, but also to worse. To her failing health, but to her powerful will. I suffer life's bump and they are growing bigger and bigger, starting to feel insurmountable and then I think of how she laughed at her six months to live diagnosis and battled on four years. But then, I think of the reality, in the end it won. Monday was a reminder of the fact even the strongest lose sometimes. I just hope I can battle as she did and return to a time when memories were good. All good.

Quickie Review - Dead Hooker in a Trunk

Listen, if you went into a movie called Dead Hooker in a Trunk thinking Meryl Streep, you watched the wrong video. The same way I embraced movies like the Exterminator & Maniac back in the day is how I went into this. I had already seen the Soska's brilliant film American Mary, so I knew what I was going to get. Strong women, crazy violence with just enough humor to add levity to twisted actions by the Twisted Twins. The great thing about the film is you start off disliking all the characters for their depravity, but grow to love them for their honor, virtue & loyalty, both to each other and their quest. Is the movie great? Not compared to Kubrick & Scorsese, but for a debut film it rivaled other over the top low budget films
 like El Mariachi, Hobo with a Shotgun & Bellflower. A must see for fans of grindhouse.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Quickie Review - You're Next

Here's what's brilliant about You're Next. It isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, but in doing so, comes close to horror movie perfection. The incredible thing about it is the number of laughs you get watching a movie that is filled with violence and gore. The writer and director makes sure you like the right people and hate the rest, so when they meet their demise, you find yourself cheering. If you don't love Sharni Vinson after 30 minutes, you're not a horror fan. She is magnificent. The opening scene makes no sense once you get what is happening and the whole mask thing is also a bit silly, but it works.

Super Quickie Review - Prisoners

As always, no spoilers

Very confused by the love for this film. Gyllenhaal appears to be mailing it in and had me craving his End of Call performance. The rest of the cast seems almost afraid to let go, always showing odd restraint considering the subject matter. The thing that really frustrated me was the predictable ending. I had heard so much of the twists and turns that I really expected an out of left field ending. Sadly I figured it out completely by about an hour in. The standout performance is actually Paul Dano, despite his limited actual screen time. Very disappointed in a movie I expected a lot from.

I should add, that when I watch thrillers, I do go into crazed detective mode. I analyze everything and sometimes the amateurish symbolism is just too damn obvious. This movie literally gave everything away, so the ending was not shocking in any way. At least for me. Maybe I need to work on shutting the brain down.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Free Writing - Take 32 (Mobile Edition)

4:04? The last time I glanced at the clock it was 3:03 and the time before that 12:06 and before that 8:23.  Simplicity called tonight. Sauteed chopped onions cooked away as I sipped a rare cup of tea, English breakfast. Ground beef was added, it's fat rendering while spice after spice was added. The tender hot meat, laid atop crunchy lettuce. That was all.  A short nap with a dream of whiteness. Snow outside a cabin window. A fire roaring, three ladies laughing, sipping wine, while I cook something to nibble on. A loud slam and I jump. The all too familiar door. My new coffee pot. New coffee. New life? I open a fortune cookie and it tells me good news. I will find happiness, but internal or external?

Super Quickie Review - Vengeance

Never in my life have I watched a more uneven movie. Incredible opening scene, followed by 40 minutes of horrid dialogue, awful acting and pure nothingness. Weird shootouts, in which blood is powder and nobody feels pain is then followed by scenes of agony. The worst is the little plot twist, which cones out of left field, yet is integral in that it sets up the three best scenes in the film. As a buddy film it works, but the action is silly. I'm actually mesmerized by the mess that this is and wish I could teach a course, just on this movie alone.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The World's End & Why I Don't Like Comedies

The World's End is the prototypical comedy for today's generation. Start strong give half an effort in the middle and flush it down the toilet in the end. The ADHD generation needs only to laugh two or three times in the first few frames and their hooked.

Quirky in that everything is foreshadowed in one way or another, it still misses the mark and feels like a bad Shaun of the Dead remake...which is brilliant. The movie is laugh out loud funny for the first 25-30 minutes and laughs continue, right up until the Pierce Brosnan scene. The jokes then become predictable and silly. The greatest saving grace is that the entire cast is likable beyond belief. Pegg & Frost have incredible chemistry and the others feed off of them.

In all, a letdown, but for fans of the trilogy, it's a must.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Quickie Review - Valhalla Rising

Nicolas Winding Refn is becoming a director everyone should know. Most will recognize him for the Gosling film, Drive, but he's a force. I recently viewed Bronson, which blew me away, but more for Thomas Hardy's tour-de-force than anything else. So I dove into Valhalla Rising with no expectations, but much anticipation.

Christians will hate it.  Monotheists will question it. Atheists will appreciate it. Religious scholars and those of us who appreciate, but question that indefinable and fuzzy concept of "faith," will ingest it and let it dance on our tongues, for this movie is all about the search. Not for THE god, but of salvation. For that one thing all believers relish and that is, direction. In life. In spirituality and in understanding.

Using Norse mythology as it's guide, Valhalla Rising takes us on multiple journeys all at once. Without knowledge of Odin and his tormentors, his son Baldr and the mythical Hel, one might find this narrative silly, but it is wisdom in chaos. Like all religion, it us control over anarchy, but this movie shows it from one side, but always the side looking for answers. A movie so unrefined on the outside, like some bad peyote trip, but so clear in it's ulterior message. It must be seen to be understood (and misunderstood) and much like the movie itself, and religion for that matter, words don't make any more sense of the topic without experience.