Friday, September 11, 2015

Say Uncle!

So Guy Ritchie has taken time off of making the new Sherlock Holmes film to direct The Man from U.N.C.L.E. This is based off of a 60's television show and stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, but Jared Harris and Hugh Grant make delightful appearances. So if you've never seen a Guy Ritchie film, this is a pretty good one to start out with. Henry Cavill (CIA agent) was amazing; I haven't seen a more competent, gentleman like spy with class, taste and confidence that was really good in a very long time (not even James Bond holds a candle to this guy). His character was a lot of fun and a good foil to Armie Hammer's character, the KJB agent, who came off very tough and intelligent like a Soviet agent, but had a character was very empathetic as well. These two men were the best part of the entire film, although the villainess was incredible. The love interest and third member of the party played by Alicia Vikander known as Gaby, was obnoxious most of the duration of the film, but she have a good ending for her character. The film is about a CIA and KJB agent who work together to stop a bunch of Nazi sympathizers from setting off a nuclear bomb. The plot was good, and had fairly good pace with an opening that put several James Bond intros to shame. It was shot dynamically with fairly good cinematography, but since it is a Guy Ritchie film that is to be expected, and the film definitely had his flair to it. By the way if you don't like the director, don't watch this film. The score was a lot of fun as well by Daniel Pemberton, and the music that was selected for the film as well; very good. The film was a lot of fun, and definitely a good date film; something I would recommend. My biggest complaint is that at times the screen split a few different ways which was kind of irritating as it was showing different angles all at once, but it is easily overlooked. The overall look of the film was great, and although it's not an Academy Award winning film, it was a whole lot of fun which is more than what I can say for most Oscar nominated films. Since I haven't written in such a long period of time, I am back in San Diego, California after many years so that has been delightful even though it has been ridiculously hot here lately. I will soon be beginning my new career and my new/old life with hopefully no hitches....or rather not very many.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailer

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. clip

Spectre trailer

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"I Miss Myself...."

I have never worked with or spoken with an individual who has Alzheimer's disease, although I did work with an elderly woman in the psychiatric hospital who had dementia and that was quite challenging. In Still Alice the audience starts out with an advantage over the main character, kind of like the Titanic; we already know what's coming. However it doesn't minimize the angst that one feels for this character, and seeing such an incredibly bright and talented woman lose nearly all her cognitive function is very heart wrenching. Julianne Moore did an excellent job with the character she was playing; you could see the decline slowly coming until she could barely utter a word. Her character, Alice, is a brilliant scientist who finds out she has early onset Alzheimer's disease at age 50, and the film explores how she and her family handle the disease and all of the problems that come along with it. Alec Baldwin was the husband and he did a good job with the character, albeit he was rather static, as were most of the other characters in the film. Kristen Stewart played one of Alice's daughters, and her character actually was the most interesting aside from Julianne Moore's character, which shocks me now that I consider it (I'm not a very huge Kristen Stewart fan). Kate Bosworth has a small role as another one of Alice's children, but her character was also kind of flat. If they had written and fleshed it out more she could have really shined; there was a lot of potential there. The film was.....okay I suppose; it wasn't bad, but it wasn't really that great either. Julianne Moore delivered a great performance, but I don't think she should have taken home the Oscar, which I believe should have gone to Rosamund Pike instead for her work in Gone Girl. The film was actually quite short too which surprised me at one hour and thirty minutes approximately. The ending, which was lame, happened so abruptly that I didn't even realize it until I saw the credits rolling, and I was thinking, "what in the world, I just looked down for a moment to text something on my phone really quick...," but there it went. So I would say that what would have tremendously helped this film be great was about a half hour more of film time, and some better writing of the secondary characters where they are fleshed out more, and also writing more of how they're dealing with Alice's drifting away from reality. A great idea for a film but not really executed the best; and there weren't any technical elements that stood out that well either in the film. Summarizing it as a whole, it was a very lukewarm picture; Julianne Moore's performance is the only reason to watch the film, aside from getting a beginner's grasp on what Alzheimer's may manifest like in people.

Still Alice trailer

Still Alice film clip

Still Alice interviews

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"...Open Your Balls...?"

So...after watching the film Mortdecai I am still not sure what that phrase (title of the blog) means, but I do have a good idea or two. It was definitely not a typical role for Johnny Depp as the lead character who is a master art dealer in the seedy underworld, but quite a British eccentric to be sure and pulls of the dainty behavior and mindset quite well. Gwyneth Paltrow as the lovely wife of Mortdecai was perfect, and the two I thought had really good on-screen chemistry along with really good quips and dialog. Paul Bettany as Jock the loyal, British manservant was a good choice, and although his character was meant to be flat and a comedic pairing with Mr. Depp, I think they could have done better with his character. Ewan McGregor played an Mi5 inspector who has a crush on Ms. Paltrow's character and dislikes Mortdecai, but recruits his help for locating a missing painting could be worth far more than anyone knows. He of course was amazing as always, and that's about it; his character was rather flat. The rest of the casting was good, but there was a lovely cameo role done by Jeff Goldblum which was very delightful; a shame that wasn't expanded upon. So the film is a comedy and I laughed a number of times, but it wasn't really that great. It actually had the potential to be really amazing, but it was written and shot so poorly; it was only the amazing cast that was able to save any measure of the film to make it interesting or humorous. I thought all of the characters were great and relatively thought out well, but the direction the film was taken was just not that good, and the director really did the film a great disservice. Mortdecai reminded me of a Marx Brothers' movie called Animal Crackers and that's what the film I think may have been trying to be like, but I personally think they should have gone a more serious route than so obviously filled with stupid hilarity, but it could have been much worse. I think I could watch it again, it was funny and interesting, but not that great; so if you like funny you'll probably enjoy this film, and I think it would work as a really good date film since it doesn't take itself quite so seriously.

Mortdecai trailer

Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow interview

Spectre trailer (looks very interesting)

Monday, July 20, 2015

"Were You Rushing or Were You Dragging?"

I can definitely state with absolute certainty that J.K. Simmons deserves the Academy Award that he won playing the character he did in Whiplash. Wow what a performance. He's come a long way since Spider-Man and Red Alert 3 (PC strategy game that I've played; very enjoyable). The story is about a young man who attends a music college as a drummer and ends up in the band of one of the leading and best instructors in the country. Okay, Miles Teller also deserves a huge nod for his performance as well; his character grows so much from the beginning of the film to the end of it. So this kid expects it to be the greatest opportunity ever, but very quickly he finds out this man isn't what he quite thought he was. The kid continues to push and push himself as his instructor also pushes and pushes the kid to become perfect. It comes to blood, sweat, personal sacrifices and tears but he pushes himself so far that he doesn't see his own self-destruction happening around him. It is a powerful story about strength of willpower and the tenacious drive for perfection in one's craft, not to mention testing and breaking one's limits. I always tell people to know their breaking point and be conscious of it; usually I did this when doing counseling in my previous mental health jobs, but it works pretty good in general life as well I have discovered. I don't believe I was bored during the entire film and it kept my attention constantly I have to say most of the time. It was well written with a good plot, good dialog, and good characters....but mostly J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller. And I have to say that there were a lot of twists and turns throughout the film that I didn't expect, and the ending was amazing, simply amazing. Who'd ever thought I would have loved a film about a drummer in a music band, but I did and highly recommend people to watch it. Now, it is not a nice, soft, fluffy film so it does take a fair amount of gumption to watch due to the psychological and verbal torment that is unleashed by Simmon's character on various individuals throughout the film. That said, it does have an interesting philosophy behind the harsh behavior towards the students, I believe Simmon's character states that..."there are no two words more harmful in the English language than 'good job.'" I don't know, combating mediocrity can be difficult so some pushing is necessary, but then at the same time one can always push too hard; I guess people have to decide what is more important in their lives.

Whiplash trailer

Whiplash rushing or dragging scene

Whiplash interviews

Sunday, July 19, 2015

You've Never Seen a Harvest Quite Like This One.

The unfortunate thing about Jupiter Ascending was that I went into it with the predisposition that it was going to be a relatively dreadful film, but I had heard mixed reviews and thus was willing to at least give it a shot. Well....I came, I saw, I didn't quite enjoy. It wasn't a positively dreadful film, but it wasn't that great either; it was also incredibly trite and very un-original with it's writing, plot points, and action sequences. The only thing that seemed original were the visuals of the science fiction aspect of the film, which at times came off as a rather laughable at times so not quite a triumph there very much. I have to say the Wachowskis aren't faring very well as of late with their films; it seems almost that they'll only ever have The Matrix trilogy as a credit to their name. Right from the get go the Wachowskis made 2 mistakes; Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum (although he wasn't as bad as she was). I guarantee if these two individuals hadn't been in the film it would have been 25% better. She plays a Cinderalla/Snow White type character with a huge twist, but she eschews her royalty when she discovers it and would rather hang with the "bad boy" which is a spliced human being with something similar to a dog providing him with heightened senses and fighting prowess. Here Channing Tatum as the flying, gun toting bodyguard is able to defy all of the odds thrown at him and keep surviving inescapably insurmountable odds to kill him again, and again, and yet again.

I would try to provide an explanation of the film's story and plot line but it's heavily convoluted and wasn't explained that well in the film. Bascially, Jupiter (Mila Kunis) is a genetically reincarnated royal version of a woman who lived for 95,000 years and she inherits a lot of......planets and wealth of some sort, I think. Anyways, Earth is one of those planets, and due to its vast "resources" it is contested between 3 siblings who want the planet's wealth for themselves and will do anything to acquire it. Channing Tatum is there to at first bring Jupiter to one of the siblings, but then she and he end up falling for each other and he becomes her knight in shining armor several times. That's it. Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax (one of the siblings trying to kill Jupiter) stands out as the best part of the entire film, and one of the most interesting characters. It's hard to say if he was villain or just a person with a tragic like story, but he really made that film bearable, and it was a pity that they didn't do more with his character. And I'm going to make a major spoiler right here, Sean Bean played a character that didn't die! I kept waiting and wondering when he was going to die, but I was surprisingly delighted when he didn't, and then irritatingly enough his character vanished into the background like many others in the film left unresolved. As I mentioned already the story, writing, and plot were atrocious; how Eddie Redmayne made it work God only knows. The visual style of the world created by the Wachowskis was pretty good, and overall the idea was good but the execution of it was quite poor. Michael Giacchino did a relatively fine job with film composition, but it reminded me a lot of Star Trek and there were really no motifs that stood out, but his use of choral was divine even though disjointed at times with where it was utilized. Definitely not a film I would recommend people to watch, but it was mildly entertaining I suppose. Hope the Wachowski's film is better, and I have yet to see a film I enjoy Mila Kunis in.

Jupiter Ascending trailer

Jupiter Ascending interview

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailer (looks potentially good) 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Power of Music.

The other day I was trying to find something to watch and I came upon this French film Les choristes or The Chorus which was nominated for a couple of Oscars a number of years ago that I hadn't been able to see yet. However, I flipped a few buttons and there it was so I watched it. First of all let me say that the music my Bruno Coulais (also did the film score for Coraline) was amazing; I have been listening to it for years, and hearing it along with the action on the film was very cool. Basically, the story is about a man who in 1949 France goes to work at a type of boys reform school and in the midst of the struggles that he and staff are going through to mostly help the boys, he starts a choir and composes music for the boys to sing. As the film progresses and the boys begin to learn the music and harmonize together, the staff's attitude changes as does most of the young boys. Amazing and heart stirring performances by the cast, which of course are all French; Gerard Jugnot (Clement Mathieu), Francois Berleand (Rachin), and Jean-Baptiste Maunier (Pierre Morhange). It definitely is worth watching and it reminded me of what it was like working in such an environment with kids; the good and the bad when I was a staff at a long term residential facility for severely emotionally disturbed children. The film kept my attention the entire time, was relatively well paced, good characters, good writing and good character development, and even the ending was good without being trite surprisingly. I highly recommend the film, and yes please watch it in subtitles you'll not even notice them after getting absorbed into the film.

 Les Choristes trailer

Select track from Les Choristes score

Scene from Les Choristes

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

To Catch a Fox.

It's hard to believe that July is half over already. There are only 5 and a half months left of 2015; I swear I need to learn a trick that makes time go by slower. So I typically don't care for films that are about athletics in general; I find that they are on average trite and rather boring, not to mention very similar to each other in themes and plot. Foxcatcher was maybe not like a lot of athletic themed films I've seen, but I do have to say that I was bored for all 2 hours and 13 minutes of the film; no offense to the memories of the lives with which the film is based. Channing Tatum plays an Olympic wrestler, Mark Schultz, down a little on his luck who is picked up by a very wealthy philanthropist who takes him in and helps pay for his expenses and trains him as a mentor figure. John du Pont, played by Steve Carell, is a man who knows what he wants and will do what he can to acquire it. Mark Ruffalo, Dave Schultz, as Mark's brother is essentially the man's moral compass and center of balance who helps him find it despite what is going on. So, now these three characters and actors were the main attractions to the film. All three of them gave wonderful performances, although I suppose that is rather ridiculous to state as I never met or seen the real people that this film and its characters are based off of, but it appeared as if they did quite good, especially Carell who typically takes on more comedic roles than serious ones, and he got this one perfectly. Compared to Ruffalo and Tatum there is constantly so much going on in Carell's performance, but that might be because his character has a lot more depth than the other two. Based on what I saw and then what I read up on concerning the real people, I have a few ideas concerning psychological difficulties and negative behavioral patterns and thoughts the real John du Pont might have experienced, but all I will say is that he probably despised his mother and had a lot of repressed sexual and violent tension stored up internally due to probably lack of parental relational intimacy and inability to form meaningful, healthy, long term relationships. That however has nothing to do with the film, I digress. Like I mentioned about, I was bored the entire time I was watching the film; the performances were great, but the characters themselves were not that interesting (once again, no offense to the real people that they are based off of). Based on all of that I don't really know what to say about the rest of the technical elements of the film since I considered it completely boring the whole time; I can't say that I would recommend people watch it, although Steve Carell's performance was something to see. In other news, the world still doesn't seem to be improving regarding war, death, violence, and loss of liberty; although apparently President Obama and his Cabinet worked to create an accord with Iran to prevent nuclear weapon advances for at least 15 years. I'm kind of curious though what happens after 15 years, and when Iran's current Supreme leader dies, which should be before that stretch of time. Anyways, much to think about hopefully everyone is staying informed and not using social media as their main source of news. Please use these sources for good news services: PBS Newshour, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BBC, and Al Jazeera (Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN only care about ratings and are extremely biased which affects what news they show and how they present the facts).

Foxcatcher trailer

The real John du Pont

Suicide Squad trailer (looks...interesting)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Thinking of Tomorrow.

I watched Edge of Tomorrow with very few expectations and not really understanding what the film was all about. Honestly, I am very uncertain what I think of the film. I didn't like the first part, but liked the second half of the film. I really found the concept of the film fascinating, but would argue that their delivery of it wasn't quite too successful. Tom Cruise starts out as a spineless officer pressed into combat, of which he has no experience against an alien invasion . Their plan is a major offensive (think D-day like WWII, and it is essentially the same place they're attacking; the beeches of France) after which the military is hoping to seize the day for victory. So, the attack in France ends up being a slaughter for humanity and Tom Cruise's character ends up dying but not before he kills one of the aliens which imparts to him the ability to restart the day to a certain point. This he continues to do as he dies learning more and more. Through the course of this, he finds a woman, played by Emily Blunt, who is one of the toughest soldiers and has shared a similar experience with him. Together they fight, train, and die, and die, and die, and die, and die, and die, and die until they reach the end goal. Tom Cruise's character dies a lot, and they did a great job making the audience feel the visceral stress of what he was going through time and time again as he was the only one who never forgot anything of what he experienced. The film pretty much revolves around those two characters, and both of them do a great job. The secondary characters are good; Brendan Gleeson makes a nice appearance as does Bill Paxton. The visual effects were pretty good, and the action wasn't half bad I suppose, although rather dull after you've seen it the tenth time, or some variation of it. The aliens were interesting with a fascinating concept, although it was never revealed what their intentions are for invading Earth, and if more of them would be coming in the future. Doug Liman who directed the film is no stranger to action films (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Jumper. He did a relatively good job at directing the film and what not, but I have to say what I think was the overall problem of the film was the story and the direction of the plot. The majority of the time of the film was spent on the plot mechanic, not exploring the characters or motivations of the villains. If the film was going to center on mainly just two characters it should have been written entirely differently and I think that's what ultimately led to it's rather tepid box office performance and critical reception. I also have to say that the ending was rather weak as well, but had the potential to be really good if they had played it differently. It definitely became an entertaining film once I got about 35-40 minutes into it, up until that point though I was very annoyed. In essence it was an okay film, and I love Emily Blunt, so I would watch it again just to see her performance; everything else I could live without. So bad news this weekend that was overshadowed; the radical terrorist group ISIS performed 3 terrorist attacks on three different continents and killed many people. Their ability to coordinate such a series of attacks is very disturbing, and I think what is more disturbing is that people don't seem to really care. The more time goes on, ISIS reminds me more and more of the Brotherhood of Nod (Google it), and even though it is fictional, to me the radical ideas won't go away, nor will the organization; it will only continue to grow and become stronger. I did experience some personal good news though; I turned in the last assignment for graduate school today. I am officially done with work on my Master's degree; a near lifetime goal has been realized step years from now though is a Ph.D. but not for a long time; I am so over school.

Edge of Tomorrow trailer

Legend trailer (looks good for a British mafia film)

Phoenix trailer (looks amazing, but quite intense)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Second time not the Charm.

So every now and then I watch movies that I originally saw in the theatre to see if I really didn't like them. Sometimes I get lucky, I think that makes sense, and I turn out to like the movie, or what happens most of the time, I end up not liking it even more. The first Pirates of the Caribbean film, Inception, and The Prestige were all films that grew on me. I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to see if I still didn't like it, and it turned out that I still don't like it, but it was better than the first time I believe. The screenplay could have been much, much better, but when it comes down to it, I think Marc Webb failed as a director, which I suppose happens; hey, even Martin Campbell fails (Green Lantern). Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are very talented individuals, as are Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan, so I really don't think it was a reflection too much upon them, although some of them could have done a better job with delivering the lines. The scenes between Harry and Peter seemed awkward and forced, and then with Stacy and Peter it seemed too...sugary and like a joke; there was none of the drama from the other film that really permeated in an effective way. The parts with his aunt and parents just seemed like they were tossed in there, as were the villains as well, even though Jamie Foxx was awesome! I think he may be the best part of the entire film. There just seemed to be far too many things going on and nothing really brought it all together to forge something seamless, which does tend to weigh more on the director's shoulders. Wasn't a fan of the music still either, which was Hans Zimmer; James Horner did better with the score for the first film. So if you haven't seen it you aren't missing anything, but it is entertaining I suppose and not too painful, although there are some scenes that are just too much. Anyways it doesn't matter as they are apparently rebooting the franchise and killing the "Sinister Six" spin-off from what I understand. Poor Sony just can't catch a break (they own the film rights to Spider-Man, Fox owns the film rights to X-Men, and then I think Disney owns everything else Marvel). The era of comic book films continues....Ant Man, need I say anymore. Oh, I would like to briefly mention the death of James Horner, one of the finest film composers ever. He's up there with Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and Alan Silvestri. Some of my favorite compositions are: The Wrath of Khan, Krull, Willow, The Mask of Zorro, The Amazing Spider-Man, Troy, and of course Titanic. He was a musical genius and was one of the few film composers that really knew how to compose themes and motifs that were always spot on. He may always be remembered for Titanic, but I will always remember all of the work he did with fantasy and science fiction films. May the Force be with him.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 preview

James Horner music tribute

James Horner interview

Monday, June 22, 2015

Death by Treachery.

Something occurred to me this morning while I was finishing up season 5 of Game of Thrones; all of the Stark family members tend to die because they are betrayed and don't see their death coming until it is upon them. All of those who have died from that family, even before the series began (Ned Stark's elder brother and father) were stabbed in the back, and in season 5 it apparently stays true to form. I was surprised by all of the people who perished in this season and the fate of those left dangling. I think some real story and character progress was also made despite some still slow going on that front in some cases. At the same time there was some surprises this season as well including: child sacrifice (Greek King Agamemnon did this to gain favorable winds to reach Troy), death of one of the series' most popular characters (won't spoil it for those who do not wish), a vicious walk of shame during which the character was completely, and I mean completely naked, other things that I can't write due to spoilers, and of course the typically Game of Thrones garden variety violent sex and rape scenes as well. Apparently, according to a source I read George R.R. Martin thinks it's ridiculous that people complain about graphic, sexual deviancy being present and detailed in the books, but don't apparently care about the brutal and graphic violence that is also much more prevalent within the books and series as well. A very fascinating thought actually if you consider it. The writing continues to remain excellent, and I honestly believe the series has gotten better since the beginning of season 4, but was getting there in season 3. The action sequences were much better plotted and thought out; I like the one particularly when they fight a monstrous horde of dead people and white walkers in the frozen tundra. It was quite spectacular, especially the end of that sequence. The acting is of course brilliant with this season having new faces like: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jonathan Pryce, and Alexander Siddig to name a few. Notably absent though from this season oddly enough was Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead), which actually I find very odd considering how important his role seems to be based on season 4. It's weird, all of the characters keep saying that winter is coming and that it is going to be the hardest one in decades, but to me it seems as if we're finally getting though the "winter." I read somewhere that the writers and producers of the show want 7-8 seasons of the show, which mean there is only potentially 2 or 3 seasons remaining, which means hope is on the horizon. It's a writer's trick; rob the people of all hope and slowly chip away those characters that they care about, and then at the very end unleash a wellspring of goodness; it's that catharsis that everyone yearns for, and makes the ending, the characters remaining that much better. And honestly even in the show enough events were set in motion (lots of people dying has that effect) that I can see issues becoming resolved rather than deepening. It should be interesting to see how they do the next couple of seasons as there are no currently published books to direct them where to go, or people are uncertain of the path they will take; Mr. Martin might come out with the next book Winds of Winter in the spring of next year. Well, hate it or love it, this show has definitely changed the world of the small screen and the television series put on it forever.

Game of Thrones Season 5: Daenerys meets Tyrion

Game of Thrones meet the real villain of the series....I think.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"...Unclouded by Conscience, Remorse, or Delusions of Morality....."

So there is this series that I have been watching called Hollywood's Best Directors, and I was watching one episode on Ridley Scott and he talked a lot about making the film Alien and what all it took, so suddenly I had a hankering to watch the science fiction classic again. Granted as I watched the film, it looked incredibly dated to the 1970's, but there were a lot of elements that still looked quite great. The Alien eggs, the Alien.....thing that wraps around the mouth and head, and of course the gritty inside of the main ship, and lastly, the crashed Alien ship on the planet. Now, what is also interesting seeing it again after so many years is that I have seen Prometheus quite a few times and seeing what leads up is very cool even if all of it doesn't seem to really add up 100%. It was odd seeing Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, and Ian Holm looking so incredibly young and not quite yet at the top of their acting game. It was amazing as I watched the film that I still jumped and freaked out as many times as I did as some of it was classic horror and I should have known that it was coming. You know there is something about science fiction films from the 1980's (1979 was close enough) that are unlike science fiction from any other era and I'm not sure why. I guess it's why westerns from the sixties and fifties are perhaps the best as well; maybe each film genre is only good during a specific period of time for a while and then after that most are only mediocre. One thing that I was disappointed with supremely was the score by Jerry Goldsmith; there was nothing memorable about the score really, which is unusual for Mr. Goldsmith as he was one of the finest film composers in the business, and especially with this genre being what he seemed to excel at composing. I keep hearing that Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection aren't worth watching, but since my brother in-law got all four in a box I figure I might as well give it a shot. One more week left of graduate school and then I will be done. Wow! I have been waiting for this moment since I began college back in 2004, and now it all seems a little anti-climatic. Hopefully that all will change in the next couple of months.

Alien scene

Alien scene 2

Ridley Scott on Alien

Friday, June 19, 2015

Family Drama with a Twist.

Starting off with some good news, I was informed that my Master's project was accepted as is so that's it; the hardest part of my Master's degree is really finished. Now I just have to finish this one last class and then I don't have to worry about school again until I go back for my doctorate, which will be a long time from now. So I watched This is Where I Leave You which is a dark comedy film about a family that comes together for mourning after the father dies, but the catch is that they're bringing all of their crap along with them and they have to stay at their mother's home for 7 days (the Jewish morning period or something like that). Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Corey Stoll (House of Cards), and Adam Driver (Star Wars 7) play the 4 children and the mother. As you can imagine there was a lot of shouting, a lot of fighting, and a lot of crude language. The acting was great, the characters rather interesting, although Jason Bateman's character was the most interesting to me, but that was because I think I could identify with him the most. It was funny a lot, but it wasn't go happy lucky humor, or even that kind of a pace. There were quite a few deep dramatic moments, some that were quite touching. In that regard the writing was relatively good, not fantastic, but pretty good I have to say, and the film did a fairly good job of keeping up pace and holding my attention. It was also interesting to see Adam Driver play the type of character he did before I shall see him playing a villain in the new Star Wars film (Kylo Ren; the guy with the cross like lightsaber). Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn, Abigail Spencer, and Timothy Olyphant were really quite excellent in their supporting roles as well. All in all, it was a good story; I suppose what I like about it is the notion that a messed up family with all of their individual problems can come together and find a way to love and care about each other in a meaningful way. That catharsis is something I believe everyone deep down truly wants.....and a little humor helps it go down easier. This film could be hit or miss with most people; I would watch it again and I enjoyed it, but at the same time I could see how it would not be for everyone.

This is Where I Leave You trailer

Sicario trailer (looks like it has some good potential)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Caprice ala David Garrett.

Until I heard of David Garrett (one of the top violinists in the world currently) and I didn't really know who Niccolo Paganini was. This man was a maverick of his time as a composer and violin virtuoso as he came to age in Napoleonic era Europe. I am uncertain about how accurate the film is to the man, but based on what I read, the particulars and the spirit was very much the same as the man truly might have been according to recollections. If you don't know who David Garrett is, then YouTube him; he is an amazing violinist from Germany, and an excellent performer. I went to one of his concerts in Chicago and it was amazing. His acting wasn't the best in the world, but when he played the violin as the character it was quite powerful; he appeared to look and act the part that he was playing, but not the best with dialog. I can forgive him of that since he is a musician first and foremost. Jared Harris played what could be considered his manager, but he was something much more than that. I am actually a little confused about the character, unless you take quite literally what happens during the course of the film, but he did a good job irregardless. Joely Richardson had a lovely supporting role as a London Times reporter, which was fun to see her in. The supporting cast was alright, but the main attraction was David Garrett and the music of course of Maestro Paganini, which did not disappoint. Technically the film was okay; nothing astounding, although there were some shots peppered throughout the entire film which were spectacular, especially the last sequence in the film. The music of the film is on Spotify if you'd care to sample the David Garrett adaptation of a musical genius, which I highly recommend as I am listening to it now. It was a very enjoyable film experience and I would definitely watch it again, but I have to warn you that it is very dramatic and doesn't have per se a happy ending, but follows the tragic end of typical creative geniuses before their time.

Scene from The Devil's Violinist

The Devil's Violinist trailer

Crimson Peak trailer

Knight of the Old Republic: Fallen Empire game trailer (It's very interesting for Star Wars).

Monday, June 15, 2015


So I actually have very good news for once, last Thursday I successfully presented by Master's project and paper to my review board, and they not only liked the presentation but also stated that I did an excellent job with my paper, and that I should indeed "give myself a pat on the back." Essentially the most difficult part of my Master's degree is now over, which since starting back in 2013 was a huge weight on my shoulders, now I have this great feeling of relief washed over me. Now I just have to get through the next couple of months and get myself settled somewhere else than where I currently am. The year is essentially half over today; time has just flown by this year thus far. I finally sat down this evening and watched a move which had been sitting on my blu-ray player since April; Gone Girl. I can sum up my entire viewing experience of that film in just one Rosamund Pike should have gotten the Academy Award for her performance in this film; she was astounding! For those of you who don't know, she plays a woman who is missing and presumed dead for which her husband gets the blame for, played by Ben Affleck. It's amazing that Mr. Affleck is staging as big of a come back as he is; his performance was equally astounding, and the two had such brilliant on-screen chemistry. These two were the main reasons to watch the film, although there were excellent performances from the supporting cast such as: Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Missi Pyle, and David Clennon. David Fincher directed the film, and I have to say he did an amazing job of it. The writing was perfection; Gillian Flynn who wrote the novel also wrote the screenplay, and he did an excellent job with it. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the music, neither of which I care for the music they compose or their style, but the music they came up with for this film seemed to work quite well, so I guess you can't argue with that. I will say that I won't be listening to their score anytime soon though. It was a very well done film which grabbed and then held my attention for pretty much its duration, with a few slow spots in the middle. The characters are interesting, flawed and dynamic, and the story is oh so compelling. It isn't a funny hahah film, and some people may not like the ending, and it is rather...disturbing at times, but all in all quite a good film. If you like well written and performed dramas then this is for you.

Gone Girl trailer

Rosamund Pike interview

Star Wars Battlefront game trailer (usually I don't post game trailers, but this does look pretty good).

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Mad World.

So I have less than a month of graduate school remaining, and I am presenting my master's project on this coming Thursday, and I am preparing to move back out West; so I have been somewhat busy and distracted, although I did leave my previous job due to stress and the desire to retain any level of sanity I possessed. Although the title of this post could double for current events in the world today, that is not my intention. I just finished watching the show Mad Men, or rather what was available on Netflix (for some reason the episodes stopped abruptly in the middle of the 7th season). A good friend of mine recommended it to me so I thought I'd try it, although based from what I heard I wasn't that thrilled about it. To be sure after I began watching the first episode I knew I was going to despise the show if it remained as it was going, but I thought I'd stick it out hoping something would happen to redeem the show. Nothing did however, and the show was as despicable as when I began watching it. I'm not going to write about how poorly the show was written, or how shoddy it was filmed or acted or presented because none of that is true; the show is technically brilliant, but that's not my problem with it. The show follows a group of men and some women from the 1960's who work in New York city in the advertising business, and it focuses on one particular character, Donald Draper, who is the quintessential chauvinistic womanizer, manipulative liar, drunken opportunist that a good many men, particularly affluent from that era are stereotyped. I would consider him worse than James Bond, as there is no honor whatsoever or higher purpose what it is that he does. One woman does rise throughout the ranks of men to an important position, but she is not really taken seriously and since she is a woman she has faults for that which impeded her ability to do a good job like a "man" could do apparently. Wives from the show (and thereby portraying women from that era) are apparently good only for raising children, sexual toys when needed, cooking and cleaning, and hosting dinner parties (although they are quite adept at cruelly gossiping as well). Married men can have sex with whoever they want and it is fine (although it is very wrong for the wife to do this), they can ignore their children and go partying with their friends and co-workers whenever they want, and this carries on into most behavior as well in general. Okay with that said, I have never watched a show that is full of more depraved characters in my entire life with the exception of Game of Thrones, although that is heavily fictional and there were at least good and redeemable characters in it. In the show Mad Men there are perhaps two solid, good characters; everyone else is basically poison. I've noticed a trend lately in television shows, films, and media in general that are popular; sex and violence. Yep that's right, Sigmund Freud's most favorite topics and that's because he was right. The majority of his research came from upper class women who didn't work and were very wealthy; women who were bored, and probably some men as well with similar circumstances. I'm not sure about the rest of the world, but in the United States people are bored, and when bored people are left to their own devices sex and violence are sure to follow. Granted this is not the de facto rule, but rather a plausible theory explaining a behavioral pattern concerning popular media consumption. I'll name a few: Game of Thrones, 50 Shades of Gray, Hemlock Grove, Master's of Sex, How to get away with Murder, American Horror Story, Penny Dreadful, Mad Men, and Orange is the New Black. Many of these shows also have either subtle nuances or are straightforward about their treatment and presentation of women as sexual toys or possessions, or less than men. I think a question needs to be asked that why are these shows rather than wholesome shows with positive characters, and more particularly heroes, are more popular and in demand? I found Mad Men more disturbing than entertaining, and I found it even more disturbing that the show is popular; why would people want to watch and enjoy a show that glorifies such a perverse lifestyle and perverse characters, and these aren't even the villains, these are the "heroes" or main characters. There is no foil to Don Draper's character; he is the worst of them. Right now I think it is safe to say that American culture is an absolute mess, and the media isn't helping as many people unfortunately take their point of behavior from popular media rather than more wholesome and wiser sources. Not sure what should change, but one thing that would help is some positive characters and heroes in popular media for people to look up to since their eyes are cast in that direction. I think that would be a good start to a very large and widespread problem.

Mad Men: Don Draper Scene

Mad Men trailer

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 trailer

Saturday, May 2, 2015

"There Are No Strings On Me."

I've been losing track of how many comic book films there have been in the past 15 years, but the number is increasing exponentially, and seems like that will be the trend for many years to come, especially as Marvel unveils its Avengers and Infinity Wars films as it interweaves all of its films together to form a cohesive universe. Irregardless, there are a lot of them. Today I saw the 2nd film in the Avengers series: The Age of Ultron. It was entertaining to be sure, but I honestly didn't enjoy it as much as I did the first film. I will say that Joss Whedon is a really good director when it comes to dynamic action sequences, though he lacks the finesse of Spielberg and Lucas. I think there was more over the top action for purely just the sake of action unlike the first film, and it was just uninteresting. I enjoyed the additional characters of The Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Ultron and wished that they could have fleshed these characters out more, as well as explored more of the Avengers than they actually did. Aside from Robert Downey Jr., the three aforementioned characters above were the best part of the entire film. Don't get me wrong, it was good and entertaining and all of that, but I think part of my struggle is that I am getting all 'comic booked out.' It's just becoming too much of the same exact thing every time; too predictable and thus boring. There were a few surprises along the way story and plot wise, but nothing too interesting or wowing. James Spader I'm sure only provided the voice for Ultron, but he was absolutely amazing and entrancing. That man is talented in so many ways. Even though they had small roles, I liked their characters immensely nonetheless; Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver) and Elizabeth Olsen (The Scarlet Witch). The film would have been much better if they had delved deeper into those two characters. The remainder of the cast was great of course, and yes Robert Downey Jr. was the main attraction, especially with what how he interacted with the other characters. The screenplay was okay, but it could have used a little more guidance in regard to the story and the plot; the entire film just seemed like one major action extravaganza. Overall, it could have used with a little more depth. The score was apparently composed by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman; not sure how they did that, but for two good composers I didn't really remember anything but the theme that was composed by Alan Silvestri for the first film. All in all I wasn't overly impressed with the film; but like I mentioned, it was entertaining and good, but nothing really great or amazing. Go see it and be entertained, but beyond that it really has no purpose, although I suppose geeks and comic book nerds will have spasms of joys galore, as well as plenty of revels.

The Avenger: Age of Ultron trailer

Star Wars Rebels season 2 trailer

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Darker Side of Justice.

My first introduction to Daredevil was in the 1990's animated Spider-Man television series when he and his alter ego Matt Murdock got Peter Parker out of a sticky situation. They did a very cool job with the character, and so later on when Ben Affleck had a go at it in a film version, I thought it would be great. Boy was I disappointed (along with nearly all film goers). I think that film deadened the Marvel comic book character for a long time, and then someone got the idea to breathe new life into the character except this time for a gritty Netflix television series rather than a major motion picture. I think they have the right idea. There are a lot of fantastic characters and stories out there (just not comic book characters and stories) that will never be necessarily well suited for a major motion picture, but rather a series. Game of Thrones is the best, shining modern day example of this philosophy; looks big budget, well written, and highly successful therefore making it the envy of many program content producers. Despite watching only one episode of the Netflix show Daredevil I have to say that I am very impressed thus far. The writing is quite good, the cinematography is also very striking making usage of shadows, light vs. dark, and a very grim inner city landscape thus far. Although I have not seen the characters fleshed out that far yet, I do have to say that my attention was pretty much captivated for nigh the entire time. Charlie Cox as the hero I think was a good choice. He provides levity, darkness, and seriousness to what comes across as a very dark character. Even though I have not yet seen the performance of Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, I can tell he will be amazing. The bad guys in this show do not mess around; pretty much said, you cross them, you die or suffer greatly. Well I cannot yet say whether or not I would recommend this show, I will say this; so far so good and I have heard a good critical response since it's release. So if you find yourself bored I think you should give it a try, although it is very dark and violent. Oh one thing that kind of bothered me were the fight scenes; the choreography was interesting and dynamic, but there was an awful lot of pounding and punching over and over again....which after a few minutes of it kind of got boring. I understand why they did that (at least I think I do), but still, it makes it less....well cool, but I suppose it does make it more realistic. I don't know; we'll see how it progresses. Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Daredevil trailer

Batman vs. Superman trailer (not sure what to think.)

Star Wars: Battlefront game trailer (usually I don't put game trailers on here, but this looks pretty good.)