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 finally.....next 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

Gone.

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 word....wow. 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