Archive for January, 2011

Jan 20 2011

Movies: Not All Winners

Published by under Entertainment

I definitely had some mixed results from the last batch of movies. Is is cause I let other people pick the viewing? Possibly. Is it cause I’m running low on Hitchcock movies to watch in my netflix streaming queue? Certainly doesn’t help. Both of those items did prevent me from getting to too many of the movies for my IMDB top 50 quest, but I should be hitting some more of those again next week. Hopefully the viewing should be better. Oh, and no more romantic comedies if I can help it.

Cronos

For all intents and purposes, Cronos is a vampire movie. They don’t go so far as to say the ‘V’ word throughout the movie, but you have a man who is bitten by a bug that drinks blood and bestows on it’s host a desire for blood themselves, immortality with only a vulnerability being a pierced heart and photophobia. I don’t know about you, but those attributes sound pretty strikingly similar to a certain breed of common horror film monster. So lets just call a duck a duck. Even though the characteristics are there, they do go about it in a slightly unique way. It isn’t transfered from beast to beast. Instead, there was a gold device created (called the cronos) that was kind of a wrist watch with an insect inside that would give eternal life. The device trapped the insect and made for a nice accessory for the owner. It was directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) so I was expecting to read subtitles through the whole thing. It’s kind of a hybrid foreign film though as Ron Perlman’s character speaks English a good portion of the time. This actually was a bit off putting as they often had conversations where Ron’s character spoke English and other characters spoke Spanish. Most of the acting was pretty well done and the story was unique. The late 80′s fashion kind of made me cringe a bit, but if that’s what I am resorting to find things to pick on, it speaks well for the movie. While it doesn’t hold up to Pan’s Labyrinth in quality or story, it’s still a pretty good movie.

3.5

Despicable Me

2010 really has been a good year for family animations. Despicable Me is just another example in a seemingly extensive list of movies in this genre that I liked. Steve Carell could make a full career of doing nothing but voice over work. Some people can do wonders giving life to animations with just their voice and he would definitely make the list. I was surprised to see the list of other actors that were in the film. Many of them not sounding anything like their normal selves including Jason Segel and Russell Brand. There is a decent story with, of course, a decent message (can’t try and persuade the offspring to fall into lives of being drug dealers and prostitutes, now can we?) and there are plenty of funny moments to keep the movie moving. It was one of those movies that just seemed to fly by. I always appreciate it when we can find family friendly movies that I like. After about the billionth time of it playing, I’m not sure I’ll feel the same way, but it was good enough so I shouldn’t mind the first half dozen or so viewings.

3.5

Once Upon a Time in the West

Your typical hero draped in a white coat with a bleached hat facing off against the villain adorned in unrealistically black (considering the dusty landscape) wardrobe. Mix in a charismatic outlaw living by his own code, a strong willed, busty widow who needs some help but won’t admit it and a greedy business man trying to pull all the strings and you round out the main characters of the movie. The bad guy took me a while to place him, but still figured out that it was Peter Fonda from 12 Angry Men that I liked so well. I’m actually enjoying that I’m starting to recognize a lot of these older actors almost as much as the more current cinematic celebs. He gives another terrific performance in this movie as well. Sound ends up playing a huge part in the movie. Everything from the harmonica that main characters plays, to the sounds of water dripping and the flies in the open sequence while sitting around waiting and even to build suspense like when all the birds and insects suddenly stop making sounds right before an important scene. The harmonica was a truly interesting touch. It takes on the stereotypical old western scene where the good and the bad face off and slow, deliberate tones play to signify and build the tense moment. Instead of it being background music intended only for the viewing audience, it’s now entwined into the story line with the character providing the mood music as he plays it in many of the face of scenes. There were a few parts that were really slow in the movie, but I didn’t mind them too much. There was such a wide breadth in character types that it didn’t suffer from the same complaints I had about Casablanca with stoic male leads and frail female characters. I still have another western to watch to hit my imdb 50 quest (this movie comes in at #20) and it will be interesting to see how The Good, The Bad and The Ugly holds up to this one. As of now, this is my gold standard for westerns. A new bar is set.

4.5

The Bounty Hunter

Some how in a moment of weakness, that I don’t recall, I added this movie to my netflix queue. My sister in law (pretty sure she’s my sister in law – she’s my wife’s brother’s wife and I don’t really know what that technically makes her, but that’s not important to this post anyway) made me regret my error in judgement by selecting this movie of all to watch when she was over. But, I’ve had a really good run recently of pretty good movies so I can’t expect them all to be awesome. It’s a predictable romantic comedy that really struggles to to keep your attention and only really had a few funny moments. Maybe I’ll refer to it as a romantic semi-comedy. Yes, that’s right. I’m critisizing the funny-ness of other things with that joke. The irony is not lost on me. It doesn’t even pull the whole romantic part off all that well. I don’t think I’m giving anything a way by saying they sort of get back together at the end of the movie. But it happens in such a way that if it happened to people I knew, I would say “meh, I give them 2 weeks”.

2.0

Metropia

This is a surrealistic animation populated with disproportioned people having large heads and alien like large eyes set in a gloomy, Al Gore foretold future. Think kind of like 1984 only with mind control shampoo and no rats. It tries to be a kind of psychological thriller but meanders on at a pace that doesn’t quite fit. The animation is unique and I think the story could be quite good, but it lacked the suspense necessary to carry the whole movie. I believe what was missing was the feeling of danger. While the main character didn’t really know who to trust and was being pulled in different directions, neither one really seemed to be wanting any harm to come of him. It’s like saying “OMG, I’m gonna fall off this ledge” when in reality you are just teetering on curb a mere 6″ above the street. Doesn’t hold a lot of weight or urgency. I don’t regret watching it, but I don’t know if I would recommend any one to see it. If you wanted something visually interesting, then it’s a good watch. Or you were high. It would probably work for that too.

2.5

Just so you can get an idea of the unique animation style, I decided to embed the trailer.

The Secret of Kells

Despicable Me seemed to pass by quickly. So did The Secret of Kells, but for a different reason. It’s only 75 minutes long. It kind of came and went a little too quickly. The animation was interesting but more so since it was more artistic than visually stunning. It reminded me a lot of the animation from the cartoon network show from a few years ago, Samuri Jack. It’s kind of refreshing to see something nowadays that isn’t just cgi. There are lots of scenes where things were drawn in to look like things they weren’t. Trees grouped to look like faces and leaves to look like water. The characters were all interesting and it didn’t play out to be too serious which I was kind of expecting from it. It did have some darker scenes that really seemed to be a bit scary for younger kids but nothing that was objectionable. I kind of did expect more from the story though and the ending was kind of disappointing, but overall a pretty decent movie.

3.5

I believe the local cinema group is going to have a viewing of The Secret of Kells this spring. I don’t think it’s a big secret that I won’t be there to see it.

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Jan 12 2011

Zooks Chat

Published by under Personal

Well, because she won’t. I’m kinda on a posting binge this week for me anyway.

Zooks: T and I are sharing a room at the Harrah’s in STL this weekend
you should come down and video for us
;)
me: Sold
Zooks: oh sure now you talk to me
me: I talk to you all the time
Zooks: uh huh
me: hmm or maybe that’s those other voices
Zooks: more than likely
me: So you need me to document the debauchery for posterity?
Zooks: someone has to do it
me: Sounds as good of a gig as any
Zooks: better actually
me: I’ll try and sell it to the wife
Zooks: hahahahahhaha
me: Is it better to ask permission via Twitter or blog post?
Zooks: both, make sure you cover all the bases so she can’t say she didn’t see it when you don’t get an answer and go anyway
usually asking for forgiveness is best
that way you at least no what you’re getting divorced over
me: This is going to be my official “blame” record, BTW
Gonna totally sound like my kids when I say “zooks said it was ok”
Zooks: hahahahahahahha

Well, since this auto posts to my twitter, I guess I got both covered. See you Monday!

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Jan 12 2011

Bring the Hate

Published by under Entertainment,Tech

Netflix posted this morning basically saying “We tried to give you Facebook integration to share stuff but it’s not being used, WTF? We are gonna take our ball and try again.” I’m paraphrasing, of course.

Then comes the hate. There were about 20 comments that came in the first hour and only 1 of them was like “Hey, I used this and it worked for me, why are you pulling it?” All the rest were of the “Facebook is shit and I’m not using it” or “I tried to use it but it’s a steaming pile of poo” variety. Again, paraphrasing, but you get the point.

Facebook is a really polarizing subject. How can something that so many people dislike get to be so popular?

As for netflix, I hope they do figure out something that doesn’t include facebook. I really think they should have facebook as an option though too. The reason why it’s so popular is because it’s has user base. You can’t ignore something like that. The mistake of offering just facebook is only trumped by the mistake of taking it away now.

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Jan 11 2011

Movies: More Hitchcock

Published by under Entertainment

I am openly admitting it. I am developing as healthy affinity for Hitchcock films. I haven’t spent enough time watching them to decide if the man was truly a genius or if he was just adept at selecting interesting stories. I’m just disappointed I wasn’t around when he was making his films. In fact, his last film was released the year before I was born. Last week I didn’t get much chance to watch too many movies. Both that I watched were Hitchcock films, though.

Despite their age, his movies still rank as some of the best movies of all time on multiple lists from both critics and the general viewing public. It’s difficult to argue that a career as decorated as his was a fluke. Rest assured, you’ll likely find a bunch more of his movies popping up on my viewing list.

Psycho

I do remember seeing the sequels to this film when I was younger and I think that took away from this movie a bit. I knew it’s secrets already which it is quite obvious that Hitchcock tried hard to unravel at very deliberate moments. My anticipation ended up being not of the type “I wonder what is going to happen” like he intended but more “I wonder when this is going to happen”. The musical score of this movie far surpasses any of the other older movies I’ve been watching lately. It builds a mood that you don’t often see from movies at the time. If my count is correct, Hitchcock has 4 movies in the imdb top 50 with this one at #23. I’m both surprised at that and not surprised. His obvious ability as a director proves he is quite capable of making some of the best films of all time, but 4 out of 50 of all time? I might have to do some data analysis to just see how big of a feat that is.

4.0

The Man Who Knew Too Much

I would be interested in knowing what motivated Hitchcock to remake one of his own movies, but this movie originally came out in 1934. He ended up remaking the film starting James Stewart (also in Rear Window) and Doris Day a little more than 20 years later. I didn’t notice there were more than 1 when I started watching this. I thought I was going to be watching the more recent version. This movie did feel really rough and lacked any music to set the mood. That really made me appreciate movies of a similar time like Casablanca that had a lot of creative ways to incorporate those extra little bits of polish. Unlike Casablanca, this one seemed to suffer a bit from overacting a bit. It did also seem to be rushed as they tried to pack it all in a mere 75 minutes. I did enjoy Peter Lorre’s performance as the antagonist, though. Despite all of that, it really was an interesting story even if it lacked the twist factor that Hitchcock seemed to like to have in his films. I really am looking forward to see a more refined remake. Maybe Hitchcock was as well.

3.0

Our local cinema group has Rope coming up on their viewing list this spring. While I’ve never gone to any of them, seeing a Hitchcock film on the big screen is enticing. I just wish their viewing times were a little more work friendly.

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Jan 02 2011

Another Movie Post Pt 2

Published by under Entertainment

So you came back, huh? Sucker. This wraps up the large group of movies I started with the last post. I think I’ve learned my lesson and I’m gonna make an honest attempt at keeping up with these. No more compiling a list of 3 months worth. Gonna try and post it each week. See how many I can make it. What’s the over/under?

The Expendables

This is like one of those pieced together all star teams scrapped together with both aging HOF bound veterans and stars at the peak of their careers forced together for the sole purpose of winning the trophy. But for whatever reason, the intangible needed to finish off it’s purpose is lacking. I’m not sure if it’s missing chemistry, lack of fundamental direction or whatever also important ingredient that is missing from the recipe, this movie is not the title winning team. If you want to see a “shit gets blown up” type action film, this might fall more into your favor than it did mine. I just didn’t think there was a lot that kept this movie afloat. There were tons of predictable parts and cameos that seemed to be forced in just to give marque names some screen time. I wasn’t star struck into liking this movie at all.

2.0

Return to Oz

The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies of all time. There is just so much to like. It’s absolutely fabulously put together especially when you consider it’s over 70 years old. There wasn’t any way I could go without seeing the sequel. Even despite all the warning signs that it doesn’t live up to near the epic bar set by the original. Everyone was right. The story seems to be a lot darker back in Kansas and also in Oz. The characters seem a lot more forced instead of whimsical. There is so much that just misses with this story and the movie as a whole. I can only hope that rumored remake of the original doesn’t tarnish the original any more than this did.

2.5

Brewster’s Millions

Every so often I run across a movie that brings back memories of how I’ve enjoyed it when I was a kid so we pop it in hoping to bring my children the same feeling to them. I then I think, how the hell did I watch this when I was a kid? This one wasn’t as bad as some, but I really don’t recall the (albeit small amount) of swearing that was in this film. My kids did enjoy it even if it won’t become the cinematic icon that it did for me, but I still wonder if my concerns over the marginal content are deserved. After all, I didn’t even recall it after a couple of decades gone past. Why should I expect it to stick with them? I am in no way saying that kids should be allowed to watch slashers or Tarantino films or anything, but I wonder how much the effect is in small doses. Perhaps that’s just a slippery slope. Where was I going with this? Oh, the movie. A classic Richard Prior comedy. I don’t think there is anything more to say.

4.0

Book Of Eli

This is a post apocalyptic movie where Eli (the lead character) has been tasked with saving the last remaining Bible in the world and taking it to it’s safe haven. I had mixed feelings about the movie before hand since it has a definite religious theme to it. I tend to shy away from movies with religious messages even if the movie itself it’s necessarily about a religious subject (see The Chronicles of Narnia). Actually, I am more tolerant to that if it is a religious movie as the message seems more appropriate in those films. Despite it’s religious theme, it didn’t feel like it really forced a religious message. It was just telling the story. The story itself wasn’t that bad either. Combine with that the performance of the prototype actor for bad guys, Gary Oldman, and this shaped up to be a really decent movie.

3.5

Mary and Max

A few weeks ago, I came to realize the pure awesome that is Adam Elliot. He is a stop motion animator with a distinctive character and story telling style. Mary and Max was truly an entertaining and unique movie. In a time filled with movie remakes, retellings and generic characters, it really was refreshing to watch something that seemed such an original film in almost every aspect. The movie is about an 8 year old girl who battles loneliness by picking a random person in New York to begin a pen pal relationship with. Her random choice was a 44 year old, overweight New Yorker with asperger’s (which is the favorite syndrome to my 12 year old self). Together they help each other deal with their own trials of life through letters and gift of chocolate through the mail.

4.5

Harvie Krumpet

If you watch both Harvie Krumpet and Mary and Max, I recommend watching Harvie Krumpet first. I didn’t and, while I still enjoyed it, it took away from it a bit just seeing the polished, feature length movie first. There are so many similarities between Harvie and Max. Both suffer from mental illness (tourette’s and asperger’s). As you watch the film, it seems like Harvie Krumpet was more like a test run at Mary and Max than a tale all on it’s own. I’m not saying this is the case, but it’s difficult to ignore. You can watch Harvie Krumpet as well as the family series all on youtube (brother, uncle, and cousin).

3.5

Casablanca

Casablanca is the prototype for all the stereotypes of older movie characters. You have the deliberate, stoic male characters and all the women are your typical damsel in distress type. I had never had the opportunity to see this iconic film. Since it ranks #17 on the imdb all time list, it was something I was bound to get to. The story is good albeit predictable in almost every case, but I just can’t get past those jelly mold characters. It really seems that it’s presence on the imdb list certainly must be driven by nostalgia. I hope.

3.0

Shorts

Shorts tries to take a page from the Pulp Fiction recipe of success and segments the story into pieces that don’t occur chronologically. The only problem is, this is a kids show. Maybe that shouldn’t be your target with that type of movie. Then again, there are a lot of kids who have ADD tendencies. So what do I know. Maybe I’m wrong. This is your typical kid show though with a lot of adolescent jokes and little in the way of substance. I did think the girl (Helvetica Black) did a good job, though. She really reminded me a Christina Ricci on The Addams Family. Hopefully she will have the same success.

2.5

Rear Window

I haven’t seen a ton of Hitchcock movies, but he seems to have had a real penchant for creating interesting situations and characters. If you haven’t noticed, that’s what I like. #21 on my imdb list is the first movie with Jimmy Stewart that I wasn’t distracted by his distinct vocal style. Stewart plays a layed up photographer who passes time by voyeuristically flipping from window to window in his housing complex like people would flip the channels on their tv. He fabricates elaborate stories for them which eventually leads to his concocting a story of murder. He ends up wrapping up his physical therapist, girlfriend and even an old detective buddy of his into his imaginative world. Of the older movies I’ve watched (stuff that predates my being born), this has been one of the better ones. Close call between this and 12 Angry Men. Probably a slight nod going to that one just for the performances. This one gets the nod for story though.

4.0

Toy Story 3

I’ve heard a lot about how terrific this movie was. Hell, this summer it was ranking in the top 5 of the imdb list along with Inception. Both of those have since fallen on the list. This has fallen to #26. It should fall more. Don’t get me wrong, it was a decent movie. I didn’t see anything that made it any better than the other 2.

3.5

Yes, I thought How to Train Your Dragon was better.

Exit Through The Gift Shop

When I first read about this documentary, I thought it was about Bansky – not by Bansky. It covers a guy who has some obsession with video taping… well… everything. He starts following his street artist cousin and his friends all around the world as they propagate their art and message. The first part was this French fool following these people and capturing what they do with his lens. The last part is where it all goes horribly wrong and this guy who can’t just do 1 thing correctly, but has to do everything in mass, turns to the art he’s been documenting. For every bit that the real artists were interesting and real, this guy was like a bad copy and trying his hardest to get to the finish as fast as he can. There was no message. Just propaganda to sell his stuff. I thought it ruined what could have been a truly awesome documentary.

2.5

Popeye

“I aint a physakist but I know what matters” How can one refute literary gems like that? Popeye was another treasure from my childhood. I had forgotten just how cartoony they tried to make all the characters in this film. I think they were very successful at it too. It really felt like the cartoons could have been the real people. Especially at a time where it wasn’t full of computer animation. It took real creativity to construct a world that didn’t and couldn’t exist. I think Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl is quite possibly the greatest match for an actor (or actress) to a part in every aspect. Especially physically. Not that one should expect it from a cartoon turned live action feature film, but the story is the only part that really isn’t that strong. But for a fun movie to watch with the family, it doesn’t fall short.

3.5

Blood Into Wine

This is one that few have probably heard of. It’s a retrospective documentary on Tool/Perfect Circle/Puscifer lead singer, Maynard Keenan’s foray into the wine industry. I say retrospective since it covers all the work and effort he has gone through to the point of making the film, but was only filmed over what appeared to be 1 growing season. It had a bunch of unexpectedly humorous scenes that were staged, but none of the staged scenes take away from the movie. The movie really has an odd feel to it as it has a strange combination of people from the wine industry and from the very different rock world. These very different worlds don’t seem to mix well together giving it a very oil and water feel between those scenes. I was hoping this would be something that would make for good content from any viewer but I think it would more than likely be mostly enjoyed by the star struck rock fans. Overall, it mostly seemed like an infomercial for the wine directed towards fans. And while the funny parts help with that and make it watchable, I don’t think it’s enough to stand on it’s own.

2.5

Being one of the fans of Maynard, I did at least gain something from this film. I found a new favorite song that I’m sure will be drowning my ears for the next few months. That itself made the show worth the effort. Here is Keenan and Milla Jovovich performing “The Mission” as Puscifer:

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