Sunday, July 12, 2009

Follow Follow Follow Follow Follow the Guy On a Bike

His name is Blake and he is biking across the US to raise money for an AIDS orphanage in Honduras.

Check out the great photos and live diary of the journey right here. Apparently he's really into showering. I guess the road is dirty.

Friday, June 19, 2009

How much do I suck?

4 posts in 6 months? That is completely lame. I'd promise to do better but it would mostly be a lie.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation has all the action you’d expect from the franchise. The film is filled with high-octane sequences of humans and robots and robo-men and hu-bots all shooting the crap out of a beautifully designed and filmed (Shane is a FUCKING PROFESSIONAL!) post-apocalyptic California. But still the film leaves you unsatisfied. McG can certainly handle the BOOM! but it’s the script and story that make this the least interesting or enjoyable entry in this long running series.

The plot is pretty simple – humanity’s future Keanu Reeves savior (John Connor as played by Christian Bale) must save Kyle Reece (his daddy for those hat still remember 1984, played by the awesome Anton Yelchin). There’s also some cool new robots to look at and an attempt by the clever Skynet to get Reece & Connor first with their new ultimate weapon – a 25 year old, digitally rendered Ahnuld! The problem is that where Cameron’s films and even that 3rd one knew that they were trying to be awesome-cool summer blockbusters, this one actively tries to completely forget that. Salvation it totally humorless (save a single joke… yes there is ONE line in the films that asks you for a chuckle). On top of that, there is really nothing in here that gives you a sense of awe that each of the previous entries offered. The best parts of the Terminator films are the whole big brother aspect hinted at around the awesomeness of the action that takes place right in front of you. Each film is part of a grand mythology about the future of the human race. This one offers none of that epic joy. It’s a self contained series of fights and escapes and the big reveal is… a production line! Seriously? That’s all you got for us? No hint of what is in store for mankind after this? No hint of what could lead to the time travel so integral to the rest of the series? No hint of what technological breakthroughs might lead to the T-1000? Come on give offer up a little Skynet R&D. Even Lucas teased the Death Star in the prequels.

Beyond that, Connor himself is not really someone who screams savior of humanity. He’s not even the lead in the film but a strong supporting character the people look at in awe… but the film never really gives a reason why. The character doesn't actually do anything. The actors aren’t even at fault here – again it’s just the cold, robotic script that hurts what is otherwise a visually compelling film.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Up (Review)

I’ve never gotten the effusive gush that comes over normally sane people when the subject of Pixar comes up. The “everything they’ve ever done is a masterpiece! (well except Cars)” just gets irritating after the 82nd time. I’ve never hated any of the Pixar flix I’ve seen but found only two worthy of some of the extraordinary praise that is trumpeted (or syndicated) from the pages of the entertainment section of America's newspapers.

Take Up (please!... sorry) – the industry trades of record (Variety and The Hollywood Reporter) each gave the film a score of 100… 100! Really? So this is an immaculately conceived and flawlessly delivered piece if work that will herald the sweeping of the world in joys unity like a 70’s Haskell Wexler ad? Seriously how much sway do these folk’s have?

Anyway, no this film will not teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. Though it fits the Pixar formula nicely - two odd couple type characters learning that they need each other despite initial reluctance on the part of one or both of them. Toss in a goofy sidekick or 3 for comic relief and you got yourself yet another Pixar flick.

The opening act is actually pretty interesting. We start off with newsreel footage and a young boy taking in his hero – Charles Muntz, a world renowned adventurer at a local theater. On his way home he (the silent type) meets a girl (very much NOT the silent type) who is equally enthralled with Mr. Muntz. They play in a broken-down house for a bit and realize that they are both determined to follow their hero on a great adventure in South America. We then flash forward to their wedding day. This next section contains no dialogue – pleasant after the over-caffeinated set-up that preceded it – but offers scenes from their marriage. They buy the rundown house, fix it up and furnish it with love. Then the emotional downward spiral of this section catches you off guard as their life slowly becomes a series of unfortunate incidents that hinder the the fulfillment of their dreams both financially and emotionally. It’s quite bold and I salute that but those bringing kids might have to do some explaining – heard at least 3 in the audience ask their parents questions here. I'm not surprised the rating on this was bumped to PG. So finally we are left with just a curmudgeon and a world that has passed him by… time to intro the fat kid with the speech impediment! They go on the adventure the old guy planned for years and there are some talking dogs.

The emotional build-up of the first act echos thru the film but I never felt as though it was done all that successfully. Carl (the old man) talks to a picture of his wife that sits in this house (furnished with love) and eventually the house comes to symbolize the spirit of the wife but its never totally sold to the audience and its brought back every so often in a clumsy way that screams “EMOTIONAL MOMENT!.” Much like Ratatouille, partially realized ideas on theme hold the film back from true enjoyment.

The adventure itself is filled with slapstick that is often funny but sometimes very predictable – to the 8 year old who called out the upcoming sight gag for all to hear, you are awesome. There are also some nice allusions to other films including Star Wars that will work for the parents. On the technical side I thought they were a bit lazier in how they used light in this compared to their last beautiful flick. The shadows move around the characters very nicely but the colors of the source and its reflection are strangely off at times. Also the whole picture didn’t spring to life nearly as well as their last couple of films, everything felt quite flat. That cannot be said though of the fine vocal performances nor of Michael Giacchino's strong but simple scoring. Over all I wasn’t wowed by this nearly as much as Wall-E, which is a shame because there is a core here that could have been really great.

Oh and I did not see the 3D version of this – maybe that will pack more of a visual punch than this one did.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Philadelphia Film Festival 2009 - Opening Night

(500) Days of Summer

With his first feature film (500) Days of Summer, Marc Webb quickly launches himself into the New Quirk cannon. Stirring indie rock soundtrack? Check. Brief flirtations with animation? Check. Intertitles as storytelling device? Check. Humor that is both wry and charming? Check. Idiosyncratic characters including a young person way too wise for her age? Check. Show stopping dance sequence from outta left field? Check. Its all here and it makes for yet another essential post-millennial quirky boy meets girl yarn.

We are introduced (via ironic baritone voice over) to our leads and their specific philosophies on love at the outset and thru the next hour and a half the film jumps back and forth through the titular 500 days of their relationship, or rather through Tom’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) lengthy obsession over The One called Summer (Zooey Daschanel). He’s shy and insecure, she is strange and guarded but they are both caring people who feel for each other… but not always to the same degree. They meet on her first day working at a greeting card company and finally consummate the relationship a couple weeks later... leading to the aforementioned dance sequence which is a riot. From there they have ups and downs but the story mostly stays true to a traditional 3 act story arc.

I do not use the term Quirk disparagingly but rather as a genre that includes specific tropes and identifiers like any other. Webb would seem destined for this style of film given his 12+ year background in music video direction for the likes of Miley Cyrus, Maroon 5, My Chemical Romance & Matisyahu… and that’s just the Ms! He sets so much of the action in this film to music and the film has a certain rhythm that pulls the viewer into its world. Its IKEA furnished, art musing, Joy Division t-shirt wearing world. Writers Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber give us in their script a film about a relationship that hits so many perfect notes even before Webb gets his hands on them though. From the opening dedication you get the sense that this is a very personal story for them (a girl is named… then disparaged) and it’s these personal connections that make for wonderful characters with all the minor hang-ups that make you fall for them instantly. And when the characters are brought to life from two perfectly cast actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt (with boyish good looks and a tendency to brood) and Zooey Daschanel (aloof but with eyes to get lost in) it all makes for a sublime viewing experience if you’re into the Quirk. And why wouldn’t you be? Does life not hum along to its own soundtrack? Is Swedish furniture not the shiz? Don’t we all just want to live in Annie Hall?


Monday, January 19, 2009

List Time

Sorry loyal reader, I've been busy catching up on all the sights and sounds of 2008. Also playing with a new PS3 and watching awesomely awesome Blu-Ray. Anyway, it is the time of year that everyone who thinks they have a valid opinion for some reason or another puts out their best of lists. Not being one to upset the apple cart... here... we... go!

Top 50 Albums of the Year

50. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

49. Fleet Foxes - S/T

48. Cold War Kids - Loyalty to Loyalty

47. Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul

46. The Ting Tings - We Started Nothing

45. R.E.M. - Accelerate

44. The Verve - Forth

43. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs

42. The Killers - Day & Age

41. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

40. V/A - A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All

39. Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip - Angels

38. DeVotchka - A Mad & Faithfull Telling

37. The Roots - Rising Down

36. Flight of the Conchords - S/T

35. Islands - Arm's Way

34. Amadou & Mariam - Welcome to Mali

33. The Mars Volta - The Bedlam In Goliath

32. Hot Chip - Made In the Dark

31. Beck - Modern Guilt

30. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins

29. V/A - Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog

28. School of Seven Bells - Alpinisms

27. British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?

26. Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

25. Coldplay - Viva La Vida

24. The Streets - Everything Is Borrowed

23. The Music - Strength In Numbers

22. Kings of Leon - Only By the Night

21. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals

20. Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreak

19. Santogold - S/T

18. Man Man - Rabbit Habbits

17. TV On the Radio - Dear Science

16. The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust

15. Pale Young Gentlemen - Black Forest (Tra La La)

14. Portishead - Third

13. Q-Tip - The Renaissance

t11. Glasvegas - S/T

t11. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight

10. Hercules and Love Affair - S/T

9. Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It

8. The Republic Tigers - Keep Color

7. Bloc Party - Intimacy

6. Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple

5. M83 - Saturday=Youth

4. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

3. Conor Oberst - S/T

2. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

1. Vampire Weekend - S/T