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Thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises [Aug. 1st, 2012|06:58 am]
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The trailers didn't excite me.

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Hunger Games Leaves Me Hungry for Answers to Philosophical Questions [Mar. 25th, 2012|08:34 pm]
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Narrator

Given a long enough time line, everyone's survival rate goes to zero.







My initial contact with the The Hunger Games was on reality_hammer's blog. He had several books listed in the right-hand column of his blog. What specifically caught my eye was the cover to Mocking Jay, the third and final book in The Hunger Games series. I saw the cover on his blog many times and ignored it until one day curiosity got the better of me. I looked up the title on Amazon, and I discovered that the book was the third in a trilogy.

Then I read the description of the first book: youths picked at random from their local areas in a last man standing fight-to-the-death. I didn't know how I felt about this on multiple levels. On the one hand, going only off of the cover of Mocking Jay, I thought this would be yet another fantasy story that I would want to avoid; on the other hand, I had a morbid curiosity about the piece.

It was available for the Kindle for $5. I thought that Suzanne Collins must be some kind of independent writer that was selling her wares through the Kindle store and that this was some kind of cult following book that wouldn't amount to much. Either way, I figured I could add another book to my collection for cheap and if I didn't like it, I could always stop reading it.




My brother's birthday is in the middle of the year. Being ten years younger than I and not having an older brother to show him the ropes, I thought I would get him a copy of the book so he could start grappling with the concepts, kind of a rite of passage thing. I still hadn't read the book myself, but I had asked mrs_dragon for her take on the trilogy as she had mentioned reading it. I was specifically curious about the violence in the books and how the author dealt with the concept of being forced to face a violent death. I presumed that mrs_dragon's opinion on subjects such as war, violence and death were opposite of mine. When she told me–carefully and thoughtfully so as to not reveal any spoilers–that she enjoyed the books overall and that while death and violence were dealt with, they were dealt with tastefully, I calmed down about the series.

But knowing that I was raised by the same people that my brother is being raised by (for the record, he is not my biological brother and as I was not adopted nor am I related by blood, the term step-brother doesn't correctly apply here either) I didn't know what they would have to say about the book. I figured Dad wouldn't care either way and that since Star Wars was disallowed when I was growing up but now they let my younger brother not only watch the films but have the action figures, play the video games, etc., I didn't think there would be a problem with the book.

I texted my brother one day to follow up with him after his birthday and see how he was enjoying his presents. He said that Mom had looked over the book and decided it was too violent for him despite the fact that he had just turned sixteen.

My heart sank for him.




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Heavy Thoughts on Iron Man 2 [May. 20th, 2010|01:46 pm]
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[music |AC/DC - Iron Man 2]

iron_man_2


Word on the street has is that Iron Man 2 is a boring film. That's depends on what you're looking for in a film. If you're looking for a lot of great lines, big swooping scenes, some physicality and a lot of "Mommy, wow!" moments, Iron Man 2 delivers...if you're a fan of clever dialog.

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Notes on a Classic Film - Dial "M" for Murder [Mar. 27th, 2010|02:04 am]
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[music |King Kong - James Newton Howard]

dial_m_for_murder


I just watched Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder for the first time and thought I'd give you my impressions while you wait for an Alice in Wonderland review.

Released in '54, this film, though dated by an era–but by no means a period piece–remarkably had me on the edge of my seat at a times during the first act. Though it wasn't on the level of today's thrillers, the first act built up plenty of suspense. i wanted to know how things would play out but I didn't want to endure the agony of having to watch good people do bad things. The psychological grip was so strong that I even considered not finishing the film because of the intensity.

When I got to the intermission (which I found odd, more on that below) I was relieved that there was a release to the tension. The second act was much less intense and faster paced. There was some excitement at the end of the film, wondering who would ultimately take the fall for what.

An interesting fact about Dial M for Murder is that it was a 3D film. The reason for the intermission is that in order to make the 3D work at the time, you had to run two projectors simultaneously. Because the projectors couldn't hold the entire film, there was an intermission.

I don't know if the negatives have survived or not. What's interesting is that this film is 56 years old. According to the little featurette about 3D, 3D was heavily used in addition to what we now colloquially call widescreen at the time of the release of this film. Also interesting to note, at the time this film was released, very few theaters chose to show the 3D version because 3D was seen as a fad and people had already tired of the gimmick.

So we've had 3D technology for going on 60+ years and we still have to have glasses at the theater in order to utilize it? Furthermore, we're just now talking about bringing 3D into the home and actually having a market for it?

I hope that there is much press over Dial M for Murder as 3D TVs and blu-rays enter the market. I hope that a transfer is done and that this masterpiece finally gets a day in the sun in all of its 3D glory.
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G. I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra should be Retitled Sloppy Boring Joe [Sep. 1st, 2009|11:58 pm]
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[music |Hans Zimmer - Angels & Demons]



Tinseltown has failed to produce a real hit this year and G. I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra is no exception. Sure Angels & Demons came close to being a home run, if only an infield one. Even the much hyped Watchmen suffered from a badly edited theatrical cut as LA continues to dump on itself, licking its wounds from last year's strikes and this year's recession.

G. I. Joe isn't anything new or spectacular; it is, in fact, quite the opposite: overused CGI, actors chosen for looks, not ability; too many plot lines that turns into tiring exposition; lots of pointless effects; unneeded comedic relief; pointless love interests and plenty of eye candy.


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Public Enemies: The Cinephile's Enemy [Jul. 8th, 2009|12:29 am]
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[music |Otis Taylor - Ten Million Slaves]

Johnnie_tommy_gun_public_enemies


I'm with ehowton on the false advertising in trailers thing: I think that studios that snooker you into the theater via false advertising in their trailers ought to have to pay out punitive damages in a class action lawsuit. All of the good shots of Public Enemies was in the trailer. Michael Mann owes me $10.50 for a midnight ticket after being drawn, beaten, horsewhipped, set on fire and quartered. I demand that Universal personally send Johnny Depp with my refund check, even though he and Christian Bale were the only things right wit the movie.

There's very little good to say about this movie. I can't recall a lick of the score because it all sounded like source music. The only recognizable piece of music in the film is Otis Taylor's Ten Million Slaves which, if you don't buy the linked single, you get forced into buying the the whole damned album.

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The Agony and the Ecstasy: Angles & Demons Reviewed [Jun. 5th, 2009|03:55 pm]
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[music |Hans Zimmer - Angels & Demons]

angels-and-demons-1786


While Ron Howard's latest excursion into the religious surreal is, without question, a high-tension, fast-paced thriller, Angels & Demons is, nevertheless, created with human hands--and the flaws show. Though Dan Brown attempted to pass himself off as an intellectual atheist on a mission with The DaVinci Code, receiving praise and accolades from today's so-called progressives, Angels & Demons reveals Mr. Brown as a lowly writer because Angels & Demons fits together too conveniently, ultimately leaving the audience saying, "Of course that couldn't have happened! It's just a movie."

THe main contrast between Angels & Demons and DaVinci Code is that Angels & Demons is very respectful to religion in general and Catholics specifically whereas DaVinci Code is purely atheistic volley designed to destroy Christendom.


angels-demons-Camerlengo-and-cardinal


Ewan McGregor was perfectly cast as Camerlengo. Everything about McGregor's performance, yes, even his accent is perfectly executed. You feel the little boy trying to come out of the thirty-something year old man--the taught humility fighting the powerlust while the whole time being in awe of the very power being veraciously juggled. Ayelet Zurer does a wonderful job playing second fiddle to Tom Hanks' leading Professor Robert Langdon. Pierfrancesco Favino and Stellan Skarsgård hold their weight as supporting actors supplying exposition. Armin Mueller-Stahl adds a human element, reminiscent of a wise grandfather that knows when and how to say "no."

Tom Hanks was paid "the highest salary ever paid to an actor" to reprise his role as professor Langdon just days before the announcement came that Johnny Depp was being signed to Pirates of the Caribbean 4 for the even higher salary of $56 million. Is Hanks worth the dough? His name might be, but it takes at least two viewings to appreciate his performance. On the initial viewing, there are too many times when you felt you were looking at an actor who was doing the best he could with the material he was handed.


angels-demons-vat-police


For example, in order to execute a plot twist, Hanks had to pull the rabbit out of the hat with an "oh, I wonder if..." Granted, this may not all be Akiva Goldsmith's fault. I wouldn't be the first to call Goldsmith a hack, but having not read the book and being told the twist in the book was executed similarly, I'm not sure who's at fault. Perhaps this is the lowest common denominator floating to the top and the blame ultimately belongs to Dan Brown.

Regardless, director Ron Howard puts together a piece of entertainment that does indeed distract the audience from "the man behind the curtain." Howard's biggest disservice to the story is making the guilty too innocent thus raising suspicions almost immediately when the film begins. Howard also needs to reign in his DP Salvatore Totino. There are enough spinning shots of the Large Hadron Collider in the beginning of the film to give one motion sickness watching the film on the big screen. For those self-proclaimed film buffs out there, at least one shot of the LHC is reminiscent of the shot in Apollo 13 of the spark of electricity that ultimately causes the oxygen tanks to blow up.






Speaking of reminiscent, Hans Zimmer's Angels & Demons score pays much tribute to the DaVinci Code's track Chevaliers De Sangreal. Indeed, the last track of the album 503 heard in the film over the credit roll is a fuller but shorter orchestral rendition of Chevaliers De Sangreal. Joshua Bell's absolutely sublime violin work is featured prominently on several tracks and serves the score much like a favorite easy chair at the end of a long day. The score starts energetic, then proceeds to become the aural battle of Heaven vs. Hell as fought on earth. Indeed, the track Science and Religion is selfless, altruistic sacrifice as personified with sound waves. The keen listener will note a breath of a phrase from Hannibal and the percussion through the album is a tribute to John Powell's Bourne Ultimatum.

Whether Dan Brown got his facts straight or not, one thing is for sure: Angels & Demons will do for Art History--particularly Rome's--what Watchmen did for turning the younger generation on to 60's & 70's music. The sudden interest in art, architecture and Catholic procedure and history should not come as a surprise. After all, the film's message is "Faith is a gift we [intellectuals] have not yet received"...but we keep searching for the Truth.


angels-demons-looking-in-a-manhole
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The State of State of Play [Apr. 20th, 2009|04:21 pm]
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State of Play blue shirt


State of Play delivers on its promise to aspiring journalists to get adrenaline pumping and imaginations running wild as the viewer is treated to what it must be like to work a "real" story in a big metro. Crowe's character Cal is a seasoned, "old-time" reporter i.e. print media. Rachel McAddams' (who will forever be known as "the chick from The Notebook") Della Frye is a snippy blogger who churns out more content more often than Cal. Though Della is labeled as unseasoned, this relationship isn't played up like a buddy-cop franchise, vis-à-vis Lethal Weapon.

Cal's a-long-time-ago roommate--now Senator Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck)--is today's news topic after his Monica Lewniski young, attractive intern is found to be murdered. When Senator Collins shows up on Cal's doorstep that evening, the race is on at the Washington Globe to get the whole story. Instead of taking up his boss' suggestion of bringing in another seasoned reporter, Cal politics for blogger Della to be his partner-in-crimewriting.

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Professor Tom Joins Montag's Movie Reviews [Apr. 2nd, 2009|10:18 am]
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[music |Mazzy Star - Into Dust]

FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION:

Professor Tom has kindly joined the blog, and given how often I manage to write a new movie review, this is definitely a good thing. He's someone that can write a good entertaining review that isn't the equivalent of a scene-by-scene post-mortem by the assistant director or a lovely informative one-liner like "THIS MOVIE RAWKS! GO SEE IT!"



That's right, Guy Montag (http://montags-reviews.blogspot.com/) has invited me to join his blog in reviewing the newest flicks in town. We put my Watchmen review up as a dry run; watch closely for my upcoming review of Gran Torino.
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Watchmen a Film to Watch [Mar. 28th, 2009|08:13 am]
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[music |Smashing Pumpkins - The Beginning is the End is the Beginning]

watchmenbutton

I had no idea what to expect from Watchmen as my only connection to the material prior to the movie was through the teaser with the Smashing Pumpkins' The Beginning is the end is the Beginning. I knew from the trailer that there was once a group called Watchmen who defended the city back in the 30's but they were long gone. One of them had been killed, so solving that mystery and avenging the murder was the premise of the film.

When we got to the theater, there were signs in the window warning that Watchmen had been rated R for intense violence and explicit sexuality, almost as if the film should have gotten an NC -17. Immediately, i was reminded of the Sin City debacle, namely, the alleged theater in Texas that only took cash because there were so many senior citizens going to see the movie and the theater didn't want to refund the money or have a way for the patrons to stop payment on a check or credit card. I was also reminded of the headline Walt Disney's Sin City does $21 Million Open Weekend and the aftermath.

Comedian


Filled with a cast of accomplished, though unknown actors, Watchmen was very well acted. Through the twists and turns of the plot, each character got more screen time as their character's backstory was told. The person to keep your eye on is this ensemble is Patrick Wilson. Wilson doesn't have a long list of credits to his name. His most memorable credits are playing a fop of a boyfriend in Andrew Lloyd Webber's film adaptation of his Phantom of the Opera and a pedophile that is in turn tortured by his victim in Hard Candy. (For a real treat, go grab a copy of Hard Candy to see a pre-Juno Ellen Page in the role of...antagonist?). Wilson does rather well playing the role of an overweight has-been--so much so, that it doesn't feel acted at all, much like Rosie O'Donnel's performance in Riding the Bus with My Sister.

Jackie Earle Haley--there's not a lot to say about this guy. Yes, he was Rorschach who was, in some respects, the main attraction. But there's only so much performance that you can put into body language and voiceovers alone--an actor needs to be able to emote. Morgan's scenes as Walter Kovacs were distracting because I kept comparing him to William Fichtner.

Malin Akerman was a sexy Silk Spectre and as such was only so much eye-candy. Billy Crudup is one of those great character actors that you can never identify much like Gary Oldman: you only know they're in the cast because the credits told you so. For the record, there are enough shots of the blue schlong to make women happy, but I don't think that anyone other than a pre-pubecent teen will enjoy the elongated sex scene between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre.

Walter Kovacs


If there is any lack of character, it is that of the Comedian in his older days. Granted, it wouldn't have served the story for the Comedian to be around if he wasn't in flashbacks outside of the opening scene, but it's a damn shame. Despite his imperfections, I think his older, mellower self would have made a fine drinking buddy.

Zack Snyder doesn't disappoint when it comes to showing the ass-kickings that are constantly being dished out, something that the younger generation will enjoy because they have no outlets for their angst. If this film will do anything to the "yute of America" it will be to turn them on to old sixties and seventies music. Nearly all of the choices for the soundtrack were sensibly used with the exception of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". This song was so disharmonious that it actually worked against the scene in question and made one want to head to the concession stand. I personally sung along to Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence". It will be interesting to see which songs are downloaded and listened to by the younger generations that see this film.

Rorschach


The ending was anticlimactic. You didn't really care about the antagonist and by the time you figured out what really happened, you really didn't care. The film does seem to drag on and on even though you want more and more. I caught myself looking at my watch more than once trying to calculate when the film would conclude not due to lack of interest but due to wanting to get up out of my seat.

Speaking of the ending, I do have a gripe with this film's final moments. After all is said and done, there's no news to report on because evil has been abolished. The reporter turns to his editor and says "What should we run? That actor Reagan is running for President." Now, I know that Reagan laughed at the joke when it was in Back to the Future. In fact, when they showed Back to the Future at the White House, Reagan had them stop the film, run it back and play the joke again.

bluepenis1


I was miffed with this line because I thought it was yet another pot shot at one of the greatest Presidents that we had ever had. After I had seen the film, I ran into a buddy who had read the graphic novel. He said that this was in the source and that you have to remember that in the comics Nixon had four terms. Armed with this understanding, I can give the "joke" a pass, but I'm afraid that the younger generation will not fully understand the background to this line and will walk out of the theater hating a President they never knew.

All in all, I feel like it would be worth $6 to go see this film on the big screen.
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