Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blog Experimentation

I've been posting on Blogger for a couple years now. And while I will continue my Do Them Justice Reviews video series I'm looking to try a few other things. Namely the competing free blogging sites.

I just created a tumblr blog with a more narrow focus. Namely it's about recording my experience with film production in acting, writing, directing, etc. The blog is called: The Production Student. Check it out.

I'm also going to give Wordpress a swing. You might remember waaaaayyyy back in the beginning of Do Them Justice that I covered a wordpress blog that re-wrote the story of Hitman: Blood Money, one of my all time fave game series. I'm thinking of trying something similar...with the Mass Effect games! I'm replaying the series from the start with a new female character (or femshep) and exploring my more devious side. Not exactly an evil Shepard, just a more nilly-willy. I'll post again when that site is up.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Short Films

Lately I've been acting in or at least assisting with a series of short films with members of the Media Entertainment Guild at my school. Over the summer I'll be posting them here, but of course you can see all of them on the channel, Walking Eye TV.

This one's about a store stalker. Get it?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Charlyne Yi Show (review)

Last weekend Ellen (my girlfriend) and I saw Charlyne Yi of Paper Heart fame at the Upright Citizen's Brigade theater. And what a show that was! This was my first time there and the first thing I noticed was how hipster the crowd was-which I know is a big turn off for some-but the audience was so receptive to the show I wouldn't have it any other way. The show itself was made up of several performances by various "artists" in addition to Yi who also hosted. Here's a break down of who was there and a rating out of five stars for each.

Charlyne Yi 4/5 stars
You either love her or hate her. I love her determinable awkwardness and good natured conversation. Which is why it was such a surprise that she greeted the audience with a tangent of swears and teasing. "What? Does my mic excite you, because I looks like a c***? Dumbass, it looks nothing like a c***." But I'm paraphrasing. She also did some musical skits with a repetitive rock version of Ava Maria, two cute guitar duets with friends (Casey Trela and Ann Maddox. Songs included "Angels Voices Sound Like: Ah ha haha"), and a goodbye song. All in all, about what I expected and a little more.

Nathan Fielder 3/5 stars
A comedian with a disposition similar to Michael Cera and Dimitri Martin's brand of humor. The jokes were innocent and silly, the kind you might use to pick a girl up only to land in the friend zone, if you know what I mean. Not bad, but his highlight was Yi commenting on the brevity of his performance and arguing behind the curtain with the mic still on. She eventually asked him to undress to make her feel better before stepping back onto the stage briefly revealing his naked rear backstage. Wow, didn't think they would go that far with the gag! Here's him investigating...Pizza?

Tina Lenert 5/5
This aging beauty gave us an out of nowhere tour de force magic show. All of the sudden there was this petite woman on stage pulling scarfs through her neck then making them fold themselves. What a performance! I love magicians myself. I don't want to know how they do what they do; their craft hearkens back to a time where anything seems possible and my inner child appreciates it.

Ron Lynch 2/5
Ellen had seen this guy before and assured me he was a riotous comedian. No, no he wasn't. His shtick for the entirety of his time on stage was asking us our favorite celebrities...with a mouthful of water. He did a couple impersonations too, which gave the whole thing kind of a charades feel, but it got old fast. Strangely the audience disagreed. Must of been my request for his best Bogart.

Casey Trela 2/5 stars
This guy looked like Jesus crossed with a hipster. He only performed one song (with acustic guitar) before Yi joined so this rating is based on him alone. He wasn't bad and it felt appropriate to have him come last as a wind down for the show. His song (which he also wrote, but I can't remember the name of) was familiar and not for all tastes. I would consider it comparable to Jason Mraz, sappy and forgettable. The least impressive of the night.

Overall. I pretty sweet show. Recommendable to the adventurous and playful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jeff Goldblum's jazz band

I saw Goldblum perform with his group called "THE MILDRED SNITZER ORCHESTRA" last night. The group was named after a family friend whom you can see in a brief interview.

The orchestra played at Cafe Was, which is your typical L.A. snob restaurant/bar with drinks ranging $10-$14, i.e. too much. The crowd was also what you'd expect in L.A.

What I didn't expect was Goldblum inviting various singers and sax players to join them in a song or two. One man (who looked like a Tim Burton drawing) sang to his wife and kinda hippie woman kicked ass on the sax. The orchestra was all around pretty into their music, laughing and shouting at each other. In between each song Goldblum played six degrees of Kevin Bacon except he never ended the game! He would ask for a name and connect it then just keep going and going. He is definitely a funny man and very laid back. He'd often play with one hand and shield his eyes from the stage lights to look into the crowd and wave. Aside from those eating everyone was pretty thrilled just to be there.

Oh, did I mention this was all free? :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

An evening with Werner Herzog

If you did not already know, the Hollywood Forever cemetery screens classic films from time to time...with a projector against a crypt wall! It's kinda insensitive but you tell yourself you're honoring the dead who surround you.

And Saturday night my girlfriend and I saw John Huston's "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" with Herzog hosting the event and taking questions afterwards. I've already seen the movie a few times before and I'll give you my thoughts on it later.

Herzog was the really star attraction here. I've only seen one of his movies, "Grizzly Man" which I found captivating. Herzog himself was quite pleasant. My girlfriend had taken his Rogue class with him a year ago which only accepts 50 students at a time out of thousands of applicants. After hearing him speak I think I may try to get in too.

Herzog praised Huston (who was buried near by) for his non-conformity and related a story of Huston traveling to Mexico (where the movie is set, just fyi) to his first time in the states. Herzog's visa was revoked for some vague reason which lead him to flee to Mexico, learn Spanish, and live there for a year or so. He also talked about how he and Huston preferred to get very little coverage when shooting and rarely use storyboards. As Herzog put it, "Storyboards are for people without strong imaginations" but I'm paraphrasing here. The bit about getting little coverage was Herzog's belief that a performance is hindered by repetition and that you are best off getting it right once and moving on (which also keeps you ahead of schedule).

Then the Q&A began and...oh boy. I am not a particularly brave person and never jump at the chance to say hi to a celebrity (especially given I live just north of L.A.) and this experience reinforced that fear. Not because Herzog was dismissive of the fans that flooded him with awkward questions, but because of HOW awkward they were AND the crowd's verbal reactions.

One woman wanted Herzog to come down and hug her nine-year-old son for good luck. Another asked if he'd seen Danny Boyle's "Shallow Grave" (which has a similar theme to Sierra Madre) and then proceeded to describe the film to him. Ugh. But the worst was the last...a schlub of a guy wanted to know if Herzog agreed with him on the "synchronicity" of the film...

Sorry, the what? The crowd's reaction was a loud groan with a few boo's for good measure. He went on to describe it as the film's quality "a-syncronation". Sweet god, it was difficult to watch. Someone from the crowd agreed and shouting "Get off the stage!" But the long and short of what the guy was asking was if Herzog thought the film was so perfect, it flawlessly communicated everything it was meant to. Well...yes. That's why we were there and celebrating it. More importantly, Herzog defended the schlub arguing with the irate audience that even though his name for his emotional connection with the film was different it was still just.

All in all it was a great night and has left me dying to see more of Herzog's films. He also had a story about working with Klaus Kinsky and how he shot another actor's finger off with a hunting rifle...yeah. For more on that it was recommended that I see the documentary "My Best Fiend" about the actor and director's relationship. I'm also dead set to watch Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant" which is available for streaming on netflix. BTW, Herzog said he loved working with Cage on it. I'll put the trailer for it below if you haven't already heard of it.

As for "Treasure of Sierra Madre" if you haven't seen it yet, you should! It's one of the best movies ever made (yes, up there with Casablanca). It's exciting, funny, and very tragic. If for no other reason see it for Walter Huston's (John's father whom he directed here in his Oscar winning role) performance as the original prospector.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hayley Mills interview

As promised, here's the lone one interview from the 2nd TCM festival I recorded. Hayley Mills is best known for the original Parent Trap and a few other Disney flicks, but I was lucky to see her at a screening of the understated Whistle Down the Wind which I highly recommend.

NOTE: the video is in two parts and look for the crazy fan who burst out crying at during the Q&A at the end!

Fincher's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (trailer)

You might remember I saw all of the original Millenium films (that's the name of the trilogy) in theaters:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Daring, horrifying, and absorbing.

The Girl who Played with Fire: Uneven, but fun and a hell of a great finale.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Next: Convoluted, but engaging when you could follow it.

Being adaptations of the novels by Stieg Larson, you can't really wag your finger "shame, shame" at Fincher and Columbia Pictures for adapting it themselves. And we, as a nation, are the entertainment capital of the world. So this was all inevitable.

However, I am just not a very big fan of Fincher. I love Fight Club...and that's about it. Benjamin Button wasn't bad and the Social Network was pretty sweet. But I loved the original Dragon Tattoo and don't really see how it can be improved. I'm not a fan of recreating the effective for no greater purpose (like the impending remake of Straw Dogs).

What can Fincher truly give us? I honestly can't look forward to his return to the hard "R" rating after his last two films. I loathed Alien 3 and especially Se7en. I'll see the movie when it comes out this December and I would prefer to be surprised.

Friday, June 3, 2011

"How come you never take me to the airport?"

Last night my girlfriend-yes the one I met at the TCM festival, yes that means we've been dating for about a month now-were watching When Harry Met Sally...and this scene comes on.

Most disturbing of all, this very morning I had to take her to the airport. I couldn't make this up if I tried!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

2nd TCM Festival

So, I went to the second annual TCM film festival this year and boy did a lot happen…and not get caught on film! I feel terrible, but I recorded JUST ONE interview this year and no panels!

What was I thinking? Well I was probably sleeping at the hotel (and occasionally through movies). So instead here’s a short list of the best moments of the festival.

-Saw “Spartacus” for first time. In Grauman’s Chinese Theater! Very cool, sweeping, always entertaining, and surprisingly violent. Like lots-o-blood violent. Kirk Douglas was in attendance (yeah, no biggie) and spoke before the film played. He recently lost all his teeth so it was difficult to understand everything he said. One thing I do remember him clearly saying was in response to the question of what it was like both starring in and executive producing the film. He said, “Well, we had a great script to work with”, referring to the black listed writer Dalton Trumbo whose name Douglas cleared.

-Saw the firs twenty minutes of “Shaft” with Richard Roundtree in attendance BUT couldn’t get the night off from work! So I had to drive thirty minutes north to check I.D. at my campus dorms. Woot.

-The one interview I did record was of Hayley Mills of “Parent Trap” fame and I will post that video shortly! The film I saw her at was actually a smaller non-Disney picture co-staring Anthony Bates called “Whistle Down the Wind”. It’s a remarkable film about three kids in rural England (the casting is amazing all around, those kids actually came from that lonesome community) discovering a fugitive criminal they believe is Jesus. Not so great was the Q&A that followed when some girl asked about how demanding Disney was of his actors…when she burst out crying…into a microphone. Um…ok.

-A panel about the industry’s sequel craze with Brett Ratner in attendance. Nope. Didn’t see it. Wanted to. But had more work that no one could cover for me!

-The closing night mixer was fun. Met and shook hands with Ben Mankiewicz from TCM. Lots of drunk old people not so great. I meant to have one guy introduce me to the festival coordinator: in part because I wanted to know if she could get me a job at TCM and because she was pretty hot (and not old). Instead I winded up hanging with two cute girls on the party staff. Bought one a drink. Ditched the mixer with her. Made out in the back of her Jeep. And got her number.

And no. I am not making any of this up! Can’t wait for next year.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Break Productions

Pitch my idea for a At the Movies style student run show to the Media Entertainment Guild yesterday and got a pretty strong response. A good few peeps interested and it looks like I'll be able to shoot a pilot next week (which is my spring break).

I checked out a lighting kit tonight which happened to be the very last night I could before break. But I'll have to use my old SD hard drive handy cam. I use it for all my videos but the picture quality isn't too hot. My other option was renting the last available mini DV handy cam. No thanks. So I'll borrow my roommate camera which...I'm sure what it is, but it's HD...I think.

The set will just be a community room here in the dorms. Probably no background, but my editing guy will add some graphics. I'm going to use both cameras for coverage and in the future I hear there's a multi-camera TV studio for student use. If this is true I've shit my pants in the future the moment I see it with my own two eyes.

I'll put up the pilot when it's shot of course. I might also be a actor in a couple projects soon too. One's a school orientation video. The other is a skit about a public bathroom brawl. I'll be playing a "bro", my toughest role yet. Looking like a pretty good spring break to me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Second Annual TCM Festival

Yes, I'm going. And with my Dad again. I didn't realize how many photos I still had on my camera from last year. And I think there's a couple other videos I should put up...

I'll be recording as much as I can this year as well. Last time they would let me shoot the panels and John Carpenter was at one of them!

I'll get more interviews and maybe record my thoughts on a couple events. I think my dad got slightly more expensive passes this year too. We'll have to investigate what that entails. In the meantime I recommend if you are going participate in the email contest (that's what I'm calling it) where you email them why you're going and the influence of classic films on you and blah blah. It feels like a assignment from one of my film theory classes. I'll churn one out for this though anyways, simply because it should be easy for me.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Homefront: the Voice of Freedom Book Review

Now, I’m no book worm, but Homefront: The Voice of Freedom is fun little read. Despite its production was solely to further spread the word and hype of the upcoming video game of the same name, its authors allow themselves enough room to elaborate on a fascinatingly grim vision of America.

Author John Milius needs little to no introduction as the infamous screenwriter of epics like Apocalypse Now and Conan the Barbarian and director of pulp favorites like Red Dawn and Dillinger. But co-author Raymond Benson-who likely carried the lions share of work-could use a little background. He’s an experienced video game novel writer with credits including a couple Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell stories as well as six original 007 stories.

Like most who will pick up this book, I was immediately drawn by the games strong political sensibilities. Few games actually express any real opinion particularly on real world matters like the currently escalating aggression of North Korea and our own difficulties with fuel management. The book provides a in depth look into the years preceding the games setting of middle America 2027.

Our story follows Ben Walker a journalist making a living writing for a webzine called, no joke, “Celebrity Trash”. Living in L.A. he staggers through his days in a miserable economic climate that see’s gas at $20 a gallon, food shortages, and most imported goods coming from a wealthy North Korean technological industry. Oh, and then the Koreans attack.

As hyped by the games own marketing, a EMP wipes out virtually all of the U.S electronics including cars and communications. This is not Fallout people, this is actually much more depressing. Instead of exploring a world long dead, Walker is our vessel in a mostly familiar America that’s slowly, slowly crumbling down. It’s stark, unnerving, and gripping from start to finish. To imagine ourselves living as the 3rd world does is a sad way to reflect on our materialism and ignorance of the rest of the world.

I feel I should address the right wing rhetoric. Milius is synonymous with the anti-government and god bless America crowd. As a far left winger myself, the book’s indulgences are tedious, but never a deal breaker. The worst of it are a couple of obvious deus ex machina’s where just when our heroes can’t go on without fuel, water, or shelter good old fashioned American brotherhood rides over the horizon to the rescue. There are also times when the writing really spells everything out for you as if I doubted the impending danger of gunfire.

The best of the book is its episodic nature as Walkers travels across America evading the Pacific coast invasion and unsavory fellow Americans alike. Every encounter is balanced with anxiety, intrigue, and excitement. There are, however, some needlessly descriptive moments of the weapons the resistance carries which again appeals toward the Milius following. But this is made up for with brisk scenes of exposition and the difficulties of survival. Good use is made of the characters willingness to take chances and forge equipment from wreckage and detail and then execute plans against their occupiers.

In all this is a spine breaker of a good quick read. It took me maybe five sittings to blast through its 300 pages which in all honestly shouldn’t have exceeded half that with a smaller font. At $10 this isn’t a bad deal and a great prep for the game. Call me a sucker for hype, but I’m sold and hungry for more. And isn’t that the mark of a good story teller?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Read a Book: A New Years Resolution in Action

So I got a Barnes and Noble gift card as a Christmas gift. A nice present and kind of a hint. I don't read much. Well, not many books. I read the N.Y. Times, Time Magazine, The New Yorker (shut up! there's some good anecdotes in there), and a few webzines.

I started Frank Herbert's Dune last year, but gave up recently around page 100. I know that's weak, but it just isn't very involving. I've been promised that it gets better about 200 pages in...that's not a recommendation. Before the exciting, high-fantasy fun starts the set up takes it's precious time rewriting history. So many made up words! And the glossary in the back is less a help and more a reminder that the author thinks he's just so damn wise. Well, yeah when you've made everything up from scratch I'm kinda at a disadvantage. Why am I reading this again?

Moving on...
After entering the hell hole that is Burbank in search of my closest B&N I was met with disappointment when I discovered they didn't have a DVD section. Damn. So I scanned the aisles for familiar names and glossy covers.

My discriminating eyes fell upon The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I've heard a few good things about it and that it's recently been green lit for a movie. And I do like all things gladiator-like (Death Race 2000 and it's remake, Gamer, Spartacus: Blood & Sand, and Gladiator duh). But it's got a female's said apart of Harry Potter's success was that although J.K. Rowling is a woman Harry's a boy and J.K. isn't inherently indicative of either sex.

What the hell. So I got it and had about half the card left to spend on something of equal value. Well, this little gamer just happened to find a promotional tool in the book store in the form of a prequel novel to the yet released game Homefront written by John Milius.

I've been watching the title for a while now on various sites. I do love a game about revolution (Freed Fighters, Red Faction) and have been following the unsettling news updates of North Korea for some time. Sold.

So guess which book I started first?

I started it yesterday and blasted through the first hundred pages until my bladder called for changer before it's own revolution. In short, I like it. Not love, but I'm gonna make short work of this fun piece of right-wing fantasy and likely write up a review. It certainly has my pumped for the game itself. Heh, I guess mission accomplished.

Here's a trailer for the game in case you haven't a clue what I'm so hyped for.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Self Righteous Forum

The Escapist, a nerd culture site famous for the Zero Punctuation series boasts a lively forum community. And under the "Off Topic" section I found a thread titled "Am I a Bad Person?"

Read it and you will discover a rather unsettling unanimous discussion that the author's refusal to donate pocket change to the medical bills of two girls injured in a car accident (a third died), because they deserved it is "right".

Geez. Some hundred or so of these people are never getting laid. My comment on the thread was this:

"You will remain a very angry, miserable person for many years to come. You are sad and must hate yourself more than anything else on earth to have said such a thing. The overwhelming agreement you've received from the Escapist community does not make you right or your comment just. You need to walk a mile in the shoes of people different from you.

This is not a matter of drunk girls killing themselves. It's a matter of party girls meeting a horrible end you believe they earned...for being stupid. For enjoying themselves when you can not. Worse, you harbor a resentment of girls deriving from you're likely inexperience with them.

Get out. Meet new people. Try new things and to understand that your imperfect life style yields nothing for others. Here, if we ever meet I'll buy you a drink."

My username there is KO4U. I admit, I am curious to see what the community thinks of my words.

Friday, January 21, 2011

City Island review

A 2009 family drama/comedy starring Andy Garcia and Emily Mortimer

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

About Ji-woon Kim

The South Korean director must really be something in his homeland to be making any kind of impression over here. Better still (for him) is that precious few...or TWO Korean directors who've carved a niche crowd in the U.S. are the applauded Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) and Joon-ho Bong (The Host).

Turning to the infinitely entertaining "Instant Watch" list of Netflix we can find two of Mr. Kim's better known films ("A Tale of Two Sisters" & "The Good, the Bad, and the Weird") who's success have lead him to his latest feature due out in SK theaters soon and a limited release over here in March. That film is "I Saw the Devil". Slash Film has compared the film to David Fincher's "Seven" and it's faced severe criticism in SK for it's graphic depictions of human atrocity.

*Sigh* Thank you Magnet for picking up the film for distribution over here.

By the word of mouth description of the movie I fell confident in dubbing this film as High Brow Exploitation. This is a sub-genre of exploitation films that targets not the teens and "cinema snobs" like "Saw" or "Hostel" do, but the more worldly, New Yorker types starting in their mid thirties.

Examples of such films include: The Cell, Law Abiding Citizen, Silence of the Lambs and its sequels, and of course Seven.

I loathe this genre. The allure is the grimy nihilism of exploitation neatly folded into a slick, smooth, often very well produced mystery film. This works as unlike exploitation, the mystery genre is all about withholding information to create suspense whereas the former simply threatens a grisly end to those pesky kids. A beer is a beer and splatter is splatter! It's a joke to hide behind high minded theme's of self reflection and society's flaws when you know, we know that we're all here just to seen Hopkins scoop brains out of a mans head.

*Ahem* Anyways, I'll be watching and eventually reviewing Mr. Kim's two available films on Netflix in preparation for (I suspect) the applause "I Saw the Devil" will receive among the filmcentric. If my top films list wasn't any indication of my tastes it should be said I prefer drama, comedy, and lighthearted entertainment more than lurid exercises in unpleasantness. But to be fair, I plan do plan to see Kim's new film, expectations low and biased.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Top Movies of 2010

Morning Glory Screenwriter Aline McKenna has made a career writing kitschy, girly comedies. Nothing wrong with that, but Morning Glory is much better than that. With my own experience working on a live news TV show I can tell you it perfectly captures the madness and frustration of production. Rachel McAdams is as always, very likable and sympathetic as she faces the difficult anchors played by Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton, a cruel and uncaring boss in Jeff Goldblum, and a staff all wanting to contribute to the show and her headache. It’s as good as the zany American comedy can these days and easily recommended.

Iron Man 2 I wasn’t a big fan of the first Iron Man. I thought the action was sparse and un-involving, both Terrance Howard and Jeff Bridges were miscast, and I about as comfortable watching U.S. soldiers being killed by road side bombs planted by the Taliban as I am watching Sarah Palin’s Alaska. The sequel knocks it out of the park. Bridges’ character is gone while the infinitely more likeable Don Cheadle replaces Howard. The action is bigger without overstaying its welcome, but by far it’s the casting of Sam Rockwell as a villain that works for me. Giving the bad guys their own smart ass is a perfect counter to Downey Jr. Easily the best blockbuster of the summer.

I’m Still Here Joaquin Pheonix and his brother-in-law Casey Affleck played one dirty, scandalous prank on the world. This realistic and heavy approach to the mocumentary chronicles the sudden and shocking transformation of Pheonix from mega star to prime time embarrassment (the infamous Letterman interview is just one such instance). The brilliance of the joke is just how believable Pheonix is as a rambling, self-absorbed brat and how to heart the public took this change. Never before has the falsity on screen been so personal. Andy Kaufman would be proud.

The Town
You see, a funny thing happened in 2006. Ben Affleck co-starred in a little murder mystery called Hollywoodland. The film was just OK, but Affleck was great, playing against type. Then in 2007 Affleck directed his brother Casey in his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, which is the best noir film since Soderberg’s The Limey. Affleck wanted to show he was still a relevant talent as both a actor and filmmaker with The Town he’s done both. While the plot is simple, even predictable at times, excellent casting, square jawed conviction, and direction from the films star that never indulges (save that one scene of him working out) and we have a smart, brilliantly executed romanticized caper. This was also one of the best date movies of the year: The guys will love the macho “My Town!” attitude and screeching gunfights and the ladies will get lost in the romance teetering between honest love and back handed betrayal. With all the post Christmas sales going on, this is one worth owning.

The Social Network Without restating everything good you’ve already heard about the film, this is one’s going to echo in the Millennial culture forever. It’s not just about the birth of the most popular networking site ever. It’s about incredible power youth possesses. It’s about young men following what appears to be the most effortless path to success in business history. It’s about the unknowing betrayal of all your life’s work to have a social life. If you still haven’t seen the film and your age is between 15 and 28, you need to see this film.

127 Hours
What became an infamous story in the news and later a best selling book is now stylized retelling in Danny Boyle’s latest film. James Franco gives a believable performance as real life adventure seeker Aron Ralston who in 2003 had his hand crushed under a rock in the Utah canyons for five days and survived. A common rule of the chamber piece film is never break the atmosphere with a small cast and rarely if at all showing us the outside world in order to put us in the same uncomfortable position as Ralston. Boyle, perhaps unsurprisingly breaks this rule with his usual energy giving us a warming yet still unflinching movie about one man’s perseverance. The emotional ride we expect from Boyle is in full force here, showing just how big a small movie can be.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Here’s the skinny on why this film is so famous, yet you haven’t seen it: The late Steig Larsson was a Sweedish muckraker (I.e. scandal exposing journalist). In under a year, he hammered out three books known as the Mellenium Trilogy. The story while fiction is based on fact, looking deep within the seedy underbelly of seemingly innocent and cleanly Sweden. Dragon Tattoo is the first entry and introduces our prevailing heroes Lisbeth, the emotionally disturbed punk computer hacker of the title and Michael, a journalist pending jail time and is essentially Larsson himself. Together the uncover a mind-bending mystery in Northern Sweden. Less political than the sequels, Dragon Tattoo is a mesmerizing whodunit and more accessible than you might think. It’s not an action film, nor pretentious European drama. It’s also very difficult watch as the film forces you through the inhumanity the Swedish government would rather keep to themselves. Still, it’s worth it to experience the one of the most successful films in Europe’s history.

The Kids Are Alright Gay couples are still pretty taboo for the mainstream. The kids are alright gives us a unashamed, but tasteful look into a picturesque family with two moms. We see both the kids and the parents exploring their sexuality, the awkwardness of juggling social life with family, and best of all, on target drama that never delves into shouting, abuse, or overwrought conflicts. This is about as approachable and rewarding a soap can get: never too dry or moody and never too cheeky. Arguably the most pleasant adult oriented film all year.

Catfish The brilliance of Catfish’s marketing ploy was through relying on age old word-of-mouth and our underlying desire to see the big secret ending for ourselves. Is it a real documentary? Is it fake as hell? Don’t go into the film trying to dissect it’s production. Instead experience the film as it presents itself: a young man starts a relationship with a woman strictly through face book, texting, and the occasional phone call. Perhaps more than The Social Network, Catfish captures the distance our technology driven lifestyle promotes and then even better realizes our need for someone no matter the hurdles involved. See this movie, see it with your friends, loved ones and pass the good word on.

Greenberg No other film this year resonated with me more than Ben Stiller’s dramatic turn in Noah Baumbach’s masterpiece character study. Stiller’s character Roger Greenberg is an asshole. He’ self-righteous, bad to his friends, socially conservative, and oblivious to why things never go his way. I defy you to not see someone you know or even a part of yourself in Greenberg. He’s everything we hope not to be when we’re midway through our lives. Because of this, for every wicked, cruel thing that he says or does we sympathize with him. The character is so well developed and real it literally scared. An exceptional tribute to the depth of humanity.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Crimes of the Arizona Shooting

The tragedy of the Tucson, Arizona shooting is that we will not stand united as a country as Obama wished of us in his formal comment on the matter. We will, nay, have begun already to divide on the subject. This is not unreasonable of any of us as there is no clear resolution to be gained. No way to undo or properly prepare for the future. Not today at least.

Maybe Governor Giffords will live. Maybe she will resume office. Maybe gunman Loughner will be institutionalized instead of sent to prison. Maybe he will get the death penalty.

Maybe. But as the media swells with the matter (though only momentarily, before it becomes a faint memory) our minds split. All grounds will be covered, but nothing will be gained.

Those grounds are presented below. My facts come from the New York Time’s coverage of the shooting.

“Why is someone like this not in a institution?” asked John and Ken on their radio talk show today. Is the center of the issue that a man publicly witnessed engaging in inappropriate behavior was not locked away? How do you judge a mans mental well being? The very argument of Frank Capra’s “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is that we are all entitled to our eccentricities, so long they don’t harm anyone. Not a day goes by without words of cruelty spoken, death wished upon others, and pleasure gained from assertions of dominance. And what of the unspoken? What we don’t say to each other can often be much worse only if acted upon. To treat the constitution as a hierarchy, our right of speech is more sacred than our right to arms.

The irony of September 11, 2001 born nine-year-old Christina Green’s death at a political gathering. Not at the hands of a foreign enemy, but one of the politically minded child’s countrymen. The Green families loss is great, but so too is America’s loss of a youth so involved in political matters. I cannot imagine the kind of kid who would be so interested in her government to attend Grifford’s meeting.

What of Jared Loughner’s upbringing? Little is yet known of his reclusive family, whom neighbors described as unfriendly and rarely seen in public. This is a borderline ancient argument (of blaming the parents) that while still valid, is and will always be ripe for passing the buck. Loughner is twenty-two. He is legally responsible for his crimes as those in favor of the death penalty will remind us. Schools in America do not educate us to be good parents. Courses on parenting must to sought out of our own open-minded volition. Loughner’s childhood, no matter the details, is as any of ours was: a product of our media, the peers we could relate to, and whatever our imperfect parents can contribute in between.

If I must take a position, this is it: Gun control. An equally tired debate that has gone nowhere fast. Some have argued that Loughner would have acquired a weapon anyway possible. Illegal gun sales are common, even through conventions (Mexican cartels are often supplied through U.S. trade shows). Still, it was how Loughner acquired his weapon that disturbs me. He bought a glock handgun from a store. Legally. What I know of the Arizona gun ownership background checks is limited to the ironic 1994 repeal for small arms by Judge Roll who was one of the fatally wounded victims of the shooting.
Does this mean that there was no background check for Loughner’s semi-automatic weapon? If there was one, did it acknowledge Loughner’s drug abuse which cost him admittance into the army a couple months back? If the gun store was the first place he went for a weapon, could he have been discovered by the law as a potentially dangerous man with a recent history of aggressive behavior?

No. He would have walked out gun in hand one way or the other. Nothing was ever in his way to the meeting on Saturday. Just as the next shooting by a disgruntled youth is in no way in danger of failure. As I twist the knob of my car radio off I hear that talk show pundits changing subjects to the latest developments in Michael Jackson’s death back in 2009. Already, I feel my fellow Americans lead me to where I want to be in a time of tragedy and self-reflection. I want to forget.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

007 Blood Stone Review

007: Blood Stone is a thrilling, well produced title that only the dense will turn their noses to. Should this be you, then you’ve missed one of the best bond games ever made.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I can’t even describe the plot to you as it left no impression on me whatsoever. The intent was to capture the erratic pacing of the Daniel Craig films, and to the credit of screenwriter Bruce Feirstein who’s worked on several other bond game scripts and the screenplay’s to three Brosnan Bond films, he does capture the sharp conversational dialogue of 007.

Visually the game banks on big set pieces and large detailed environments. Virtually every corner of the screen is alive in the moment-to-moment action and exquisite motion captured animation dominates. Racing fans get the best of it as Bizarre Creations notoriously excellent racing proficiency steals the spot light from time to time.

Now the actual on foot gameplay surprisingly-but appropriately-mirrors Uncharted more than Gears of War. After all, Bond is a far more visceral man than Marcus Phoenix. The melee is a context sensitive, but quick time free affair that compliments the gunplay better than a fully fleshed fisticuff engine.

The firefights are breezy and sweet. When pistols are drawn a skirmish usually doesn’t last more than a few seconds, and that’s if you win. I don’t want to sell Blood Stone short as a dumbed down experience as there’s still a challenge to be had. Personally as someone who only takes up the wheel in reality, I found the racing sections to be the greatest test.

With no incentive to replay the game beside achievements/trophies, the multiplayer comes off noticeably slower than the campaign. That said, once you adjust, the thrill of the gunplay is just the same online as it is off. There’s a solid if unremarkable XP system constantly spewing rewards in the forms of character skins, new weapons, and silver and gold paint for the weapons you use the most. My suggestion is to start out with the SMG for a balanced gun.

While Blood Stone didn’t meet my expectations of memorability, it’s still a great game in its own right. Now that most of you have already bought games like Black Ops, New Vegas, and Reach for the holidays, consider Bond’s latest adventure. As a rental, it’s one of the best gaming values you’ll get this winter.