They have no idea…
I was one of the many many’s to watch the latest Star Wars trailer last night during half-time of the Monday Night Football game. And I weathered the annoying duo of overrated Mike Tirico and the even more overrated Jon Gruden I might add to do so. Thankfully the slings and arrows I endured were worth it for the trailer…well it left me and my wife in tears. Nostalgic. Inspiring. A promise of a taste of home cooking! I was just absolutely enraptured by the sights and sounds. If the film is even a tenth of quality of the 2+ min trailer then I have to say it will be a difficult film to beat in my eyes as movie of the year. I simply can’t wait to see if this holds true!
Today I showed my students the trailer during a break in the festivities of learning what needed to be known on the upcoming state test (never mind learning anything useful). Most had not yet seen the trailer. And most had only the more recent (m&*#^$FU^%#&g) prequels as a reference point. Few, a sad, sad few, had ever seen the originals. Now talk about what is wrong with America! Throw aside all the criminals that are running for or currently holding office…we need everyone to sit down and watch the originals…oh and then burn the prequels afterwards!
After viewing the most recent trailer with my class I then went on to field questions. One of the questions was regarding the Disney purchase of the brand (a few of my kids pay attention to the news even if just the celebrity and entertainment sections). I shared that the good thing about the evil empire (Disney) is that they have A LOT OF MONEY. Mountains of it in fact and like American politicians they are willing to throw tons of it at an issue hoping for a solution. The solution for Disney with the faltering Star Wars franchise it to make more movies…and more…and more. I told the kids that they have no idea what is ahead of them. I then briefed them on just what was in store. For at least the next 6-years they will have a Christmas or summer Star Wars movie to attend. Three movies in the series and three films in the anthologies (monsters of the week – so popular in an established series because it focuses on one smaller story normally alluded to in the greater canon and context in the series whole). They were stunned. “We get to see something like this…every year for the next six years!?”
Originally I was concerned that director J.J. Abrams would bring along his friend from the Lost series Damon Lindelof (ruiner of Prometheus – shame!!!) but when I found Lindelof was not attached to SW oh boy was I excited. I can only hope I and my student are subjected to what Star Wars could be and not what it has been over the past decade. I can only hope…you listening Obi –Wan Kenobi?! You’re my only hope!
P.S. This movie better begin with the Millennium Falcon flying overhead!!!
A Review: The Apocalypse (The Undead World Series Book 1) Kindle Edition
Author: Peter Meredith
My Rating: 3 ½ cups of coffee out of 5
This summer I’ve taken advantage of the Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-day free trial (this is not a paid advertisement by the way). I downloaded 10 books, which is the at-a-time maximum allowed for the program, and went to town reading, reading, and yep…reading just a bit more! Currently there’s something like 800,000 books available on Kindle Unlimited (mine being one of them by the way—just sayin’!) and with so many good reads, deep and developed series, and strong indie authors to choose from it was difficult to really know where to begin.
Now just where did I choose to begin my summer read-fest you ask? I chose the end of course.
What I meant by that is I chose a book from one of my favorite genres which is the apocalypse. I know, that sounds a little dark but, as my supervisors have said to me over the years in their most inspiring moving-and-shaking dynamic leadershipping “it is what it is.” How inspiring is that, right!? One day soon I hope to shift from sci-fi to the dystopian apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic genre, or perhaps even combine them, but that is a wind that has not yet carried to me.
A series I started this summer is The Apocalypse (The Undead World Series Book 1). As I noted earlier it is available through Kindle Unlimited but if you want to straight purchase the work feel free to do so. Being an Indie work it is priced accordingly and lacks the publishers bloated price. The Apocalypse (Book 1) is pretty much your standard end of the world by means of an evil zombie virus tale which pulls people from near and far together as they journey to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta (ala The Walking Dead and many, many others of the same genre).
Okay, so I made it through the first book. Good for me, right? Was it the greatest book I’ve ever read? No. Not by a long shot (my favorite books by the way are The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein by the way). But I found it extremely interesting. Was it interesting enough to get me to open up Book 2? Yes. Yes it was.
I feel the author does a pretty good job with his characters and the troubles they find themselves in. The character can be considered lightly clichéd BUT not in a manner that is confounding or make the story boring. There is the strong male that is lost, the strong male that has concerns about his capabilities, the wild child, the depressed young woman, the evil woman…etc. They all have their own idiosyncrasies which the author does well to focus on to keep each character discernible from the rest which is a strong departure from what would probably be reality (but thankfully stories like these are a departure from reality) but this is how all these band-together-in-the-apocalypse survival stories are today.
What I love most about these stories is that I want to yell at the characters and the things they do because I believe I could do better. Could I? Maybe. But it’s fun yelling at the screen in a movie theatre when people are walking down the spooky staircase into the dark basement, right? Well at least in your head it is. If you’re that person yelling at the screen ruining the movie experience for everyone else then you need to know right not that you suck. You suck big time.
So the characters were okay and strong enough to get me investing and continue turning the pages, at least initially, but what about the story itself, is it worthy of your time? Yeah, I believe so especially if you take advantage of it on Kindle Unlimited. There are chases, zombies are killed, people are killed, scavenging (which is what happening after society falls and it is no longer called “looting”), there is discovery, and there is loss. Pretty much what you expect to see. Being an indie work there are also some typos (I’m guilty of this myself) but there is also some pretty sharp story telling. I recommend it at least through the first book and into the first quarter of book 2 which is where I am thus far.
(WHAT FOLLOWS IS NOT EXACTLY A SPOILER BUT…IF YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE GENRE THEN YOU’RE COOL TO READ ON)
Something I’d like to see though is an end of the world zombie scenario that doesn’t rely on the CDC for the cure (which we know they won’t have for bureaucratic or McGuffin-device type reasons) and I would like to see a military that doesn’t turn against its own people as warlords rise. I know those are two staples of the genre but something different would be nice to see in other similar works. I have great hope for this series that as I continue to read it does not take me the standards such as nice settlement found then destroyed, the apocalypse family goes into diaspora, searching for each other, just missing each other, coming together, being harder after some shocking loss, and then moving on to find the cure to save the world all by themselves.
We’ll see where it goes from here. I know I’m gonna read on.
P.S. Sorry for the long time between posts. I, like no one else in the world of course, have been rather busy of late. Much of my time during my two laid-off teacher summer months is spent exploring other projects, taking private contract work, walking the dogs, working out, and…writing. BUT there’s a lot of time for fun to fill the time idled gaps. So, for much of this free time, I find myself catching up on all the games, movies, and books I miss out on while working a 12-hour day as a teacher (for those of you who think teachers have it easy…you have no idea and if I could go back in time…that’s a diatribe for another time!).
Interstellar: A review/critique of a not so stellar movie. SPOILER INCLUSIVE!
Film: Interstellar (2014)
My Rating: .5 craft beers on a 6-pack scale (I took the 6-pack back for a refund – skunky beer!).
Runtime: 169 LONG mins
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Yes, this film has been out for a while now obviously. I missed it in theaters and that was on purpose. I don’t go to the theater because I want to be completely engrossed in a film (especially one I’m paying $$$ to see – remember when movies were $2.50 a ticket?!). I want to be immersed completely into a film, the sights, the sounds, which is extremely difficult when there’s a drunk couple screaming at the screen while sitting a row or two in front and of course there is always the person on their cell phone sitting but a seat away from you. The theater experience sucks these days despite the technologies available to show film. The human element pretty much ruins it so yeah I’m a little behind in seeing Interstellar. Thank God for Netflix and thank God I was able to hold out for the disk to arrive in the mail rather than buy the dang thing. I managed to sit through the nearly 3-gruelling hours last night but I was too drained to follow up with an immediate write-up so instead I went to bed and had some really bad dreams. You know a film is bad when it leads to nightmares and it isn’t a horror film! (Note: I don’t have nightmares at all regardless of the genre of film I’ve watched so the negative impact Interstellar had on my sleep is indeed scary).
Okay, okay, so that was a long opening paragraph that has let you know I didn’t like the movie. Now you must be asking exactly what was so bad, right? The answer would be pretty much everything. Everything except the Hans Zimmer score which from what I’ve read is something that the positive reviewers for Interstellar have pooh-pooed as the ONLY negative. Funny. I found the score to be different. Very different. But at the same time it was a refreshing change from the usual score associated with such films. I’m not bagging on the scores of other movies of the genre. I’m just saying that this was a welcomed departure from the norm.
SPOILERS BELOW – I don’t usually do the spoiler thing but it couldn’t be helped. Why? Because this film bothered me so much that I really wanted to pick apart some of the more prevalent flaws (fatal flaws) in this thing. SPOILERS BELOW
Now what didn’t work? EVERYTHING else. I don’t want to write a novel here but the last time a sciency doctor was played as bad as the Dr. Brand character of Anne Hathaway was Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) in The World Is Not Enough. I will not dignify Hathaway’s character by calling her “Dr.” anymore in this review/critique. It would be an injustice to the scientists of the world. Why was Hathaway’s character even included in the film especially when she had no power on the mission, other than to be annoying, as Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a pilot, who seems to be in charge of humanities destiny because he can fly a ship? A ship that seems to also be able to be flown by the talented and underutilized monolithic robots I might add. Just dumb. How convenient by the way that the secret NASA base where the saviors of humanity were busily working on things like solving gravity and building circular concrete structure underground was just an evening drive from Cooper’s farm. A secret NASA base where old friend/boss/professor Michael Caine was in charge and wasn’t surprised that Cooper just wandered on in.
One more thing about the robots; what exactly are they made of? They seem to be constructed of nothing but titanium, level III bullet proof Gorilla glass, and unobtanium/adamantium because they take a beating and their electronics don’t have so much as a hiccup. My wife spills a little water on her ipod and it’s toast. I really wish all electronics were built like those robots.
Another thing that absolutely didn’t work was the universe where this was all going down. If the planet was starving and in such miserable shape like we are led to believe, and the governments were unable to provide security (as mentioned with “there are no more Marines” and the lost Indian air force drone sequence which contributed next to nothing in the story by the way) there would most likely not be the safe little farming communities and industrial capabilities to keep folks using heavy machinery or gas powered vehicles. If you look at the vehicles used in Interstellar there are gas cans everywhere. Where are they getting the gasoline especially if the world can no longer maintain security? It comes down to this: people will be fighting and fighting everywhere. I saw no evidence of this. If you’ve seen Looper you’d see a more realistic near future sci-fi representation of what farming would most likely look like in a depressed future. Everyone in that universe is armed to the teeth and paranoid paranoid paranoid and rightly so. They aren’t the type to take in a baseball game in between massive dust storms that are slowly choking them all to death. It would be fantastic if they did though as there are few things I love more in this world than baseball. I believe I would be all but alone in the stands watching a game if the life of humanity was at stake like it was every day in the Interstellar universe.
Need more of what didn’t work? The explorer Romilly, who volunteers to stay behind and research the singularity (hoping to solve gravity) only to be rejoined with the returning Cooper (McConaughey) and Brand (Hathaway), seems pretty well-balanced despite 23+ years of being alone in a tin can. That’s not to say he wasn’t just a little bit off but he looked to handle their return a lot better than I expected him to. I know he slept a little but even if he slept for 80% of the time they were gone that’s still 4-5 years of solitary confinement the guy had to endure. By the way…they are flying these ships all over the place, near a black hole which is a pretty significant body of gravity (understatement), and they are worried about fuel all the time but I wonder just what is propelling and fuelling these craft here and there and without a heavy and long acceleration how to they figure on getting anywhere? Tremendous plot holes.
Another whacky thing is the Matt Damon character of Dr. Mann. I wonder if Chris Nolan was stoned out of his mind when he thought any part of that idea was good. Things big and large about this entire sequence bothered me to no end like how Dr. Mann sealed himself up in the hibernation tank (funny that if people are in that liquid for years they don’t have even a little bit of the prune look, right?). The system doesn’t look like a very good one when you have to rip open the bag to get someone out like Cooper had to do by the way. So Dr. Mann is awake and happy he isn’t dead and he explains his robot in a jumbled pile just broke down and they all seem to buy it pretty quickly and move on to the exciting data that makes them believe on the surface of this cold, cold planet they can breathe! Yay! We can’t grow SHIT here but at least in certain parts of this ice cube of a world you can breathe the air. Cooper and Dr. Mann go for a long walk to see this breathable surface (why didn’t they fly there??) and Cooper has part of his helmet broken by Dr. Mann so Mann can kill him and escape the planet. Cooper of course survives though it shouldn’t be such an issue because the pressure of his suit should have kept the toxic air out of the suit for a time being…nice that the suits don’t have some means to affix an emergency patch by the way. If he’d only brought some futuristic duct-tape foam patch kit thingy he would have been just fine. Of note is that Matt Damon isn’t billed in this film and I think for good reason. Why would he want his name associated with it?
Wait…there’s more! Dr. Mann has had the foresight to rig his robot to explode if the secret information he hid was accessed. Yep. What if someone accessed it while he was sleeping? He’s okay with killing everyone including himself? And the robot helping poor Romilly, a super advanced robot by the way, can’t go “hmmm that looks like a bomb?” Fine so Dr. Mann steals a ship, flies through the ice clouds (I’ve never seen ice able to float by the way) to the mothership but he cannot dock because the automatic docker has been turned off by one of the super robots as a precaution. Precaution against what!!!?? Against what!?!? AND THEN the super smart Dr. Mann doesn’t think much of opening a pressurized door into the vacuum of space. What could go wrong he thinks as he is shot out like a cannon point blank into the unsecured airlock hatch? By the way the computer during all this is telling him he isn’t in a secure dock but close enough seems to be okay with the good doctor. To me this was Chris Nolan and his brother (the co-writer) deciding it was time for something else to blow-up and give Cooper a chance to save the day by daringly docking with the spinning ship while Brand passes out. I’m going to drop the mike here because it hurts my head to think about anything else concerning this trainwreck of a film because thinking on how Cooper survives the black whole (WHICH NOTHING CAN ESCAPE!!! Except maybe love and good intentions) and is then found floating in deep space with minutes of air left in his little space suit which seems to be able to both keep him warm despite the incredibly cold reaches where he is found and also shielded from the Hawking radiation (and other neat killy things) from the singularity he was hanging out in to then meet up with a bunch of people just cruising around in giant space cylinders while Brand sits alone on their new world just hanging out. Glad they had all these ships and technology at hand but didn’t think to send anything to help her. Cooper of course then steals a ship with relative ease (great security by the way for a pretty valuable resource smart guys) and with probably not so much as a snickers bar with him he flies off to hook up with her so he can start farming on their new world no doubt.
Blah!!!! What a bunch of junk this all was! Do not use the IMDB.com rating on this one. This is NOT AN 8+ film. Not at all!
Film Review: Godzilla (2014)
My Rating: 1 craft beers on a 6-pack scale
Runtime: 123 mins
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Did I miss something or are there a lot of Godzilla groupies out there? When Godzilla first came out it had pretty good reviews on IMDB. Of course the folks that go to the theaters in that first week or two are the true fanatics and tend to give a blockbuster type movie high-praise even if it is far, far from warranted. The decline is usually a point-and-a-half drop after the first week. Godzilla was absolutely NOT the exception to the rule here. How it ever had an 8+ rating though, even after that first fanatical rush months and months ago (May 2014), is beyond me.
This movie sucked.
I gave up drinking for the month of January for no other reason than to see if I could. I could and it wasn’t that bad. That being said today is February 1st and it is also Super Bowl Sunday so I think I’ll be imbibing once again. The only regret I have for not drinking in January is that Godzilla is one of those movies you need to be inebriated to enjoy unless you are a masochist.
This movie sucked.
I hate writing bad reviews for something I have not and cannot do. I have not made a major motion picture and I very much doubt I ever will as it’s not anywhere near the top of my rather boring bucket list. I feel much better writing critical reviews on books because at least I’ve written one and offered it to the public. Something I believe all critics should keep in mind. First write a book yourself and subject it to the gauntlet of peer review prior to eviscerating the work of others. “Put up or shut-up” is the expression I’m looking for.
Oh…yeah, the review of Godzilla. See how I got off track there? Well, that is an example of just what Godzilla was; an off-track monster. It had such potential (NO SPOILERS – if it appears spoilerish it is taken from a trailer or commercial so they did it first) such as explaining all the atomic tests conducted in the South Pacific during the 50’s and 60’s. The Godzilla bastardized cannon has explained the birth of Godzilla via those atomic and thermonuclear tests. In this iteration the detonations in the Pacific were an attempt to KILL Godzilla not an after effect mutation of an iguana or something that would later grow, and grow, and grow until it decided it would swim all the way around the world to destroy New York or something. I liked the idea very much, that the military attempted to destroy Godzilla after finding him but then you much pay attention to this part of the backstory if you subject yourself to this film. This cool idea becomes a headache of a flaw when the director or studio decide it’s enough backstory and now it’s time to turn on the smoke machine and CGI computers so viewers can enjoy “spooky” fog-filled train rides, explosions in Hawaii, and skydiver heroes trailing cool red flares.
This movie sucked.
I really wanted to like Godzilla. I hope one day a writer will be allowed to tell a compelling story that will not be destroyed by the wanton need of CGI destruction and explosions. This film actually had a cast that would have been able to carry on a pretty good story had there been even a remote hint of one. Watanabe is an absolute favorite of mine (he’s steadily removed Liam Neeson from my heart because…political reasons that I’ll leave alone) but he is wasted here. He can pull off the stunned-scientist-that-pulls-it-all-together-when-given-the-proper-data-that-has-been-there-all-along-face really, really well. Shame that he doesn’t do much more in the movie though. As for Cranston…this was a near crime against humanity. He was beyond wasted. Beyond wasted. I’ll leave it alone at that. David Strathairn (I can never say his name—can you?) is the admiral in control of a naval fleet that seems to be able to travel vast distances in minutes. He too is pretty much wasted by playing the part of the clichéd hard-assed admiral who has to look pissed-off all the time. He could have been better utilized. More backstory or something. And then there is Aaron Taylor-Johnson…or whatever. He was simply there so the camera had some continuity for this trainwreck. He adds absolutely nothing to this movie. He’s kind of a hero of course but only because everyone else seems to be really, really stupid.
This movie sucked.
I could have easily turned this review of Godzilla into an Easter-egg hunt in flaws and goofs. But it’s not much of a hunt if the treasure is so easily found, right? Long story short here—if it comes to you via stream it’s something to have on in the background while you vacuum, fold the laundry, or paint the room. If you have really good genetics and are healthy, think you may live to be 100-years old, then please, waste 2-hours of your life watching this. Because I know I probably won’t see 70, I’m pissed I watched this thing because it’s time I will never get back. Will there be a sequel…let’s hope not. Please, join me in prayer!
I’ve been absent for a little while in my writing of movie reviews. I’ve been REALLY busy working on a couple writing and editing projects. Love writing. HATE editing. That’s all I’ll say on that subject. I look to be writing more reviews in the near future so stay tuned.
Series Review: Helix
My Rating: 1 craft beers on a 6-pack scale (to get through this turkey I needed WAY more than a 6-pack!). I will be accepting donations to help me get through the suffering that is sitting through the first 13-episodes of this disaster.
Runtime: 13-episodes 40-45 mins each
Directed by: Various
Creator: Cameron Porsandeh
So I caught a commercial/trailer for this series more than a year or so ago and filed it away in my brain. As time went by it hovered in my memory until it merged in my mind with the commercials for The Strain (which I still need to watch) and Fringe (which I have watched most of but still need to watch the last season+). Being busy with work, life, and naps I’d all but forgotten about Helix. I haven’t watched Syfy since they killed Stargate: Universe so I never caught the series when it was first run. Then, a couple weeks ago, Helix popped up on my Netflix radar and the memory of this promising series resolved from the fog. I added it to the queue and prepared for a marathon. I primed the couch and stocked the larder ready for a Saturday morning start for the planned day-long session. Unfortunately my plan was derailed when I found Helix to be…not so very good. If I’m going to spend a whole day sitting on my butt watching the TV, instead of doing the dozen or so more productive things, the program needs to be pretty good. Not great. Just pretty good. And Helix definitely does not as “pretty good.”
I managed to make it through the first season but it took me far longer than I had originally planned. I simply seemed to find things to do instead of watch Helix like…wash my car in the rain, reorganize the glassware in the kitchen cabinet according to height, and count the servings and calories in my emergency ration stash so I know exactly what’s in inventory for when that alien invasion occurs (which I assume is soon).
As is my normal practice I will not include any spoilers in this review though I can tell you that one of the main-ish characters in the first several episodes doesn’t make it half-way through the first season and THANK GOD for that! If you watch Helix you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say the acting of the clichéd bandanna wearing, rock music enthusiast, straight-talking scientist Doreen character is simply terrible. Terrible. Terrible. The acting is bad. The reasoning her experienced and supposedly intelligent character uses is simply awful and really detracts from the story. Just about every second her character is on the screen time is better spent taking out the trash or checking your work email on the iPad (yes both of those are similar tasks).
The main character of Dr. Alan Farragut, played by Billy Campbell, is not so very good by itself but thanks to the terrible Doreen character your ire is not focused entirely on him. Why he feels the need to talk in a husky/whiny voice (tough to pull that off at the same time) for the entirety of the first season is beyond me. I need to also mention that Campbell is 30-years older than the character played by Jordan Hayes. I won’t go any further on the subject but it is worth noting. If you watch the show you’ll understand. Thankfully there are moments of mystery that work to pull you into a slowly developing story. From time-to-time Dr. Hatake, played by Sanada – perhaps most recognized as the swordmaster in The Last Samurai – pops in and drops a little morsel of mystery like Hansel and Gretel leaving bread crumbs. Now if only those bread crumbs led somewhere interesting. There was so much promise in this show in the beginning but it just kinda continues on without really getting all that interesting. There’s some side story going on regarding stolen children I think. I should know but I found my attention often waning throughout this turkey. Oh, one last glaring issue with Helix. The team led by Campbell that is trying to do…whatever it is that they’re trying to do…is part of the CDC. Is that organization really so inept that a group of their most senior scientists runs off to cure a big bad bug and when the home office doesn’t hear from them for a long time there’s no response? Just one of the many, many plot holes in the show.
I’ll probably watch the second season when it’s on Netflix but I won’t seek it out. When it shows up on the recommendations list I’ll add it to the queue but not before. I’m not going to search it out. I do have to mention that there was one thing I enjoyed about the show. The hokey elevator music that plays during the title crawl is out of place and yet it’s oddly catchy.
Now can I recommend you spend a weekend watching this? Sure…but only after you’ve expended all other entertainment options, completed all chores, and reorganized your hope chest. Note: as I wrote this review I’ve steadily deducted points from the rating. I’m going to stop here out of concern I’ll soon be into negative numbers which isn’t fair to the two or three people that worked hard to bring you Helix.
P.S. 75K+ words into Sigma Draconis and more than a third of the way through the 2nd edition of The Bellerophon: Ambush which I hope to republish soon. I’m excited about both projects and the many, many project yet to come. SD is going to be cool but very different than my first book.
Film Review: Drive (2011)
My Rating: 5 craft beers on a 6-pack scale (5 ½ if you have an awesome 7.1 sound system).
Runtime: 100 mins
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
First off I’m compelled to share that it is my belief that anything featuring Ryan Gosling should be considered guilty pleasure entertainment. I don’t know why that is exactly. He’s far from the greatest thespian to ever grace the silver screen. He delivers dialogue like he’s ordering a pizza and he has one move: a slowly forming smile coupled with a squint. Still I have enjoyed nearly everything I’ve ever seen him in. I wish I could put exactly why into words but I can’t at this time so I won’t even attempt the hunt.
On to Drive.
A wannabe race car driver spends his days stunt driving for movie productions and his nights driving the “getaway” car for those requiring his special skills. He also appears to make some money as a mechanic but money doesn’t seem to be his driving force (more on that later…and spoiler free as always). There is a married neighbor and some complications with some organized crime folks. Trouble ensues. And there is driving.
Drive was a difficult film to review despite my abject love for it. I saw it the first time streaming on Netflix. Then a month or two later it arrived in the mail via the Netflix mailer because I forgot to take it off my disc queue (SIDENOTE: Yes I still get discs mailed to me. Not everything streams and Blu-ray is simply the best media. Period.) I wasn’t bothered by the arrival of the disc bearing envelope as it gave me another excuse to watch and HEAR the flick but this time in full 7.1 surround. I’m glad I wasn’t paying close attention to my queue because listening to the Blu-ray audio really introduced a new character I would have otherwise missed in the background minutiae.
This character was the sound and, to state simply, it was incredible.
This is perhaps one of the best films in recent years to take full advantage of a musical score, creative song placement, and outright sound. It more than made up for the near wooden performance by Gosling. You will certainly enjoy the “family” drive down the concrete L.A. River. I simply love the music that plays during this scene. It feels like a warm memory of a surreal family picnic. Another scene that takes full advantage of a plus musical score should perhaps have been mentioned first as it is the opening. The first time I heard this play I looked up from whatever was distracting me (iPad, dog in my lap, etc.) in wonder. Had I turned on the wrong movie? I wondered to myself. Nope. It’s Drive, it says so on the screen. Now I’d heard Drive receive positive reviews from trusted friends and even trusted family (trusted in that they are movie fans with somewhat discernable tastes) but still I took a long time getting to it. Too long I now freely admit.
I keep mentioning it but this is a film to watch simply for the sound. I know…I’m beating a dead horse here, cloning it, raising it, and then to die of natural causes only to beat that dead horse yet again.
Remember no spoilers so I won’t go into details while mentioned the vaunted elevator scene. It is one of the sweetest – yeah I said sweetest – and yet most horrifying scenes I can recall viewing in recent memory. There. I mentioned it. No spoilers. Proceed.
The scene with Ron Perlman on the beach also stands out because of the near lack of sound. If I were to give an Oscar performance for Drive I would award it to the sound/music folks for sure.
So the sound was awesome (have I mentioned that yet?). Now the acting…yeah…the acting. There had to be some of that in Drive, right? And there was. Kinda. Gosling was only a vehicle (pardon the terrible, terrible pun) for the incredible music/sound and the rather interesting story. He neither added a great deal nor subtracted same from the movie. But, because he’s Ryan Gosling, you just sorta buy him, due to his presence, simply because he doesn’t get in the way of the story much. And because he’s Ryan Gosling. Could other actors perhaps have added more? Sure. Maybe. It was a tough character to play because, other than a couple allusions to such, he near completely lacks character depth. That’s not to say the entire cast goes the same however. Carey Mulligan was rather strong as a wife held hostage by her sense of responsibility and honor while at the same time longing for something else, something more. She really sold a woman that wanted to scream but accepted that it would do very little. So she kept it bottled up like a good Irish gal. Good girl. Keep that bottled up. Very healthy. But, really you can see she has limited choice, especially because she has a young son to consider. The performance by the almost cookie cutter bad guys, played by Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman, was certainly a weakness and so was the lack of screen time for Bryan Cranston.
A law should be passed that every movie Cranston is cast in, from now until the day after forever, needs to give his character twice as many lines and screen time as anyone else would be allotted. Did I say he is a fantastic actor? Well he is.
Watch Drive but even more important…hear Drive. I’m going to go and pop it into the PS3 right now (yeah I added it to the official collection).
Film Review: Snowpiercer (2013)
My Rating: 5.9 craft beers on a 6-pack scale (no such thing as a perfect 6-pack!).
Rating: R (not finding a rating but, yeah, I’d give it an R)
Runtime: 126 mins
Directed by: Joon-ho Bong
Writers: Joon-ho Bong, Kelly Masterson (others as well but I didn’t want to turn the page)
Note: English language film, also Korean, Japanese, French
Terribly ugly awfully perfect film. Yeah you read that right. Wrap your brain around that!
As usual there will be no spoilers in this quick and dirty review. There may be allusions and feelings (yuck…feelings) but no spoilers herein lie.
Silly humans destroy the world. Only a train with an engine that seems to be able to run forever allows the remnants of silly humanity to survive (you may wonder why bother at the end of this movie though). To what end I don’t entirely know, but it is not the end that this movie is at all about; it’s absolutely about the journey. The movie could end abruptly a half-hour or more early and nearly the same effect would have been had. Still I suggest you watch the whole thing.
I attempt to have my film reviews at under 500-words. Usually 500 plus or minus a paragraph gets the job done. I will attempt to do the same here, however I doubt I’ll be successful in this endeavor. To get us started I begin with this: I loved this movie so much that I never want to see it again. Why? Well…because it made me angry. And I loved it for it.
Why did it make me angry? When I say it made me angry I don’t want to convey the notion that I’m upset at the film in anyway, no, not at all. I’m upset at myself. I’m upset that I didn’t pay enough attention to my 11th grade English class with Mr. Alan Watt’s. I remember skipping his class. I remember sleeping in his class. But what I don’t remember clearly is Dante’s Inferno because I was simply too cool for school and the likes. Had I paid closer attention I perhaps would have enjoyed this film even more than I did already. Thankfully I paid attention in social studies when we were instructed on class systems and the inherent struggles of the proletariat versus the aristocracy and upper class. Read Dante’s Inferno and then remember your class system struggles studies, and the fact that this is a movie set upon a train in an apocalyptic world (with a humanity that wants to survive but most assuredly does not deserve to do so), and you’ll walk away all the better for having seen this film as first an educated person.
I wanted to watch it again…so I immediately returned it so I wouldn’t get to so as to purposefully torture myself. A wonderful film that my only regret being is that it took so long to see.
Now, why not the perfect rating? Well ever since the perfect-10 with Mary Lou Retton in the Olympics perfection has been forever tarnished. The idea of the “perfect-10” is that there is no way at all, ever, ever, ever, that it could be any better. Since I do not conform to the perfect-10 rating on anything, especially since I am not a corrupt French figure skating judge, I have to point out a couple flaws that kept Snowpiercer, at least in my humble determination from Mary Lou status.
First, John Hurt is wasted. He has some good lines but then the baton is passed/fumbled to Chris Evans who is trying not to come across as Captain America throughout the length of the picture. He kinda sorta almost succeeds. He has one scene where he is definitely NOT Captain America (unless you consider him Captain “Corporate” America…you’ll get the joke hopefully when you see this movie) but other than that he just needs a shield with a star on it and he’s the Marvel superhero we all know and love.
Tilda Swinton is…well, Tilda Swinton. You can’t stand her and you love her for it. She is wonderful so she pushed the movie toward the Mary Lou perfect-10 but, like the rather wasteful performance of John Hurt (seriously…was he sick one day during an important scene and they Bong just decided to move on without him?), you’ll then find Jamie Bell’s character wasted. Sad…almost won the gold with that 10. Oh well. A 5.9 is pretty cool in the craftbeer rating world I suppose.
I can’t wait to watch this film again and torture myself by hating myself because it is so terribly awesome.
P.S. Perhaps it should be noted that this review was written while I was under the influence of vodka. You see I’ve had the flu/cold and thought I needed orange juice to help with an infusion of vitamin-C. BUT, not being a fan of straight OJ, I needed something to make it a little more palatable and thus I’m sure you can now understand the virtue and inclusion of vodka in this situation. So, for the sake of vodka…
…Cheers once more!
Film Review: The Awakening (2011)
My Rating: 5 craft beers on a 6-pack scale.
Runtime: 107 mins
Directed by: Nick Murphy
Writers: Stephen Volk, Nick Murphy
Stars: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton
Note: English language film, a UK production.
So I write this a day after watching The Awakening. Looking at the film a day later I almost wonder at my initial high rating. Perhaps too high in fact. When compared to the IMDP and Metascore ratings I see I’m indeed a little elevated. Perhaps my 5 craft beer score has more to do with the fact that I was on my 5th beer by the end of the movie and again I’m on my 5th brew as I write this now. Perhaps. I’m sticking with the rating however so here we go.
IMDB The Awakening
There will be no spoilers so don’t worry. Really this review is my impression and not a justification piece to point out what worked and what failed. This film was pretty darn good. The thing that’s quite possibly the most scary is the screen presence of Dominic West. I try to not like him. I try really, really hard. But I can’t. Even when I think about him in Centurion (as a very unbelievable Roman general with a terrible, terrible accent) and The 300 (as a douchebag politician who…well he nailed this one actually) I just don’t like his work very much. But in The Awakening he’s pretty darn good as a cross between a lead and a supporting actor. I wish we got a little more about his story, but we got what we got, which was enough to move the story along.
Rebecca Hall was good simply because she wasn’t over-the-top annoying. She was beyond annoying in The Town (my previous reference film concerning the actress) and I wasn’t thrilled to see she was in this but she managed to not suck so she was therefore good enough. It was hard sometimes to hear exactly what she was saying but thankfully I had the subtitles on so I could more easily follow what she was saying despite much of it probably being better off as internal narrative. I have to say that I’m 36 and not hard of hearing. West came in lough and clear so the subtitles were not needed throughout. Hall just needs to speak up a bit. Maybe it wasn’t that bad…but I think it was.
So there is a little blood (in like one rather super violent scene), a little less blood in another violent scene, and a couple of places where you may be a little scared but not royally so (in my opinion). Oh, and you see a boob and thusly the film is rated “R.” What really drew me into the film was the setting as a period piece (set in 1921). The Awakening takes place just three-years or so after the First World War and it did a pretty good job of conveying the psychological scars of a nation with wounds that are far from healed. To have a generation or two erased from existence due to the horrors of war is a pretty heavy burden for a people to carry. England is a country of people that want ghosts to exist because there are so many loved ones now absent.
Is this a lights out scary movie? No. Not at all really. What’s best about The Awakening is that it isn’t a super clichéd slasher, buckets of blood, screamfest. Nope. It’s just an entertaining thriller with some rather solid acting (West) and a pretty good ending that made me think I should have seen it coming but didn’t. I like films that surprise me and The Awakening did so. It’s worth a watch but perhaps my 5-craft beer rating was too high. I may change it tomorrow. I’ll sleep on it.
“HARD TO PUT DOWN!”
“GRABS HOLD AND DOESN’T LET GO.”
Film Review: The Returned
My Rating: 4 ½ craft beers on a 6-pack scale.
Runtime: 98 mins
Directed by: Manuel Carballo
Writers: Hatem Khraiche
Stars: Kris Holden-Reid, Emily Hampshire, Claudia Bassols
Note: English language film, shot in Canada, production company based in Spain. Watched via stream from Netflix.
Want to see a very different take on the zombie apocalypse and the impact it would have on the world? Well, look no further than the excellent indie film The Returned. There are NO spoilers below so don’t be worried.
This is not a movie with buckets of blood (the first 3-minutes of the title segment notwithstanding), deeply flawed and yet lovable survivors, and nor does it feature the lost child looking for someone to protect and adopt them as their own. The Returned is a movie about how the world, which survived an outbreak or two already of the zombie plague, managed to hold society together in the aftermath with fears of a new outbreak looming. Some, but in my opinion, not enough of the flaws of society are exposed here. But there is certainly enough to have a discussion with fellow zombie lovers afterwards over a bottle of wine or some craft beer (I’m on board with the latter).
The IMDB rating for it is surprisingly low. When this was written it had an average 5.9/10 rating by the nearly 4700 raters. The metascore was also lower than I expected. Much, much lower in fact. I wonder if these ratings can be attributed to all The Walking Dead and World War Z lovers out there that felt cheated that it wasn’t 98-minutes of skulls being caved in and intestines pulled out of the guts of unlucky folks like scarves from the shirtsleeve of a magician.
Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t the end-all be-all greatest zombie movie of all time. It is just a different kind of zombie movie. A movie you can watch while your kids are in the other room and if they happen to walk in there’s a 90% chance they won’t be severely traumatized.
In the end I was greatly entertained and left wanting more. Wanting more not because there was a tremendous lacking in this offering but because this imaginative universe can easily support a sequel and/or a prequel as well. A wonderful piece for those that love the zombie genre but need a bit of a break from the gritty, bloodbath, and ultra-depressing dystopian/apocalyptic world displayed on our entertainment screens day-in and day-out.
Prediction: When will we see the first zombie based “reality” TV series? When creative television is truly dead and the ratings will be off-the-hook no doubt. (You heard it here first).
Oh…and what’s the best thing after a movie? How about a good read!