Not too sure about this one but the nice thing about exercises is that they don’t have to be good or anything.

Scenario:  A man wakes up to find that he cannot speak to his gramophone (this is a result of my apparent inept comprehension skills, as the situation was supposed to be that he finds he CAN speak to it)
Genre:  Surreal (if that’s even a genre)

The Gramophone

 

  1. Thunder rumbled lazily past the window while droplets of water pattered against its pane.
  2. His eyes were blurry at first and his ears were ringing, but he rubbed the sleep away and stretched limbs toward the four corners of the world.
  3. Sensors that he hardly noticed were slowly bringing the lights up in his room and the coffee pot began trickling.
  4. “It isn’t like you to be so quiet, Ptah,” the man said, nearing the gramophone in the corner.
  5. Whirring from the coffee pot and the continued gentle siege on the window pane were the only sounds in the bedroom.
  6. “Come on buddy; it’s too early for your shenanigans,” the man picked up the bras and moved it about.
  7. The gramophone showed no signs of life and dust had begun to collect on the inside of the pavilion.
  8. The wall was lit up now with the glow of the HoloVision coming to life.
  9. “…saying that prior to the incidents, low vibrations and ringing were heard…” the anchor on the wall was saying.
  10. Outside another clap of thunder boomed so close that the man stepped to the window to look out but only saw fire, smoke and a building crumbling to the ground.

I have a feeling these are going to become quite frequent.  That is perfectly fine, as at least my blog will finally get some regular usage.

 

Scenario:  Child’s Bedroom
Genre:  M. Night Shyamalan (we made this up…)

 

Battleship Row

 

|.

Sunlight fractured through the small window overlooking the simple bed underneath.

||.  

Airplane noises echoed off of the walls in his bedroom and toy soldiers and tanks were strewn about at random or some chaotic design.

|||.  

The P-51 Mustang whirled around in Charlie’s grasp as a Japanese Zero fled in his other hand.

||||.  

Toy battleships were aligned neatly in a row, with one or two askew or turned on their side here and there.

||||.

Charlie moved his arms in large arcs, and brought the dogfight down below the hard deck with zooming sounds vibrating through his teeth.

|||| |.  

The Zero broke hard to the right as it slammed into the plastic battleship and left the Mustang with no choice but to pull up.

|||| ||.

More chaos exploded around Charlie as he flew over the harbor as torpedoes splashed into water and slammed into metal.

|||| |||.  

Sirens blared faintly over the sound of his propeller as water and fire splashed in all directions below him.

|||| ||||.  

Charlie could feel the water drench his uniform and the heat from the fires was causing him to sweat.

|||| ||||.  

Outside his window, officials in white coats, blue uniforms and fire-retardant gear ran all over the lawn and in that instant his door sprung open revealing two of his captors dressed in white in the door frame.

So, apparently my buddy and I decided to take our challenge again.  I finally came up with a name for the exercise as well and added another restriction.  We’re calling it Ten Cubed.  Ten sentences.  Ten chapters.  Ten minutes.  Below is another one from today:

 Scenario:  Deep sea diver at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.  Radio contact with the surface is sketchy at best. 
Genre:  Horror

 

 MARIANA

1.
To say the suit was experimental was a gross overstatement at best.
2.
The Trench was freezing, pitch black and weighed so much he felt like that time he had to play wingman to a buddy after a night of drinking.
3.
Actually, the Trench might have felt less heavy on his body.
4.
“Michaels, uh…we’re getting a rea—“
5.
“Say again Surface, you broke up there.”
6.
He spent so much time trying to keep his thing from falling off he’d forgotten why they down there.
7.
“Michaels, we have to…you…, we’ve got something h—“
8.
A flood light attached to the new suit began to flicker and failed.
9.
Down in the dark amidst the pressure of the ocean above, he began rocking back and forth.
10.
Michaels didn’t get much of a glimpse, but he thought he saw female hands grabbing at his visor just before the gravity of the see invaded his suit.

 

I am very bad at horror, as I’m not particularly a fan of the genre, but this one was quite interesting. These are either going to become easier to do, or I’ll just get worse at them.  It also might become a regular enough thing to require its own category here at ThisMilkTastesOdd.  We shall see. 

My buddy and I at work came up with a writing exercise that we decided to try out.  The rules are simple:  You are given a scenario and a genre and it’s up to you to come up with a ten chapter “novella” that only contains one sentence per chapter. Below is my attempt.

 

Scenario: Old West saloon, a new guy walks in. Genre: Sci-Fi (given to me by my buddy). 

 

The Kraken

 

I

It had rained earlier that afternoon and the puddle exploded with the impact of his boot, sending droplets and strings of water in all directions.

II

He threw the reigns over the hitch and through a loop and pulled hard, adjusted his brim and stepped up to the wooden deck.

III

The Kraken was emblazoned into the wood overhead and the rickety doors hissed, creaked and shuddered as they disappeared into the door frame as he entered the saloon.

IV

Bustling, loud and smelling of bile, fumes and spirits, the belly of The Kraken was alive.

V

“Ain’t seen you in here ‘fore, you passin’ through or lookin’ for trouble?” a voice from over the bar droned out.

VI

“Lookin’ to quench this thirst first, then I mean to have a little more.”

VII

“Seems you missed the part where you ain’t welcome here, Zachareus Granger,” another low voice but this one knew his name.

VIII

Fuck.

IX

Features did not flinch, eyes did not blink, low whines of two railguns began to climb in pitch and suddenly, the belly of The Kraken spewed out it’s contents into the muddy street.

X

Shouts rang out and echoed through the street, rails splintered and exploded everywhere as they were fired in rapid paces and the stranger was in the mud and grasping while Granger flung a leg over his steed and it roared to life in a sound of fury as he sped off into darkness.

This is an interesting and fun exercise because it gives you a set situation and genre and also forces you to be concise, choose your wording carefully and get to the point quickly. I think I did okay here, but it could definitely use some refining. 

Let me know what you think. 

WordPress tells me that today is my two-year anniversary as a member of the site.  For shame, I honestly wanted there to be a ton of content on this blog by now, but alas, I grew lazy and uninspired for a time.  Now I am forcing myself to get back in to it.  My posts may frequent the Screening Room more often than not, but at least it’s a starting point.  I spent my entire previous weekend binging out on Best Picture nominees.  So without further ado, I present my thoughts on the 2014 Academy Award Nominees for Best Picture:

I will simply go in the order in which I viewed them, so first up we have Nebraska.  Written by Bob Nelson and directed by Alexander Payne, this little film focuses on Woody Grant (Bruce Dern), an aging man with a mission.  When Woody receives a letter in the mail declaring that he is a lucky winner of one million dollars, he sets out on foot toward Lincoln, Nebraska to claim his prize.

The problem is, of course, that he is elderly and shouldn’t be making said trip on foot from Billings, Montana.  Nagging wife Kate (June Squibb) and youngest son David (Saturday Night Live’s Will Forte) make several attempts to dissuade Woody but are unsuccessful.  Finally David agrees to drive his father to Lincoln to find out what all the fuss is about.  Pulling away from the driveway from a screaming, selfish old woman, the two generations of Grants set out.

Now, it must be noted that the entire movie is filmed in black and white.  I will never mind a black and white film, as I believe that sometimes it can enhance the overall quality of the picture.  With black and white, you get two distinct colors, and you get vivid, sharp imagery and shadows.  This no doubt led to the Best Cinematography nomination this film also received.  Initially, during the Oscars, I had not seen any of these films yet, but I still like to participate and fill out a bracket to see if I can guess the winners just as well without even seeing them.  I fared a little less than half correct this year and one of my incorrect choices was Nebraska for Best Cinematography.  I think that this was the only saving grace of this film.

 

 

I do not believe that this movie deserved to get a Best Picture nomination, nor do I believe Bruce Dern put up an astounding enough performance to garner a Best Actor nod either.  Everyone’s performances were fine sure, but nothing out of the ordinary or over the top that caught my attention.  How hard can it be to play a delusional old man when you are in fact, a delusional old man?  Similarly, how difficult is it to play a bitter old woman, when you’re already an old woman?  I really don’t understand why the Academy chose to give this film so many nominations.  It most definitely did not deserve it for Best Original Screenplay.  I mean, we’ve seen this type of movie before.  Older person attempts to go on a pilgrimage and runs into unexpected delays or shenanigans.  It’s nothing new nor is it anything original that we’ve not seen before.  I am glad that this film did not take home any Oscars, because it didn’t deserve to be there.

[4/10]

When I had finally choked down the tiring and boring black and white flick, I promptly shoved Dallas Buyers Club into my computer hoping for a better outcome.  I was not disappointed.

Here we have a better quality film with better writing by Craig Borton and Melisa Wallack and direction by Jean-Marc Vallee.  Based on the story of electrician and rodeo gambler Ron Woodroof’s battle with AIDS, the American healthcare machine and the FDA, Dallas Buyers Club is full of light-hearted moments, throat-tightening moments, and two exceptional performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.

I have a running joke with a fellow film enthusiast and close friend of mine where we feel like we have unlocked the key to winning an Oscar as an actor.  If you portray someone who is mentally challenged, handicapped or underdeveloped, you might get an Oscar nomination.  Just ask Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe or Sean Penn.

If you portray someone who is dying of some disease, you may get an Oscar nomination.  Just ask Tom Hanks and Matthew McConaughey (I can’t think of any other examples now).

If you portray someone who is a homosexual or anyone who would fit in with the GLBT community, you may get an Oscar nomination.  Just ask Tom Hanks, Jared Leto, Heath Ledger (er, I guess you can’t ask Heath), Jake Gyllenhaal and Sean Penn.

If you portray someone who is a real historical figure or person, you might get an Oscar nomination.  Just ask Jamie Foxx, Daniel Day-Lewis, Joaquin Phoenix, (Reese Witherspoon too, but apparently I’ve only named male performers thus far), Will Smith and a slue of other great performances by actors portraying real people.

 

 

Anyway, McConaughey happens to nail two birds with one stone here and portrays a real person with a terminal disease, whilst Jared Leto hits one of the other categories.  Now, it maybe come as a surprise to some, but just because an actor fits into any one category or more does not mean that’s why they got nominated.  Most likely it is because they did so with a beautiful mind (see what I did there) in place regarding their portrayal of the character at hand.  Matthew and Jared downright nailed it in this film.  If anyone else had won Best Supporting actor I would have rioted. Leto is near unrecognizable as himself as he plays kind-hearted transgender Rayon who meets Ron while they’re both in the hospital due to their shared illness.  Upon their meeting, Ron is still the manly man cowboy who isn’t too keen on Rayon’s way of life, but that’s one of the wonderful things about this movie.  Throughout some uncomfortable scenes, some hilarious scenes and some change-of-heart type of scenes, we get to see Ron not only warm up to but befriend and defend Rayon near the end. 

There isn’t any spectacular score or cinematography that goes along with this film, but it is a well-written and well-acted piece of work.  We get to see Ron struggle through accepting his new condition, to accepting other human beings as being similar to himself, despite differences.  We also get to see a side of our wonderful healthcare industry here in the States that a lot of people seem to be nervous to discuss.  Ron doesn’t have time to wait around for FDA approval for drugs that will help keep him alive, so he starts up a club for people like himself to obtain proper treatment, and the shenanigans run off from there.

McConaughey doesn’t necessarily deviate from his normal performance style (his accent, his laid back view of the world) but he does use it in a manner that fits the character while at the same time transforming himself into nothing we’ve seen him portray before.  Dallas Buyers Club definitely earned its nominations and people should go check out why.

[8/10]

I waited until the next day to throw in Captain Phillips.  Oh, speaking of portraying someone who is an actual person, Tom Hanks plays shipping container captain, Richard Phillips.  Paul Greengrass’ directing style is known to just throw us into the action as quick as possible (United 93, The Bourne Identity) and he does no differently here.  In a story written by Captain Phillips himself and adapted to the screen by Billy Ray (not Cyrus, thank God), we find the captain driving himself and his wife (random Catherine Keener cameo) to the airport where she drops him off and we never see her again.  From there, we get the gist of the situation as he arrives in a foreign country and familiarizes himself with the ship and then we’re off to sea.

Instead of just having some random Somali pirates appear out of nowhere and get an early “bad guy” label, we are shown the small village where they reside and the dire situation they are experiencing in their poverty-stricken land.  With no time wasted, we are told that this village is under control of what could resemble organized crime as they are ordered off to sea to capture more boats.  They are literally employed (likely by force) by some Somalian mob faction for the purpose of piracy.

 

 

Here we get introduced to yet another Best Actor (supporting) nominee, Barkhad Abdi in his portrayal as the leader of the pirate gang that boards the ship.  I’m not so sure if he deserved his nomination or not, as I don’t think he’s really done any other acting work and who knows whether he had to act much to get said character drawn out of himself.  In either event, he did perform well and convincingly enough as did our beloved Mr. Hanks.

Surprisingly enough, most of the stuff in the trailers is over and done with quick, as this is called “Captain Phillips” and not “Hostages at Sea” or some such nonsense.  The story quickly, intensely and anxiously throws us right into the meat of the film, where we get to spend most of our time with four pirates and the captain himself aboard a lifeboat.  One would think that would make for a rather boring film with nothing going on, but Greengrass delivers.

On a side note, the first time I watched this trailer, I happened to have just purchased the video game Medal of Honor: Warfighter and there is a mission in the game that is this very scenario.  You get to be part of the SEAL team that goes in to extract Captain Phillips from the lifeboat.  I  was shocked because merely minutes before I picked up the controller, I had watched upcoming movie trailers and there it was.

Some would argue that Tom got snubbed in the Best Actor category this year, but I’m not so sure.  It was almost as if he was Jim Lovell aboard Apollo 13 again at some points and his acting reflected that, but I think his performance really kicked into high gear near the end of the film.  Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this film and thought it had the right dose of fast-paced action and another dose of intense drama mixed in with each other.

[7.5/10]

Once I was done with Captain Phillips I hopped in the car to return them to Redbox and drove straight to the local video store (I know, some of them still exist!) to pick up the remaining Best Picture nominees, or at least those out so far.  American Hustle comes out today I believe.  Regardless, the next movie I chose was Gravity. I popped this one into my Playstation 3 to utilize the Blu-Ray quality and cranked up my surround sound.  Completely worth it.

Performance and story-wise, this movie is simple.  We have two main characters and they happen to be pretty much the ONLY characters in the film as well.  One is retiring astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), and the other is medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock).

Let me say right off the bat that this film far and away deserved the technical Oscars it won.  Best Cinematography, Visual Effects, Sound…all of it.  Right off the bat, we are treated with an enormous shot of Earth as she takes up more screen than there is room and some radio chatter filters in as we take in the view.  It takes a while for our eyes to focus on the little white spec moving closer to the screen and over the planet, and that is where we begin our journey.

 

 

In a mission that features the Space Shuttle Explorer, we find our crew’s primary objective is to update the Hubble Space Telescope with some prototype technology that Dr. Stone had developed on Earth that was supposed to help Hubble see more clearly and far deeper into space than ever before.  However, in what seems to be an ongoing relevance, Russia screws things up for our crew.  The result causes catastrophic events to occur and we are left alone in space with our two lovable crew members as they fight to survive with virtually no way to get home.

I had heard from people around me and online that there was a lot of disappointment surrounding Gravity, but I disagreed immediately after I was done.  One person had said that most of the film is dull and boring, but I felt differently.  Maybe it’s my love of space, but I felt like I was one step away from an anxiety attack throughout the film.  Sandra Bullock delivers a well deserved Oscar performance and so did the post production team.  The Sound and the visuals completely make this movie and to top off the ice cream cone of science fiction, Steven Price’s Oscar-winning Score completes the ensemble.

For a 90 minute jaunt, this movie is well worth it.

[8/10]

Now, I had to take a break after Gravity and let my senses recharge and let my hearing recharge from having my surround sound up so loud.  So it wasn’t until I was lone with my computer and the remains of a bottle of Prima Amore white wine that I got the chance to sit down and digest this year’s Best Picture winner itself, 12 Years A Slave.  Let me just say, “Wow…”

 

 

In another example of a performance based on a real person, Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers, and he delivers hard.  It didn’t take me long into this film to start questioning whether I still agreed that Matthew McConaughey deserved to win Best Actor.  Even further along, I started to even question whether Michael Fassbender deserved to win over Jared Leto.  This movie is ripe with astounding performances that don’t stop with Ejiofor, Fassbender or Nyong’o.  We get cameos by Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch, all of whom bring a weighted power to their limited screen time.

The story is based on the accounts of free man, Solomon Northup who was kidnapped and sold into slavery where he suffered for 12 years.  We get glimpses of the hell that he went through, and Fassbender’s performance is bone-chilling as the man who ultimately comes to “own” Solomon after Cumberbatch’s character sells  him away to save him from Paul Dano’s character.

Along the way we get an extremely uncomfortable performance by Lupita Nyong’o and the things her character has to put up with as a female slave.  Jennifer Lawrence, I’m sorry but you never had a chance.

I’m actually quite surprised that this film didn’t win Best Film Editing, or Sound Mixing because there were very precise close-up shots accompanied by very acute sounds that added so much substance and weight to the scenes they were included in.  One occasion is just the mere sound of strings against strained wood as Solomon tunes his violin.  Another, and my personal favorite shot in the entire film is a close up shot of the water wheel on the back of the river boat that carries Solomon into his despair.  Leading up to the shot we are treated with a barrage of intrusive drum beats that are quickly synced up with the churning of the river boat wheel.  Additionally the shot includes very sharp sunlight that brightens the red on the water wheel.  It was in that moment, that small, short scene that I knew I was in for one hell of a film and I was right.  Not even including the extremely touchy subject matter, 12 Years A Slave is a spectacular example of film making at its finest.

If you don’t see any other movie that was a part of the Academy Awards (I’m sure some of you checked out Bad Grandpa and Iron Man 3 though), you must make it a point to at least watch this  year’s Best Picture winner.

[9/10]

This is Part I of my Best Picture Nominee Binge reviews.  I have not yet seen American Hustle, The Wolf of Wallstreet, Philomena or Her as they are not out on DVD yet and I’m too lazy to go check them out in the theater.  When they are out, I will post Part II of this review series and may even add some of the films that were nominated in other categories but not Best Picture.  Please stay tuned.

[this is what happens when i go to the kitchen for 30 seconds for a slice of cheese and sing random lyrics to myself in the process.  this is still a work in progress...or it might not be]

This will be the hardest thing I will ever have to say to you

I cannot keep this charade strung along any longer

If I cannot have you any more than you are dead to me

I will mourn for you every day of my life

But I cannot take this pain much more

You were the real true love of my whole life

But now you have disappeared into this dark night

Like that mythical creature of old that cannot be contained

I saw just a glimpse or two through the thick forest branches

But I cannot keep this parade marching on forever

If you are done with me than you are dead to me

I will mourn for you until the last day of my life

I can take this pain until the day I die

You are the real true love I have been searching for without end

Until now but you disappeared in this fog through the meadows

Like that glorious creature from out of non-existence

I caught glimpses or more through the breaks in the mist lines

This will be the hardest thing I will ever have to say to you

For certain it is because I do not mean it

But I hate you more than I could ever have imagined

Which is the biggest lie I will ever have to tell myself

Because the truth of the matter here is this:

I believe with every fiber of the being inside of me

That you possess the other half of our torn apart soul

Until that day and long after we are reunited

I will love you until the Sun dies

And then I will love you through the darkness afterwards.

Crimson Victory

Posted: August 8, 2012 in Chapel

The poem below is a good example of why I like to write vaguely at times.  This was originally written after something had happened to a family in the neighborhood that I grew up in.  A family we were close to and so felt a special connection to.  I babysat their daughters and still use the putter their dad gave to me one time.  The situation involved their father and an unfortunate and not so good situation but I’ll leave it at that.  It seems like this poem is needed yet again so that perhaps someone else can gain strength out of it due to a situation they are in.  Perhaps if you are in some form of despair or depression or loneliness this poem will reach you too. 

(this is copied straight from that old social networking site that preceded the new one they made that movie about…)

Crimson Victory

bury your face

not of shame,

but in My shoulders,

wrapped in My embrace.

soak My robe,

hold on tight

to the comfort

will bring.

this is not of Me,

but My enemy.

will bring the good

from this.

hold on to Me,

feel My grace.

you are worth more

than the hearts that judge.

this is exactly why

My blood was shed.

so that stains like this

could be washed clean.

lift your eyes

take comfort in

the awesome power

of My loving strength.

feel every part

of My healing touch.

grip Me tight,

do not let go.

am the King

you are My heirs

with My victory

you have won.

kneel down low

not to hide,

but to gain the fuel

for Our fight.

stand up tall

receive your crown.

am your King

I will pull you through.

[8.5/10]

Normally when the History Channel isn’t busy setting cable television records for most watched mini-series in airing the wonderful Hatfields and McCoys, they are tirelessly shoving aliens down our throats almost relentlessly with that extremely comical Ancient Aliens show that features this crazy bastard.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that guy and that hilarious meme during Ridley Scott’s newest masterpiece, Prometheus.  Set in the same universe as Alien and its trilogy (we won’t count that godforsaken excuse that was Resurrection), Prometheus takes us to a little moon orbiting a gas giant not unlike Saturn in search for a race of beings known as Engineers.  Alien fans might know them better as the Space Jockeys, one of which Sigourney Weaver and her team discover dead in his pilot’s chair during their little outing many years later on a different planet.

 

We get our first taste of the Space Jockey in the beautifully inspiring opening scene that features stunning waterfalls, mist and fog that I found myself lost in before I noticed a giant spacecraft hovering over the waterfall.  I couldn’t decide what was more amazing, the waterfall landscape or the spectacle of this giant flying saucer going vertical before taking off into the clouds as our Jockey friend appears on the screen.  This sparks the rest of the opening title sequence that follows his body down into the water as it turns into particles and DNA strands that suggest he is the origin of humanity.

We then meet The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace as she digs in the dirt in Scotland.  What she discovers there along with her boyfriend Charlie (Logan Marshall-Greenis a room full of hieroglyphs that depict an image they’ve seen before at some of their other dig sites.  This image is a series of dots that they determine to be a star system that Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) decides must be a map or as she later puts it, “an invitation…”

This sets up the journey we are taken on along with the crew of Prometheus, a ship owned by Weyland Corp. (the company for whom Weaver and her crew work in Alien).  We also meet what has become another of the Alien icons in David, an android that looks after the ship and her crew mostly during their state of cryo-sleep.  David (played by the brilliant Michael Fassbender) is an interesting character that audiences should pay close attention to throughout the film.

The remainder of the film–along with countless shots of brilliance by the director of photography Dariusz Wolski, who gave us some sweet visuals (which is about the only good to be said about them) in the Pirates of the Caribbean films as well as several Tim Burton features–follows the exploits of the crew as they explore an ancient temple akin to those of the Mayans and Egyptians.  The only part about this that bothered me was that they conveniently happened to enter the moon’s atmosphere and ended up in a location that just so happened to be a large open valley area with ancient buildings in it.  What are the odds of that I wonder?

Pietro Scalia also joins a great team of production crew and adds his incredible skill as film editor.  We shouldn’t expect anything less from the guy who edited  Gladiator.

I think for me personally, the visuals and the score were the greatest parts of this film.  I’m a sucker for stunning things to look at in movies.  That is about the only good thing to be said about James Cameron’s Avatar.  I bring him up for two reasons:  1.  Ten minutes into Prometheus I turned to my buddy and said:  “This movie is already a big giant ‘eff you’ to James Cameron…”  2. Cameron, as I’m sure everyone knows, directed the Alien sequel  Aliens.

I digress.  Probably a few of the film’s coolest features are the new creatures that we get introduced to.  Some not so pleasa–actually none of them were pleasant introductions.  Not to give too much away, but we basically get to see the predecessor to the famous Facehugger (two different versions) as well as the one creature that solidifies my theory that this movie was a true prequel all along.  We get to see the birth of an ancestor to the frightening Xenomorph.

Basically, if you are a fan of Ridley Scott like I am and a fan of the original Alien Trilogy than you probably have to see this.  Actually you MUST see  Prometheus in that case.  It will answer quite a few questions you may have but also raise several others and spark many conversations with your fellow sci-fi buddies.  I’ve seen a few comments on Twitter and reviews in general so far where people were not impressed or they thought that it was poorly executed as a film and that Hollywood can’t do a good sci-fi movie anymore but I think those four people need to check again.  I mean I’m not saying they are idiots…but they’re probably idiots.

I have four films for your consideration in today’s post.  I watched them about a week and a half ago and I know I promised the reviews would be up sometime toward the end of last week but quite frankly, I guess I didn’t really want to write about them up until now.

So here we go:

Immortals:  4/10

I will start with Immortals because it seems like the majority of folks that saw this film were extremely disappointed and were happy to offer their opinion on how horrible it was.

 

I read quite a few reviews from both the public and the “professional” beat writers for several publications compare this movie to 300 but after I watched it I failed to see where this conclusion was drawn from.  I suppose that since there was Greek Mythology in both you could somehow make that connection but they are completely different films.  Really the only similarity is that the look or style of film is similar in that there are a lot of sharp colors.  Color and lighting were a huge problem though because I found it difficult to see anything throughout the movie due to the darkness of the shots.  This may be due to watching it on my laptop, but in two other films that I will discuss below, I did not have the same issue.

This also offered me my first taste of what sort of actor is going to be portraying Superman in Warner Bros. upcoming reboot Man of Steel.  I often like to give the actors the benefit of the doubt as often as I can when they are not the only thing wrong with the film.  In this performance Henry Cavill works well with what he’s given by the writers and director.  The same can be said for the most notable name in the film, Mickey Rourke.  John Hurt also stars as an old man who mentors Cavill’s character.  It’s your classic tale of the hero, where he isn’t sure he wants to be one, but he has an older mentor that teaches him the necessary skills and then finally a life altering situation occurs where he is forced into the hero’s role.  It even featured a symbolic baptism by water for not only our main character but others as well. All of that is for a different discussion, but basically the writers didn’t deviate much from that type of story that we’ve seen told a thousand times over.  The only interesting aspect is the backdrop of the war between the Olympians and the Titans with man stuck in the middle as always.

If you want some mindless fun and don’t care too much about historical accuracy or the accuracy of the mythology, then Immortals might be okay by you.  It offers some interesting action but again, nothing we haven’t seen in better quality films.

Next up is:

J. Edgar:  5/10

Unfortunately I probably won’t have much to say about this film other than that I somewhat understand the Oscar snub that Eastwood and company received.  I’m not sure whether that was based on the unwillingness to accept that Hoover might have been a homosexual, or that there were heavy suggestions that Hoover tried to bury Martin Luther King, Jr. in a sex scandal, and a slightly less obvious suggestion that he may have been involved in his assassination.

 

The film also focuses on the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping scandal and how Hoover attempted to use it to elevate the validity of the F.B.I.

Aside from Eastwood’s chosen direction of the film, the acting was exceptionable as always in most of his films.  I didn’t feel like the direction or writing was too terrible or forced either.  Leonardo DiCaprio gave yet another excellent performance as did Judi Dench, Naomi Watts and Josh Lucas in his small cameo as Charles Lindbergh.

This is also the other film I had lighting complaints about though.  It seemed extremely poorly lit throughout the majority of the movie and I’m not convinced Eastwood was trying to achieve this on purpose.

I won’t say much more about it other than that I’m not sure what was so horrible about this film either that had critics crying foul or unworthiness.

The last two were my favorite of the foursome.

Ides of March:  7/10

I really didn’t have any idea what this movie was about because I honestly hadn’t paid much attention to it.  I just knew that George Clooney and Ryan Gosling were in it and they are both excellent actors.  It wasn’t until I settled down and got into the movie that I remembered Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Paul Giamatti were in it.  The cast alone makes it worth watching in my mind.

 

We seem to get a political film or two or more with every term of the presidency and this is no different.  Gosling and Hoffman head up the campaign of Governor Mike Morris, who is running for president.  Giamatti is doing the same for the opponent and fills the same job title that Hoffman does in the film.

Throughout the movie Gosling spear-heads the campaign even though he is 2nd in command to Hoffman.  He seems to be the one that is helping the governor win primaries etc.  Tom Duffy (Giamatti) likes what he sees and offers Gosling a job, tempting him to switch sides.

The rest of the film is basically the avalanche of what occurs due to the phone call between Giamatti and Gosling, involving a persistent New York Times reporter (Tomei) and an intern in the governor’s campaign office who is played by an all grown up Evan Rachel Wood.  She ends up playing a vital role in what transpires throughout the film, as she befriends Gosling.

Even though the film was political in nature and didn’t offer much as far as plot depth goes, Ides of March works for a quick mystery thriller, if it can be classified as such.

If there is nothing else left in Red Box or you’ve watched everything else on Netflix and you’re in the mood for a light drama, this should hit the spot.

Now for my favorite of the four:

Moneyball:  9/10

 

I really can’t say I’m a fan of baseball at all.  I do claim to be a fan of the Seattle Mariners and I have been since I was little, but unless it’s football, it doesn’t tend to hold my interest.  Luckily for baseball, most of the films made that include baseball have little to nothing to do with it in the long run.  Some of the greatest “baseball” movies weren’t really about baseball, but then again, is any film with a sport as a backdrop?

Moneyball is based on the novel Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game by Michael Lewis.  He also wrote the novel that The Blindside is based on.  It follows the story of Oakland Athletics general manager, Billy Bean‘s attempt to re-invent the game of baseball.  Perhaps not completely re-invent so much as modify the tactics of how to win games.  Bean is portrayed fantastically by Brad Pitt who earns his Oscar nod.  While I watched I also grew to understand why someone like Jonah Hill could pull off garnering a nod from the Academy as well.

I had discussed this with my buddy Greg Sisco right after the Oscars a couple of months ago.  We agreed that the basic formula for achieving a nomination is to basically break your typecast and put on a somewhat believable performance as someone who is serious more often than being a jackass.  Enter Jonah Hill.  He did exactly that but he managed to do it well enough to not hold any sort of snobby grudge on him.

There really isn’t much to the plot other than explaining how Bean and his assistant GM (Hill) were able to revolutionize the game of baseball by acquiring players that have the ability to get on base and score runs for little to no money.  When you’re a struggling ballclub financially like the Oakland A’s, it’s difficult to compete with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox.  This was a common theme throughout the film.

I could probably go into further detail about the film but it’s one of those movies that you don’t need a big long explanation of how it’s the story of a young guy’s career and how he overcame the odds and struggles and so on and so forth (or maybe I’m just being lazy right now because i’m more excited to get out and get in line for The Avengers).

The easy way out of this would be to say that if you’re a somewhat fan of baseball (or a huge fan), you like Brad Pitt and even Jonah Hill than you’ll want to check out Moneyball.

[6/10]

Every year I tell myself I’m going to watch all the Oscar nominated films to see if they are worthy enough to be in the running for Best Picture.  Sometimes I see a few of them because plans were already in place to do so and others I make a point to view.  Mostly though, I end up not seeing all of them.  This will likely happen this year as well, but I can scratch another film off the distinguished list.

The Descendants was in the category of “already planning to see.”  George Clooney’s work has been quite enjoyable of late.  The American was spectacular in my mind even though a common theme among bad reviews was that it was extremely slow.  I have yet to see The Ides of March, but that is also on my list.

Clooney plays Matt King, a lawyer who is also the sole grantor of a trust of land that his father’s family has handed down from generation to generation all the way back to Hawaiian royalty.  The film mainly focuses on the upcoming decision he and several of his cousins are trying to make on who they want to sell the property to for a very large and generous sum of money that they are all going to split.

 

This focus often seemingly gets pushed into the background due to the real driving force of the film.  In the opening scenes King narrates, telling us that life on Hawaii is anything but paradise and that a main reason for this—at least for him—at the moment is thanks to his wife being in the hospital in critical condition due to a boating accident.  This forces King to juggle his younger daughter, his practice and the impending land-sell all while trying to be present for his wife and decide what to do about her.

King also decides to get his younger daughter off the island and go visit her older sister Alex on Kauai and bring her home to see her mother.  She is at a boarding school and our first encounter with her reveals a troubled teenager who has snuck out of her dorm with a friend and we find them drunk, messing around on a softball field.

She is played by Shailene Woodley, of whom I don’t know much about, but found her performance to be exceptional.  It is through Alex that we get a shocking piece of news that then becomes the new driving force of the film and sends King and his daughters on a wild goose chase over the islands of Hawaii.

As we tag along on the hunt, we are subjected to some stunning cinematography.  I wouldn’t say I was too impressed given the natural scenery they chose to film in, but it still aided in setting a juxtaposing tone.  Normally when you think about Hawaii, you think about everything King narrates about in the beginning.  Resorts, beaches, fancy hotels and surfing.  I don’t think people really realize that the citizens have pretty tough lives and we get a glimpse of this through King and his daughters’ life-altering journey.

The score compliments the cinematography well as most of it is islander music that you would expect to find at a nightly luau.  A very interesting phenomenon occurs with the normally upbeat style of music through the film as it seems to add to the desolation and depressing tone of the film.

Said tone was not entirely shocking to me however, as I’ve always fancied myself a pretty good judge of a film based on its trailer.  While it does suggest hints of comedy here and there, the trailer definitely doesn’t hide the fact that The Descendants is going to be a heavily weighted drama.

The story and writing were precise.  The writers reveal just enough information regarding background stories for a few of the characters without having to even really tell said stories.  Everyone, I felt, did a wonderful job with their performances.  Matthew Lillard even makes an appearance and for once I didn’t see him as “that guy from Scream” or any of those countless teen comedies he did early on.

Generally, The Descendants touches on the fact that no matter what is going on in our lives, everything else continues moving.  Our daily lives don’t just pause themselves because we have a loved one in the hospital.  Relatives and friends try to understand and be there for you but they don’t really get it.  In Matt King’s case, his cousins only care about how much money they will get from the land-sell, and his wife’s friends don’t know how to relate to his side of the situation at hand.

If you are going through a big life-event that is not a happy one, then I’d recommend waiting on The Descendants, but if you’re fine in that department, it might be worth a look for you if you like Clooney’s independent film work.