Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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Life after People?

April 2, 2009

I just watched the documentary Life after People from the History Channel.  It was a very interesting idea.  Their concept was to document the progression of the planet if humanity suddenly disappeared.  The music and voice-over give it a distinctly creepy feel; which sort of makes sense given that it is discussing the planet without us.  The most interesting part about it though is watching some of the scientists they interview.  Their glee at how earth would restore itself when we are gone emanates from the screen.  It is unsurprising, especially in the case of the Greenpeace scientist they interview.  It is weird though, because if sentience is extinguished from the universe does it really matter if life goes on?

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Neil Gaiman on Coraline, Monsters, and Adults.

March 8, 2009

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned how much I loved the movie Coraline.  The beauty of the stopmotion filming and effects was unmatched in any recent movie.  The way Henry Selick brought this incredible story by my favorite author, Neil Gaiman, to life was amazing to watch.  The 3D experience made it that much more mindblowing.

Anyway, while looking for information on the movie I found this interview with Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick.  It was interesting to read how the whole thing came about.  The interviwer asked Neil Gaiman about how scary the story can be, and Gaiman gave this really insightful answer:

In a good way. Honestly, I believe that you need your bad guy to be bad. You need your monster to be monstrous, you need something for a kid to go up against. Otherwise you’re in that bleak dull Disney Channel fiction in which somebody thinks that they weren’t invited to the birthday party, but at minute 18 they discover it was all a mix-up and they really were and there is not conflict and there is no evil and there’s nothing to fight and there’s nothing to win and nothing was ever at risk and everybody gets to hug! And that’s not what you send people out into the world with! You don’t arm them with that. Arm them with the idea that yes, there are monsters out there, but you can defeat them. In my experience, “Coraline” is so much more scary for adults. Adults are watching a film about a child in danger, kids are watching a film about somebody brave doing something cool.

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Oh NO, not Brideshead Revisited, revisited

August 3, 2008

(For Full disclosure’s sake, I haven’t seen the movie yet)

So apparently Brideshead Revisited has been butchered.  According to Church of the Masses they took, “a profoundly catholic novel” (it is) and made it “viciously anti-catholic.”   Now mind you, this comes as no surprise after watching the trailer.  It seems like screenwriters, writers, the intelligentsia, etc, all think it is still profoundly original to bash catholics (I’m not one but even I feel offended sometimes).  All I can say is I’m leaving this one to rent, or dare I say it, download.  My only question right now: Is Rex still Canadian in their remake? I’m guessing no.

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A Cool Song

July 31, 2008

So this is probably useless for you but the iTunes ‘free single of the week’ two weeks ago was “Never Again” by a band called The Midway State.  I auditioned for these guys a couple of years ago (before I really know what I was doing on the guitar).*  Anyway it looks like they are doing well and with how awesome “Never Again” is that is no surprise.  Anyway check it out on their myspace, it is a great piano driven pop song with an incredibly hooky chorus.

*If this sounds like name dropping I assure you there is no ego.  I’m sure they have no clue who I am, and if they do it is as a terrible guitar player.

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Response to a Response to the Dark Knight.

July 20, 2008

(When I first wrote this I mistook who a three year old mentioned in Brant’s post belonged to.  For the record the three year old is not Brant’s child.)

I guess its time to waste some pixels.

I don’t really read blogs, at least not like quite a few of the people I know do.  Of the few blogs I read my favorite is Brant Hansen‘s and finally I disagree with him.  I went to see The Dark Knight in the very early morning of the day it opened because I was so excited about it.  I was not disappointed.  It is the best thought out and executed superhero and/or action movie that I’ve seen.  Brant disagrees, so let me start with where I agree with Brant Hansen.

The rating is inapprioriate.  Brant talks about taking his someone taking their three year old son to see the movie which I could have told him probably wasn’t a good idea.  The realism implied by Batman Begins as well as the image of the joker in the trailer was enough for me to know this wasn’t the 80s Batman.  I was shocked that Focus on the Family gave it two and a half stars especiallys seeing as this movie is an especially graphic portrayal of relativism.  Especially when their own subsidiary Plugged In highlights both the violence and the twisted ethics of the movie.  As well as highlighting that it is not a movie for children.  But ratings have always been weird, the PG for Titanic comes readily to mind. and PG-13 for The Dark Knight is a little low.

Brant calls the movie a jolt of excitement for a dying culture.  It is more a reflection of a culture trying to figure out what good and evil are or whether they even exist.  It does unfortunately ring strongest as an ode to utilitarianism more than anything else. If you are going to treat Wall-E as a wonderful tribute to the importance of life*, than you should respond to this movie as a filmmakers questioning of relativism, utilitarianism, and the nature of good and evil.  I’d love to say this movie was just entertainment but in the same way people get their theology from what they sing in church they get their philosophy from what they watch.  We need to engage movies as such.

If your problem with this movie is that it is escapism then it isn’t just this movie you should have a problem with.  It should be movies in general.  The same world that gave us Wall-E gave us The Dark Knight.  Hollywood knows we want to spend a few hours escaping the mundane.  To be honest, I just wanted to see a good movie.  I got to.  The script and direction were great.  I’m pretty sure anyone whose looked at a newspaper has heard about Heath Ledger’s unreal performance.  His death unfortunately overshadowed Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart’s also amazing performances.  For someone who is something of a film buff this was a movie I thought would be great and it did not disappoint.  If you are not opposed to both graphic and implied violence I recommend it.

Just don’t take the kids.

I’m not entirely sure I’ve been as good at explaining the philosophical content of the Dark Knight as I would have liked.  Brian Walton, who I found in the comments does a great job on discussing Christopher Nolan’s (director/cowriter) examinations of nihilismEd Brenegar is a brilliant thinker who also does a good job of breaking down the characters as philosophical representations in this movie.

*For the Record I have not seen Wall-E, although I do really want to.

Bonus Feature:  My dad pointed out this hilarious video to me.

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Rediscovering lyrics.

June 27, 2008

I’ll be honest.  I could never stand Bob Dylan.  I know his songs are brilliant, I love how Dave Matthews Band does All Along the Watchtower.  I just can’t stand Bob Dylan’s voice.

The reason I say all this is because I’ve also been known to turn off a catchy song with a great melody because the lyrics are retarded.  The first time this happened was about five years ago with a (surprise, surprise) Limp Bizkit song.  Since then it has happened more frequently.

I still can’t listen to songs, no matter how good the lyrics, with poor production value.  I need hooky music, but I’ve also come to appreciate the need for good lyrics.  I’ve discovered a few lyricists who I like and thought I would point them out.  In no particular order…

John Mayer,
The first song of his that popped into my head was “Stop this train,” a song that reflects the fears of getting older that even I sometimes feel.  The line “So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young” resonates with me.

Aaron Marsh, from Copeland.
I’m not really a huge Copeland fan they are ok, just not my style.  However I’ve just discovered “I’m a sucker for a kind word” which is fantastic.  The money line for me is “On the softness of her laugh I could almost make my bed but the racket of her absence draw in the sirens blaring.”  A very poignant line.

Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie
This is another band I’ve been off and on with.  I’m sorry I missed them in Toronto recently.  Their lyrics are frequently, profoundly sad.  In Your New Twin Sized bed he talks about someone who has gotten rid of a queen sized mattress in exchange for a double, believing they’d be alone.
You look so defeated lying there
In your new twin sized bed
With a single pillow
Underneath your single head

Strong but depressing stuff.  Brothers on a hotel bed is another such song. 
You may tire of me as our December sun is setting because I’m not who I used to be
No longer easy on the eyes but these wrinkles masterfully disguise
The youthful boy below who turned your way and saw
Something he was not looking for: both a beginning and an end

Finally, for this post, I need to throw in Dave Matthews.  Possibly my favorite contemporary lyricist.  It’s hard to pick a single song.  I would have to post all Grave Digger here so instead I’ll point you to it on Youtube.  The first stanza of Dodo is also incredible.
Once upon a time
When the world was just a pancake
Fears would arise
That if you went too far, you’d fall

But with the
Passage of time
It all became more of a ball
We’re as sure of that
As we all once were when the world was flat

Any thoughts?  Any lyricists you think deserve mention?  By no means do I believe this list is comprehensive.  These are just a few people who came to mind.

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Some Quick Thoughts on Cloverfield

February 5, 2008

I just saw Cloverfield.  I had been excited right from the teaser trailer, I think shown before transformers back in July.  I don’t want to talk to much about it except for a few quick thoughts.

I really like this trend towards realistic depiction.*  I first noted it on the big screen in Transformers (though I originally noticed it in Firefly).   As awful as some of the shakycam was in Cloverfield it puts you in the story in a way even 3D can’t.  As well the whole response of the people experiencing the events around Cloverfield makes it feel real.  The incredulity and sheer terror of the unknown helps the suspension of disbelief.  You empathize and quite literally feel what the characters on the screen are feeling.*

The other aspect, and possibly weakness, of Cloverfield was what it didn’t show you.  It isn’t until the final part of the movie that you get to see the monster up close.  By that point I was pretty much in shock so I didn’t really have a fear response.  The real question for me is: was it really necessary to fully reveal it?  Part of the terror of the movie (and the terror after the movie) was not knowing what this creature is.  You never find out what it is, but you do find out what it looks like and how it operates.  That alone reduces the lasting impact after the movie.

Anyway, those are just my two cents.

* If I had to coin a term I’d call it Video Realism, not sure if it exists and I’m too tired and lazy to google it right now.

*For the record, I haven’t seen the Blair Witch Project so I can’t comment to great depth about the originality of Cloverfield in this genre.