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i return, with the last five movies i’ve watched.

Needless to say, the blog challenge seems to have gone the way of the buffalo. I just haven’t had the brain space this last week for consistent blog writing, and I just missed so many days. Still, it does seem the this jumpstarted me back into blogging again, so perhaps it will remain semi-regular. I’d like that, because even if it is a huge waste of time, I enjoy my little stream-of-consciousness ramblings here.

I guess a ‘Last Five Movies’ post is a good way to get my brain juices flowing again, rejuvenate the mind-grapes if you will.


1. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon


This tiny little movie by the Duplass brothers certainly isn’t perfect, but by the end, I was really glad to have watched it. It had a sweetness, and enough insightful moments to carry its forgivable (in my opinion) weaknesses.



2. Killing Them Softly


I really wanted this movie to work to a higher degree than it did. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it could have been really special.

The performances were really fantastic, straight across the board, and director Andrew Dominik showcased those talents with some really engaging monologues throughout the film. I’d understand if people thought there were too many, but I felt that it seemed to work as part of the style of the film. The movie also had some beautiful shots and filming sequences scattered throughout.

Where the movie did fall short for me was in the way Dominik tried to tie it all together using the American economic crisis. The forced metaphor just got too heavy handed, didn’t hold up, and then you lose the glue he was trying to use to keep the whole thing together. It would have worked better as a subtext, but instead we just got repeatedly beaten over the head with it.

Again, there really are some fantastic moments, and I’d love to watch those a few more times, maybe without sitting through some of the sloppier bits again.

Sometimes, less is more.


3. Hitchcock


This was just sort of flat and uninteresting to me. Touching on deep personality issues and psychological baggage, without actually engaging them. There is some really dark stuff half depicted, and then just glossed over as if it is no big deal. I guess either don’t depict, or actually engage it, otherwise you just look confused, no? They also did a lot of hinting at his brilliance without actually revealing some concrete places it manifested. They failed the ‘show don’t tell’ test. There was also a constant cartoonish feel that isn’t really appropriate for this sort of biopic, it was just illogical for the subject matter. It worked really well in Ed Wood, but in soooo many ways, this was NOT Ed Wood. 

Among many things, the primary thing I didn’t understand was the score. You’d think the score would either be influenced by Pyscho, or by the tone they were trying to set with Hitchcock. Instead, after an opening scene that used the music from Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the rest felt like it was from a family movie about a haunted mansion or or a bad remake of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Weird shit.


4. Oblivion


Far from perfect, but a solidly entertaining summer sci-fi movie. The things I could nitpick aren’t really things I need perfect in a summer blockbuster. After all, there are different movies made for different reasons, and we should embrace that for what it is. If the weaknesses were fixed, it would have elevated Oblivion from pretty good to spectacular, but pretty good is enough for me in this case. It’s really beautiful to look at, it’s smart as long as you don’t pick it apart too thoroughly (fair enough if you do), and brings together lots of sci-fi tropes in ways that aren’t particularly deep, but are pretty fun.

Also, M83’s score was satisfyingly and unsurprisingly epic.


5. Easy Money (Snabba Cash)


So, most of these movies I’ve basically said are good but not great. Well, here is the exception. No reservations, this movie is just great. A really well-told story. The acting is fantastic, which is important, since these characters are always toeing the line between sympathetic and unsympathetic. It is largely the performances that keep them human and keep us caring what happens to them. The direction and cinematography is also really beautiful, the pace is perfect, the film is quiet in the right moments and explodes at just the right times, it hits all the right notes… I really liked this one.

A really, really spectacular crime drama filled with thrilling and heartbreaking moments. I could have just watched the movie twice on repeat.

Now they just need to release the sequel in the US!


poster for ‘ender’s game.’

The first poster for Ender’s Game is here! To offer an overly short summary, the story is set in a future in which humanity has had disastrous conflicts with an alien race, and is constantly fearing and preparing for the next war, knowing hope of surviving another conflict aren’t good. Our protagonist is Ender Wiggin, a brilliant child selected to attend an elite military academy where kids are trained in tactical strategy and space warfare using various games. Turns out, Ender is a tactical genius, and there are some who believe he is humanity’s only hope. Yet, as is the case in all wars, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

As crazy as Card is in real life, I love this book. The second book is remarkable as well, but I’m not sure there would be much of a mainstream audience for a sci-fi movie of that type. It’s very different in tone. I would watch the hell out of a Speaker for the Dead film, but it would be interesting to see if the powers that be would be willing to foot the bill.

Anyway, if you haven’t read Ender’s Game yet, you have until November 1st if you want to beat the movie’s release.
Ender's Game poster


m. ward’s sasquatch avenges a community of elephants. [five things. 5.20.12]

It’s been a while since I’ve written a ‘five things’ post. The time has come.

In personal news, I finally got back to writing my novel in earnest, again. It’s still early, but I’ll be pushing past the 20,000 word mark today, so that’s a lot better than nothing.

1. The Magician’s Elephant – Kate DiCamillo

I’ve never read DiCamillo’s hugely successful books, The Tale of Despereaux or Because of Winn Dixie, so unlike most who have read her work, The Magician’s Elephant was my first encounter with her. Emily encouraged me to read it because she thought it would be the perfect story for my sensibilities. She was very, very right.

I want to believe that there is genuine beauty and magic in the world. I want to believe that there is grace and goodness there for those who keep their eyes open to see glimpses of them. I want to believe that there are such things as home, belonging, and love. I want to believe that if we are good to one another, and if we are willing to do crazy, extraordinary things, the world can be made lighter and kinder and better. I want to believe those things, and in my better moments, I actually do.

The Magician’s Elephant, the story of a boy in search of a home and a family, is written by someone who wants to believe those things along with me, and it is written for everyone else who feels similarly.


2. The Avengers

I know, I’ve written about this once already, but there was one important thought that I forgot to mention in my last post about it. It seems like today is a good day to blog about it again, as in its third weekend so far, The Avengers CRUSHED Battleship, leading everyone in the blogosphere to make bad puns about sinking and torpedoes.

Speaking of which, I still don’t understand how they can say that a movie is based on the game ‘Battleship’ when it has nothing to do with the game ‘Battleship.’ I mean, just because there are battleships in it doesn’t mean you can say ‘based on the game.’ Just because both the game and the movie happen to center on the reality that battleships do, in fact, exist… that’s enough? I’m going to write an indie film about a tortured architect trying to complete a project building a huge tower. The project is going to cost him more and more emotionally and financially, but his ego is going to be so tied up in the project that he is going to push himself to utter ruin because he just won’t let go. I’m going to call it Jenga. I mean, they both have towers, so I think that is probably enough to say it is ‘based on the game.’

Anyway, the thought that I forgot to share before was this: In almost every movie that has as much scope and potential as The Avengers, I find myself disappointed. I still like the movies, but usually I find myself saying, “It was really good, but they could have done so much more! Maybe they will in the sequel.” Not so with The Avengers. It delivers excitement, fun, and size that truly fulfills all of the movie’s potential. It is everything a movie with this many great, dynamic, superhuman personalities should be. I’ve seen it twice so far, and I am itching for number three.


3. Community

The life of a Community fan sure is bittersweet. First came the news that the show would be renewed for a fourth season, but only for a half-order of episodes. Then came the rumors that Dan Harmon was out as showrunner. Then came the confirmation that Dan Harmon was out as showrunner. It’s entirely possible that most of what we all love about the show will be leaving with him. Hopefully not, but it is highly likely. He was the brains, heart, and soul of the show. It was his baby. Now that he’s gone… ::sigh::

Yet, since the final episodes of Season 3 were written with the distinct possibility that the show would be cancelled altogether, they offer a beautiful end to what Community has been. From the awesome 8-bit episode, to Jeff’s final monologue in which he articulates the soul of the show: that even though we are cynical, jaded, self-centered, broken people, we still need each other, and we make the world better when we embrace that and get over ourselves a little bit. It’s a thought that temporarily zaps the beard off my inner ‘Evil Abed.’ It was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears when the final story ended with a single screen featuring the ‘six seasons and a movie’ hashtag. I love the show that much. I really hope we don’t all come to wish it had just been cancelled when Dan Harmon was fired. I really wish the show had somehow moved to Netflix like Arrested Development. That would have immediately made Netflix my favorite company on the planet.


4. Wasteland Companion – M. Ward

I realize that I’ve never recommended M. Ward’s newest release. That’s an oversight that needs to be remedied right this moment. Ward is a master of crafting sweet, sad, spiritual songs of life and existence, disappointment and love. He has the ability to be as silly as he is melancholy. His music is perfect for the soul of the rainy pacific northwest. I love him.


5. Sasquatch!!

Speaking of M. Ward, Sasquatch starts Friday!! And I’M GOING TO BE THERE!! In the immortal words of Jason Penopolis, “Wee-ow!” I made a list of things I want to do in my 30’s. This weekend, I cross one of those things off!


‘the avengers’, and hollywood’s new rightful overlord.

This blog is entirely spoiler free. No story points are ruined, not even the ones already ruined by the trailers. Grrr! Also, for those who don’t feel like staying for this whole blog post, make sure you do stay through the entire credits if you see the movie. There are not one, but two stingers during the credits. So, don’t get cocky after the first one ends and leave, stay all the way through. Worth it! Anyway, on with the post.

Oh, Avengers. My sweet, sweet, Avengers.

I expected this movie to be really good, but it far exceeded even my lofty expectations. It just further confirms that Joss Whedon is some sort of awesome geek god. This movie is a fanboy/girl’s dream come true. Well, I guess I can’t speak for all fanboys and girls, but I can speak for this one, and he loved it. Unadulterated joy. I laughed, I smiled like an idiot. At one point, I even said, “Yes!” out loud… involuntarily. I shit you not. I didn’t realize I had said it until it was already out of my mouth.

The audience we saw the movie with really loved it, too. There were points when they cheered and clapped and yelled, a common occurrence on opening night. The difference is that this time, it wasn’t even annoying (I usually find that extremely annoying), because the scene they were cheering was so fucking awesome it deserved to be cheered by a bunch of idiots like us.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the salvation of the Hulk? Whedon and Ruffalo brought him from being underwhelming and boring to somehow being the best Avenger. Even Whedon’s favorite scene features the Hulk, but I won’t tell you what it is… no spoilers.

This is the reason they invented summer blockbusters. It’s the culmination of all popcorn fare that has come before. Hilarious, action packed from start to finish, and never bogged down by the overwhelming number of characters on screen. To quote Peter Travers of Rolling Stone: “All hail Joss Whedon, the warrior king of this dizzying, dazzling 3D action epic. The Avengers is Transformers with a brain, a heart and a working sense of humor.” I thought it was funny when I got home from the movie and saw that Travers compared the movie to Transformers, because after this insanely huge film was over, I thought, “Joss Whedon has become the anti-Bay. He is the embodiment of good, where Bay is evil.”

That is very good, because between his writing and directing of The Avengers and his writing on Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedon is on fire. I don’t know if Joss Whedon wants to take over genre entertainment the way Loki wants to take over Earth, but if he does, I will gladly bow down before the rightful king.

I assure you, I’ll be seeing the film again, pronto. Probably several times. And by ‘probably’ I mean ‘definitely,’ and by ‘several,’ I mean ‘thirty.’


mass effect 3. [things i’m thankful for #30]

This makes ME3 something I’m doubly thankful for, in that I previously posted that I was thankful there were only 17 days left until the release. As long as things continue to go well, there will be a third ME3 post on its way in the future. There have been some complaints out in the world of ‘gamers’ about the game, which I am willfully choosing not to look into, so that I can experience the game fresh. For the most part, I don’t take gamer complaints very seriously anyway. Gamers are infamous for being remarkably abusive, over tiny details, toward the people who pour their lives into making the things that gamers love… games. However, that is best left for another post. Suffice it to say that, for now, I’m not taking the complaints too seriously.

I’m not as far into the game as I would like to be. That’s a good thing. I have been good about keeping myself away from turning it on, knowing that it will suck me in once I do. The game had its slow, awkward moments getting started, but once things got rolling it got really good, really fast. While strong sales will probably be enough to bring forth a Mass Effect 4, this was designed as a trilogy, making ME3 the end of the story arch.

The end could be woefully terrible, but so far it has been genuinely satisfying as a closing chapter in the story. For those who know nothing about the series, the game forces the player to make decisions throughout the game, and those decisions not only have repercussions later in the same game, but your save data carries over from previous games so that Mass Effect 3 begins somewhat differently for everyone who played the first two games. The decisions I made in ME1 and 2 are coming home to roost in ways that I never could have predicted. At times, having done the right thing in the earlier games is making for really tough decisions in this game. I already saw the eradication of an entire species because of a call my Commander Shepherd had to make.

As a video game, there will still always be parts of the story that are overly simplistic, and the romance is really unsatisfying and silly. However, with that being said, so far, the story has been smart, coherent, and engaging on a character level. As would be expected in a story about the impending doom of the entire Milky Way, not everyone is going to make it out alive. No matter what decisions you make, some characters are still going to die. I’m not going to lie, even though it is just a video game, I’ve had a hard time making some of the decisions I’ve had to make so far, wondering what the implications might be for my favorite characters as a result.

Not only is Mass Effect 3 worth a playthrough, but the first two games hold up fairly well, so it would even be worth checking out the first two if you haven’t. At least play Mass Effect 2. Good times.

I’ll report back once I beat the game to let you all know what I think after all is said and done. As always, without spoilers, unless otherwise noted.


villains, part one. [the many lists of 2011.]

With the heroes dispensed with HERE and HERE, it’s onto the villains. Enjoy.


1. Voldermort – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two

All these years of movie lists, Voldemort had to make it onto the list eventually. He’s not just a villain, he’s the villain of the last decade+. He is the evil wizard. Everyone knows his name, Harry Potter fan or not. An entire generation’s Darth Vader. And Ralph Fiennes played him to perfection in each of the Harry Potter films.


2. The Alien – Super 8 

It’s not new, but I think that this alien reveal was as satisfying as the reveal in Signs was disappointing. A creature of a delightfully strange, yet familiar, biology, from across the stars. I loved this movie, and the alien played no small part in that. It wasn’t just good enough to keep me from enjoying the rest of the movie, it was a huge part of what made the movie work.


3. Men Who Hate Women – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The villains in this movie weren’t just bad guys. They were disgusting, stomach-turning monsters. What made it all the worse was that they are so commonplace in the world. Men across time have truly been capable of this sort of disgusting evil. They are powerful characters that stay in the consciousness, which is exactly what Larsson had in mind in their creation, making it impossible to ignore the violence perpetrated in systems that favor sexism and abuse.


4. Sakharine / Red Rackham – The Adventures of Tintin

One of the villains in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo started taking Daniel Craig’s pants off. The actor portraying the villain in this movie gets to take Daniel Craig’s pants off every day… Daniel Craig.

He was perfect as the villain, especially in the storytelling pirate sequence when Craig is Red Rackham. I LOVED the pirate scenes. Lots of anger on the internet about this movie, but I love it. Up with Tintin!!


5. Nigel – Rio 

Two words: Jemaine. Clement. Comedic brilliance. I fricking love Jemaine, and I loved this character. Although, it could be argued that the true villain in this movie was Will.I.Am for sucking up the joint and making for a decidedly painful musical number. However, the rest of the cast (especially Jesse Eisenberg and Tracy Morgan) makes up for where Will and Jaime Foxx led things off course at times.


heroes, part one. [the many lists of 2011.]

In case you’ve forgotten, or perhaps never knew, I don’t like doing a straightforward list of my ten or twenty favorite movies. Instead, I prefer to do a bunch of lists of my favorite things from films and movies this year, superlatives.

The lists always change from year to year, but two that never fade away are the ones I view as the anchors of the whole shebang: the heroes and the villains. Whether they are straightforward and formulaic, or postmodern and extraordinary, a movie usually has a tussle between the good and the not so good.

All entries contain varying levels of spoilers. Read at your own risk.

As always, the list has no particular order. And my favorite heroes are…..

1. The Driver – Drive

The Driver is a far more violent character than most would expect for me to choose as one of my heroes. Usually, when a guy goes about trying to kill the “bad guys” in order to save the day, they rank outside the hero category in my book because I am tired to death of the myth of redemptive violence.

The reason Driver makes it is because the myth of redemptive violence is turned on its head. This film doesn’t pretend that The Driver isn’t taking darkness onto his own soul to bring an end to the film’s villains. He willingly takes darkness onto himself in order to protect the innocent people he cares about, but loses them in the process. There is a scene in the film I alluded to when I wrote about this film in the past, where The Driver stomps a man to death, and in that scene, without a word, we realize that he will never be with the woman he loves. One kiss, and then he took violence into himself because it was the only way he knew to let the family he cared so much about live in the sunshine. You can agree or disagree with his decisions, but his motives were clear, and in my opinion, heroic.


2. The Boys – Attack the Block

I LOVE this movie. I’ve seen it twice now (along with Hanna, Source Code, and Super 8), and both times I fell in love with a funny, smart, engaging film that deals with serious subtext, while never taking the primary text too seriously. I want to celebrate all of the boys in the film, because when shit gets real, they step up to defend their neighborhood and the people they care about.

However, it’s the narrative focus on Moses, the gang’s leader, which makes the film go. Through him we are able to understand his decisions without ever allowing him to shirk responsibility for them, and he never tries to shirk them. He stands up and does what needs to be done, even when that means it may cost him his life. His dramatic hero sequence from the climax of the film is one of my very favorite scenes of the year.

I would give my left testicle for a sequel, in which it’s a few years later, the monsters have invaded on a larger scale, and Moses is humanity’s best hope of deliverance. It’s too perfect. Come on, folks… make this happen!


3. The Boys – Super 8

I also LOVE this movie. The boys in this are heroes for the same reason as the hilarious gang from Attack the Block. When shit gets real, they stand up and risk life and limb to defend the people they care about.

Sure, it turns out the alien is just misunderstood and mistreated, but they didn’t know that going into it. They just saw said alien taking out soldiers with no remorse. Yet, when someone is in danger, they may not all make it into the lair of the beast, but they are all willing to go there to save their friend’s life.


4. Kermit the Frog

There isn’t much to say. You either get it or you don’t. Kermit has been one of my heroes for my entire remembered life. The message that you can be understated, a little crazy some of the time, a lot melancholy most of the time, and still bring hope and laughter to others, is a message I sure want to believe is true. If not, I’m sort of screwed.


5. Hanna – Hanna

The real hero is Saoirse Ronan for her performance as a brutally well-trained killing machine trying to learn how to be a teenage girl. Watching her face, it’s impossible to believe she isn’t really a sheltered super-soldier seeing the world for the first time.

This girl is the real deal, and her performance is such a giant part of what makes this superb film so beautiful.


6. Cpt. Colter Stevens – Source Code

Even with the Quantum Leap awesomeness set aside, I really did enjoy this movie. In large part this was because I really pulled for Colter Stevens to succeed. I wanted good things to happen to him. A character and performance that reminded me that I actually really like Jake Gyllenhaal is nothing to sneeze at. By the way, what the hell does that phrase mean? Does it mean, I’m not allergic to liking Jake Gyllenhaal? Well, I’m not, I will not sneeze at a hero that saves the day both in the film and in my appreciation of the acting endeavors of Mr. Darko.