Thursday, June 28, 2012

Discussion Starter – Shakycam: The Most Exciting Thing to Happen to Film Since the Addition of Sound; or The Worst Thing to Happen to Film Since, Well, Ever – Part 2 (Cons)

I’ve seen more and more comments in recent years about the proliferation in movies of hand-held camera cinematography, or “shakycam” for short.  Some people despise it; many people dislike it, but tolerate it; some people like it; a few people love it; and some people, believe it or not, don’t even notice it.

I figured I would gather together the various pro and con arguments I have seen, and then go into a little detail on them.  In Part 1 of this discussion I talked about the various ways people are for it.  You can read that post here.  Now for the Con arguments.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Discussion Starter – Shakycam: The Most Exciting Thing to Happen to Film Since the Addition of Sound; or The Worst Thing to Happen to Film Since, Well, Ever – Part 1 (Pros)

I’ve seen more and more comments in recent years about the proliferation in movies of hand-held camera cinematography, or “shakycam” for short.  Some people despise it; many people dislike it, but tolerate it; some people like it; a few people love it; and some people, believe it or not, don’t even notice it.

I figured I would gather together the various pro and con arguments I have seen, and then go into a little detail on them.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Those people who saw the 2011 film Moneyball might remember a conversation Pitt’s and Hill’s characters had about a then minor league baseball player named Kevin Youkilis, or as Hill’s character referred to him: “the Greek god of walks.”  This is taken from the non-fiction book the movie is based on.  In that book the author referred to him as “Euclis: the Greek god of walks”.  (Euclis; Euclid: get it?)  He called him this because Youkilis walked more than any player at any level of professional baseball, other than Barry Bonds, and because the author assumed his surname made him Greek.  It makes for a fun reference, but there were two things wrong with that title being bestowed on him.  The first is that Kevin Youkilis does not have any Greek ancestry.  The second is best illustrated by a joke his then-Manager Terry Francona made when asked for the umpteenth time about Youkilis being the Greek god of walks – “I’ve seen him in the showers and he’s not the Greek god of anything.”

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Movie – Assassination of a High School President (2008)

I had heard good things about Assassination of a High School President, so I checked it out.  While it was different from what I had expected, I liked what it did.  How is it different?  It has a sense of humor.  I would go as far as calling this a comedy/drama, while at the same time still being a noir film set in high school.  It’s not a spoof of noir movies, though.  The humor comes from the situations in the film.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Movie – Cherry Crush (2007)

I had never heard of the film Cherry Crush when I found it in a bargain bin.  While this isn't usually a good sign, I've seen enough decent films in these bins to not immediately ignore a DVD I find there.  Sometimes these are films that didn't sell because they didn't fit into any standard genre like romantic comedy or action.  Like I mentioned with Brick, this is an R rated movie with teens as the leads, two things that would have limited its audience.  I saw this movie had Nikki Reed in it and from the description I could tell that it was a noir-like film.  Looking for another movie like Brick (2005) I did a blind buy on it.  While it’s not all that I hoped it would be, I still liked it well enough to include it in this category.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Movie – Brick (2005)

The movie Brick was quite a revelation for me.  If you had told me before I saw it that a Maltese Falcon type of film could be translated to a high school setting I would probably not have taken it seriously.  Luckily I knew nothing about the film when I rented it, other than it was a whodunit.  I immediately recognized the speech patterns of the characters as being right out of film noir.  At first it was a little strange to be seeing teenagers talk this way, but after a few minutes I got into it.  As the film went along and more and more noir conventions appeared, translated to being relevant to the setting, I enjoyed myself more and more.  This is definitely a movie that anyone who likes film noir should see.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Teen Noir Movies

“Mathematically, it’s a percentage of your life.  Four years, 48 months, 1,461 days.  High school is prom, football games, boyfriends, girlfriends, party at the rich kid’s house.  Fun, simple, wholesome.  But it’s really anything but.  High school might be the least wholesome four years of your life.  And there’s nothing simple about it.  High school is ugly, hard, and complicated.  As complicated as a conspiracy to assassinate the president.” – Bobby Funke (voice over), Assassination of a High School President

I almost went with the last line from this same film – “Forget it, Funke.  It’s high school.” because of the funny nod to Chinatown, but I decided I needed something a little more serious for my beginning quote.

Back in 2005 the movie Brick came out.  It starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a high schooler trying to solve the murder of a former girlfriend.  People hadn’t really seen anything quite like it before.  Much like films had been translating classic literature to a high school setting (i.e. Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew became 10 Things I Hate About You), someone finally translated the conventions of film noir’s hard-boiled detective stories to a high school setting.

There is a large segment of the adult population that will not watch an animated movie because they think they are “just for kids”.  Many adults will not watch anything with a teen protagonist for the same reason.  Combine that with an R rating, which movie theaters have been strongly enforcing in the last decade or so, and this limited the audience for this film, despite the fact that it won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Because of this I thought this kind of movie might be a one-off, but it was followed in 2007 by Cherry Crush and in 2008 by Assassination of a High School President.  While neither of these were as deep into the noir conventions as Brick, it seems likely that they were inspired by it.

I will be reviewing all three of these films.  Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other movies that I would classify as “teen noir”.  River’s Edge and Mean Creek involve teens and a dead body, but do not have the noir conventions.  If you can think of any other films, please let me know.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and post the links to them here:

On to the reviews…

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hike – Cadillac Mountain Gorge Path (east approach), Dorr Mountain West Trail, North Ridge Trail, Hemlock Trail

East side of Cadillac as seen from the west side of Dorr
Cadillac Mountain is the highest point in Acadia National Park in Maine.  It is also the highest mountain on the Atlantic Ocean anywhere north of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  In the Fall and Winter it is the first place in the U.S. that sees the sunrise.  It has a free auto road that allows people to drive right to the top.  It also has multiple hiking trails to the summit.  Some are more challenging than others.  This post describes a hike up the Gorge Path on the east side of the mountain, the second most difficult way to ascend.  It then includes a west to north traverse of Dorr Mountain just to the west, then a loop back to the starting point via the Hemlock Trail. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Movie – Men of Honor (2000)

Men of Honor is based on the true story of Carl Brashear, who was the first black man to achieve the highest U.S. Navy enlisted rank of Master Diver (E-9).  Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays the main character from the late 1940s to the late 1960s.  It’s the last really good performance I’ve seen from him, although I’ve admittedly been skipping most of his more recent movies.  The film co-stars Robert Deniro and Charlize Theron.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Movie – The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)

On its surface, The Legend of Bagger Vance is just a movie about golf.  If you look a little deeper, though, you will find a film based on a Hindu tale about a man rediscovering his true path in life.  Because of this, and because the plot involves a white man and a black man interacting in 1930, the movie also stirred up some controversy.  I will discuss this below.

The film stars Will Smith as the title character of Bagger Vance.  His co-lead in the movie is Matt Damon as Rannulph Junah.  Charlize Theron is the female lead as Adele Invergordon.  It is her actions that drive the events of the movie.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Movie – The Italian Job (2003)

This film is a remake of the 1969 British movie of the same name.  While there are some nods to the original (most obviously the mini Coopers used for the getaway, as well as the traffic jam) much of the plot of the remake is new.  I have seen both films, and while I’m sure this is heresy for fans of the original, I like the remake a little better.  This is because I like heist films that have brilliant characters in them.  The original featured a group of lovable losers following someone else’s plan, while the remake features smart people who come up with their own plans and can think on their feet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Movie – Aeon Flux (2005)

Aeon Flux is a movie that critics hated.  Luckily, I rarely listen to professional critics.  They also hated John Carter.  I just watched it last night and found out it was actually a decent movie.  Anyway, Aeon Flux stars Charlize Theron as the title character.  With her coming off her Oscar win for Monster (2003), comparisons to prior Oscar winner Halle Berry’s film Catwoman were numerous (and unfair, in my opinion).  Added to this, the creator of the original animated Aeon Flux Mtv series also disowned the movie.  His series didn’t have any narrative structure or continuity, or even any spoken dialogue, and he was proud of that.  When he found out that this film was going to have plot, continuity, and yes, dialogue, he protested by telling fans of his show to not watch this movie.  Finally, this film opened against the fourth Harry Potter movie.  As a result of all of these things, the film did not get seen by too many people.  I did see it, and while there are certainly better movies, I liked this one enough to recommend it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Movie – Young Adult (2011)

Young Adult is the second film that Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody teamed up for.  Since the first was the Best Picture nominee Juno (2007), expectations were quite high for this one.  Because of that this film ended up with mixed reactions from people.  Some loved it, some hated it, and some felt it was a good movie, but not as good as their other work.  I fall into the last group. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Movie – Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott set out to make a prequel to Alien, but then changed his mind.  He instead decided to make an “original” movie.  He then sort of changed his mind back and decided (most likely for marketing and box office purposes) to say that this film is set in the same universe as the Alien films.  Anyone expecting to see the aliens from the earlier films will be severely disappointed, though.  Scott decided people had grown tired of them, so he had new creatures designed.  They essentially do the same things, just not in the same ways.  I avoided all of the viral marketing campaigns beforehand.  I knew that if I went into the film with too many expectations it would ruin it for me.  As a result, I was not bothered by the fact that there are no traditional aliens in this movie.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Movies Where Charlize Theron Does Not Get Naked

“You better not be thinking what I think you’re thinking ‘cause my answer is the same as always.  No threesomes unless they’re boy-boy-girl…or Charlize Theron.” – Harmony Kendall to Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show

The title of this category probably brings one of two questions to your mind:

1.  Why watch one of her movies if she doesn’t get naked?
2.  There have actually been Charlize Theron movies where she doesn’t get naked?

I just watched both Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman.  Prometheus makes the cut as a movie I would recommend, but not Snow White.  If you would like to see my thoughts on the latter, you can read them here.

This category does mean that I will have to exclude what is definitely her best performance in 2003’s Monster, for which she took home the Oscar.  By the way, if you want to win an easy bet then challenge a “movie person” to name the only African actress to win an Oscar.  Theron, not being black, is overlooked by most people.

This category also means some decent movies like 2 Days in the Valley, The Cider House Rules, and The Burning Plain will also need to be skipped.  I’m still left with enough movies I can recommend.  Even for most of these her character is naked at some point, but the movie watcher doesn’t actually see anything, so they don’t count as being nude scenes.  The first movie up will be Prometheus.

As I post the reviews, I will come back and post the links to them here:

On to the reviews…

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Wiki – 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

I wanted to let you know that if you are interested at all in the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die films then there is a great new resource to help people who are having trouble tracking down some of the harder to find movies.  There is now a 1,001 Movies Wiki to bring together all the information regarding them that movie lovers have. 

Adolytsi from Adol’s CinematoBlogoWebboScreed (you can see his blog here) and I have put this together for everyone to use and to keep current.  There are resources here that give you the entire list, those films that are available and unavailable from Netflix, and alternate sources you may be able to use to see those films.

To support this effort I updated the 1,001 Movies tracking sheet that I have at Lists from Chip.  It now has a comprehensive view of all 1,089 movies’ availability via Netflix.  You can see that list here.

Even if you only have an idle curiosity, why not check it out?  You may find something there to interest you.  Maybe one of the hard to find movies on this list just happens to be one you have been searching for yourself.

Here is a link to take you right to the main page: 

You can also read more about the book that all of this is based on in my post here.

Finally, if you want to see my reviews of the films from this book, click on the “Movies – 1001 Movies” Label at the bottom of this post.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Humor – June Weddings

June is the month that is traditional for weddings.  I decided it was the right time to share various pictures I’ve run across.

First, there has to be the proposal.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Discussion Starter - Two Great Movies That I Secretly Hate (Part 2)

In my Part 1 post I wrote about hiding the fact that I sometimes have great movies that for whatever reason I simply didn’t like.  You should read it before continuing with this post.  You can find it here.  Two of these films are The Shining and Annie Hall.  In this post I will go into a little more detail on what it was about them that pushed the wrong buttons for me.

First, why are these “great” movies?  Here are my guidelines: 

  1. It should be a film at least 25 years old so that a generation has gone by where it has been hailed as great. 
  2. If possible, it should be both critically acclaimed AND liked by general movie goers. 
  3. And it won’t be one of the trendy, easy targets like Ordinary People beating Raging Bull or other Oscar controversies.  Hating Raging Bull?  Now that would definitely qualify.
The great movies that I secretly hate are The Shining and Annie Hall.  “Hate” is a strong word for me, and I don’t use it lightly.  I can find something likable in almost every movie.  There have been only a handful of movies I would say I truly hated, but among them are these two classics.  There are several others that fall into the “dislike” category, but for now I will concentrate on the two that generated the strongest negative reaction in me.  Please be aware that there will be spoilers below for both of these films.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Discussion Starter - Do You Have Great Movies That You Secretly Dislike? (Part 1)

This is my 400th post.  I’ve been kicking around some thoughts for several months now and I’ve decided to do something a little different.  Instead of a movie review/recommendation, I’m going to write something that I will simply term a “discussion starter”.

Many people have films that they consider guilty pleasures.  They write about them from time to time, almost as a confessional.  The thing is, these movies usually are ones that a large number of other people like, too.  They are often movies that are fun to watch, but don’t have much depth to them.  Just like most everyone else, it’s easy for me to write a recommendation for one of these films simply because I liked it.  I also have no problem sharing my liking for these films in comments on your sites.

Over the last several months, though, I’ve noticed a trend in myself.  I am far more reluctant to leave a comment that is critical of an all-time classic movie.  Sure, I will tiptoe around it some by writing things like “I felt it didn’t live up to the hype”, “for whatever reason it just wasn’t for me”, or even “I realize I am in the small minority here, but I didn’t like it.”

All of those are qualified statements weakening the message, which is this – I didn’t like, and maybe even hated, this critically acclaimed, very popular movie.  I’ve thought about why a guy confident enough to stand by all of his likes (me) is reluctant to stand behind his dislikes.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it comes down to “being taken seriously” as a “movie person”.