Many years ago, Disney released a Pixar film that had a profound impact on the course of my professional life.
At the time I was a full-time video game critic for several online magazines. I had a knack for raking mediocre games and announcements over the coals. I gained a reputation for publishing smart but scathing copy. Back then, I felt it was my job, if not duty, to critique everything I touched as if the orbit of the Earth depended on it. Continue reading…
You are bound to encounter a noticeable number of people in life who don’t watch TV, avoid books, or ignore performance art and sports altogether. But you’ll probably never encounter someone who doesn’t watch movies—they’re that universal.
Because of this, film tourism (or “location vacations”) are a big deal. Indeed, an untold number of scenic or otherwise interesting places might not have entered our collective radars had some movie director chose to shoot somewhere else.
Of those immortalized backdrops, few trips are more iconic or deserving than to one of these. Continue reading…
For its disjointed story, distracting dong shots, artistic cinematography, impressive set production, and a few emotionally gripping moments, I award Roma—the highest-rated movie of the year—3.5 out of 5 stars. Cynics will love it!
My wife and I watched the critically-acclaimed The Post recently at our local theater.
Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, the movie is about how The Washington Post, namely its brave publisher Katharine Graham, decided to publish the controversial Pentagon Papers in 1961.
Although the movie kept me engaged with strong acting, tight tension, and fun twists, I deem it good but not great. Here’s why: Continue reading…
The first was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, recommended by my sister Sara. Not to be mistaken for the horrific name, popular movie, and Halloween theme it inspired, the book is actually about what it’s like to be human. Masterfully written by Shelley when she was only 20 (!), Frankenstein made my heartbreak and made me ponder humanity more than another other book recently (save for this, this, and this).
Due to a few slow pages and an ending that abruptly stops (like most classical literature), I award it four stars out of five.
The second I read in less than 48 hours. It’s called The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by actor Greg Sestero and journalist Tom Bissell. About the making of The Room (aka “The Citizen Kane of bad movies”), this book made me laugh out loud, cringe, and cheer on numerous occasions. I admire Sestero for his candor, for seeing the good in the world, for sharing his story, and for shining the spotlight on the conflicted, inspiring, and likable man named Tommy Wiseau. “What a story, Mark!”
For its hilarity and heart, I award it four stars out of five and anxiously await the movie adaptation starring James Franco.
I recently watched 180 Degrees South. It’s an enjoyable documentary by surfer, climber, and conservationist Chris Malloy, in which he follows the adventurous footsteps of his two mentors—Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and North Face founder Doug Tompkins.
My wife and I recently watched Manchester by the Sea. It’s a beautifully-acted but heart-wrenching story about a Boston man (played by Casey Affleck) that is left utterly devastated and largely alone after a careless act and some horrifying bad luck. In fact, it’s one of the saddest movies I’ve seen in years.
Although I appreciated the film, I forgot the importance of tragedy while exiting the theater. “For someone who is living in a comedy, is there any value in being reminded that life sucks sometimes?” I asked myself. “Is there any harm in solely watching movies with happy endings?”
I’m always writing down blog ideas. At the time of writing, I have 535 unpublished saved drafts. Most of these will never see the light of day. But some of them are worth sharing. In an effort to whittle that number down as fast as humanly possible, here are five things that have crossed my mind recently: Continue reading…
Honor codes, moral self-reminders before brushing with temptation, and asking others to be honest in tempting situations can reduce dishonesty to almost zero, researchers found.
People are increasingly dishonest as they distance themselves from tangible things (i.e. its easier to steal digital money than tangible money, and it’s easier to cheat in golf by kicking your ball while looking away as opposed to picking it up). To heighten honesty, look at ill behavior right in the face before doing it.
Everybody is dishonest. Everybody. And all nationalities are equally dishonest, researchers found. It’s just that foreign cultures feel more dishonest because they cheat in unfamiliar ways.
Scandinavian economies and The U.S. have the world’s highest levels of social trust—Africa and South America the least, which has a dramatic effect in the size and health of those respective economies.
Bankers cheat twice as much as politicians. Lying can be appropriate when it’s done for the good of others as opposed to selfish reasons and only if the truth wouldn’t later upset the person that was deceived (i.e. telling a hysterical passenger on a crashing plane that you’re an aeronautics engineer and everything is going to be okay or lying to your children to keep them out of imminent danger or harm’s way).
I recently completed a $150 DNA test for a story I’m working on. Without going into too much detail, this is what I learned:
I’m healthy. Of 36 diseases tested, I’m not a carrier of any problematic genes. Phew!
I’m 99.9% European. That’s code for “white privilege.”
I’m ordinary. For example, I’m a normal sleeper. And although we were all Born to Run, my muscles are more “sprinter” than “endurance” type.
I got confirmation of what I’ve already observed. For instance, I don’t posses the bald gene, I’m not hairy, my ring finger is longer than my index, my second toe is longer than my big toe, I have wet earwax, and my skin is fair. Go figure!
Genes are overrated. Like my favorite sci-fi move so eloquently proves, our genes do not define who we are or how we choose to live. Yes, DNA is important and can have a big impact on our circumstance. But it does not determine our destiny or who we chose to become with the cards we’ve been dealt.
When I was nine years old, I saw Big starring Tom Hanks. It’s a movie about a boy doing young-at-heart things in a grown-up’s body. That and being employed to have an opinion on (i.e. review) toys.
At the time, I thought it was the coolest movie ever made. I still think it’s pretty darn cool.
In reality, my work as a writer over the last decade is not unlike protagonist Josh Baskin’s. I get paid to have an opinion and ask a bunch of questions. I tinker with ideas, learn from those who are smarter than me, and slay the dragon of misinformation with research as my shield and a keyboard as my sword. Continue reading…
My wife and I watched Atari: Game Over last night on YouTube (part II here). It’s an hour long documentary about the fast rise and even faster demise of video games in the early ’80s and the misinformation surrounding their fall (the games, not the decade).
That’s just the pretext, however. The documentary is really about hurtful group think, toxic urban legends, and the unfair, if not tragic, treatment of Howard Warshaw, a talented and pioneering game designer that was ostracized for his largely innocent role.
Although the documentary handles some weighty baggage, director Zak Penn keeps it fun, fast-paced, and peppered with likable characters. When Warshaw is partially redeemed by the end of the movie, I was rattled with sympathy.
Atari: Game Over isn’t as fist-pumping fun as Kong of Kong, which you should watch posthaste if you haven’t already. But the former is more accurate and just as endearing. Furthermore, it challenges the viewer to scrutinize their beliefs before accepting them and encourages us to give others the benefit of the doubt.
In honor of the World Cup, which starts next week in Brazil, here’s how I fell in love with the game.
The year: 198X. I was at a friend’s house in a remote part of northern Oklahoma. We were watching Victory, a so-so Sylvester Stallone movie about a POW soccer team playing Nazi Germany during World War II. My buddy and I were no older than five or six at the time.
Not wanting to endure the feeble character and pre-game drama, we fast forwarded the VHS “through all the boring stuff” to get right to the climatic game. While the build up to said game will likely keep most adults engaged — more for its interesting plot than acting skills — the last 20 minutes of the movie is most triumphant.
My wife and I watched Stardust recently. It’s been on my watch list for years, given its high viewer rating. But the crap poster always kept me from hitting “play.”
I’m glad I finally did. Stardust is a five-star film. The best fantasy movie I’ve seen since The Princess and the Bride—maybe even better. It’s certainly better than the under-edited Lord of The Rings, the most popular fantasy film of late. (Don’t worry nerds, I kept my sub-genres separated.)
In any case, I liked Stardust so much, I immediately read the book. It’s good but ends with a limp. The movie, on the other hand, ends with an enormous and climatic bang. The similarly-ended The Natural is the only other movie I can think of that is better than the book.
It’s worth watching, at least according to this romantic. Charlie Hunnam’s performance was uneven—brilliant when confronting his uncle, not so much when mourning the death of his friend. But it was obvious to me after watching it: Charles Dickens is a masterful storyteller. He’s proved it many times over. As have his contemporaries, including Jane Austen.
Upon finishing the movie and while channeling the most formal English I could muster, I commented to my wife, “We gotta go to England! The source of such great storytelling deserves to be honored with our presence.”
Is it wise to make an audience feel physically disoriented, claustrophobic, and unsettled? I’m not so sure. In addition to immense stress and one-too-many suspense hangers, that’s exactly how Gravity will make you feel.
This is due to director Alfonso Cuarón’s excessive use of first-person and single-shots that are heavy on pans. The effect certainly made me empathize with the lost in space heroine. But I’ve seen a lot of other movies that make me empathize with characters, not because of cinematography tricks, but because of powerful acting. Continue reading…
My wife and I went to a screening of Unfortunate Brothers last night. It’s an affecting documentary by Dodge Billingsley about the political, economic, and cultural divide of North and South Korea.
The film is touching, insightful, and kept me engaged for 55 minutes. It also made me sympathize with the plight of North Koreans.
The only problem: The movie was screened to a group of eggheads at BYU, my alma mater, and all the academic and naive student types that congregate there. And not just any kind of academics—the “international relations” kind that like to talk political theory, solve other country’s problems from afar, and use big words to make themselves feel like they’re contributing to society.
For example: After the screening, an expert panel of three pleasant fellows including the filmmaker fielded questions from about 80-100 attendees. The second “question” came from an assumed student that liked to hear himself talk. He talked about how the movie “moved” him. In between lengthy pontifications, he said, “I guess my question is” three times. He talked a lot. He was the opposite of concise. Continue reading…
The recent trend of making movies into trilogies — or better yet, four part trilogies where the third movie is bifurcated into two even more drawn out movies — is really the best thing to happen to cinema since at least technicolor, at most sound.
In fact, I think audiences have really missed out on a lot of epic, multi-part stories. I mean, mini series were big in the ’80s, for crying out loud! Couldn’t Hollywood see the writing on the wall? Skate to the puck a little sooner?
Even better, they should have started making trilogies a half a century earlier. Can’t you just imagine the possibilities? No?
The New York times ran an insightful piece this weekend on the decline of Sony, which is valued at just a quarter of where it was a decade ago, and just one thirtieth the size of Apple:
“Sony makes too many models, and for none of them can they say, âThis contains our best, most cutting-edge technology,’ ” Mr. Sakito said. “Apple, on the other hand, makes one amazing phone in just two colors and says, âThis is the best.’ ”
In addition to department infighting, that really sums up Sony’s troubles: too much product, none of them hits. Continue reading…
Assuming his biography well represents him, Steve Jobs was a jerk for much of his life. A work-a-holic with eating disorders, incredibly bratty, ruthless.
I’m sure a lot of devout followers will excuse his actions with “no one is perfect.” I prefer that justification, however, for people who are at least trying to improve their social skills with age, instead of sticking to their anti-social guns as Jobs did for much of his life.
Speaking personally, I’ve owned a Blu-ray player (PS3) since 2007, yet I only own maybe five Blu-ray discs. Yes the picture quality is nicer, but upscaled DVDs and streaming movies look nearly as good, and up until this year, they were a whole lot cheaper.
Many people believe Moon Unit Zappa and her 1982 single Valley Girl are responsible for popularizing this usage of “like” precisely at the moment Ms. Zappa sang, “It’s like, barf me out.” In reality, the slang use of the word “like” has been a part of popular culture dating as far back as 1928 and a cartoon in the “New Yorker” that depicts two woman discussing a man’s workspace with a text that reads, “What’s he got – an awfice?” “No, he’s got like a loft.” The word pops up again in 1962’s A Clockwork Orange as the narrator proclaims, “I, like, didn’t say anything.”
Not only that, but the slang interjection was even found in a novel circa 1886. Tubular!
Although I normally avoid “restricted” movies on principle, I make exceptions when referred to by friends with good taste, especially since the Motion Picture Association of America hasn’t always shown the best judgment when rating movies.
Like Shawshank Redemption and Schindler’s List before it, The King’s Speech is one of those movies I’m glad I excepted. It’s not as good as the aforementioned. But it’s a feel-good story with great acting. Recommended for Royal Monarchy and British accent fans everywhere.
The film: Iron Monkey. The scene: “Gone with the wind.” While most people panic when wind takes hold of loose items, these two stay cool, react quickly, and gracefully prove they’re not exactly who they appear to be (i.e. doctors).
In case you didn’t know, Kung Fu movies are to the Chinese as comic book movies are to Americans. Both are awesome. But instead of childish names and muscly tights, Chinese superheroes are ninja fast and averse to gravity.
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”—Rocky Balboa
… than watching this. Usually (I make exceptions for high-profile sporting events and the occasional Netflix stream.)
Point is, DVR lowers your standards. You wouldn’t watch half that crap (and by “crap,” I mean poorly produced, written, and acted shows when compared to movies) if it were live. So why subject yourself to lesser entertainment? I’m sure some people use DVR as it was designed: to make it easier to watch the shows you used to watch live. But the majority of DVR users actually abuse the technology, and end up watching more television (i.e. settling) than they normally would.
In that sense, DVR is not better living through technology. It’s clouding our judgment. It’s reducing our ability to think critically.
UPDATE: The movie is horrible. Still a funny crest though. ORIGINAL POST: I have no idea if this movie will be any good, but that spotlighted crest is just awesome. Gentlemen Broncos, the spiritual successor to Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, arrives in theaters Oct. 30.
Lindsey and I watched Some Kind of Wonderful last night. Having not seen it since the mid ’90s, I had forgotten how funny, well-cast, and totally awesome it is. While there are numerous memorable scenes, this one, entitled “Kissing Lesson,” takes the cake for its effective use of music, humor, and one-liners (“Lesson’s over; you’re cool”). If only more movies were so well done.
Later this month, 20th Century Fox will release “Max Payne,” the most recent video game to get a Hollywood makeover. But if history is any indication, the movie will be a critical stinker, as have been the majority of cringe-inducing, game-related feature films.
That’s not to say there haven’t been any good ones (or at least a handful of bearable ones). And from time to time, there have even been some great ones, particularly those that use video games as a backdrop, as opposed to driving the central story. And these are the best – the ones that will leave you minimally embarrassed or even impressed.
Warner Bros has confirmed that Goonies 2 is in production, reports Moviehole. “A source at Warner Bros has since confirmed [Goonies 2],” the site asserts, “saying they are developing it as a major movie, but won’t share anything other than that.”
Here’s hoping the news is legit. What with the recent announcement of Tron 2, I’ll soon be in 80s geek heaven.
Lindsey and I saw The Dark Knight while attending Nerdtacular ’08 on Saturday. Here are my thoughts, bullet point style:
This is the darkest, dare I say most believable superhero movie I have ever seen. That’s a good thing.
Heath Ledger as the Joker plays the most disturbing supervillain ever caught on camera. There are a handful of moments that you wish he would just stop what he is doing to his opponents — he’s that abrasive; that tormented. It’s easily an Oscar-worthy (at least a nominee-worthy) performance, and one that solidifies the Joker as the most villainous villain of all time.
Batman is sorta weak in this movie, dealing with feelings of self-doubt, indecisiveness, and a propensity to invade the privacy of others (though he does the latter only once during desperate times, a decision I would support). In defense of his flaws here, Batman is human after all, not a true superhero (he’s merely a ninja with a lot of money to buy really cool anti-crime gadgets). Continue reading…
Pixar’s Wall-E and Stanly Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey share a lot in common. Both are set in space, feature little dialog, have robots taking over the world, are immensely artistic, won’t keep a 2 and ½ year-old engaged despite their G rating, and offer a handful of sophisticated moments in filmmaking. But both are really monotonous — an analogy proving that Wall-E is easily Pixar’s worst film to date, for both adults and children alike.
Though I widely disagree with DeadBolt’s Top 10 picks (Beowulf? You cannot be serious), the movie portal makes a strong case for most of their selections, with Pixar rightfully sweeping the top five slots. As for me, Ratatouille is easily the greatest computer animated film ever made, and one of the best feature films of all time — animated or otherwise.
Lindsey and I watched The King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters on Wednesday, a hilariously funny “documentary” that follows Steve Wiebe as he attempts to overtake the world’s highest score in a game of Donkey Kong from reigning champion Billy Mitchell.
Not only is the movie entertaining, but it’s cleverly presented in “good vs. evil” fashion, boasts an awesome soundtrack, and features some very creative transition effects. Oh, and it stars lots of socially inept individuals who are fun to watch.
Lindsey and I had the opportunity to watch the Bourne Ultimatum while my sister-in-law babysat Sadie on Saturday. Outside of its being a most excellent, non-gadgety, weaponize your environment type spy-movie, I discovered what I believe to be the worst boss in the world: a spy (or CIA) boss.
I had the pleasure of seeing Transformers last night with a friend. I stress the word pleasure because it was exactly that. I wasn’t expecting good acting only going for the special effects, but Shia LeBouf was the movie standout. His comedic delivery and believability are top notch.
Michael Bay, the director, did an excellent job despite being largely criticized for his past big, over-the-top movies. Granted, there are several plot holes in the movie, but remember you’re watching a film about big giant robots once catered to 5-year old boys as I once was. Indulge yourself, and you’ll come away watching one of the most visually impressive, entertaining, and freshest movies (at least in terms of cadence and visuals) in a long time. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, though it’s not Oscar material (like I know what is).
Oh, and I also saw Ratatouille over the weekend. Different kind of movie than the above, but Pixar’s animation is the best I’ve seen and this is easily my favorite film they’ve made due to its sophistication and compelling story. Both films highly recommended.
I’m on a roll with controversial documentaries. I just finished watching Good Copy Bad Copy in which independent Danish filmmakers examine copyright law in the US and abroad. It’s fascinating to see how other countries treat IP, let alone make money from music and movies in ways the RIAA and movies aren’t even close to understanding or trying. I don’t necessarily have a solution to the challenges that piracy creates, but this 58 minute film is a must-see on the subject. Download the torrent here (it’s free!)
Spiderman 3 is the best comic book movie ever* followed closely by Batman Begins. Interestingly, however, this movie is getting slammed in reviews with most people saying it tries to do too much. I, on the other hand, loved this movie. And while it is a tad long, I thought Columbia Pictures did a great job pulling all the stories and subplots together in a clever Seinfeld fashion. And yes, the movie is hilarious.
Regardless of what you may have heard, here are five reasons why Spiderman 3 is the best movie in the series not to mention the best comic book film to date: Continue reading…
When I first saw the trailer for Rocky Balboa (read: Rocky VI), I thought, “Oh man, is Stallone out of his mind?” Maybe a little, but that’s the whole point of the film. People can’t believe Rocky would fight one last time, and people couldn’t believe Stallone would make yet another movie in the series at age sixty. That incredulity plays, however, right into the movie’s central conflict and stretch of a plot. Rocky Balboa is an inspiring, albeit, very fictional story. Keep that fiction part in mind when seeing this film, and you’ll leave having watched a very good movie.
The premise of the story is that the current heavyweight champion, Mason “The Line” Dixon, is too dominant for his own good. He can’t find a decent challenger to save his life. Enter an ESPN “computer fight” simulating a win over Dixon by the Italian Stallion. With that, Balboa eventually decides to come out of retirement to fight the champ in an exhibition match, well, because “fighter’s fight.” “When life beats down on you, you take it and keep moving forward.” That’s the essence of the movie’s story and it works very well. It’s got a lot of heart.
Sure, Stallone’s botox ridden face bothered me a bit at the start, but I found myself never growing tired of the engaging dialog and willing the movie to continue. The lines aren’t perfect, but they’re engaging, funny at times, and surprisingly impressive none-the-less. Watching this film made me realize that Rocky serves up a hefty piece of Americana: Classic music, a fighting spirit, and the idea that it ain’t over until it’s over. 4/5 stars from this here blogger, and that’s even excluding the nostalgic factor.
This documentary was a surprise to me. It is extremely well done and the cinematography is fantastic. It’s a heart-felt story of how Empire Penguins migrate and breed during the cold winter months in Antarctica. You will be amazed and impressed upon seeing what it takes to give birth to a baby chick and how family oriented Penguins can be. Very good story and it helps to have Morgan Freeman narrate.
I’m gonna come right out and say it… A-. That’s what I give the recent Warner Bros release based on excellent character development, captivating story, truthfulness to the overall comic genre, and shear entertainment. It must be noted, however, that of all the comics I liked as a kid, Batman was my favorite. He is the only super hero that doesn’t have any super powers. Well, unless you count the earnest desire to combat evil and a plethora of money to build nice toys.
Hitch was a fun and entertaining movie. However, I liked the insight it shed on the consulting industry even more. In the movie, the main character Hitch, played by Will Smith is a dating consultant. He helps couples successfully get past the third date and fall in love. He does it all covertly as to not ruin the relationship.
At the end of the movie, his cover gets blown and people start coming down on him. In one scene, one of his client’s girlfriends is expressing her frustrations on him. She can’t believe he trained her boyfriend to accidentally spill mustard on his shirt and dance crazy. In other words the things she loved about him. Hitch replied that he hadn’t nothing to do with those things and didn’t endorse them at all. She then proceeds to ask him, what exactly did he do, to which he replies, “I guess nothing.”
I am an IT consultant. Sure I help clients with technical issues the same way Hitch helped his clients work on their smoothness, but in the end, we really don’t do much. The true value of the consultant is derived by his/her solely being there for the paying organization. A teacher. A coach. A support group. A friend. We assist and help in areas where the company may struggle, but the success is really all the client’s.
Consulting (or professional assistance) is to business as weights are to a weight lifter. Both are necessary if the client wants to progress rather than plateau-ing. But it is the weight lifter that is the true winner.
I just finished watching Star Wars 3. While it showcases John Lucas’ talent as a movie maker, it still lacks the funny overtones and great acting of the first three films. I was really excited because some critics have said it’s as good as the originals. Sadly, I feel this one was a little over-the-top and really had some dry acting.
It’s an entertaining film though, and sheds new light on the series. The ending is done especially well so you should enjoy that. Overall, I give it a flat B.