Into The Wild - Movie Review


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Into The Wild

It's hard to review a movie based off a book based off a true story conveyed through sparse first person accounts and second hand perceptions, but I'm going to try anyway. It's easy to look at this film and give it a solemn respect, if only in accordance to those who are dead. This respect however is hard to reconcile in conjunction with the subject of the film, Chris McCandles, during his somewhat haphazard and definitely confused journey across land and sea, and it is a respect I will temporarily remove so that I can adequately criticize his fictionalized counterpart.
I apologize if my earlier comment ruined the movie for you. If you don't want to believe the subject of this film is doomed, you can come to a similarly deductive conclusion by listening to the films narration, provided by the protagonists fictionalized sister in past tense, or watch the trailer, or just read the book. In fact there is no way you wouldn't expect this young man's inevitable fate unless you fell asleep from the start. I wouldn't blame you. The movie is two and a half hours long. Believe me, it feels much longer.
In case you haven't heard it already, here is my summarized version of Into the Wild:
Chris McCandles, or the self proclaimed "Supertramp," begins his journey into manhood as a recent college graduate well known for his crazy-go-nuts behavior such as jumping really high onto a stage to receive his diploma and quoting Tolstoy. Oh my, what a card! Sick and tired of his parents offering him a new car to replace his old one, Chris-or should I say Supertramp, decides he's going to abandon his loved ones and trek across the country.
Shut up, that's why.
In an effort to stick it to a wasteful consumerist society, Chris bravely burns all his money, ditches his car, and then gives all his college savings (I presume provided by his parents) to charity.
In perhaps his most valiant act, Chris proves his bravery by reading every book by Thoreau without looking at cliff notes once and then goes on to quote it to every poor bastard that crosses his path, even if it doesn't relate at all to the current conversation.
Those poor souls hold the very heart of this film with absolutely fantastic performances by Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Zach Galifianakis, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker, and the wonderful Hal Holbrook. Even those portraying Candles family are powerful in their presence, especially the gripping William Hurt and subtle Jena Malone. In fact, just about every character and person in this film is wonderful when they appear on screen, everyone except the main protagonist, who just shows up kind of like that guy at a party who no one wants to admit they really hate.
The entire movie is essentially this: It's like one of those online viral videos of a guy doing something really stupid out in nature, except longer and with less meaning.
The protagonist, although faced with numerous brave souls who have actually seen life, instead ignores their apparent wisdom and instead attempts to provide his own, which never goes far beyond "You can do anything," but sounds more like "Look how strong I am." The most tragic part is that these people appear to actually listen to him.
There are strong overtones of overcoming family struggles and abuse. Even these ring hallow as our only evidence of this is provided by a hallow narration by the protagonists sister which isn't as expository as it is awkward. Brief flashbacks illustrate it, but it never goes far beyond a paper thin excuse for the main character's actions.
His memories of his family certainly appear to affect Chris, as is apparent when he audibly curses his father while in isolation during his last few weeks. The film skims a number of moral themes, notably happiness as a shared experience, yet never manages to develop it. Of course the main character realizes how great other people are, but you can't help but wonder whether this is a lesson learned, or a sudden realization that maybe someone else could help him pick the right berries next time.
What the realization should be is that forgiveness is the bravest act of all, for others as well yourself. His lack of forgiveness, for his family, friends, and society as a whole, drove him out into the wild, literally tore him apart and ultimately led to his death. Instead of sacrificing his pride, he instead choose to heed his own hedonistic desires and live entirely for himself out in the wild.
Why in the world does this film respect this kid? Why would anyone see his actions as bravery instead of cowardice?
This is an exceptionally well shot film. It often looks beautiful. As a film, it is actually okay. As a moral or even intelligent example, I fear for whatever influence it may have. For that I feel the duty to give it a terrible review.
If you want to see a meaningful and underrated adventure film I suggest the brilliantly constructed Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. This, on the other hand, is hollow at its core.
Don't bother.


New Old Reviews - Zombie Edition

I haven't made a post in a while, mainly because I haven't been able to get to any movie screenings between work an classes. No movie screenings means no movie reviews, so I've kinda been stuck with just posting crazy Japanese videos.
I have on the other hand been able to watch tons of Netflix movies, which, although entertaining, are somewhat too old to provide an informative review. However, a good movie is a good movie, so I thought I'd share my thoughts regarding two horror films I watched this past week.


Dawn Of The Dead (remake)

In case you didn't know it already, these two films are connected through the same writer, James Gunn who also directed Slither. I do want to point out the director of Dawn of the Dead, Zack Snyder, who has a very classy and attractive first name. His name aside, he also happens to be a tremendously talented director who knows his genre in and out.
Let's start out by saying Slither is by no means a good movie. The idea itself is reminiscent of what you might have seen in the corner of a Blockbuster store gathering dust between copies of Species 4 and 5. What Slither is on the other hand, is a great experience. In fact it's one of the greatest experiences I've had watching a movie in a long time. So keep that in mind when I explain that it is about flesh eating slugs from outer space that quickly latch themselves to the brains of unfortunate humans and turns them into mindless zombies who serve an alien lord who also has acquired a human vessel.
Did you catch all that? Yeah. It has everything. Gross slugs, violated humans, zombies, aliens, more zombies, and especially zombies.
So I guess you wouldn't want to bring a date to it. But then again, for such an unnerving subject, the characters are surprisingly human. Nathan Fillion in the role of the town sheriff is tremendous here, as he has already proven himself with Firefly, Serenity, and his numerous television appearances. Elizabeth Banks also shines. What the movie gets absolutely right is it's characters, who although frequently show lapses in logic, are surprisingly realistic and charming in their quirks. They are genuinely interesting and as a result they move the story and you along with it.
On the other side of the spectrum we have Dawn of The Dead, a remake of the original film of the same title. Whereas Slither genuinely provided a charming experience by finding a soft spot in your heart, Dawn manages to find a different soft spot by punching you in the stomach. In my opinion, this is one of the most grittiest and most epic zombie films I've seen.
But you don't have to watch the whole thing.
In fact the first fifteen minutes will suffice, because quite frankly, this movie has possibly the best first fifteen minutes of any horror film, and maybe any film documented. This of course is the beginning segment in which zombies first begin to make their terrible presence known. I won't explain it, because I simply cannot do it justice, but I will say the randomly exploding van made me realize I was watching movie history.
Apart from that however, the film somewhat stutters halfway through while the group of survivors decide to turn their poorly thought out plan of escape into a reality. As a writer, i understand the need for your characters to keep moving, but as an audience member you can't help but feel like they don't really have a reason to leave. Why don't they just take the advice from Shawn of the Dead and go to the pub until the whole thing "just blows over?" But maybe I'm thinking it over way too much. The exploding heads should be enough.
See both of them, but if you only have room for one in your queue, I'd go with Slither.


Super Crazy Japanese Ad Game - round two!

It's been a long time, but I think we can finally start a new round of playing "Super Crazy Japanese Ad Game!"
If you aren't aware of what that game is, let me explain the rules.

1. Look at the beginning frame or first few seconds and guess the specified product being advertised before the ad ends.
2. Try to understand exactly what is going on.

Let's begin!
We'll start with an easy one:



What. The. Srap.

Completely tasteless.

Completely tasty.

Just scary

I still don't get it.

Fortunately, all it takes is a sense of humor to get these milk commercials, which are in fact, very funny:


Air Guitar Champion Releases the "Tiger"

Yep, I know it's the biggest issue that's been on your mind: The Air Guitar World Championship has just ended. It was a long strenuous journey, but for all those Pseudo-postmodernist-punk-rocking mimes out there, their hard work has finally paid off.

Here's the winner of this years competition, the returning champion Ochi Dainoji Yosuke.

However, his rivals were worthy opponents. Here are my favorite ones, as featured on youtube.

This guy gives the classic "Monkey wrench" the old air-five.

Of course, the night is never over until the Free Bird sings. This clip is actually from the 2006 competition, but is no less charming as all the air-guitar champions are united to play the one song no one is cocky enough to go alone.


Trailer of The Week: AVP 2

If you don't know what AVP stands for already, then I can easily tell you won't get it.
That said, this is one of the most violent trailers I've ever seen, and I am friggin pumped.


3:10 To Yuma Movie Review


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3:10 To Yuma Review

From the 1930’s up to the 1960’s, the American western was the most popular film genre in existence. Since then the genre itself has slipped into somewhat of a niche market, nestled quietly behind classic film noir and the ever-popular kung-fu genres. 3:10 To Yuma was written as a short story by Elmore Leonard and appeared in 1957 as a feature film directed by Delmar Daves. The film was immensely popular, especially in Cuba where it is reported that for a time all Americans and non-Hispanics were called “Yumas.” However, I can’t blame you if you’ve never heard of it. I never actually watched it either. But like most classic westerns you’ve never seen, this one influenced many films beyond it.
Now, over fifty years later, we have the remake of 3:10 To Yuma, and despite the fact that I never actually saw it’s predecessor, I’m just going to go ahead and say this is not only the definitive version, but one of the best westerns in recent memory. This time it’s directed by James Mangold, who also directed the highly acclaimed Walk The Line, and is beautifully photographed by cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. While the film itself is pieced together expertly, its execution was plagued with problems. The production of the film was initially burdened by a freak snowstorm that covered the “barren” town with two feet of snow, which had to be removed and covered with new dirt. Keep an eye out for the “no animals were harmed” notice as well, considering that on the first day of filming a rider and his horse collided with a camera carrying vehicle, badly injuring the rider and resulting in the horse being euthanized on set.
Problems in production aside, the result is a wonderful looking, authentic, and expertly crafted film. The story takes place in drought-plagued Arizona, where Dan Evans, a civil war veteran played by Christian Bale, struggles to make a living with his wife and two sons. Meanwhile, the infamous Ben Evans, played by Russell Crowe, arrives in town to rob his twenty-second Southern Railroad cart. The notorious outlaw is captured in town, but his gang of murderous thieves wishes to prove their allegiance by helping him out. So while the cool Ben relaxes in the presence of the law, the heat grows ever higher for hired escorts like Dan.
What the film succeeds in doing is making each character cool and dynamic. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale play their roles so keynote perfectly that the audience immediately understands the high-wire balancing act they play between their morals and their responsibilities as human beings. The performances are in and of themselves provoking and worth watching, but the film is so well written that we are provided with equal amounts of action, black humor and dramatic intensity to consistently keep us interested.
What the film captures is that lawless, yet morally torn spirit evident in the revisionist westerns or “anti-westerns” of the classic genre. It certainly provides echoes of classics such as High Noon, and of course The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, but more importantly the film is a classic western in it’s own right and may be a sign of the return of this great genre itself. See it.


Back from Mehico!

Well, the family vacation is over and now the blogging can begin once again. For those who don't know, the whole Newcott clan took a trip down the California coast to old Mexicana (that's Italian for Mexico). The important thing is that we're all back.
While I try to edit a little vacation home video, I thought I'd post a few little audio treats I found here and there among the many blogs I love to tune into to.

Here's a song by the 22-20s called Shoot Your Gun. 'Cause we all know a trip to Mexico is meaningless without celebratory gun shooting into the air.
22-20s - Shoot Your Gun


It was a long flight back home, luckily the direct TV's were on the fritz, so Jet Blue let us watch movies for free. Here's a great song about flying high called Flight 180 by Bishop Allen. I highly recommend listening to it in a dark room with headphones. It's a real cool one.

Flight 180 - Bishop Allen

Needless to say, so much family time definitely tired me out. Luckily, I was also able to spend a little time in Cali. Here's a song that kind of captures what being in California again felt like. It's by good old John Mayer.
Heart of Life - John Mayer

Is John Mayer not Indie enough for you? Well, neither are the The Killers really, but they understand with this ditty I never heard before called Indie Rock and Roll.
Indie Rock and Roll - The Killers

Surprisingly, I returned to find a beautiful day here in DC. SO here's one last piece to chill to by Donavon Frankenreiter called Beautiful Day.
beautiful day - Donavon Frankenreiter