8.30.2008

Smart People - Movie Review



Smart People
-----

It's a rare thing to watch a movie that is simply so utterly forgettable, that you realize you are actually forgetting it while it's still on sreen. "In one ear and out the other" really doesn't describe Smart People. Unlike the Sex and the City movie (a film so long that I shudder just to think about it) this film has the benefit of brevity to at least quell any movement towards the eject button. Still, at 95 minutes, it's too long.

The main selling point here is the cast of mostly great actors. Dennis Quaid plays the central role of Lawrence, an English professor who prides himself on his smarts, vocabulary, and overall lack of personableness. His daughter, played by Ellen Page, appears to be a slightly older version of Juno, only with a vocabulary which has grown beyond the phrases "pork swords" and "home skillet." Thomas Haden Church is easily the most welcomed cast member, especially considering that his character Chuck is primarily the only source of entertainment. And of course, there's Sarah Jessica Parker, who somehow reprises her role as the central love interest, despite appearing to be the most unlikable grand-mother in history. I wouldn't mind her so much, if she only accepted the fact that she is aging and tried to expand on her choice of acting roles. Listen, Sarah, at this point it's just not attractive to see you play characters of older women trying to seduce other men. It's just sad. Really sad.

Smart People seems to envy the voice of Noah Baumbach, or Alexander Payne. In the process of assimilating these identities, Smart People ironically loses it's own. As a result, the film is a ponderous mess. It's unweildy script doesn't end as much as it spits and putters like a dying car, even attempting to give itself a jump start while the credits pass.

Earlier this week I was thinking about what I would consider to be the worst movie ever made. What I realized is that any film I decided on would innevitably not be the worst film for the sole reason that I could still remember it. If that were the case, then I could assume that the film somehow affected me.
No, I realized that the worst film ever will have to die in complete obscurity, alone in a sea of vague lookalikes.

There's nothing about Smart People I can recommend or dissuade against. It's not bad, not good, not even very adequate. It really might as well not even exist, which frankly, is the greatest insult I can think of.

8.28.2008

On The Jorb

Yes, it's true. I finally got myself a job. A very small part time job. For eight hours a week.

I work in the school's Art Gallery, where I attend to the art.

At the job interview I was asked a series of questions, such as, "what does an art attendant do?" and "What doesn't an art attendant do?"

Actually, those were the only two questions, but I think I did a good job answering them because now I am entrusted to protect paintings such as this:



The exhibit features work by William Kurelek, a Canadian born artist whose art is rooted in his Hungarian background and Roman Catholic influences.
His family owned and operated a farm until it was lost during the Great Depression.



In 1952 he entered the Maudley Psychiatric Hopital in England for his extreme depression.



Now... here's something the other Biola "Art Gallery" attendents won't tell you. William Kurelek was also treated for skizophrenia, and during treatments painted a a work entitled "The Maze" which would later make an appearance as Van Halen's kick-ace album cover for Fair Warning.

ROCK. ON.

William Kurelek later converted to the Roman Catholic Church, to which he attributed his recuperation from his severe depression. His works after that were logically heavily influenced by religion. He went on to illustrate childrens books, his most famous being A Northern Nativity which illustrated what the birth of Jesus would have been like if it had been placed within a Canadian setting.



His work can range from quaint, to somewhat unnerving, as some of his works question the wastefulness of American society by placing starving immigrants in common household scenes, or foreign workers on golf courses.

Subtlety is not his best suit, and Kurelek's lack of tact somewhat turns me off from some of his works.

But when he isn't calling man's hypocracy into question, I found William Kurelek's work to be rather strikingly beautiful at times. I was specifically drawn towards his work involving landscapes and winter scenery. Although his dimensions can at times be confusing, he makes up for any lack of accuracy with intense detail which innevitably draws the viewer in for a closer viewing.

But then again, I'm not an art student, so I supose I'm really not qualified to judge.



But then again... It's my job to know this type of stuff. Am I right?

8.27.2008

Mashed

I thought this mash-up was pretty dang clever.

What A Wonderful Surprise - Louis Armstrong Vs. Radiohead

And this was pretty fantastically edited.



Today is the first day of my part-time job! Hooray!

I've Been Sharpening My Pencils All Day!

Welp. I start another semester of college today...



I have all my new school supplies ready, which mostly consists of products I could find at the dollar store on the cheap.

This means my "supplies" mostly consist of folders featuring pictures of kittens.



Not that I'm complaining. Look at that little fellow, who wouldn't want to cram papers into that??

I must say that part of me is excited. Just not in respect to answering questions in a classroom setting.
Don't get me wrong, I'm the go-to-guy if you need something solved. I'm full of answers. They're just not always right, most of the time.



Here I go!

8.26.2008

Japanese Craziness

I had sushi for the first time last night.

When I took my first bite, THIS is what I saw:



OH HOLY CRAP.

I just had thirteen seizures.

But really though, it was that good.

Here's a commercial featuring four Japanese schoolgirls inside of an Edemame pod.



Here's another commercial for what appears to be Sweat inside of a can.



Perhaps "sweat" translates out to something more delicious in Japan, but here in America it only brings to mind images of overweight people attempting to walk up a steep incline on a hot summer day. Why exactly anyone would want to buy a container of human sweat is beyond me, but clearly not beyond the Japanese. Which is exactly what I like about them.

Hancock - Movie Review

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Hancock
***--

Hancock as a hero is troubling. He's an amnesiac, has no family, he is invulnerable to bullets, he's frequently inebriated, he's black. Let's face it, if his role wasn't played by Will Smith I'm fairly certain it would be considered both racist and unlikable. In fact, I can't really think of any positive character trait I cannot directly attribute to Will Smith rather than the character himself. Perhaps that's not a terrible thing, maybe it's just a testament to Will Smith's charm, but then again, that would mean I'm not really reviewing a movie. Just Will Smith as a person.

The film Hancock begins with a clever premise, led up to by standard superhero action filler. Hancock is a hero who neglects to take into consideration what every audience viewer scoffs at, the utter destruction left behind by superheroes in the proccess of saving a few select individuals.

Although we might like it when the Hulk goes "Smash," we should probably question his method of saving lives when he deflects military rockets into buildings, flattens cars, and sets laboratories aflame.

Hancock is given a helping hand from an unexpected source, a publicist who claims he can give Hancock a shift of image in the public eye.

This alone would make for a clever movie, especially if the two characters were at two ends of a spectrum. On one side would be the common business man, on the other would be the immortal man who could fly. There's a lot of issues the two could go head to head on without even realizing it. The combination would be satirical, clever, original, funny, and intriguing. However, when the two do meet, the characters reveal themselves to both be dry and uninteresting.

The film is quite simply messy. The pacing is unbalanced. The character development is off-centered, often placing emphasis on individuals before they are even properly introduced. The plot developments are forced and foreseeable.

None of this means that Hancock is a bad movie. That's not true in the least.
Hancock is several good movies squeezed together, with several of the most introspective moments edited down. Hancock would make for a great television series, maybe even book. The problem here is that the film can't focus on what would be most interesting to focus on.

Is Hancock's immortality the most fascinating aspect about him? Or is his history? Is his relationship with other characters worth seeing through? Or is it his introspection and development more important? The film frequently tries to make up for all of these questions by throwing in new plot developments, which had they only been thrown in earlier, could have really developed into something ingenious.

What Hancock amounts to is an entertaining movie for a Saturday afternoon when there's nothing better to do and you just want to sit down. That's not a bad thing, and the fact that Hancock attempts to do anything different whatsoever is a credit to it's character in and of itself. I respect that, and I enjoy that.

8.23.2008

How The Simpsons Jumped the Shark

If you're anything like me, then you probably haven't seen a memorable episode of the Simpsons in roughly eight years. For a show that's been around for more than twice that amount of time, I suppose that's not really so bad for a statistic. Then again, at it's height, the Simpsons was without a doubt the best show on television. It's influence has been integrated to cultures world wide. Short of Mickey Mouse and Coca-Cola, The Simpsons are easily the most recognizable group of characters in existence. They have integrated themselves into the english language, with "D'oh" prominently placed in the Oxford English Dictionary.

But what ever happened to them? At just about the turn of the century they seemed to change, apparently the only victims to the millenium bug. Some attributed this change to their sudden neighbors on the Fox network, Family Guy, who only just began their initial stint in 1999 before their first cancellation two seasons later. More likely, it was due to eventuall loss of some of their best writers. Conan O'Brien was a head writer in the early 1990's before taking David Letterman's spot on late night television. John Swartzwelder was the most prolifant writer, with 60 episodes under his belt, and worked notoriously as a recluse, so much so that some have even argued he doesn't actually exist. His work, in fact, was eventually sent in by mail due to his avid smoking habits, (Swartzwelder even installed a coffee booth to write on in his own home after California passed a "no smoking" bill, stopping him from attenting his favorite coffee shop). John Swartzwelder left the writing staff in 2003, the Simpsons fifteenth season, and only returned for the Simpsons Movie. Despite the over-arching environmental themes in both the show and film, he has frequently called himself an "anti-environmentalist." Show runner Mike Scully left in 2001, and went on to write for Everybody Loves Raymond, a show that matured so much with it's writing that it ended with a status surpassing that of stage productions.

But the Simpsons has steam-rolled it's way through 20 seasons. It has continued to be one of the most profitable power machines in the entertainment industry. Talented writers may be in short supply, but there's no doubt that the majority of them would be willing to contribute to a series heralded by Time magazine as "20th century's best television series." Time magazine made that proclamation in 1999.

So what stopped it? When did the Simpsons faulter?

The answer could ironically be found in the show's inception, The Simpson's first aired Christmas Special in 1989. On that date the show's core characters were established. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie clearly had their stages set, along with their pet dog Santa's Little helper who was adopted in that very same episode. Other minor characters were also established, Moe's Tavern was set as a regular location for the series, along with it was the town drunk, Barney Gumble. In the Simpsons Christmas Special Barney made his first appearance drunkenly wearing a Santa costume, in fact, he's the one who suggests Homer takes a similar position. He also suggests later in that same episode that they take their earnings to the Dog Track and place bets.

If it wasn't for Barney Gumble, the Simpsons would in fact be without their lovable mutt Santa's Little Helper, but that's not the only reason Barney Gumble is essential to the show.



It's reasonable to assume that Barney Gumble is in fact an alternate version of Homer Simpson. They are, in many ways, the exact same character. They both drank endlessly. They both spend their time with similar slobs. They were even established as good friends in high school, with Homer providing Barney with his first beer. It could be argued that Barney is Homer trapped in an alternate dimension. He is the mirror for Homer's faults. He is Homer Simpson, had Homer never married Marge or had children. In effect, Barney Gumble is a testament to married life. He is a living lesson for what not to become, or what could have been. It's no wonder that Barney was originally considered to be the Simpsons next door neighbor.

Then, on April 9th 2000, the Simpson universe had changed. Before that, Barney Gumble was a living embodiment of the show's political incorrectness. Matt Groening mentioned, "there was a sort of unspoken rule about not having drinking on television as a source of comedy. So, of course, we went right for it." Barney definitely went for it. But on that 244th episode, something changed.

Barney Sobered up.

In "Days of Wine and D'oh'ses," Barney realizes the error of his ways after witnessing an embarrassing video of his surprise birthday party. Barney goes to AA meetings, he learns to fly a helicopter, and ends up saving the Simpson children from a forest fire, all the while having a drunken Homer at his side.

The episode itself is quite funny, with a charming gag involving an escaping bear attempting to hitch a ride on Barney's chopper. It's resulting implications however, were less charming than that.



Somehow, making a character clean himself up in one episode only to revert back to a stumbling slob in the next, just isn't very funny. In fact, it's rather sad. The writers must have realized this, and from that point onward (with a few exceptions) they had Barney enjoying a cup of coffee in Moe's Tavern rather than nursing a Duff. He looked cleaner too.

In this manner, Homer effectively took his place as the sad drunk, and Barney's life was escalated to only slightly less empty with the addition of his helicopter liscense. Although Homer had the benefit of a loving family, his status as a lovable role-model diminished. Barney's ability to function as a proper catalyst for action was also crippled. As a result, the Simpsons became a lot less fun to watch as the domino's failed to fall.

So perhaps it was political correctness that slayed the Simpsons humor.

No matter what the case, the show has stayed steady in it's endless production, sober Barney intact. The Simpsons may simply never be what it once was. No additional characters could resurrect the same humor established in it's first decade of work. In the end, Barney's change in character wasn't the straw that broke the camels back, he was the broken back that mended all too soon.

8.22.2008

Test of Tormentation - (An Oldie but a Goodie)

It's a short one, but a good one. If I do say so myself. And I am, again...

In Bruges - Movie Review

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In Bruges
*****

No. I don't know how to pronounce it either. I have called it "In Broogs," and "In Brugs." "In Brooszch" seems like the closest to what's right, but I'm still not really sure. But what's great about the characters in this film premier by play-write Martin McDonagh, is that they're not really sure either. In Bruges is a movie about being in a place you're not really sure of, living a life you aren't quite certain about, and being accountable to guidelines in a world without rules.

Ray and Ken both show up in the city after recently fulfilling a contracted asassination. Ray (Colin Farrell) did the job, but in the process also found himself responsible for the murder of a young boy. Ken (Brendan Gleeson), as the more experienced player, is held accountable for Ray's work. Meanwhile, their boss Harry(Ralph Fiennes) isn't happy in the least. Ray broke an unspoken rule in a line of business where one's principles are the only laws left to abide, and Harry is ready to collect.

What follows after that is uniquely determined by the character's choices rather than events. The entertainment value isn't neccessarily found in what happens, but how the characters react to what happens. Despite being hitmen, they are undeniably governed by their morals, moreso than any other character in the film. They are willing to kill what they have to, but if they're target happens to be suicidal they'll try to provide them with hope for their life. There's a unique irony, one that is darkly comforting, in how the film understands that the only life worthy of being lost is one that is comfortable with it's own existence.

The film is at times, quite hilarious in it's details. Ray is a man tortured by his concience, until his childlike curiosity sparkles like fireworks after seeing a midget being filmed on camera. Ken is a businessman who finds himself immersed in Bruges' unique history. Harry is an undeniable killing machine, but he has a strict sense of morals so high that he'll give his target a head start if there's someone in the way. Exactly how all these character quirks come into play works on so many levels that I'm willing to say it's simply brilliant, and it's integrated so well into the story that it's indescribable without telling every single detail the film provides.

In terms of immersion, the film was over far sooner that I expected. It's uncannny for a movie filled mostly with dialogue to seem so short, but the characters know exactly how to spend their time. The film is written with a concise knowledge of what is necessary, what is fun, and it finds a balance where nothing is expendable. Rarely is there a film so well calibrated that it manages to be fun, surprising, dark, and introspective all at once, but In Bruges is brave enough to be just that. It reaches into the depths while seeing that glimmer of light at the top. In doing so, the film becomes a character itself. It sticks to it's own set of morals while revealing our own. It's not willing to tell us what to laugh at, and it's not willing to tell us what to mourn. It's more interested in what you have to say.

Watch it.

8.21.2008

My Jet Pack - (An Oldie but a Goodie)

I decided to spend a couple days copying and uploading ye-olde-movies I made from days of yore.

This one is pretty much a classic, if I do say so myself. And I am saying so. Right now. As I type this.

8.20.2008

Those Kids and Their Dang Video Games

Welp. That's the best thing I've seen all day.



Katamari Damacy Babies.

And I must say, this documentary looks pretty cool.


BLIP FESTIVAL: REFORMAT THE PLANET trailer from 2 Player Productions on Vimeo.

8.19.2008

Muzak

I still can't get enough of this song.



This is what else I have been listening to.

High & Dry - Jorge Drexler (via Que Pasa)

Galleria - Phantom Planet (via lullabyes)

Road to Nowhere - Editors (Talking Heads Cover) (via Berkeleyplace)

Sex and the City - Movie Review (An Existential Dilemma)



Sex and the City
------

I wanted a cigarette to fill my lungs, a bottle of booze to drown out the sounds, a burn, a cut, a bruise, anything I could feel or experience. Instead I stared at a wall which I was certain had images projected onto it, each one combining 24 frames a second to create the illusion of movement. All I could sense was darkness.

The man who sold me the tickets was indifferent as I made my purchased, or so I thought. In the distance, long after I had entered the theater, I imagined he was giving off a loud cackling laugh with maniacal eyes glaring up towards the stars, his hands upright in a tense pose that could only be inspired by pure evil. He must have known what was in store for me. But perhaps no one did. Perhaps no one will ever understand. After all, even after experiencing it, I myself cannot fully comprehend what occurred.

My seat was comfortable enough. My company was the best I could ever ask for. The girl I arrived with sat next to me, and I felt comfortable enough knowing that I was about to receive a film that was particularly tailored to the taste of the fairer sex. It was the Sex and the City Movie. It was based off the hit television series of the same name. The show was heralded for it's charming characters, innovative dialog, and clever scenarios.
At the very least, I expected it to be a better film to enjoy with a girl than Wanted, a film that we recently watched together and which featured James McAvoy ruthlessly murdering as many men as possible.

I settled into the space next to her.

The lights dimmed.

The film started.

For a while, things seemed to be fair enough. I was disinterested but I could tolerate what I was presented with. The characters were dull and uninteresting at their initial introductions, however I assumed the excessive exposition was merely a quick method to bring those in the audience who had not been acquainted with the series up to speed.

Strangely, this exposition continued. The characters appeared to have little or no motivation for any action. The setting was stagnant. The situations were uneventful. The dialog remained vacant of any meaning.

Still, I didn't really care. Besides, I had the pretty girl next to me.

As far as I could tell, the character of Carrie was going to marry a man referred to as Mr. Big. The male character of Mr. Big, although presented as a major player within the film, hardly had much of an introduction as opposed to the female characters. So I merely assumed his name was only an alias used by the mafia, who clearly must have provided him with the money to buy a massive apartment in New York City, renovate that apartment, and then pay Carrie for sex by means of incredibly expensive gifts. Carrie's friends, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda, seemed to be part of similar agreements, yet differed in their marital statuses and emotional stability.

I felt slightly uncomfortable at first because I wasn't entirely aware that Sex and the City was actually a documentary about wealthy prostitutes in New York City, but in time I became adjusted to this fact.

After two hours the film reached it's climax with the glamorous wedding between Carrie and Mr. Big. I expected the last minute plot twist of Mr. Big getting cold feet, but I prepared myself for a lovely reunion of the couple somehow within the next ten minutes.

An hour later after that, I started to question the film's desire to actually reach a satisfying conclusion.

I gave a confused glance to the girl next to me as she twirled her hair with one of her hands. She gave a calming smile. I assumed she was enjoying the film, but I honestly couldn't tell. Considering that we tend to have similar tastes when it comes to entertainment, I considered asking her what she thought of the excessive run-time of the film. Instead I opted to wait it out.

Without a watch or access to natural light, I had no grasp of time. As a screen-writing major I knew that a page of dialog equaled roughly a minute of screen time. There was no logical way that a film like this would have ever been completed if the script was a thousand pages long. Yet somehow the characters continued to speak or give knowing glances to one another.

Three additional hours later, I was still sitting in the theater watching unmarried Carrie on her Mexican honeymoon with her three friends. As far as I could tell, there was no character arch. There was no development.

These four characters, they weren't friends. They spent time together, sure, but they weren't friends. They were just four miserable people in terrible relationships interacting in such a way that they could all be mutually destructed at the same time. This wasn't romance, this wasn't a comedy, this was the Cold War on screen. Misery loves company, well the same works in reverse as well. The only happy ending to this miserable story, as far as I could tell, was if these four people never heard or saw each other ever again.

But it didn't end.

I believe six more hours passed until Carrie returned from Mexico and hired a personal assistant to manage her terrible relationships for her.

My God. I thought.
My God. It's not going to end, is it?

I looked to the girl next to me. She sat relaxed in her chair, her legs draped over the seat in front of us. Her hands were folded in her lap and I considered moving one of mine over the cup holder divide to hold them. I needed some kind of contact. Some kind of sign to tell me that I wasn't alone in this.
I couldn't do it.

The air in the theater was just cold enough to keep me in a mild shiver. I attempted to count the seconds, but I lost track after another 60 minutes and gave up.

Carrie just gave her assistant a new purse.

I rubbed my eyes and glanced around. People were still looking at the screen, their passive eyes illuminated by a dull bluish glow.

I must have died. I realized. It must have been sudden, unexpected. I had wasted my life and now I was paying for it. I was condemned to purgatory, an eternal jail cell where my only warden was Samantha Jones, and she was too busy watching naked Mexican guys shower to hear my cries for mercy.

I lifted my arm and placed it on top of the armrest. I didn't know if I was capable of it, but I thought I could inch my way towards the girl.

I was reminded of a man who found himself trapped inside of an office elevator for 48 hours. I watched a security camera tape of his struggle. It had to be played on fast-forward, but hardly any action could be witnessed. He just moved from wall to wall, like a game of ping-pong with no players. Only occasionally would he ever move to the doors to scream for help. No one came. Eventually he curled up on the ground and stayed there.

I didn't know how many days had passed. It could have even been weeks. I watched through the window ahead of me as Carrie settled back into her old apartment after the messy break-up with Mr. Big. I attempted to keep warm as Miranda continued to act cold towards her husband who once betrayed her.

There was no forgiveness in this universe I had been trapped in. There was only the cold merciless law of women.
I tried to move my hand closer to hers. I tried to gain the courage. I began to think that maybe touching her would somehow free me from this endless torture.

I couldn't think of a hell better suited to my own personal transgressions. I have traveled far and wide, crossed this continent alone, yet I have never experienced an isolation as depriving and cold as the Sex and the City movie. Sartre once said, "Hell is other people." He was wrong.
Hell is being trapped in a theater next to a girl you can't touch while on screen Miranda places raw fish on her naked body.

The thought alone elicits chills throughout my soul.

My hand reached as far as it could go, but then fell limp next to her. I couldn't do it. This universe had won. If there was one thing Sex and the City taught me, it was that I, as a mere man, was powerless in a situation such as this. The characters displayed before me were as cold as this very theater.

I accepted my fate. This was all I had now.

Then I was afraid. Apart from this film, there was nothing else. What would happen when the reel burned out? What would happen to this universe? Would it simply disappear? Would my existence merely cease to exist?

I didn't care anymore.

Miranda was going to counseling with her husband. Carrie was learning to forgive.

I wasn't fooled. I wasn't anything. I was just another passive observer in place where time had no significance.

I lifted my hand and brought it back towards me. It was worth the shot.
I folded my arms together.

And just like that, it was over.

The credits rolled and the lights turned on.
Everyone stood up and began to leave.

I didn't know what to expect outside. Would there be daylight? Would there be a world at all?
I didn't know. But just as Miranda found a new beginning as she crossed the Brooklyn bridge to meet her husband, so was I as I stumbled outside into the cold night air.

8.18.2008

Battle Royale - (A Very Delayed) Movie Review

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Battle Royale
****-

I'm 21 years old. And it has taken me this long in my life to watch Battle Royale. How has this happened? How have I been able to look at myself in the mirror each morning and say, "Hey hotness, you can justify your existence?" So much of my life has been defined by my unabashed interest in all things violent, absurd, and Japanese. Yet, I never realized there was this great hole in my soul, a hole that could only be filled by a class of Japanese children ruthlessly killing each other on a deserted island.

Battle Royal is actually based upon the controversial novel of the same name, originally penned by Koushun Takami and published in Japan in 1999. One year later, Battle Royale hit the screen. Although it may not be well known here in the states, Battle Royale has predictably gained a cult following. It was even followed in 2003 by a lesser known (and widely considered terrible) sequel.

The concept behind it's story is a cross between the short stories "The Most Dangerous Game," by Richard Connell, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, and the novel "Lord of the Flies."
For those who don't know what all these written words mean and just want to see heads explode, Battle Royale is a cross between the show LOST and Kill Bill. Except with kids.

A class of 42 Japanese students are randomly selected, drugged, and taken to a island where they are forced to fight each other to the death. After three days, if there is no single winner, everyone will be executed by means of an exploding choker placed around their throats.

You read that correctly. An exploding necklace. Exploding heads. People's heads explode in this movie. Do you not understand what I'm saying here? Do you not see what I'm getting at?
Battle Royale pretty much has everything you could ever want to see in it.

Knives are thrown at heads, necks are sliced with sickles, arrows pierce hearts, bodies are maimed, burned, tazed, decapitated, and of course, shot at numerous times.

But what could it mean? Is this supposed to be social commentary? Is the litteral cutthroat competition between these students in some way a metaphor for the cutthroat education system we have abused our own children with?

Surprisingly, the first fifteen minutes of this film were by far the most interesting to me. A group of kids, children essentially, find themselves playfully enjoying a bus ride. The next minute one of them wakes up to find their entire bus unconcious. Their stewardess turns to them, wearing a gas mask, and after a swift smack to the head they awake again in another anonymous classroom.

Their "teacher," is by far the most engaging character, as he adresses the class accordingly. He takes their questions in order, enforces silence brutally, and assures them that their parents have been notified of their unexpected field-trip. His quiet assuredness is disarmingly surreal. As he sits on the corner of his desk and presses play on the introductory video-tape, the situation becomes all too familiar. This calming eye in the midst of a hurricane is undeniably fascinating, disturbing, and altogether immensely entertaining to watch.

The film however loses some of it's artistic fervor once it leaves the classroom and enters the jungle. The children each take different approaches to the situation. Some band together to fight the system that placed them in such a predicament. Some attempt to group together to peacefully wait it out. But the system ensures that they all must kill each other, and they do. While that might be entertaining to watch, it isn't nearly as effective as the introduction to this absurd universe. The film works best when it manages to draw parallels between the murderous jungle and the hallways within a highschool, but with the senseless killings it seems to lose some of it's integrity.

The characters, despite having names, for the most part are only identifiable by their number and the order in which they are killed. Besides a handful of characters that are given a degree of interpersonal development, most of them are frankly anonymous. The ones that are developed however, give the film an undeniable sense of sadness.

I'm willing to again mention the film Funny Games, a film which directly adressed the psychological aspects of witnessing grusome acts between fictional characters. That film hid all acts of violence from the viewer, yet kept the tension and the emotional turmoil. Battle Royale is a different kind of movie, one that is based purely upon seeing all acts of violence, yet criticizing it's own value. It's a contradicition on camera, but again, it's fun to watch. That is, as long as you don't question it much afterwards.

There is a chance that Battle Royale might not mean anything at all. Maybe it's just a Kafka-esque world, where characters are thrown into an absurd universe they don't understand and where they just so happen to have to fight to the death. Perhaps these little Asian kids are merely little Gregor Samsa's who transformed into killing machines rather than giant cockroaches.

Or perhaps it's just an excuse to watch the world burn.
Whatever it is, it's entertaining.


Battle Royale
****-

I'm 21 years old. And it has taken me this long in my life to watch Battle Royale. How has this happened? How have I been able to look at myself in the mirror each morning and say, "Hey hotness, you can justify your existence?" So much of my life has been defined by my unabashed interest in all things violent, absurd, and Japanese. Yet, I never realized there was this great hole in my soul, a hole that could only be filled by a class of Japanese children ruthlessly killing each other on a deserted island.

Battle Royal is actually based upon the controversial novel of the same name, originally penned by Koushun Takami and published in Japan in 1999. One year later, Battle Royale hit the screen. Although it may not be well known here in the states, Battle Royale has predictably gained a cult following. It was even followed in 2003 by a lesser known (and widely considered terrible) sequel.

The concept behind it's story is a cross between the short stories "The Most Dangerous Game," by Richard Connell, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, and the novel "Lord of the Flies."
For those who don't know what all these written words mean and just want to see heads explode, Battle Royale is a cross between the show LOST and Kill Bill. Except with kids.

A class of 42 Japanese students are randomly selected, drugged, and taken to a island where they are forced to fight each other to the death. After three days, if there is no single winner, everyone will be executed by means of an exploding choker placed around their throats.

You read that correctly. An exploding necklace. Exploding heads. People's heads explode in this movie. Do you not understand what I'm saying here? Do you not see what I'm getting at?
Battle Royale pretty much has everything you could ever want to see in it.

Knives are thrown at heads, necks are sliced with sickles, arrows pierce hearts, bodies are maimed, burned, tazed, decapitated, and of course, shot at numerous times.

But what could it mean? Is this supposed to be social commentary? Is the litteral cutthroat competition between these students in some way a metaphor for the cutthroat education system we have abused our own children with?

Surprisingly, the first fifteen minutes of this film were by far the most interesting to me. A group of kids, children essentially, find themselves playfully enjoying a bus ride. The next minute one of them wakes up to find their entire bus unconcious. Their stewardess turns to them, wearing a gas mask, and after a swift smack to the head they awake again in another anonymous classroom.

Their "teacher," is by far the most engaging character, as he adresses the class accordingly. He takes their questions in order, enforces silence brutally, and assures them that their parents have been notified of their unexpected field-trip. His quiet assuredness is disarmingly surreal. As he sits on the corner of his desk and presses play on the introductory video-tape, the situation becomes all too familiar. This calming eye in the midst of a hurricane is undeniably fascinating, disturbing, and altogether immensely entertaining to watch.

The film however loses some of it's artistic fervor once it leaves the classroom and enters the jungle. The children each take different approaches to the situation. Some band together to fight the system that placed them in such a predicament. Some attempt to group together to peacefully wait it out. But the system ensures that they all must kill each other, and they do. While that might be entertaining to watch, it isn't nearly as effective as the introduction to this absurd universe. The film works best when it manages to draw parallels between the murderous jungle and the hallways within a highschool, but with the senseless killings it seems to lose some of it's integrity.

The characters, despite having names, for the most part are only identifiable by their number and the order in which they are killed. Besides a handful of characters that are given a degree of interpersonal development, most of them are frankly anonymous. The ones that are developed however, give the film an undeniable sense of sadness.

I'm willing to again mention the film Funny Games, a film which directly adressed the psychological aspects of witnessing grusome acts between fictional characters. That film hid all acts of violence from the viewer, yet kept the tension and the emotional turmoil. Battle Royale is a different kind of movie, one that is based purely upon seeing all acts of violence, yet criticizing it's own value. It's a contradicition on camera, but again, it's fun to watch. That is, as long as you don't question it much afterwards.

There is a chance that Battle Royale might not mean anything at all. Maybe it's just a Kafka-esque world, where characters are thrown into an absurd universe they don't understand and where they just so happen to have to fight to the death. Perhaps these little Asian kids are merely little Gregor Samsa's who transformed into killing machines rather than giant cockroaches.

Or perhaps it's just an excuse to watch the world burn.
Whatever it is, it's entertaining.

8.16.2008

That's it then. I'm going to dress like a DJ.

Although, I think with an attitude like this you could get into just about anywhere anyways.


Learn how to hack at 5min.com

8.15.2008

New Fangled Contraptions

One thing I've gotten into as a result of knowing my roommate Anthony is watching video's from SIGGRAPH. The name stands for "Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques." It's basically a gathering for all sort of newfangled (mostly cool looking) contraptions, all for the sole purpose of giving us that interactive screen from Minority Report. Or something like it.

For example, take a look at this electronic gadget called "ants in the pants" which seems to simulate having carnivorous beetles crawling around your skin.



Sure, this may have great applications for video-games or therapy treatments, but also as an extremely imaginative torture device should they choose to add crickets into the mix.

Eghhhhhhhh... crickets.

Or check out awesome interfaces like this (you might have to fast forward a quarter into it to really appreaciate what they're getting at):



Or somewhat disturbing animations like this:



Most SIGGRAPH animations are oddly enough about technology suppressing nature, or nature overcoming technology, one of the two. But every once and a while something totally new shows up.

This last video, from the 2004 SIGGRAPH, absolutely blew my mind the first time I watched it.



Yeah, that was completely computer animated.
Is there any point to it?
Probably not.

But man does it look realistic.

At The Market




This is how I go to the store.

I pick up a basket because I’m only shopping for one, or at least that’s what I tell myself after I remember my roommates will probably eat a fraction of everything I buy. It's just how our system works.

I usually only have one or two things I need to pick up. This time it’s toilet paper and something else I can’t remember.

I pick up two boxes of cereal because I realize I’m out of that too, but it’s still not the thing I don’t remember.

I look at a bag of pita chips, but after realizing how expensive they are I pick up a bag of regular pita’s instead.

I mean, how difficult is it to make pita chips? What process necessitates a cost of four dollars for a bag of stale pita? Can’t I do that on my own?

I take a long time shopping when I'm by myself.

I sometimes zone out in the produce section.

I pick up an avocado and I think about my job interview, or my parents, or how my parents keep calling me to tell me not to write about things I think are funny or sad or inappropriate.

I walk down the shampoo isle and I stop suddenly. Something stops me.

I keep walking until I pick up a container of hummus. Then I remember that I don’t even like hummus. Then I question my choice in buying pita bread.

I pick up two bottles of spray-on salad dressing. I put the honey mustard one back because I question it’s ability to spray properly.

I pick up a container of cold cucumber feta-cheese, for the pita bread.

I wonder whether or not I can rationalize buying a five dollar container of cheese when I have just questioned whether or not I could afford a box of ramen noodles.

I wonder if I could get used to hummus. Maybe it’s an acquired taste.

I walk back down the shampoo isle and I stop suddenly.
Somewhere, between the Aussi Shampoo and the Sunsilk Conditioner I smell her.

I stand in the shampoo isle for a while.

I just stand in the shampoo isle.

I stand in the shampoo isle and I no longer regret picking up the pita bread, or the spray-on salad dressing, or think about how my basket has become so heavy that I can no longer lift it, or about my parents, or my job interview.

I just stand in the shampoo isle.

And then I leave.

And then I remember what I needed to buy.

8.14.2008

I Like These

I saw this and thought it was pretty dang moving.



His others are pretty great too.

8.13.2008

New Song Day - You, Me, and the LHC

This is the Large Hydron Collider.



Actually, that's just a very small part of it.

The whole thing is here:



For those that don't know, once it get's activated it'll do one of two things, provide us with priceless scientific information, or create a black hole and kill us all.

Since that last option sounds more interesting, I decided to make a little ditty about it.
This one is a song about a janitor who get's sucked into the Large Hydron Collider's vortex.

You, Me, and the LHC - Zack Newcott and the Chemical Cow

You, Me, and the LHC

We did our best, did nothing wrong, I cleaned the floors, beneath the Large Hydron, but then they hit the switch, and their mouths opened wide, then in a flash of black, our particles collide, why didn't someone mention to me, how painful a black hole can be? But things for me could be worse, I could be alone in this imploded universe. She did her job, did the math just right, she held my hand, and held it tight, but then they hit the switch, and our mouths opened wide, then in a single kiss, our particles collide, now we are together, in a cloud of dust, swirling in me, and swirling in both of us, but things for me could be worse, I could be alone in this imploded universe.

8.12.2008

The Happening - Movie Review

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The Happening
**---

If there's one thing to say about an M. Night Shyamalan movie it's that plausibility is hardly a factor. I can't tell you how many of my friends criticized Sign's for it's water allergic aliens. But let's be honest here people, few viewers questioned incredibly ignorant ghosts as existing, or comic books as being a form of modern hieroglyphics, or villages to be held in complete isolation. So if you're going to watch The Happening, you better be willing to buy into some seriously questionable material.

I give him credit though. Mr. Shyamalan has the uncanny ability to take any movie concept, no matter how absurd it may seem, and be able to play his cards with such pinpoint precision that you manage to suspend your disbelief just long enough to go with it. For a long time I loved M. Night Shyamalan's work. In fact, you would have been hard pressed to find a bigger fan. I thought Signs was powerfully moving, so moving in fact that I saw it twice in a row. Unbreakable is still one of my favorite films of all time. But neither of those films are especially strong in their concept. What they excel at is creating convincing characters, and placing those characters in situations so beyond the extraordinary that they display something uniquely human. Those films, while being entertaining, were intimate.

However, M. Night Shyamalan has been overwhelmed by the concept. His characters have been chewed and swallowed by situations to the point that we can barely hear them scream from within it's stomach. After Signs, his work became about the payoff rather than the substance. This is why we work so hard not to ruin the film's concept or give anything away.

Mark Wahlberg plays Elliot Moore, a science teacher who shares an unusual fascination with the recent honey bee disappearances. His wife Alma, played by Zooey Deschanel, spends her time being emotionally distant. So when groups of people all across the city and the Northern East Coast begin to commit suicide all at the same time, it seems like a perfect opportunity for the couple to flee to a rural romantic getaway.

It would be a great situation had the two characters been given a few scenes to develop a bit. Instead we are treated to tidbits of dialog where Elliot says "Alma doesn't show emotion," and then Alma says, "You know me, I don't show emotion," and the audience says, "I sure hope her not being able to show emotion comes in handy later on in the script as a plot device since they seem so keen on mentioning it numerous times," and then it never does. It's just lazy character interaction, which hardly passes for interaction at all.

I would be willing to say that The Happening is M. Night's most lazily calibrated thriller yet. This is mainly, I believe, for one reason. The Happening has seemed to go out of it's way to have an "R" rating. The cards a thriller like this hold tend to fair better when they keep the audience bluffing. Having a man feed himself to a lion on camera is somehow a lot less scary instead of just hearing his screams. In fact, it's kind of funny. I'm a little bit afraid to say that the most morbid and disturbing scenes in this film somehow struck me as being hilarious.

Every act of on-screen violence has a humorous passiveness to it. It's as though right before the camera's started rolling one character turned to another and said, "You think it would be cool if I turned on this tractor and then laid down in front of it?" while the other character merely replied with a "Well, if you have nothing better to do..."

The final product isn't quite scary, and isn't quite moving, but it is rather charming in it's dedication to it's subject.

That leads to the last question. Is the Happening plausible?
Sure. Why not? It's as plausible as water allergic aliens invading earth, maybe more so. I have no reason not to accept it.
But I think the reaction M. Night Shyamalan incites is the exact opposite from the one he intended. Instead of seeing the forest through the trees, I think we'd all be willing to say "screw the trees" and live in a shed in the middle of the desert.

My point is this, when I stepped out of the Dollar Movie Theater and saw the one, single, isolated palm tree sway in the middle of this concrete paved parkinglot I call LA, I thought, "Well, thank goodness I don't have to worry about THAT problem," and went on my merry way.

Nagi Noda, and Animal Hair Hats

Today I decided to take a look at the works of Nagi Noda, an artist I came across while doing one of my frequent YouTube searches for "Insane Japanese."

Nagi Noda is in fact a Japanese artist, the one chiefly responsible for giving me nightmares with THIS:



It's rather brilliantly surreal.
But again, what. the. eff.



When she isn't making disturbingly surreal music videos with life-sized poodles, she actually makes incredibly detailed "hair hats," commonly in the shape of animals.







Her music videos have been compared to the works of Michel Gondry in regards to their visual inventiveness and adept use of animation combined with live-action. It's a justifiable comparison.





But again, when it comes to film, it is within narrative works that visuals are placed under the highest pressure as they have to tell a story as well as immerse the viewer. Her work with Cut Copy and their song Hearts On Fire, is perhaps the most mainstream work she has completed. As a result, it is a charming depiction of love, depression, and self loathing.

And I really like it.

8.11.2008

Redline - "Movie" Review



Redline
-----

I could ask you to watch a clip of one of the many, many, terrible scenes of Redline.



But frankly, it's just too painful. Here's what I imagine the shooting script for the above scene to be like.

EXT. RACE TRACK - DAY

The race track is hot and the ladies are even hotter. We establish this by having women in tight shorts jump up and down. No nudity though, let's keep this classy.

In one car we have an anonymous pretty boy who can't act, and in the other we have the only woman on earth who could pass for the best race car driver in existence, and also can't act. Obviously this has to be that chick from Days of Our Lives, Nadia Bjorlin.

The anonymous pretty boy looks over towards Nadia Bjorlin and smiles. Nadia Bjorlin responds with a disturbingly slow wink, clearly establishing that she suffers from down-syndrome.

A woman in very tight checkerboard shorts waves a flag, signifying that the race has started.

DIRECTOR'S NOTE: Once the race starts, insert the rejected footage from any Fast and the Furious Movie.

The race is EXTREME.

INT. ROOM FILLED WITH SCANTILY CLAD WOMEN AND EDDIE GRIFFIN

EDDIE GRIFFIN is black.

EDDIE GRIFFIN
DAMN! This race is EXTREME!

ANGUS MACFAYDEN
You're driver is hot and clearly
the best on Earth, I must have her.

EDDIE GRIFFIN
DAMN!


EXT. RACE TRACK - DAY

The race get's TOO EXTREME.

Pretty Boy goes so fast his car litterally flies across the finish line, flips upside down and crashes in a heap.

Nadia Bjorlin's car spins out of control too, for some reason. I don't know.

Pretty Boy's brother runs towards the car.

PRETTY BOY
I won the race... brother.

The car EXPLODES. The brother falls on his knees.

BROTHER
NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! WHY?!?!?!


Sadness.

EDDIE GRIFFIN
DAMN!


END.


I'm not going to lie to you. Redline could possibly be one of the worst movies I have ever seen. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to even possibly consider watching it if you're viewing it alone. It's too easy to make fun of, too shallow to feel good about, and it's so expensive considering that all the cars featured in the film are owned by the same millionaire, that you'll feel emotionally sick to your stomach.

But I must say, the acting and poor excuse for a "script" is so absurdly rediculous that it just might be worth looking at while with a group of friends.
Even more so, later, when you all look at eachother and say, "Wow. Redline truely was magnificently terrible in nearly every way."

Falling to Pieces

My bathroom is falling apart.

I think we desperately need a new shower curtain.

You see, I live in an apartment with four guys. And considering that only one of us has a steady job right now, seeing how the paying market for male go-go dancers has dwindled, we can only afford to buy the essentials, such as Red Vines and Lego's of spider robots.



It is for this very reason that we decided two shower curtains for each bathroom was a luxury we could not treat ourselves to.

"Why?" I asked, "Just why do we need a curtain for the outside of the shower, when there is one already on the inside?!"

"What is this, the Ritz?!" I added, screaming.

I was certain that this was just another scam by those fat-cat shower-curtain corporations to convince the masses that they needed unnecessary curtains for their bathrooms, and make millions in the process. I sat on the toilet, cursing their names with my fist in the air as I stared aimlessly at our barren shower rod, void of a curtain to hang on it.

Eventually we managed to find shower curtains, but we were faced with a difficult decision. Should we buy transparent curtains, or white?

White, I noted, tend to look dirtier faster.
So we went with transparent.

Immediately, upon arriving at home, we realized that the one transparent shower curtain for each of our two bathrooms meant visible showers for all to see.
While this was in part beneficial to our training for male go-go dancing positions, in terms of physical and emotional boundaries, it was a tumultuous time.

Eventually we became used to the curtains, taking extra precautions to keep the doors locked lest a wary eye might behold the sight of our naked bodices basking in dollar store conditioner.

But let's not fool ourselves people. I have become increasingly aware that the transparent shower curtains in my bathroom have become steadily less and less transparent. Now it is caked is a light film of dark material obscuring the forms behind it.

Frankly, I blame Norm, the Italian of our apartment.

Still, I was okay with it. Until yesterday, when the knob on our toilet broke.
Apparently a little piece of plastic snapped on the inside of the toilet, rendering the handle useless unless you reach your hand in to pull the lever up manually.

This means that every time nature calls I have to reach my arm behind the toilet into cold, oh so very cold, water up to my elbow and grasp for the piece of plastic needed to trigger a satisfying flush.

Again, much like the shower curtains, I have already become accustomed to this practice.
Much in the same way I have grown accustomed to the broken shower handle that has permanently made my showers scalding hot, and the broken towel rack steadily falling off the wall.

Long story short, I need to fix my bathroom.

Oh, and about that Lego spider robot. I spent two hours the other night flipping everything in the apartment upside down while I looked for my keys. Just when I was about to declare my night as doomed I found them, underneath the robot, in it's claws.

8.09.2008

Gerhard Reinke's Wanderlust, the funniest travel show not on television anymore

I used to stay up until one in the morning to catch episodes of that rediculous travel show that onced aired on Comedy Central, but then, after being pushed back even further to 2 A.M., and then 3 A.M. or earlier in the morning, Gerhard Rienke's Wanderlust dissappeared completely.

I still think it's freakin hilarious.

But why aren't you watching it?

Oh, yeah, it's because Comedy Central never airs it.
But never fear my friends! The Awkward Unicorn has compiled it all here for your viewing pleasure!







And if you happen to be interested in a trip to Thailand, Gerhard's tour is extremely educational.

Dr. Doggin It

Beth and I saw Dr. Dog last night.
And it was fantastic.



Dr. Dog - The Old Days (via thetapeisnotsticky)

Dr. Dog - The Ark (via quarterlifeparty)

Dr. Dog - The Rabbit, the Bat, the Reindeer (via kate.oberlist.com

Dr. Dog - My Old Ways via weallbelong

We shared the charming experience of standing behind a group of hardcore pot smokers. Apparently I give off vibes as being one myself because I was randomly asked by a drunk blonde if she could get a toke. I kindly informed her to ask the theater patrons ahead of us.

Great times for all were to be had.

8.07.2008

Brick - A (Very, Very) Delayed Movie Review

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Brick
****-

It's fun reviewing film's like Brick because there really is no leeway when it comes to the viewers opinion. You're either going to like this movie, or you're going to hate it, like my roommates do. The concept is simple, Brick is a film-noir mystery set in a modern day highschool. The premise on the other hand is rather sophisticated, Brendan has just found his old girlfriend dead underneath an old tunnel. Last he heard from her she mentioned something along the lines of a bad Brick with a Pin on it. But kids being what they are these days, Brendan doesn't want revenge with whoever pulled the trigger, he wants everyone who was involved.

In a way, I would be more willing to compare Brick to the Baz Luhrmann remake of Romeo and Juliet, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The dialogue seems out of place, the character interactions seem oddly forced, but there is this undeniable air of intentionality to it. It's like a mystery novel come to life. Characters converse with lingo heavily weighed down by intensive 1940's slang, spitting out words so fast that it takes a few seconds even to mentally register what's going on.

The common complaint concerning this is that the dialogue is initially so distracting that it becomes impossible for some viewers to accept the fact that these characters are even in highschool at all. The film is rather brutal in it's innefficiency to provide it's audience with a moment to suspend their disbelief. You either go along with it, or you complain throughout the ride.

Comparing Brick to Romeo + Juliet is in some ways litterally comparing second-hand mystery novels to Shakespeare, however in this case the levels of sophistication have been reversed. Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet was an scholary work of literature catered to highschoolers, Brick is a highschool drama catered to literature scholars. It is intelligent, intruiging, and, as one of the film's characters notes in regards to his love for Tolkien, Brick exists in an immersive universe you can't help but want to be a part of.

The least anyone can say about Brick is that it is original.

But I think we need to slow down here.

Original?

A crime saga starring kids?

Aren't we forgetting something here?

A little film I like to refer to as, Bugsy Malone?

?

You know, I've never actually seen Bugsy Malone. Probably because after watching the trailer just now I'm thinking the same thing I did when I saw the trailer when I was ten years old. But if that movie has the point I'm going to make right now, then well done Bugsy.

There is something inheritly childish, maybe even romantacized, about the crime world we have captured through film and written stories. Roger Ebert in his review of Bugsy said, "we remember that the old Bogart and Cagney classics had a childlike innocence, too. The world was simpler then. Now it's so complicated maybe only a kid can still understand the Bogart role." The same would probably hold true for highschool students, the delinquents of the adult world, the members of a social group in which everyone is an outcast. What would the Bogart from the Maltese Falcon been like had he been in your homeroom? I think Brendan is probably a close bet.

For those who embrace mystery films, even in their convoluted flaws, Brick will easily fit in that niche you didn't even know you had. It did for me, and with each repeated viewing it tends to grow for me even more.
For the rest of you, however, who consider Brick to be an excuse for artsy people to further inflate their ego's, I suggest you wait. Even if you don't like it, I consider it to be a promising look at a director with an original point of view.



Watch it.

I Post On My Blog Fairly Frequently

I'm not going to lie to you.

I have no idea what to post today.

I've spent that past two days mostly running errands I have put off for a month, such as getting the Honda checked out. Apparently there was some kind of recall for the brakes, along with something along the lines of the wheels possibly coming off during traffic. So I guess it was a good idea to get it looked over.

Me driving a Honda

Today it'll be runs to the Post office, and maybe dropping off job applications.
Luckily, I'm now basically fully registered for going back to Biola University this Fall. Except for the last step which involves actually paying the money to go there. So hopefully I can figure that out.
When I say hopefully, I mean, I'm going to need to rob a bank.
So if you have any advice, or a gun and an inconspicuous hide-out, please let me know.

In other news, I foud out yesterday that my house-mates had never seen the video of the Lyre Bird.
Have you?



Ah, David Attenborough, we spare no expense.

This mash-up of it is charming too.



To complete this entirely unneccessary post, I will include a photo of my niece amber.

mAwwwwww

Okay, one more.

CUTE.

Alright, I'm done.

8.06.2008

Commercials, Kangaroo's, and the Dirty Mind

This story may not be entirely appropriate.

We were watching TV a few nights ago when this commercial for Aussi Shampoo suddenly appeared.



All of us tend to zone-out during commercial breaks, so I was surprised when Anthony unexpectedly leaned forward with his eyes wide open.

"Wait." He said, with a confused and disturbed expression. "Rewind it!"

I usually forget that our cable box even has the ability to rewind shows. Slowly leaning forward from my imbedded groove in the couch, I reached for the remote control.
As I fumbled with the buttons I decided to ask, "Why exactly do we need to rewind this?"
Anthony looked at me, apparently unsure how to phrase his response. Eventually he said, "I'm pretty sure that shampoo bottle just shot out of that Kangaroo's vagina."

Now, I want you to think long and hard about that sentance, because I'm fairly certain no one has ever, or will ever utter it again.

"Huh." I replied, while pressing the play button.
I watched it closely. It certainly looked close enough during the fast editing, but the only way to be sure would be to watch it again.



"Whoa. Wait, no. No, that's it's pouch." I explained.
"Ohhhhh!" Anthony exclaimed.

But there was this undeniable air of dissappointment in the room. It was as though we just missed a moment in history. I think, deep down inside, we all live in a world where we would like to see a stuffed-animal kangaroo shoot shampoo bottles out of it's vagina on television. Perhaps someday we can, for our children's sake, make it happen.
Or we could all just move to Japan. I bet they have all sorts of hair care products shooting out of their animals.

21: Movie Review

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21
**---

The MIT Blackjack Team was a collection of gifted math students who combined forces and, by use of various card counting techniques, managed to outsmart numerous casino's and beat the game of blackjack. The team goes all the way back to the 1979, when MIT offered a mini-course entitled "How to Gamble if You Must," which I assume required additional work from home such as placing bets on a game of beer-pong until four A.M. while getting wasted. All in the name of mathematics, of course. It wasn't until the early 1980's that the team began to be managed like a business, and actually turn a successful profit.

Although I know little beyond what wikipedia has informed me about the actual MIT Blackjack Team, I know I am far more fascinated with the real-life story than the over-dramatized (and apparently fictional) melodrama that the film "21" portrays. The film is based off of the nonfiction novel "Bringing Down the House," which although based off of the true story of the team of gambling math geniuses, was also highly fictionalized.

So what we have here is a movie that enhances the fictional elements of a somewhat already fictional story. Although the most notable change for some was the fact that the team went from being entirely Asian to mostly Caucasion, for me I didn't really feel entirely bothered by it. I was a little confused in it's chosen time period, which is present day. Then again, in a way, 21 is kind of like an old folk tale, one that is constantly repeated until the version that exists is hardly even recognizable to the one that actually occured. It's hardly even worth mentioning that it is based off of a true story at all by this point.

So really all we have to look at is the story as a narrative, which reads the same as an after-school special. Boy has friends but is poor, boy discovers his talent, get's overwhelmed by his talent, betrays his friends, gets rich, gets poor again, and then discovers his friends again. That, and there's also the love interest.

It's fairly cut-and-paste, but it's there for a reason. It's entertaining. And when you throw wild cards like Kevin Spacey and Lawrence Fishburn into the mix, things become especially exciting to watch. The extemes in personalities work great in contrast to eachother, and tension builds quite nicely.

The only problem here is that the film is apparently only focused on the audience that has been seeking Jim Sturgess to do anything on screen after singing Strawberry Fields Forever. And when I say "anything," what I mean to say is "make out" with Kate Bosworth. The truly fascinating characters, the one's pulling the manipulative strings, are kept away from the viewers eyes despite the fact that we can't look away from them. We have the professor-turned-businessman with a cold sense for profit, the casino detective who arms himself with brute force rather than MIT brians, and all we want to see is these two thugs compete. Instead we are treated to watching Ben and Jill flirt for a majority of the trip.

What I personally felt most cheated over was the character's utter lack of motivation, or I should say convincing motivation. The character of Ben is only driven by his need to raise funds for going to Harvard Medical school, all the while claiming that the games of blackjack are "not for the money." Somehow that motivation lands flat when you consider how much he'll be making after medical school, or more specifically, his drive for the profession or the status as a college student. I was more convinced Ben wanted to go to Harvard than be an actual doctor, which actually made me like him a lot less.

Still, I watched all of 21 without feeling cheated, which is more than you can say for most gambles. It's entertaining, and satisfying at it's conclusion. But it's forgettable. So when it comes down to it, 21 becomes a great movie to watch when it ends up showing repeatedly on TNT, which I'm sure it will.

8.05.2008

I Found Them

Oh yes. I found them.

The two least interesting postcards in existence.



But unfortunately my picture taking skills are terrible, so I will have to describe them to you in the same manner I would describe it to a blind man. The first is of the "Chiriaco Summit" travel center.

In reality, it is just a Chevron gas station in the middle of a desert. Even today it takes a solid drive of fifty miles across bare nothingness to even come close to it.

This "travel center" however, proudly proclaims that this gas station has been around since 1933, a time in which I assume the only passing automobile was driven by a man wearing driving goggles and was accompanied by a dog in the passengers seat, also wearing goggles and a long red scarf.

Still, there is a smidge of an interesting site here at the Chiriaco Summit, specifically the General Patton Museum which has the added benefit of featuring a statue of Patton himself, along with a tank alongside the highway.

The tank and statue are not shown on the postcard.

The second postcard is perhaps even more intriguing, as it features three middle school kids holding up a flag and a wooden cross on a mountain.

What's somewhat strange is that the pictures appear to be straight out of someone's photo album. Even stranger still is the unsolved mystery as to how exactly one of the three kids appears to suffer from a severe glandular problem, yet still has managed to climb an entire mountain. What was the secret? Frequent breaks? Power Bars? Getting carried by the other two kids? The world may never know.

8.04.2008

Back From the Desert







Look at the dust devils!



Gotta love the windmills.





I decided to visit my old friends.





This is one of me trying to take a photo of myself and the Rex, and not quite being able to.





WANTED: Movie Review



Wanted
***--

Any movie that involves a man impaling the skull of another man with the barrel of a gun, and then continuing to run and shoot other men through the skull of said head, automatically deserves three stars.
But it does make you ask an extremely important question.
How exactly does one get to the point in his or her life where they find themselves impaling and then desecrating newly aquainted corpses just so that they can continue killing more and more individuals?

Well, in Timur Bekmambetov's latest opus Wanted, the audience's suspension of disbelief is thankfully distracted enough by the undeniable entertainment value of extreme bloodshed, at least until the audience leaves the theatre and then immediately starts to converse about the practical applications of flipping cars.

Wanted follows Wesley Gibson as he is pulled away from his miserable nine-to-five office job after discovering his father was one of the world's greatest assassin's. For some reason I can't explain, only he can avenge his father's death by using his assassin powers, which I also cannot explain.

What I'm trying to say here is that Wanted is basically just Harry Potter. Except only if you were to give Harry Potter a suit and tie, take away his glasses, give him a gun, and then tell him he could still do magic but now doesn't have to use his wand anymore.
There's no real rhyme or reason to it, but the concept has an effective story-book charm to it. It's as though Wanted is a Roald Dahl novel for the Fight Club generation.

Those who are already aquainted with Russian director Timur Bekmambetov's work, including Nightwatch and Daywatch, should have a vague idea of what they are in for. This is a visionary director who has an emphasis on the vision. He excells in working with extremes, especially with action. As a result, he is capable of capturing vividly imaginative escapades on camera.
Luckily, for a foreign audience, that can often be enough to justify a boxoffice smash. However, in my experience, it seems that English speaking audiences are a bit more grounded at least when it comes to character development, or at least inciting action.

Wanted gets away with a lot of shiny trappings. Bullets curve with pin-point precision, cars flip easily and skillfully, people heal without a scratch, time moves in slow-motion, people like James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie walk around partially naked, people literally jump between buildings, people almost fly, sniper bullets are practically exchanged from different states. Everything happens, and it is smart enough to go so far beyond the point of any reason that the viewer has no choice but to sit back and go along with it.

It's great fun, but it has problems. Wanted still manages to be a tad too long. There are some strange pacing problems, and there are these all too frequent "white blood-cell bath's" that conveniently heal our hero after every scuffle. It ruins the sense of risk and takes away the tension by saying "there's nothing a hot bath can't clear up!"

It's more designed as a video-game than a movie. There are distinct bosses, training missions, and numerous weapons. Not to mention, the re-heal in a tub of wax option is simply just too convenient in the hands of a film narrative rather than in the control pad of a joystick.

When it comes down to it, the only major qualms I have with Wanted are in it's advertising, which with it's shirtless Jame McAvoy and scary-eyebrowed Anjelina Jolie, seemed to spell out to me: "Date Movie!"
Shortly after the numerous head-shot's, hand stabbing, and teeth scattering, I began to question my choice in viewing content for the evening.

Is this really the perfect summer movie?
No. Not really. Maybe not at all. But it sure is being sold like one.

Unlike Shoot 'Em Up, a film that had no qualms about embracing it's unbridled lack of morals, Wanted seems to glaze it's faults with a heavy gloss of CGI and mass-marketing-appeal.
I'm not sure if I really like that.
Shoot 'Em Up was classy enough to own up to the fact that it was in no way classy. It shamelessly combined every guilty pleasure imaginable, yet retained a distinct charm within it's quirky characters. Although the gunfights were similar in their lack of realism, they still required a thought proccess to execute, as opposed to the somewhat unlikable characters in Wanted, who execute by means of magic bullets.

Wanted is a fun, at times incredibly entertaining, action flick with an addictive attitude and a flair for being visually immersive. It is certainly worth the price of viewing, if only for saying "Wow, that was rediculous." But it lacks the quirky attributes of a carrot-addicted gun-toting veteran, specifically played by Clive Owen.
So I'm just going to say it.
If you can't watch both, watch Shoot 'Em Up instead.