Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 – My year as it relates to the quality of film

While working on my Top 10 Movies of 2013 list, I mentioned how interesting the year in film was in terms of quality, how the first two thirds was mostly very, very weak, with the summer delivering a seemingly endless stream of disappointments, and only a fair few bright spots here and there. It got to a point where I was just about ready to give up on this year being able to deliver the goods at the theater, but then as summer came to an end, the quality of movies as a whole took a stark and sudden shift for the better, and my feelings on the year in film changed accordingly. And as I thought about that, I couldn't help but notice how that tonal shift in quality pretty much mirrors the past year for me in my personal life as well.

Like the movies, the first part of this year was pretty rough. In one fell swoop, I lost my job and my health insurance, and struggled with finances as I experienced first hand just how terrible the economy had become in my desperate search for new work. And all the while I dealt with a world of personal problems, including probably the worst and longest lasting bout of depression I've lived through. But then, after a certain point, right around the tail end of the summer, things started to shift a little more in my favor.

For one thing, I kind of took a step back and assessed a lot of the various stressors in my life, and pretty much completely restructured my entire social life accordingly. And as a result of these changes, for the first time in a long, long time, I actually feel okay. I haven't had a fit of depression or attack of anxiety since, and while things may not be exactly perfect, overall, I feel fine. And, quite frankly, fine works for me. I'm really okay with fine right now.

And right around the time that this restructuring of mine was beginning to take place, and after a longer search than I ever would have expected, I finally wound up finding a job at the new Whole Foods that opened up in town (where our old indie movie theater used to be, in fact).

It may not be the best job in the world, but it's still pretty decent. I work with some pretty cool people for the most part, and even cooler managers, who really listen and go out of their way to make a schedule that best works around my life. And as a result, I work a relatively stress free job that's not a soul-sucking experience, leaving me with plenty of energy to work on my creative endeavors afterwards. And speaking of those creative endeavors, I actually accomplished quite a bit this year.

Another life long dream of mine came to life this year with the release of my first comic book. Along with my artist, Trevor Tee, we've released the first batch of chapters for the comic book adaptation of Velcro: The Ninja Kat online (check 'em out for yourself here). And after overcoming a few setbacks, we're ready to start releasing new chapters again soon enough.

And in other Ninja Kat news, just this month I finished writing the sequel to the novel, Velcro: The Green Lion, which will be ready for release early next year, so I'm really excited for that!

I also had quite the experience touring around a bit, selling my books at conventions and such throughout the state.

I met a lot of interesting people in my travels, and made quite a few new fans and friends in the process as well, which was a really cool deal, and something I'd love to continue to do in the coming year.

And I also ended up meeting a group of fellow aspiring film makers, and we've been busy working on a number of projects, which will hopefully be coming to fruition sooner rather than later. I've really felt like I've been a bit stagnant on the movie making front after I finished The Red Scarf last year, but finally working behind the camera again really served as a reminder of just how much love and passion I have for film, and how, more than any other creative aspiration, this is really what I want to do in life. And we've got a number of scripts we're working on right now, so I can't wait to get rolling with that!

So yeah, that's kinda been my year in a nutshell. Like the movies, it didn't start off so swell. But, also like my movie going experience, it ended up turning around and being a pretty decent year in the end. And now, as the year fades to black and the credits get ready to roll, I'd like to say thank you to everyone who was there for me and put up with me over the course of the past year, because for a while there, things really weren't easy at all. But more than anything, I need to thank my Mom for all of the help and support that she's provided through my rougher times, and continues to provide to this day. I really don't know how I would've made it through the year without her, so, thank you, Mom!

And here's to an even better next year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Top 10 Movies of 2013

It's that time of year again, and what an interesting year it's been for film. At first I was just about ready to write the whole year off after the first two thirds provided a seemingly endless barrage of mediocrity and disappointments, with few bright spots here and there. And to say that this summer was an especially frustrating miss at the theaters would be a huge understatement.

However, just as summer ended and we entered the fall season, the quality followed suit and ended the year in film on a relatively high note. And while there are a few notables that I wasn't able to get to (Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Nebraska haven't released in my town just yet), now I'm here to talk about the best of the best of what I did see in this oddly discombobulated year in movies. But first, here's some honorable mentions for you, listed alphabetically:

American Hustle
Blue is the Warmest Color
Captain Phillips
White House Down
The World's End

All great movies, and all that were damn close to making my list, but didn't quite make the cut. And on that note, let's starts things off with...



(Alfonso Cuarón)

In a year that saw a slew of thrill rides at the movies, none was quite so edge of your seat thrilling as Alfonso Cuarón's technical masterpiece. An absolute marvel in every regard, mesmerizingly shot and with a great performance from Sandra Bullock that'll suck you right in, more than any other movie this year, Gravity is an experience, and one that you absolutely must have.
Original review.



(Park Chan-wook)

This movie was a visual feast for the eyes, with stunning shots that'll stick in your head, and a slick editing style that really made it stand out. I've heard people claim Stoker to be little more than style over substance, but what substance there is was substantial enough for my tastes, and the actors all did a great job elevating the material, particularly Mia Wasikowska, who was fantastic in the lead role. This movie could at times be disturbing in nature, and yet the way this film was pieced together more often than not left me more fascinated than disturbed. And speaking of fascinatingly disturbing...


The Wolf of Wall Street

(Martin Scorsese)

This movie wasn't just disturbing, it was flat out one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. And yet, despite being three hours in length, this movie is completely fascinating from start to finish. Never missing a beat and loaded to the brim with outrageous laughs, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, and everyone else involved absolutely kill in this movie. And after being robbed an Oscar nomination last year for his role in Django Unchained, DiCaprio needs to be nominated for his performance here, which quite frankly is his best to date.

I initially walked out saying that this was a great movie that I'm not sure I ever needed to see again, mainly due to its long length. But the more I think about it, the more I think screw it, I wanna see this thing again already! There's so many scenes that are still stuck in my head, though it is still the freshest movie in mind, so it's hard to fairly judge at this point. However, I can already tell that this is probably gonna be my movie that I end up regretting not placing higher up on the end of year list (there's always one or two).


The Frozen Ground

(Scott Walker)

Probably the most surprising movie of the year is also one of the most intense. Nicolas Cage plays it straight this time around, and John Cusack plays against his usual type as well, bringing a convincingly threatening presence to the screen that'll keep your pulse pounding. But the biggest surprise of all comes from Vanessa Hudgens, who proves herself to be a hell of an actress, and one to take seriously, giving among the absolute best female performances of the whole year. Not too many gave this one a chance, and it's a damn shame, 'cause this is certainly one of the better all around movies that went under the radar this year.
Original review.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

(Peter Jackson)

Speaking of surprises, I was surprised by just how much I ended up liking this thing, especially considering that I really wasn't looking forward to it at all. But this movie was a huge step up from what I technically named the worst movie of last year (the High Frame Rate version of it, at least!). And while this movie might not technically be the best Lord of the Rings movie to date, it's certainly the most fun, without question. Even the padding and the filler don't take away from the enjoyment to be had here, with exhilarating action scenes, and one of the most satisfyingly haunting endings to a movie that I've ever seen. Just thinking about that ending still gives me chills.
Original review.


Pain & Gain

(Michael Bay)

Thrillers weren't the only hot ticket this year, we were also in store for an excess of films about American excess, including The Bling Ring, Spring Breakers, and the aforementioned Wolf of Wall Street. But, in my opinion, the best of the bunch that also continues the trend of surprisingly good movies that I wasn't necessarily looking forward to would have to be Pain & Gain.

If you could imagine Michael Bay's version of an arthouse film, then you've got an idea for what this movie has in store for you. It's probably Bay's best film to date, his best since The Rock, at least, and also happens to feature the best performance in the career of The Rock himself, Dwayne Johnson. And Mark Wahlberg is on his A-game, giving his own best performance since The Departed. With a very '90s flair and a self-aware editing style used throughout, this film was a blast. And as you're watching these awful, terrible people doing such awful, terrible things for selfish, personal gain, all the while basically just making it up as they go while their situation only continues to get worse and worse, you just gotta keep reminding yourself that all this absurdly awful, terrible shit actually happened!


The Counselor

(Ridley Scott)

This is definitely an unpopular pick, but I can understand why this movie gets hated on. However, I still personally thought this movie was tremendous, and it was even better on a second viewing, in which I was able to pick up on so many of the subtleties strewn all about, and all of those seemingly random scenes made so much more sense and felt altogether more connected in the grand scheme of things.

With a smart, Shakespearean screenplay and a director who has the confidence in both his material as well as his actors to pull it all off in flawless fashion, The Counselor may well be the most underrated movie of the year. Sure, it's not for everyone, but for those who can accept it for what it sets out to be, you'll find that there's a lot to appreciate about this movie.
Original review.



(Denis Villeneuve)

The best and most intense thriller of the year is one that'll keep you guessing all the way to the very end. Prisoners is a hell of a mystery, one that keeps you in the dark and never leaves you waiting on the characters to play catch up. And this movie definitely goes to some dark places along the way.

Hugh Jackman is just incredible here. As deserving as he was for his Oscar nomination last year, he outdoes that performance and then some with his sheer raw emotional intensity on display in this film.

And Jake Gyllenhaal, too, deserves some recognition for his own phenomenal contributions, playing the increasingly sleep deprived and increasingly desperate detective working the case, and a nice counter to balance out Jackman. Add in a similarly chilling yet satisfying ending as in The Desolation of Smaug, and this movie is one that'll definitely stay with you.
Original review.



(Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee)

It may not be the most consistent movie, but that doesn't keep it from being one of the best, most stunningly gorgeous works of art I've seen this year. (And besides, in hindsight, I actually found it somewhat fitting that the weakest parts of the film happen to be the songs that deal with "traditional love".)

But when this movie gets it right, oh man does it get it right. I loved the angle this movie takes, how it goes against the grain from what we've typically come to expect from Disney. And while not all the songs may be great, the ones that are are truly some of the best and catchiest numbers to come out of a Disney flick, and are bound to become classics.

"Let It Go", in particular, is hands down the single greatest piece of cinema to release in film all year. Brilliant, beautiful, moving, stunning, these are all words that don't even begin to do that sequence justice. Here, just watch for yourself:

I was kind of alarmed to find out just how many people still haven't seen Tangled as a result of Disney's abysmal mis-marketing of that movie, and it makes me wonder how many will miss out on Frozen as well for the same reason. But if you still haven't seen Tangled, and you're hesitant about Frozen due to the trailers, please ignore the false advertisement for both of these films, which makes them out to be something more akin to the worst kind of Dreamworks picture that would've been relentlessly mocked several years back. These movies are nothing like that, they're a resurgence of classic Disney through and through, and should not be missed.
Original review.

And now then, my pick for the #1 movie of 2013 is...


Iron Man 3

(Shane Black)

You're damn right. I wasn't sure if this one was gonna go the distance, but sure enough, come the end of the year, Iron Man 3 is still the best movie I've seen in 2013. And the reason why, for me at least, is because, more so than any other movie this year, Iron Man 3 has balls! (Iron balls!)

I'm not even necessarily that big a fan of the Iron Man series (the first one was good, though it was essentially your standard superhero flick, with nothing especially spectacular about it that makes it stand out among the pack. I have no kind words for Iron Man 2, however), but I still loved this movie all the same. Iron Man 3 wasn't afraid to break the mold and take chances at any given opportunity, becoming something more than just another generic superhero movie in the process.

The whole twist with the villain alone was a huge risk, one that understandably pissed off purist fans, but one that I felt was pulled off to brilliant effect. And the fact that they made an Iron Man movie where Tony Stark spends the majority of the time outside of the actual suit was another big risk, but one that really paid off, while also serving as an answer to the question posed to him by Captain America in The Avengers.

But as much as I appreciated this movie's willingness to takes risks, even more than that, I appreciated the hell out of this movie for its show of creativity throughout. The action scenes in this thing are among the most inventive I've seen, particularly the climactic battle, which was just a whirlwind of imaginative ideas on the screen, and I dug the hell out of all of it.

Alongside Thor: The Dark World, this movie certainly gives me hope for the future installments in these Avenger flicks, as they both show that Marvel is addressing what did and didn't work in the first go-arounds of these Avengers movies and not only fixing them, but improving upon them in leaps and bounds. And as a result, the overall quality and creativity has been amped up to levels previously unseen in the these flicks before now.

This movie just did so much right, and was so much fun all throughout. It's without a doubt the very best Iron Man to date by a large, large margin, and I'm damn near close to calling it the best movie in the Avengers altogether as well (not to mention being the best movie I've seen in 2013!).
Original review.

So there it is, my Top 10 Movies of 2013. And now, in prior years I would usually follow this post up with my picks for the worst movies I've seen over the year. But this year, well, bad as the year may have started, there really wasn't much that I saw that would warrant such a post. I mean, yeah, there were definitely bad movies, but outside of Catching Fire, there was nothing that actually pissed me off that I can really give a good rant on, so I figured it'd probably make for a somewhat dull post. So instead, this year I'm just gonna list off what I thought were the worst (or at least my least favorite) movies of the year and just leave it at that.

5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
4. Escape From Tomorrow
3. The Purge
2. To the Wonder
1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

So there you go. And hell, while we're at it, let's throw some dishonorable mentions at A Good Day to Die Hard, The Hangover: Part III, and Oz The Great and Powerful as well.

And so those are my picks for the best and worst movies of 2013. And that's all I got for ya, so I hope you enjoyed this post, and let me know how you might agree or disagree with my picks, and what your own picks would be.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller's latest creative outing is one that leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I do love its messages to live for the moment and to not be afraid to take chances. But on the other hand, I really don't dig at all how it uses those messages as a means to promote and support drunk driving.

Now, I'm probably going to be getting into spoilers as I continue to discuss this movie, so heads up on that.

The story is that Life Magazine has been bought out and they're preparing the print the last issue, but Walter Mitty, played by Ben Stiller, has lost the image that was to be used for the cover. And so, after some urging, he goes out on a quest to solve the mystery of the missing picture, all the while finding himself in the process.

Based on the trailers, I was really looking forward to this as an awesome visual treat, what with the way that our main character, Walter Mitty, has a tendency to daydream some pretty elaborate things, which this movie brings to brilliant life. And in that regard, the movie does deliver for the most part, though some of these sequences do tend to get a bit too silly at times, and the best of this aspect is all pretty much shown in the trailers already.

But the purpose of this movie is to encourage you to quit dreaming and start making those dreams a reality, which, sure, it's a message that's been done before, but the way this movie goes about showing this message was pretty neat, and felt like some of my own ideas at times as well. The thing is that this movie at times gives a pretty warped message, and I'm not even sure that it's aware of what it's done.

The scene where Walter needs to board a helicopter in order to catch a ride onto a ship is probably the most powerful in the movie, as well as the most disturbing and offensive. See, prior to this scene, we're introduced to the pilot, as he's getting absolutely wasted in a bar and drunkenly singing karaoke. He's so drunk that he can barely speak or stay awake as he stumbles to the helicopter to make his trip. Initially, Walter wisely declines joining this pilot on his drunken flight, until he begins to daydream about his dream girl, played by Kristen Wiig, singing "Ground Control to Major Tom" to him, motivating him onto the flight. And this is where this scene gets messy. On the one hand, the song and the buildup to him making his decision and chasing down the chopper at the last second is really powerful stuff. On the other hand, this movie just told its audience that to live for the moment, sometimes you gotta take a leap of faith that'll leave you riding shotgun with a drunk driver behind the wheel, but you gotta just push yourself to go with it. And, I'm sorry, but that's just not cool at all.

After that scene, the movie did sorta lose me a bit, though it wasn't a total bust. For the most part, it is still a decent movie, until the ending opens up a world of plot holes. For one, the picture that Walter was searching for that was to be the final cover of Life Magazine is an impossible shot to have been captured, considering all the information given to us during the movie. It doesn't fit the timeline at all, and as a result, it could have never been where he eventually found it. And if it was there, then the people who put it there had to have had the foresight that not only would Walter go out on this big search of his, but that he'd wind up throwing away his wallet in frustration in the process.

Earlier in the movie, Walter goes to visit Kristen Wiig at her home, only to find a man answer the door. A man who calls her "honey", and who we assume is her husband, whom she's apparently gotten back with. But then, at the end, Kristen Wiig says that this man was just the repair man, and nobody she's linked to romantically. So... was the words he was saying just stuff that Walter was hearing in his head? And the same for the man’s weirded out facial expressions? And for that matter, why the hell was the repair man answering her door anyways? Or was she lying about who he was? In which case, wouldn't Walter easily catch her in that lie sooner or later, assuming that they continue to date? You see, these are the kinds of questions that the plot holes presented at the tail end of this movie present, those of the frustrating variety.

But those bothersome issues aside, this movie's intended message does remain a pretty important one. Though I do have a friend who felt like this movie was shoving the whole "Life" thing down our throats enough as it was in the trailer, which I didn't personally take issue with. However, if you felt that this movie was being too forceful with its message from the trailers, then the movie itself is gonna absolutely smother you, because this movie literally spells it out for you all throughout. And yeah, it does tend to get a bit overbearing at times, so some restraint would have really gone a long ways.

And there's more that I can go on about, such as some obnoxious product placement (not Man of Steel obnoxious, mind you), as well as the fact that this movie somehow got away with a surprising amount of swearing for a PG rated movie (holy shit, indeed!). And at this point, I really find myself failing to come up with much good to discuss about the movie. The visuals, certainly, as well as the creativity at times, and the acting was pretty solid throughout as well. But really, the more this sinks in, the more I can't help but feel that Walter Mitty's life might've been better off left a secret after all.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


To everybody who felt it necessary to point out that Paul Walker wasn't a good actor upon his death, to that I say, I agree with you. He wasn't a good actor. He was a great actor. And to any naysayers who may continue to dismiss such a claim, look no further than his performance in his latest movie, Hours.

Hours is a movie that takes place during Hurricane Katrina, in which a man is stuck in a hospital trying to keep his newborn baby alive on her life support system after the hospital's lost power. The movie opens with his wife dying during child birth, and throughout the course of the movie, we see as Paul Walker has to deal with the grief of his loss, as well as coming to terms with his new responsibilities in keeping his baby alive and safe throughout this crisis.

For the majority of the movie, Walker is on the screen entirely alone, sharing his thoughts aloud to his daughter as he mulls over the loss of his wife. And as the hours tick by, the gradual shift in tones perfectly match the acceptance and the direness of his situation. Walker gives a genuinely emotional performance that single handedly elevates this otherwise mediocre movie into something truly noteworthy.

As for the movie itself, it can at times be pulse pounding as Walker desperately searches the hospital for ways in which to rectify his situation, all the while having to beat the clock to race back to his daughter in order to recharge the battery on her life support system. The moments where it's just him desperately searching for a way out is when this movie truly works its best. And even the flashback sequences where we actually see the key moments from his relationship with his wife were really nice to watch. However, it's once other characters start to get involved that the film feels just a bit cheapened.

But thankfully, those other moments with wandering stragglers are few and far between, and the rest of the movie is actually a pretty compelling watch. It's a bit of a slow moving movie, despite its short length, and yet Walker continues to keep this thing interesting throughout, and as the days go by, the sheer exhaustion that he displays is truly wrecking.

So yeah, this was a decent little flick, with a surprising and tremendously powerful performance by Paul Walker. It's not only the best of his career, quite frankly, it's among the best performances I've seen all year at that. I don't know for certain whether or not this is going to be his last movie (who knows what they'll do in the next Fast and Furious at this point), but should it be, then this is a hell of a note to go out on from a truly great actor.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Desolation of Smaug

So how about that ending, huh? But more on that later, first, let's talk about those elves.

It was early on that I was beginning to have doubts about this second Hobbit flick, but from the moment the elves came on screen and throughout every scene including them afterwards, these bad asses would've been enough on their own to elevate this latest adventure through Middle Earth, making The Desolation of Smaug a far better outing than An Unexpected Journey in the process.

No, seriously, as awesome as Legolas was in the original Rings trilogy, he's on a whole new level this time around, and this time he's brought friends. Legolas and Tauriel completely steal this whole flick with their slick and stylized fights against the orcs throughout, not to mention that the love angle also including the dwarf Kíli is by far the most interesting sub-plot going on in this movie that's absolutely filled with a treasure trove of sub-plots. The chemistry between Aidan Turner and Evangeline Lilly was just so sweet, and I was also left constantly intrigued by how Legolas would react to their budding relationship throughout.

That is one other aspect that this movie has over the first, is that the large cast of characters are really fleshed out quite a bit more, and don't come across as the Fellowship-lite carbon copies that they felt like before. The characters actually have unique individualities that stand out this time around, which really helped in making me care about their fates and getting truly invested in their journey. However, that said, the one exception to this would be the title character himself, Bilbo Baggins.

I joked in my review of The Hobbit how it was a misleading title, seeing as Bilbo played mostly a side role compared to some of the other characters. And as sidelined as he was in the first movie, it's actually worse here. He's not treated like the star of this show at all, and hell, poor Martin Freeman couldn't even get top billing over Ian McKellen once the credits started to roll. And barely any of it is even shown from his point of view, outside of a handful of key scenes here and there. Unlike the first movie, they don't even cut to him to show his facial reactions to everything going on nearly as much. No, this is a movie that's so much bigger than the hobbit himself, to the point that, even though these movies are based on the book by that title, the main title of these movies just does not fit the finished product on display at all.

But that's perhaps a nit-picky little gripe, and one that probably shouldn't matter so much, so long as that finished product itself is still good, right? And well, for the most part it is, though the movie's not without its flaws. For one, yeah, it's long, but we all knew going in that this was gonna be. But the thing about this movie's length is that, unlike the Lord of the Rings movies, you can easily pick out the padding in this thing. As you're watching, you can see what parts could've been significantly condensed or, in some cases, entirely removed without actually losing anything of substance. But, again, this issue wasn't nearly as obvious here as it was in the first Hobbit, so again, it's an aspect that's at least been addressed to some degree. And I also found that there weren't nearly as many snarking opportunities this time around, either, which I suppose can also be seen as further evidence of the quality of this movie being an improvement over that of the last.

But anyways, now I really wanna talk about this movie's ending, so from this point forward, there's probably gonna be some spoilers. Now then, I loved this movie's ending. And what makes it really odd to me is that this isn't one of those cliffhangers where this part of the story has reached its conclusion, but we're still left with more to come, as has been the case in all the prior Rings flicks to date. Nope, this is one of those cliffhangers that ends the movie abruptly right in the middle of the action, cutting the story short just as some serious shit is about to go down, which is the type of cliffhanger that would usually annoy the hell out of me anytime else. But here, I just found the execution to be flawless, not to mention I got quite the kick out of how fitting it was for Peter Jackson to end this movie in the absolute most trollish way possible.

-Peter Jackson, via Benedict Cumberbatch

There was just something about those final moments leading up to that last shot, with Smaug getting the better of our heroes and heading off to unleash his havoc on the world, leaving our heroes absolutely hopeless to do anything about it, everything about this moment was built up so perfectly that the cut to black just struck me. And it wasn't in the way where it left me eagerly anticipating what's yet to come in the next Hobbit movie, either. It was in a way that instead left me wanting to go back relive this adventure from the beginning just to experience this culminating moment all over again. It's hard to explain, but there's just something so satisfying with the way this movie left us off in such a haunting manner. It was similar to my experience with the movie Prisoners in that regards, and stands alongside that movie as having quite possibly the most satisfying ending of any movie this year.

So yeah, while I wasn't exactly looking forward to seeing this movie, and I'm still not completely sold that this adaptation needed to be split into three movies, I was actually quite impressed with The Desolation of Smaug for the most part. It's an improvement on the first movie in several ways, featuring actual characters who are also fun to follow, awesome action scenes with awesome elves, and an expertly executed cliffhanger ending that'll leave you wanting to see it all over again. And yes, while I had my doubts going into this one, after the fact, I can honestly say that I am now more than ever looking forward to the next installment of The Hobbit.

Monday, December 2, 2013


First Tangled, and now Frozen, Disney seriously needs to fire their marketing department, because they're clearly out to sabotage these movies. But I learned my lesson after Tangled and wasn't fooled by the awful looking trailers, and this movie did not disappoint. Filled with great music, fun characters, and stunningly gorgeous visuals, Frozen is another solid outing in Disney canon.

The story is about a young Princess, Elsa, who has the ability to turn things to ice. But after an accident with her younger sister, Anna, she's found it harder and harder to control this power. And so, in order to protect everyone around her, she chooses to hide this power, and basically shuts her sister out of her life. But after they grow up and Elsa becomes Queen, her secret is revealed and she flees in fear, and it's up to Anna to track her down and end the endless winter that Elsa has inadvertently created. Frozen really is a different sort of movie from the usual Disney norm, as our protagonists have to deal with some pretty emotionally complex issues the likes of which we don't usually see Disney try and tackle. In fact, for the good majority of the movie there really isn't even an actual villain here, and if anything, the villain would be the doubt and fear that presides within ourselves. I found the movie to be pretty surprising in this regard.

With this movie more than any other prior, it's become apparent that Disney is well aware of their typical tropes, and as such, they play on our expectations based on what we've come to usually expect from them, only to switch things up here and there and keep things from being completely predictable. For instance, I was initially put off by Anna wanting to marry a man whom she had just met, and I was worried that this was about to be one of those kinda Disney movies. But the movie was quick to swoop in and relentlessly reject this idea, which I was totally on board with. In fact, the way this movie approaches the whole idea of love in general was very well handled I felt, and a satisfying change of pace from the norm. So even as the movie does eventually catch back up with itself and begin to take more of a typical Disney mold near the end, they still manage to find ways to play on our expectations, which leads to some truly satisfying storytelling.

And the writing sinks all the way down to our characters, who are truly a fun cast to follow all around. The two Princesses are so unique from one another, yet you can definitely tell that they're siblings despite their differences. Elsa is more reserved, and only grows further yet regrettably distanced as she grows older, while Anna is the more outgoing type, who does share a few quirky similarities to Rapunzel. But they're both very likable in their own unique ways, and they both grow quite a bit throughout the duration of this film. And as they grow, they come across quite the cast of characters, all of whom play their part well and provide to the story.

Even the snowman, who's sole purpose really is little more than comic relief, was actually a fine addition here. I was certain going in that he was gonna grate on my nerves, but the comedy in this thing truly is very well implemented and works so well to compliment this movie, the snowman's contributions included. Seriously, I was left in hysterics on more than one occasion. This movie can be seriously funny, and the characters are genuinely charming in their own ways, which especially helps when it comes to the more emotional scenes, because this movie can also be quite stirring at that.

The last thing I need to discuss would be the music, which is a bit of a mixed bag here. Don't get me wrong, there are some extremely great songs in this thing. Both Anna's and Elsa's main themes are especially powerful tracks that'll really hit you hard in your seat, and continue to linger with you out of the theater. But on the contrary, there's also a handful of stinkers here that, while not terrible, really just kinda felt a bit too cheesy and didn't quite do it for me. Also, after a certain point it felt like this movie forgot that it was a musical, as there's a long extended period at the end that goes by without any more singing, and by the end, I was left really wanting to hear one more good hit, but it never did come. Now, I dunno if other Disney musicals have done anything similar to this, but if they did, it didn't stand out nearly as much as it does here, which was just a bit of a let down.

But that said, while the movie isn't without a few hiccups, I still thought this was a pretty solid outing overall. When the music is good, it's damn good, and either way, it's still a fun and charming movie all throughout regardless. With great characters in a beautiful setting and a story that's a little different from what we're used to, Frozen was quite a nice and satisfyingly moving film.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Whether that monkey's yelling in anger or yawning in absolute boredom, when it comes to this movie, either way he ain't wrong. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is absolutely awful. It's stupid as hell, completely and entirely pointless, and good god is it in dire need of a freaking editor. Seriously, what genius thought that a three hour long Hunger Games movie was a good idea? By the time the actual "games" began, I had long since checked out of this piece of trash.

I ain't even lying, if I hadn't seen this thing with friends, I most assuredly would have walked out, because by the time the "games" portion of the movie started, I was just antsy in my seat waiting for this overly long thing to finally, finally end. I seriously did not give a crap at all about the story or a single one of these crappy characters, and I couldn't have possibly cared less how this god awful thing was gonna end, so long as it was finally just freaking over and done with already. Watching this movie in the theater is an endurance test that's almost like undergoing an entirely different sort of terrorizing group exercise as those participating in the Hunger Games themselves.

As for the plot here, hell, did you see the first movie? Well guess what, you already saw this one, only minus about a good hour or so of pointless, stupid nonsense that stretches this thing to its absolute thinnest. The pre-games stuff just dragged on and on for forever and a day, taking as long as humanly possible to get to the damn point. And the whole while, it never once came close to being nearly as interesting as this portion was in the first movie. It was just a complete retread, minus the intrigue, and needlessly expanded upon with a whole lotta nothing.

But it didn't just add a bunch of pointless shit, it even brought back the pointless shit from the first movie that we didn't see. Or, rather, couldn't, that being the god damn action scenes. I swear, I've said it before, but if an action scene is shot in a way in which you can't even tell what the hell is transpiring on screen, then that scene is entirely pointless! And that describes literally every action scene in this god forsaken thing. You can't see shit the whole movie! Hell, at one point, Peeta commented how he wasn't sure if someone had tried to jump out and sacrifice themselves to save him. And you know what, how the hell could he be sure? How the hell could anyone be sure? Because, after all, we couldn't SEE anything!

But not only is this movie needlessly longer than the first, but it's also infinitely more stupid. The Hunger Games themselves was just a series of traps setting off, whether it's skin eating mist (which basically just leaves poorly applied makeup marks that easily washes off in water, bad acting optional (seriously, stop over-doing it, Jennifer Lawrence)) or randomly rampaging monkeys. Hell, that baboon scene reminded me of a similar scene in After Earth, and it actually left me wishing I was watching that freaking movie instead. And at no point did I ever feel like our main characters were ever in any actual danger through all of this nonsense. Gone was the aspect of hunt or be hunted, it was like watching a really shitty and unfun version of The Cabin in the Woods, where everything transpiring was a result of the guys behind the games just interfering with the environment, only for our cast to survive in the most convenient of manners each and every time.

If there's one positive I can say about this movie, it's that a handful of the new characters are at least slightly interesting at times. One chick who is adamantly against the games and makes it known loudly and proudly probably steals this movie with her outlandish antics, and that wacky talk show host guy makes some enjoyably over the top facial expressions that I got a bit of a kick out of at times. But as for the rest of this thing, hell, I've seen freaking Terrence Malick movies that have done a better job keeping my interest throughout (and as those of you who've followed me for a while should well know by now, I am not a Malick fan at all.)

This movie was awful, so awful I was left shaking in anger by the end of it. It's not just a worse movie than the first one, and hell, I actually liked the first movie. The first movie's a freaking godsend in comparison. But this? Catching Fire not only makes the exact same mistakes that that one made, but it adds on a whole laundry list of new ones on top of that. I couldn't have possibly cared less about the ongoing plot or the fate of any of these characters, and amongst all of the groan inducing idiocy at hand, I was never once given a reason to give a crap about any of it in the first place. Without question, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the worst movie I've seen this year so far.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thor: Episode II - The Dark World

So I found that I quite enjoyed this latest Star Wars prequel. Thor is finally reunited with his beloved Natalie Portman, reprising her role as Padme, only for her to come into contact with a dark presence that attracts a phantom menace from Asgard's history. And so, in order to fight off this attack of the elves, Thor is forced to turn to the dark side himself and form an alliance with his brother, Loki, as they seek revenge of the gods in their efforts to restore peace within their galaxy far, far away.

But seriously, this movie may borrow a bit from some other properties here and there, including more than a handful of Star Wars tributes that really gave off a vibrant vibe similar to that of the prequel trilogy (which I personally was a fan of, by the way), but it all comes together to form a highly entertaining and much more cohesive continuation of the Thor saga. Unlike the first entry in this series, you can tell that this one's going to be a much more solid outing right from the outset just by the mere coherency of the opening action sequences.

Where the first one was very much a mixed bag that felt like a disjointed comedy with some tacked on action scenes tossed in, this one's solid all around. For one thing, the settings actually look and feel like real worlds, unlike the small scale movie sets that the scenery in the first movie more resembled. And while I most enjoyed the focus on Earth in the first one, I think the opposite might actually be true in this instance, as I really found myself truly able to ground myself in Thor's world this time around, which just felt so much more alive.

And as lively as the world was, it was made that much more so by the liveliness of the whole cast. Chris Hemsworth really has found his grounding as the God of Thunder, and a lot of the supporting cast is given quite a bit more to work with this time around, including Idris Elba and Kat Dennings, who both particularly run with their extended material and shine brightly. But really, we all know who the real star is here.

That's right, it's Loki, bitches. And Tom Hiddleston steals this whole damn movie from start to finish. He's just as charming as ever, more akin to his portrayal in The Avengers than the first Thor, though he certainly undergoes quite an interesting development that ultimately leads to him teaming back up with Thor. In fact, that's always been the great thing about this character is just how intriguing he continues to be. He's by far the deepest and most complex character in the entirety of The Avengers, and I don't think that anyone else could pull it off quite like Tom Hiddleston does. But yeah, anytime Loki appears on screen is definitely when the movie shines brightest, with a particular Avengers cameo bringing the biggest laughs in a movie that's full of 'em.

But even though the film is fun, unlike some other recent films that have failed on their promise to take a darker approach (Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness), this one definitely delivers on that note. This movie gets damn dark. And these darker moments actually pack quite a punch along with them. In fact, for a brief period of time, things got so dark that I actually felt some of the comedic moments following it felt out of place as a result (a feeling that subsided as the movie went along, mind you). But yeah, this movie may be funny, but it ain't no joke, and the fact that they managed to balance these aspects out so well is what I loved so much about this movie.

I gotta say that I'm really digging the hell out of these phase 2 Avengers movies significantly more than the first phase so far, and that definitely continues with this movie. And part of what I love about these movies is their willingness to break the mold and try out new creative avenues, and that was certainly the case with this movie's climactic final battle, which played out like the most epic game of Portal ever. Yeah, it may feel a bit familiar to some other certain properties at times, but it only borrows the best of those other worlds and brings them all together to form a mighty fine movie.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Counselor

So yeah, I went into The Counselor pretty much solely for Michael Fassbender, but outside of his involvement, I really wasn't looking forward to this movie at all. It just looked really bland and generic to me. And so, despite so many dependable names being attached, I remained mostly reserved going into this thing, and the fact that early word has already been pretty negative had further lowered my expectations. However, I must say that this movie was quite a pleasant surprise, and very much plays out almost like a modern day Shakespeare piece.

Michael Fassbender plays a lawyer who's only ever referred to as Counselor, and he gets involved in a drug trafficking scheme down in Mexico that quickly becomes more than he can handle, resulting in a huge mess for everyone involved. The movie plays with themes of both love and greed, and how these two things can come back to bite you if you're not prepared for what you're getting yourself into. And the way this movie approaches both subjects as a whole through its dialogue is almost seamlessly interchangeable. In fact, the movie is very dialogue heavy, and it was early on that it really pulled me in with the very Shakespearean tempo of the delivery and sensibilities of the conversations at hand, which I found to be really endearing. And once I was able to approach the film from that perspective, I found myself really digging the hell out of it from that point on.

I mentioned before how there were a lot of talented names attached to this project, and they all really come forward to add their contribution in making this thing work. Ridley Scott's solid direction truly complimented Cormac McCarthy's smart and clever script, and the acting all around was really good as well. In addition to Fassbender, the film also stars Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, and Javier Bardem, who all brought the goods and really worked well together on screen. But surprisingly enough, the one who really stole the show here was Cameron Diaz, playing the super-sexualized manipulator who really is the driving force of this plot. It's not the most subtle of roles, but damn does she dive right in and really make you believe that she's this cold, calculating bitch.

While the film definitely maintains a theatrical vibe with the way most of its dialogue heavy settings play out, there is a little bit of action at play here as well. There's not a whole lot of it, but when the violence happens, the movie gets in, gets it over with, and gets out, but in that short amount of time, this thing gets really bloody and brutal really fast. There's gunfights that don't last too long, but it doesn't take long for blood to start spraying, either. Not to mention the graphic beheadings that are on display. So yeah, certainly not a film for the squeamish.

So I ended up really liking the hell out of this movie, though there are a few things that I could nitpick it for. For instance, there's probably an overuse of extreme closeups on people's faces throughout, which became noticeable, though wasn't necessarily a detractor, even if some of the shots felt a bit uninspired. And there are scenes where Fassbender is talking to his fiance on the phone, but we can only hear his half of the conversation, leaving gaps of silence where she would be speaking. This wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that throughout the rest of the movie whenever someone's talking on the phone, we're able to hear both ends of the conversation, so it took me out of the movie a bit during these scenes, and left me wondering if perhaps something was wrong with the sound in the theater. But really, like I said, that's all really nitpicky, and outside of those sorts of things, there's really nothing too much I can harp on this movie for.

It's a bit of a long one, but, again, after I was able to take the movie as a modern Shakespearean work, I was able to roll with the run time. And it remains ever intriguing all throughout, with interesting anecdotes and poetic insights that'll leave you thinking. I really didn't expect to be this impressed by this movie, but sure enough, behind the great collaboration of minds at work behind the camera and the strong performances on screen that really sold the material, I gotta say that The Counselor was pretty damn well done.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Actors you will see ANY movie they're in

In my Chloe Moretz post, I mentioned how she's become an actor who I will see any movie with her in it. And it got me thinking what other actors I also felt this way towards, and these are the names that I came up with. Now, just because I say I'd see any movie they're in doesn't mean that I've actually gotten around to every movie they're in just yet. But I do always tend to make a point to see their films, and I'm always excited for any upcoming releases that I see their names attached to, even if solely for them. I'm counting only currently working actors here, and put together four more names in addition to Ms. Moretz, who would've rounded things out to make a Top 5. So then, without further ado and in no particular order...

Emma Watson

I'm not even that big a Harry Potter fan, and she hasn't done much outside of those movies just yet. In fact, I pretty much ignored the Potter movies for the most part until The Half-Blood Prince, which is really when I took notice of her as an actor. And since then, Emma Watson has quickly become one of my favorites. While she's never necessarily wowed me with anything she's done, she's never given a bad performance, either, and is usually the highlight of any movie she's in. Hell, she's also the only actor on this list where not only have I enjoyed her in everything, but I've also ended up liking every single movie of hers so far as well. The fact that she's also just about the most gorgeous actress alive today is also a nice bonus, but believe me when I say that her looks have little to do with her placement on my list compared with her talents as an actor (there are plenty of hot actors whose movies I won't watch). And yet, as I say that, I of course follow this entry up with...

Michael Fassbender

Yeah, that's right, another beautiful actor who'll make you melt in your seat (though I swear this list won't only consist of the same people from the list!). But in addition to being one of the hottest actors today, Michael Fassbender is also one of the most brilliant, and, like I said about Chloe Moretz, it's truly only a matter of time before he's wielding Oscar gold. He just has such a commanding presence in everything he's in, and one that manages to lure me out to all of his movies. And while I don't always end up being a fan of some of those movies (such as Prometheus or A Dangerous Method), I am always a fan of his outstanding performances in said movies, and continue to make my way to the theater just to see him, no matter how little the rest of the movie may interest me (The Counselor).

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg is probably the first actor who I started seeing anything and everything they starred in, and it all started with The Big Hit. After that, I've been a big fan of his ever since. Though I do have to admit that his spot on my list has been slipping a bit in recent years, with me skipping a few of his movies due to him being counter-acted by another actor who I have a particular disdain for, such as The Other Guys (I am not a Will Ferrell guy), and earlier this year I skipped out on Pain & Gain in theaters, due to my ever increasing annoyance with co-star The Rock at the time. I did eventually see it after its theatrical run, though, and found it to be a surprisingly great movie, with one of Wahlberg's best performances to date (not to mention The Rock, who honestly did give the best performance of his career so far in that film). And that's the thing about Wahlberg, similar to Fassbender, while I may not always necessarily care about the movies he's in, I'm almost always interested in his contribution to those movies nonetheless. Whether it's a performance as awesomely bad as in The Happening, or a scene stealer like in The Departed, Wahlberg's always an interesting addition to any film, and one who always automatically sparks my own interest.

Nic Cage

The man himself. I don't care how crappy some of his movies may get, I'm almost always up for a Nic Cage flick. This guy is just a blast to watch, and has the ability to elevate even the worst of material. He just loves his job so much, and it shows on the screen, 'cause he's always making the best of and having fun with his roles, which makes the viewing experience so much more fun to watch. He's gotten a bit of a bad rap for some of his movie choices in recent years, but he hasn't lost me as a fan. I still think he's an incredible actor, quite possibly among the absolute greatest of this generation, with the ability to naturally pull off anything from deadly serious to maniacally campy, and everything in-between. Now I can't say that I've even begun to see his entire repertoire of films, especially since for a period of time he was starring in just about every other movie that was coming out. But I do try and make a point to make it out to as many of his movies as I can, because if nothing else, his on-screen antics ensure that I'll be in for a good time.

So there you have it then, my list of actors who I am willing to see any movie they happen to be in. And now I turn to you all to add your contribution and voice your opinions on who some of your own go-to actors are.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Carrie: A Chloë Moretrospective

So the new Carrie movie was pretty much exactly what I had hoped and expected it to be. An awesome movie, with an especially awesome performance from Chloë Moretz in the title role, who once more proves herself to be one of the most consistently impressive actors working in Hollywood today.

I've never actually seen the original movie or read the book by Stephen King, so I can't say how this compares to those. But on its own merits, I quite liked what we got from this remake. The plot is well structured and obviously modernized from its original incarnation, and I thought the updates worked really well. And in many regards, with the way that Carrie comes to possess telekinetic powers which she ultimately uses to unleash her pent up rage against those who've wronged her once she's pushed to her breaking point, this movie reminded me quite a bit of last year's Chronicle (or did Chronicle inadvertently remind me of Carrie? Hmm...). I was a huge fan of that movie, and for similar reasons, I was really able to relate and connect to this story as well.

I really loved the raw and intense imagery once the carnage begins near the end. And, in addition to Chloë Moretz, I felt that all of the acting was perfectly fine for the most part. You really do come to either care for or completely detest the various different characters we encounter. But the one who really carries this movie and truly elevates it would be our star, Chloë Moretz.

Simply put, she outdoes herself again, perfectly balancing a character who is shy and reserved while around her peers, yet more open and worrisome with her situation at home with her crazy mother. It's a truly believable performance that she just loses herself in, especially at the end, when she becomes a legitimately menacing presence, soaked in blood as she unleashes her furious wrath.

I'm not kidding when I say that she's one of the most impressive actors working today. She's been impressing me in just about everything I've see her in since I first discovered her as the foul mouthed Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass. She pretty much captured the world's attention with her standout performance, not to mention the novelty of seeing a young girl swearing like a sailor as she casually and stylishly slaughters thugs left and right. And she followed that up with what I felt was an Oscar worthy portrayal as the vampire Abby in Let Me In, another great remake and a role for which I still feel she deserved the awards recognition that was sadly denied of her. For many people, she's still just Hit-Girl, but after Let Me In, for me at least, Chloë Grace Moretz had arrived, and I've been a huge fan of hers ever since.

She's since gone on to give another stellar performance in Hugo, as well as being one of the few shining aspects in Kick-Ass 2, doing her part to make the absolute most of an otherwise forgettable sequel. And even going back and seeing some of her earlier work, you can see that she's been a natural talent her whole life, such as in The Amityville Horror remake, where she gave a solid enough performance at a super young age that's even better than the movie itself (and better than the movie deserved, quite frankly), or even holding her own in the phenomenal (500) Days of Summer. In fact, her only performance that she didn't quite pull off was in Dark Shadows, but I blame that more on the fact that Tim Burton has become a bit of a hack director in recent years. I mean, seriously, how much do you gotta suck to somehow get a bad performance out of Chloë Moretz?

But even with that one little hiccup, Ms. Moretz has proven herself time and again to be one hell of an actor. And that she's already given us as many great and memorable performances at such a young age is truly astounding. She outdoes herself at every given opportunity, and she changes it up with a wide rage of varied characters throughout her catalogue of films, each so different and unique, and yet so believable and full of genuine life and feeling. And if she's already this good now, I can't wait to see how her career continues to unfold. She has a hell of a bright future ahead of herself, and it really is only a matter of time before she finally snags up that gold statue, because you're almost always guaranteed greatness of some sort when you see her name attached to a movie.

She's become so consistent that I pretty much will see any movie she's in, even if solely for her. And truth be told, that was the case with Carrie, too. Once I saw that this was essentially a Chloë Moretz vehicle, I was right on board, and I was not let down. Even despite a terrible theater experience where I was surrounded by assholes texting and providing their unwanted commentary all throughout, she was able to cancel them all out once she appeared on screen, drawing me in and allowing me to enjoy the movie despite their constant distractions.

So yeah, Carrie was an awesome movie, with another awesome performance from our go-to star. It's worth watching for Chloë Moretz alone, but the intriguing plot and bad ass visual effects really do all come together under some solid direction to make this yet another one of her movies that's certainly worth seeing.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Captain Phillips

Listen up. I am happy to report that the new Tom Hanks thriller, Captain Phillips, has more than met my expectations. It's a solid film through and through, with Hanks putting on another classic performance as the Captain.

And it's a good thing that Hanks delivers, because he really was the sole selling point to this movie for me. I couldn't get enough of his Boston accent in the trailers, and his line delivery throughout the course of the movie has taken what would otherwise just be your typical average dialogue in the hands of anyone else, and seemingly turned them into awesome tag lines that you might find on the movie poster.

Sadly, this particular line from the trailer didn't actually make it into the movie, but trust me, the whole film's filled with these kinds of random one-offs that Hanks is able to elevate and really give them his special touch. And in addition to Hanks, the Somali pirates all also do really good jobs here as well, though admittedly, the rest of the cast, including key members of the Captain's crew and military figures, act like they're bored to be there more often than not. But gladly that couldn't be further from the case with Hanks, who really sinks into his role and becomes the Captain.

Speaking of the pirates, I did have some reservations going in based on the latest trailers, which appeared to try and add some sentimentality to them. But the movie really did a good job of balancing this aspect out, allowing us to understand why the pirates were doing what they're doing, without ever going overboard with it to the point that we can actually relate to or ever really feel sorry for them or anything like that, so the movie handled this really well I felt.

But otherwise, this was a really solid flick from start to finish, and one where, despite knowing how it ends, being based on a true story and all, it still very much remained a pretty intense and emotional thriller all the way through (which there sure have been a lot of these lately, haven't there?). The one thing I did take a bit of issue with, though, would be the constant changes in POV. I was fine enough when they jumped between the Captain and the pirates, but then once the military gets involved it does get just a bit jumbled. And especially coming off of Gravity, which so superbly pulled off a tale of survival without ever pulling away from its main star, I couldn't help but wonder while watching this just how much stronger the movie could've been had they allowed some of the stuff with the military to happen off screen, and just stuck with Captain Phillips throughout his capture.

Still though, that little pondering aside, it was still a really good movie, so that's not that big a deal in the end. The actors did a great job bringing their characters to life, and the script provides quite a bit of depth to a lot of these characters without overdoing it. And it all comes together for the happy ending that we all know about going in, but even so, it still remains very satisfying to see it all play out before our eyes. So just remember this, men, piracy doesn't pay, so don't illegally download this movie, go out and see it the right way, or else the Navy will kill your ass!

So, until next time...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cat of the Day: Honey

Honey is my Grandma's other cat who we took in a few month's back, and she is today's Cat of the Day!

However, unlike Pepper, even after all this time, Honey hasn't warmed up to me in the least. The mere sight of me stepping into the room will send her running for the nearest hiding place, usually pausing to look back and hiss at me, just for good measure. And like trying to capture the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot on camera, the picture provided is probably about as clear a shot as I'm bound to get of her. But even so, it's actually a fitting enough picture anyways, since that's pretty much the way I always see her, from a distance, and just before crawling away into whatever hiding spot she can find.

So yeah, that's pretty much all I've got on her. But you know what, this is her day, and if she wants to run and hide away, then by all means, go for it, Honey!

(Also to note: Though they're both calico cats named Honey, unlike some of the other cats featured in the Cat of the Day series, this particular Honey is actually not the same Honey who's featured in Velcro: The Ninja Kat.)

Friday, October 4, 2013


And the streak of tense as hell cinematic experiences continues with Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity. And good god, what an experience this one is. Gravity is one of the most mesmerizingly beautiful, and yet relentlessly intense movie-going outings to come our way all year.

And I'm not even exaggerating when I say that this movie is mesmerizing. I was watching wide eyed on the edge of my seat the entire time. The story here is that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are up in space when their mission goes deadly wrong, and they have to find a way to survive their extreme conditions and make it back home alive, all the while dealing with zero gravity working against them and space debris hurling at them like bullets.

The movie is shot so beautifully, with the camera moving so fluidly as it captures all the action. And the movie is shot in a series of extremely long takes that last for upwards of over ten minutes at a time without cutting away, just floating all around our characters and jumping in and out of their space suits in seamless fashion. It can be such a soothing experience that really pulls you in and keeps your attention as their situation continues to become more and more distressing as our characters find more and more obstacles blocking their journey home. The way this movie's shot, you really do feel like you're lost in space as well as this movie takes you along for the ride.

George Clooney is his usual charming self, and he really just plays the same character he plays in anything, though he definitely does his job to lighten the mood whenever he shows up. But I'm not sure that Sandra Bullock has ever been better, giving one hell of an intense performance that really heightens the intensity on screen. But really, great as the performances are, the technical aspects are the big stars of this show.

In addition to the gorgeous visuals, the use of sound in this movie is just brilliant. Sound doesn't carry through space, and as such, as we see all of the satellites and shuttles crashing and tearing apart, there's no sound to accompany it, which was a real nice touch. Whenever they're out roaming through space in their suits, the only sound we hear is the ruffling from inside their suits as they move around, as well as what they say to each other over their radios. And the accompanying score is a truly compelling piece, really complementing the intensity of the dire action.

You're bound to hear these same words used to describe this movie by just about everyone else who sees it, but they truly do apply in spades to this movie. Gravity is a breathtakingly stunning experience that pulls you in and never lets go until it's over. It's a masterpiece of intensity that'll keep you mesmerized all throughout, with beautiful visuals and music, and a brilliant use of sound that'll stay with you well after the credits roll. It's a cinematic experience unlike anything else out there right now, and is a definite must see.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cat of the Day: Pepper

Today's Cat of the Day is our very own watch cat, Pepper!

Pepper was one of my Grandma's cats who came into our care a few month's back. And in that time, she's found the perfect duty to keep herself busy. See, whenever this mountain lion's not hiding away in her little cave...

... she's hard at work keeping watch over the whole house.

We apparently keep our pepper on top of the fridge...

And she's one of the hardest working cat's I've ever come across, standing her post with pride day in and day out. However, though she'll gladly let you approach her when she's so high up and looking down on you, if you ever happen to spot her on ground level, she's almost certain to turn tail and run away, like she's embarrassed to be caught off post or something.

But Pepper's a good cat who always does a good job looking over her people, and that's why today she's our Cat of the Day!

Sunday, September 22, 2013


After watching The Frozen Ground last week and now Prisoners this week, this has been a hell of a month for awesome thrillers. And with exceptional performances and a mystery that'll leave you guessing all the way to the very end, Prisoners does not disappoint in the least.

Hugh Jackman's daughter and her friend have been kidnapped, and Jake Gyllenhaal leads the case to try and find them, while Jackman takes things into his own hands and holds the man who he believes kidnapped them hostage, torturing him for the whereabouts of his daughter. This is a mystery that gets dark as hell, and will definitely keep you on your toes throughout. And all along the way, there's some real nice twists in store that continue keep things more and more interesting.

A lot of times movies like this can get careless and either leave a few too many hints that make things a little too obvious, or, alternatively, makes things so vague to the point that it's almost impossible to follow along. But this film finds that perfect balance to where it really isn't predictable at all, and you'll find yourself trying to place the pieces together in your own head and figure the mystery out right alongside the characters on screen. You really do connect with the frustrations of our characters, and likewise, once something clicks into place for the characters on screen, the movie's never playing catch up with the viewer, so it makes for a nice satisfying watch as those same things click into place at that exact moment for us as well.

What also helps in connecting with these characters is the fact that they're played so damn well by their respective actors. Hugh Jackman gives us probably the most emotionally fueled performance of his entire career to date, and Jake Gyllenhaal really impressed as well, growing more and more frustrated in more subtle ways that really played as a nice contrast to Jackman's more outgoing role. And I was also impressed by the supporting cast all around, who all really played their parts well, including Terrence Howard, who I see has apparently traded up in his post Iron Man days.

But yeah, if there's one fault I could maybe say about this movie, it's that it's a bit long at almost 3 hours in length. However, that said, there really isn't a single wasted minute in this thing, and even though it's a long movie, it's hardly a boring one, as you'll get wrapped right up in the mystery unfolding, leading all the way up to what is probably the most haunting yet satisfying final shot I've seen in a film this year so far.

I thought this movie looked great going in, and after being let down so much this year, I was very pleased to see this movie pretty much meet my expectations to a tee. This was a great mystery in a nice moody setting, with great performances that really elevate things and give this movie much more of an important feel. You can really feel the weight behind the emotion, and feel the same frustrations as our cast. So if you're in the mood for a bit of a darker outing, you won't go wrong at all with Prisoners.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cat(s) of the Day: Mama Cat and her Kittens

It's been a while, but finally, it's the long awaited return of Cat of the Day! And today's an extra special day because we've got not just one but five cats being celebrated on this day!

We took in the stray pregnant Mama Cat a little while back, and she gave birth to her litter of kittens about a month ago. But now, a month later, her kittens are up and about and getting into all kinds of trouble. Anytime I first step into their room, they can almost certainly be found piled up in their little corner napping.

However, once they see that they've got company, they're ready to spring out of bed and greet their human friends with youthful glee. So now let's take a moment to meet each of these as of yet unnamed kittens. First up is the Velcro Colored Kitten.

And her coat of fur isn't the only thing this kitten shares with the original Velcro, this one also knows how to put its claws to good use and climb all over you. And on that note, next up we've got the Charlie Colored Kitten.

And also like the original Charlie and Velcro, these two have a tendency to find themselves at odds with one another.

The Token Orange Kitten of the litter is next, who also happens to be the cry baby of the bunch, poor guy.

And last but not least is the Crazy Haired Kitten.

This one certainly sticks out the most, and is probably the most outgoing, always the first to rush up and greet me whenever I come in to see them.

So there you have it then, and let's hear it for these awesome new members of the cat society who've got their whole nine lives ahead of them. And also for the Mama Cat, who has done a wonderful job at taking care of her kittens and watching over them, and is due for some good R & R.

Good job, Mom!