Hello everyone, and welcome to 111 Archer Avenue. What started as a film review blog has become my online judgment forum. I will review the occasional movie or DVD, post an interesting trailer, critique a newly-read book, talk about sports, and share my thoughts and opinions on random issues. You can also follow me on Twitter (@OlieCoen) or check out my work on DVDTalk.com. Thank you and enjoy!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Movie Review - Lars and the Real Girl

Director: Craig Gillespie
Year: 2007

Ryan Gosling is much more than a pretty face. I mean, he's a bona fide hottie, don't get me wrong, but he's got amazing talent. Pair that with good looks and you've got a star. After seeing him in Blue Valentine, which immediately became one of my favorites and is one of the more realistic love stories you'll ever see, I was ready to proclaim him one of the great rising talents. And now having seen Lars and the Real Girl, that opinion has solidified into fact. So, as much as I enjoy the "Hey Girl" memes, I enjoy Gosling's incredible acting even more.

This film is the story of Lars, his family, the Fargo-esque town in which he lives, and his unique way of battling loneliness.  He is a shy guy. He goes to work every weekday, church every Sunday, and rarely speaks to another human in between. He lives in his brother's garage, having let Gus & his wife take the ancestral home. Lars is a loner and an extremely eccentric character, letting no one into his bubble. Until, one day, when he announces to his brother that he has a girlfriend, and asks if she can come to dinner. Of course, he fails to mention that she is a life-size doll that he ordered on the Internet. As his family and the town try to come to grips with this oddity, Lars begins to come to life and to face his problems, a feat that he cannot do alone. 

It must sound odd, and believe me it feels odd to see Lars sitting next to "Bianca" for the first time, even when you know that's what the movie is about. But that strange feeling soon fades away. For some unexplainable reason I fell in love with Lars right from the very beginning. Maybe it was his vulnerability, or maybe it was Gosling's great portrayal, but I wanted Lars to fight through his problems so badly that I, like the characters in the movie, was able to accept his strange coping mechanism and hope for the best. Schneider was excellent as well as older brother Gus, even shadowing some of the strange tics and mannerisms that Lars portrayed. The movie was funny, interesting, and moving. By the end it started to get a little like a Lifetime original movie, and that's not what you want, but I forgave the final faults because I was so invested. I'd be interested to hear a clinical professional's opinion, but for me it was an engaging film that left me with a good feeling. 

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Lego Movie

Director: Phil Lord
Starring: Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks
Release: February 7th, 2014

Part of me really wants to see this movie.  Part does.  The rest wants to pretend it doesn't exist.  Sometimes I wish I could travel back into my childhood, babysit myself, and take me to kids movies.  If I did that, would the older me simultaneously have two movies experiences at the same time?

Friday, June 28, 2013

DVD Review - Neighboring Sounds

Director: Kleber Mendonca Filho
Starring: Gustavo Jahn, Irandhir Santos, Maeve Jinkings
Year: 2012

I've never seen a Brazilian film before.  I'm not even sure I've seen a South American film before.  I guess, for a person who considers himself open and experimental when it comes to movies, I haven't seen that many foreign films.  I mean, I've seen more than Joe Sixpack over here, but I definitely specialize in modern American film.  So when I heard that Neighboring Sounds may be the best movie to have ever come out of Brazil, I had no way of judging whether or not that was true.  I knew I'd just have to watch it, try my best to appreciate it, and not compare it too much to the cinema that I'm used to.  Well, it turns out that greatness speaks for itself, in whatever language.

The Movie

The story takes place in Recife, Brazil.  The characters live in a fairly nice neighborhood, an area filled with condos, gated houses, and apartments.  Their lives are not that extravagant, they are a sample of the average community that could be found all over the world.  One of the main characters is Bia, a stay-at-home mother of two.  She spends much of her day cleaning, spending time with her children, feuding with her sister, smoking pot, and attempting to silence the extremely noisy neighboring dog with whatever means necessary.  Also living in the area is Joao, a good-looking, single, realtor.  He spends his time showing condos, visiting his father and grandfather, chatting with his house maid, and dating a new girl to the area, Sofia, whom he has come to have some very strong feelings for.  Their lives are not heroic, but are interesting in their simplicity.

Things get shaken up in this quiet community when Sofia's car is broken into.  Joao suspects his own cousin, a strange young man with odd habits, but a member of the family nonetheless.  He is protected, in a way, by the money and power that Joao's family has in the area, as everyone respects and listens to his grandfather, Francisco.  And when a group of night watchmen form a fledgling security firm, Francisco is the man they must approach in order to be accepted.  The community takes them on as guards, fearful of more robberies and feeling just a little safer at night.  But all is not well, as the new members of the community bring their own problems to the group, creating a tangled network of issues, histories, and fears that complicate what seem to be simple existences.

If this film is what I should expect from Brazilian cinema, then I need to be watching more of it.  And if it's the best movie to ever come out of the country, I still need to give the rest of them a chance.  This was an surprisingly wonderful film, one of those that you just never see coming.  The director originally created this story as a short film, which you can watch on the DVD.  He wrote the script in 1994, shot it in 2004, and released the feature length version in 2012.  The short follows only Bia the housewife, and doesn't involve Joao or the neighborhood.  Some of the events are the same in both films, and the short serves as sort of a guideline for the feel of the feature. 

It's not coincidental that the short is about Bia, because she becomes the focal point of Neighboring Sounds.  She is a tremendously interesting character.  Her life seems pretty boring; vacuuming, waiting around for delivery men, doing the laundry.  But there's a desperation under the surface that's really easy to connect to.  The director uses the dog who's driving her crazy to show us this tension, as barking becomes a constant pressure in her life, a driving force for a lot of her actions.  The actress who played Bia could not have done better; she was intense and frustrated, human and likable.  The same could be said for almost every actor/character in the film.  They were just so believable, so easy to relate to, that you fell into this world and never doubted it for a second.

But we can put the story and the characters aside for a minute, because they actually weren't the important parts of the movie.  The film plays a lot with sounds, giving us real examples of everyday sounds that we sometimes tune out and that sometimes drive us crazy.  And the director uses not just sound, but other senses to bombard us with physical sensations that force us to feel a certain way.  A scene that is extremely uncomfortable, a shocking moment, a beautiful image, a boring silence; it was as if our emotions were being played with, but in a good way.  The film was all about sensationalism, relying not on the content of the message but on the way it was delivered.  By the end of the movie, I realized that I had felt more during ninety minutes than I usually do in a whole day.  I felt a waterfall hit my shoulders, I was hot on a summer day, I was in an elevator in silence, I was annoyed by a dog, I was sad for a friend.  And that's what was so great about this movie; some try to get you to feel one thing, but this one made me feel a hundred.


Video - With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the quality of the video was everything you could ask for.  The picture was crisp and the colors were great.  The neighborhood was a perfect location to show off some nice camera work, and the architecture of the city was superbly shown on film.

Audio - On the DVD you have the option of Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital or 2.0.  There are also English subtitles.  The sound quality was excellent, and the director used sound and silence in many ways to create moods and to force us into feelings.

Extras - There are quite a few extras on the disc.  You can watch the film with audio commentary by Kleber Mendonca Filho.  There is the short film that I mentioned, called Electrodomestica.  There are three deleted scenes that can be viewed separately or all together.  And there are nine trailers: Neighboring Sounds, Leviathan, Night Across the Street, The Law in These Parts, The Day He Arrives, Patience, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Turin Horse, and Aurora.

Final Thoughts

Highly recommended.  This film surprised me, and I'm so glad it did.  It was an interesting and physically stunning piece of art, one that started out being about the characters and ended up being an attempt to make us feel.  Be it love, fear, heat, shock, amused, aroused; you can't watch this movie without feeling something.  The video was superb, the audio excellent, and the extras plentiful.  A wonderful film that I could watch again right now.

✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ - Content
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ - Video
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ - Audio
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ - Extras
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ - Replay

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Movie Review - World War Z

Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Fana Mokoena
Year: 2013

We've seen zombie movies done a ton of different ways.  There are silly ones, gritty ones, disgusting ones, old school versions, new takes, and everything in between.  Even the zombies change from film to film.  You've got your slow-walkers, your run-and-jumpers, and your ghosty-creepers.  The point is, there are thousands of zombie movies and it's a big, varied genre.  And we all know a guy that takes it way too seriously.  He's seen every version ever made and he has an actual plan on what to do in case the undead take over the Earth.  People, for some reason, really buy into zombie movies and they go to the theatres to see them.  I, for one, have seen a bunch, and was excited to see a new and interesting vision of a standard plot.  I heart Brad Pitt, so he can do no wrong in my book.  And I like the projects Marc Forster has done before: Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction.  But those weren't horror movies; they weren't even action movies.  He did direct Quantum of Solace, which got mediocre reviews, but I was curious to see what he and Brad could do together and if they could breathe life into yet another zombie movie.

World War Z is based on the novel by Max Brooks.  The story of the film follows retired UN agent Gerry Lane and his family as they attempt to stay alive during a zombie apocalypse.  No one knows when the virus started, or where, but the outbreak has effected the entire world and is spreading quickly.  Once bitten, a person turns into a zombie as well, and goes hunting for other humans to infect.  When the disease strikes Philadelphia, Lane helps his family to escape the city, reuniting with his old boss on an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean.  All he wants is to stay with and protect his wife and daughters, but the U.S. military has other ideas.  They want Lane to go back in, to fly across the world in search of the origin to the virus with the hope that knowledge will be the key to destroying the zombies and keeping the entire world from being infected.  Lane begins a mission that is almost hopeless, battling the undead along the way, and fighting against all odds to get back to his family again.

It's a story we've seen before and well done: Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later.  But that doesn't mean it can't be done well again.  And it was, pretty much across the board.  Brad Pitt is the quintessential American hero; I don't know what it is about him but we'll believe him in almost any role.  He played Lane well, the tough guy who can do what it takes but who has a soft compassionate spot.  Forster's direction was good as well; no glaring problems, the movie flowed well, and there was enough humanity to counter-act the level of violence and destruction.  The special effects were nice but not over the top.  The scenes inside the infected cities were really realistic and terrifying, without being silly or unbelievable.  I was invested in the story from the beginning, and I enjoyed watching a well-made zombie movie.  Pitt and Forster were a good combination, and they brought some respectability to a genre that can loose control of itself at times.

However (and maybe you saw this coming), the movie wasn't great.  It just wasn't spectacular.  It's hard to point to any one piece and say that it failed, because I don't think there were any giant mistakes or weaknesses.  Maybe the side actors were just OK, but they didn't really detract from the film; Brad Pitt was the only character that really mattered.  The problem seemed to be that the movie lacked punch.  It wasn't gory, which surprised me more than anything.  It wasn't even that violent; death was handed out casually without much detail.  The zombies themselves weren't even that terrifying, except maybe for one close up scene.  The whole film just seemed a little watered down.  Maybe that was intentional, as a PG-13 rating can reach a lot more viewers.  It makes sense that they don't want to gross too many people out and lose an audience, but by not being gruesome they lost out on some realism, as well as some points among zombie aficionados.  If the filmmakers were shooting for some sort of middle ground between Hollywood and b-movie, I guess they succeeded; it wasn't a complete sell out and it also wasn't just a gore-fest.  But I could have done with a little more brutality, both from the zombies and from the breakdown of cultural order.  It was a good movie, I had a good time, but as an adult who enjoys zombie movies, they could have gone farther.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DVD Review - The Lesser Blessed

Director: Anita Doron
Starring: Joel Evans, Chloe Rose, Benjamin Bratt
Year: 2012

You never know what you're going to get from a first time film actor.  They could have "it" or they could be dead wood.  And it's especially unpredictable when they have no previous experience whatsoever.  Joel Evans had never acted before, never had a lesson, and yet was approached by Anita Doron and asked to audition for the lead role in The Lesser Blessed.  Evans is from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada, the same home town as author Richard Van Camp who wrote the novel of the same title from which the film is adapted.  Incidentally, the novel is Van Camp's only full-length book.  So we have a writer who has only written the one book, an actor who has never acted, and a director who is roaming the streets looking for someone who might want to try being in a movie.  I wish I had known all this before I watched it, because it would have at least alerted me to the possibility that this whole film might be a complete failure and that I might want to avoid it.

The Movie

The film is based on the life, past, and angst of teenager Larry Sole.  Larry is a member of the Dogrib First Nation people, a native tribe from northwest Canada.  He and his mother live in Fort Simmer, where Larry attends the local high school and his mother obsesses over a man named Jed.  He is, in many ways, a substitute father, as Larry's real dad is history.  A tragic event, which Larry calls his "accident", is responsible in some murky fashion for his current position; new town, no dad.  But Jed has issues of his own, and will bolt into the bush whenever he is faced with confrontation, which is not what Larry needs right now.  He is a self-loathing mess, spending much of his time listening to heavy metal, practicing the drums, avoiding eye contact, and hiding his scars.  It's not apparent at first why, but Larry has serious burn marks, and his "accident", his father, his past, and his current troubles are all wrapped up in a knot that is likely never to come loose.

Enter trouble in three different forms, all more confident and volatile than Larry.  First, Juliet Hope, the angel of his daydreams.  Juliet represents all that is beautiful and perfect; her blond hair, her pale skin, her kind manner.  But she hides a disastrous desire to be loved that is not easy to fulfill.  Next, Darcy McManus, the joker/punk/bully/jerk who knows the secrets of Larry's past.  Darcy picks on him relentlessly, frightening him with fire, and treating him as if he were less than dirt.  And finally, Johnny Beck, the new kid and the only person who seems to like Larry.  Johnny sticks up for him, teaches him to fight, makes him feel cooler than he's ever felt before.  But this new-found confidence will lead to more trouble than it might be worth.  When the gorgeous Juliet falls for the suave Johnny, Larry becomes the third wheel.  And when the group begins to enter into the cool world of sex, drugs, and pseudo-adulthood, Larry finds himself in over his head, forced to confront all the issues that have held him back and stopped him from loving anyone, especially himself.

You can probably gather from the summary that the plot of The Lesser Blessed is a little bit contrived.  It just feels like we've seen it all before; the loner, the hot girl, the new kid, the big bully, the daddy issues, the weak mother, the high school teachers, the school dance.  It's not like the film is 10 Things I Hate About You, but you get the point.  It's a dramatic take on a tired storyline and the result is that it doesn't feel very honest.  I wonder how the book reads, and if it feels more like the autobiography of Van Camp's life, as opposed to the movie, which feels like a cheap knock-off.  If Larry is supposed to be Van Camp then that explains a little; perhaps these cliche things really did happen to him.  After all, cliche things are cliche because they happen.  But regardless, it just didn't translate into a feature film, because this isn't a big Hollywood production, which seems to be the only way we can forgive recycled plots.  Maybe that's our problem and it's a double standard, but that doesn't change the fact that we expect something unique from a film festival movie.

With all the amateurs involved in this film, the director was even more important than usual.  There was no falling back on the talent of the veteran actor or the well-known novel or the original plot, because those things didn't exist in this movie.  There was a lot riding on Doron's shoulders as the only experienced player in the game.  Unfortunately, it seems like all the pressure got to her.  The movie was over-directed, quite simply, although I'm not sure if the alternative would have been any better.  The film was too reliant on an artificial mood created by the director and not enough on the emotions of the actors.  Again, I understand why, but that doesn't make it a good thing.  The result was that every scene seemed so incredibly heavy and overbearing.  The music, the voice overs, the cold locale; everything was produced to be dramatic, and it was just too obvious.  Because you could see all the work that went into trying to make the movie believable, it was of course not believable.

There was one piece of the film that could have fixed the plot and direction problems, could have made them fade into the background, and that piece was Joel Evans.  As the center of all the action and emotion, a great performance from him would have swept away all my doubt in the production of the film and allowed me to really buy into the story.  Well, that didn't happened.  Evans isn't an actor.  He just isn't, and although he looks the part, he was never up to the challenge of supporting such a complicated role and pivotal character.  He came off as more of a set piece than an actor, with a wooden performance that lacked any sort of believable emotion.  I was never rooting for Larry, never hoping his dreams would come true, and that's a major problem.  He was even supported by a pretty nice cast; Benjamin Bratt giving perhaps the best true performance I have ever seen from him, and Adam Butcher playing Darcy the bully perfectly.  But it just wasn't enough; you can't really overcome a bad script, heavy-handed directing, and a lead actor who just seems to be phoning it in.


Video - With an aspect ration of 16:9 widescreen, the picture quality was just fine.  The video was produced and edited well, it just didn't have a chance to shine.  Much of the movie is drab and cold, not really providing much opportunity for a high quality picture to show off.

Audio - The sound is done in 5.1 surround, so that's fine.  But there are no audio options on the DVD; no language selections or sound selections.  There is, however, a Descriptive Video Track, which can be turned on to run with the film.  It provides a mix of the dialogue with some scene narration during natural pauses, intended to enhance the experience of the visually impaired.

Extras - There are a few good extras.  Interviews with the cast and crew, including Benjamin Bratt, Joel Evans, Kiowa Gordon, Chloe Rose, Tamara Podemski, Adam Butcher, Anita Doron, and Richard Van Camp.  And five trailers; Take Me Home, Looking For Palladin, The Sensation of Sight, Pearl Diver, and The Lesser Blessed.

Final Thoughts

Skip it. There just aren't enough positives to recommend this film.  It wasn't horrible, but it just had too many problems.  The directing needed to be lighter and the lead actor needed to be better, simple as that.  The video, audio, and extras were all fine, but unimpressive.  And that's a good word to describe the whole film, as it didn't leave me with much to remember.  Fondly, at least.

✰ ✰ - Content
✰ ✰ - Video
✰ ✰ - Audio
✰ ✰ - Extras
- Replay

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Movie Review - Attack of the 50ft Cheerleader

Director: Kevin O'Neill
Starring: Jena Sims, Ryan Merriman, Olivia Alexander
Year: 2012

When I first saw Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), it was on one of those late night movie marathon programs, like USA Up All Night.  It must have been the early 90s, so I would have been around 10.  For some reason I remember it as being risque, maybe because it was on so late and it was about a giant woman running around in a bikini.  Looking back at it, I highly doubt it was.  I never did see the remake, Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1993) starring Daryl Hannah, which ironically would have been in theatres around the time I saw the original, but I always wanted to.  So when I saw Attack of the 50ft Cheerleader on Netflix, I figured I had to give it a shot.  Going into it, I knew it would have nothing to do with the other two, other than by having a giant female in it, but I didn't care.  I knew I was gonna watch a throw-away movie, and did I ever.

The plot is as bad as you might imagine it will be by the title.  Cassie, a nerdy scientist, and her partner Kyle are hard at work in a college laboratory creating a rejuvenating product for women who want to look younger and more beautiful.  When Cassie fails to make the cheerleading team (a necessity if she wants her legacy mother's approval and monetary support), she decides to become a human guinea pig for the new product, hoping that it will make her something more than the homely bore she's always been.  Well, she gets her wish, but she never expected the side effects.  Cassie grows into a gorgeous and athletic woman, who happens to gradually reach 50 feet tall.  She and Kyle must race to find the antidote before the college, the military, and the rest of the cheerleading squad find out that the new "big thing" on campus is literally gigantic.

Oh my.  Part of me is glad that I saw this terrible film, and part of me is just sad.  I mean, I didn't expect greatness, but someone could have put in some effort to make it more than complete crap.  The plot is, of course, ridiculous and sometimes funny, though usually just dumb.  I found it hard to actually watch with both of my eyes for fear that my brain might lose something important.  The acting was awful.  Jena Sims as Cassie was especially bad, and she wasn't even that hot, which as far as I know was the only requirement for the role.  Her nemesis, Brittany, was actually pretty hilarious, as was Treat Williams in a nice little cameo, so it wasn't a complete disaster.  I mean, it was a disaster, but I laughed a couple times, and the cast was made up of the typical co-eds-in-underwear that you might expect from a Van Wilder type comedy.  So it was at least partially entertaining if you like bad movies, but it would be a waste of most peoples' time, and it was most likely a waste of a few of my brain cells.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review - The Incredible Journey

Author: Sheila Burnford
Year: 1960

When I was ten I loved the movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.  It was about my favorite thing, dogs, with a cat thrown in.  I knew it was based on a book and that it was a pretty loose interpretation, but that didn't bother me at the time because I had never read the novel.  The movie was based on the idea of companionship; the love the animals had for their human owners and also the love they had for each other, a bond of friendship that kept them together through a very difficult trek across a vast wilderness.  It spoke me, as a kid who loved animals, and I had no doubt that the book would have the same effect when I finally got around to reading it.  Well, here I am, almost thirty, and now I have read the book to my children and we all enjoyed it together.  After having watched the movie, the novel was all I imagined it would be and then some.

The story takes place in the sparsely populated forests of Canada.  The three animals are boarding with a writer, John Longridge, while their family is abroad in England.  They are Tao, the independent Siamese cat, Bodger the elderly English bull dog, and Luath the young Labrador retriever.  When Longridge goes on a hunting trip, Luath decides that he can wait no longer, that he must get back to his master by the most direct route possible; due west.  He takes his companions with him and acts as their leader, keeping Bodger going when it seems like the old dog can't walk another step.  The trio fight against bears, battle constant hunger, cross raging rivers, and find friendship along the way in the most unlikely places.  Their mission is to get home, no matter how long it takes or what the cost.

It was an incredibly beautiful book, in many ways.  First, the story was touching and very realistic.  The animals weren't humanized, they were written in a way that any pet owner can recognize as being truly accurate.  The love they showed for each other and for the humans in their lives reminded me of the love I had for my animals throughout the years.  I was pulling for them the entire way, hoping that they would make it against all odds.  And the writing was excellent as well.  At times it was almost poetry, describing the animals in nature, the way the land lay, the lonely people in a lonely place.  I was sucked into a world I have never seen, the rough landscape of the northern woods, and the danger that waits there for anyone who doesn't know its secrets.  All in all, a very enjoyable book that deserves to be read early and often.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Movie Trailer - Runner, Runner

Director: Brad Furman
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Anthony Mackie
Release: September 27th, 2013

I'm not a Justin Timberlake hater; I've seen him do some good work in some good movies.  Man, I even went to an *NSYNC concert and learned the dance moves.  But I'm not sure he can support this kind of role; it just looks a little over his head.  Add in Ben Affleck and you've got two very beautiful people who might not be the best at the acting.

Movie Review - This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Director: Kirby Dick
Starring: Kirby Dick, John Waters, Becky Altringer
Year: 2006

As much as I like movies, it makes sense that I enjoy watching movies about movies.  This Film Is Not Yet Rated is a documentary about movies, or more specifically, about the way in which movies are rated.  Started in 1922, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was created to represent and protect the interests of the major movie studios (Disney, Sony, Paramount, Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros.).  It lobbies to protect copyrights, dissuades piracy, and is probably best known for its labeling system.  We've all seen the ratings before previews or on DVDs: G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17.  All films that wish to be distributed and advertised by a major film company must submit their movies to the MPAA, where they will be viewed and rated in secrecy.  This documentary went through the same process, with the hope of exposing the monopoly of power that one organization holds over filmmakers and audiences alike.

Kirby Dick set out to make a documentary about the highly secretive process in which films are rated by the MPAA.  While interviewing the filmmakers of some movies with high adult content (American Psycho, Boys Don't Cry, Eyes Wide Shut), he discovered some interesting trends.  Movies with sexual themes are more strongly critiqued than ones with violent scenes.  Also, comedic sexuality is given a lesser rating that passionate sexuality.  Female pleasure is highly censored, even when done in a non-graphic way.  And we are made to guess and discover what the "rules" of the MPAA are because that information is secret.  Ratings are given without explanations, members' identities are classified, and the entire organization is autonomous.  When private investigators attempt to uncover the identities of the raters and the manner in which films are judged, they discover that the MPAA is less a panel of "average American parents" and more a group of critics controlled by the film corporations and outside interest groups.  And when This Film Is Not Yet Rated goes under review for its own rating, the NC-17 stamp that it is labelled with is handed down with no answers given, no questions allowed.

This was an interesting documentary that gave me a little more insight into the process of film-making.  It was surprising to think about, when a movie is created and done, it still has to be approved and perhaps edited even further if a board of a dozen members doesn't like some of its content.  Now, they can't stop the movie from coming out, but no studio they represent will carry the movie without it having been rated by the MPAA, and an NC-17 rating for whatever reason will pretty much kill any chance at a profit.  So the subject matter was intriguing, but the movies did get a little boring after a while.  It turned into more of a gripe film than a documentary, as director after director told their story about how they didn't understand their rating and how they were mad about it.  I got the point pretty early and the rest was just beating a dead horse.  But I did enjoy the attempt to infiltrate the "secret society" of the MPAA, and I do feel like I am more knowledgeable about the film industry now, so I have to say I liked the film for what it was, I just couldn't really love it.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, June 21, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Director: Harald Zwart
Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Lena Headley
Release: August 21st, 2013

What's with these crappy tween movies?  Are they ever going to stop, or did someone tap into an inexhaustible market that doesn't mind watching bad cinema?  I've seen that blond guy before; he was King Arthur in the TV miniseries Camelot, and he was awful.

DVD Review - Mold!

Director: Neil Meschino
Starring: Lawrence George, Ardis Campbell, Edward X. Young
Year: 2012

I think the above picture says it all.  This film is about mold, and yes, sometimes it and bodily fluids will come shooting out of pipes and orifices.  The great thing about a movie like this is that it makes no excuses and doesn't try to impress anyone.  It is what it is, and that's a horribly disgusting and often ridiculous b-movie romp.  One thing you've got to love about b-movies is that nothing is off limits, no extreme too extreme, and that's of course what makes some of them great.  Now, not all of them are great and some are downright unwatchable.  You've got to be able to laugh at the film while cringing at the grotesque, or at least pick up on something entertaining that makes watching bad acting worthwhile.  Some movies can do that: Re-Animator, Bath Salt Zombies.  And some can't: Surf Nazis Must Die, Oasis of the Zombies.  But regardless, you're in for an interesting evening when you turn on a movie of this type.  So just sit back and soak in the mold.

The Movie

The story takes place in the 80s, when the American "war on drugs" was in full swing.  Add that to heightened tensions with various banana republics and you've got the recipe for a high level of military involvement.  At a scientific research center, the workers there are about to find out how involvement can quickly become a takeover.  Doctors Bolton, Hardy, and Young have been hard at work developing a new strain of mold, under the direction of Dr. Kane.  Their work has created something potentially deadly; a fast-acting species that can quickly take over and destroy any crop into which it is introduced, be it coca plants or the agriculture of an entire country.  This is good news for both the Congressman and the Colonel, who have both been asked to the facility to check on the progress of the mold.  Time for champagne and crackers, as both scientists and officials celebrate the impending victory of American interests.

Well, things are about to take a turn for the worse.  In a manner that no one can fathom, the mold has escaped containment.  It is out, it is dangerous, and it could be anywhere.  The first reaction of the scientific staff is lock down, as procedure demands that no trace of the strain leave the laboratory.  So for the time being, the outside world is safe, but the same can not be said for those remaining inside.  The mold can attach itself to any moisture, and its growth is rapid.  The group must stay in one room in order to remain clean, but as infection becomes more and more likely the situation becomes desperate.  The Congressman becomes sick, one of the military staff reverts back to his basic instincts, and the scientists try their best just to survive.  As the Colonel steps up into a leadership role, there remains a shred of hope, as an antidote might be effective and available.  But in order to get to it, the group must separate, face their fears, survive each other, and defeat the mold!

First, let's focus on the b-movie aspect.  There is a very small window between bad and awesomely bad, and Mold! barely slipped in.  It was pretty awful, as you could probably guess.  I mean, moldy slime was continually spewing out of people, infecting people, causing people to explode.  Basically, any gross thing that you could put in a movie was put in, but in a moldy fashion.  And the scientists would often "scan" their surroundings, revealing mold spores floating through the air, but somehow not entering their mouths.  Really, there wasn't much that could be called believable.  And the shaky details weren't the only things that were hard to buy into.  The acting was, for the most part, pitiful, the plot was full of holes, and the effects were what you would expect from a movie that probably cost about a thousand bucks to make.  And there wasn't any nudity or much action to give us even a small thrill; just a lot of mold.

The movie's saving grace was its humor.  Not for an instant did it try to be a poignant story, a thought-provoking film, or even remotely well made.  There was never a feeling that anyone involved in this project was trying to impress me.  It just seemed like someone had a fun idea, ran with it, and somehow created a really odd film about mold who's sole purpose was to entertain.  And they did that, in many ways.  Through gruesome images and swollen corpses, sure, but through humor as well.  It was very often funny and almost always tongue in cheek, with a goofy quality that was enjoyable to watch and easy to poke fun at.  Homely scientists, cold-hearted suits, rapidly progressing mold spores; every piece seemed designed to be a little silly.  It's always nice when filmmakers don't take themselves too seriously, and these certainly didn't.

There was one actor who embodied the entertainment-minded mentality, allowing such an awful movie to become awfully funny, and that was Edward X. Young as the Colonel.  He definitely stole the show, somehow coming off as the lead actor when he didn't start that way at all.  His humor and his character set the tone for what otherwise would have been a throw-away plot, badly acted.  He and his damned cigar, blowing smoke in the faces of the other actors, audiences, and the mold that can't quite kill him.  I'm not sure what the movie would have become without Mr. E.X.Y., but I doubt that it would have slipped into that narrow space between crap and something watchable.  And that's what Mold! ended up being; an entertaining film that was a step up from bad and was just horrible enough to be worth seeing.


Video - With an aspect ration of 16:9 widescreen, the film was shot using a Sony EX1, which is a high definition camcorder often used by independent filmmakers.  You're not going to get much out of the video quality of this one, so don't get your hopes up.

Audio - There are zero sound options on the DVD.  No language selections, no subtitles for the hearing impaired, no audio options of any kind.  You won't get high quality sound here.

Extras - There are a few extras on the disc.  You can play the movie with the director's commentary or check out some behind the scenes footage.  There are also seven trailers: Mold!, Disco Exorcist, Dropping Dead, Exhumed, Tight, The Story of Rock N Roll Comics, and Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated.

Final Thoughts

Rent ItMold! was just good enough to be an entertaining b-movie, but just barely.  Its humor saved it and masked its flaws, but without that and Edward X. Young it would have been pretty bad.  The video was poor, the audio was worse, and the extras were just OK.  If you love this type of movie than you could do much worse, but just don't expect magic. 

✰ ✰ ✰ - Content
✰ ✰ - Video
- Audio
✰ ✰ - Extras
✰ ✰ - Replay

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Movie Trailer - Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Director: Thor Freudenthal
Starring: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Stanley Tucci
Release: August 7th, 2013

Do the books steal from Harry Potter as much as this movie seems to?  I have never read them, not did I see the first movie, nor will I see this one.  I mean, I like & know Greek mythology more than the average person and I like to see it on screen.  But not like this.  It just looks too silly to be good, and that usually means it is.

Movie Review - Man of Steel

Director: Zach Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon
Year: 2013

We've all seen our fair share of awful comic book movies.  But it seems like we can't agree on which ones those were.  I think, by now, everyone understands the genre and goes into the theatre knowing what to expect; action, heroics, one-liners, nonsensical dialogue.  And we flock to see them, no matter how often they're put out.  But it's as if we're watching different films.  Some people come out having seen everything they expected from a comic book story and loving it; the explosions, the classic references, the hot hero.  And some people come out having got what they payed for but hating every minute of it; the cheesy love story, the random punching, the over-acting villain.  I can understand having differing opinions, but no other genre creates such dissidence.  If we accept these movies for what they are and judge them only against themselves, how can we be in such disagreement over which one captured the comic book essence perfectly and which one stunk the place up?  I doubt I'll ever figure out why I hated Hellboy but thought that Man of Steel was one of the best action hero flicks I've ever seen.

The story of Superman is nothing new.  The character was first created in 1933, and has seen many changes and takes, both bad and good.  Some of the most notable are the television series of the 50s called the Adventures of Superman, the movie franchise of the 70s and 80s starring Christopher Reeve, the shows Lois & Clark and Smallville, and the 2006 movie Superman ReturnsMan of Steel is the latest spin on this classic story.  In this film, we learn about Superman's origins and his emergence as a hero.  It all begins on the planet Krypton, where population management and a lack of resources has led to the endangerment of all life.  A coup occurs, led my General Zod, the leader of Krypton's military.  Standing in his way is science leader Jor-El, who manages to jettison his own son Kal into the safety of space before the planet of Krypton meets its grim fate.  Kal travels to Earth as an infant, where he is found and raised by a Kansas farming family.  Now called Clark Kent, this special child begins to understand that he is different, and that the world may some day need his power.  When Earth is threatened by the tyrannical Zod, a now grown-up Clark must come to terms with his responsibility, attempt to understand his past, and protect his new people as only Superman can.

I just don't see how Man of Steel isn't everything you could want a comic book movie to be.  Obviously you can't judge it against Pulp Fiction or The Godfather, but when you compare it to the other movies in its genre it delivers all the aspects that audiences expect while rising above the normal graphic novel slop.  I've seen some bad comic book movies: Hellboy, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Fantastic Four, Watchmen.  And what they all have in common is that they lack appeal.  They might stick to the prescripts of the genre; action, villains, cool effects.  But they don't offer anything to grab onto, any reason to stay in your seat, any passion to suck you in.  Man of Steel delivers all of that, while remaining perfectly true to others of its style.  It's still a comic book movie, with some cheesy zingers, extreme action, unbelievable premises, so you had better know what to expect going in.  But if you know that and you want to see that, then for my money it blows Iron Man out of the water.

And the reason it does that, the reason it can be both a silly comic book movie and an awesome film is that the individual pieces are so well made they give the entire movie a sense of reality.  That's what keeps audiences attention, after all.  It's not the missiles, it's not the flying, it's not the six-packs.  Those things are necessary, but it's passion, believability, and attention to detail that really capture us.  Now, you can't give the movie credit for the story, that was already there.  And you shouldn't judge it too harshly for its flaws (over-punching, over-acting, over-exploding), because otherwise it wouldn't be true to its genre.  What you should judge are the characters, and those were well done.  Cavill as Clark Kent was good, not amazing.  He did a great job inhabiting the confusion Superman must feel, and he even did a little throwback Christopher Reeve voice.  Adams as Lois Lane was spot on.  She was spunky and beautiful, without being stupid or annoying.  But the top prize and the main reason I so enjoyed this movie was Shannon as General Zod.  He was the perfect villain; deep anger, a touch of sadness, and he never came across as cheap.  You could say that about the whole film; it was never cheap.  It took a classic story, gave audiences what they wanted from the genre, but honed the details until the whole movie shone.  Don't go see it expecting Casablanca, but if you understand what you're getting into you can leave the theatre having seen a comic book movie on par with Batman Begins, if not better.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Movie Trailer - Sweet Vengeance

Director: Logan Miller
Starring: Ed Harris, Jason Isaacs, January Jones
Release: 2013

I was excited when I heard about this movie because I enjoyed Ed Harris in Appaloosa, another gritty western.  But after watching the trailer I'm not as excited.  Logan Miller is an amateur director, which is always chancy, and, I don't know, it just doesn't that look that great.

Movie Trailer - The Wolf of Wall Street

Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill
Release: November 15th, 2013

Now, I heart Leo.  And I like Scorsese.  I thought The Departed was a five-star film.  But I'm just not that into Wall Street movies.  I don't know what it is, I just don't care.  I know it's relevant and that the stories are often based on true events, but I just have a hard time getting excited about them.  Maybe I need to see this with someone who is really into it, because it'll probably turn out to be a strong movie, regardless of the subject matter.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thought - Grass

Why are we so obsessed with our grass?  What is so important about A) having a lawn of grass around our house and 2) keeping it well manicured?  Why did I just spend two hours mowing and trimming my yard?  And why does it feel so good when I look outside and see it?

It just doesn't make any sense.  Green is just a color.  Grass is just a plant.  But we like to see stretches of close-cropped lawn laid out before us.  There must be some hard-wiring inside humans, at least modern Americans, that makes us desire this aesthetic.  There are a couple reasons I can think of, perhaps none of which are true.

  1. We want to feel one with nature.  In our increasingly urban lives, we see less and less nature.  Perhaps that's why we enjoy going to parks, watching on nature trails, going camping, and even looking at our yards.  Maybe the grass makes us feel that much closer to nature, which we miss when we're inside out houses and office buildings.
  2. It's a status symbol.  Rich people can afford big yards.  They have trees, nice lawns, even ponds, lakes, ocean views.  And perhaps we desire that, we want to be like the wealthy people with the money to make even the outside of their houses look spotless.
  3. No one likes to be judged.  I know I mow sometimes because I know it's getting high and I'm afraid someone will comment on my yard.  It's embarrassing when your grass is really high and people come over.  I don't know why, but it is, and perhaps we're all competing with each other to see who can mold the nicest backyard.
So, whatever the reason, when I stop to think about it I feel a little silly putting that much time and effort into keeping my grass looking nice.  I mean, so what if it was a yard of dirt, or blacktop, or sand?  If everyone started paving their backyards, would that start to feel normal?  Or would we desire trees and water and greenery and nature even more than we already do?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Movie Trailer - 300: Rise of an Empire

Director: Noam Murro
Starring: Lena Headley, Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro
Release: March 7th, 2014

We've got a ways to wait for this one, not sure why the trailer is already out.  And I know a lot of people will skip it anyway.  But, you know, I liked 300.  It was historic, it was bloody, and it was something that I really hadn't ever seen.  So I'm willing to give the sequel a chance, even though I guess it can't possibly be as good, and it could potentially be much worse.

Book Review - Lonesome Dove

Author: Larry McMurtry
Year: 1985

When I was young my dad & I loved the Lonesome Down miniseries.  It ran in four parts, and was a total of over three hours long.  Of course, now you can get the movie on DVD and watch it all at once, and in that way it's fairly similar to other historic epics.  But the difference between Lonesome Dove and movies like Braveheart or Gettysburg is that it's not based on true events.  It was adapted from a fiction novel written four years earlier by Larry McMurtry under the same name.  So twenty-some-odd years later, I finally got my hands on the book that inspired the film that I love so much.  It's always tricky reading the book after having seen the film, especially when that film is one of your all-time favorites.  I was worried that the book just couldn't live up to the story and the characters that I love so much.  But apparently the miniseries was even more excellent that I knew, as they stuck to the novel almost exactly and brought to live what was already written so well.

Lonesome Dove is a tale of the wild west.  Living in Texas on the Rio Grande in the 1870s, two former Rangers are living out the rest of their days as cattlemen.  Their names are Augustus McCrea and Woodrow Call, and in their younger days they were fearsome Indian fighters, protectors of the settlers, and basically the law of the land.  Now they have nothing to do other than to raid into Mexico and steal cattle.  But when their old companero Jake Spoon arrives in the small town of Lonesome Dove, he excites their old spirit of adventure with stories of Montana; a land so beautiful, wild, and free for the taking.  The crew decide to start a cattle drive, with hopes of becoming the very first ranchers ever to settle in Montana, a feat that will make them all rich men.  Along for the ride come Deets (the trusty scout), Pea Eye (the stolid worker), Newt (the unclaimed boy), Dish (the top hand), Lorena (the former whore), and a whole group of other cowboys.  The entirety of the mid-west lays before them, but so does danger, as they must survive in order to enjoy the wonderful northern country that has become something more than simply a goal.

Well, I loved the movie, so perhaps I'm biased, but this novel was one of the greatest I've ever read.  It was just so simple; a cattle drive, a few lowly cowboys, the open prairie, some bandits.  But that's what made it great.  So often today's stories are so forced, so contrived.  This one wasn't.  It  was honest, harsh, dry, but somehow beautiful.  Perhaps it was the description of the country the characters crossed, an American that was wild and murderous and fresh.  Or perhaps it was the characters themselves, written so well that you could almost predict what they were going to say next.  By the end I felt like I had traveled every mile with the boys, had crossed every river with them, had borne every heartbreak.  I just couldn't get enough of this sad and lonely tale.  It might not be for everyone, because I know some people don't like Westerns, but if you're willing to give it a chance Lonesome Dove has the power to sweep you away and show you a fascinating time that has never been depicted better.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Movie Trailer - Prisoners

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano
Release: September 20th, 2013

Whoa.  Talk about heavy.  It looks terrifying and too realistic.  But if the actors can hold up their end this could be a really great film.  As long as it doesn't just turn into two hours of depression I'd be willing to take a chance on it.

Thought - Father's Day

If you read my Mother's Day post, you know how I feel about Father's Day too, so I won't repeat myself.  Let me just say Happy Father's Day to all those fathers who love and are present for their children.  I was lucky enough to have a great dad, one who played with me, included me, and never made me feel small; I'm very thankful for that.  I also have the best father-in-law a guy could ask for, as well as friends who show every day how much they care about their kids.  So, have a great day all you wonderful fathers out there.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Movie Trailer - Planes

Director: Klay Hall
Starring: Dane Cook, Val Kilmer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Release: August 9th, 2013

I just think this looks horrible.  I didn't ever see Cars, but I don't think this is even remotely related to that.  It's not even Pixar, just Disney.  I think I'd rather see Turbo, which might not even be that good, over Planes any day.  There are a lot of star voices, but I don't think that's going to help.

Movie Review - Rango

Director: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin
Year: 2011

Rango was the winner of You Vote, I Review this week.  That poll doesn't appear on the mobile version of my blog, so in order to participate you've got to go to my actual blog site.  Every week I put up five movies that I'm interested in and you vote on which one you want to see reviewed.  Sometime during the next few days I'll review it and put up more choices.  So check back often and vote!  Anyway, Rango.  I'm not big on animated movies, unless they're Disney classics, but I wanted to give this one a chance.  I liked the paring of Verbinski & Depp, who worked on Pirates of the Caribbean together, and I thought it looked like it would have a fresh take on the old western theme.  I was prepared for some physical comedy and cool visuals, and that's exactly what I got.

The story starts with a pet chameleon inside a terrarium.  When his world is shattered, literally, he finds himself alone and quite hot in the middle of the Mojave desert.  Heeding the advice of a wise old armadillo, he heads deep into no man's land searching for a town.  When he finds it and meets the residents of Dirt, he realizes that this is his opportunity to be anyone he wants to be; to create a history, a story, and a name that will be totally his own, if completely fictional.  Things begin swimmingly for the chameleon, who now calls himself Rango, until the problems of the town come to a head.  The water is running out, people are leaving, and the kindly mayor seems to hold all the cards.  Rango must unravel the mystery of the disappearing water in order to save the town, his new job, and the townsfolk, who are beginning to count on him in ways he hadn't considered.

First off, Rango was visually amazing.  I can't imagine the work that went into every scene, every shadow, every tiny detail.  It was incredible just to see the talent and time that must have been poured into this movie.  If you have a nice TV do yourself a favor and watch Rango on it, just to put it to the test.  And the visuals aside, the movie itself was quite good.  It was really funny in a non-kid sort of way.  Not to say that it was adult, there were a ton of silly jokes and slap stick humor, but I can't see a lot of little kids enjoying it as much as a Disney princess movie.  I liked the classic western theme, and there were some cool cameos and homages to other films.  By the end, I was getting a little bored and ready for the story to come to an end, as the humor was left behind for some attempt at drama and depth.  I guess I could have done without that, since that's not what I was watching the movie for, but it didn't take away from the entertainment value of the film too much.  I recommend watching Rango for an enjoyable evening and for something you don't see every day.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Friday, June 14, 2013

Movie Trailer - Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Director: David Lowery
Starring: Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Rooney Mara
Release: August 16th, 2013

I really like both Affleck and Foster; I think they're underrated.  And I think this has the potential to be an Oscar nominee.  I'm just worried that it will be too self-indulgent and turn into something like The Tree of Life with guns.  Hopefully not, because I think this one has promise.

Movie Review - Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Frances McDormand, Josh Duhamel
Year: 2011

I really need to stop watching action movies.  I'm always tricked into thinking that they just might be good if they throw in a sci-fi or fantasy element.  But no, they're still crap.  And the sad part is, I don't think they have to be.  Transformers are awesome.  Blowing things up is awesome.  Toss in a little comedy and you've got a passable movie.  It worked for the first film of the series, just do that again for the second and the third.  But apparently that's easier said than done, or maybe the recipe just got too old.  Whatever the reason, Dark of the Moon crashed and burned.

Good ol' Sam Witwicky is up to his usual tricks again; palling around with the Autobots, kissing the hot girl, trying to save the world.  But this time, it might not be as easy as ...the other ...two times.  The Autobots are still living on Earth, their sanctuary after their home planet was virtually destroyed.  Their enemies, the Decepticons, are in hiding, waiting for their moment to strike.  Well, that moment has come, as the original Prime, Sentinel, has been uncovered and with him a powerful weapon that has the ability to create doors through time and space.  If the Decepticons gain control of this invention, they will conquer the world, and the Autobots cannot let his happen.  With the help of Sam, his girlfriend Carly, and some old pals, Earth stands a fighting chance in what should be the final war in this epic saga.

I consider myself a smart person, but I was basically lost after about thirty minutes.  The plot is so thin that you can punch a hundred holes in it; it almost feels like they're making it up on the spot.  Even the beginning, where we learn that the moon landing was actually a government ploy, was a complete butchery of what could have been an interesting set up.  But no, instead of making a cool movie about robots that I am hard-wired to love, someone decided to throw in every cliche, every cameo, and every sophomoric joke that they could think of.  Thanks.  And wow was the acting bad.  Shia is funny sometimes, he's got natural likability, but his girlfriend was played by a model, Josh Duhamel can't act to save his life, and the rest of the cast is merely delivering lines that they've got to know are awful.  If you've only seen the first film, you should probably stop there.  The second is incredibly worse, and the third is hard to even watch to the end.  Spare yourself.  Stay away.

My rating:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Movie Trailer - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage
Release: December 13th, 2013

Am I the only one who thinks this looks bad?  I mean, since when did the dwarves have a sword fight while riding around in their barrels?  I was glad that the Lord of the Rings trilogy stayed as true as possible to the books, and I enjoyed them greatly.  I have yet to see The Hobbit, but honestly I wasn't very excited about it.  And now this one, which looks to be a complete Hollywood ripoff, not a heartfelt retelling of what may be the best book ever written.

Thought - Prayer

First off, I love the state of Colorado.  I have friends & family there, I've visited & found it to be extremely beautiful, and I even root for their sports teams.  And I actually really like this logo.  It catches the eye, it incorporates Broncos colors, and states its message clearly.  Whoever started the Pray For Colorado campaign knew what they were doing.  What I have an issue with is the idea of prayer, and this happens to be a clear example.

Let's assume this message comes from a Christian viewpoint.  That's the major religion in the US, broken down into many different sects and denominations.  So Christians in Colorado are asking other Christians to pray for them.  Sounds fine, but why?  What's the point?  What can prayer possibly do?  We'll put aside the idea that God may not exist at all, cause these people obviously think he does, and we'll just focus on the question of prayer.

Many times in the Bible it is stated that God knows all.  He knows every single person that will ever live on Earth before they are born, he knows what all his works will be, and he's basically omniscient.  So it's not like praying to God is going to alert him to the fact that there's a wildfire in Colorado.  God doesn't need Twitter to get news; he has always known.  And he's not going to save animals, trees, and neighborhoods because people pray and ask him to; he's got that all planned out, for all we know that wildfire has a purpose in the greater scheme of things.  You're not going to sway God one way or the other by just asking for something.  So then, what's the purpose of prayer, if God already has things decided?

And there's the problem; putting your religion into something physical messes up what you're actually trying to say.  What people really want is for others to think about them, to empathize with them, and maybe to help them out a little.  So why not just say that?  Why not just say, "Hey, Colorado is going through some tough times, what with the shootings we had and all these wildfires.  We could use a little support, cause we feel a little alone out here."  That would be so much more honest, and it wouldn't bring up the question of whether God might actually plan for horrible things to happen.  That's a topic for another day, if we ever figure out whether or not he's really up there.  But for now, I think we can assume that God doesn't change his mind because a photo gets a million FaceBook likes, or a million prayers for that matter.  Praying is fairly pointless without action, and ironically it seems to be the action that usually gets things done.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Movie Trailer - Stuck in Love

Director: Josh Boone 
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Jeniffer Connelly, Kristen Bell
Release: July 5th, 2013

Greg Kinnear is so hit or miss.  He's an excellent actor, I think most people acknowledge that.  But wow does he do some bad movies.  And even this one, which looks to be trying to come across as honest and real, seems so fake and cheap.  Families exist, love exists, true emotions exist; why is it so hard to capture that on screen?