January 29, 2013

The Indie Time-Travel Movie Paradox

Looper is a time travel movie that really isn't about time travel. It is a sci-fi film that probably won't please hardcore sci-fi fans. It is marketed as an action film, but plays more like a drama. It is an in-between type movie with an interesting concept at its core but an execution that will struggle to please.

I am a fan of director Rian Johnson. I have been on board since Brick. The marketing for Looper told you there was something to do with time travel, but you couldn't figure out if it was a true sci-fi, or an all-out action movie. With Johnson I knew to expect something different, and I think he delivered on that.

There were interesting ideas in Looper, but they didn't come together for me. A man travels back in time and literally confronts his younger self… that is interesting stuff. However, old Joe didn't care about young Joe. He had to keep him alive so he would still have a future, but his primary goal was to eliminate a threat. But didn't traveling back in time take the risk of him changing the timeline so he would never even get to the future he was so desperately trying to save? The film introduces the time travelers paradox and then asks that you not think about it too much. Let it slide. The convoluted nature of it was distracting during the film, but not so much so that I couldn't enjoy what I was watching. But after it was over it left me wondering if it even made sense.

January 22, 2013

Guerrilla Filmmaking at Disney

From the LA Times…
About three years ago, Randy Moore, a struggling screenwriter living in Burbank, had an out-there idea: What if he took a tiny camera and, without asking permission, began shooting a narrative movie at Disney theme parks?
This sounds like an extremely interesting film that we will probably never get to watch. Worth reading the piece from the LA Times for sure.

➔ Indie Film Shot Guerrilla-Style Within Disney Theme Parks | via Daring Fireball

Pitch Perfect

There is a lot to be said for a film that can take a tired premise and make it feel fresh again. Pitch Perfect is the same plot we have seen many times before, only this time glee club is the in-vogue plot device. i.e. not cheer-leading, or football, or marching band.

The new girl goes to college and seems like an outsider. She wants to sit in her room and mix beats on her Apple-branded computational device. Conveniently, her father (who also happens to work at the college) dangles a carrot that prompts her to join one extra-curricular group.

Capitalizing on the popularity of the television show GleePitch Perfect tries to walk the line of pleasing fans of the genre as an entry on its own, and pleasing us naysayers by gently poking fun at how preposterous it is. For the most part it succeeds. It is funny from beginning to end. Definitely something Glee cannot claim. Pitch Perfect does venture into the melodrama a little too much for my taste, but doesn’t get awkward.

I found the musical numbers surprisingly good. Towards the end they really took it up a notch. If you are only watching the movie to listen to the music, you probably will be satisfied. If you are watching the film for a solid character arc or heartfelt love story, then you probably won’t be satisfied.

All-in-all Pitch Perfect is a fun movie. It doesn’t ask anything of you, and most people will be thoroughly entertained by the music and comedy as I was. There really isn’t much else to say about it. It is worth watching for sure.

January 14, 2013

Netflix lands TV deal

Netfilx is getting quite a few more options as far as television series go. The finalized a deal with Warner Bros. and Turner Broadcasting. I am extremely happy to see Adult Swim coming to the Netflix library. There are a lot of animated shows that I've been out of the loop on. This will give me a chance to join in the fun.

I’ve never thought the streaming offerings were lacking, and additions like this make me feel even better about spending that $8 per month.

➡ Netflix lands tv deal | Engadget

January 12, 2013

What I've Been Watching

We are going on a month without cable and so far I don’t miss it much. College football bowl week made me feel like I was missing out, but other than that I’ve been fine.

So now that I can’t waste my time with Sportscenter and Honey Boo Boo… what have I been watching…

Both my wife and I sort of wanted to watch Parenthood, but we never bothered to jump in on regular tv. We figured it would be better to start from the beginning. Both Hulu+ and Netflix have the back-catalog, but we opted to go with Netflix because it doesn’t have the the commercials.

I’ve heard a lot of praise for Parenthood so I might have had too high of expectations, but from the first episode didn’t impress me. I’m not a huge Dax Sheppard fan, but he delivers the best acting in the pilot. Not that the rest of them are bad actors, but it is written in such a way that makes it difficult for them not look awkward. If we know a character - what they have been though and how they have responded in the past - it is mostly okay to show a closeup of their face as they emote and expect that to convey what they’re feeling. In the pilot episode of Parenthood they were pulling that stunt constantly and it felt really awkward to me. In the dinner scene they cast a knowing glances at one another after sister made a comment… things like that. It just struck me as a weird and inelegant way to set the stage for the characters.

So far I am not a fan. I’m sure it will get better over time as the actors get a chance to settle into the characters and as I begin to learn more about them. I would expect the writing to get better as well the further along they go in the storylines.

We (or I) opted to not watch another episode of Parenthood. I needed a break. Instead we jumped over to The Wonder Years and watched its pilot. I can remember watching The Wonder Years when I was little, and I undoubtedly saw reruns from time to time. I knew the characterizations of Kevin, Wayne, and the rest of the crew, but I didn’t remember any specifics. Watching the pilot I was blown away. It is amazing. We got through just 2 episodes, but I plan on watching all the seasons. It is better than most of the stuff on tv today for sure. I’m looking forward to being able to experience it for the first time as my 30-something self with a kid of my own.

Maybe it will lose some of the luster as we get further into it, but seems like such a well put-together show - great writing and great acting. I will definitely be choosing The Wonder Years over Parenthood any day.

Over a year ago I heard about a British tv series that sounded like something I’d enjoy. However, I wasn’t able to figure out a way to watch it. I was happy to see the entire back catalog of Misfits is available on Hulu+. Misfits is like the American series Heroes in that it centers around a group of young adults that inexplicably get super powers. That is pretty much where the comparisons end.

When I first watched Heroes I was absolutely enthralled with the first season. I loved it. The subsequent seasons were pretty horrible, but I cannot deny that the first season was great tv - with a really bad climax.

I am only 2.5 episodes into Misfits, but I could tell I was going to like it from the very beginning. It is funnier than Heroes, and better acted from what I can remember. It is also a British show, so it is able to do some things that wouldn’t fly here in the states. Heroes had better cliff hangers, but Misfits hasn’t struggled to hold my attention.

I’m so early in the series that I still have no clue what exactly is going on. There are some goofy things that could turn out to be lame depending on how it gets explained - but I will reserve judgement until I am at least done with the first season.

That is pretty much all I have been watching. We’ve been splitting our time pretty equally between the over-the-air antenna, Hulu+, and Netflix. I’ve also rented a couple blurays from Redbox. Once we get through some of the series we want to watch, I am thinking about buying Game Of Thrones or maybe Justified. But we have plenty to keep us busy for a while.

Oh, and I’ve been reading a lot more since we cancelled cable. I’ve gotten through 1.5 books for fun, and I’m reading Getting Things Done to become a more productive person. I’ve got a bunch of classics on my kindle that I hope to get though as well. I’m kind of liking this whole “no cable” lifestyle.

January 3, 2013

Did I say we ain't wearing bags? It's a raid! Who cares if you can see! Can the Horses see!? That's all that matters!
- Big Daddy

January 2, 2013

Initial Thoughts on Django Unchained

I decided to start out the new year with some Tarantino. I had tried to go on saturday but it didn’t really work. This time I gave myself more time, and the mall wasn’t nearly as busy. I found my seat in the center of the theater and settled in for some QT.

Going into the film I had conflicting sources of expectation. I loved Inglourious Basterds so I was excited to see whatever Tarantino came out with next. However, initial reviewers didn’t seem to be loving the movie. They might have set the bar way too high. I don’t know. Those reviews did temper my excitement a bit.

Django Unchained delivered. In every respect it exceeded my somewhat lowered expectations. It was a ton of fun. I still think Inglourious Basterds is a better movie. Django wasn’t able to create the tension like the great scenes in Basterds . Django also isn’t nearly as complex. It is Tarantino doing a western, and it was awesome.

Once again Christoph Waltz steals the show. The movie is titled Django Unchained but Waltz’s character is by far the most interesting. In the second half Leo DiCaprio joins them. He is so good as the villian. Jamie Foxx does fine as Django, but it is actually a pretty flat character. I am sure that is by design.

I really enjoyed the first hour of the film. As soon as the movie was over I wanted to watch that part over again. The beginning was more of a traditional western with the Tarantino flare. The rest is good too, but that first hour was pretty brilliant.

If you love Tarantino I don’t see how you could fail to like Django. However, it is not a perfect movie, and I do understand some of the criticism. I’m not going to go into any of that here, but I will save it for another spoiler edition post. Go see Django Unchained, and make sure you cut the eye-holes big enough to receive maximum enjoyment.