# Monday, 09 July 2007

I haven't had a whole lot of time for either lately, but have squeezed in a few. 

Books

  • I'm in the midst of Scott's copy of Barry Eisler's Killing Rain.  Good fun, as always
  • I'm about half way through Herman Melville's Typee, about his jumping ship in the South Pacific.  Quite the adventure story, and much quicker pacing than the Melville I've read before (i.e. Moby Dick)
  • Sandor Ellix Katz's The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved.  A very informative read about the state of the "underground" American food revival.  There are a lot of people out there trying to reclaim traditional and sane eating practices.  Good to know.
  • I just finished Carl Hiaasen's Tourist Season.  He can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned, and I've loved every hilarious thing I've read of his.

Movies

  • Less to tell here, I'm afraid.  Not too much has wowed lately
  • I finally saw 300, and it blew.  Totally.  Very sad.
  • My favorite of late has been Road to Perdition.  I never would have thought I'd believe Tom Hanks as a gangster, but it was a great film.  Fantastic camera angles, interesting cast, great script.  Well done.
Monday, 09 July 2007 14:30:30 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 05 December 2006

On Scott's recommendation, Vikki and I got Brick from Netflix and watched it a few days back.  Then watched it again. 

If you like film noir, Brick is a no-brainer. 

The basic vision of the film (and it won a Sundance prize for originality of vision) is that of a classic Hammet-esque noir film, but set in a Southern Californian High School.  No, really.  And it's brilliant.  The actors all obviously got it.  There's nothing farcical or comic about the performances.  They all believe in the vision.  Which isn't to say that there aren't funny moments (such as the hero meeting with the most dangerous drug dealer in town while his Mom serves them juice and cookies) but they are funny as part of the plot, not because of the aesthetic of the film. 

Solid performances all around, and some great dialog.  The dialog is heavily spiked with both gumshoe and pseudo-modern-teen argot, so turning on the subtitles helps follow the story the first time through. 

There's a lot of depth here, especially for a directorial debut, and I think this is a film I'll go back and watch over and over again.

Tuesday, 05 December 2006 16:13:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 11 July 2006

I’m a big fan of watching TV shows after they come out on DVD.  You don’t have to deal with the commercials, and you can be assured of not missing anything.  Plus, I don’t have cable, so it’s about the only way I ever see TV.  Anyway, Vikki and I just finished season 1 of Veronica Mars.  What a fantastic show.  I can see why Joss Whedon calls it the best show that noone is watching.  Great dialogue, good acting (mostly), great story arc, and I totally didn’t see the ending coming. 

While each episode explores a subplot about the rigors of high school, etc. the overarching story line is about a murder mystery, and the season ends with the murderer revealed (it’s not who you think).  They pulled off some very interesting plot twists throughout.  I’m breathlessly anticipating season 2 next month.  There are still a number of open questions which I’m hoping they’ll pursue in the second season. 

If you like the Whedonverse (BtVS/Angel/Firefly) you’ll probably like Veronica Mars.  Best dialogue this side of Joss himself.

Tuesday, 11 July 2006 10:42:52 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 10 April 2006

I’m such a sucker for good TV shows on DVD.  Our latest favorite is Lost.  What a groovy show.  I love the fact that during the cource of the first couple of episodes you form distinct impressions about the nature of each character, and one by one during subsequent episodes those impressions are exploded.  A very interesting premise for a show, particularly set against the survival-on-a-desert-island background.  I also like the fact that there are unanswered questions that are allowed to linger for several episodes before finally being addressed.  It’s nice to see more TV shows taking advantage of story arc, a la Joss Whedon, and not making the assumption that your viewers are all dim bulbs who can’t remember what happned a few weeks back. 

We’ve been renting Lost one DVD at a time, which Vikki says is a good thing, or else we’d never sleep.  :-)

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Monday, 10 April 2006 11:29:36 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 20 March 2006
V for Vendetta completely rocks.  Vikki and I went and saw it late Saturday night, and were very much impressed.  The film is above all consistent.  The performances, the story line, and the sets/scenes etc. were all very consistent.  Natalie Portman actually acted, for the first time since The Professional.  Hugo Weaving was completely fantastic, despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact that you never see his face.  Good effects, but they don't get in the way, and aren't the focus.  All around great film.  Makes me want to read the comic now.


Monday, 20 March 2006 16:33:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Monday, 10 October 2005

After seeing Serenity, I was really jonesing to watch the Firefly series again, but alas, my copy was lent to a friend and thence disappeared into oblivion.  So…

I ordered a new copy, and it showed up on Friday.  Pure goodness.  I’ve gotten through the first 4–5 episodes already.  What’s not to like?  The dialog is fantastic, the future both well crafted and highly plausible, and the acting was quite good for what it was.

It’s always a joy to watch Joss Whedon’s shows.  It’s nice to know that there’s someone out there who doesn’t assume their audience is composed entirely of knuckle draggers.

Monday, 10 October 2005 14:54:14 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 03 October 2005

Kudos to Joss for making such a good transition to the big screen.  Vikki and I went to Serenity yesterday, and we were both impressed.  I thought they did a great job of preserving the best parts of the show, while coming up with a story that could be self-contained in two hours. 

Several reviews I saw complained about the lackluster special effects.  To them I say:  that’s not the point.  The effects were comparable to what was in the show, and that’s all that was required.  If you spend all your time on effects, you end up with something as crappy as Episode II.  The whole point to Firefly/Serenity is the character development. 

I do think that if you haven’t watched the show you won’t quite grasp some of the subtler bits of the film, but probably not so you’d notice. 

Overall, well worth seeing whether you’ve seen the show or not.  If only they’d stuck with more of the banjo music…

Monday, 03 October 2005 09:42:06 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 29 September 2005

The long awaited movie version of Joss Whedon’s brilliant TV series Firefly opens tomorrow.  I’m all aquiver with anticipation.  The show was fantastic, and the previews of the movie look pretty darn good too. 

Joss, man, everything you do is art!

Thursday, 29 September 2005 13:11:11 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 24 June 2005

Vikki and I went to see Batman Begins last weekend up in Seattle, and really enjoyed it.  I was pondering the phenomenon that is Batman during the movie, and started thinking that Batman has become such an iconic figure in our contemporary mythos that it really frees the director.  It’s like making a Robin Hood movie.  You don’t have to worry about telling the story, because everyone already knows the story.  So the directory can focus on the details. 

Christian Bale was fantastic as the brooding playboy-without-conscience who beats up bad guys in his spare time.  He really brought a lot of detail to the character, and you can really start to understand what kind of guy Bruce Wayne would have to be to become Batman. 

Great supporting cast too.  Liam Neeson makes a great villain.  Good, atmospheric physical culture.  They did a good job of bringing the brooding Gothic/Art Deco style of Gotham into the modern age.  Definitely worth seeing. 

Friday, 24 June 2005 14:25:36 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 15 June 2005
The New York Times has a very positive review (reg. required) of Batman Begins.  So maybe there is hope.  It’s amazing what you can do with a directory who cares, and some actors who can really act.  I’ve been a fan of Christian Bale ever since he was “Falstaff’s Boy” in Henry V.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to see it this weekend…
Wednesday, 15 June 2005 15:03:35 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 14 June 2005

I haven’t seen too many new films lately, but here’s a quick rundown on a few…

  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: if you’ve never read the books or seen the BBC series, not a bad film.  If you are hoping that it will represent the genius of the book (or even the BBC series) forget it.  Yet another terrible adaptation to the screen.  But in it’s own right I thought it had its moments.  My biggest complaint was that they lost much of the great linguistic jokes Adams was so good at and replaced it with slapstick pie-in-the-face antics.  Still amusing, but no where near as satisfying.
  • Merchant of Venice: totally fell asleep.  The parts I did see seemed to be a bit over acted.  I’ll have to try to watch the whole thing and see what I think.
  • Elektra: in short, it blew.  Very disappointing.  I’m a big fan of Alias, so I was hoping for more.  The story line was so disjoint that it was hard to follow, but intrusive enough to spoil the martial bits.  Yuck!
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: one of the better ones I’ve seen of late.  My kids really liked it too.  Funny both intellectually and in typical over-the-top Jim Carry style.  He was fantastic, as were many of the character parts.  The children also did very well.  They did a great job of maintaining the ambiance.  Easily accessible for children, but plenty there for the grown-ups.
  • Angel (Season 3): I started re-watching Season 3, and I think this is the one where they were really firing on all cylinders.  The lost their way a bit in Season 4, but 3 was great.  All the characters had settled into their parts, the story arc was good, and hadn’t gotten too wacky.  Introduces some great bit characters, like Skip the Demon, who commutes to his job in Hell.  Good stuff.

I’d like to see Mr. & Mrs. Smith, as it seems to be getting some good reviews.  Maybe this weekend…

Tuesday, 14 June 2005 16:27:56 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 20 May 2005

By now, no doubt, the three of you who read this have heard plenty of stuff about Episode III already, but I feel compelled to add my $.02.

It’s pretty darn good.

One of the “great films”?  No.

Entertaining?  Yes.  Sucks less?  Yes.  In fact, didn’t suck at all. 

It would have been an added bonus if there had been any acting by the principals.  I would have found Annikan’s descent into darkness way more plausible if he had even a shred of acting ability.  Sadly, he does not.  But I found I could suspend that bit of disbelief. 

Visually stunning, brings all the loose ends together in a way that’s plausible, no annoying comic relief in sight.  Very textured environments. 

Again, it would have been nice if the best acting in the film hadn’t been done by Yoda, but what can you realistically expect from Lucas?

Definitely worth seeing.  And just in case you’ve missed out, check out Darth Vader’s blog at www.darthside.com.  Genius.

Friday, 20 May 2005 10:13:59 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Tuesday, 09 November 2004

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced that it won't consider Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 for any Golden Globe awards because they don't give awards for "documentaries". 

Apparently they haven't actually watched the film.  (I finally saw it last week.)  Whether or not you agree with Moore, you can hardly call F 9/11 a "documentary".  It's clearly political theater, and anyone who claims it's a documentary is missing the point.  A lot of criticism that came out against the film centered on the fact that it was biased and didn't give both sides equal time.  Of course it was biased.  It's theater.  Documentarians don't pull stunts like Moore does.  Political satirists do. 

Anyway, agree with Moore or not, I think it's a bit disingenuous of the HFPA to claim that they won't consider it because it's a "documentary".

Tuesday, 09 November 2004 15:32:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Thursday, 02 September 2004

My wife and I snuck away from the children last night long enough to see Hero, the new Jet Li martial arts film directed by Zhang Yimou (of Raise the Red Lantern, Red Sorghum, Ju Dou fame).  It was fantastic.  Easily on par with Crouching Tiger... but with a much different pacing.  The martial arts were fabulous, and very well filmed.  And Mandarin is a beautiful language to listen to, so I'm very glad they didn't dub it. 

The costumes were very well done, and correct for the period, at least on par with those in The Emperor and the AssassinMy favorite part was that much of the film consists of the same events being recounted with different emphasis, and each of the retellings features a different color scheme.  There are blue, yellow, red, green and white scenes, and the cinematography was captivating. 

Well worth seeing in the theater, since the colors and overall cinematic grandeur play a key role.

Thursday, 02 September 2004 10:07:45 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 23 July 2004

Back in the day I went to High School in what passes for "inner city" in Seattle (Garfield HS: Go Bulldogs!) and was therefore exposed to a pretty fascinating cultural milieu. :-)  Anyway, out of pure nostalgia for days bygone, I couldn't resist picking up copies of Breakin' (1 and 2) on DVD.  While not great pieces of cinematic history, they sure are fun to watch.  My 9 year old son is totally into them.  He says #1 is better.

I wonder what every happened to the lovely Lucinda Dickey?  Her career just wan't the same after Ninja III: The Domination.

Now I just need a copy of Krush Groove:-D

Friday, 23 July 2004 14:53:36 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Monday, 07 June 2004

I took the family to see the new Harry Potter flick yesterday with about 20 friends.  What a blast.  I had no idea you could get into a theater an hour before the show these days :-).

I was pretty impressed.  It's amazing what a real director can do with a story, instead of just parroting the book for two hours.  The new one is much more like a real movie, and focuses much more on story than on special effects (although there are some cool ones, they are subtle) and cutesy elves.  It's a much darker film, and really showcases some great British actors.  I'd have to say that the kid who plays Harry has pretty much reached the limits of his acting ability, but Hermione rocks!

Well worth seeing, and much less of a kiddy film than the first two.

Monday, 07 June 2004 10:06:10 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 11 May 2004

I've watched a couple of new movies in the last week or so, and it's been a pretty mixed bag.  I don't post about it all that often, but I'm a pretty serious moviephile, and so's my wife, so we see a lot of films. 

  • Kill Bill (vol 1): I thought it was pretty good.  You can tell Tarantino worships the genre, and it fit well.  Vikki thought it was too gory, but I thought it was genre-appropriate, given what he was going for.  I think Uma is critically underappreciated since she tends to take off-beat roles.  Lucy Liu was great as the trash-talking ganster boss.
  • Master and Commander: I was totally prepared not to like this film, but I was quite favorably surprised.  The role suited Crowe well, cinematography was very good.  Peter Weir has a great feel for composition.  I thought it had just the right level of realistic violence.  It conveyed the horror of combat without being gratuitous. 
  • Van Helsing: yuck.  spit.  hack.  It sucked.  I knew it would be bad, but I didn't think it would be bad.  Jackman was totally underutilized.  The special effects were cool, but not enough so to carry the film past the wretched dialog and lack of coherent storyline.  I saw one review on the web that compared it to Battlefield Earth,and I don't think I'd go quite that far, but still, majorly lame.  All the supporting characters were overacting without being melodramatic (which would have been genre-appropriate), especially Frankenstein's monster.  What a ham.  Bah!  The werewolf effects were novel, but again, not cool enough.  Check out Dog Soldiers if you want a good werewolf movie.  The guy who plays Dracula could have been good if he'd stuck with Lugosi instead of occasionally lapsing into Oldman.
  • The Last Samurai:  OK, there were totally no surprises here.  It's exactly what you'd expect.  Dances with Wolves, only set in Japan.  But it was well executed.  Good cinematography, decent enough acting, great artistic direction.  The sets and costumes were very well done, and pretty accurate.  I really liked the job they did on the Samurai's kimono.  Don't expect anything dazzling, but a good solid film.  I wish Cruise wouldn't keep taking the same role over and over again though.  He can actually act (witness Magnolia or Eyes Wide Shut). 

I'm looking forward to seen Troy this weekend, although I'm sure it's going to suck.  As both a movie and history buff, I can't really stay away.  :-)

Tuesday, 11 May 2004 11:06:37 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 19 April 2004

My wife and I went to see Hellboy last night.  Humph.  I was disappointed.  The hightlights were the art direction, which was very consistent and retro-cool, and Ron Perlman was a fabulous choice for Hellboy.

However, there was little to no character development in a script that really called for some.  Hellboy is supposed to be a much more tragic figure than he comes across as because of the lack of characterization.  And John Hurt's professor was totally one-dimensional. 

A pretty film, and worth a viewing, but I won't rush right out after the DVD when it comes out.

Monday, 19 April 2004 10:17:50 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, 17 April 2004

I just saw the new Omnimax film that's playing at OMSI here in Portland.  What an amazing film.  I've seen a bunch of Omnimax films, and I think this was one of the more compelling.  It's composed of profiles of four people who go fast for a living: a sprinter, a mountain bike racer, a race car driver, and a race car designer.  All set to Mozart, and hosted by Tim Allen.  Very cool.  Lots of Omnimax-optimized footage of going fast.  Some of the coolest stuff was footage of the mountain bike racer, Marla Streb, who's been clocked at 67 mph, down a mountain on a bike.  That's pretty amazing. 

If it's playing anywhere near you, it's worth checking out.

Saturday, 17 April 2004 17:40:43 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 30 December 2003

If you’ve never seen Firefly, it’s a show well worth checking out on DVD.  I don’t get cable (or actually any channels besides our local PBS station, OPB) so I never saw the show when it first ran.  I think I’m glad.  Apparently, Fox did everything they could to screw it up, including playing the episodes out of order, not promoting it, putting it on at a bad time, etc.  On DVD, you can watch the whole first (and only) season in its entirety, in order, with three episodes that never aired.    

All I can say is that if further convinces me of the outstanding genius of Joss Whedon.  It’s amazing what you can do if you start from the premise that your viewers are not only reasonably well educated, but that they actually pay attention.  My wife thinks Firefly is even better than the better known Joss Whedon work, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I haven’t finished the whole series yet, so I’m not sure if I’d go that far yet, but I love what I’ve seen so far. 

Firefly is the classic space-western.  It takes place 500 years in the future, but it’s not a clean, pretty Buck Rogers kind of future, it’s a lot more like the Wild West.  Most of the places they visit are wild little border planets full of immigrants and indentured servants doing hard labor, just trying to get by.  At the same time, the “Alliance” (read, the Empire) is breathing down everybody’s necks trying to maintain (fascist) order.  Good premise to start with. 

They also got some really great (though relatively unknown) actors who really do a great job.  It’s not often that you see a pilot that actually establishes characters that you care about in less than two hours.  Joss Whedon’s direction focuses around subtlety and dialog, with great care given to facial expressions and dialog inflection.  It’s so nice to watch TV designed for smart people, instead of the absolute dreck that inhabits most or the airwaves these days, designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. 

Anyway, if you like Sci-Fi and or BtVS, check out Firefly.  Rumor has it that there’s a movie version in the offing, and my hope is that it might spark a return of support for the series.  There are several open questions that you can tell where meant to be revealed in the second season that never was. 

Tuesday, 30 December 2003 09:49:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 12 November 2003

Sigh. 

Where to start?  I was disappointed in the new Matrix movie, which while not surprising, is still disappointing. :-) 

At least it wasn’t bogged down in the overly complex, pretentious philosophizing of the second film.  Instead, it was bogged down by a completely predictable plot, and constant sentimentality.  It’s almost as if the characters, aware that this is their last film, are sad about it (to the point of being maudlin) throughout the whole film.  Or maybe the actors themselves were sad because now they’ll have to get real jobs.  Anyway, I think I almost liked the pretentious philosophy better than the maudlin sentimentality.  I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but they way the last scene was filmed reminds me a lot of the last scene in the old BBC production of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Not what I would have anticipated for the third film of a trilogy known for wild action and innovative science fiction.  But I guess those days are gone.  While the first film was startling, the third film was pretty much just a war movie, and for a war movie to be any good, it’s got to be something different.  It wasn’t.  At least IMHO.

It sounds like Rory had more fun clubbing baby seals

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Wednesday, 12 November 2003 13:35:16 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  |