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Showing posts from June, 2014

Week in Review: 6/29/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) Sanctum - This has to be the worst thing that James Cameron has ever had his name attached to.  For anyone who thinks that Hollywood is the only system that can put out bland, predictable nothing, I give you Sanctum, a movie about a bunch of idiots who refuse to listen to experts that they hired to give them advice while making murder boring.

My Rating:  1.5 / 5

Tina Belcher and the Path to Gender Equality

Today I wanted to talk about one of the most important female characters on television right now: Tina Belcher from Bob's Burgers.

The show is already hugely popular and doesn't need my seal of approval, but just in case - go watch this show.  Past seasons are available on Netflix in their entirety and new episodes are posted on Hulu, so it's easy for you to get started if you haven't been watching already.

Hipster Holy Grail: Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)

The Hipster Holy Grail is a weekly experiment where I try to find and review a movie that's at least 10 years old and has less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't.  This week, I watched....

The blurb for people who don't like to read actual criticism:Nothing Lasts Forever is a sometimes sappy, sometimes cheesy adventure / romance / comedy / 1930s throwback that plays like an experimental proto-Hipster anachronism.  And while that may not sound appealing at first, let me assure you that it is a terrific movie.  It's a breezy, punchy tale that dips its toes into satire without losing any of its positive energy or charm.

My Rating:  4 / 5

The longer bits for people who like film discussion:

A Review of "Everything Hurts"

The blurb for people who don't like to read actual criticism:

It's been a while since I read or watched something that made me feel like I was an idiot who didn't get the joke.  Everything Hurts is a novel filled with so many references and bereft of so much detail and exposition that I honestly felt completely lost until maybe two-thirds of the way in.  Once it started to click, though, I quite enjoyed the character of Phil Camp, even if I didn't laugh as uproariously as I was probably supposed to.  It's a quick read that crafts a complex personality with many touching moments of flawed, lovable, curmudgeonly humanity.  It's a light recommend, but still worth your time.

My Rating: 3 / 5

The longer bit for people who like literary discussion:

Week in Review: 6/22/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) Mind the Gap - Originally I was planning on watching this as an HHG entry.  It would've been perfect: a bit overlooked, ten years old, and full of proto-Hipster quirk and whimsy.  But I wasn't feeling it.  For a movie that sells itself on chance encounters and intertwining stories, this movie's protagonists didn't really touch each other's lives all that much.  Having two characters both go to speed dating but then not actually talk to each other is not the same thing as "interaction."  It barely even qualifies as "a coincidence."  It's kind of like if you made a movie that was billed as a cop-and-thieves action thriller, but the thieves never steal anything and the cops get fired for gross negligence.  Then at the end they both buy tacos from the same food cart.

My Rating:  2 / 5

Lovecraftian-Themed Gaming: Poser Fad or Clever Fun?

I was browsing board games on the other day and I saw this:

Gloom, if you haven't played it, is a card game where you play as one of several Burtonesque families and you compete with 1-3 other players to come up with the worst possible story for your characters.  To do this, you draw and play various misfortune cards, such as "Terrible Disease" or "Malnutrition" or whatever.  The idea is to mix story-telling with competitive gaming in order to produce a sick, dark comedy.  It was featured on Tabletop at one point, so naturally it's been selling like gangbusters.

Hipster Holy Grail: Johnny Cool (1963)

The Hipster Holy Grail is a weekly experiment where I try to find and review a movie that's at least 10 years old and has less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't.  This week, I watched....

The short bit for people who don't like to read reviews: Looking for a violent (but not really) movie about gangsters that emphasizes style over substance, but you're not up for a Jason Statham vehicle?  Then give Johnny Cool a try.  It's a Rat Pack movie with not much of a following, but plenty of over-written cool dialogue that plays way better than it should.  Henry Silva puts in a great performance as the titular assassin and drops quotable one-liners like a clumsy waiter at a literary banquet.  The ending is a bit of a disappointment, but the movie more than makes up for it with enough unadulterated fun and pizzazz that you'll still find plenty to enjoy.

My Rating:  3.5 / 5

The longer bits for people who like film dis…

A Brief Review of "The East" / Bad Representations of Politics in Film

One of the things I most hate about the movie Rent is that it consists of characters that I should sympathize with and politics that I should agree with, but it manages to make all of them repulsive.

I'm liberal to the core, the sort of tree-hugging hippie jerk that will turn his nose up at a car that gets any less than 30 mpg, a self-righteous douche that will rail against health insurance companies and preach for full-on Socialized Medicine, a sleazy libertine that believes we should all have the freedom to marry ten men and women apiece while getting unemployment benefits and six weeks of government-mandated paid vacation a year.

And those motherfuckers in Rent make my gut churn.  When I think about Rent, I want to vote Republican.  You hear that, Chris Columbus?  You did this to me, you rat-bastard.

Why am I railing against Rent again?  Well, it's because I recently saw The East, another movie about a group of people who I should sympathize with, but who get under my skin …

Happy Anniversary to Me!

My blog turned a year old today, so I'm doing an obligatory "yay for me!" post.  Let me give it my best shot:

*~~~*~~~Hooray for me!~~~*~~~*

Considering that my last attempt at a website fizzled out after only about six or eight months, this is a big accomplishment for me.  Even if I am my own biggest fan.
Since lately I've been talking a lot about Movies, today seems like a good time to spend two paragraphs talking about Minutes:


I try not to write anything on this blog that could be misconstrued as advice.  Heaven forbid that I ever try to help people.

Partly I feel it would be arrogant to assume that I have wisdom enough to give advice and partly it is out of fear of rejection since I have no published books that I can point to as evidence that I know what I'm talking about.  Even so, today I feel a bit compelled to drop just a suggestion for anybody else out there who ever finds themselves baffled by the question, "What should I do now?"

My answer is, "Literally anything.  As long as you don't do nothing."  Live all your life to maintain your momentum, even when it seems you're going in the wrong direction.

Week in Review: 6/15/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) The East - I had issues with the characterization of nearly everybody in this movie.  Also, a lot of the plot twists and developments felt a little bit contrived.  Even so, this was overall an enjoyable movie with some solid performances.  Don't let the previews fool you - it's not really a tense thriller as much as it is a character study mixed with a quasi-political censure of reckless capitalism.  Maybe don't watch it if you're hoping for a bunch of mind games.

My Rating:  3.5 / 5

A Review of a Book That Will Remain Anonymous

I read a book earlier this week that was in such need of a rewrite that I really want to post a long, eviscerating review.  But that's a pissy Internet thing to do and I don't want to be an asshole, so I'm going to approach this a little bit differently and preserve the author's anonymity.
For the purposes of this review, I'm going to pretend that the book is called A Good Day to Die, and we'll pretend that the author's name is "Jason Redman."

The blurb for people who don't like to read actual criticism:

A Good Day to Die is an amateurish work marred by grammatical errors, devastating thematic and structural problems, one-dimensional characters, and painful dialogue.  It's obviously an early draft - perhaps even the first draft - that was released without much - or perhaps any - input.  I would hazard a guess that it was written as part of a NaNoWriMo from years past, except that at 33,000 words it doesn't qualify.

My Rating: 1 / 5

The lo…

A review of "Penn & Teller Get Killed" (1989)

The short bit for people who don't like to read reviews:Penn & Teller Get Killed is basically like a primer for dark comedy.  It's just cruel enough to give you a punch in the gut, but not so laden with anger that you would be put off.  The laughs are a little bit light, and there is a momentum-destroying tangent late in the game, but ultimately it ends up being a decent flick.  This is a must for Penn & Teller fans and a recommendation for people who are fans of '80s comedies in general.

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

A Review of "Off to Be the Wizard" (Magic 2.0, Book 1)

The blurb for people who don't like to read actual criticism:

Off to Be the Wizard is an engaging and breezy tale that has some uneven pacing and structural issues, but is overall an entertaining read.  The humor is a mixed bag and sometimes falls flat - even so, at worst it is "mildly amusing" and at best it is clever and insightful.  OtBtW subverts many expectations and works best when it settles into a more casual, day-to-day observational style of humor.  It is currently part of the the Kindle Prime Lending Library, so you can try it for (basically) free if you're a member, but even if you aren't, it's definitely worth the small price of admission.

My Rating: 4 / 5

The longer bit for people who like literary discussion:

Today I Sort of Defend Censorship

I've been reading a lot of H.P. Lovecraft lately.  Steph and I have made it a nearly nightly ritual to read his works out loud in the hopes that our fetus may hear my voice.  And yes, we have made the obvious joke about the dread of an impending terror that will be unleashed upon our universe.

Lovecraft is an intriguing writer, more a poet than a narrator, who finds that there's no need to describe things in ten words when twenty will do.  By all my measures of good writing, I should hate him - but I love his work all the same.  He rites purty.

There's just one problem with his work: his casual and gratuitous racism.

Week in Review: 6/8/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) Red Dawn (2012) - I think I must unconsciously choose to watch movies sometimes.  I can think of no other reason why I would voluntarily subject myself to this.  Any brain scientists out there looking for some good material for an experiment?  This movie would be good if you want to test whether or not it's possible for your brain to receive information without processing it.

My Rating:  1 / 5

A Better Metaphor Than "You Can't Make an Omelet..."

A little while ago I wrote about how the metaphor "a slippery slope" is a bad one.  Partly I was just screwing around and having some fun with the English language, but I hope I made my point clearly enough.

The problem with bad metaphors is that they lead to bad logic.  And bad logic - especially when it can be easily conveyed in a clever-sounding little saying - leads to bad thinking, bad choices, and bad actions.

So in a continued quest to try to make the world make more sense, today I want to look at another crappy metaphor and see if we can make it better:

You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
What the term is supposed to mean:  "You can't make good things happen if you aren't willing to take the risk that some bad things might happen along the way."

A review of "A New Leaf" (1971)

The blurb for people who don't like to read reviewsA New Leaf is a fantastic romantic comedy that stands up to the test of time.  Forty years after its debut, it remains witty, incisive, and relevant.  Although it doesn't have any kind of mold-breaking or genre-busting plot elements, it implements its tropes wisely and grounds itself in two fantastic performances from Walter Matthau and Elaine May.  This is one of the best comedies in American history and it's downright criminal that we don't celebrate it more than we do.  I'm thinking it needs a theatrical re-release, paired with a double-disc Blu-Ray restoration.  Get on that, Criterion.

My Rating:  5 / 5

"Game of Thrones" Reminded Me That I'm Old

Aimless anecdote time.

When I was maybe fourteen years old or so, I remember sitting back and reading huge chunks of The Essential Ellison at a small house that my parents were renovating on Maryland's Eastern Shore.  It was my first exposure to Harlan Ellison and I was immediately hooked on his work.

Somewhere toward the back he had an essay wherein he described the difference between "horror" and "terror."  It was a cantankerous rant of an essay - really the only kind that Ellison can write - that boiled down to the idea that good story-telling should focus on the specific details that elicit true terror and suspense rather than simply relying on grotesque gore or unpleasantness for the sake of shock value.  It was motivated by his recent viewing of The Omen, which has a scene where a character is beheaded.

I had not seen the movie at the time (still haven't), but I remember reading his essay and thinking, "Gee, you're not a lot of fun, dude.  So…

The Non-Existent Allure of Being a Writer

I don't get it, world.  You guys keep giving me mixed messages.

On the one hand, everybody is working on a book. Everyone says they have an idea for a story or they have good advice or they know things, so they're either writing a coffee table book, a self-help book, a children's book, a science-fiction novel, or whatever the hell else.  That's fine - the world can always use another good voice to tell a good story or make a good point, so go ahead and work on your book if you think it's worthwhile.  So when other people say, "I'm a writer," the words are treated with this kind of awed respect of The Craft.
But on the other hand, I think I've only ever met two or three people in my life - in person or on the Internet - that have given more than half a crap that I'm ~~A Writer!~~.  [End of Jon Lovitz Thespian voice.]

Week in Review: 6/1/14

Movies I Watched in the Last Week

1) I, Frankenstein - I was hoping this was going to be one of those misguided spectacles that's full of hilarious moments, but I was astonished by how goddamned boring it was.  It's been awhile since I've seen something that is so aggressively, terrifyingly plodding.  It is intense in its ability to dull all sense of emotion.  You will literally be on the edge of your seat waiting to see how quickly you'll fall asleep.  I think I'm doing this wrong.  Is hyperbole still funny, you guys?

My Rating:  1 / 5