Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Frank

This is one for the music buffs in us all.  Frank is a strange little movie I heard about almost a year ago.  It is about a man named Jon, played by Domnhall Gleeson, who wishes he was in a great pop band, and could write a big hit.  He isn't terribly talented at creating though.  He falls into a spot as a keyboardist for an underground indie rock band when their keyboardist tries to drown himself in the ocean (which does get explained why it occurred ultimately).  The bands name is Soronprbs, and is pronounced just like it is spelled (I couldn't figure it out either).  Their lead singer and main song writer is named Frank, played wonderfully by Michael Fassbender, who wears a huge paper mache head that he never removes, even in the shower.  So the band kind of railroads Jon into helping them record their album in the middle of nowhere secluded in a cabin in the woods.  While there Jon tweets, and posts Youtube videos of the band recording.  As time goes by the band starts to get a following and ultimately ends up getting an invitation to SXSW.  To say anymore beyond this could give things away, and I refuse to do this to anyone.  This is a movie that should be watched.  Between Maggie Gyllenhal, Franks muse of a sort, Fassbenders Frank, and Gleesons helpful but misguided Jon, this movie is a brilliant gem.

The real star of the movie is the music of course.  The bands songs are catchy, and you'll find yourself humming the main song long after the movie is over.  The use of tweets and showing Gleesons tweets as he writes them and posts them to show his innerworkings of his mind is brilliant.  The overall feeling of Frank as this misunderstood genius is so wonderful as well.  This is one movie not to be missed.  Oh, and remember, we can't all be Frank.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Jeff Buckley


         This is going to be about a musician this time around dear readers.  I know that normally I focus on films, but this musician has become all but forgotten by so many.  He deserves better to be quite honest.  First a little background on how I found him.  His name is Jeff Buckley and I first heard him covering a Leonard Cohen song, and this may be his most famous song, called Hallelujah in a movie.  I don't remember which movie it was, I don't even remember what part of the movie, but what I do remember is the first time I heard it I was moved.  The song already has some very moving lyrics, but Jeff Buckely's voice is so haunting and his guitar playing so perfect it just sucks you in.  So of course you would think I would go right out and look for everything by him, right?  Nope.  It took me years before I thought about him again.  A movie came out this year called Greetings From Tim Buckley.  It is about Jeff Buckley doing his first major appearance at a tribute concert to his father Tim.  For those of you who don't know either of these men, don't worry you aren't alone.  Tim Buckley was a folk musician in the 60s and 70s who never really got huge outside of certain underground fans.  He was, like his son would be and was, a musicians musician.  He was technically sound, lyrically poetic, and vocally he had a five octave range and knew how to use it well.  These are all things his son would prove later in his own life he had as well.  So Jeff gets kind of forced into doing this concert.  The reason he is sort of forced is that Jeff barely knew his father. His father left him and his mother before Jeff was even old enough to go to school.  He didn't see him again, ever.  Jeff wasn't even invited to his own fathers funeral by his fathers widow and his fathers step son. 
            So Jeff grew up hardly knowing the man, but looking a lot like him, and having a knack for music.  He had a 5 octave range like his father, he was extremely poetic, and his guitar skills may have even exceeded his fathers.  So Jeff does this concert, becomes an overnight hit, and puts out an album entitled "Grace."  Hallelujah was the big single from it, but none of the songs were truly ignored by reviewers or fellow musicians.  The album is a huge hit, it's called the best album of the year by many music reviewers, and was even on the ten best of the year by Rolling Stone.  So why haven't you heard of him?  Well here's the thing, he goes into the studio to make the next album in Nashville.  One night he and some of his bandmates and friends are walking near the river and Jeff jokingly says he's going in for a swim and jumps in.  Well the problem was he was caught in a ships undertow and drowned.  He wasn't and alcoholic, didn't do drugs, wasn't filled with unending depression.  It was just stupid dumb luck that killed him. 
            So go forth dear readers and look for him on YouTube.  The reason I say youtube is because you can find many songs he sang publicly that were never put on any album.  Some like his fathers Once I Was, or the wonderful song made famous by Billie Holliday called Strange Fruit.  Both of those you can tell he had amazing range and incredible talent.  If you'd like to hear something he himself wrote I suggest starting with Lover You Should Have Come Over or the title track to his album Grace.  Hallelujah is of course a wonderful starting point as well.  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Looper

So imagine a world where one day you may have to kill yourself for money.  However this wouldn't be suicide but rather carrying out a hit on yourself.  See in the world of Looper time travel is not only real, but is controlled by the mob.  The way it works is each looper is given a time and place to be and has to stand there and wait.  Then all of a sudden a man with a bag on his head appears and they have to shoot the man with their special gun given to them.  Then they open the back of the persons shirt to get their payment.  The only thing is if it's gold bars they find there instead of silver, that is their retirement money and it means they just killed their future self.  This is how the movie begins, explaining this with Joseph Gordon Levitt narrating.  Now this alone could be a great basis for a movie, but it isn't the only thing that occurs.  If I were to get into what happens next I may give away some of the fun surprises, but I won't give those away because you need to go into this film as fresh as possible.  What I will talk about is that Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis have never been better than in this movie, or if they have, it has been some time since they were.  The music in this movie sets a dark and brooding tone and is well suited for such a dark but also fun movie.  The set design and special effects (what few there are) are excellent and should have been recognized in some way during award season last year.  Each character in the movie is perfectly used and even as the film goes along you may see some of the twists coming but it never makes them any less great.  So if you are like me and didn't see this movie when it initially came out, please do yourself a favor and see it now.  You won't be sorry.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

50/50

This is a movie I had been putting off seeing because of everyone telling me I had to see it. Quickest way to get me to never see a movie? Tell me I have to see it. However, I finally did see 50/50. This movie is wonderful. I also feel like in a year when movies were very weak, the Oscars truly snubbed this gem of a movie.

The plot of this movie, in case you've been living under a rock and know nothing about it, is pretty simple. A guy who works for an NPR like radio station finds out his has a rare cancer that only has a 50% chance of survival. It easily could have then become another movie like Terms Of Endearment and gone into tear jerker territory. Guess what? It doesn't. It never falls into the trap of making jokes about cancer, but it also never starts taking itself overly serious and sad. It is a truly moving movie at points, and has some extremely emotional scenes. But it is filled with humor and honesty. The main character, played wonderfully by Joseph Gordon Levitt, has a best friend, played in a very huge departure by Seth Rogan, who is helping him get through all of this. All the while he has a mother who is trying to smother him, a therapist he is pretty sure he is falling for, and a girlfriend who becomes an ex girlfriend when she realizes what being with him through cancer means.

The writer of this one based a lot of this on his actual life and the lives of others he knew when he went through this. in fact, Seth Rogan is essentially playing a caricature of himself, since he really was the roommate who helped him get through his cancer. Don't be any later to the party than I already was. See 50/50 and give it the support it is owed at least in home video.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Young Adult Fiction

So I know this is a weird subject for someone my age (29) who has no children to be writing about. But I actually, at times, enjoy fiction that doesn't take a lot of thought and just is a good read. Sometimes this can be found in fiction that is geared toward ages from 15 and up. Now the funny thing is some of the better science fiction writers of yesteryear wrote some excellent young adult fiction that was good fiction for the older sect too. These include writers such as Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Orson Scott Card. All three of these writers wrote books for adults, and books for all ages as well. Now as for today we don't have very many books that are good for all ages or really should be read by young adults. "Why shouldn't they be read by young adults?" you might ask. Well I will tell you. We have book series like Twilight that are poorly written and are written in a way that almost is calling the reader too dumb to understand more complex themes.

Fortunately we also have some series like The Hunger Games series that are well written, and have both simple themes and more complex themes for older readers who can handle those themes. Even Harry Potter is a great series for kids, because it pulls them in, maybe it isn't complex, but it is at least not pandering to people who aren't able to understand things that are slightly more adult. I may sound like a curmudgen here, but I just feel like kids these days should be challenged a little when they read, and shouldn't have everything handed to them. I remember reading Ender's Game the first time and thinking about the themes and characters for days after, because it stayed with you. This is an experience that writers steal from young adults when they write in a way that only plays to the lowest common denominator. Writers, please start writing for all ages, not for just kids who aren't able to grasp complex themes and characters.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Larry Crowne, Thanks Redbox for being out of everything else

So this is a movie I almost didn't watch. I didn't really want to see Larry Crowne, and didn't really care about what it was about. So tonight when I got to Redbox so I would have a movie to watch while I waited for the inevitable 2012 apocalypse, and found that most things were out of stock, I got this little movie.

First of all, a little about the movie. Its about Tom Hanks playing the title character being fired from his job due to lack of education. He decides to go back to college, and while there meets Julia Roberts. She is a teacher who has lost her way, in a loveless and pretty crappy marriage. She teaches his speech class, which is where about a third of the movie takes place. They of course end up starting to fall for one another, and so on predictably. This is the so so part of the movie to be honest. The truly great parts of the movie take place between Hanks and his friends he has made at his college and with his neighbor (played excellently by Cedric The Entertainer). These relationships are entertaining, and delightful. The movie in general because of these relationships is quite good. Hanks is his normal loveable self, Julia Roberts is charming as always, and the various costars are humorous and stand out.

All in all Larry Crowne is a pretty good movie, especially for 1.28 with tax on a night that could be quite boring. I definitely reccomend seeing it if you get a chance.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Horror Movies

So today is Halloween. I don't really go for horror movies though. I never have, I guess I just have too good of an imagination. However, I do like some of them, and not all of them are of the humorous sort. So I am going to give a quick rundown of some of my favorite horror movies of all time.

Shaun of the Dead
This one is a no brainer for a guy like me. I am not a big fan of blood, guts, and gore. I don't really like to be scared all that much either. So this is perfect. It has all the elements of a good horror/zombie movie and than adds some really great comedic elements too. If you haven't seen this one and you are even a remote fan of horror or comedy, you'll enjoy this one.

Dawn of the Dead
This is probably the most controversial choice on my list. You might wonder why I think this is controversial since it is a zombie movie, and the original is directed and written by mister zombie himself, George Romero. Well the reason really is because I hate the original. The one I am talking about is the remake from 2004. See what the original really lacked was the feeling that modern society has with malls. Back when the original was made the mall was a newish thing and Romero wrote it that way. Now the movie took on a whole new tone and in a way a new setting. Malls are way more than they used to be really. So if you like zombie movies with a minor message involved and some great acting, this is a great one.

Frankenstein
This one is a given for any list like this. You should have a version of Frankenstein on every single list of horror movies. The original Universal movie is great for its day, and honestly, is still a very good movie. If you want to go a little more modern, the Robert DeNiro and Kenneth Branagh one isn't so bad either. It is closer to the book than the original, and it has some great acting. Both have their ups and downs though. If you're a literary person, the newer one might be a bit more for you since it has the ties to Milton's Paradise Lost that the original book had so tightly in it. The original didn't keep those there. Either way, great movies.

Lord Of Illusions
I won't go into too much detail with this one. If you want a lot of details, go back and read my blog on this movie. Let me just tell you, if you are a fan of noir, horror, and/or the occult, this is not to be missed. Also, it has the best use of Scott Bakula ever.

Scream
If you were a teenager in the '90s you couldn't have missed this one or at least one of its sequels or pretenders. But there was nothing quite like the first time you saw this movie. The director Wes Craven and the writer Kevin Williamson essentially took a tired, and very nearly dead sub genre of horror and revamped it. They took all the rules that a good horror movie has to follow, and threw them out the window for starters. The main characters could die, the heroes and heroines were not invincible, and virgins weren't even safe. If you have never seen this movie, and like the old cheesy drive-in horror movies, or the awful Nightmare On Elm Street movies, you should definitely see this and find out for yourself if its worthy of the pedestal it has been put on. I don't know if it is, but it is certainly a great horror movie.

The Thing
I saw this one years and years ago with my dad. He was always the one who let me watch this kind of stuff when my mom said no way. Now, don't mistake this for the recent 2011 remake/prequel that is currently out in theaters. This one is much better, and has a cast that is simply fantastic. It is a great scary movie set in the arctic with a new twist on the old idea of the killer among us premise. No one knows who to trust, and everyone is suspect to have THE THING inside of them. The Thing is an alien creature that can take on any shape of anyone it comes into physical contact with. Once it does, it essentially absorbs that person into itself. The movie will have you guessing right up until the end, and the score is amazing just like it is in every single other John Carpenter movie.

Halloween
What list like this would be complete without this John Carpenter gem. Look, I won't say much about this one other than if you've gotten to this point in your life and haven't seen this movie, go watch it right now... go on, I'll wait. The score is amazing, you'll jump out of your skin a couple of times, and it never overdoes it with the gore or the tension.

Alien/Aliens
I am doing two here, because it was hard for me to pick one of them. Basically, see above. If you have gotten to this point in your life and haven't seen at least one of these, go watch it now. They both are amazing space horror films that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat right until the end. Skip the other sequels though.

It
So yeah, I know, this is a TV movie technically. However, it is also one of the best Stephen King adaptations of all time. It (no pun intended) is honestly better than the book in some ways as well. If Pennywise, played wonderfully well by Tim Curry, doesn't scare you, than you are definitely a better person than I am. I am not afraid of clowns at all, but if clowns were like Pennywise even a little, I might be. Give this one a shot if you've never seen it, you won't regret it in the least. Just remember two things, one this one is an all day watch, it is LONG. The second thing is, "They all float down here."

The Exorcist
This movie is truly frightening in a way not another one on this list is, or can ever be. It has tension that builds constantly until the middle when everything comes to a head. But it doesn't stop with the scares all the way until the ending of the movie. If you're possessed by the devil, what can anyone do to save you? That is what this movie is all about, faith. Faith in God, and faith in the people around you. The fact is, there is no way to know for sure if this one could ever happen or not either. It isn't like Halloween where you can say, "Well he was insane and I can just hope to never have someone like that come after me. But even if he does, I can just shoot him." It isn't like Aliens and the danger is far far away and will probably never be an issue. It is a movie about a demon possessing a child, and how the mother reacts, how the child reacts, and finally how the church reacts. This is another one that if you've never seen it, you owe it to yourself to see.

Shadow of the Vampire
This is my one and only vampire movie on this list. It barely counts as a horror movie though. It is a drama and nothing else really. It is about the director and the making of Nosferatu and the star, Max Schrek. This movies takes the old myth behind Nosferatu that Schrek was actually a vampire and that was why he could play the main character so well. Schrek is brilliantly played by Willem Defoe and the director of Nosferatu is played by John Malkovich. If that isn't enough to get you to run out and see this one, it also has a pretty great surprise ending too.

Hellraiser
This is the only one on this list that if I tell another person I love this movie, plenty of people I know may lose a little respect for me. It's gorey, and it's a little corny, but it is also damn good. It has a girl as your main character fighting the evil uncle who has come back from the dead and is sleeping with her evil stepmother. But honestly, for a movie that was made on 2 million dollars, and by a guy who had barely directed a thing before it, its a great movie. The director/writer of the movie is Clive Barker, and he does a great job for what is practically his first time out. If the scene when the Cenobites show up doesn't scare the crap out of you, than you're a better person than I am.

Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight
This one is always ignored. I don't know if its because I'm just too much of a fan of it, and its really bad and I don't realize it, or if its because it was a Tales From The Crypt movie, and that kept people away from it. But I really think this is a great movie. It has a little bit of everything that a good horror movie needs. Tension, an imposter among us, questioning who is and who isn't strong enough to make it through the night, demons, and the eternal fight between good and evil put to the test in one night. I won't tell you who is and who isn't the hero or heroine of the movie and who is and isn't the villain, because I may give something away just with that, but just give this one a chance. At worst, you might just find its so corny you laugh at it. At best, you may end up really enjoying like I do every time I watch it. It also ties into Bordello Of Blood, ignore that movie. If you ever see that movie on a shelf in a video store, burn it right there on the floor of the store. They won't arrest you for it, they will probably give you a medal. I honestly blame Bordello Of Blood for Demon Knight being ignored even.

The Ring
Just watch this and call me 7 days later, okay?

Invasion of the Body Snatchers
This one is another that if you have never seen it, just go watch it. You won't regret it. Its a great film that takes an okay book, that the author swears wasn't about communism FYI, and makes it into something amazing. The main character narrates the entire film and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Honestly, this movie is a great argument for why more movies should use narration as a tool. So go watch it, and see how well you sleep that night, or if you do at all. But if one day you see your neighbor mowing his lawn and looking like he might not be himself, try not to question if he took a nap that day, and don't worry about going to bed that night. I'm sure you'll wake up fine.

So there it is, my list, for better or worse. Feel free to tell me what you would or wouldn't have added. Like I said, I'm not the biggest horror person ever. But I tried to hit a nice variety here, and I think I did pretty well considering I'm a total chicken when it comes to these kinds of movies. As the crypt keeper likes to say, "Pleasant screams boys and ghouls."