An important lesson is learned about always watching a trailer before seeing a film.
Not to say this film was bad. Just that I walked in expecting to see a chick flick with lots of people coming to terms with stuff and instead got a documentary designed to make me feel guilty for living in a 1st world country and for being a man.
As an extremely regular movie goer I have memberships to pretty much every theater reward program out there. Typically this gets me cheap popcorn and the occasional free movie ticket but a couple weeks ago it spat out a free pass to see this movie. I am if nothing else cheap, and giving me a free pass to a new screening is akin to waving the red flag in front of the bull (although I will admit on the rare occasion that I see a film for free or early I tend to start of more kindly disposed to the film (to any Hollywood marketing firms out there that was a less than subtle hint)).
Girl Rising is a documentary about the importance of educating girls and young women in third world hell holes. As a marketing tool I will have to say it is shockingly effective as I am now an advocate for this. No joke I am going to try to scrape together a few ducats and send it to the charity behind this thing (and if you knew how I live you would understand what that means. My life savings is in t-shirts right now and my business is not exactly capable of doing more that buying me the occassional quesadilla from Burrito Ole’.) Showing real people in real situations is always more impactful than all the fake tears and stuntmen Hollywood can through at us, and when those real people are cute little girls from across the globe it will pull at your heartstrings with monster truck force.
During the course of this film I felt a wide gamut of emotions. I felt fear for a couple of the girls who were honestly in danger, rage and helplessness in the face of others who were raped or sold (if you don’t feel an urge to punch the first six men you come across after listening to a 12 year old Egyptian girl talk about being raped and then married off a year later you are not human. Feel free to leave the planet by the quickest method available), and happiness and exaltation for the girls who managed to succeed and excel through education. I have spent most of my life pretending to be Spock emotionally (DJ Spock image courtesy of the Star Trek T Shirt category) but this film blasted through my defenses like a bullet train through a paper towel fence.
The overriding message is that educating girls in Third World countries is an extremely powerful tool for helping not only the girls themselves but the world in general. Educating girls will grossly benefit the countries GNP, cut down immensely on rape, human trafficking, death from childbirth, overpopulation, and reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS. This is all in addition to the massive personal benefit to the girls in question. It shows this presenting short vignettes about 9 different girls from 9 different countries. Some of them are stories of girls finding an education in spite of the cultural and economic issues facing them. These are the happy stories. Others are about girls who can’t get an education due (and in some cases it is illegal for them to do so) and the horrible things that happen or face them because of that. Each vignette is followed by very interesting statistics on how education can benefit these girls.
I was going to give a quick rundown on each of the girls but halfway through it decided one sentence descriptions does not do them the justice the deserve. I will just say it’s worth your time to see each one, even if some of them will have you clawing your own face off in frustration.
I am not going to bother with my usual stars/black holes rating system. I called this blog a review for lack of a more descriptive term but this film can’t be reviewed by normal means. It is not a traditional film. Is it powerful? Yes. Will you want to do something at the end of it? Yes. Will you feel good afterward? Depends on which story you want to focus on, but knowing that for every positive one there are probably thousands of negative ones probably not. Not all movies are about feeling good.
The part of this film that I had the hardest time was waiting for the denouement. As a patron of the Hollywood movie set I spent most of the movie waiting for Jason Stratham to break in with a sub machine gun and rescue each of them but you know what? That sort of hero doesn’t exist in real life. The actual heroes are regular people like you and me who take a stand and do what is within our means. I don’t usually do this sort of thing but I invite each one of you to visit Girl Rising, the website of the organization that put this film together, and do whatever you can to help. If you have money send money. If you don’t then try to watch the film or social media the crap out of them. Facebook, Twitter, whatever it is you kids are doing these days to get the word out. I am not much of a social activist and I hate this Jerry’s Kid’s style telethon BS intensely but if you saw this film you would understand why I now care (and if you know me you know how little I care about almost anything). Please do what you can.
I always say thanks for reading at the end of my blogs, but this time really thank you for reading. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Comments on this cause or movie can be put here and off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you again.
Back in November when I did my 10 Worst Star Trek TOS Episode list I included my list of bad ones. One of the episodes that slipped my grasp was the Alternative Factor. One reader commented and called me out on it. At the time I said I had a liking for Lazarus and anti-Lazarus fighting for eternity between universes. However, I have been rewatching the TOS episodes and last night got up to the Alternative Factor and have had to reconsider my position on this one.
Basically this episode is the first to have Season 3 sized plot holes but was barely into Season 1. The science was about as dumb as possible. If anti-Lazarus was made of antimatter wouldn’t he be annihilated as soon as he came into contact with matter from our world? The matter humans are comprised of changes every minute. If anti-Lazarus ate or drank something what happened when he went home? Wouldn’t his stomach contacts destroy the universe? Is it only the exact molecules that destroy each other? How does that make sense?
So Lazarus is a crazed madman who has already expressed a desire for critical components of the Enterprise’s warp drive. Why didn’t Kirk just throw him in the brig, or at least put a guard on him? Instead a complete stranger has free run of the ship, and gets to hang out in the rec room listening to crew members discuss dilithium crystals. Had Lazarus been under observation the crew might have noticed how he kept phasing in and out of reality every time the universe went on it’s freaky binge. Given that knowledge I think Kirk would have not been remiss dropping him into the nearest black hole.
Why, exactly, did anti-Lazarus have to fight Lazarus in the corridor between universes forever? You can’t tell me it’s because of the balance of atoms or something like that. One of them had a bandage that the other did not, so there is no way the atom count was accurate. Why couldn’t Kirk have just executed Lazarus (the crazy one) or rendered him unconscious, tied him up, and tossed him into the little ship? Anti-Lazarus could have just hung out on the other side and blown up his own ship, then went home to market his own line of facial hair products.
Speaking of just knocking Lazarus out, at one point Kirk and Lazarus struggle as Kirk tries to pitch Lazarus into the gateway. That’s all fine and well, but Mr. Spock and two red shirts just stand there fully armed watching. What if Lazarus had been secretly trained in martial arts and tossed Kirk in the door again, or just gotten lucky and gouged out one of Kirks eyes? Spock could have nerve pinched him out, cuffed him, and tossed him into the corridor. Also Kirk takes his sweet ass time nuking the ship from orbit. At any second Lazarus or anti-Lazarus (or both) could have come rolling out of the gate and destroyed the universe.
I don’t know. Is it worse than the Enemy Within, my number 10 worst episode? I guess not. The science is not as horrible, and at least they tried to address some interesting ideas beyond the duality of man. However, Kirk did not get to demonstrate his range of acting ability as he did in the Enemy, so from a cinematographic point of view maybe.
One thing is for sure. This episode would have to murder a bus full of orphans and nuns to be considered worse than Spock’s Brain, so as bad as it or any of the other ones are at least it has that going for it. (Spock’s Brain image courtesy of the Star Trek T-Shirt category)
Today is cheap movie night, so I will try to see Hit and Run tonight. It’s the new pretty boy Bradley Cooper movie, but apparently it was done semi-independently so I am curious to see what comes of it. Look for the review tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have any thoughts or comments on this post feel free to make them here, and if you have any off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at email@example.com. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!
SPOILER ALERT: the boat sinks.
So I did see this last night and yes, the girl I saw it with teared up. Fortunately I had just recharged my robot batteries and managed to escape without being too affected by it. (If you want to see me cry like a baby show me the last 10 minutes of the Wrath of Khan. Spock’s death scene hits me like nothing else. TWOK image courtesy of the Star Trek T-Shirt category)
I have long avoided seeing Titanic for a laundry list of reasons. At the time I didn’t know James Cameron from Adam and had no idea what a talented film maker he was. Also I had issues with Hollywood pretty boys like Leonardo Di Caprio and did not want to support them. Finally, I had a problem with Hollywood using the tragic death of 1500 people to sell a love story.
Time makes fools of us all, however. Avatar made me a James Cameron fan. Granted he doesn’t make the greatest stories, but he makes incredibly effective films that tug at your heartstrings. Watching him in Inception has made me a fan of Leonardo, and I have since watched and enjoyed him in films like Shutter Island and J Edgar. And finally seeing Hollywood take the great tragedy of my time, 911, and turn it into a cheesy story in Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close had more or less hardened me to the exploitation of tragic events that happened decades before I was born.
I am not going to go into the story. If you are like me and haven’t seen it yet I’m sure the story of love found and lost (as told by Shakespeare) has filtered into your subconscious. Either that or you live in a cave somewhere. Nor am I going to do a formal review as it would be a pointless waste of time. The movie is nigh flawless, and except for a couple issues with some forced dialog I really couldn’t find any black holes that would not be total nit picking. The story was seamless, the acting superb, and all the characters believable and cool. I am especially a fan of Billy Zane (see him in Demonknight if you have not). The chemistry between Leonardo and Kate Winslet is very real and makes for a great love story, while the tragic ending is like a punch in the stomach that somehow feels good. Plus we get to see Kate Winslet topless.
I will say that unless the original film was a Hanna Barbara cartoon the 3D did absolutely, 100% nothing. If I hadn’t gotten up to use the restroom I would have totally forgotten about the bad fashion decision on my face. 3D sucks, and post production 3D (15 years post production) sucks even more.
I couldn’t even come up with some funny questions like I did with Harry Potter. I do have some but most of them make sense. Like, for example, in the unlikely event I were ever to set foot on another ship (watching this movie has cured me of that desire for life) and there were not enough light boats, I think I would have grabbed a fire axe and cut enough deck material to make some kind of floatation device. Kate ended up an a big piece of wood. Also, why were crew members given seats on the boats in order to row when there were any number of able bodied male passengers who might have done it?
Actually I do have one funny question. It is navel tradition that the captain of a ship be the last man off and should go down with the ship. If you were given captaincy of a ship you would know that. Why then would you be OK with being on a ship that did not have enough seats for everyone? If you have 2,800 passengers and enough lifeboat seats for 2,799 people guess who gets the short end? Of course, this movie is a study in the error of hubris. This is why no ship since has been called “unsinkable” and why I don’t use phrases like “safe”, “that should work”, or “a good idea”.
Anyway, I did enjoy this movie, and if you are a stick in the mud like I was for years I suggest you get over it. However, the 3D is more or less worthless so I think it OK to see it on a larger TV. On the other hand a lot of the shots were pretty impressive so maybe it’s worth the headache (literally).
Thanks for reading. Not a lot out right now that I want to go see, but I will find something to write about tomorrow morning. If you have a comment about this review feel free to post it here, or follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. You can email me with specific questions or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
Ever wonder what a rated R action movie is supposed to look like? Now you can find out.
Wow. That pretty much sums up this movie in a word. Easily the best action movie I have seen in years, possibly decades. On par with Die Hard, First Blood, Lethal Weapon, or any other top action movie (even the Road Warrior, and if you know me you know that is saying a lot). This film takes the crime action and martial arts genres and melds them seamlessly with great characters and some of the most amazing action camera work ever.
Let me talk a little about the camera in this film. Most action films plant the camera at mid range and then use dumb quick cuts to generate action. If they want to make the audience feel like they are in the scene they don’t use a steady cam and let the Blair Witch effect take over. However, as jumbled up as you may be in a fight scene your eyes don’t really jitter around like that. What this movie does is incorporates the camera into the fight choreography, dodging in an out, panning with the fighters, diving in, and placing you in the action better than anything else I have ever seen. The last time I felt that close to a fight I was one of the ones fighting. Truly great.
The martial arts is also great. The film is Indonesian (with my new favorite director Gareth Evans. Sorry Scorsese. He has also done Footsteps and Merantau, both of which I am going to track down) and most of the stars are experts in Pencak Silat. There are no dumb wire fight scenes. All the fighting seems really cool and brutally realistic. Even the gun action is great.
The story is of young Rama (Iko Uwais-Merentau is his only other film credit), a new officer leaving his pregnant wife after a short training montage to join his team of elite cops. They are raiding crime lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy-Dilema, Demi Dewl, Jinx), a brutal man who rules his 30 story slum tenement filled with the scum of the earth with an iron hand. He has two main henchmen: amazing martial artist Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian-Merentau. He and Iko did the fight choreography) who lives only to fight, and brain man Andi (Doni Alamsyah-Fiksi, Merentau, Hearts of Freedom), and an army of thugs and psychopaths. The cops stealth into the building, taking out spotters and guards as they progress, but are spotted. Tama wakes up the whole building and all hell breaks loose.
After the initial gun fight sequence (started off in the dark in the coolest way possible) this movie shifts gears smoothly from action to survival/horror. Granted, none of the bad guys are zombies (that we know of) but a lot of really cool horror elements are incorporated, like good guys hiding around the corners while the bad guys are tapping their machetes along the wall looking for them. The survivors of the first big fight split up. Rama is trying to save the life of his injured friend Bowo (Tegar Satrya-Negeri 5 Menara) while his Sergent Jaka (Joe Taslim-Rasa, Karma) head in a different direction with Lt. Wahyu (Pierre Gruno-True Love, London Virginia, Ekspedisi madewa) and another red shirt (Dead Man Walking image courtesy of the Star Trek T-Shirt category).
This is where the martial arts action really unfolds. Rama kicks and punches his way through a corridor of bad guys (and to anyone who thinks there was too much of the fighting, or that some of the fight scenes went on too long, it is obvious you have never really developed an appreciation for martial arts movies. Perhaps you should go see the Lorax). Some cool plot twists develop, although if you are here for an amazing story I think you walked into the wrong theater.
The stars. Amazing action. Three stars. Really great camera work. Three stars. Fight choreography that is second to none. Two stars. For the most part really good characters, especially the villains. One star. Overall a wonderful film experience. Three stars. Total: twelve stars.
The black holes. I hate giving any, as I loved this movie on almost all levels, but have to be honest. The story was pretty simple and even the plot twists no big deal. One black hole. Some of the dialog felt forced and artificial, especially the cussing. This film was written in English and translated for the actors to speak in Indonesian. It felt culturally out of place. One black hole. I could give a third for some cheesy CGI blood, but honestly it was hardly noticeable. Two black holes.
A grand total of 10 stars, one of the best scores I have given in a long time. Should you see it? Abso-freaking-lutely. You will have to look hard for it since American theaters won’t show anything that doesn’t have Brad Pitt or the like in it, but it will be worth the search. See it in a theater to encourage other good movies to be made and released here. Date movie? Hell no, but drag her ass to see it anyway. If she puts up with it you know she’s a keeper, and who knows? You might awaken a sleeping love of martial arts movies in her and you next date could be a Bruce Lee marathon. Even if she dumps you at least you have exposed her to a great film, thus incrementally increasing the culture level of this country.
The one thing that drives me nuts about this film is not the movie itself but rather that it painfully illustrates how lame the vast majority of Hollywood action extravaganzas are. Action isn’t about how many explosions you can fit into ten minutes of film or who has the biggest CGI budget. It’s about the action. This film is like the svelte, athletic person entering a room full of fat people. All of a sudden everyone in the room just looks fatter. They are already working on an American remake and I would bet a large sum of money that it will not be half as good.
Thanks for reading. Go see this movie. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu or email me with suggestions or questions at email@example.com. If you have a comment about this film feel free to post it here. Something came out recently called Intruders with no fanfare that looks creepy as hell. I might go see it tonight. Talk to you soon.
Extremely Depressing and Incredibly Painful
I am going to start this review with a lesson from my upcoming book “How to Make Movies that Don’t Suck”. The lesson is this: no matter how good the story, acting, direction, filming, or editing is, if you make the movie about 9-11 then the biggest American tragedy of the 21st century is going to overwhelm the story and plot in a depressing gloom and actually annoy the hell out of your audience. It’s like if you set out the world’s finest buffet table, with sushi, caviar, and all the best foods possible, set it out on a table covered with flowers, fine china, and a silk tablecloth, but then dead center put a big platter of dog feces. No matter how good the food may be, the very fact that it sat on a table with dog crap is going to put a lot of people off even touching it. Furthermore, when someone looks at your beautiful buffet their eyes will be drawn to the crap in the middle and they will want to look away. Some people might start on one end of the buffet and not notice the dog crap until halfway through, but as soon as they see it the food they have collected will end up left untouched on the credenza, while others will have been chased from the room by the smell wafting through the air alone.
Thus we come to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a movie about a troubled kid dealing with his dad dying on 9-11. I am not actually saying that this movie is the greatest buffet of all time except for the dog crap salad at the center. It has plenty of other issues, most related to pacing, but I can see what director Stephen Daldry (The Hours, Billy Elliot, The Reader) was trying to accomplish. However, it does have elements that in a movie without the dog crap centerpiece would have made for an excellent cinema experience.
The funny thing is at first I thought this movie was treating 9-11 as a main issue without forcing the audience to sit through it, to it’s benefit. The death of the father was related via expository scenes rather than footage of the Twin Towers falling. However, as the movie progresses through a never ending Vortex of Flashbacks we are subjected to everything from that day I never wanted to see or hear about again. I don’t even want to talk about it here. I watched all that stuff live on TV and still get the chills.
The story is basically As Good as it Gets meets Stand by Me set in the City of Lost Children. Tom Hanks plays super dad to his highly intelligent but disturbed kid Oskar (no other real credits). They play games and Tom’s character Thomas likes to give his son puzzles like a scavenger hunt to solve. Thomas dies in one of the towers and the kid has a breakdown of sorts. He finds a key in his dad’s possession and decides it must be part of the last game Thomas was setting up for him. He blows off his mother (Sandra Bullock-she is excellent in this movie, BTW) in a big way and undergoes an OCD inspired quest to find what lock the key fits into. Along the way he meets a ton of people, deals with his own phobias and issues, alienates his long suffering mother, and meets up with a creepy older man (Max von Sydow-Minority Report, Shutter Island, the Exorcist) who is mute and writes everything down on a piece of paper. The plot plods on and on like me trying to push my ’79 T-Bird to the gas station, with lots of boring non productive scenes punctuated by temper tantrums from the kid. The kid in a weird way describes a perfect character arc. At the beginning of the movie I found him painfully annoying. Towards the middle I kind of really got to like him and his eccentric ways. Then towards the end I found him really annoying again.
The story is obviously about the character development in the kid, and in it’s own way does an admirable (if boring) job of portraying it. The problem is the 9-11 basis for the story so overshadows everything else that you really couldn’t care. I will say the story managed to not step in any other major quagmires. While the ending was a little fanciful it did not really bend my mind accepting it. The acting was very good, and the dialog decent. If the story had been about about a kid dealing with his dad dying in a tragic Segway accident it would have been a decent, if slow, movie.
The stars. Acting was decent all around, although in spite of getting top billing Tom Hanks was only in about 15 minutes of the film and more or less played a grown up version of Josh Baskin from Big. I thought Sandra Bullock did a particularly good job. Two stars. For the most part I liked the characters, especially the mute old man. One star. The movie did what movies should at least try to do: actually have a character show some form of development (for most of you directors out there this phenomenon is called “character development”) and truly describe a true story arc. One star. Overall of a quality I wish more filmmakers would aspire to. Two stars. Total: six stars.
The black holes. 9-11 based story. Two black holes. The story kept coming back to 9-11. One black hole. Pacing felt like my mother was driving the movie. Sluggish and boring. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
So a total of two stars. I honestly did not want to see this film when I saw the trailers, and only “professional” obligations got me into the theater. Now that I have seen it I know I was right in that assessment. If you think enough time has passed and you are not disturbed by images and stories set on 9-11 then by all means go see it. You will probably enjoy it, but you won’t be invited to any of the wild parties I throw on a regular basis (the last one was in 1998, I think. Party like a Vulcan image courtesy of the Spock T Shirt category). I think the acting will carry this movie if you can ignore the subject matter. The kid is talented, and Tom Hangs and Sandra Bullock have a good chemistry together (I thought so when I reviewed Larry Crowne). However, overall the entire movie was pretty much a bummer.
Thanks for reading, as always. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Nothing really on deck until Friday, so I think I will take a break and let Jason post more of his short rants. Talk to you soon.