He Was a Quiet Man

 

My Netflix romp continues this week. I am really enjoying it thus far and I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. One of the first films I got in the mail was a nice little Indie flick starring Christian Slater, Elisha Cuthbert, and William H. Macy called He Was a Quiet Man. Directed by Frank A. Cappello the film is about a loner  named Bob (who is likely a schitzo) who is always bullied around at his job.  He decides that he is going to shoot up his office and then take his own life. But before he is able to do the deed himself, another co-worker beats him to the punch. Bob becomes the unlikely hero when he kills the other shooter. Bob is thrown into a whole new world where people at the office seem to suddenly like him and he is given an executive postition at the company. Bob falls in love with the woman he saved, the beautiful Vanessa. She was paralyzed in the attack and afterwords she has to rely on Bob to help her out. I don’t want to give a whole lot away so I’ll stop with the synopsis. This film has some really beautiful camera work, that really helps to bring you into Bob’s headspace because it seems to match his character so well. The film’s ending is beautifully poetic. (if you get a chance listin to the commentary at for the very end of this film.) This was a very low-budget film and almost all of the VisFX were done by Cappello himself or by a few of his friends, they really didn’t do a bad job on them at all and I love seeing a wrtier/director this involved in his work.

He Was a Quiet Man is really a great dark comedy/drama flick. The acting is pretty solid and I really can’t say no to Elisha Cuthbert… *drool*  I’d recommend this to any fans of dark comedies.

This Is England

So I finally got with the times this last week and subscribed to Netflix.  I honestly have no idea how I have been living without it all these years. I’ve been using the streaming video feature over XBox Live all week. The first film I watched, was an Indie film out of Britain called This Is England. I had never heard of it and I really knew nothing about it other than what was in the description. I could not have lucked out more.

Director Shane Meadows’ triumphant work of art is loosely based around events in his own childhood. Set in England in 1983, the film follows a troubled young boy named Shaun as he struggles growing up without many friends. His father had been killed in the Falkland War, and Shaun and his mother were left to try and fend for themselves. Shaun is constantly being picked on at school. On his way home he runs into a group of older skinheads, and quickly becomes one of the gang. The leader of the group Woody is very much like a big brother to Shaun and helps him deal with the kids that are bullying him. Shaun is quickly welcomed into the group and finds himself a young skinhead. The group really is fairly tame and is just an average group of teenagers, that is until an old member comes back. An ex-con name Combo, who is in his young thirties, rejoins the group and immediate reasserts himself as the leader and immediately begins to spout his white supremacist rhetoric and splits the group apart. Shaun ends up staying with Combo, while Woody leaves the gang.  Combo starts to push his beliefs more and more on the young boys. And the film culminates with Combo beating one of Shaun’s old friends, a black kid named Milky almost to death.

I really enjoyed everything about this film. There aren’t too many films that have shown this dark part of British culture and it really is amazing to see some of the locations used. They are in England but with the amount of graffiti and their overall condition it almost looks like Eastern Europe. I really love the two scenes of Shaun in little wrecked white boat that frame the film, they are deeply symbolic. White is of representative of purity and innocence.  The story told within this frame is one in which Shaun goes from an innocent little boy, to a kid who has seen and done things no 11 year old boy should ever have to. The contrast we seen in Shaun from the opening frame to the closing frame is staggering. I absolutely loved the film’s final shot. I immediately thought of Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups and the striking similarity the between Shaun and Antoine.

This is England has a phenomenal cast. Other than Steven Graham (Combo) who has been in Snatch, Gangs of New York, and Band of Brothers I hadn’t ever heard of any of these other actors. And I always love that in a movie or television show. Des Hamilton and Louise Meadows, the film’s Casting Directors did an outstanding not only in job in putting this whole cast together but they deserve so much credit for discovering Thomas Turgoose, who plays Shaun. This kid has a screen presence well beyond his years and he made it so easy to relate to him. I really wish he could stay that age forever, if only for our benefit. There isn’t a single part in the film that should have been casted differently. The ensemble was superb across the board. The films soundtrack ties all of this together beautifully. Ludovico Einaudi’s score was very powerful and almost haunting.

I’ve studied youth cinema fairly intensely over the last few years and I really believe this is one of the most important and powerful films within the genre. I can not recommend this film enough. Anyone who made it this far need to go out and find this movie immediately.

 

 

The Office

 

I’ve never been very big on comedy television. Not because I’m a fun hater or don’t like to laugh or anything, in fact some of my favorites shows are comdie. The truth of it is that most of the comedy made for television (especially network TV) is nothing but rigid formulaic crap and is not worth the time it takes to watch it. I would rather gouge my eyes out that watch the sitcom of the month on FOX or CBS. Washed up ‘stars’, rehashed plots and jokes aren’t exactly my thing.

Every once in awhile though there come along shows that are truly diamonds in the rough. For me (and millions of other viewers) NBC’s The Office is one such show. You would have to be living in a cave for the last five years if you have never heard of it. It is very easy to fall in love with the witty (and some times outrageous)  dialog and acting. The show is so well written that it is easy to sympathize with even the show’s oddest characters. I’ve always kind of felt that a great comedy can really make you feel uncomfortable as you watch it. That is to say that there are situations that are real enough that you feel the embarrassment of the characters on screen as if it were your own. This is especially true with Michael. There are so many times I just cringe watching him try to interact with anyone as he is just so social awkward

I really enjoy the way in which the show is shot. Shooting it in a mockumentary style is an absolutely crucial elemt in the show’s makeup and style. The camera is able to act as its own character, allowing for a whole new set of jokes and situations that wouldn’t be present in a tradiitional multi-camera sitcom shot in front of a studio audience. I’m eternally grateful to the shows producers for not shooting in front of an aaudience. I really can’t emphasise enought just how much I can’t stand laugh tracks or studio audiences.

Anyways if you somehow aren’t watching this show yet, you should do something to change that. Full episodes are availible for free on IMDb.

Stargate Continuum

Stargate: Continuum is the second direct to DVD movie in the Stargate series. Yeah I know, direct to DVD movies usually suck. Usually when a film goes direct to DVD it means the studio lacks faith in the film to have any kind of pull at the box offices and they are hoping to make a return on DVD sales. Fortunately this is far from the case with Stargate: Continuum (as well as the first direct to DVD movie, The Ark of Truth.) This is hardly the disapointing movie you might expect from this type of release, and is an absolute must see for Stargate fans. Honestly I think this type of release works perfectly for the franchise. There is simply way to much backstory that would need to be explained in a wide-release, and it would dumb the film down and seem redundant to fans already familiar with the series. With a direct to DVD release, it is safe to assume your audience will have some level of familiarity with the universe and characters so you can get away with less explanation of the backstory.

Spoilers apply:

Unlike the first film which is the conclusion to the main Ori story arc established in seasons 9 and 10, Continuum is more of a stand alone film. The film takes place sometime after the defeat of the Ori. SG-1 and General O’Neill are invited by the Tok’ra to witness Ba’al’s extraction. One of the Ba’al clones had managed to escape capture and he goes back in time to prevent the Stargate from ever making it to the U.S. He intercepts it while en route to the US accross the Atlantic Ocean. He kills the crew and attempts to blow up the ship. The ships Captain, conviently the grandfather of Colonel Mitchell, is able to throw the bomb intended to destroy the Stargate overboard. The ship and the gate are saved but with the crew dead and captain fatally wouded the ship drifts off course into the Artic, which completely changes history.

Time travel is purely theoretical and there are many different ideas on how exactly it works. I’m certainly no expert in the field but I think the interpretation they chose is inaccurate. People and buildings  start disappearing and SG-1 has to run to Stargate before they too disappear, as the timeline is supposedly collapsing in on itself.  Sure it looks dramatic (which is probably the reason they picked it) but it doesn’t make sense. As soon as Ba’al goes back in time the timeline as they knew it would disappear. 

Other than my gripe with the timeline this really is a very solid movie and worth checking out. There are some great effects/scenes in the film that would never be seen in a regualr episode.  The U.S. Navy lent the use of one of their nuclear submarines to the production and the Air Force lent a pair of F-14’s. There are still some great character movements and plenty of classic SG-1 action. If you are into Stargate this movie is a must see.

The Hammer is My Penis…

drhorriblesmall

Intresting title, huh? I’m not even going to explain it. You’ll just have to watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

Dr. Horrible is the latest creation from Buffy the Vampire Slayercreator Joss Whedon. Like all the rest of his work Dr. Horrible is chock full of the mix of humor and memorable characters that have made his work so unforgettable. Whedon alum Nathan Fillion delivers another classic performance as the ‘hero’ Captain Hammer, and has really become one of my favorite actors. There of course can be no forgetting NPH’s performance as the title charactrer.

I think my favorite aspect of the ‘blog’ is the fact that it was created during the writer’s strike. Joss preduced this project witout any studio backing and it was released free on the interweb in three installements this summer. I really would love to see more autuers go down this independent route more often. It is really refreshing to see people like Whedon who make films and television becasue they love doing it, not because they get paid to do so. A fourth installment is planned for the future, along with an eventual DVD release. If you enjoy Dr. Horrible go out and buy the DVD when it is released, support Joss and hopefully we can expect to see him explore this outlet for his creativity more.

Here is Joss’s intro to Dr. Horrible:

A LETTER FROM JOSS WHEDON

Dear Friends,

At last the time has come to reveal to you our Master Plan. BEWARE! Those with weak hearts should log off lest they be terrified by the twisted genius of our schemes! Also pregnant women and the elderly should consider reading only certain sentences. Do not mix with other blogs. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading this blog. You must be this tall to read. ‘Kay?

It is time for us to change the face of Show Business as we know it. You know the old adage, “It’s Show Business – not Show Friends”? Well now it’s Show Friends. We did that. To Show Business. To show Show Business we mean business. (Also, there are now other businesses like it.)

ONE WEEK ONLY! AN INTERNET MINISERIES EVENT!

“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” will be streamed, LIVE (that part’s not true), FREE (sadly, that part is) right on Drhorrible.com, in mid-July. Specifically:

ACT ONE (Wheee!) will go up Tuesday July 15th.

ACT TWO (OMG!) will go up Thursday July 17th.

ACT THREE (Denouement!) will go up Saturday July 19th.

All acts will stay up until midnight Sunday July 20th. Then they will vanish into the night, like a phantom (but not THE Phantom – that’s still playing. Like, everywhere.)

And now to answers a few Frequently (soon to be) Asked Questions:

1) Why, Joss? Why? Why now, why free, why us?

Once upon a time, all the writers in the forest got very mad with the Forest Kings and declared a work-stoppage. The forest creatures were all sad; the mushrooms did not dance, the elderberries gave no juice for the festival wines, and the Teamsters were kinda pissed. (They were very polite about it, though.) During this work-stoppage, many writers tried to form partnerships for outside funding to create new work that circumvented the Forest King system.

Frustrated with the lack of movement on that front, I finally decided to do something very ambitious, very exciting, very mid-life-crisisy. Aided only by everyone I had worked with, was related to or had ever met, I single-handedly created this unique little epic. A supervillain musical, of which, as we all know, there are far too few.

The idea was to make it on the fly, on the cheap – but to make it. To turn out a really thrilling, professionalish piece of entertainment specifically for the internet. To show how much could be done with very little. To show the world there is another way. To give the public (and in particular you guys) something for all your support and patience. And to make a lot of silly jokes. Actually, that sentence probably should have come first.

2) What happens when it goes away? Does it go to a happy farm for always like Fluffy did when mommy was crying and the neighbor kept washing his fender?

No, Dr horrible will live on. We intend to make it available for download soon after it’s published. This would be for a nominal fee, which we’re hoping people will embrace instead of getting all piratey. We have big dreams, people, and one of them is paying our crew.

And somewhat later, we will put the complete short epic out on DVD – with the finest and bravest extras in all the land. We’ll go into greater detail about that at Comiccon, but we’re changing the face of Show Friendliness a second time with that crazy DVD.

3) Joss, you are so kind, and generous, and your forehead is like, huge, like SCARY, like I think I can see Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint hanging off it… what can WE do to help this musical extravanganza?

What you always do, peeps! What you’re already doing. Spread the word. Rock some banners, widgets, diggs… let people know who wouldn’t ordinarily know. It wouldn’t hurt if this really was an event. Good for the business, good for the community – communitIES: Hollywood, internet, artists around the world, comic-book fans, musical fans (and even the rather vocal community of people who hate both but will still dig on this). Proving we can turn Dr Horrible into a viable economic proposition as well as an awesome goof will only inspire more people to lay themselves out in the same way. It’s time for the dissemination of the artistic process. Create more for less. You are the ones that can make that happen.

Wow. I had no idea how important you guys were. I’m a little afraid of you.

4) Joss, do you ever answer a question simply or coherently?

Shledzguohn?

There’ll be more questions, and more long, long answers, but for now I’m just excited that we’re actually making this happen. We (and a lot of other people — gushing to commence soon) worked very hard on the show and we hope/think you guys will be pleased.

Until July 15th , I remain, yours truly, -j, of the firm j, j, m & z.

No Reservations

 

Another show I really can’t get enough of is Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel. I really don’t have the money to travel as much as I’d like to, so in the mean time I’m stuck with living vicariously through various travel shows. No Reservations is easily the best travel show out there. It all starts with the host. Tony’s cyniscm, sense of humor, passion for food, travel, and people, really make him a joy to watch. The show really shoots in some interesting locations that are somewhat atypical for other travel shows. Tony’s trips to Namibia, Ghana, Iceland, and Uzbekistan immediaely come to mind. I really feel that the show very closely reflects many of my own travel philospohies. Specifically the notion to do as the locals do, and avoid the “touristy” attractions and restaurants. I can’t stress enough how important it is to watch this show with a full stomach… the visuals of all the aboslutely delicious looking food will drive you completely insane otherwise. The show is defintely one to check out if you are even remotely interested in travel.

Sanctuary for All (or Maybe for None)

As a huge fan of all things Stargate I had to check out one of the Sci-Fi Channel’s latest series Sanctuary. The show is produced by a bunch of Stargate alumni, including Amanda Tapping and veteran Director Martin Wood.  Sancuary was one of the first shows to be released exclsuively online and after a successful online run it was picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel for a full season. Truth be told the show never really appealled much to me, but I decided to give it a chance because of who was involved with it. So far I really haven’t been all that impressed. Sanctuary is one of the first shows to use almost exclusively digital sets. I’m somewhat of a purist and I really don’t enjoy that too much. Computers can do some fantastic things and there can’t be no discounting all of the postive contirbutions and advancemnets they have given filmmakers. It’s great how it is possible to show almost anything these days. I just think that filmmakers are starting to rely to heavily upon them, and are forgetting the root of the art. Real sets and locations always need to have a place in film and television. They really help to give it that realistic feel that it would be lacking without it. There were quite a few moments in the pilot episode where the vis effects were supposed to be crucial to the scenes to reveal a key environment and they just didn’t do it for me.

I’m not really a fan of Tapping’s accent either. I get that it was probably done to distance her from he Samantha Carter character, but I just don’t think Amanda has the best accent.

Overall I don’t hate the show, and I thought it maybe had some potential. But in the end it really isn’t much more than a run of the mill sci-fi show with a few added bells and whistles. I stopped watching it because there are other shows I’d rather spend my time watching and other things I’d rather. do.