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Trailer Trash: 127 Hours

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's time to root through some trailers! What sort of wonderful things will be alluded to today?

Amazing what winning an Oscar can do for you as an artist! Up until Slumdog Millionaire, Danny boyle hadn't exactly been known to work with big stars. The Beach is the one exception to this rule! Well, now that he has an Oscar under his belt for a film that many believe will become a classic in a fe years, he can work with pretty much anyone he wants.

127 Hours tells the infamous story of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who was forced to amputate his arm with a dull knife when it became pinned by a falling rock! First off, allow me to make an exclamation of uncomfortableness at the concept of going through what he went through.


Ok, anyway! James Franco plays Ralston! I like Franco. I haven't seen him in awhile, due to the fact that he's been at NYU (grrrrrr!) and I don't watch soap operas! Anywhoo, the trailer makes it see like a one man show, so, here's hoping he can channel some of the mad genius that he brought to the table in Pineapple Express.

Boyle looks to be utilizing his usual, frenetic style for 127 Hours! Many of the shots look identical to some seen in Slumdog Millionaire, what with all the desert tundra and orange colors! And, I get a huge kick out of the segment that sees Franco and his two lady friends plummet through a crevice and into an underwater lake. If I wasn't so much of a pussy, I might think of doing something like that someday!

The trailer looks cool! I'm just a little worried as to how the movie will go about telling its story! An hour and a half of a guy pinned in the same position can only be interesting for so long. Other then that, it's Danny Boyle! I love everything he touches! I'm there!

Sweet Emotion

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I am kicking myself right now! For my final paper for L&T, I had to write about something under the absurdly broad statement, "What makes us human?". I settled on how humans can feel emotion and things of that nature. It was a good topic, one of which there are plenty examples with which I could have used to back up my claim! So, why am I kicking myself? Well, because one of the best examples that I could have used made itself apparent to me after I turned it in. It's a film, set in a world, where emotion is outlawed, thus reducing the population to, more or less, zombies. It would have been perfect, but I couldn't use it! AGHGHGHGH!!! Equilibrium is an ingenious sci-fi actioner that poses good ideas and has awesome fights, but is marred by a shoddy script and some weak acting. It's not great, but it's not terrible either!

We'll still be using katanas in the future! May not be as practical, but it looks sweet!

It's the future; no exact year is given! The Third World War just ended and the winners, jaded by all the mayhem, have decided to put a stop to conflict! They determine that human emotion is the thing that causes war, so, the new world government starts the population on a drug to suppress it. All well and good, you might say, but you'd be wrong. There are a few sane people out in the world who, inexplicably, like being able to feel stuff, so they take it upon themselves to combat this new regime, effectively starting a civil war! Really counterproductive on the government's part, if you ask me, but, whatever! We'll roll with it. To deal with the resistance, the government trains Clerics, supremely badass law enforcers who are highly skilled in gun kata! The highest ranking of these Clerics, John Preston is exacting and ruthless. That is, until he stops taking his emotion suppressing drug. As his feelings start flooding back, Preston suddenly finds himself fighting the same government that he was so blindly protecting!

Ok, first off, let's get the obvious out of the way! This movie is a total rip-off of 1984, V For Vendetta, and pretty much every other fascist regime flick in history! Everything about it, from the look of the city and civilians, to faceless and brutal police force, is ripped straight from the pages of Orwell's book! Hell, the leader of the government goes by the name Father! Yeesh!

It's a standard plot, with some good ideas and progression, but it's not handled as well as it could be. You easily buy into Preston's arc, but that's about it! The bad guys are inexplicably bad; the good guys are inexplicably good! Not much motivation is thrown in there! It is enough to get you from A to B, and, thankfully, A and B are not always balls to wall action scenes. More on the that later. 

Christian Bale is Preston! Since this film came out in 2002, we had yet to see him in anything high profile. This is three whole years before Batman Begins put him on the map for real! That being said, the makings of a star are showing through here! Bale has that rugged handsomeness that all action heroes need to posses, and his now famous gruffness and seriousness is used here to great effect! His is the best character, not surprisingly, and he handles it well!

Taye Diggs is Brandt, Preston's partner, who is apparently unaware of the fact that Preston is now laying off the juice! As the main(ish) antagonist, Diggs has neither the screen presence or menace to be a legitimately villain! This could be the whole "lack of emotion" aspect of the story coming through, but even so. Diggs doesn't have the intimidating qualities that a performance of this sort requires.

The last main role falls to Emily Watson as a "sense offender" who Preston develops a sort of relationship with! It's a pretty powerful performance, and Watson brings a fiery energy to the screen. She's just not used enough! When she's on screen, the screen crackles and pops with her fierceness! When she is not, her absence is uncomfortably noticeable!

Sean Bean shows up briefly as Preston's old partner, and Angus MacFayden is a constant presence as the man in charge of the Clerics. Performances are alright! Bale and Watson are great, but everyone else falters or just isn't on screen enough to make an impression!

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

Equilibrium is the brain child of Kurt Wimmer, who wrote and directed! First, he should be commended for making an action movie with characters more content to talk rather than fight! Despite the coolness of the action, there isn't a lot! The final set piece is only about six minutes long! Wimmer has made the best kind of action movie, one with ideas! The concepts posed in Equilibrium, that emotion leads to war, the cost of losing emotion, and other things that would have helped my paper immensely are all well handled, prompting you to actually do some thinking during the run time!

That being said, there's plenty of cool action to be had! You know how, in action movies, bullets never seem to hit the main guy? Well, that's the case with Equilibrium, but, this time, there is a good explanation! In this world, Clerics are highly experience in gun kata, a.k.a. gun fu! Basically, it's marital arts, with desert eagles, and it looks awesome! The action scenes, however short and far between they are, are spectacular! You can't help but get a thrill when you see Bale jump into the middle of a crowd of faceless police men and proceed to smoothly and effortlessly gun them all down! 

There are a slew of unsavory things that taint Equilibrium, however! For starters, the script! Holy God, it sucks!! There are wonderful ideas and really cool concepts being thrown into the mix, but the script is nowhere near capable of handling them sufficiently! No one really has anything interesting to say! There are plenty plot holes, including one that will leave you scratching your head and backing up the movie to make sure you didn't see something different! It comes at a crucial point in the plot, and is positively infuriating! There are a few more, though not as aggravating as that one! You'll know when you see it! The acting is weak in areas, as has already been stated!

All things considered though, Equilibrium is worth a look! Go for the ideas, concepts, and badass gun fight! Be prepared for a weak script and shoddy acting! It's not perfect, but it is more then enough to keep you glued to your seat for a solid two hours! Oh, and a guy gets his face cut off by a samurai sword! What more do you want?

According to the Movies #8

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

If the movies say it, it must be true!

In keeping with the stuff my L&T professor has made me watch, today's lesson concerns death! Death is always there in movies! There's barely a film that doesn't have someone dying in some capacity, be it a character we have gotten to know throughout the whole thing, or hordes of faceless henchmen falling before a never ending hail of machine gun fire! You cannot escape death in the movies. Many have tried; all have failed!

The Lesson: You cannot cheat death! You can try, but you'll fail!

If you try, it will either turn out like this...

...or like this!

Bon Appétit! :)

Trailer Trash: Love and Other Drugs

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's time to root through some trailers. What sort of wonderful things will be alluded to today.

Today's trailer is for a film that's already been getting rave reviews and looks primed to be a force to be reckoned with come Oscar time. It's Love and Other Drugs, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. Gyllenhaal's character, Jamie, is a cut throat pharmaceutical salesmen who is busy selling the ultimate drug, Viagra! He lives a lavish lifestyle, complete with more tail than Hugh Hefner would know what to do with. He finds himself wanting something different, though, when he meets Maggie, played by Hathaway. They fall in love! But, there's one bump in the road. She has Parkinson's.

Love and Other Drugs is directed by Edward Zwick...

Wait, WHAT? Ed Zwick? The guy who has made a name of himself by making "politically correct" action films like Glory, The Last Samurai, and Blood Diamond? Uh, yeah, same guy! As far as I know, he hasn't done anything like this, so I'm anxious to see how he does. If early reviews from festivals are to be believed, he nailed it.

This trailer is pretty good! It's funny, sweet, and has left me interested in going to see this when it comes out. I love Gyllenhaal and Hathaway, and am looking forward to seeing them reunited again on the screen in a relationship that actually has a hope of working for a change. It's not a spectacular trailer, but, for a first, it's good enough. Hey, it got me excited! Good enough.

Also, it looks like Hathaway is going to be getting naked a lot! That's a win!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ok, so, I know this site is dedicated to movies, but, this is, like, the coolest thing ever!

Muse + The Edge = SEX!!!!!

Death and All of His Friends

Gotta love the artsy, liberal, hipster school, don't ya? For this three week seminar I'm a part of before school actually begins for real, I am required to attend screenings of some pretty interesting movies. One of them was just weird and surreal, and, as such, I have nothing to say about it (The Spirit of the Beehive). The other I honestly slept through (Killer of Sheep). What? It's college. I have work and I'm staying up till one or two most nights. Don't lay judgement on me; you know you were the exact same way! But, I digress. Where were we? Oh, right. The third film that the L&T professors have required me to watch, so far, is a bonafide classic. Wonderfully grim, surprisingly funny, with solid acting and beautiful imagery to boot. This is one classic that deserves a look.

Death takes his chess very seriously!

The Seventh Seal concerns a man, Antonius Block, who has just returned to his country from the Crusades. He finds his homeland in disarray, ravaged by the Black Plague. Upon his return, he is greeted by Death, who has come to take him away. Block, not surprisingly, values his life, and strikes up a deal with Death. They will play chess, and if Block wins, he will go free. As Block and his squire trek across the land on their way home, meeting and interacting with various people, Death continues to appear, eager to continue the game! 

Oh, lordy, this is a good setup! I've always loved films that put Death as a character, and The Seventh Seal is the best of the bunch. The story is very interesting, always keeping you riveted to the characters and their plight. You know, going in, how it's going to end, and this sense of impending doom hangs over the whole movie, giving a gravitas few films have succeeded in emulating. 

Max von Sydow is Block! I'm not that familiar with Sydow's work, having been introduced to him when he looked like a crumpled piece of paper. That being said, he is quite amazing here, delivering a heartfelt and earnest performance. Block is clearly traumatized by what he experienced in the Crusades, and von Sydow does a great job conveying this to the audience without ever actually saying it. 

Gunnar Bjornstrand is Block's squire, Jans. His is more of the comic relief character, but that doesn't stop him from dropping some profound stuff every now and then. Bjornstrand does a great job laying off all the crazy characters he is forced to deal with, and effortlessly creates a portrait of an asshole that we can sympathize with. 

There are some minor characters who feature heavily in the movie, and they are all good, to be sure. But it is Bengt Ekerot who steals the show as Death. He is positively terrifying as the Grim Reaper, creating an antagonist to frighten even the hardest person. His personification has been mimicked countless times, and nearly all of them miss the mark. Ekerot is the quintessential Death. No one does it better!

Performances all around are excellent, but von Sydow stands out because he has the most to work with and does it the best. He is still overshadowed by Ekerot, though. I'm sorry! When you play Death that well, you will walk away with the movie. 

La la la la la!

This is the film that put master director Ingmar Bergman on the map! Bergman also wrote the script, so he already had a good grasp of the material going in, but it is amazing what he has done with The Seventh Seal. He does a great job handling his actors, letting them loose to explore the material, but always keeping them grounded in the reality of the situation! He sets up an atmosphere of despair and doom, and does a fantastic job of it. He even does a good job handling the bipolar aspects of the script. The films jumps around a lot in tone, from grim and depressing, to incredibly funny! There's a point to this. I just haven't figured out what it is yet. 

Now, despite this, that bipolar thing is the only glaring flaw that I can detect in the thing. You leave the movie feeling a little unsettled, not just because the thing you saw was incredibly dark, but because there were some moments where you could not stop laughing. I left asking myself, "Should I feel sad, or happy?" It's not necessarily a bad thing, just an unwelcome thing, if you ask me. 

But, that gripe is for naught, because the fact remains that The Seventh Seal is an awesome experience. I don't mean awesome in the "Woah! Did you see that explosion?" type of awesome. I mean it in the "Holy shit! This is such an amazing movie!" type of awesome! Awesome in the way Schindler's List was awesome, not the way The A-Team was awesome! Get me? Good. This is a masterful movie, one that will stick with you long after you finish it. It has great performances, an engrossing atmosphere, and the single greatest portrayal of Death ever put on screen. This is quite the little film! Check it out!

I Hate Technology

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The internet here at Bard is iffy, to put it lightly! It was out all last night, so, not only did I have to do my work, internetless, but I was unable to write up this weeks lesson. Just as well, because I haven't had time to think of one. Not to worry though. I have two, maybe three, reviews to write. One is a recent movie, and two are from way back when. Keep a sharp eye! See you next time.

Trailer Trash: Unstoppable

Monday, August 16, 2010

It's time to root through some trailers. What sorts of wonderful things will be alluded to today!

With summer, winding to a close, we start to get some interesting movies thrown into the mix, ones that don't involve explosions and noises that could deafen you! The upcoming film, Unstoppable, is, clearly, not one of those films!

So, there're these guys, and they work on the railroads. There's your old, grizzled vet! There's your newbie! They have to work together! They don't like each other! Nothing like a runaway train filled with hazardous material that is careening towards a major city to create a bond between rivals.

Denzel Washington is the vet, and Chris Pine is the newbie. Washington has been disappointing me as of late! I really disliked The Book of Eli, and The Taking of Pelham 123 was eh. He does do pretty well when he works with Tony Scott, though. Chris Pine, who has not been playing the "I'm the new captain of the Starship Enterprise" card as much as he should, is the newbie. I haven't seen him in anything high profile since he made Star Trek accessible, so, I'm anxious to see how he does.

This trailer is ridiculous! This looks like one absurd movie! From the looks of it, they are treating the runaway train as if it were a monster on the prowl! There is a scene where the national guard fires guns at it. IT'S A FUCKING TRAIN!!! What are you, hoping that it'll feel the bullets and be all like, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'll go home now!" REALLY?

The movie does look pretty fun though, and looks primed to deliver that hyper-kinetic style of action that only Tony Scott can provide. We'll have to see!

Poll Results: The Name

Saturday, August 14, 2010

(The new poll is up! Take a gander, why don't you?)

So, about a month ago, DC was featured on the LAMB's Brutally Blunt Blog Blustering feature! Basically, the site is the focus of an article, and people go to it, get familiar with, and then, anonymously, mind you, critique the site in as brutal a fashion as possible. I actually fared pretty well, people liked my content and such, but one thing that came up more than once was the fact that the title, Detailed Criticisms, was a bit misleading. So, I opened it up to everyone else to weigh in with a poll! Here's what you all said!

Question: The anonymous critics at the LAMB say that the title, "Detailed Criticisms", is a bit misleading. Do you agree? Should I change the name?

1.) Yes, I do! The title of this blog has jack to do with the actual content! 1 vote! (Screw you!)

2.) Sure, why not? 2 votes! (Jeez! Indecisive much?)

3.) Psh! Naw, you crazy! It's perfect the way it is. 6 votes! (Much appreciated! Thanks!)

4.) Change it, but only if it's a really catchy title! 6 votes! (Alright.)

Well, gee! Thanks, guys! Way to put me into a predicament with that one! I guess it's up to me to weigh in on this one. I think I'm going to go with the name change thing! I've actually never really liked the title as it is, despite the fact that it makes for a really bitchin' banner! I'll get back to you on this one! Expect a another poll shortly!

In the mean time, here's a cat!

The FITS Awards: 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So, I realize that the summer season has a good two weeks left to go, but, I'm already at college, and the nearest theatre requires catching a shuttle that only runs once on Wednesday, and once on Saturday. Also, I'm making new friends and shit like that. Movies can wait for a little bit. So, I'm presenting my Fun In The Sun Awards a little early this year, as summer, for all intents and purposes, is over for me. Like last year, we have a bunch of categories, all a part of the Best and Worst type, with your usual Best/Worst Film, Action, Comedy, Direction, Fun, Sequel, New Franchise, etc. and so forth. So, with out further ado, let's go!

Before we start the ceremony, let's review the summer as a whole. I said in my Iron Man 2 review that I had high hopes for the summer. Those hopes were not realized. Movie goers were consistently disappointed with the offerings at the theatre this year. For every Inception or Toy Story 3, we had a Jonah Hex, or a The Last Airbender, or a Salt, or a Robin Hood to go with it. Granted, the best films of the summer were so friggin' good that it is not a total waste, but, compared to the last two summers, which offered plenty of top tier films, Summer 2010 was lacking.

Alright then! Let's kick this off!

Best New Franchise: The A-Team: Joe Carnahan's adaptation of that campy show brought summer blockbusters back to the way they once were. The movie was fun. Remember fun? It's what action movies had before they all decided to copy Christopher Nolan. Funny writing and some awesome violence leaves me eagerly anticipating the next installment in this franchise.

Worst New Franchise: The Last Airbender: The show is amazing! The movie is one of the laziest and most inept things I have ever witnessed! Lame action, piss poor acting and worse writing make up one hellish creation. 

Best Sequel: Toy Story 3: Pixar does it again. Toy Story 3 expands on everything that made the original and its sequel so good, while adding enough to make it stand on its own. Funny, touching, emotional, and, at times, heartbreaking, Pixar once again shows why no one does it better. 

Worst Sequel: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: Ok, this was kind of a bullshit award, as this summer was pretty strong in terms of sequels... at least the ones I saw. Eclipse is better than its big brothers, but, it still sucks by all conventional standards. Painfully forced writing, hammy acting, and a dumb story don't do much to elevate this property. 

Most Fun: Inception: I was on my edge of my seat for the whole movie as the roller coaster of a story took me on the ride of my life!

Least Fun: Jonah Hex: By all accounts, this movie should have rocked! Instead, the action was flat and uninspired, the one liners were lame, and the explosions sucked! It just wasn't fun at all!

Smartest: Inception: A movie that didn't assume that the people watching it were idiots, Inception is a film you need to pay attention to. It moves quickly, and presents new and formidable ideas that do a ton in making this one of the most intelligent thrillers in recent memory!

Dumbest: The Last Airbender: The exact opposite of Inception! Every character talks in the simplest syntax; every single thing is explained to us, leaving no room for imagination! Lame!

Most Disappointing: Knight and Day: I had such high hopes for this movie. It looked exciting, smart, and very funny! It was these things, but not to the extent that I thought! The humor left something to be desired, and the action was ho-hum. Oh well!

Least Disappointing: Inception: It lived up to my expectations, and then some!

Surprisingly Good: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Am I tripping? A video game movie that doesn't suck major balls? Say it a'int so! Well, it is so! POP isn't great by any means, but it's pretty fun, decently made, and features some seriously cool action! Best video game movie ever!

Surprisingly Bad: Jonah Hex: Oh, sure. We knew it would be bad, but not this bad! I was expecting a dumb, but entertaining flick, but all I got was a dumb and boring exercise in futility! Ugh!

Best Comedy: Get Him to the Greek: Easily the funniest time I had at the movies this summer! One absurd scenario after another, bolstered by smart writing and good performances! The Judd Apatow Factory is back in business!

Worst Comedy: Nothing: Once again, I only saw good comedies... or, in this case, one comedy, and I don't feel like dishonoring it.

Best Action: The A-Team: A helicopter does a barrel roll. There's an inspired heist in the streets of Baghdad. A ship explodes, sending containers and debris cascading down on the people below! A tank flys! HELL YEAH!

Worst Action: Jonah Hex: The action here is flat and uninteresting. Despite the fact that Jonah has a gun that shoots dynamite, and the bad guy has a weapon that is basically a more archaic version of a thermonuclear bomb, there's really no fun to be had here!

Best Performance: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception: Despite the fact that the character Jo-Go was presented with didn't really have that much in the way of substance or emotional meat, it was still the most riveting performance of the summer. Gordon-Levitt proves to be a force to be reckoned with as the muscle of Leo's team of dream invaders. He's suave, sexy, tough, and supremely badass! Look. Lack of gravity doesn't phase him! He wins!

Worst Performance: Noah Ringer in The Last Airbender: Now this, on the other hand, is something else. I realize that this is a child actor, but, before you get all in my face about how he's only a kid and doesn't know better, I will say this. This is worse than Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace. I didn't even think that was possible, but, apparently, it was!

Best Director: Christopher Nolan for Inception: The best blockbuster director working today follows up the most profitable, non-James Cameron, movie of all time with an even better film. Nolan's flick is exciting, mind bending, visually stunning, and all around amazing! Seriously overdue Oscar nomination is incoming!

Worst Director: M. Night Shaymalan for The Last Airbender: What the hell happened to this guy? I have no clue! Once such a great and talented director, M. Night is now scraping the bottom of the barrel. I mean, he has artistic integrity, so how could have let this movie go in the state it was in? Why do his actors suck so much? Why is the action boring? How could he have fucked up the adaptation of a close to perfect show? Beats me!

Best In Show: Inception: Oh, come on! What did you expect! This movie is pure genius! It's the best thriller to come out all year! It's the best looking movie! It has the strongest acting! It's the smartest! It's simply the best!

Worst In Show: The Last Airbender: Bad. Just bad, bad, bad, bad! Not even a semi-decent performance from Dev Patel can save this rapidly sinking ship! M. Night Shaymalan is officially a hack!

Well, there you have it folks! The FITS Awards have been wrapped up for 2010. Before I leave you, let's go over the statistics. Inception leads the pack with 6 awards, followed by The Last Airbender with 5, albeit negative, awards. Jonah Hex rounds out the top 3 with 3 awards. It was a lacking summer, but, I'm not angry about it. It provided stuff for everyone, and, I'll be honest, entertained the hell out of me on more than one occasion! Here's to Summer 2011 being even better, not that that's going to be much of a challenge!

According to the Movies #7

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

If the movies say it, it must be true!

This week's lesson, you are all aware of, even if you don't know it. It harks from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. Heard of that movie? It was kind of a big deal two years ago. Made a lot of money. Everyone loved it. You know how it is. Anyway, this week's lesson comes from that.

So, as you know, Batman has a sweet getup. That black armor is oh so sexy, and really durable. At the end of TDK, Batman, and his suit have gone through hell. The pair has been dragged out of a building by a plane, almost blown up multiple times, mauled by dogs, shot at, and stabbed. Mr. Wayne, and his suit, have gotten away unscathed from all of them. However, in the very end of the film, Batman falls twenty feet. That, inexplicably, hurts him.


It's pretty durable, but it has its down sides. 

The Lesson: If you are going to wear the batsuit, a word of warning. It can withstand bullets, knives, explosions, car crashes, getting dragged through a city by a train, getting yanked out of a building by a plane, and vicious maulings by dogs. You'll be fine if these things happen to you. However, if you fall more than 15 feet? You better call your EMT.

Hubble captures bubbles and baby stars

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hubble captures bubbles and baby stars (6/22/10)
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures a complex network of gas clouds and star clusters within our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. This region of energetic star birth is one of the most active in the nearby Universe.

The Large Magellanic Cloud contains many bright bubbles of glowing gas. One of the largest and most spectacular is LHA 120-N 11, from the catalogue compiled in 1956 by the late astronomer and astronaut Karl Henize. It is informally known as N11.

Close up, N11’s billowing pink clouds of glowing gas resemble a puffy swirl of fairground candyfloss. From further away, its distinctive overall shape led some observers to nickname it the Bean Nebula. The dramatic and colourful features in the nebula are the telltale signs of star birth.

N11 is a well-studied region that extends across 1000 light-years. It is the second largest star-forming region within the Large Magellanic Cloud and has produced some of the most massive stars known.

N11 – click for 2500×2458 image

More: here

The Happy 101 Award

Monday, August 9, 2010

Alright, so. There's this new meme going around the interwebs, which you all probably knew about, so, I don't really know what the point of this intro is. Anyway, it's "The Happy 101 Award". Basically, I just have to list off all the things that give me joy in my life. Peter over at Magic Lantern Film Blog was kind enough to tag me, so here goes.

1. Movies: Obviously! It's the whole point of this site. Why would I write extensively about something I hate. In all seriousness though, I friggin' love movies! They have always been there for me to escape into. It's been a tricky love affair, but, one that I've enjoyed immensely!

I dig the vibe!

2. Writing: Again, this one is obvious. Whether it's scripts, reviews, or yes, even essays, I always get a kick out of throwing my ideas out onto a piece of paper. On a side note: If you ever want to read some of my scripts, send me an e-mail.

I'm not this intense.

3. Theatre: It's the world I want to live in one day. Acting is my main passion, and one that I hope to pursue professionally. Broadway is unlike anything I have ever experienced, and every chance I get to go there is a chance I cherish. Some of my best memories have taken place in a theatre, from the first time I remember crying at a show (Les Miserable), or the time I got a standing ovation (Urinetown). It's the best place on earth.

I adore this show! You have no idea!

4. Music: I play it. I listen to it. I adore it. Rock stars are Gods to me, especially guitarists! Legends like Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, Alex Lifeson, Pete Townsend, and relative newbies like Matthew Bellamy, and John Frusciante friggin' inspire me. I wish I could play as well as these guys!

I wish I was this good!

5. Nic: My brother! He's awesome! Sure, he and I fight like damn bull dogs, but, most of the time, we are really chill. He's funny, smart, talented, and someone who I consistently enjoy the company of. He has also introduced me to a whole ton of awesome music! If you knew him, you'd love him.

Cool Guy!

6. Friends: Friends are the light of my life. I love my friends more than anything, some more than others, but they all deserve my veneration. These guys inspire me, support me, make me laugh, listen, are incredibly cool and exceptionally smart and talented. Seriously! Some of the best singers I have ever had the pleasure of hearing, among other things, are in my social circle. My new dorm mates, all 12 of them, are pretty boss as well!

I won't divulge the names, but these people fucking rock!

7. Cities: I am now attending a college in a fairly remote area of New York, but, this is not my ideal place, although it is awesome! Give me asphalt! Give me skyscrapers! Give me the blinding lights against the backdrop of dark purple night sky! There's nothing better!

New York State of Mind!

That's about it. So, let's see. Who has not been tagged.
Fuck it! I have neither the interest or time to figure who has and has not been tagged, so, if you have been tagged, please forgive me.

Simon from Four of Them
Aiden from Cut the Crap Movie Reviews
Mike from You Talking to Me?
Jess from Insight into Entertainment

Trailer Trash: Burlesque

It's time to root through some trailers. What sorts of wonderful things will be eluded to today?

Today's trailer carries lukewarm feelings for me. It has talented people in it, but... I don't know. Something about it turns me off.

Burlesque is about a young girl who comes to LA in search of stardom and fame, and, what do you know, she ends up as a waitress at a club. The club in question is run by a real bitch, who won't let the newbie get on the stage. Turns out, the new girl is one hell of a singer, and it's her voice that puts the club back on the map.

Directed by Steven Antin, Burlesque is a musical that is, shockingly, not based on Broadway hit. The cast includes Christina Aguilera as new girl Ali, Cher as her boss, Stanley Tucci as the club's stage manager, Cam Gigandet as a bartender who schmoozes Ali, an Eric Dane as producer who shows up at some point. The cast looks alright. Tucci is a genius; Gigandet is usually pretty good; I don't know about Cher; and I'm worried as hell about Aguilera. This just seems to a ploy to get her back in the spotlight. That never works out.

So, the trailer. I'm feeling very "eh" about this one. Nothing about it popped. It just seemed lazy and tired. The music numbers look cool, but then, they always look cool. So, I don't know. Maybe this will be good, but, I'm going in with tempered expectations.

Scheduleing Qualms

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stuff may go up a little later than usual this week. I'm still adjusting to the whole college thing. Bear with me!

What does marathon running do to an athlete's cells?

If you've ever taken up running as a form of exercise, or even thought about it, there's a certain paradox that may have occurred to you. The health benefits of aerobic exercise are well-documented. (See here, for example.) In particular such exercise has been shown to reduce risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Beneficial physiological effects include reduction of high blood pressure, better control of blood sugar, and reducing blood levels of low-density lipoprotein while raising levels of high-density lipoprotein.

On the other hand, exercise necessarily increases a person's rate of metabolism, as food is processed to provide energy expended through exercise. An inevitable side-effect of metabolism is the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and "free radicals" that can damage DNA and other cellular constituents. This cellular damage can lead to either cancer or accelerated aging due to cell senescence and cell death.

The paradox, then, is that the health benefits of exercise do not seem to be canceled out by the side-effects of higher rates of metabolism. It's an important issue not just for humans who are trying to stay healthy, but even more important in animals like birds that may need to expend energy continuously over significant periods of time.

So what's going on here? Perhaps this research has some of the answer:

The effect of marathon on mRNA expression of anti-apoptotic and pro-apoptotic proteins and sirtuins family in male recreational long-distance runners

A large body of evidence shows that a single bout of strenuous exercise induces oxidative stress in circulating human lymphocytes leading to lipid peroxidation, DNA damage, mitochondrial perturbations, and protein oxidation.

In our research, we investigated the effect of physical load on the extent of apoptosis in primary cells derived from blood samples of sixteen healthy amateur runners after marathon (a.m.).


Blood samples were collected from ten healthy amateur runners peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated from whole blood and bcl-2, bax, heat shock protein (HSP)70, Cu-Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD), Mn-SOD, inducible nitric oxide synthase (i-NOS), SIRT1, SIRT3 and SIRT4 (Sirtuins) RNA levels were determined by Northern Blot analysis. Strenuous physical load significantly increased HSP70, HSP32, Mn-SOD, Cu-Zn SOD, iNOS, GADD45, bcl-2, forkhead box O (FOXO3A) and SIRT1 expression after the marathon, while decreasing bax, SIRT3 and SIRT4 expression (P < 0.0001).


These data suggest that the physiological load imposed in amateur runners during marathon attenuates the extent of apoptosis and may interfere with sirtuin expression.

There are two main findings here, related to apoptosis and sirtuin expression. Let's take them in order.

Apoptosis is a form of programmed cell death that has several purposes. The invocation of a cell's apopotosis program isn't necessarily an indication that something is wrong. For example, it occurs normally during embryonic development. Early in the development process embryos of all tetrapods have tissues between what will become the fingers and toes of their hands and feet. But since animals that have left an aquatic environment are usually better off without this extra tissue, evolution has led to signals at a certain stage of embryonic development that cause apoptosis in the cells of the relevant tissue. This is an example of what's known as the "extrinsic" apoptotic pathway.

But for our present purposes there's a second pathway – the "intrinsic" pathway – which is used whenever a cell either detects internal damage (usually to its DNA) or some stressful condition, such as an excessive level of reactive oxygen species. A ROS is a chemically-reactive molecule containing oxygen, including what are sometimes called "free radicals".

This condition of excess ROS is called oxidative stress. It can occur for various reasons, including exposure to high levels of heat or ultraviolet radiation – or abnormally rapid cell metabolism due to vigorous exercise. Cells recognize the condition of oxidative stress indirectly though signaling involving various other molecules that are produced in response to particular ROS molecules. Among such indicators are proteins called heat shock proteins. Two members of this family that were measured in the research under discussion were HSP70 and HSP32.

Signals of oxidative stress trigger the second, "intrinsic" apoptotic pathway, which involves a cell's energy-producing organelles, the mitochondria. The main players in the intrinsic pathway are proteins called, generically, "caspases" – short for "cysteine-rich aspartate proteases". Caspases are enzymes that cleave proteins at aspartate units. (Cysteine and aspartate are two of the 21 amino acids that normally make up proteins.)

Caspases are fairly active enzymes, so they don't ordinarily occur at significant concentrations within cells. Instead, they are produced when needed from other protein enzymes called procaspases. One of these, procaspase-9 is found normally within mitochondria, along with another protein, cytochrome c. Most of the time these proteins are confined within the mitochondria. However, under certain conditions some channels in a mitochondrion's membrane can open and allow the release of procaspase-9 and cytochrome c. Once these proteins enter the cytosol (cell fluid) outside a mitochondrion, they can team up with another protein (Apaf-1: "apoptotic protease activating factor 1") to convert the procaspase-9 into the caspase known as caspase-9. The latter is an active enzyme that leads to the production of other caspases, with cell apoptosis as the eventual result.

Since a cell does not want to have apoptosis going on normally, the process must be tightly regulated. This is done (partly) by another pair of proteins, Bcl-2 and Bax. These two proteins have structural similarities and are considered to be in the same family, the Bcl-2 family. They are always present in the cytosol, and the relative concentration between Bcl-2 and Bax is what controls whether mitochondrial membrane channels will allow release of procaspase-9 and cytochrome c. If the ratio favors Bcl-2, the channels are essentially closed – the normal case – but if the ratio favors Bax, the channels open... and apoptosis may follow.

The present research measured the levels of certain proteins in 10 individuals before and after a marathon run. (The measurement was done indirectly by measuring levels of mRNA transcripts of the associated genes.) A key finding was that the ratio of Bcl-2 to Bax shifted in favor of Bcl-2 from the before to the after measurement. In other words, there was an anti-apoptotic effect, which countered the pro-apoptotic effects of ROS molecules produced by vigorous exercise. Although ROS levels were not measured (since there was no corresponding mRNA), levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) antioxidants (Mn-SOD and Cu-Zn-SOD) increased after the marathons, reflecting ROS production.

Analysis of the results indicates that apoptosis actually was inhibited, though less in some experimental subjects than others. An increase in levels of procaspase-9 was not observed. Further, in 7 of the 10 experimental subjects, there was little evidence of DNA fragmentation (a consequence of apoptosis). In the other 3 subjects, there was some evidence of DNA fragmentation, but also smaller changes in the Bcl-2 to Bax ratios.

Most interestingly, there was a significant positive correlation in after marathon measurements between levels of Bcl-2 and both HSP70 and HSP32. This suggests that the expected increases of HSP70 and HSP32 may play some part in increased Bcl-2 levels. There was also a positive correlation post-marathon between HSP70 and Mn-SOD levels.

These findings, especially given the small sample size, certainly aren't conclusive. But, as the paper says, "Here, we have found a significant relationship between HSP70 and bcl-2 RNA ... following marathon, but the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in this [sic] exercise induced adaptations in apoptosis and HSP70 are unknown and require further investigation."

Expression of the sirtuins SIRT1, SIRT3, and SIRT4 pre- and post-marathon were also measured. (We've discussed the sirtuins on a number of occasions.) There's an extensive history of research on SIRT1, concerning its connections with such things as cellular metabolism, cell survival under stress, and antioxidant activity. Research on other sirtuins like SIRT3 and SIRT4 is less extensive. However, members of this family have various things in common. All are enzymes. SIRT1 and SIRT3 are histone deacetylases (HDACs), so have epigenetic roles in affecting gene expression. SIRT3 and SIRT4 occur in mitochondria.

Although it's possible to make various speculations about how sirtuins could be involved with apoptosis and metabolic consequences of exercise, not all that much is known about specific molecular mechanisms. Nevertheless, it's interesting that the present research does show an effect of strenuous exercise on SIRT1, SIRT3, and SIRT4 expression. The paper notes that "the RNA contents of SIRT1 increased substantially in the group after marathon.... On the other hand, the RNA contents of SIRT3 and SIRT4 decreased in the group after marathon."

Further research into these connections could be very interesting.

Marfe, G., Tafani, M., Pucci, B., Di Stefano, C., Indelicato, M., Andreoli, A., Russo, M., Sinibaldi-Salimei, P., & Manzi, V. (2010). The effect of marathon on mRNA expression of anti-apoptotic and pro-apoptotic proteins and sirtuins family in male recreational long-distance runners BMC Physiology, 10 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1472-6793-10-7

Further reading:

Running a marathon halts cellular suicide (5/11/10)

Articles related to sirtuins:

Sirtuin proteins (11/16/07)

The discovery of sirtuins, part 1 (11/17/07)

The discovery of sirtuins, part 2 (11/20/07)

Sirtuin news (1/21/08)

SIRT1 and cancer (10/26/08)

Spreading the JGL Love

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Here is the one place where you can find everything that was posted for my Jo-Go extravaganza. Hope this makes things easy.

My write up and thoughts on the man.

Why I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Heath Ledger have a lot in common.

My Reviews

(500) Days of Summer
10 Things I Hate About You
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
The Lookout
Mysterious Skin
Sweet Jane
Women in Trouble

Contributions From Other Bloggers

JGL Contributions

So, you've heard my low down on the man. What's yours? Here's what some other bloggers had to say! Thanks to everyone who contributed! Special thanks to Simon from Four of Them, who tagged along for the whole thing.

Total Film ranks the Top 10 JGL YouTube Moments.

Kai Parker of The List starts the revolution of Jo-Go!


(500) Days of Summer
Dan the Man's Movie Reviews
Foolish Blatherings
Marshall and the Movies

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews
Foolish Blatherings
My Film Habit

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Dan the Man's Movie Reviews
Marshall and the Movies

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews
Foolish Blatherings
Four of Them
Marshall and the Movies

The Lookout
Marshall and the Movies
My Film Habit
Radiator Heaven

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

Mysterious Skin
My Film Habit
Foolish Blatherings

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews
Foolish Blatherings

Four of Them

Women In Trouble
Four of Them

LAMBcast #33: Top 5 Reasons I Should Never Host

Friday, August 6, 2010

Be prepared as I thoroughly embarrass myself hosting this latest episode of the LAMBcast. For this episode, Nick, Jason, James, Kai, and I all came up with a Top 5 list to share with everyone. It went on forever, and we had a total blast. It's followed up, as always, by some Last Lamb Standing and Trailer Talk. Enjoy!

Note: This is the last one I'm gonna be doing for awhile! You know, college. So, if you enjoyed hearing me shoo the shit with these guys, you'll have to wait a little bit for the next installment. You never know. Maybe I'll work some stuff out and start my own podcast. We'll just have to wait and see.

The Man-Crush Explained!

"Acting's really difficult to talk about. If you could talk about so easily then you wouldn't have to act."

Over the past few days, I've blown through 13 movies, all of them starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (14 if you count Inception). It's no secret that I pretty much worship the man, and this extravaganza of mine was a great way to express my adoration. But, all good things must come to an end, so, what is there left to do? Well, I have to sum up everything, now don't I? I have to give my final two cents on the man as an actor! I have to briefly revisit each performance. I have to explain why I would totally go gay for him (I'm actually (semi)serious about that!). Read on and enjoy... if you dare!

First off, let's get the boring stuff out of the way. At the end of all marathons, you have to rank everything you experienced, and this marathon is no different. I am not ranking JGL's films; I am ranking his performances in these films. What, in my mind, was his best performance, and what was his weakest? You're about to find out.

14: Tony in Sweet Jane: The only performance on this list that I would actually consider to be bad, and even that's a stretch! It's not terrible, but Jo-Go is just getting into dramatic stuff with this role, and the lack of experience shows.

13: Bobby in Uncertainty: Again, not a bad performance, but easily one of his weakest. He doesn't show much flair for the improvised dialogue and is surprisingly wooden. But I blame that on the story, which gave him next to nothing to do!

12: Dr. Don in Shadowboxer: An inconsequential role, but Gordon-Levitt gives it his all and has a great time playing this weirdo! It's not a difficult part for him, and he doesn't need to try at all, but, he did, and we love him for it.

11: The Doctor/Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: To me, Jo-Go was the only one who embraced the absurdity of the film, and milked it for all it's worth! This is the definition of scenery chewing, from the gravelly voice, to the elaborate hand gestures, to the grandiose speeches! It's honest, campy fun!

10: Sam in Havoc: Pure, over the top, ridiculousness. Zero substance, but extremely entertaining!

9: Bert Rodriguez in Women in Trouble: He's in the movie for 6 minutes, but they are the funniest 6 minutes of the whole thing.

8: Tommy Burgess in Stop-Loss: The only performance of the film that conveyed a sense of menace and anguish. We actually felt like he was a soldier coping with what had happened to him.

7: Lyle in Manic: He gets at the heart of a troubled teen and delivers a searing performance.

6: Cameron in 10 Things I Hate About You: Innocent, sweet, naive, and funny as hell, the performance that put him on the map is one of his most mainstream, but still a classic.

5: Arthur in Inception: His first foray into blockbuster action territory could not have been better. He's not presented with the deepest of characters, but he masterfully works with what he has and turns in a badass performance!

4: Brendan in Brick: You will believe a teenager can talk like a hardboiled detective on the edge! The performance that started his trend of small, deceptively brilliant roles is still one the greats of indie cinema.

3: Neil in Mysterious Skin: Absolutely soul wrenching and stomach churning! It took serious guts to pull off this role, guts Jo-Go has an excess of! Easily his bravest performance, this one is touching, heartbreaking, and incredibly sad, but altogether amazing!

2: Tom Hansen in (500) Days of Summer: He takes on the cliché role of a "woe-is-me" suitor in a romantic comedy and completely does away with the cliché part! He's hilarious, deep, and, most importantly of all, he's relatable!

1: Chris Pratt in The Lookout: The creme de la creme of JGL's performances! Here, Jo-Go goes deep into his soul to put the pain and turmoil of this kid on the screen. The film blisters with his energy and passion for the role. You feel his pain as if it were your own! It's so friggin' good!

For the record, I think (500) Days of Summer is the better film, but Gordon-Levitt's performance in The Lookout is better than his performance in (500) Days of Summer. Make sense? Fantastic!

So, why do I love this man? Well, for starters, he's a fucking brilliant actor! Every single one his roles has something to them that makes them, at the very least, decent. Most of the time they are amazing, mind-boggling, near perfect performances! Even given roles where he has next to nothing to work with, he manages to find something to bring out onto the screen, often revealing a stronger character then the writer's probably envisioned! But, that's the superficial stuff if you ask me.

There is so much more to the man. It's clear, once you do your research - which I, like any good stalker, have - that is not your typical movie star. As was said in my Heath Ledger comparison article, he has traditionally shied away from big budget films with huge stars, preferring instead to work with those who are less well known, but arguably more talented! He has only been in two bonafide money makers, and he has been consistently making movies for more then a decade! Gordon-Levitt is clearly more drawn to the quality of the words on the page and the integrity of the people he is working with, rather than the money or the fame!

Like any decent artist, Gordon-Levitt is well rounded. He took time off acting, attended Columbia, to study, of all things, French poetry, history, and literature. These types of things only help him in his acting, if you ask me, because he now has that much richer of a tapestry to draw from for his work. Thanks to his time at Columbia, he is now a full on Francophile! He has other talents to. He's a musician, a singer, a writer, and a director. There is probably something out there that he can't do, but I cannot for the life of me figure out what that thing is.

As if to further proclaim how much he wants to work outside of the Hollywood sphere, Jo-Go has started his own production company, called hitRECord. The catch is that anyone can contribute to this, and collaborations are greatly encouraged. hitRECord.org is an awesome site, where some truly inspired material has found a home. People from all over the world are contributing to this site and these are the people that Gordon-Levitt wants to work with. It's so friggin' cool!

Have I explained myself enough? Do you understand why I have an enormous man-crush on him? Maybe I'm crazy (I am), or maybe I'm just starstruck (I definitely am), but Jo-Go is the kind of actor I want to be one day! God willing, I'll make it in the business, and this is the career I want to have. Anyone looking to get into the world of filmmaking and acting can look to Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an inspiration and role model. Everything about him, from his outlook on his work, to how he overcame the usual obstacles that plague former child actors, to his well roundedness, to his witty and clever personality, are all things that anyone could learn from. Jo-Go's not going anywhere any time soon. I am more than ok with that!

Jason Soto Can Suck It!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Part 2 of my Day 13 JGL double feature. This is it. The last film on my queue! What is it, you ask? It is the film, in my mind. It's the film I, controversially, I might add, listed as my pick for best movie of the decade! Some people out there think this film is dumb, unoriginal, and bland! I say, nay! This film is anything but!




(500) Days of Summer chronicles one man's 500 day relationship with what he perceives to be the love of his life. The man, Tom, is a hopeless romantic, in every sense of the word. He is a firm believer in love, fate, and soulmates. The girl, Summer, is the exact opposite. She believes in seizing the moment, living impulsively, and having fun. Relationships, to her, are something to avoid. Their 500 day romance is improbable, but absolutely beautiful!

(500) Days of Summer ingeniously employs a Pulp Fiction-esque style to its storytelling. It tells the story in a non-linear fashion. You'll get day 38, followed by day 387, followed by day 154. This works really well here, because it nicely balances the humor with the drama. Tom and Summer are only romantically involved for about half of the 500 days; the film begins with their breakup and then jumps around the timeline, giving us glimpses into the bliss of the first 250 days, and the mind numbing depression that made up the latter 250. It all culminates in, what I believe is, a perfect ending, one that instantly sums up everything the movie is preaching. 

You know, I make big deals about casts in these reviews. I'll frequently say a film has "a cast to die for", or "this director has assembled one of the most promising casts in a long time", and I stand by those remarks, but that fact remains that, if I ever were to cast a movie, I would put Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in the leads, and I would use this film as my argument to that fact! Both of them are simply amazing here! 

Gordon-Levitt solidifies his standing as one of the most versatile actors working today with his sweet and earnest portrayal of Tom. Thanks to the out of whack storytelling, the film paints Tom as almost bi-polar, one minute jubilant, the next, downtrodden! Gordon-Levitt masterfully handles these mood shifts, all while making us empathize and connect with him. 

Zooey Deschanel is just as good, if not better! She has played roles like this before. You know, the quirky muse, but this is best one she has taken on yet, and easily her best performance. She's funny, smart, sassy, sexy, and incredibly breathtaking as Summer. How could anyone not fall in love with her?

Other performances include Chloe Moretz, pre Hit-Girl, as Tom's wise sister, Geoffrey Arend and Matthew Gray Gubler as Tom's two best friends, and Clark Gregg as Tom and Summer's boss. 

The performances here are all uniformly excellent, but you'll be forgiven if you only remember JGL and ZD in the end, because they are spectacular. They easily overcome all the conventions of the romantic-comedy genre and effortlessly create two people that anyone could fall for! I know I did!


Director Marc Webb is good, but it's the script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber that stands out! They have successfully revitalized the fading romantic comedy genre with (500) Days of Summer. The writing is biting, witty, wonderfully funny and deceptively poignant. There are plenty of elements to it that just wouldn't have worked in lesser hands, but Weber and Neustadter are not in the lesser hands group. There's a friggin' dance break about a third of the way in, which would have been just a cheap ploy to get laughs in other films, but, in (500) Days of Summer, it's a storytelling device, because it is the only thing that accurately captures what Tom is feeling! The dialogue stings, and the banter between Tom and Summer will leave wanting more and more!

But comedy isn't the only thing (500) Days of Summer excels at! In the drama department, it is in a league of its own. I haven't seen very many romantic comedies, but, of the one's I have seen, this is the one that most accurately captures how challenging and potentially damaging love can be. It so brilliantly captures how a one would react in situations like the ones here. Now, I'm only 18, so I have a lot of living to do, but, and I know this gonna sound crazy, I found myself relating to Tom in some instances. There's this one scene, where Tom's hopes and expectations of how a night will turn out play side by side with how it actually turned out. One has Tom ending the night in Summer's embrace; the other has him going home alone. All I could help but think during this scene was, "Shit! I've gone through this exact same thing before!" That's the mark of a great romantic film. When you relate to the characters on screen, you know something is being done correctly! It's not just cheap laughs and hammy exposition. It's real!

(500) Days of Summer, is, in my mind, a perfect film! Sure, there are some things that could have been handled a little differently! Chloe Moretz's character does seem a little fake sometimes, and I could have done without Richard McGonagle's narration. But, I find myself not caring about those minuscule flaws, because I find myself so in love with everything else. (500) Days of Summer is funny, sweet, smart, sad, uplifting, and thought provoking. It's masterfully acted, tightly directed, and impeccably written! The soundtrack kicks ass, and the dialogue is instantly quotable! I've said all I can say! Some of you may think I'm crazy, and can't possibly fathom how I could feel this way about the movie. To answer them, I'll use a line of Tom's. "It's love! It's not Santa Claus!"



Day 12 of the Jo-Go train couldn't happen! I was busy packing for college (eek) and, as a "going away" present, my brother/parents treated me to Silversun Pickups at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. Twas awesome! Anyway, because of that, Day 13, the last day before my overview of the man, is a double feature. First up is a film that tries to be poignant and observational, but instead treads on the same ground that countless other films of its kind have trod on.

I don't know if you've heard, but war is hell! No, seriously! It sucks! I have nothing but respect for the men and women who go over there and fight to appease our ex-president's daddy issues. Many of those kids are my age or slightly older, and I know for a fact that they are braver and more courageous then I ever will be! They deserve our veneration and our gratitude, regardless of your opinion on the conflict. What they do not need is a whole bunch of stupid, anti-war films that do nothing to convey what these men and women contend with on the battlefield. Case in point, Stop-Loss. Here is a film that doesn't offer anything new in it's depiction of soldiers on the edge, wallows in cliché, and force feeds us the same message we've heard a thousand times. Which is a shame, because the movie is decently made and competently acted! Oh well!

We could show you, but we'd rather tell you!

Stop-Loss begins by showing us the conflict in question, in this case, the war in Iraq. After showing us the horror of what is going on over there, the movie shifts to the home front, and sees Staff Sergeant Brandon King and Sergeant Steve Shriver as they await their discharge from armed services. Unfortunately, due to the obscene amount loopholes that the chain of command can jump through, King finds himself stop-lossed, meaning he will be shipping back to Iraq when he should be getting out. He then goes AWOL with Steve's fiancé (what?), Michelle, while Steve tries to get through to fellow soldier, Tommy, who is suffering from severe PTSD!

It's a fairly interesting setup, based on a real world thing (thousands of soldiers have been stop-lossed, if the film is to believed), but it doesn't do enough with this set up. Instead of delving into the politics and the bureaucratic bullshit of the thing, it opts to show us King and Michelle as the cavort around Hick Town, USA. The other subplot, regarding Steve trying to help Tommy is significantly more interesting and better handled. That one at least delves into the psyches of the men in an effective way, while the other one just feels like a low rent chase film.

Ryan Phillipe is King. What the hell happened to this guy? Seriously, he was great in Crash, Flags of Our Fathers, Breach, and he's pretty good here. Where the hell has he been since then? This movie came out early 2008, over two years ago. Since then, all he's done is Macgruber. Ick! As King, Phillipe displays a good amount of range, making us empathize for the character, easily making up for the fact that story doesn't really give all that interesting of an arc.

Channing Tatum, on the other hand, sucks! Tatum is built like a brick shit-house and acts like one too. He's monotone when he should be lively, wooden when he should be emotional, and cold when he should be warm. We don't empathize with him at all, unlike Phillipe's character.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has the last main, soldier role, and, surprise surprise, he's the best thing in this movie! As Tommy, the soldier coping with post-traumatic stress, JGL is, criminally, given precious little to do, but he does it so well! We feel his pain and what is going on inside his head more so than we do with Pilippe, and certainly more so than we do with Tatum. He's superb, as usual.

Abbie Cornish plays Michelle. She's alright. I don't know. I don't really have anything to say about this one. Her character arc is damn unconvincing. I mean, we're just supposed to believe that she would drop everything and help out this guy? Come on! She's alright, if unremarkable.

Supporting players include Timothy Olyphant as King's hard-assed Lt. Col., Ciarán Hinds as King's father, and Rob Brown as a fellow soldier.

The performances are generally pretty good, but only Gordon-Levitt's rises above the sparse material to become something truly special. Phillipe isn't far behind him, but Tatum brings the movie pretty far down singlehandedly!

While his guitar gently weeps!

Director Kimberly Pierce can make a really good, intimate, character study. She showed us that much with Boys Don't Cry! Stop-Loss is still effective in some areas, but Pierce is far out of her comfort zone with this. The movie is often ham-fisted and pretentious, and is completely single minded in its goal, that being, delivering unto you, its message. Films like Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker, Black Hawk Down, and Full Metal Jacket got their message across by putting the carnage and calamity on the screen. Stop-Loss takes a different approach. Rather than show you, it, instead, seizes you by the shoulders, sticks its nose right in your face and screams down your throat, "WAR IS HELL YOU IGNORANT BITCH! THESE MEN ARE SERIOUSLY MESSED UP! THEY HAVE NO HOPE! THERE IS NO GOD!" Ok, that last part isn't true, but the rest of it is. The beginning of the film seeks to ape it's big brothers by showing us the conflict, but - and this could just be my, teenage boy who needs to see shit blow up, mindset coming through- the violence in the beginning is tame and doesn't really convey any sense of tension or menace.

Thankfully, the film moves at a brisk pace, keeping us interested in each character's plight, and never wavering on any one thing for too long. There are some things that seem far fetched, but, I'm not very wise into the way this world works, so, I'm going to suspend my juvenile disbelief and just accept.

Stop-Loss isn't bad. It's quite good in some areas; the message and point of the movie is sound. It's just the way that the film goes about relaying that message to you that squander's what's good about it. The film is worth a look, if only for the performances of Phillipe, who desperately needs to do more work, and Gordon-Levitt, who is always amazing! If you're going to skip it, skip it for it's in your face approach and Tatum's performance. This movie isn't hell. It's more like purgatory.


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