Monday, December 30, 2013

Movie Review: Her

Her is the most poignant and strangely inspirational film I've seen in some time. Spike Jonze's latest film is a lovelorn masterwork that will resonate with anyone who has ever used a smart phone and who still has blood pumping through their veins. In the not too distant future, society's struggles and hardships are quelled by the wonders of technology, but instead of standing together in triumph, people are isolated and miserable. The financial and economic woes that plagued mankind for millennia have given way to existential crises and the dissolution of intimacy. It's a frightening paradox and makes for a heartbreaking viewing experience.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a writer and hopeless romantic in the throes of a bitter divorce. He wonders the streets of futuristic Los Angeles completely immersed in the world of his personal computer (think: iPhone 50) like all the other blank faced automatons in the city. When Theodore purchases a new operating system with artificial intelligence, he quickly forms a bond with his OS, who names itself "Samantha," and begins to turn his life around. Phoenix's portrayal of poor Theodore is nothing short of amazing. Because this is a movie about a dude who's in love with a computer, Phoenix is alone for the majority of the film and does all the onscreen heavy lifting himself. He's melancholy and pathetic, he's joyful and hilarious, he's neurotic and vulnerable all at once. Scarlett Johansson provides Samantha's smokey voice and does a great job making a creepy omnipresent machine sound like something you'd want to wake up next to in the morning. Rooney Mara continues her streak of pants shitting-ly terrifying performances ( The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Side Effects) and Amy Adams is brilliant as Theodore's quirky friend and neighbor in a role that's a complete 180 from her character in American Hustle but she shines just as bright. 

Technically and thematically, Her is simply a gorgeous film to behold. The team Jonze assembled to bring his tragically sterile future world to life deserves all the praise they're receiving and more. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and costume designer Casey Storm create a cheerfully drab Apple Store/American Apparel looking society, devoid of dust, excitement, and denim. The film's inspirational music is brought to you by Arcade Fire and Karen O of The Yeah Yeah Yeah's, and Phoenix delivers one of the most captivating performances of his career. All that, plus the deep philosophical themes Her touches upon, this film is just ridiculously good on so many levels it's not even funny. Speaking of funny, although heartbreaking and tragic, Her has several flat out hilarious scenes. Like side splitting laughter. So prepare your tear ducts, secure your funny bone, and say goodbye to your smart phone because you'll probably never look it the same way again after you see this movie. Her is without question, one of the best films 2013 has to offer.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Review: American Hustle

David O. Russell, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and now, American Hustle. This cinematic hat-trick of his is mind boggling. How this man keeps cranking these amazing films out in such rapid succession is awe inspiring. American Hustle continues Russell's awesome streak and reunites the casts from his last two films, throws Jeremy Renner and a wicked pompadour into the mix and lets the kinetic sparks fly.

While watching American Hustle, I couldn't help but compare it to another madcap shiester film set in the 1970's, Martin Scorsese's 1990 masterpiece, Goodfellas. Normally, comparing another film to Goodfellas would be a death sentence, but American Hustle is so dazzling, it often feels like a kindred spirit to Scorsese's mobster classic.

Christian Bale plays Irving Rosenfield, a soft spoken con-artist who, along with his gorgeously manipulative partner in crime Sydney (Amy Adams), gleefully dupes people out of their money during the grimey landscape that was the post-Vietnam/Watergate America of the late 1970's. They run afoul of a zealous FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) who plans to use the smooth talking duo to entrap politicians and other high profile figures to further his own career. That's the film in a nutshell. The con-men get conned by the feds, who force them to con other scam artists in a massive corruption ring, but they have to outwit the FBI in order to stay alive or the people who they are trying to con will...exhausted yet? This film's plot is like a carousel on ecstasy. The story is constantly spinning, with gorgeous lights, or in this case, amazing performances and Russell's brilliant direction, blinding you at every turn.

There's also some biting social commentary going on in American Hustle, highlighting the corruption within our nation's political and financial institutions and how the perversion of the American dream has created a perplexing role reversal between traditional heroes and villains. The message is there, blanketed by Bale's amazingly tactful performance, Adam's uber seductive screen presence, and the most glorious soundtrack of the year. David O. Russell strikes again, what else is there to say?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Movie Review: 12 Years A Slave

There are great films and then, there are important films. Technically great films serve as a blueprint for Hollywood movie magic, while the important ones resonate in our collective consciousness for generations to come. Director Steve McQueen's latest film 12 Years A Slave, does both and is easily one of the best films of 2013.

First things first. 12 Years A Slave may be a great achievement in the pantheons of cinema...but that doesn't  mean it's an enjoyable movie. Based on a true story, McQueen's film is devoid of the glossy eyed sentimentality that permeates most historical biopics. 12 Years A Slave doesn't paint the antebellum South in simple shades of black and white or good and evil. Like real life, the film is swathed in complicated strokes of grey. Dark and muddled, but grey nonetheless. It would be fair to say that 95% of all characters depicted in this film are utterly despicable, but their reasoning and motivation for their actions, as vile and misguided as they may be with our 21st century hindsight, while not justified, are at least partially explained. This helps portray the film's many antagonists as human beings (albeit, extremely repulsive and ignorant) and not the cartoonish villains we've all seen before. In short, there is not an once of glamor or pageantry inside this film. 12 Years A Slave explores a painful chapter of American history rife with racism and bigotry and holds a mirror to our present "culture wars" and the seemingly never ending war with ignorance we wage as a society. This film does not glaze things over, instead it wallows in slavery's festering wound.

So yeah, now that you're an emotional wreck, let's talk about the movie. Steve McQueen has crafted another melancholy masterpiece here folks. If you thought 2011's Shame wasn't bleak enough, then you'll be astonished at the levels of woe and sorrow 12 Years A Slave reaches throughout it's duration. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a free black man living in the New York who is tricked and kidnapped to the South. He is forced to assume the identity of a runaway slave and sold off to a plantation where he  begins a decade plus struggle to maintain his sanity/soul. Everyone in the film's all star cast is phenomenal. Most play horrible, horrible people, but do a damn fine job in the process. Really, if I wanted to highlight every fine performance I would end up copy and pasting the IMDB cast list. I'll just say that Paul Dano proves he's one of today's best character actors and Michael Fassbender is simply frightening in this film. The acting is amazing, the cinematography and costumes/set design  make the film feel like a documentary at times, it feels so painfully authentic you might want to jump through the screen and kick start the Civil War yourself.

I really can't say enough good things about this film. 12 Years A Slave is a beautiful and twisted movie that should be seen by as many people as possible. It shows how far we've come as a society and reminds us how much more work there is to be done. When the black coat of justice swoops in during the film's gut wrenching conclusion, you can almost hear the generations of souls ruined by the wrong side of history rejoicing. Powerful stuff and one of the best films of this, or any year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Not Fiction, It's Florida.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
Ben Carrillo may have done a lot of questionable things in his life, but his debut student film It's Not Fiction, It's Florida, is not one of them. This short film is seven minutes of awesomeness. It's funny, thought provoking and features an amazing ensemble cast (especially that stud playing Cop #1). Who would have thought that a mere student film project would serve as a such a jarring indictment of modern American culture...either that or it just underscores how fucking crazy Florida really is. No...REALLY.

Is this film a work of genius? Has Ben found his true calling but more importantly, can he put the go-go dancing career behind him? Am I hyping this thing up because of my own involvement (Boom Operators Local 605 in the house)? Check out It's Not Fiction, It's Florida and decide for yourselves. I'm pretty sure you'll dig it...unless you're one of those raving loonies from the Sunshine State. If so, direct your ire at Ben. It's all his fault, I swear.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013

2013 marked another great year for metal and all its splintered genres. Although some promising acts disbanded, legends passed away, and some douche brought a lot of unwanted attention our way, 2013 was still a year full of celebration. There were great milestones and anniversaries, epic comebacks and most of all, slammin’ new albums for us depraved metal fans to enjoy. Trying to cram a year’s worth of stellar releases into a mere top 10 might seem like an act of lunacy…but that’s us alright, stupid like a fox. This is The Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013...

Friday, December 6, 2013


artwork by Chris "SILLYPANTS" Castro

It's a cold winter night. After one too many games of beer pong, Alex flys down the open highway road. He's gotta piss you know? While switching through his favorite Pandora stations, he loses control of his vehicle and veers off the road. The gash on his head from slamming into the steering while isn't as bad as it looks. No serious damage to himself or his liability only insured car. Too bad he's too wasted to realize that.

Car door swings open. Alex falls out and stumbles to the ground.

Cold. It's freezing. I-I'm bleeding?

Oh God, I was in an accident! Drunk driver?
Wait, that was me. My bad. They don't call me the beer pong champ for nothing!

At least I had my seat belt...oh. Shit. I-I can't move my legs dawg. I'm getting colder. This fucking sucks. I don't think I'm gonna make it. Even if I did, Sarah's gonna be pissed. I told her I was working tonight. What should I do? I'm getting all woozy and shit. Sam. Sam!

After some struggle, he unlocks his phone and makes a call.

Sam answer your fucking phone dude. C'mon. Gotta text his ass now. Foo needs an iPhone already, this shit would be free. Cheap ass...


Sam dude I fuked up. hit tree after left ur pad. dyin man =/ Do me a solid bro log onto my emails & profiles let evryone know I'm dunskees. Dont let Sarah see my inbox! keep those nudes from Jenn tho. Cute AF huh? Thanks man. Later.

yo I forgoet the password! LOL. email is spartan06. ha. FB and Twitter are: gimmiefuel6969. haha. Metallica bro wut?! Cool man. lates. old myspace tho! Nah, that shits dead anyways.

So this it? End of the line. Man, my last pic on Instagram is that Subway from yesterday. I can't go out like that!

Opens camera app.

One last selfie. Dammit.

Turns on flash and takes another photo. Hashtags the following:

#dontdrinkanddrive #peaceout #RIP

This better get more "likes" than Sarah's cloud pictures. This is my LAST pic you know?

His phone buzzes.

What? Liked my status? I didn't post...

He glances at his mysterious new Facebook update that reads:

Alexander Owens is a lying piece of shit. Was supposed to at work but drunk text me instead. Fuck him an that slut still sending him nudes behind my back. YOU KNO WHO YOU R BITCH! Get some respect n get ur own man. wait nvm you can have him. Get HER to help fix your car. Were done. smh.

I text Sarah?!Shiiiiiiiiiiit. She's gonna kill me. Well, if I wasn't already dying here. Fuck. I'm so cold and I'm all wet now. At least I don't have to piss anymore. Wait...


Monday, December 2, 2013

Movie Review: The Hunger Games- Catching Fire

This movie is as exciting as a hot chocolate from Starbucks. A warm beverage in a spiffy cup just like everyone else has, but lacking the other special ingredients those real drinks...well I don't know, fuck I don't even like coffee. Anyways, back to the movie.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire isn't a horrible film, it's just not very good either. There's action, drama, romance, you name it this movie tries to have it. That my friends, is the problem. This feels less like a film and more like a marketing decision (which we all know it was. C'mon you saw those Katniss popcorn bags?), a mass appeal hodgepodge of generic fluff meant to garner maximum profits at the box office. Mission accomplished dudes, Catching Fire has been kicking ass for the past two weeks. However, loads of profits does not a good film make.

It's no surprise that Jennifer Lawrence, *ahem* Academy Award winner for Best Actress *ahem* is the film's saving grace. She's beautiful and captivating and makes the best with such a sorry script. Also, with the weight of the franchise on her shoulders and the promise of residuals so vast they could fund the zaniest pet projects imaginable, Lawrence truly gives her all in Catching Fire. But then I remember that I've seen her kick ass in good movies also and that quickly becomes a moot point. The same is true for the rest of the cast. Elizabeth Banks, Jena Malone, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, fucking Philip Seymour Hoffman! Such a talented cast...squandered.

In short, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, is the bleak dystopian future set action-drama we've all seen before, but dumbed down for post-Twilight America. Maybe if the film didn't take itself so seriously? The outlandish costumes look just as stupid as say, Demolition Man, but Stallone's mid 90's cult classic had no delusions of grandeur. I guess The Hunger Games is like Star Wars, but without the camp or moxy that made the original trilogy so endearing. Instead we get self serious drivel with bad CGI and set designs. Dear lord, it's like the Prequels all over again! The Hunger Games: Attack of the Clones.