Saturday, August 28, 2010

Just Watched: Repo Men

Repo Men

I so wanted to like this movie.  Forest Whitaker is one of my favorite actors and the premise of human organ repossession seems like something meaty enough to build a good movie around.  I don't know what happened but the end result isn't good.

The first 30 minutes of the movie are promising.  It's basically a montage of cold-blooded organ repossessions performed with a steely detachment by repo partners Whitaker and Law, justified with the oft repeated "A job is just a job".   It seemed like the perfect setup for exploring the dark side of our profit driven corporate culture and the timely issue of  predatory lending practices.

For some damn reason though they chose to ignore any of the more interesting political implications of their setup and decided to just make a chase movie.  This starts when  Law's character has an accident that requires he get an artificial heart and, when he is no longer able to afford it, the evil corporation sends his old partner Whitaker after him.

Unfortunately, it's not even a good chase movie.  The later parts of the film lack coherence and don't add anything to the either the plot or what could have been an overarching message.  The fight scenes are okay and there's a memorable 'love scene' where Jude and his new organ-transplant-run-away girlfriend have to dissect each other; it's weird and unique but mostly just gross.
Probably the neatest thing about the second half of the film was sighting actress Yvette Nicole Brown from my favorite TV comedy Community as a tough leader of a group of on-the-run dead-beats organ transplantees.  In Community she's so nice and sweet and here she was a bad ass.  It was fun to see.

In the end neither the actors or the promise of the premise can compensate for the crappy editing and shitty script.  Skip it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Just Watched: Death at a Funeral

Death at a Funeral (2010)

Not very funny.  I chucked at the drugged out white guy and when Tracy Morgan got poop on himself and a little whenever Peter Dinklage was on screen but considering the talent of this ensemble that's not much. 

Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence, two very funny people,  kill (as in make dead and lifeless) any scene they are in.  If I hadn't seen this film I would never have guessed these guys could be so unfunny.  It was like watching Eddy Murphy in The Adventures of Pluto Nash.  How could people so talented have fallen so far?

 Unless you're really bored, skip this film.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just Say Now

I support this cause.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Just Watched: Kick Ass

Kick Ass

This was not the movie I expected.  All I knew was what I saw on the TV commercials where it appeared to be a comedy about nerdy kids who want to be super heroes.  Replace 'comedy' with 'hyper violent revenge flick' and you start to get the real picture.

There's nothing wrong with that either, it was actually kind of a nice surprise.  It is 'Kill Bill' meets Spiderman meets Heidi.

Not much more to say about this one.  I liked it.

Groove Shark

This is neat.  You can create public playlists on Grooveshark.  I've created an account but not uploaded any of my music.  I actually own all these but they don't know that.  How is this even legal?

Updated: Not sure if I stumbled onto something I wasn't supposed to have or what the story is, but the embedded widget is no longer displaying.  It was cool while it lasted.

Update #2: It's back.

Just Listened To #1

Surfer Blood
Astro Coast

Hooky, Indie pop with a definite classic surf rock sound.  The songs are perhaps too derivative though since I keep hearing other songs in my head when the hook first appears. 

Caspian is a band out of Beverly MA that plays all instrumental rock.  While seeking more long jams I discovered this genre.  It's a bit too down-beat and repetitive for my tastes but makes for good background programming music.
Godspeed You Black Emperor!
Yanqui U.X.O.
Another all instrumental album.  This music should have been the soundtrack to my years at IBM.  After listening to it for 15 minutes I want to vote Democrat.  All dirge all the time.   Not for casual consumption but interesting.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Just Read: The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch

The Green Knight
Her most emotionally gripping novel yet... built around Manichaean juxtapositions of good and evil, love and power, celebration and passion, light and dark.

- Michiko Kaluntani, The New York Times
Did you get that? This novel isn't just built around juxtapositions of good and evil, etc..., it's built around Manichaean juxtapositions. I had to look that up so I'll save you the trouble. (From wikipedia)
Manichaean theology taught a dualistic view of good and evil. A key belief in Manichaeism is that the powerful, though not omnipotent good power (God) was opposed by the semi-eternal evil power (Satan). This addresses a theoretical part of the problem of evil by denying the omnipotence of God and postulating two opposite powers. Humanity, the world and the soul are seen as the byproduct of the battle between God's proxy, Primal Man, and Satan. The human person is seen as a battleground for these powers: the soul defines the person, but it is under the influence of both light and dark. This contention plays out over the world as well as the human body—neither the Earth nor the flesh were seen as intrinsically evil, but rather possessed portions of both light and dark.
If you haven't guessed it by now, this wasn't light reading. I did like it but I did not love it. It took some work to get into and it was more of a 'chick' novel than I normally read. It's clear that Iris Murdoch was very smart and it is amazing that this is her last novel before succumbing to Alzheimer's.

As for the story, the Library Journal describes it:
...a Byzantine plot that weaves around nine characters. Peter Mir, the "Green Knight" of the title, is nearly killed when he intervenes to protect Clement Graffe from being murdered by Graffe's half-brother, Lucas. Mir mysteriously reappears and demands reparation from Lucas, provoking various responses from the two brothers and their circle of friends: Harvey Blacket; Bellamy Jones; the three Anderson sisters, Aleph, Sefton, and Moy; and their mother, Louise.
Though the novel is set in modern London I had the sense of the story unfolding as frames on a medieval multi-panel painting. Murdoch describes the people and their dress in detail but for the most part leaves the back drops sparsely filled. Inner monologues and discussion between the characters fill the pages. It isn't till the amazing last chapter that there's a real sense of the natural world around the characters.

The novel initially parallels Sir Gawain and the Green Knight but ultimately it diverges for it's own purposes. It's interesting that the characters themselves are even aware of this parallel and even more so that they are aware of their archetypical roles within the novel. Though mostly realistic there are  fantasy elements within the novel. These elements are particularly interesting because Murdoch skillfully describes them from the stand point of an unreliable observer so no suspension of disbelief is necessary yet their mythical weight and portent remains.

I like being challenged by a novel and this novel did that.  The philosophical foundation and ambiguity made it a very thought provoking read. I'm very impressed with Murdoch and I will seek out more of her novels.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Just Watched: Cop Out

Rotten Tomatoes gives this film a whopping 19% and offers this as its consensus: Cop Out is a cliched buddy action/comedy that suffers from stale gags and slack pacing.

If you spend even a few minutes looking around it's easy to see that  most people didn't like this film.  I however am not most people.  I found it fun and kind of charming.  Tracy Morgan is a hoot and the plot and direction was only stale and slack if you'd say the same about a Judd Aptow comedy. 

If you go in thinking this is a normal run-of-the-mill buddy cop action/comedy I could see why you would be disappointed.  There's nothing normal about this film.  The world this film lives in is a world where Tracy Morgan could be a police officer and that's a fucked up place.  Cop Out lives on the absurdity that is Tracy Morgan.  In that respect this film is closer to Bad Boys than Lethal Weapon and in my opinion funnier than either of them.

I like Bruce Willis but he does seem uncomfortable in this movie.  If someone else had been cast in the role I think it would have been more successful. 

Okay, I admit, this isn't a great film but its crime isn't that it was unfunny.   I had very low expectations and was rewarded with a bucket of laughs.  It was a welcome surprise.

A Universe From Nothing

This talk by super cosmologist Lawrence Krauss is understandable yet chock full of interesting information and thankfully light on fluff. It's well worth the hour you'll spend watching it.

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism