Thursday, December 18, 2008

My top 5 biggest inspirations

A lot of times, people ask me what my inspirations for this blog are. I thought I'd answer that question once and for all with a "top 5" list, because, like John Cusack in High Fidelity, this is the only way I really know how to convey a list of random shit to the public. Keep in mind that this is not my "favorite writers" list. This is not my "favorite people" list. This is a list of five writers who have shaped the way I look at the "craft" of putting words on paper (or in this case, a computer screen).

#5: A.J. Jacobs, writer and "editor at large" for Esquire magazineIn April of 2007, I started reading Esquire. And in May of 2007, I became a subscriber. Not only because of the awesome layout and great grooming and fashion tips it gives, but because of the writing that is contained within. One of these writers is self-described "editor at large" A.J. Jacobs.
You see, Jacobs does what no other writer for the magazine does. Jacobs puts himself in situations that seem reminiscent of Morgan Spurlock's in Super Size Me and 30 Days. Whether it be brutal honesty, acting like a hot woman online, or other such things, Jacobs constantly proves that he will go to any lengths for his readers. This is easily his most admirable quality, besides the very distinct style of writing he happens to have. I'm also convinced he's batshit crazy and has the most understanding wife on the planet.A few months ago, I interviewed A.J. about his newest book, A Year of Living Biblically. Read it here.

#4: Douglas Adams, science fiction and comedy book authorFar and away, my favorite writer of all time, Douglas wrote 12 books before he passed away in 2001 from a heart attack. His distinct writing style and bizarre brand of humor have inspired many writers, including myself. I don't often write fiction. But when I do, he is definitely my biggest inspiration. In fact, many of the short stories that I have written were based on ideas I got while I was reading one of his books.
I'm not going to sit here and toot his horn anymore, because that's what I always do.

#3: Augusten Burroughs, memoir writerI'm not going to lie, I haven't read all of Augusten's books. But the five I have read have changed the way I look at storytelling. He's written several books, all of them memoirs, and all of them (that I've read) are absolutely fantastic. From alcoholism, to advertising, to his absolutely screwed up childhood, there is something for everyone in Burrough's back catalogue.
Every single time I write a story about my childhood, he is the first person I think of. His manner of storytelling is something to be envious of. He is the entire reason that I want to write a memoir someday, chronicling my life. Hopefully mine are as good.

#2: Matt Caracappa, blogger from X-Entertainment (located here)
(no photo, because none are good/big enough)
As far as the actual content of my writing goes, Matt here is probably my biggest inspiration. Founder and head writer of X-Entertainment (one of the biggest and oldest blogs on the web), he will basically write about anything. Yep, anything. If he sees it in a store, he buys it, reviews it, and posts it. From his sought-after seasonal posts (especially Halloween and Christmas), to his extended posts on past years' Macy's Day Parades, he is definitely one of my favorites, and is who inspired me to do what I do daily.
Before I get a barrage of comments or emails accusing me of this, yes, Matt's blog's name was the inspiration for my own. Think of it as a sort of homage to a personal hero of mine.

#1: Chuck Klosterman, essayist, writer for Esquire magazineI was flipping through January's issue of Esquire the other day, when I came across a quote from famed essayist Chuck Klosterman. It goes:

"Some days it's incredibly easy to write four thousand words in an afternoon. Other days, it's impossible to write two sentences. There is no consistency with the difficulty of the process."
This basically sums up my feelings towards everything based around writing for people's entertainment, and the difficulty surrounding it. His book IV is what I dream of writing someday. Three parts: stories about him, interviews with famous people, and a fictional short story, all in one. This is what I want to release someday. No singular style of writing can contain him, and I'd hope no singular style of writing could contain me either. Klosterman is the reason I want to become a journalist someday, plain and simple.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Are you a film addict?

How many movies have you seen? 500? 800? 1,000? More?
Well, there is a new test on the ol' interwebs where you can determine exactly how addicted you are to film by filling out a form with how many of IMDb's top 250 movies you've seen. I scored a 53.6%, but mostly because I don't really watch any movies made before 1960.
The site is located here.

Found on /Film.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mini-movie reviews (#7)

I'm adding a new bit to this where if I've seen the movie multiple times, I'll state if my rating has gone up, down, or stayed the same.

Journey to the Center of the EarthDirected by Eric Brevig
Starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and Anita Breim
Released in 2008
Good: The computer animation was fluid in most scenes.
Bad: Where to begin? Horrible story, horrible adaptation, horrible script, horrible everything. The worst movie of the year, that I've seen.
Rating: 2/10

The Bank Job (second viewing)Directed by Roger Donaldson
Starring Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Steven Campbell Moore, Daniel Mays, and James Faulkner
Released in 2008
Good: As much as it pains me to say it, I sort of prefer Statham in the "brilliant gangster" role like he plays in this movie (and Snatch) rather than the "ridiculous action star" role like he plays in Crank and the Transporter movies. He feels like he's more in his element, though I wish he'd find a balance between the two.
Bad: Incredibly predictable, yet still above-average in the "bank heist" type of movie.
Rating: 8.5/10 (raised from an 8/10)
I absolutely love how the poster looks straight out of a 70's multiplex.

Taxi Driver (fourth viewing)Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle, and Harvey Keitel
Released in 1976
Good: Probably De Niro's best role ever, as deranged and righteous taxi driver Travis Bickle. This ranks as one of the movies that everyone must see at least once in their lives. Brutally honest and well-played by all.
Bad: Nothing at all, really.
Rating: 10/10 (stayed the same)

Burn After Reading (second viewing)Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, and Tilda Swinton
Released in 2008
Good: Malkovich's role is spot-on as Osborne Cox, Brad Pitt shows that he is fully capable of having a lead comedic role, and Frances McDormand plays the perfect self-consious gym worker. George Clooney, I feel, just plays a slightly retarded version of himself.
Bad: This is the sort of movie you either love or hate. A lot of people don't see its beauty.
Rating: 9/10 (raised from an 8.5)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Irrelevance (#10)

I finally feel myself getting into the Christmas spirit this year. After spending close to $400 on gifts (a ridiculous amount of money to a teenager like myself), and countless hours on paintings and other projects, I can say that I'm finally feeling good about admitting that we are currently in the midst of the holiday season. I'm usually in denial until around December 23rd, so this is an especially good year for me.
I'm beginning to notice "holiday backlash" though. Remember how the past two years haven't been "Christmas," but "the holidays" instead? Well, every chain store (mostly Wal-Mart) seems to be giving that idea a huge FUCK YOU by having Christmas-themed everything. No other winter holiday seems to be even casually mentioned. It's weird.

Kozik busts
I've been into "urban vinyl" toys for about two or three years now, yet I don't own a huge vinyl toy (meaning that it costs over $150). For some reason, I always save for them and sketch out at the last moment. I've never really wanted one of them, until now:Yes, that is Stalin. Yes, it's made of vinyl. Yes, the first one is glow-in-the-dark. And yes, those last two are flocked (AKA "velvet-y"). These 14-inch beauties are what I've been pining for since I got my new job. $300 for the non-flocked, $350 for the flocked. These have been out for about a year, and are by one of my favorite artists, Frank Kozik. I even did a project (or rather, an analysis) on one of these for my ceramics class last year.
He's also done one of Chinese Communist dictator Chairman Mao with Mickey ears ("Mickey Mao"), Vietnam revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, and Beethoven made-up to look like Alex from A Clockwork Orange (since Beethoven's 9th Symphony plays a huge part in the book/movie). I know, they are fucking awesome.
I want the red or blue one on the end. Oh, and there are about 15 colorways for each bust.

Top 50 movies
As sad as it sounds, I've been re-writing my top 50 movies list for the last few days. This is the list (in alphabetical order):

28 Days Later
American Beauty
Apocalypse Now
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The
Big Fish
Big Lebowski, The
Boogie Nights
Chasing Amy
Children of Men
Clockwork Orange, A
Dark Knight, The
Departed, The
Dog Day Afternoon
Donnie Darko
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Evil Dead
Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn
Fight Club
Garden State
Graduate, The
Green Street Hooligans
Illusionist, The
Incredibles, The
Machinist, The
Matrix, The
No Country for Old Men
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Pulp Fiction
Punch-Drunk Love
Reservoir Dogs
Requiem for a Dream
Royal Tenenbaums, The

Scanner Darkly, A
Science of Sleep
Shaun of the Dead
Shining, The
Sin City
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars Episode IV: Return of the Jedi
Taxi Driver
Usual Suspects, The

I imagine I'll probably have them in numerical order by the end of this next week. The bolded ones are potentials for my top 10. Let me know what you all think of this list.
It also just dawned on me that I have now mentioned A Clockwork Orange twice in this post. Wait, no. Three times now. Goddammit.
And yes, the Star Wars original trilogy is the only series that I have given a 10/10. Most other ones screw up the formula (lookin' at you, Indiana).

Bettie Page
Legendary pin-up model Bettie Page passed away a few days ago from complications of a heart attack she suffered 8 days previously. The 85-year old woman was best known for stirring up controversy in "racy" S&M photos back in the 50's.
I hereby dedicate my entire article on pornography to her memory. Bettie, you will be missed. I wish I could have met you, but not in a creepy way.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Stephen King <3's Jason Statham

So legendary horror author Stephen King released his top ten movies of 2008 today. The list is as follows:

1. The Dark Knight
2. Slumdog Millionaire
4. Tropic Thunder
5. Funny Games
6. The Bank Job
7. Lakeview Terrace
8. The Ruins
9. Redbelt
10. Death Race

This clenches it. Stephen King has a man crush on Jason Statham. He is the only actor to have two movies in King's top ten. Hell, he's the only anything to have two spots on there (director, producer, etc.). Sure, The Bank Job was a badass movie. And I haven't seen Death Race yet (but it comes out next Tuesday, YES!). But two movies, really?
I guess I understand him, and envy his ability to not give a shit about what people think of his tastes. Jason Statham is one of those actors whose movies I absolutely cannot rate without being biased. I'd give Crank a 10/10 if I was being honest with myself. It's one of my favorite movies. But I don't want to let it taint my "top ten" list, because I'd like to be taken seriously when I name the movies on the list off from memory like it's my social security number.
But I digress (as usual). Strange choices aside (Redbelt? The Ruins? Really, Steve?), he readily admits he has crappy taste:

Let's start with a confession: I'm not trustworthy when it comes to movies. I'm two-minded about them. Take this year's Saw film. I sat there in my favorite seat — third row middle, so the screen towers above me — and my forebrain was thinking, Oh, man, this is the year's biggest pile of cinematic dog vomit. But the rest of my brain is thinking, I'm at the mooooovies! IS THIS GREAT OR WHAT?
So when I get flamed in the letters column, as I usually do after one of these lists, I know why. This is almost surely the only 10-best list you'll read that contains not one but two Jason Statham movies; it's that two-brains thing."
Edited out of the originally-written article is a description of how Stephen then proceeded to whip out his wallet and show his collection of pictures of Statham while emitting high-pitched, girly screams. At least someone loves him as much as I do.
Also, nothing screams "I'm middle-aged!" like putting Lakeview Terrace on your top ten list. Besides maybe putting Righteous Kill on there. Hurm.

Found on /Film.

Evil Dead: Part 2 of 4: The second movie

Click here for part one, the post on the first movie.
Premise (click here for the IMDb page)
The second part of the Evil Dead trilogy (released in 1987) follows protagonist Ash as he continues to fight demons in an abandoned cabin in North Carolina.
After chopping up his girlfriend Linda, Ash embarks on a two-day slaughterfest that includes re-killing all of his friends, killing a new batch of people, and cutting off his own hand.
While some people believe this is a remake of the original, the truth is that director Sam Raimi switched production companies and couldn't get the rights to show a montage of scenes from the first movie to refresh peoples' memories. So he did the next best thing, and re-shot a super-condensed version of the first movie for the beginning of this one.

Most of the film was shot in the gym of JR Faison Junior High School in Wadesboro, North Carolina, and the rest was shot on the same farm that Steven Spielberg used for The Color Purple. The not-so-modest $3.6 million budget was almost ten times as much as it was for the first movie, leaving Raimi and co. to make an ultimately better movie (at least, that's what most people believe).
It was released unrated, which is the equivalent of NC-17. Raimi tried to get an R rating, but failed. He cut scenes out (such as a more brutal version of the "tree rape" scene from the first film), made demon blood green and black, and cut back on the swearing, but the MPAA didn't budge. It has made almost $6 million to date.

Fun facts (found on Wikipedia and IMDb)
-There was a rat in the cellar of the farmhouse they were shooting in, and Raimi allegedly named it "SeƱor Cojones."
-Ted Raimi (Sam's brother) played Henrietta, the original archeologist's demon-possessed wife. Ted and Sam both claim that Ted was sweating so much under the latex suit he wore that they would literally fill Dixie cups with his sweat. This can be seen when Annie is spinning over Henrietta's head, dripping out of the ear.
-There are a few times when Raimi switched the film negative (making everything opposite), such as the "famously flipped" scene where Ash walks across the room holding a chainsaw in the hand he cut off less than 30 minutes previously.
-In A Nightmare on Elm Street, the original Evil Dead can be seen playing on a TV, along with a poster in one of the character's bedrooms. It was directed by Raimi's friend Wes Craven, and Raimi "got him back" by putting one of Freddy Kreuger's gloves in the toolshed where Ash gets his chainsaw.
-When Ash puts a pile of books on top of his severed hand, the top book reads A Farewell to Arms.
-The scene where everything in the house is laughing was originally just a joke during the making of the movie, in which a production assistant picked up a lamp and made it laugh manically.
-Raimi and Campbell made up a rumor that Campbell's famous jaw was broken during the filming of the scene where a demon chases Ash around the house (shot in first person view from the demon's perspective). This never happened, but it was widely believed for quite some time.
-At the very end of the movie, when Ash is transported back in time, both Ted and Sam are knights that talk to him.

Expect the third and fourth ones to be done before the end of January.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thrifty twenty (#1)

This is a new type of post in which I will go to a thrift store, garage sale, Goodwill or other form of resale store (or even a dollar store), spend $20 or less (not including tax), and write about what I get. There should be a picture for these posts in the next few days. Expect it to be done weekly or bi-weekly.

Ah, I love new types of posts. This week, I went to both Bookman's (a sort of "buy everything used and media-related" type of store) and Brass Armadillo (a so-called "antiques mall") Here is what I got from each (click to enlarge the photos):

1: "Hustlin'" 12-inch single record by Rick Ross: $1.00
Not much needs to be said. Vance was jealous of this.
2: "Hustlin' Remix" 12-inch single record by Rick Ross featuring Jay-Z and Young Jeezy: $1.00
Again, not much needs to be said. Vance was less jealous of this, because apparently to him, the "remix isn't as good." Fuck that, Jay-Z is the man.
3: "Ebony and Ivory" 7-inch single record by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder: $0.50
I totally bought this as a joke. This song reminds me of two things: the commercials they had for USA's TV show Psych while promoting it last season, and the episode of MTV's Rob and Big where they sing this song in karaoke (which coincidentally, was on yesterday).
The way the word "piano" is said in this song absolutely makes it worth the buy. They say it like "pee-yeah-no," and it makes me smile every time I hear it.
4: "Party All the Time" 7-inch single record by Eddie Murphy: $0.50
Another joke. Look at how seriously Eddie Murphy is taking himself on the cover of this album. Oh Edward. What happened? And why was Rick James in this music video?
5: "Start Me Up" 7-inch single record by the Rolling Stones: $0.75
This is one of the few songs by the Stones that I actually like. Sure, I went through a mild Stones phase when I was 12 or 13. But I still like this song for some reason.

Brass Armadillo: 1: "On the Road" 12-inch album by George Carlin: $4.00
I miss George. I've been looking for anything by him on vinyl for a while now, and this one is literally flawless. It isn't warped, scratched, or otherwise in any sort of bad condition (though it is missing the accompanying booklet). Sure, it isn't his best album, but it was still a nicely priced record for the condition that it is in.
2: "At San Quentin" 12-inch album by Johnny Cash: $4.00
This was from the same bin that the Carlin record was from, and it is in almost identical condition (besides some superficial wear on the sleeve). But the vinyl itself is awesome. Black and glossy, just like it should be. Such a great album too. Not as good as say, "Live at Folsom Prison," but good nonetheless.
3: Evil Dead 2: Collector's Edition VHS tape: $5.00
I wouldn't have spent one quarter of my allotted cash on any movie other than this. The "Collector's Edition" tape features a letter from Bruce Campbell himself on the reverse of the paper insert. That alone makes it worth the buy.
Grab bag of various toys: $1.001: Captain America plush
This is what originally caught my eye. I knew the instant I saw it that I had to have it, so I paid a buck and got all this other junk with it. He has no chin, and the tag still dangles from his hand; telling me he was produced in 2001.
2: Weird Superman toy
I get the feeling that this Superman toy is one of the types that is released with all of the accessories that Superman wouldn't normally have (like a grappling hook or gun) when a new television series or movie comes out. This version of Supes has orange, clear plastic hands and a flattop haircut. I wonder what his function is.
3: Batman Burger King toy
I had this toy when it came out around 2001. This was to promote Cartoon Network's then-new Justice League series. He doesn't do much besides move his arms in circles, so I like to pretend he's stretching before battle. He does have an awesome double-layered cloth cape though.
4: Japanese Batman toy
This toy is the diamond in the rough of the Ziploc baggie. Manufactured by Japanese toy giant Takara in 2003, it is a sought-after import from DC Direct (view it here on Amazon). He has 25 points of articulation, removable limbs, and awesome muscles. Definitely made the bag totally worth the dollar.
5 and 6: Superman and Steel pencil sharpeners
These are from the 90's, as evident by Superman's mullet and...well, Steel. Not much to say about these, besides the fact that I think Steel is a horrible movie. Oh, and they don't seem to be open-able.
7: Superman cake topper
You may ask me "How do you know this is a cake topper?" Well, imaginary reader, it is completely obvious. It is made of cheap plastic, stands well on its own, and is just lame enough to be considered worth putting ankle-deep in frosting. It's from 1988. Yeeeeah.
The "S" on his chest is a cheap sticker, which leads me to believe that someone took care of this obsessively.
8: Superman minifigure
This toy is tiny. It comes with a swizzle stick-like thing that you stick into the bottom of it, so your fat fingers don't crush Superman when you pretend he is flying while re-enacting a fight with Brainiac. Brilliant.
9: No clue
I couldn't fathom to guess what this thing is. Most likely thrown in at the last second (considering everything else is comics-related), it seems to be a mage of some sort, floating on a purple cloud. If you know what this is, tell me. It looks Yu-Gi-Oh or Final Fantasy related.

Total money spent: $17.75
Let me know what you think of this new post type by rating it please.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A short story by David Littrell

This is a short story written by my friend David Littrell for his English final. He had me look over it and give him my opinion on it, and I loved it so much that I offered to post it on here. I highly reccomend you all read this, and give David some feedback in the comments, chat box to the right, or over Myspace.

“What the fuck are you doing Meadlo?!” Captain Medina shouted over the chaos, “Discharge your goddamned weapon!” All the villagers of My Lai was runnin’ round all wildly, tryin’ to find some means of escape from the violent scene. But, as they was running away, they was just gettin’ shot in the back. Intel said this place was a hot spot for Viet-cong. Intel was full a shit. These weren’t no soldiers; these were goddamn women and children.
“Captain Meadlo! There ain’t no Charlie here! These are civilians!” I shouted back toward my commanding officer. Meadalo just glared back at me. I had already watched him take out several ‘tangos’. He had his lips pulled back in some kinda deranged half-smile, and he just reminded me that disobeyin’ orders was grounds for court-martial. Everything ‘round just seemed straight outta a nightmare. Children was runnin’ up to the limp corpses of their mamas, and then they was getting’ put out to pasture in the same manner. The ground all around us was painted with blood, and littered with all these various innards. American soldiers were committin’ war crimes, and no one really seemed to give two shits. My stomach felt real swollen, and my throat clenched up so tight that I couldn’t hardly breathe; but even through all that, I could still feel the eyes of all the other soldiers on me while I stood there all idle. I knew what they was thinking, if I wasn’t gonna to follow Medina’s orders, there was gonna be some friendly fire comin’ my way.My eyes started swellin’ up, and my vision got real blurred while tear’s starting formin’ up. I couldn’t feel the aching of my stomach or throat no more; that was replaced by a new sensation. Felt like there was this tearin’ at soul. I had never wanted to kill no one, and the only way I’d gotten myself to ever pull the trigger before was knowing that if I wasn’t gonna shoot them Charlie, they’d sure as shit shoot me. And now here it was in danger again, only these weren’t no fucking Charlie, these was just targets that screamed. But still, I didn’t wanna die, not no more than them villagers did.
So, I lifted up the weapon my government had given me. There was a young girl, cradlin’ what looked like it used to be a lil’ boy. She wasn’t lookin’ at none of us, just had her head down while she clutched them pieces of kid. And I figured if I was gonna go, I’d rather not see it comin’ neither. I pointed the barrel in her direction, and took the safety off-a my rifle. All I could think ‘bout was how she didn’t deserve none a this, none of ‘em did. I was cryin’, not a little neither, but just bawlin’ like a newborn. I closed my eyes real tight, and clenched my jaw up as hard as I could, then I squeezed the trigger, and jus’ like I’d been trained to, fired off three quick bursts blindly. BRRRAT! BRRRAT! BRRRAT! And with each kickback, I coulda sworn I felt them slugs slammin’ right into my own guts.
There was plenty a gunfire, an screamin’, an killin’ goin’ on all around me, but after I fired them shots, none of it really registered no more. I fell over, down on my knees, and held myself up with both-a my hands while I started dry gaggin’. I raised my head up in the direction that girl had been in then finally opened up my eyes. She had a few entry wounds in her torso, and 2 more in her face. I vomited between sobs, and just started crawlin’ over toward her. I pulled her lifeless corpse up real close to me, and was embracin’ it real tight. “I’m sorry!” I sobbed, “I’m so fuckin’ sorry!” bits of her brains was getting all up on me, and my army issued’s was getting’ soaked in her fluids. I just kept clutchin’ her, the salty taste of her blood mixed with my tears was runnin’ into my mouth, and I didn’t care. I shoulda just let me kill me.
I just kept sittin’ there; holdin’ her real hard for a good couple a minutes, then I felt a hand pat me on the back, and I heard Medina’s voice, “You did good boy! We’ll make a soldier of you yet son!” The gun fire was gone, and I could hear a few of the other guys talkin’ so was jokin’, some was forcin’ themselves up on survivors. There may-a been men up in my unit that felt the same way I did, but I couldn’t see ‘em. My eyes was clenched shut real tight again.
After that, the only thing I was really thinkin’ about for the rest a the whole goddamned war was how if Captain Medina was what a solider is suppose to be, then I sure as hell didn’t want to be one no more; and if this is what humans beings is capable of, well I ain’t sure I wanna be one of them neither.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mini-movie reviews (#6)

Heckler(Sorry for the watermark on the poster, it was the biggest one I could find)
Directed by Michael Addis and Jamie Kennedy
Starring Jamie Kennedy and "over 100 comedians and performers."
Released in 2007
Good: The best parts are the ones that are recorded times of heckling. The two standouts are the Bill Hicks and Uwe Boll scenes.
Bad: Though it was a good premise for a documentary, it feels like it dragged on far too long, and strayed from the subject matter (into critics rather than hecklers). That, and I felt really bad for Jamie Kennedy throughout the movie. Jamie, if you are reading this (which the movie shows you are likely to do) I love you and find your standup comedy hilarious.
Rating: 5.5/10

Constantine (3rd viewing)Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, and Shia Labeouf
Released in 2005
Good: The scenes in hell and involving any sort of demon or other supernatural being are awesome. The opening exorcism scene is one of my favorites in the action genre. Bush frontman (and Gwen Stefani beau) Gavin Rossdale looks awesome in a grey pinstriped tux. And Rachel Weisz is hot.
Bad: Reeves' acting in some parts is laughably bad. Shia Labeouf's character is annoying and unnecessary.
Rating: 6/10

The Illusionist (5th viewing)Directed by Neil Burger
Starring Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti, and Rufus Sewell
Released in 2006
Good: Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti's performances are fantastic. The storyline is intriguing and original. The ending reminds me of The Usual Suspects; in the sense that everything comes together flawlessly.
Bad: A few parts (namely the "bedroom scene" between Norton and Biel) drag on a bit.
Rating: 10/10 (one of my favorites)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Movie review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Warning: minor spoilers ahead
Last night, I went to a press/public pre-screening of David Fincher's new film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald story of the same name, and set to release on Christmas day, it stars Brad Pitt as the titular character who is born looking like and has characteristics of an 80 year-old man (though in an infant body). Essentially, he grows younger rather than older, forced to watch the people he cares about going in the opposite direction as him.
He is adopted by an African-American senior-citizen caretaker in New Orleans in the beginning of the 20th century, and grows up (or down, rather) through several decades, all throughout the world.
I won't say more than that, because people need to see this movie. At 167 minutes, I know this is a lot to ask from people. But trust me, it is absolutely worth it. Pitt's acting (especially his accent in the voice-overs) is flawless, and love intrest Cate Blanchett is as beautiful as ever (especially in the scene where she is in a red dress). The score is beautiful as well.
But perhaps most importantly, David Fincher's direction is what stands out. The way he progresses through Pitt's de-aging process and the decades alongside them is nothing short of amazing. This is entirely unlike anything he's ever done. As the director of movies like Fight Club and Se7en, this isn't fully surprising. But the fact that he genre-hopped so well is.

Final thoughts
The ending to this movie is one of the saddest I have ever seen. Blanchett's acting in the final scene is something that I personally would deem Oscar-worthy. But the problem is, being released on Christmas day, it is unable to compete in the 2008 Oscars. It'll have to wait a full year until it can be nominated or even considered for anything. Fans of Fincher's previous works will know that this happened with his phenomenal film Zodiac last year. It was released in March, and was forgotten about by the time the awards came around. I think that this same thing will happen to Benjamin Button, though I hope it doesn't.
If this movie isn't remembered for its incredible story and amazing performances (along with fantastic cinematography), it will be remembered as a film that broke new ground in CGI and makeup effects.

Rating: 9/10
Fincher dazzles with a film that is as beautiful it is timeless. One of the best of the year.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stories I tell myself

When I ride my bike anywhere (which occurs no less than 15 times a week), I like to make up bizarre stories about people that I pass to make the trip go by faster. For instance, the story that I told myself last night went something like this:
There was a double-date couple sitting at a bar and grill that I passed. I imagined the older couple was the mother and father of the boy half of the younger couple, and they were meeting his girlfriend for the first time. The father looked like Stanley Tucci, and the mother looked like Nikki Blonsky in 20 years. The boy looked like Michael Cera, and the girl like Katie Holmes (they will further be known by these names). They went to the same college (ASU), where Michael will get his Bachelor's degree in business, and Katie will get her degree in art history. They will get married after she graduates, because she is pregnant with their first child. Michael will become wildly successful after setting up a custom tile flooring business in a budding town. He will be a millionaire. He and his wife will always remain faithful to one another.
They will have four children. Here are their stories.

Michael Jr. - A psychologist later in his life Michael Jr. is the only one who will know (or rather, suspect) that his mother committed suicide less than a year after his father died at age 65 from a heart attack while running. In her will/suicide note (which a friendly neighbor will find), it will specifically say not to tell her children that she had killed herself, to tell them that she had fallen asleep in her garage with the car running, dying from carbon monoxide poisoning (she suffered from a mild case of narcolepsy, so this wasn't completely out there).
The only person Michael Jr. will tell about his suspicions was his wife. And the only person his wife will tell is her neighbor across the street that she is in love with and sleeps with no less than four times a week (three times more than she does with her husband). She will become pregnant, and the child will be her neighbor's. She will never know this (though she'll suspect it), and neither will Michael. They will get divorced three weeks shy of their daughter's fourth birthday. Michael Jr. will have custody of his daughter, and will be nothing short of a fantastic father. He will die at the ripe old age of 82 from liver failure.
Jasmine - Jasmine will be the epitome of the term "daddy's little girl," and will be a freelance journalist (she will try to go to college, but will drop out after the third semester).
On the two year anniversary of her father's death, she will release a book called "My Father's Eyes" (named after the Eric Clapton song), and it will be a biography of her father told by family and friends close to him. It will become incredibly popular, sitting at the top of the New York Times' best seller list for six weeks before being overtaken by Jamie Lynn Spears' autobiography (titled "My Life, The Circus").
She will get married to a man named Doug, and will miscarry three babies with him because of a problem with her uterus. These three miscarriages will drive them apart, and they will get divorced shortly after the third one. She will remarry 7 years later, and will love this man (Brad) more than she loved Doug. Brad will understand her inability to birth children, and will agree to adopt one with her. They will travel to Africa and adopt a baby boy named Marshall. She will be skeptical of her love for him at first, but will grow to treat him like her own. She will be a good (albeit short-tempered) mother.
She will die at age 70 after getting hit by a car driven by a drunk driver while walking her small dog at night. Her husband will never remarry, nor even consider it.
Stanley (named after Michael's father) - Stanley will move out of his house when he is 17, to live with his 32 year-old drug dealing girlfriend named Maisy. He will be arrested at the age of 19 under suspicion of menace, and the police will discover 3 grams of cocaine in his front shirt pocket. He will be sentenced to 6 months of rehab and 6 months of probation, which he will serve honestly and truthfully (because he really does want help).
At the age of 22, he will become a born-again Christian, having started his path to "finding God" while in rehab. He will become a youth minister for a Southern Baptist Church in Tennessee, and all of his "children" will love him. He will never marry, and will die alone at the age of 47 from a heroin overdose after falling off the metaphorical sober wagon.
Stephen - In his sixth year of college to become a businessman like his father, Stephen will be in a near-fatal car accident that will leave his legs crushed and unusable without the aid of a cane, crutches, or leg braces. He could use a wheelchair, but thinks that people will see him as weak. After the accident, he will abandon his business degrees to become a physical therapist, so that he can help people like himself. He will write a self-help book for partially crippled people, and it will be mildly popular.
He is gay, and will have a partner throughout his entire life, named Richard (but "Dick" to his friends, as a sort of in-joke). After revealing to his siblings that he is homosexual, he will be completely cut off by his super-religious brother, Stanley. They will never reconcile, and it will weigh on Stephen's heart for the rest of his life. He will die four weeks before his sister, at age 62, after falling off of his roof while putting Christmas decorations up. Dick will commit suicide via shotgun a month later, his note saying only that he "Was left alone in an unfriendly world."

You see? It took me about 30 minutes to come up with all of these details. And yes, I do "tell myself" these stories. Hell, I was biking home at 11:30. No one will hear me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

en-tur-tain-munt's top five (non-superhero related) graphic novels

Finally, here it is. I know I said I'd do at "top ten" for this (as I did with the superhero ones), but there just isn't enough time to waste to do something like that (because I know few of you will appreciate it). After this, there will be no writing about comics for a while.
Just like the first time around, there are a few rules I set for myself while making this list. Since I am only doing a top five for this specific set of graphic novels, I forced myself to only use an artist/writer once, rather than have one take up the entire list (Alan Moore, specifically).
I also told myself that I wouldn't (and couldn't) include anything involving Jhonen Vasquez. Vasquez is the artist, writer, and creator of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Squee!, and I Feel Sick; and is also the creator of the cartoon Invader Zim. If I were to include him, the list would be biased and flawed, since I grew up reading and watching the material he created. As such, I have removed him from the equation. I will write about him specifically on a later date.
As with the first posts, the names of the graphic novels will be links to their Amazon pages.
Click here for part 1 of the superhero graphic novels post, and here for part 2.

#5 - V for Vendetta (originally published from 1982-1988) Set in the near future in post-apocalyptic England (London, specifically), V for Vendetta centers around an anarchist trying to bring down the fascist and corrupt government that now runs the entire country. Known only as V, this masked man takes a young girl under his wing (named Evey Hammond) and is assisted by her in this process. The methodical manner of his take down of the British government is near beautiful, and writer Alan Moore (of Watchmen fame) once again proves himself as the master of comics writing. The characters of V and Evey are (once again) multi-layered and complex; leading you to believe that this is an actual event you are reading about, rather than bizarre fiction. There was, of course, a movie based on this graphic novel, starring Hugo Weaving as V and Natalie Portman as Evey. It was directed by the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix trilogy, Speed Racer), and is a pretty good adaptation of the source content. I'd suggest you read this before you see the movie, if you haven't seen it.

#4 - Ghost World (originally published from 1993-1997) Drawn and written by independent comics guru Daniel Clowes, Ghost World follows two best friends named Enid and Rebecca as they basically live their 90's teenage girl lives. Enid is a weirdo whose style and attitude change with each issue, and Rebecca dislikes this, leading to a rift between the two. Throughout their "journey" of maturity and friendship, they run into suspected Satanists, pedophiles, and a strange man named Bob Skeetes. This graphic novel epitomizes what teenage life was like in the 90's; and condenses the attitudes and actions of Generation X into two characters.
This was also adapted into a movie (with the screenplay written my Clowes himself) starring Thora Birch as Enid and Scarlett Johannsson as Rebecca, released in 2001. Though it has a few differences from the book, it is still a pretty true adaptation. Check it out, but read the book first (of course).

#3 - Creature Tech (originally published in 2002)Doug TenNapel is brilliant. As the artist and writer of several graphic novels (Gear, Iron West, Earthboy Jacobus) and the creative mind behind the animated TV show CatScratch, he's built something of a mini-empire. TenNapel's best work, a 2002 book called Creature Tech is about a man named Dr. Michael Ong who is sent to a small hick town in California to essentially open a bunch of government-owned boxes to catalouge what paranormal things lie within (almost like how Area 51 is always depicted in movies). Along with his humanoid praying mantis sidekick and a backpack-like parasite with mind-controlled arms (like Doctor Octopus) attached to his back, Dr. Ong must stop a paranormal spirit from resurrecting a giant, dead space eel that is buried under the town.
Sound bizarre? It is. It is one of the most insane premises to any graphic novel I've ever read, and I absolutely love it. The story is well-told, the ideas are striking and original, and the characters are memorable. Essentially, everything you could ask for in a graphic novel.
Apparently the rights for this book are being fought over by 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.; to be adapted into a live-action movie. Fingers crossed they do it justice.

#2 - Teenagers From Mars (originally published in 2005)If Ghost World is the epitome of 90's Generation X-ers, Teenagers From Mars is the epitome of 00's Generation Y-ers. Named after a Ramones album and set in a southern town named Mars (of course), where a "MallMart" employee is sick of his shitty, boring life. We've all been there, but we haven't all had our favorite comic shop shut down, been arrested, and been to a city-wide bookburning before, all while planning on starting a "comics liberation army" of sorts. I'd write more about the awesome storytelling and stuff, but I'm far too afraid that I may spoil some things about the book.
This isn't really a spoiler, but the best scene in the entire book is when Mason beats the shit out of a customer. Absolutely fucking awesome.

#1 - Blankets (originally published in 2003) Before I get into the finer points of this graphic novel, I'd love to share with everyone my relationship with the writer and artist of this comic, Craig Thompson.
When I was young, there were two magazines that I read: Disney Adventures and Nickelodeon Magazine. I preferred Nick Mag because they "got" my generation. They knew what to say and write about to keep kids interested. During the general period that I read this magazine (estimated 1998-2002) and unbeknownst to me, a comics artist was taking the magazine by storm. He would write and illustrate several pieces for it over the four or five years I read it, and I'd always love his art style. I didn't realize until recently that it was him that I liked back then, when I saw all of the old comics on his website.
Flash forward to 2007. Vance and I were in a Borders looking at music, when an album caught his eye. Titled Friend and Foe and recorded by a band named Menomena (whom I interviewed earlier this year), this album featured artwork like none we had ever seen (which I also wrote about, sorta). So Vance gave it a listen. Then I gave it a listen. We both liked it, so he bought it. Turns out the album art was done by none other than Thompson himself, and that he was a close friend of the band. They are now one of my absolute favorites. Weird how things work out, isn't it?
But on to the book itself. I "discovered" it in my local library around 2005, when a friend of mine recommended that I read it. I did, and was completely blown away. The story is a retelling of Craig's childhood and late teenage love life, more specifically his relationship with a girl he met at Church camp, Raina. Thompson's unique art style and well-written dialogue between characters make this a must-read on par with Moore's Watchmen. You can honestly feel the sentimentality that Thompson feels dealing with the situation when you look at the artwork and see how much time he must have invested in telling the world this story. It is not only a wonderful book, but a wonderful piece of art.

Special thanks to Vance for helping me out with this one.

State of the blog: December 1st, 2008

Well, the new year is almost upon us. And you know what that means: "best of 2008" lists. Yep, I'll be writing one large "best of" list for the entire year. The name of the event itself will be "en-tur-tain-munt's top 20 things that made 2008 memorable." Starting tomorrow, I'll be counting down the 20 things that I believe to be most important from this year, with posts to follow over the next 19 days (or maybe longer, depending on if I take a break or not).
As a preview, I've decided to include three things things on the list right here. These are in no order:

George Carlin's death
The Dark Knight
The Olympics

See? The events are all-encompassing, or at least try to be. Like I said, these posts will start tomorrow, and continue throughout the entire month of December. And yes, there will be other posts during the days I write them.

I'm working on the "top 5 non-superhero graphic novels" post right now. Yeah, top 5. I decided to shorten it because I didn't want to overwhelm the people that aren't interested in comics with a bunch of comics-related posts. It should be up tonight or tomorrow.

I've been looking into getting a domain name and branching away out of Blogger, but creating a website is a long and tedious process. I haven't started yet, but the task itself is nerve-racking.

The Evil Dead II post that I've been planning is slowly getting worked on. Should be posted before the end of 2008, I'd say. It'll be a lot better than the first one, because a lot more information is available.

After I finish the Evil Dead series (four parts), I'll be working on a similar series of posts about Kevin Smith's ViewAskewniverse. This Jersey-based series of movies includes Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks II. I was originally going to do all of his films (which include Jersey Girl and Zack and Miri Make a Porno), but decided to stick to this series alone. It'll be seven or eight parts: six for the movies, one or two for the "aftereffects" and "bonus stuff (comics, etc.)." Should be neat.

If anyone has a copy of Chinese Democracy (the new Guns N' Roses album) that they could let me borrow to review, that would be awesome. It's the Christmas season and I don't really have 15 bucks to waste on what is likely going to be a terrible album.

And finally, former ETTM writer Nello De Angelis has started his own blog, in which he reviews movies. Of course, they are generally ridiculously independent movies or ancient foreign films (ew), but I support him nonetheless. Good luck, Nello.