2013 in review

 

 

 

THANK YOU FOR A GREAT YEAR!

 

 

 

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,500 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Con Vs. Con

‘Tis the season for con-man movies. David O. Russell shows down with Martin Scorsese as their two newest movies share a similar story though with different results. Russell presents us with American Hustle, a look at a ‘70s con artist couple and a crazy FBI agent. The movie is glitz and glamour but boring as toast. Scorsese goes less period piece and more extravagant with debauchery in the Wolf of Wall Street.

american-hustleAmerican Hustle has promise but fails to deliver.   The movie begins stating the fact that some of these events actually happened. Irving and Sydney are a sociopathic couple coning people to get rich quick. When they are made by the FBI, they are force to work with the Bureau to bring down corrupt politicians. But when the Mob crosses their path they are in over their heads.

The movie lingers too long and that’s after half of it is narrated by the three main cast members.  As for the humor, the best bits are in the trailer spoiling any fun when the scenes arrive in the movie. Instead it a laborious affair that doesn’t show case the best characters For once Christian Bale is too over tide top, or it could just be his character. Whichever the case, it was hard to feel sorry for him or even believe Irving as a character. And if I wanted to watch Bradley Cooper lose his mind, I would re-watch the Silver Linings Playbook. The best performances come from Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner. .Lawrence is amazing and any scene Rosalyn is funny and entertaining. Renner gives an earnest portrayal of a politician trying to his best for his town and gets talked into something he wasn’t prepared for. It is him that you feel the most sorry for in this movie. Not the two cons.

The movie does, from the first moments the producing studios logo appears, envelopes itself in the ‘70s. The decor, the clothing, the hair, the music: it is all spot on. In fact, the time period almost becomes another character as the film progresses because it truly does change what people do and how they do it. But this isn’t enough to keep it entertaining.

The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the memoir of slime ball Jordan Belfort. He makes a name for himself unloadingThe-Wolf-of-Wall-Street-1 penny stocks and then eventually breaks into Wall Street introducing Steve Madden to the stock world. But his investor never sees their money as Jordan gets it all and blows it on a wide variety of out here activities.

This movie works because Jordan knows he’s a slime bag and doesn’t pretend to be something else. Hustle’s protagonist whines about being victims or circumstance though they enter their conning willingly and do quite well. Jordan, on the other hand, wants money and power and will never have enough. You hate him and he knows it; Leonardo DiCaprio plays off that well. The movie is basically him selling you his life. While you may not want to buy it, it’s quite amazing to watch.

The movie only suffers when Jordan gives speeches to his stock teams. His grandstanding is boring as you want to see what the heck the man will do next on cocaine. We don’t want to see the “work” side of the story. We want to see the extravagance and Jon Bernthal with his shirt off.

While neither movie’s character some to real justice, it is more acceptable in Jordan’s case. You watch the decline of his family and personal life. He loses so much even though he will buy someone or something to replace it. That the saddest thing; he doesn’t make a real human connection ever, and that is somewhat of revenge.

American Hustle has polish with very little substance while The Wolf of Wallstreet has no polish but it a lot of fun and a very wild ride. Hit Wallstreet before you go back to the ‘70s.

By The Book: Catching Fire

Catching_FireCatching Fire is the best installment in The Hunger Games series. The book is essentially two different stories. The first is rich in theme and looks at the very real consequences of the first novel. The second part takes Katniss back into the arena and this time she has to make friends.

The second film opens with Katniss hunting on the day the Victory Tour starts. But even here, Katniss does not feel safe and an intimate encounter with Gale just makes her life more difficult. She leaves for the Tour with instructions from Snow: convince me you and Peeta are in love or your loved ones will die. But Katniss cannot end a revolution that has already begun. To try and put out the fire, Snow announcing the special requirement for the Quarter Quell: only previous Hunger Game victors will compete. Katniss is going back in the arena.

The movie minimizes the events in District 12 in order to spend the most time with the arena and training. Gale has a shining moment, but the depth of his involvement in the revolution is underplayed. Any traces of “cousin” are removed. Pivotal moments, including Plutarch’s watch and Katniss meeting the escapes and escaping the electric fence are gone.  There is no flurry of wedding dresses or preparation. While Gale’s most important scene is intact and Katniss’ love for him truly shown, the whole experience seems rushed. The book takes time to deal with the themes of revolution, causality, love, and family. The movie just manages to make Katniss scared while not truly seeing the desolation the District comes under.

But the Quarter Quell is spot on. The Games is the most faithfully adapted from any of the books so far, following the catchingfirekatnissevents pretty much to the letter. This is when the movie is the best: putting the action of the arena onto the screen. Each of the traps in the arena come alive with great care and detail to attention. The obstacles are as scary to the view as the characters. The biggest change in the arena? Peeta can swim.

What really makes this adaptation shine is the casting. For once, the casting is well done and the character truly comes alive. Jena Malone as Johanna Mason is perfect. Malone gives the perfect edginess to the character. At first glance Sam Claflin doesn’t seem like Finnick but when he turns Finnick’s arrogance into charm and brings to life the struggle with emotional depth that theta the character keeps hidden behind that facade. The rest of the candidates, also, look like I had imagined them.

The producers of the movies decided to split Mockingjay as two movies. I argue that Catching Fire should have the one spilt. Not only does it contain two different stories but the themes with in these stories are very different and seem like different novella in and of them. The starting of the revolution would not have been so rushed and the emotions could truly play out. This would lend easily to two self-contained movies, ending with the announcement of the Quarter Quell.

Of course as a movie, Catching Fire is amazing and the whole production pretty well captures the books. But this one would never have been split in two: you can’t keep the audience from their violence. Like the Capital, we want The Games.

In the Depths of Noir

After a horrendous experience and firing from AMC, fans and Frank Darabont weren’t sure if he would ever return to TV. The Walking Dead was his child, lovingly recreated from the comic book with Robert Kirkman. Darabont understood what the comic was about, the importance including Kirkman, and understood that the characters, not zombies make the story. His brilliance shines once again with the TNT series Mob City.

Darabont seems to run into endless problem when working on TV. His TNT pet project was adapting the book L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City. But legally he had to change the name; the company that owned the rights to the video game L.A. Noire would not have even that close of a name usage. The series. Working through this arabount had no choice but to change the name to Lost Angels. He finally settled on Mob City.

MC1The characters are the best part of the tale. Like in most of Darabont’s work, the characters are strongly realized and well-cast.  Darabont has a unique family of actor that he likes to use and then adding a smattering of new faces. This show features Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Dumun, and Andrew Rosenthal. Fans will recognizes these faces from The Walking Dead and Darabont’s other works. Here’s why he keeps these guys around: they are fabulous completing becoming this character and making you forgets who they had played in the past. He also gets good work out of fresh faces.  I was personally amazed at Simon Pegg’s performance as a guest star in the pilot. Hos ability you do drama is wonderful and Darabount uses this to its best advantage.  Also in this amazing cast are Edward Burns and Robert Knepper.

The pilot episode it’s gorgeous.  Darabount takes us into the time when the mob runs the cities. This period piece goes to great detail with cars, costuming and language. Darabbount masterfully moves the players in a graceful narrative. Watching the show it’s like father and child as Darabount directs Bernthal with love and commitment. The pilot follows Teague as he works with a local low life to help him black mail a member of the mob. The ex-marine shows his true colors and blood is shed.

The second episode can’t deliver quite as much. Part of that is the fault of the writing. The episode is much slower than the first deviling into a few new character s while viewers want to know what the hell is going on with Teague and the woman. But even that revelation is foreseeable. What I really want to know is what did he see on the negatives? That’s the real mystery. The other issue is that the pilot is just so well done; it’s hard to live up to.

The six episode series has some promise for the future.  Darabont wants the show to never more than six episodes that would probably in Decembers if the show takes off. TNT is trying something new by pairing two episodes for a three “epic” event cashing in on the fact that regularly scheduled program

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are on hiatus for the Holiday Season.  How well this works remains to be seen, but it was an awkward transition from the pilot to the second episode.

Overall, Mob City has quite a lot of potential a day just be what Darbount needs to wash the nasty TV taste from his mouth. Fans will be excited for the narrative strong narrative and beautiful visual shots.  Though it seems non-fans weren’t that excite; Mob City had a soft premier. But here’s to getting Darabont (and Bernthal) back on TV!