Aside

A Post-Thanksgiving Ramble

Hello all!  My brain is still in vacation-mode coming off of Thanksgiving, so I’ve yet to regain any motivation to write a “real” blog post this week.  I’ll try to put something out in the next few days, but until then, here are some stream-of-consciousness rambles about my extended holiday weekend:

  • I had a wonderful Thanksgiving (and hope you did too!)  Had dinner at my cousin’s place, watched the Bears-Packers game (As a born and raised Cheesehead, it was pretty depressing), and played some Bang! and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.  Overall, it was a great time with my immediate & extended family.  I love them all dearly and was happy to spend time with them all on Thursday!
  • For the next few days, I stayed over at my brother’s apartment in Chicago.  We watched movies, played Rock Band 4, and just lazed around.  It was fantastic 🙂
  • While my brother played DOTA 2 at various points throughout the weekend, I read through several Image comics I had picked up recently:
    • Lazarus (Vol 1-3) – I had only recently heard of Lazarus, but it had been highly recommended and sounded to be right up my alley.  And boy is it!  I’m still very much a comics noob, but this series is already one of my faves.  The worldbuilding is just so great.  I’ll probably do a review of the series thus far after the fourth trade comes out in January as that book will finish up the first main story arc.
    • Saga (Vol 1-3) – I re-read Volumes 1 & 2 to read Volume 3 since it had been awhile since I first picked them up.  Saga is all the rage right now, and justifiably so.  Everything about it is fantastic.  I’ve been taking my time reading this series since I’m so far behind and a trade-waiter anyway 🙂  Can’t wait to get my hands on Volumes 4 and 5.
    • I Kill Giants – I picked up this graphic novel at the recommendation of the Image Comics subreddit. (I haven’t posted anything on that thread as of yet.  But nice try, would-be cyberstalkers!  😛 ) I didn’t know what to expect going in, but I definitely enjoyed it.  A truly unique and interesting read.
lazarus2

Forever Carlyle from Lazarus  (Art by Michael Lark.  via Greg Rucka’s blog)

  • My siblings, cousins, and some friends have our own Turkey Bowl each Thanksgiving weekend.  We’re all pretty out of shape, but it’s still a lot of fun.  We played on Sunday morning, and as of today (Thursday morning), my leg muscles are still kind of sore.  I seriously need to exercise more 😛
  • Saw two movies in theaters this weekend and both were fairly disappointing.
    • The Good Dinosaur – As far as Pixar films go, this was one of their weakest entries.  It all just seemed so rote and color-by-numbers.  There was apparently a lot of trouble behind the scenes during the movie’s production, and it shows.  Though it tries really hard to convince you that it does, the film just doesn’t have that Pixar heart.  On the positive side, the visuals were stunning, and I liked the hints of the western frontier theme.  Now I wish they had doubled down on that and made a cowboy dinosaur movie.  At least that would’ve been something new instead of the bland film we got instead.
    • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 – aka Speeches: The Movie.  I swear, at least a third of this movie was spent by characters pontificating.  I remember enjoying Part 1, but haven’t rewatched it since.  Still, I imagine Part 2‘s failings could’ve been avoided by keeping Mockingjay as a single film.  But them’s the breaks.  Definitely the weakest of the series, which is a shame since it ended the movie franchise on a low note.
  • Watched the early-released pilot episode of The Expanse and loved it!  I’ll write up a formal review when the show formally debuts on SyFy in a few weeks.  But I just wanted to say that the show does not disappoint.  I loved Leviathan Wakesand the television adaptation seems incredibly faithful and very well produced.  (Also, they included a Belter version of Tighten Up by The Black Keys.  Amazing.)
  • I ate sushi twice this weekend.  I love sushi 🙂

Now I’m back at work, and with this post, gradually easing back into writing.  Alongside making progress on some other creative endeavors, I hope to get some more blog posts out by week’s end.  So until then… See you, space cowboys!

Coffee Time Movie Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Good morning, lovelies!  It is I, your humble blogger Wise The Simple, recently returned from a month long hiatus.  I’ve been meaning to return full force with some actual blog posts, but let’s ease in a bit with a stream of consciousness Coffee Time.

This week my brother and a friend of his are staying at my apartment.  It’s been a lot of fun so far, albeit a much different atmosphere from my normally solitary evenings.

On Monday evening we all went to the movie theater to watch Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  The showtime was at 10:15pm, and I live practically in the middle of nowhere, so we had the entire theater to ourselves.

It was pretty good!  I love the M:I movie franchise and thought this was a great installment.  Tom Cruise is absolutely insane — the plane stunt?  As someone with an intense fear of heights: nopenopenope!  But yeah, the action was great, newcomer Rebecca Ferguson was fantastic, and overall it was a very enjoyable film.

My one major qualm, however, was this film’s insistence on making Ethan Hunt such a Gary Stu.  Throughout the film, I found myself siding with the character(s) who argued against Hunt’s often reckless schemes.  But others kept praising him, saying he could do no wrong, and that he was THE ONE MAN who could possibly save the day.

(Mild Spoilers — Ving Rhames’ character was particularly one-note in this regard.  He spent the entire movie hero-worshiping Hunt.  But it wasn’t until near the climax of the film that I literally scoffed at a line from a different character.  It was so ridiculous, I couldn’t believe that it was said in earnest.  If you’ve seen Rogue Nation, I’m sure you’ll know to which scene I’m referring.)

Overall I’d probably give the film a B/B+.  I think my favorite of the series is either M:I III or Ghost Protocol (I honestly need to give them all a rewatch).  But if you enjoy these movies, definitely give this one a go.  The action is great, all your favorite characters are back (though some are shafted in the story department), and although the plot line was a tad shaky, there were plenty of spy movie thrills, twists, and turns to keep you engaged.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation and let me know what you thought in the comments below!

S is for Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim is a six-part graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, which was adapted into the 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  The titular Scott (portrayed in the movie by Michael Cera) is an unemployed Canadian in his early twenties who, at the start of the series, is dating a high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong).  As a slacker, a mooch, and all-around self-centered young man, Scott’s relationship is one of convenience rather than a true emotional connection.  His life is turned upside down when he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the girl of his dreams… literally.

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F is for The Fall (2006)

The Fall is a 2006 film directed by Tarsem Singh starring Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru.  Like The Brothers Bloom, this is another movie that I adore, yet seems underrated or unknown by many others.

The Fall is a beautiful film in both its storytelling and its visuals. The story takes place in a Los Angeles hospital in 1915, where we meet our two main characters.  Alexandria (Untaru) is a young Romanian girl who broke her arm while helping her parents harvest oranges; Roy (Pace) is a Hollywood stuntman who is now paraplegic due to a stunt gone wrong.

Alexandria is a curious, friendly child, and wanders the hospital looking for things to amuse her during her convalescence.  She happens upon Roy, who is bedridden, and he offers to tell her a story.  As the movie progresses, it switches between the real scenes at the hospital and the dream-like narrative that Roy weaves for Alexandria.  But it soon becomes apparent that Roy may be manipulating Alexandria toward his own ends.

The audience observes Roy’s story through the eyes and imagination of Alexandria (for example, Roy obviously means for character called “The Indian” to be a Native American in the style of old Westerns, but she imagines him to be from India).  By the film’s climax, as the young girl begins to conflate reality and fantasy, visual and story elements from each begin to bleed into the other amidst the movie itself.

The Fall (2006) movie poster (via IMDB)

While the story is The Fall is incredibly affecting, with the interplay between Roy and Alexandria being particularly exceptional, it is the film’s visuals that mark it as something special.  Despite the beautiful, colorful, often surrealistic imagery, the director claims that there are no visual effects to generate the film’s locations.  Everything seen in the movie was discovered by Tarsem during his early career directing commercials, and filmed in 28 different countries over the course of four years.  While many films may share a similar aesthetic, the CGI that is so en vogue these days can give off an unnatural look, no matter how good technology has gotten.  In a film like The Fall, the visuals are so striking because they are real.  It would be easy to take any frame from the movie and hang it on the wall as a framed piece of art.

Most of the criticism of this film seems to be that it is self-indulgent, and a bit too artsy.  But in my opinion, The Fall is a visual feast and a delight to the senses.  Sure, the story may seem a bit simplistic at first blush, but there is a subtlety through it all that grants it great texture.  Moreover, the emotional arc of the film is striking.  Pace and Untaru give profound performances that ground the highly fantastical story in reality.  When all is said and done, The Fall is truly an amazingly beautiful piece of cinema.

Disclaimer: All images shown belong to Googly Films, Absolute Entertainment, Deep Films, Networxx Film Management, Radical Media, Tree Top Films, and/or Roadside Attractions, the use of which have not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner.  This blog post is for non-commercial criticism and comment purposes only. I believe that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.

B is for The Brothers Bloom

“As far as con man stories go, I think I’ve heard them all.

Of grifters, ropers, faro fixers; tales drawn long and tall.

But if one bears a bookmark in the confidence man’s tome,

‘Twould be that of Penelope, and of The Brothers Bloom.”

The Brothers Bloom is a 2008 film directed by Rian Johnson, starring Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel Weisz, and Rinko Kikuchi.  Johnson is probably better known for his other films (Brick and Looper), his work on three episodes of Breaking Bad (“Fly,” “Fifty-One,” and “Ozymandias”), as well as for being tapped to write and direct Star Wars: Episode VIII.  Among all these other highly acclaimed works, The Brothers Bloom often seems to be overlooked.  But I, for one, really enjoy this movie.

The film centers around two brothers, Stephen (Ruffalo) and Bloom (Brody), who have gone through life as a pair of successful con men.  Stephen, the elder, is the brains of the operation.  Bloom, meanwhile, is tired of living his life through the characters he must play as a part of Stephen’s plans.  Stephen hears Bloom’s plea for “an unwritten life,” and proposes one last con before parting ways.  With help from the secretive Bang Bang (Kikuchi), the brothers focus in on their mark: a reclusive heiress named Penelope (Weisz).  The plot takes many twists and turns as it becomes unclear what is actually part of the con, and who is fooling whom.

The Brothers Bloom movie poster drawn by Zachary Johnson (Source)

I really like the aesthetic and general feel of this film.  The visual style is such that you cannot pin down when exactly it takes place.  It’s quirky without feeling overly twee or unbelievable.  While it evokes a similar feeling of magic realism or of the fantastic, The Brothers Bloom is actually fairly grounded in reality.  But the use of symbolism, magic tropes, and the like, gives the film a unique feel.  The quoted poem with which I began this post is taken from the opening sequence of the movie, which is narrated in verse by magician Ricky Jay.  This starts the film off in a way that evokes a fairy tale, which is apropos, as the movie is centered around storytelling via Stephen’s cons.

I know this film is not for everyone.  The stylistic choices that I so adore may be too much for some.  But if upon reading this blog post you think there’s a chance it might be something you’d enjoy, I highly recommend you give it a watch.  For I’ve found The Brothers Bloom to be thoroughly enjoyable, and altogether a delight.  It’s heart-warming, it’s poignant, it’s fun.  All of the actors put in fantastic performances, the soundtrack by Nathan Johnson is beautiful, and the writing and direction by Rian Johnson, are, as usual, superb.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: All images shown belong to Endgame Entertainment and/or Summit Entertainment, the use of which have not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner.  This blog post is for non-commercial criticism and comment purposes only. I believe that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.