The “Culture Me!” Project 2013

So, I’ve seen a lot of people do projects of watching 100 movies a year, 50 movies a year, etc. I want to get in on this, but with my own twist. I’m going to do it for three forms of entertainment, not one.

DISCLAIMER: I left out books, because I have 20 books to read for school, classics. I left out plays and musicals, because they’re not big in Houston, so not many big theaters.

So, here’s my list!

25 Classic / Critically Acclaimed Movies

Singin’ in the Rain (1952) 9/10

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Chinatown (1974)

Amelie (2001)

The Green Mile (1999)

M (1931)

Vertigo (1958)

Citizen Kane (1941) 10/10

Rocky (1976)

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

The Graduate (1967) 9/10

The Chaser (2008)

Annie Hall (1977)

The Good, The Bad, and the Weird (2008)

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Blade Runner (1982)

Gran Torino (2008)

On the Waterfront (1954)

Raging Bull (1980)

I Saw The Devil (2011) 9/10

Casablanca (1942) 10/10

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

The Godfather (1972)  10/10

10 Classic / Critically Acclaimed Games

Ratchet & Clank (2002)

Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

Devil May Cry (2001) 9/10

Journey (2012)

Skyrim (2011)

Doom 3 (2004)

Ico (2001)

Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (2001)

The Walking Dead Series (2012)

Portal (2007)  10/10

25 Classic / Critically Acclaimed Albums

The Beach Boys, “Pet Sounds” 8/10

The Beatles, “Revolver” 10/10

Bob Dylan, “Highway 61 Revisited” 10/10

The Clash, “London Calling” 8/10

The Velvet Underground and Nico, “The Velvet Underground”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Are You Experienced?”

The Eagles, “Hotel California”

Radiohead, “Kid A”

AC/DC, “Back in Black” 8/10

Pink Floyd, “The Wall”

The Notorious B.I.G., “Ready to Die”

Dr. Dre, “The Chronic” 8/10

A Tribe Called Quest, “The Low End Theory” 8/10

Joy Division, “Closer” 8/10

Elvis Costello, “My Aim is True” 10/10

Metallica, “Master of Puppets” 9/10

Nine Inch Nails, “The Downward Spiral” 10/10

Beastie Boys, “License to Ill” 8/10

Talking Heads, “Speaking in Tongues”

Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” 7/10

David Bowie, “Aladdin Sane”

My Bloody Valentine, “Loveless” 8/10

Weezer, “Weezer” 9/10

OutKast, “Stankonia” 8/10

Wish me luck!

I’ll need it…

Zero Dark Thirty Movie Review – Bigelow does it again

Before I start this review, let’s just say that I will not be focusing on all of the controversy surrounding this movie. I want to focus on what makes his film good, and not have any outside influences change my opinion.

SO ANYWAYS.

Zero Dark Thirty is the (supposedly) true retelling of the hunt of Osama Bin Laden. It isn’t a documentary, it’s structured like a film. However, I would label this movie as a fictional documentary, as the characters don’t really have backstory. The sole focus of Zero Dark Thirty is the story of how Osama Bin Laden was captured.

As I said, the characters of this film do not really have a personality. They’re more like pawns used to tell the story. You don’t come to feel for any of them. With that said, the cast is wonderfully acted, despite the wooden writing. The cast is so star studded that I can’t even begin to name them all.

I love this picture.

Jessica Chastain is the central protagonist propelling the story. She plays a CIA agent that has hunted Bin Laden almost her entire life. She is headstrong and stubborn. Chastain does a wonderful job, and is completely deserving of her Golden Globe win. She plays the character with such fire that you sympathize with her when she is down on her luck.

Onto the plot. The movie spans ten years, starting from 9/11 to the day Bin Laden is killed. It is structured almost perfectly. It will show how she finds a small clue in 2003, then it’ll jump 3 years to the next clue. The way the movie works is that you can see the common thread. You see how one thing leads to another, and to the eventual downfall of the Al-Queda leader. Even though the first two hours is a lot of talking and searching, it is still very tense and interesting.

The last two hours are intense. The Tier One team moves slowly and quietly, doing their job efficiently. Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t resort to a big action scene. It is very reserved, just like they did in real life.

There’s not much more to say about Zero Dark Thirty. It is perfectly crafted, well acted, despite the lack of character. It might bore the general audience, but if you love movies, you should go see this!

Overall: 7/10

Gangster Squad Review – So much potential, squandered.

Okay, before I start this review, I wanna talk about something (that I’ll probably expand to a full blog post later.)

I want to talk about expectations. Now, when I first found out about this movie, it looked magnificent, mostly due to the all star cast. This cast is a cast from heaven. Heavy hitters like Nick Nolte, Josh Brolin, and Ryan Gosling, and the up-and-comers that haven’t quite made it big yet, like Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena.

The movie is like this picture. It looks pretty, but not genuine.

Looking at the time period and subject matter, I was really pumped for this movie. I recently watched The Untouchables and L.A. Confidential, and those movies were AMAZING. Gangster squad looks like its in the same vein as those two, so expectations were high.

Then I found out that it wasn’t really a genuine, gangster flick. It was more of a “contemporary period piece”, if that makes sense at all. The only thing that’s from the period is the way they dress. It’s also full of a lot of stylish action set pieces. After I pulled my expectations back from L.A. Confidential to something like Fast Five, the movie became very enjoyable for me.

SLOOOWWW MOTIONNNNNNN

Alright, let’s dig into this movie.

The cast, as I mentioned before, is amazing. However, the characters they display are so generic, it sometimes seems that this movie is a parody of gangster flicks. Josh Brolin, the straight edge cop that doesn’t fall to corruption, (A theme that is really good for these kinds of movies, but is relegated to one sentence in Gangster Squad.) Ryan Gosling, the lady killer, Robert Patrick, the badass old guy, Nick Nolte, the proud police chief, Emma Stone, the girl trying to get out, etc. The actors are trying to hard to breathe life into these one dimensional characters, and only a few succeed. I’d say the best performances were from Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling.

Oh, and how could I forget Sean Penn. Sean Penn plays a very exaggerated villain, that yells and screams and is supposed to be scary. Honestly, I really liked him because I could tell he was having a lot of fun with his role. I didn’t mind the make up either, he was playing a big bad wolf villain after all.

The dialogue, oh dear lord. The lines are written in a very modern way, so it completely takes you out of the movie. They don’t speak like they’re in the 50’s, they speak like they’re in 2013. Also, you see glimmers of hope that Gangster Squad will dig into a more meaty subject than “KILL EM GOOOOOOD”, but they disappear after a sentence.

“What makes us different from them?”, asks Giovanni Ribisi. It brings up the rash and violent behavior that the gangster squad is using, just like Mickey Cohen. It could let the characters change throughout the movie, showing a significant arc. However, Josh Brolin basically says, “because we have to!”.

you made zombie land! C’MON.

Another line is “War teaches you how to kill, not how to live.” This is also another really good theme, because many of the characters in this movie were previously soldiers of WWII. It could touch on the psychology of their actions, but the next scene has him putting a billion holes into gangsters with the typewriter.

Gangster Squad’s identity crisis is essentially its downfall. One scene has slow motion, stylized, Zack Snyder action, then the next has Josh Brolin telling his wife everything is fine.

guns, guns, guns, and more guns.

One of the crew or cast said this about Gangster Squad (I don’t remember who). They said that in each decade, there was a gangster movie that defined the generation. Godfather, L.A. Confidential, The Departed, etc. He said that Gangster Squad was this decade’s defining gangster flick. I’d say he’s about right with this. This movie does represent our generation’s ADD when it comes to film. Fast, stylish action over a substantial plot.

In the end, it’s a very fun action movie. If you want to go out with your friends, and need something with a lot of explosions and guns, this is the movie for you. If you’re looking for a more substantial gangster flick, watch some of the classics.

FUN FACTOR: 9/10

GOOD FACTOR: 5/10

Overall: 7/10

^ movie in a nutshell.

Oscars 2012 Nominations: My Thoughts!

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Nominees:

Amour (2012): To Be Determined

Argo (2012): Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012): Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, Michael Gottwald

Django Unchained (2012): Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone

Les Misérables (2012): Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

Life of Pi (2012): Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark

Lincoln (2012): Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon

Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison

All of these make sense, and these are all safe choices. I’ve watched all of these except Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild, but by the time of the Academy Awards, I willWith my knowledge right now, the expected winner is either Zero Dark Thirty or Lincoln, but I would love love love to see Tarantino finally win in this category.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees:

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012)

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables (2012)

Joaquin Phoenix for The Master (2012)

Denzel Washington for Flight (2012/I)

I’m so happy for Bradley Cooper getting a nomination. All of the other nominations are pretty expected. I’m disappointed Matthew McConaughey wasn’t nominted for Killer Joe. I guess it was because it was risque or because it was NC-17. I’m thinking Daniel Day-Lewis will win in this category, and I’d love him to, he was great.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Nominees:

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Emmanuelle Riva for Amour (2012)

Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Naomi Watts for The Impossible (2012)

I have not seen The Impossible, but most people said she was just “eh”. I can’t comment on that, but I’m pretty sure Jessica Chastain will win, even though her character was pretty soulless. I don’t mean that in the sense that she was evil, but most of the characters in Zero Dark Thirty were just cardboard cut outs, and not to its detriment. It’s more of a factual fiction than an emotional movie. I’m really hoping for Jennifer Lawrence to win this, so we can forget The Hunger Games. Please.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees:

Alan Arkin for Argo (2012)

Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master (2012)

Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln (2012)

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained (2012)

C’mon, where is Leonardo DeCaprio! He was amazing in Django Unchained. The Academy, to me, seems to be a room of white, old men. They never take any risks in their choices. Tommy Lee Jones was okay, he basically played himself. Alan Arkin was great and funny, but not deserving of a nomination. Out of these choices however, I’m shooting for Christoph Waltz.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominees:

Amy Adams for The Master (2012)

Sally Field for Lincoln (2012)

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables (2012)

Helen Hunt for The Sessions (2012)

Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

This is another example of poor choices in this category. There weren’t many good performances for supporting actresses this year, sure, but Jacki Weaver literally was in the movie for like, 3 minutes. She has maybe 10 lines? Her performance does not warrant a nomination in my opinion. I would vote for either Anne Hathaway or Sally Field on this one. I haven’t seen The Master yet, mind you.

Best Achievement in Directing

Nominees:

Michael Haneke for Amour (2012)

Ang Lee for Life of Pi (2012)

David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln (2012)

Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Quentin Tarantino? His film is nominated for Best Picture, but he doesn’t get a Best Director? All of these men deserve this nomination though, so it’s fine. I’m honestly torn on this one, and I can’t quite decide yet without seeing the other films. All of these are great.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Nominees:

Amour (2012): Michael Haneke

Django Unchained (2012): Quentin Tarantino

Flight (2012/I): John Gatins

Moonrise Kingdom (2012): Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty (2012): Mark Boal

I have not seen Flight, but I will soon. I’m really glad Django Unchained got this nomination, it really deserves it. Many people are championing Looper for this, but I felt like that film was just okay. I’m voting for Django for this one.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Nominees:

Argo (2012): Chris Terrio

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012): Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin

Life of Pi (2012): David Magee

Lincoln (2012): Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook (2012): David O. Russell

I gotta go with Life of Pi for this one, as the task to translate this movie to the screen is nearly impossible. I loved all of the other choices though.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Nominees:

Anna Karenina (2012/I): Seamus McGarvey

Django Unchained (2012): Robert Richardson

Life of Pi (2012): Claudio Miranda

Lincoln (2012): Janusz Kaminski

Skyfall (2012): Roger Deakins

This is incredibly hard, as all of these are beautiful. I cannot stress how much I want for every one of these choices to have that golden statue in their homes. However, I have to give this to Roger Deakins, because his cinematography made Skyfall. Life of Pi is beautiful and Lincoln is slow and great looking. I honestly wished for all of these to win.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Nominees:

Anna Karenina (2012/I): Jacqueline Durran

Les Misérables (2012): Paco Delgado

Lincoln (2012): Joanna Johnston

Mirror Mirror (2012/I): Eiko Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012): Colleen Atwood

I’ll give this to either Lincoln or Les Miserables, because both of those just transported me to that time period. and really? Mirror Mirror and Snow White?

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees:

Hitchcock (2012): Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012): Peter King, Rick Findlater, Tami Lane

Les Misérables (2012): Lisa Westcott, Julie Dartnell

Really? You’re not going to include Looper or Cloud Atlas? Those two movies were amazing with the makeup. In Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins just looks like Fat Hopkins. Joseph Gordon-Levitt looked amazing in Looper, and the pure ambition alone of Cloud Atlas warrants it a nomination. 

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Nominees:

The Avengers (2012): Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams, Daniel Sudick

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012): Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White

Life of Pi (2012): Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer, Donald Elliott

Prometheus (2012/I): Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley, Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012): Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Phil Brennan, Neil Corbould, Michael Dawson

This is the category for huge, commercial films to really shine. Life of Pi has great CGI animals, but it cannot hold up against the beauty of Prometheus, or the frantic, yet clean action of The Avengers. 

I feel like the Academy needs a shake-up, because all they do is choose very safe choices, and not show all of the different movies some love. I loved 2012 in film, and this is the first year that I’ve seen most of these movies. Woot! Let’s hope the show doesn’t bomb again though…

Is it bad, or are you just ignorant?

Hola bounjour hello!

The blog post today is just a question that I think about a lot. When I watch a movie or listen to music, and I don’t like it, I don’t know if it’s bad, or I’m just dumb.

For example, when I was watching Seven Psychopaths, I understood the plot and everything, but the movie was so jumbled, and the plot so unsatisfying that I didn’t like it.

There weren’t even seven psychopaths. Maybe I missed the point…

all the critics loved it so much, so I felt like I was missing something. I still kinda do, so I need to re-watch it.I felt the same exact thing when I watched Apocalypse Now Redux. I’m pretty sure I’m just not smart enough to interpret this movies. I understand the plot and everything, but I want more clarification on the theme of Seven Psychopaths and Apocalypse Now. I just watched Cloud Atlas, and I understood most of the little things in that movie, when all the critics say it’s a jumbled mess. I understood the themes and everything.

A bad movie I’ve seen recently was Paranormal Activity 4. I completely understand the motivations of the directors, producers, etc. It was obviously just a money grab. Also, the plot was RIDICULOUSLY thin, and hilariously acted. It failed on all levels, especially on the level of scaring me. It’s an extremely shallow movie, so I know it’s bad. I’m not ignorant of any of the facts.

Maybe I should just rewatch a bunch of these movies I don’t understand. First time I watched The Matrix, I had no idea what was going on. It was maybe on my 5th watch that everything finally clicked into place.

It was great.

Have you ever felt this way?

Top 10 WORST Movies of 2012!

Top 10 Worse Movies of 2012

Keep in mind that I haven’t seen all of the movies this year, and it’s just my opinionz.

1. Paranormal Activity 4 – Oh dear lord, this is the most boring piece of crap ever released. Okay maybe not ever, but damn is it terrible.

2. Step Up Revolution – renamed: Generic Plot: the Movie. Also, there’s cool dancing. If I want to watch dancing, I’ll go on Youtube, or watch ABDC or something.

3. Lockout -A very very very generic action movie. I don’t remember a damn thing.

4. Act of Valor – again, a very generic action movie that does not properly honor the deaths of the soldiers that they are based on.

5. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter -the list goes on and on… It bores for most of it, aside from the cool action sequences that are sparse, there’s no saving this movie.

6. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – Nick Cage.

7. Dredd 3D – advertised as The Raid, and it definitely does not reach the amazing action quality that The Raid displays. Cool visuals yes, but the rest of the movie is bland.

8. The Man with the Iron Fists – A really good idea, but terribly acted and executed by  RZA. I love the man and the music, but it’s pretty bad. The action is MTV cut, so I didn’t understand anything.

9. Rock of Ages – A bland musical with bad acting from the lead actors. However, the people that weren’t in the movie a lot (Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise, etc.) where the best. I love this genre, so that’s why it’s so low on the list.

10. The Amazing Spider-Man – again, bland, boring, and a lame plot. Emma Stone is good though.

My brain hurts.

Top 10 Films of 2012!

Here’s my Top 10 Movies of 2012! Of course this is all opinion, so don’t get too crazyyyy.

1. Django Unchained

Leo is a lot different from his other roles. HE’S AMAZING.

This movie blew me away. Tarantino does it again with hilarious dialogue, extreme violence, and controversial material.

2. Skyfall

Classy as hell.

This is my favorite Bond movie, even beating Casino Royale. That movie was great! The movie never felt it’s playtime. This “reboot” of the series is much appreciated. Also, Roger Deakins and Sam Mendes= yes.

3. Lincoln

Uncanny.

Speilberg does it again! A movie that doesn’t get boring despite its subject matter. I like US History, but most people don’t. It keeps the pace, and the ending is so tense, even when we know the ending. Also, Daniel Day-Lewis = win.

4. Silver Linings Playbook

Great onscreen chemistry.

I walked into this movie blind, without even watching a trailer. I was so thrown off by it in the beginning, but as the movie concluded, I could see what David O. Russell was doing…and it was awesome. The acting is magnificent; Robert DeNiro is finally doing something good, Bradley Cooper surprises everyone, and Jennifer Lawrence presents her acting chops that were displayed in Winter’s Bone. This was awesome.

5. Moonrise Kingdom

More great onscreen romance!

One of the funniest movies of the year. Well, to me. Many people won’t like this movie because of how quirky and weird it is. I personally laughed my ass off. I was watching it in New York also, so the theater was packed, and everyone laughed and understood the little jokes. In Houston, no one would’ve been in the theaters. Poo.

6. Argo

Bryan Cranston! When he’s in something, it has to be good. Let’s forget about Total Recall…

The beginning moved somewhat slow to me, with very little suspense. The movie finally does kick into gear in the last act, the “heist” scene. Literally on the edge of my seat. Ben Affleck does it again! Three in a row.

7. The Cabin in the Woods

DON’T GO IN DER YOU’LL DIE

I posted a review about this earlier this year, but I guess it got deleted? Whatever. This is a wonderful satire of the modern state of horror films (even when it was made in 2009). Getting deep into the messages is really fun, and watching with friends is even more entertaining. Enlightening people that think this movie is just “another horror movie” is so fun.

8. Les Miserables

so sad…SADDDDDD

A very very very very very sad movie. I almost cried 15 times. Acting is great, direction is great, singing is meh. Go watch with your friends so you can all cry together!

9. End of watch

These scenes are the best. So hilarious!

This movie was a surprise to me. I walked in expecting a 6, just a fun buddy cop movie. What I got was one of the most intense movies I’ve seen this year! It ratchets up the risks and the tension every 5 minutes. The characters feel so real, especially the Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. Their chemistry is impeccable. The only detracting thing from this movie is the generic villains and lack of normal things to compare all this crazy stuff to. They’re always saying. “Man our work is so boring.” Then the every 5 seconds they find a billioin pounds of crack and dead bodies everywhere.

10. Life of Pi

so beautiful.

I walked in with no expectations, and walked out blown away! This was a great movie from start to almost finish. The end is somewhat choppy, and it wants to describe everything to the viewer, when I think it should have been left to interpretation. Also, the CGI was great, but it still pulled me out of the experience. Still a wonderful movie though.

Fun movies that don’t require thinking:

1. Expendables 2 – what the first one should have been! The action is insane, and the comedy is very appreciated. Laughed a lot in the theater.

2. 21 Jump Street – another surprise. This movie is hilarious, and the action isn’t that bad…

3. Wreck-It Ralph – another hit from Pixar. This movie has themes that run through most Pixar movies, making it feel slightly recycled. However, the video game concept is pulled off amazingly.

4. The Raid : Redemption – one of ( if not ) the best action movies I’ve ever seen. That’s all I can say.

5. Marvel’s Avengers – the first hour is incredibly slow for people that have seen the other 6 Marvel movies, but it makes up for it for the other hour and a half. Fast and furious and fun, all I wanted out of this movie.