Friday, 27 February 2009

King of Kong: This is How Small You Are


Earlier this week, I watched The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters1

What I expected to be a light-hearted documentary about competitive video gamers took an unexpected turn into the dark, bizarre, lengths small people go to keep their name in the #1 spot, their clique tight, and outsiders out.

Since you’ve lived through your teen years, you know this phenomenon isn’t unique to video games. Kurt Schmidt talked about in the professional BMX Freestyle world in my podcast with him. There’s a decent chance it exists right now in one of your social circles.

The King of Kong’s editing showed Billy Mitchell avoiding his own restaurant, avoiding his challenger, avoiding directly reclaiming the title he holds so dearly. This sucks the life out of everyone is potentially a death sentence for Twin Galaxies. By contrast it showed Steve Weibe with a loving, supportive family – comfortable in the knowledge that this challenge is just one of the many he’ll be overcoming.

Happy ending.

Bonus: How Small You Are by Wonderlick

1. Netflix Instant Play via Boxee.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Zodiac: Long, Unsatisfying

Much like the story Zodiac was retelling, it was long, drawn-out, and came to a less than satisfying end.

Though the 2 decade long serial killer story was condensed down to 157 minutes, much of it could have been cut (the pre-re-married Jake Gyllenhaal character with his son, all of the murder scenes, the scene at the theater owner’s house, Robert Downey Jr. on the house boat, etc) to put the focus on catching the murderer. There was plenty of interesting things going on at the papers, police stations, FBI, etc – all of it diffused by the character development stories.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Rennaissance: If Blade Runner Wasn’t Drawn By Frank Miller

There are 3 reasons to watch cyberpunk animated film: the story, the animation, the gear. Christian Volckman’s Rennaissance is all about the gear.

Rennaissance starts very slowly. The first 45 minutes are all backstory, with just enough cool tech gear to keep you wondering when the story will actually get interesting. It does, at the hour marker. And the Frank Miller-esque stark black and white animation – often too dark to make out what’s going on – makes it a struggle to reach that point.

In fact, just watch the last 45 minutes, you’ll end the movie with some ethical issues to discuss. Not just happy that it’s over and wondering why it took so long.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

A Scanner Darkly – Movie Review

Tonight, I watched Richard Linklater’s adaptation of ‘A Scanner Darkly’. As advertised, it was Philip K. Dick done by Richard Linklater and supervised by David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch with a little 1984 thrown in for optimism. Independent of Linklater’s comfort food cast (everyone is great), SD is an obvious, direct descendant from Slacker – all the characters have a cool that barely covers a festering desperation.

The first Philip K. Dick story I read where I grokked his themes of identity, reality, and questionable conspiracies was Time Out of Joint (think ‘A Beautiful Mind’ as a SciFi tale).

Since then, I’ve re-watched Blade Runner innumerable times and hoped for the best from the other screen adaptations of his work like Minority Report and Total Recall. Minority Report failed for the same reason Time Out of Joint did. The conspiracy was provable. Reality could be defined. While Total Recall leaned toward definition, it didn’t. If it did, I was distracted by how much fun it was.

If the Wikipedia entry is accurate – Linklater held very true to Dick’s original work. And he kept in what I expected from a screen adaptation of Dick’s work – the ambiguity.

Maybe the conspiracy could be proved. Maybe all the clues are there – just like in The Sixth Sense. Or maybe we, including Donna, just want them to be. Maybe we’ll know in three months. Maybe we’re on the wrong side of both the hallucination and the conspiracy. It’s the lack of clarity that makes Dick’s tales creepy, troubling, and memorable.

The brilliance of A Scanner Darkly as a story lay in the anonymity provided by the scramble suit. With it, the same character can play offense and defense without the others catching on, adding to the conspiracy atmosphere (cough * suits paid for by New Path * cough). Not to mention the breakdown of their own personality.

Not only is the movie good – best I’ve seen in 90 days according to my Netflix history – it proves I will watch rotoscoping if the story is interesting.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Netflix Defines a 3-Star Movie for Me

This week our Netflix queue hasn’t been very good to us. While Prison Break started off engaging and interesting, it falls apart quickly halfway through Season 1 Disc 2. Where the less MacGyver-inspired supporting stories unfold.

Netflix’s Suggested Rating: 3-stars

Last night, Idiocracy. After watching more than 15 minutes of the film, I’m not surprised at the lack of marketing and both postponed and limited theatrical release. It’s simply not a very good use of 84 minutes. In-appropriate or offensive corporate jokes are beside that point. When it finally ended, I rushed to all primed to rate the movie poorly.

Netflix: “We think you’ll rate it 3-stars”.

Garrick: “Oh. Yeah. That’s actually pretty accurate. Thanks”.

Tonight, I finally caught II, er, 10mph. This film is gorgeous. Fantastic photography, great shots of our country, fairly interesting story, full-on branded trailers and t-shirts, horrible narration with equal parts arrogance and naivete. Thankfully, 20 minutes in, the narrator moved to the backseat of the Jeep and let us see Wyoming, Colorado, and Kansas.

When it clicks.

Our country isn’t about the mind-numbing cubicle job. It’s about the sneaking through a barbed-wire fence while squatting on your battery-powered scooter.

Around Ohio, the whole endeavor starts to go south, I start wondering if Alon has given the Segway’s replacement batteries names and if so, does he have favorites (no spoilers).

Netflix’s Suggested Rating: 3.5-stars

5-star rating systems have bugged me for a while now. So many independent attributes to rank, all rolled into a single number. I knew what 1-star meant (don’t rent it), I knew what 5-stars meant (you were in it). This week, Netflix taught me what 3-stars means (it not good, but you’ll sit through it).

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Stranger than Fiction: Best Movie by 13 Minutes

13 minutes in, I declared Stranger than Fiction the best movie I’ve seen in 2 years. A result of the crisp cinematography, the “Pop-up Video”-esque info-graphics, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-esque narration, a storyline in the vein of Being John Malcovich or Fight Club, and engaging performances by Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhall, and Emma Thompson.

This is also the first film in memory that discusses the very bloggy theme of the author being changed by their work.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Go Aristocrat Yourself

We watched The Aristocrats last night. While I was more entertained than I expected…I was just as uncomfortable as I expected.

Four Highlights:

  • Andy Richter telling the joke to his santa-hat wearing infant. If there’s anyone that completely doesn’t get it…it’s someone that totally lacks language comprehension.
  • Cartman telling the joke on South Park. Making that not funny would be like The Onion telling it and not being funny…wait, The Onion bit wasn’t. Cartman not getting it himself – beautiful.
  • The joke being flipped around, with the tame bit in the middle and the offensive bit at the end. I think the shock/surprise value works better in that order, while still containing the joke’s history and intent.
  • Sarah Silverman taking the joke too personally. “I don’t list The Aristocrats on my resumé anymore….” Ha.

Made me think the joke would make a great podcast…and I smell a satire of Web 2.0 startups in there as well.

Saturday, 3 June 2006

Born Rich? Take the Pill Instead.

We watched Born Rich tonight. Props to Jamie Johnson for putting it together…but that, as someone not born rich is all I can give him. Or, maybe it’s that I’m not 21 any more…or maybe it’s because I’ve always known (or had some inclination) of what I’ve wanted to do with my life…I have a difficult time relating to people that don’t know why they wake up in the morning. Rich or not.

All but one of the heirs seemed to use their wealth as an excuse for not making more of themselves. Hell, then what excuse do the millions of not-rich people have? Perhaps Johnson assumed this ambivalence about life’s work was unique to his small, tight, circle of super-rich friends. If so, he should get out more.

As a film, it was an obvious debut effort. Like Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash – some good ideas were left unexplored, others overplayed, the overall feel is immature and simplistic, simply because the author is still figuring out the medium. (I stand corrected, Snow Crash was Stephenson’s third novel, ouch).

In any case….Dan Klass basically covered the same topic in Bitterest Pill #77 – concluding with something to the effect of; the only difference between rich and non-rich people is money. I enjoyed my time with Dan much more.

Friday, 19 May 2006

Double Feature: History of Violence & Murderball

I’d been looking forward to watching Murderball for a while now. I couldn’t wait and listened to Michael Geohegan’s Reel Review. Murderball is great for one reason – it’s a really cool sport. As a sports movie, it feels more like the skateboard/snowboard/bicycle-stunt team self-promotional videos I grew up with. With the best parts being the hits and the falls. I do have a soft spot for them – got a couple in the Netflix queue right now. I felt the passion from the players and the coaches…I didn’t feel it from the film makers. At one point, I thought the movie was over, popped the DVD out of the player and put it in the return envelope. According to Jen, I was a couple scenes early. Whups.

Then, tonight we watched Cronenberg’s A History of Violence. Jen’s been anxiously awaiting this one – I got interested via Elvis Mitchell’s conversation w/ David Cronenberg. In true Cronenberg fashion – the movie asks good questions about identity (I think the answers given by the wife and son were wrong). Again, like Murderball, good hits and falls. Some of the best fight scenes I’ve seen since Buffy left the airwaves. Unlike Murderball, I was expecting one more scene to wrap thing up more neatly – and glad I didn’t get it.

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

I Know How Aurthor Dent Felt

Woke up this morning to the road construction crew sawing through cement.

Wondering why it’s so loud, I wander half-awake through the house, to discover they’re inches from the Neon – sawing though my driveway. Just outta sight are three giant Caterpillar road construction monsters.

Damn Vogons.