Category Archives: film

Star Trek

Don’t Know the Star Trek stories?

This one’s a ho-hummer.

 Know the Star Trek stories?

 This one’s a real bummer.

 It’s mostly Kirk hanging by his fingers

 Banging round the galaxy running into dangers

 It has the star Trek characters but only kinda sorta

 The story re assembled in a disconcerting order.

 Don Singleton

 May 14, 2009

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Freeze Frame: The Bombs of Summer (Not an Iraqi War Piece)

Once upon a time I produced and hosted a film criticism program called Freeze Frame. I liked the title then and so I have christened this series of film reviews, which will appear more or less regularly on this BLOG, Freeze Frame. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I surely will enjoy writing them.

Let us agree on a distinction between film reviewers and film critics. Film reviews are written by folks who go see a film and say: I liked it or I didn’t. And then they proceed to tell you why, often awarding, thumbs up or down, or rating the film and assigning four bunny heads, or four stars or whatever symbol appeals to them. I promise you no such silliness will invade this space.

Film critics on the other hand attempt to evaluate films in a much broader historical and artistic context and the critic tries to explain what there is in the film to make it worth seeing, or exploring or analyzing. These pieces are often of, by, and for academics and they are usually arcane, dense to impenetrable and boring. Although often tempted, I will do my best to refrain from that kind of academic gamesmanship.

Film Reviewers are fond of offering up their top ten films of all times, and needless to say, if I were to draw up such a list, most of my top ten films would not be known to a general audience, much less make the top ten list of say the American Film Institute which has an incredibly parochial outlook especially for folks who ought to know better.

A newspaper editor friend of mine once said: Film critics are people who take themselves much too seriously. To which I responded. Film reviewers are people who nobody takes seriously.

Neither statement is fully true or fully false but there is a grain of truth in both of them. Happily, there is no film in the summer blockbuster crop worth comment from a critic’s point of view.

The Summer Crop

This column then is reduced to a reviewer’s perspective. So here goes. I have seen the summer crop of movies. Only one entices an endorsement. I have see Batman and Hellboy,. Boy, watching Batman is hell and man, watching Hellboy will make you batty. Enough said. The latest Batman folly was praised to the sky by most reviewers who took more or less the same tack. The death of Keith Ledger made it de classe to criticize the film so it was, perforce, a masterpiece. By now most readers will have wasted the price of admission and perhaps convinced yourselves that you were watching a major artistic success even though it appeared to be the latest incarnation of a comic book film aimed at the pubescent male mind with the usual pyrotechnics, chase scenes and sexual tension. As Pauline Kael might have noted, it was the classic mindless Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang movie. I saw it. I was bored to tears. It was predictable, silly, and nonsensical and although Ledger turns in a good enough performance he didn’t come close to touching Jack Nicholson’s performance as the Joker in Batman Begins or– get a load of this– Cesar Romero’s performance as the Joker in the cartoonish Batman television series from the 1960’s.

The rest of the crop is a bunch of yawners. I didn’t bother seeing the Mummy or Journey to the Center of the Earth. I did see Get Smart (nostalgia) and Mamma Mia (ditto) and the X Files (was never a fan). None is worth the price of admission.

If you wasted your money On Batman, I am truly sorry, ditto for Hellboy, ditto for Get Smart and the rest of the films in the summer crop. All were bummers.

Well then, what is worth watching??

Swing Vote.

Yes Swing Vote.

Understand that writing a satirical piece on the American Political system is shooting fish in a barrel. The American political system is a parody wrapped in a satire folded into a hackneyed bad joke. Even when folks try to write seriously about the American Political system it appears to be satire. So why would I recommend this movie? First, I must admit to being a political junkie. Watching the American political system is like watching Three Stooges Cartoons—both are so bad they are fascinating. Swing Vote, in the parlance of the old studio idea man is: The Odd Couple meets Wag the Dog Or Bob Roberts or A Face in the Crowd. The odd couple is Mr. Mom, played by Kevin Costner who is raising his teen age daughter played by Madeline Carroll. He is a dumb-ass, boorish, bass-fishing, irresponsible, weekend alcoholic. The daughter is dead smart, aware, involved, caring, mature, even wise, brave clean and reverent. In sum, he is the typical uninformed blue collar Republican voter. She is the typical Democrat. Bud is served up a giant heaping helping of reality when he loses his job at the local chicken processing plant to an illegal immigrant. He does the manly thing and gets roaring drunk, forgets his daughter who is left at school and forgets to keep his promise to her to vote. She sneaks into the polling place and attempts to vote for him. The voting machine fails and his vote is stuck in the machine. The entire presidential election comes down to his vote since New Mexico law allows him to re vote. The rest of the film is devoted to the two presidential candidates pandering to what they think Mr. Moron believes. It is so close to a real election in this country as to be painful, and yet very funny, to watch.

Kevin Costner and Madeline Carroll are spot on in their roles as the odd couple, and the supporting cast is stellar. If you peek at the cast, you must admit that watching this ensemble work is well worth the price of admission. One small hint. Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci are the presidential team and Dennis Hopper and Nathan Lane are the challengers.

Go see Swing Vote. As is the case with most political humor these days you will likely get more information abut the issues from the movie than you will from the ads runs by the candidates in the real campaign. A single line spoken by Bud after a crash course in the issues: “If America is such a rich country, why can so many of us not afford to live here anymore?” makes the film worth the price of admission.

Don Singleton

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Travel…

Yesterday was my son’s birthday.  My wife and I drove him about two hours to see “Journey to the Center of the Earth” in 3D at an IMax theater.   I could definitely find merit in a chorus of critics panning the movie, but I’m not going to.  I think it accomplished its goal- that being to demonstrate and invoke a sense of wonder in the viewer about the world.  While I am positive that there is no place in or near the center of the Earth that would sustain life the premise of the thought is an important one.  That being, don’t always agree with assumptions of theory.  If we all believed as gospel the assumptions of all of the theories that are propagated we would stall as a species.  It’s important for young minds (and old ones, too) to look beyond the pale of human knowledge and pursue with as much vigor as we can muster the mysteries of our world and those beyond it.  Exploring ideas such as space travel are important to us as a species.  We need it.  We lust for knowledge.  It kills us to know how ignorant we are.  We’ve been alive for thousands of years and still have not traveled to every place we can see from Earth.

Doesn’t the fact that we are born into a realm that has taken us thousands of years to visit fly and visit our moon and will take hundreds more before we visit other galaxys strike you as a bit odd?

If I allow for creationism/god for a moment, isn’t it weird that a being would create a race of beings and not allow them access into things they can see?  Is it a bit cruel that brilliant people like Galileo never got to fly, watch television, ride in a car or eat a hotdog, but most of us have?  What kind of god would create one of the world’s all time smartest people and not allow them to enjoy the fruits of their labor?

Ahhh, but enough of that, back to the movie.

You have to remember that it is a movie made for children.  It entertains, brings attention to Jules Verne and his work and kept my attention.  I recommend people to go see it.

More tomorrow on the trip…

Cheers,

Tom

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Filed under film, Movie Review, Science, Space, travel

Movie Review: Hancock

Last night I took my wife out on a date.  We began the evening going to Brew River.  The meal wasn’t as good as the Sunday Brunch I had a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn’t bad, either.  The cream of crab soup was the highlight of the meal for me, though my shrimp salad wrap wasn’t bad.  The Guinness was good- though they served it before it had settled- which is “ok” because that is the norm for American bar tenders, but being delivered a settled proper pint is always a good thing- especially when it is unexpected.

Before I talk about the movie I have to explain my scale.  I have different scales for different types of movies.  In the history of cinema action films have yet to breakthrough to Citizen Kane status.  That being said, I dumb the scale down for them.  For me an action film must have passable acting, good to amazing special effects, a storyline that is engaging while also moving forward and good dialog amongst the characters.

Hancock is a decent action film.  Will Smith, Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron  play their roles well, the story moves along and, in a bit of a surprise, the plot contains a decent twist.  The down side for me is toward the end of the movie Theron’s character suddenly explains a whole lot of the parameters of the character- a better written script would have found a way to incorporate those things and slowly reveal them throughout- instead we’re given an info dump at the end of the film as a bridge to the next scene.  It’s not terrible, but it is inartful and could have been presented better.

It’s a good enough movie that I recommend you go see it.

Cheers.

Tom

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I Love Sacha Baron Cohen aka Borat

Of course “Borat” is one character he developed into a movie. His new character is called “Bruno”. The new movie is being filmed now and last month took in some suckers that went to a MMA fight, that suddenly turned GAY. lol

Cheers,

Tom

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Filed under Comedy, film, Gay Rights, Politics

Lisl Auman

Yesterday I gave you the particulars of Lisl Auman’s case.  No one disputes that she was under arrest and handcuffed in the back of a police car when her partner, Matthaeus Jaehnig, shot and killed a police officer.  Jaehnig then killed himself so *somebody* had to pay for the policeman’s death.  This led the prosecutor to charge the Lisl with the murder and as 7 News in Denver wrote, “The jury had convicted Auman of felony murder, saying she had set in motion a chain of events that led to the deadly shootout.”

So even though she was totally innocent of the physical crime itself- by ALL accounts including police- she was found guilty of the murder largely because her partner killed himself.  Luckily, she wrote a letter to an aging Hunter S Thompson who had one more fight in him.  Thompson led a charge to free Lisl, calling in favors from lawyers around the country and having friends like Warren Zevon champion her cause.  All the hell raising sparked new interest in the case and her sentence was eventually reduced.

The story has been written by a variety of firsthand sources so I won’t bore you with my own spin.   Go here, here, here, here and watch Free Lisl: Fear & Loathing in Denver” by Wayne Ewing.

Cheers,

Tom

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Filed under Community, film, Hunter S Thompson, Politics

Morgan Spurlock Is Much More Than “Supersize Me”

I’ve been watching the first season of his series called “30 Days”, which appears on the FX channel.  So far my favorite show has been on minimum wage.  Since I’ve lifted myself out of poverty there have only been two times that video has really struck me as showing an authentic portrait of what I lived.  The first was “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith.  Being a single parent for over eight years that movie had moments that took my breath away it was so similar to what I experienced, but that was a Hollywood portrait (even if it was based on the real life story of Chris Gardner).   What Spurlock delivers in the first installment of the “30 Days” series is a fairly accurate account of trying to juggle money around to keep the rent, heat and electric bills while still being able to eat and enjoy life.

Check it out.

Cheers,

Tom

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Filed under film, Poverty