Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 the Year in "Red State" Big Screen Movies

I can't do a top ten. So many movies I wanted to see never came within 200 miles of here it would be unfair and irrelevant to put my list alongside the rest of the planet's lists. Yes, I love it here in Kansas. Missing a few films still beats the rat race everyday.
I can say however, 2005 was a good year for movies, both at the theatre and on Dvd. Maybe I'll comb the Dvd drawers and do a list of great movies discovered this year. For now I'll put a short alphabetical list of movies seen on the big screen that I enjoyed, and a one line review/anecdote of each...and a meaningless *** rating, where 5 stars is best and 1 didn't make the list!
"2046" I know, Darren's is not technically the big screen... *****
"Aeon Flux" Big gamble going low key with this most flamboyant of animated characters. ***
"Batman Begins" Best thing to happen to this franchise in a decade! *****
"Broken Flowers" Bill Murray in another terrific small film..Alexis Dziena plays Sharon Stone's daughter and stole the screen from Bill, every time!****
"Constant Gardener" Moviemaking at its finest--story, camera, music and stars! *****
"Crash" is "Magnolia" with a point. Minus a star for beating us over the head. ****
"Domino" Tongue in cheek action complete with hecti-cam and guns guns guns..***
"History of Violence" Cronenberg is back with a vengeance. *****
"Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" A science fiction comedy NOT about special effects.****
"Jarhead" Gulf War 1 gets its "Platoon" by way of "Three Kings".****
"King Kong" Man's inhumanity to beast in a Peter Jackson tour de force.*****

"Kung Fu Hustle" More invention, action and comedy per square inch than any film this side of the Pacific.*****
"Lord of War" Nicholas Cage has finally won me over. His character would have enjoyed "Syriana".****
"Lords of Dogtown" The fictional version of "Dogtown and Z-Boys" recreates the beginning of an era.****
"Serenity" Joss Whedon's gift to the Cult of Firefly complete with ass-kicking babes and an assasin that would have also enjoyed "Syriana". ***
"Sin City" Best comic to screen adaptation ever. Bravo!*****
"Star Wars" ..and we have come full circle..what's next Mr Lucas?****
"Syriana" Still in theatres! What are you waiting for?*****
"Unleashed" Bob Hoskins and Jet Li bring the pain...***
"Walk the Line" Joaquin Phoenix channels Johnny Cash in this fascinating biopic. ****
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"
Stop Motion Animation, terrific story, as inventive as anything in "The Incredibles" without the nudge-nudge, wink wink! ****

I ended up crossing a bunch off of this list when I realized I saw them on Dvd. Dvd picks coming up for sure...

Friday, December 30, 2005


I have seen this movie twice, talked it up at work, and will certainly be buying the Dvd and the book the movie is based on. I have not researched very deeply into the "oil industry"--this does not make me oblivious to it being as vital as blood. To digress for a moment, my current research subjects include "Pinochet", "Opium", and the high cost of "Prohibition". More on those subjects and full book reviews as I finish items. Back to "Syriana", by way of "Constant Gardener".
"Constant Gardener" is the latest LeCarre novel to be adapted for the screen. LeCarre is well known writer of espionage novels, and has had at least 6 novels converted to films. While I have enjoyed all of the movies to varying degrees, none of them--including the best one, "Little Drummer Girl", approach the density of the text version.
"Syriana" does just that, without the benefit of being written by Le Carre. There is a difference between plot twists and plot density. There are details heaped upon details in a "pay attention or leave" gambit. Having prior knowledge of middle east say...the bombing of a plus!
The plot is essentially straightforward, joy is in the details, the offhand asides and assumptions that are at once glaring and always unspoken. "Syriana" is nothing less than a wake-up call to the United States: oil is a liability that will make us do things that would make a crack-whore blush. An example, cited in "Jarhead" not this movie, would be our defending the oil fields, not the museums and civilians during the invasion.
"Syriana" is sophisticated, cynical, and post-modern in approach and execution. It is as ambigious in its morality as movies used to be way back in the seventies when we finally lifted our heads out of the trough long enough to look around and ask the question, "My God, what have we done?" If flag waving and SUV driving are anathema to you but you care about things further away than your retirement or the PS3 you must see "Syriana".

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Vaccine in the House

"House" is a "CSI" style spinoff show about medical forensics. I know this because I work in a video store and TV shows rent like crazy. I know the idea of a $100.00 cable bill is crazy but imagine paying for TV a la carte in addition to that bill! Anyway, we got the first season of "House" so I popped it in the player.
Dr House is a cranky, ill-kempt man with no family, a cane, and a Vicodin popping habit ensconced in a teaching hospital. He has a 3 person staff that worship/despise him in equal measure. His brilliance provides his eccentricities their space, at a cost of "clinic" hours where he rubs up against the teeming masses at their best. I found the dialogue that caught my ear here. Normally clicking the link is optional, but click that one now and come back.
Back? Here goes:
House has cut to the heart of the matter. Yes, there are allergic reactions to Vaccines, yes they do cost a lot, and yes, the Flu Vaccine can make you sick. Not Smallpox or Polio. Vaccines have extended our lives considerably and helped to wipe out several nasty childhood diseases. They are a good thing.
There needs to be a balance between health and common sense. There is no doubt that nutrition is very important in the young, and too much processed food is never a good thing. Yes, kids are given antibiotics too often. It is also a shame that kids are sent to school sick to congregate with others in a stressful environment..But that is no reason to "home school".
The show is formulaic, one can almost predict the big arcs, and the disease issues are always accompanied by technobabble we sort of understand. None of this diminishes the measured delivery of bitter resigned truth that House spits.
I'm not even going to mention his God vs Science rant except to say that he watches TV on a handheld in the Chapel because it is quiet and deserted...
"No, Cuddy,(indignant) I won't have sex with you!"...walking through the lobby. roflmao

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

2404 on 2046

Won Kar Wei makes textural films about love. Multilayered, saturated long takes of breathtakingly beautiful women (Gong Li, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi Faye Wong and Carina Lau) and the husk of a man who has never recovered from his "Momentary Taste of Being", Tony Leung.
Time itself is as elastic as the story and the story(s) within the story. 2046 is a room number is a year is an eschaton of memories buried and forgotten that infuse Mr Melancholy as his life plays out. The living part of him is in the past, the rest is remembrance...back as far as "Days of Being Wild".
Won Kar Wei has taken a page from David Lynch's character in "Lost Highway"--he remembers things his way, not necessarily as they happened.
A lost love has forever changed our "hero". His soul is bereft, his heart irreparably damaged. Inexplicably he continues to attract, bed, and discard women; passions misfire and sputter. Tony Leung's eyes are deep pools of weary loneliness that don't ask for pity or forgiveness.
He is a writer, and his subjects are love, pornography, science fiction--"whatever will sell", we are told, and all his stories are his story.
The film may be too much of a tone poem, too much a pure jewel twisting slowly in the light to hold our attention for two hours, even cinematography as gorgeous as that of Christopher Doyle's needs a car chase...


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Burden of Dreams

This Critter, "Burden of Dreams", does for "Fitzcarraldo" what "Hearts of Darkness" did for "Apocalypse Now". The film is a feature length making of..And, reading into the title, the challenges of movie making on the grand scale that Herzog is known for.
I had the opportunity to see "Fitzcarraldo" some years ago on the big screen, where I promptly wrote down director and star. I watched a bunch of Kinski films, read his autobiography, and kept my eyes peeled for more Herzog films. Well, Kinski is dead, and Herzog lost his "best fiend", but "Fitzcarraldo" remains fantastic!
This film is the making of "Fitzcarraldo"--the five years of making it. The three boats stranded on sandbars between rainy seasons, the civil wars, paranoia and dysentery. This movie is the only place to see the footage of Mick Jagger, cast as the assistant to the madman originally to be played by Jason Robard.
Herzog himself steals the show with a monologue about the fornication that is nature, the encroaching, bug infested muddy swamp, steaming and malevolent. Five years, his fortune and his sanity all traded for a unique vision that left this viewer with an image forever burned in his brain: a boat being dragged over a mountain!

Friday, December 23, 2005

PC 2 Xbox 360 Migration Update

Ok. I have a Quake Tattoo that is years old. My LAN handle is Dick Laurent, and I have been carrying my system to homes and halls for years for a little of the ol' deathmatch. The wedding I best-manned<--is that a verb?> included hours of gaming in a public place...
No, I don't compete professionally. Earth & Beyond broke me of deathmatch then got cancelled by the braintrust at EA Games. I stopped upgrading when my system was capable of playing Doom 3. Yes, I'm an iD fanboy.
Fear would run but not well on my system. Then I heard about the Xbox 360. Frightening hardware spec! No way I could put something together for 400.00 that would run better. Decision was obvious, details a little less so. Here are a couple gotchas:
1. Need Hi Def TV.
2. No keyboard/mouse control.
3. "Xbox Live" is not the internet!
The most important hitch --and still so-- is number 2, no keyboard. The wireless controller feels nice, and has the vibration feedback that is pretty darn cool, but is hardly precise. I have 10+ years of gaming with a keyboard to unlearn...and it is proving difficult. I have swallowed a lot of smack from the controller crowd but vow to conquer!

First Day

Back to blogging...Valiscafe got shut down for some personal reasons, but the world is moving too fast for me not to comment on what is going by. This blog will host pictures, movie and cd reviews and the occasional rant. Subjects sure to be covered eventually:
Suicide Girls caving to FBI
Religion and King Kong
Life in the Service Sector
Red State Livin' from a blue state perspective...
Welcome aboard.
I hope to Podcast with Odeo, and will definitely abuse you with my photography. I hope to keep it Work Safe...expect to be warned otherwise..and I have a spoiler-free review policy, but will warn when (not if) I veer from said policy.