Friday, December 30, 2011

I Really Want To Go Outside And Stop To See Your Day

Winnie the Pooh (Anderson and Hall, 2011)

Growing up I watched, as I am sure many people did, a ton of Disney movies. Personal favorites include Hercules, The Lion King, and Bambi. I never really had too soft of a spot for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, despite enjoying a lot of the stories that were told. However, when the reboot, or continuation as the case may be, was announced I found myself excited to get back to the 100 Acre Wood and rediscover all of these characters again.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

There's A Cold Wind Coming Off The Ocean

The Adventures of Tintin (Spielberg, 2011)

Earlier this month I wrote a post about nostalgia in film, with The Muppets and Hugo being the focus of that piece. After stepping out of the theater I could not help but think of the term nostalgia when considering The Adventures of Tintin. Though Spielberg may be appealing to a certain nostalgia by adapting the reporter-detective Tintin (Jamie Bell) for the big screen, it seems odd because I am sure the vast majority of the US audience (myself included) has little familiarity with the character or the comic series. What this leaves then is Spielberg working in a realm where he is evoking nostalgia for his past adventure movies. The Indiana Jones, Jaws and Jurassic Parks of the world. Now aside from those dinosaurs I have a great displeasure for the majority of 'classic' Spielbergian movies, yet seeing Tintin I think I finally realized why many of his movies are so beloved.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't Stop Imagining. The Day That You Do Is The Day That You Die.

It's Awards season, and the time where year end wrap ups begin to hit hard. As a result, I need to begin writing at a much more rapid pace in an attempt to crystalize my thoughts on all the wonderful (I know, but bear with me) film that are sure to be released in this time. So what we have are an upcoming series of shorter reviews that will rarely delve in to the same type of analysis synthesis that I attempt to craft with my writing. Then there will be a huge onslaught of year end lists. I'll try and sprinkle a few editorials in there as well, and there's probably a major site overhaul coming up. So there's the state of Processed Grass, and now on to the review!

We Need To Talk About Kevin (Ramsay, 2011)

The new film from acclaimed Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay, We Need To Talk About Kevin, recently had a one week limited pre-Oscar qualification run type deal in NYC and I had a chance to see it during that time. Basically what we have is a quasi-horror film that, much like other indie standout Martha Marcy May Marlene, takes many of its cues from psychological horror and Gothic tropes than delving in to new age cinematic scares.

Friday, December 9, 2011

All The Points Where Contact Fails Us, All Of The Dead Spots In The Zone

Shame (McQueen, 2011)

Addiction is tough. Each day, I would imagine, we confront it in many different ways. This seems, certainly at first, to be at the core of Steve McQueen's Shame, the visual artist turned director's sophomore follow up to the harrowing (it will be fun to see how many times I use this word in the forthcoming paragraphs!) Hunger. Moving from Ireland all the way over to the red blooded American soils of New York City, McQueen crafts a movie that confronts, in an admirably direct fashion, main character Brandon (Michael Fassbender) as he grapples with a crippling sex addiction. What results is a deliberately paced character study that has sent critics all aflutter, and produced some of the year's greatest pull quotes. Take, for example, this gem from Tony Macklin's review of the film:
"Shame is a noxious porridge of porn and pointlessness. It's a penis in search of a plot. Its protagonist is a masturbating cipher."
With a glowing endorsement like that, how can Shame be anything but excellent?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Knowing Nostalgia: Ruminations On HUGO And THE MUPPETS

Nostalgia is a funny concept. It clouds our judgment, making us elevate astoundingly mediocre art to positions of transcendence. As an avid video game player I find that I am at my most nostalgic when going back to staples of my childhood (the Metal Gears, Marios, Sonics, and Final Fantasies of the world), but even with my most beloved titles I can still recognize fundamental flaws in game design. But you know what? I'll still gladly play Princess Tomato: Adventures in Salad Kingdom, or watch Hercules for the umpteenth time, or maybe even give that old Marshall Mathers LP CD a spin in the car stereo. And I can be, at least momentarily, happy. Sure it's a hollow kind of happiness, but it's there and it's real. Sometimes I just like to get nostalgic. 

And over the Thanksgiving holiday I found myself at the movie theater watching two particular films that approach the idea of nostalgia in vastly different ways.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Update On The Status Of Processed Grass As Filtered Through My Lens Of Hope And Joy And Triumphant Returns With Long Blog Title Posts Words!

Loyal readers, followers, friends, and admirers alike, as you may have noticed I have been quiet as of late. Part of this, as always seems to be the case around this time of the year, is a result of school. This year, particularly, it is a result of Grad school. However, that is not the biggest determining factor of my blogging absence.

Some of you may remember, in an older post after my first prolonged silence, that I had a Great Computer Collapse of Summer 2011, which I thought I had rectified. Sadly, that was not the case. Now, after another month or so without a steady computer from which to post or listen to new music/watch films, I have returned. At least for now. But probably for good because I plan on buying a desktop this Black Friday! So as long as this laptop holds out until that thing ships and arrives, you can start expecting posts soon. Or relatively soon. There are a lot of papers coming up.

I thank everyone for their patience, and for those who care here a couple of brief reactions I have in regard to some recent culture across multiple mediums! And yes, I'm going to make a numbered list because I love them. You probably love them too, this is the internet.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Breaking Boundaries: Journey To The Center Of The Film

This morning I caught wind of this new trend going around that seems to have originated from Top 10 Films where you (and I suppose me in this case!) are given a magic ticket that lets you jump in to any movie world that you wanted. I wanted to see this in action, and luckily Jessica at The Velvet Cafe and Alex at BoaCE both gave me a template to work from. The idea is apparently based on The Last Action Hero. Now I haven't seen that film, so instead of a ticket I will think of this more in the sense of time traveling device in Chrono Trigger. This time though it's like I'm my own Lucca!

The exercise seems fun, because I usually don't go in to films with the hope to escape from my real world. Instead, I want to learn more about myself and the world around me, so with that idea in mind let's take a trip down in to the bowels of my imagination. Welcome to my desires!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Came In From The Wilderness, A Creature Void Of Form

Take Shelter (Nichols, 2011)

It seems after months of waiting, 2011 is starting to get real. Yes, there have been a number of great films released so far this year (specifically I think of The Tree of Life, Drive, and Jane Eyre), but now that I'm looking ahead and making a schedule of films I must see I am almost overwhelmed with options. Take Shelter, the new film from Shotgun Stories director Jeff Nichols, has the type of pedigree that I get all flustered about, so when I saw it was opening at my local theater I became giddy with anticipation to dive in to the film. Knowling little about the movie I was simply hoping to revisit the domestic sphere that Nichols presented so well in his debut feature. Little did I know that I was in for so much more.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thinking About Terror: Why Does Horror Scare?

Every October I feel as if the obligated to watch horror films. Like watching It's A Wonderful Life around Christmas it becomes a yearly tradition. Growing up I had a huge aversion to horror, brought on by one too many nights spent staying up past my bed time to watch Ernest: Scared Stupid. Now I go back and look at the films I was terrified of as a child and they seem silly, yet as I grew older and started watching more types of films I have still avoided horror. This is particularly odd to me as one of my favorite writers, Edgar Allan Poe, is always associated with the genre. In an attempt to combat my hesitancy to embrace these films I even decided to watch all four of the Scream movies earlier in the year. I even went to my local theater to see The Shining when it played a week ago. After this brief confrontation with some notable entries in the scary movie oeuvre, I was left with one nagging question in the back of my mind: do horror films need to be scary?

The short answer to this question would be a simple yes. I don't mean to imply that they only are meant to scare, there is a ton of artistic quality in this art form in craft, theme, and pathos. However, most people even use the terms 'horror film' and 'scary movie' interchangeably. But while watching The Shining I did not find myself nearly as scared as I did when I was watching Scream. I may even say that I didn't feel scared at all. Certainly not in the same way. And  that's really where I find horror films incredibly interesting. Much like comedy, horror is such an umbrella term that it can encompass so many different types of movies. Using my limited knowledge of these kinds of movies, I want to take a look at exactly how these movies scare.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are Notes Not?

So last night I found myself watching a White Stripes concert film/documentary hybrid, The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights, and as I started to type up a reflection on the film I found that the actual substance to the film was not nearly as consequential as the thoughts the film raised. In fact, the film made me realize two very important things, and I keep questioning a few ideas in relation to these revelations.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Manufacturing The Movie Star: Musings On Ryan Gosling

I like to imagine that somewhere in the annals of Hollywood exists a factory. In this factory the overlords/taskmasters/biological engineering geniuses have boxes stacked upon boxes of body parts waiting to be assembled and brought to life in some kind of insane ritual that straddles the line between heretical and miraculous. These Victor Frankensteins toil away all hours of the day mixing and matching parts until the day when the big studios of the world place an order for a superstar. An order was placed some years ago, and the latest creature to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting world was Ryan Gosling, star of Drive and The Ides of March. A man whose star has seemingly risen to insane amounts in the last few months that it has fallen into place, as Bob Dylan may say, so perfectly, it all seems so well timed. But, as a fan of Ryan Gosling's career thus far, I find myself slightly conflicted.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Taking On 2011 - Top Tracks (Q3 Quarterly Review)

Another three months have passed, and as has become a yearly tradition here at Processed Grass it is about time we take a look back at all the yearly developments in the world of culture. As is also tradition my Quarterly Review will be broken in to three parts (songs, albums, film) and list some random number of these entries that have been dominating my ear space and mental functions for the past however many months! We are approaching the time of year when monumental changes occur in these lists. Don't believe me? Just check up on the first and second quarterly reviews to see how things have changed...or how orders have stayed the same.

We all like comfort, right?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Don't Blame Us For Visions Of Princess Cuts On Our Fingers

Moneyball (Miller, 2011)

October, or more specifically September if we are going by calendar release dates, are the days of baseball. Sure the NFL usually comes back around this time, but America's game is beginning to wind down from an exhausting summer marathon. It makes sense then to release a movie that revolves around the sport around this time of the year. It makes even more sense, with Oscar nominations looming in the not too distant future, to release a film that stars Brad Pitt. All the chances for Moneyball, the story of Billy Beane's attempt to reinvent the dynamics of Major League Baseball, to thrive in a major market are certainly in place. This is when champions are made. This is when A's fan actually have a chance to watch their team (or well, a lovingly designed simulation of their team of years past) in the post season! But is the simulation enough?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Changing Of The Guard: The End Of Disney's Latest Golden Age

Another classic from the Processed Grass Wordpress Vault:

A few hours ago the Disney Channel Original Series juggernaut, Hannah Montana, aired its final episode. As a fairly big fan of Disney Channel I was compelled to watch this episode, sadly I missed the first half. Actually, I am not really a fan of Hannah Montana, but as a fan I cannot help but feel a sense of sorrow at the end of Miley's time with Disney. The starlet's departure ushers in the end of an era, a changing of the guard of sorts, and given Disney's recent scramble to find any sort of replacement has me worried about the quality of the programing as a whole.

Losing The Legend: Too Linked To The Past?

We are at the end of days, my friends. Not in the 'watch out for the Rapture' sort of way, more like the 'sorry I ran your Teddy bear through the wash, you probably shouldn't have left him in the hamper with all of the other clothes perhaps you should just pay more attention to where you're playing pretend so that I do not have to go sorting through these filthy rags that keep you decent' sort of way. We are, in fact, on the cusp of the Nintendo Wii's demise. But in one final gasp for air, an attempt to find relevancy in the zeitgeist, a way to rekindle all those old nostalgic flames of glory before the fire is doused and the Wii-U rises from the remains. And in that final breath we are met with a familiar shield, a green tunic, and a whole lot of waggling. Yet as the November release date of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword draws ever closer, an entry in a franchise that I have been enjoying since I was a child, I struggle to garner any sort of excitement for the game. And there has to be something wrong with that.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Nobody Gonna Steal My Head Now That I'm On The Road Again

Drive (Winding Refn, 2011)

I love driving. I don't enjoy gas prices or the idea of potentially stepping into a metallic death trap each time I get behind the wheel, but there's an undeniable allure for me of being insulated in a world full of music. A personal retreat for my mind. It is with this attitude that I approached Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn's Cannes award winning art house affair that chronicles an episode in a nameless driver's life. Here's the thing though, I don't really care for cars all that much. So as the film started playing I really was unsure exactly what I was going to be getting from this much buzzed about genre film. And you know what, even though I don't think that I benefited from knowing very little about the specifics of Drive, I would not blame you for waiting to read this - or any other - review of the film before checking it out. If you want to preserve that surprise then know this: Drive is great and you need to see it. And now, let's light this candle.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Endless Dreams: A Tribute to Satoshi Kon

Back when I did a short stint on WordPress I typed this up. About a year has gone by since Satoshi Kon, one of my favorite directors, passed away. I think it's a poignant time to take a look back at this entry for all the readers who may have missed it. Let us never forget the works of a man who truly was a master and innovator of his craft.

Early today it seemed the Twitter world - who would have guessed- was all about about Satoshi Kon, revered anime director of Perfect Blue and Paprika fame. Reports started cropping up that on August 23rd, one day ago, the director passed away suddenly at the age of 47. I had the chance to see Kon's Paprika during its 2007 theatrical run, my first film from the director, and was instantly floored not only by the sensory overload but also by the intricate plot and essential love letter to cinema that had been sent. After seeing this film I made it a point to check out the rest of the man's work, and much to my surprise I had already previously fallen in love with the visionary's creation without even being aware. Kon's series Paranoia Agent ran on [adultswim] and had initially turned me on to the power of anime as a storytelling medium. Kon existed as a storyteller in the purest sense of the word.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So How Did You Get Here Under My Skin?

Contagion (Soderbergh, 2011)

At times while watching Steven Soderbergh's latest film, Contagion, I could not help like feeling that it had topically missed its mark. As a member of the United States I have lived through a few biological scares, but the most recent one seems to be so far in the past that I hardly consider the extremity or fear that is bred during a disease scare. I have never been directly affected, and the sensationalist media has always made me think that these bird flu and swine flu scares are simply hyped up contained cases that will be easily controlled by the world's vast medical technology. What Soderbergh is tasked with doing then is not only making me believe that these very real diseases could be...well, real, but he must also turn a vastly biological affair in to a gripping story. So after focusing on a singular individuals in his last three films (Che, The Informant!, and The Girlfriend Experience) can Soderbergh expand, as he has with other films such as Traffic and the Oceans series, once more to encompass a global scare?

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Just Want You To Know, I Can See Through Your Masks

Restrepo (Hetherington and Junger, 2010)

Cinema offers viewers the ability to visit different landscapes, different worlds, different universes; however, these journeys are usually kept within the confines of a constructed reality, a world that exists on the reels of film and perhaps in our minds, but not in our 'world.' Documentaries still create this barrier, but the realism of the genre is at worst an examination of a world that many of us are unaware of and are, at best, a portrayal of some truth that all great films can reach. I have not, and likely will not, travel to Afghanistan in my lifetime, nor do I plan on fighting in any literal wars, so Restrepo's portrait in to life during wartime in one of the world's most dangerous conflict zones makes an attempt at capturing the spirit of men tied together by a desire for combat.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Don't Give Up Now, Just A Little More Persistence

The Interrupters (James, 2011)

Over the summer I visited Chicago for a weekend. While I was aware that I had not actually even scratched the surface of what the city has to offer, after seeing a film like The Interrupters I almost feel as if I should have taken even more precautions as I walked a very standard pass through the city. Actually, as I exited the theater in Philadelphia and I walked back toward the train station to get home I almost felt a bit more paranoid than I should have given the time of day and relatively safe area of the city. But as I continued down the streets, looking all around and moving at a quicker clip than I normally would, I became cognizant of my actions. I was acting this way because of the documentary I had just watched.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Used To Be The One Of The Rotten Ones And I Liked You For That

the Last Song (Robinson, 2010)

A common complaint leveled against the present day Hollywood system deals with the lack of originality. Every film seems to exist as a remake or an adaptation, leaving creative filmmakers in the dust and keeping a fine control over exactly what ideas and perspectives are brought to a wide audience. While I do not find the constant desire to remake films or adapt existing franchises to the screen as a necessarily bad tactic, when looking at a film like the Last Song, based on a Nicholas Sparks novel that at the time of filming was still a work in progress, certainly could have used a bit more originality, and a much larger injection of creativity. But many films have enough intangibles to transcend typical flaws, so can the Miley Cyrus factor shoulder the weight of the film on her shoulders?

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Wanna Be Like You, I Wanna Walk Like You, Talk Like You, Too

Animal Kingdom (Michod, 2010)

"Every morning in Africa a gazelle awakens knowing it must today run faster than the fastest lion or it will be eaten. Every morning a lion awakens knowing it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It matters not whether you are a gazelle or a lion, when the sun rises you had better be running." This African proverb seems to perfectly encapsulates the world of David Michod's Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom. The people in this film, whether cops or criminals, are always running from, or after, one another in an attempt to keep balance in Melbourne, Australia. The world is a bitter struggle for comfort and survival, two ideas the film explores in great depth.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NFL Season Predictions

I know the team (of one) here at ProcessedGrass appears too sophisticated for the common physical activities of sportsmen, but it actually turns out that we do love games of sport. And what game do we love more than any other? Football, naturally. Well the NFL season is finally starting tonight. The clouds have parted, the earths have quaked, the rains have fallen, and the bars will once again flood with amateur experts and soon to be dejected fans alike! But if you're a betting man where are you going to be putting your money? I can't pretend to know, I can just observe and look at the bigger picture. We like to be comprehensive, this is all about taking off the blinds. Big pictures! Picture this!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Found Your Pictures, Mailed Them To Your Mother

Tape Club (Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, 2011)

Last week I wrote up a short post highlighting some of my most anticipated music releases set to come out this fall, and as I mentioned in that post some of the releases have already been made available for listening by the bands. PolyVinyl Records band Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin first popped up on my radar last year when they released their fantastic album Let It Sway. Their latest release Tape Club, streaming in full over at the band's BandCamp page, is actually not a full on follow up, but rather a collection of unreleased songs, B-Sides, and various other recordings from the band's ten year history.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Forward Thinking: Music and Albums

This year I have been on a quest to listen to an album a week, a goal I was originally not sure I would be able to meet simply because I never feel like I give the albums I listen to regularly as much time as they truly deserve. Still, I have mostly be able to stick to this schedule - at least as far as final tallies go - in part because of the way the music industry has changed. On a weekly basis many artists choose to stream their newest albums on a website as a way to generate interest in owning the upcoming release. Additionally, many groups such as The-Weeknd have made their own mixtapes available for free on their own domains. Yet still, with the rise of the mp3 purchasing music has never been easier. External download services like Amazon's mp3 cloud service offers a welcome alternative to iTunes's stranglehold on the market. With so many great albums released so far this year, I find myself looking forward to what else is on the near horizon. As the weeks continue to rush by as 2011 starts to draw to a close, here are a few of my most highly anticipated albums.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Turn The Bunsen Burner On. My Creation Comes Alive

TRON: Legacy (Kosinski, 2010)

Earlier in the year we had princes of Persia, men made of iron, ogres in quadruple, more vampires, and dream theft. All, in their own way, disappointments, at least of the ones I had the unfortunate chance to view (so all except Shrek, Twilight and Prince of Persia). Without the potential promise of a Nolan at the helm or the inclusion of a Robert Downey Junior in front of the camera I placed on my 3-D glasses with great hesitancy as this sequel to a film I have only tangentially experienced through Kingdom Hearts II displayed the oddest warning about 3-D versus 2-D presentation typed itself across the screen. So without any of these draws, without this background knowledge, with all these warnings could TRON turn in a strong showing or make me wish I had been derezed?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Top 97 Films (Part Three)

I know I am a tad bit late in this year's entry of my Top 97 films, but as I wrote in yesterday's post it is because I have been mostly without computer for the past month. But Processed Grass is back, and so are the lists! Check out last year's installment and the initial installment to see how the list has changed over the past two years!

Monday, August 29, 2011

They've Got Him In A Trance

Santa Sangre (Jodorowsky, 1989)

I don't usually do very well with horror films. It is a genre that I do not dismiss, in fact I spent the better half of last semester wrestling with the artistic legitimacy of the horror genre in fiction that was mostly revolutionary to how I now approach these stories. Still, I am easily scared and as a result am not very well versed in the world of scares. Prior to watching Santa Sangre I knew nothing of the film beyond the wikipedia entry that labeled it as "a surreal horror film." Now I did not actually know what that description would entail, but I don't think any amount of wikipedia would have prepared me for what I would find when I actually booted up the old Netflix Instant Stream and dove head first - or perhaps it's more fitting to say arms first - in to my first film from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Box Office Battle - August 5th

Today is a Friday. In fact, some may even call it a freaky Friday. Why? Probably because we have two major films releasing, one of which involves genetically mutated super animals and the other one stars the deadly duo of James Franco and Tom Felton. I seem to have mostly righted the ship - minus America's penchant for those damn Smurfs and the Katy Perry/Neil Patrick Harris combo - after a string of lackluster weeks, though my numbers and guesses could always use a bit more improvement. So today I am going to cross the streams, channel the super powered gas (that is totally legal and not a hallucinogen), and luck myself in to a couple of predictions that you can take to the bank. Or at least to your bookie. It should be noted that I take no responsibility for any actions you may or may not take as a result of this article. We're making some money this week baby! And so are movies, well at least one of them anyhow.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

She Was Born In Spring, But I Was Born Too Late

Three Colors: Red (Kieslowski, 1994)

I entered Krzysztof Kieslowski's final entry in his Three Colors Trilogy, Three Colors: Red, with a great deal of uncertainty tinged with a splash of hopefulness. I had little frame of reference for this film, knowing little about the actual plot that would be explored and having never seen another film from the Polish director, but the reputation these films have built up since their release in the early 1990's is astounding. However, outside of the reputation I did not know the plot of this film or its exact connections to the previous two films in the trilogy. So after sitting down to confront this film would it have been better to build context with the other two films or will I have to already begin revising my Top 97?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Box Office Battle - July 29th

I should probably reconsider the purpose of this column. In an attempt to show off my amazing knowledge to the world of my many reader(s), it seems I have been caught with my pants down facing the mirror. After last week's mess of a guess where I - and to be fair just about everyone else on the internet - underestimated just how much America loves movies about America...or captains of America as the case my be, I have had to grapple with the fact that I may be trying to gauge the country's cultural pulse with a scalpel rather than a stethoscope. Now with three major motion pictures muscling their way in to theaters I have put aside all misconceived medical metaphors to make my movie money estimates for the coming weekend.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Keep Your Pekinese, Turkish Cigarettes, And Your Lighter That Looks Like A Gun

Twelve (Schumacher, 2010)

Many would say that Joel Schumacher is responsible for one of the worst films ever recorded: Batman and Robin. I have not seen this travesty, so aside from the film's reputation I have little else to form any sort of valid opinion. Similarly, I have incredibly limited exposure to Schumacher's filmography, so when I saw this film about two weeks ago all I took into Twelve dealt with the reputation that the film had built up since its premiere at Sundance. The film was ridiculed by the collective press so horribly at the event that Schumacher had all future screenings canceled and did not conduct any interviews at the festival after the film finished screening. So is the film as hollow and pretentious as the individuals on display in this world or is Schumacher's latest film an unfortunate victim of critical group think that, like the residents of this upper New York society, is simply cornered by expectation?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Box Office Battle - July 22nd

Just as I have been recovering from my trip to this year's Pitchfork Music Festival, I have also had to come to terms with the fact that my early predictions for last week's box office results were disastrously off base. Well, at least my prediction for exactly how much Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two was going to make, because I was actually pretty much spot on in my prediction of how much Disney's latest offering, Winnie the Pooh, would take in on the weekend. So with yet another week and yet another potential blockbuster releasing it's about time that I really start to buckle down and get things right this time. So pull on that helmet, pick up that, shield, and wave that damn flag because I'm dedicating this week's incredible round of predictions to the glorious nation of Patriotstonia! For the CGI!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pitchfork Music Festival 2011 Blow Out

I know it has been quite a while since my last post - one week to be precise - but between my Harry Potter all day marathon and going to Pitchfork Music Festival 2011 last weekend I have been searching frantically for free time to absolutely no avail. But the time to recover has occurred and I am back, ready to recap all of my fantastic journeys in to the great vast world of not the internet! So join me, why don't you as we take a marvelous journey to the Windy City of Chicago in the great state of Illinois. We can listen to some music, look at a couple of pictures, and get a feel for all of the activities that made 2011's Pitchfork Music Festival so damn incredible!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm The Villian That's Creeping Around Corners

Horrible Bosses (Gordon, 2011)

I still remember the first time that I watched Dr. Strangelove, a magical movie that for many years remained my favorite film of all time. For me it exists, of the ones I have seen, as Kubrick's best film. The way it perfectly blends absurd humor with a much more sinister, and darker, type of comedy is magical both in execution and in thematic resonance. So when I first saw the trailer for the new dark comedy Horrible Bosses I was, despite not expecting Kubrickian levels of greatness, hoping for an understated comedy that went against conventional construction of some of most traditional R-rated affairs like the abysmal The Hangover Part II. The premise here can suit a really dark fantasy, perhaps even a beautiful dark twisted fantasy, so does Horrible Bosses capitalize on all the promise in its execution?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Reefer Madness" L.A. Noire DLC Review: Quick Fix

For a game that is steeped in crime syndicates, the morphine trade, and murder the existence of marijuana trafficking almost seems irrelevant by comparison. No, I'm not using that introduction to make a case for the legalization of Even if it is totally natural, I mean why not just ban topsoil and tree and stuff, right? Don't the cops have bigger fish to fry? Well, Cole Phelps certainly does, but that doesn't mean he can't take a break from uncovering the corruption in the city of angels to put an end to a Tijuana drug operation. In the final - but maybe not really - expansion to Team Bondi's magnificent L.A. Noire, "Reefer Madness," we take a trip back to the vice desk to crack down on the sale of that ol' wacky tabbacky.

Box Office Battle - July 15th

As I mentioned in last week's post, where I almost completely nailed the opening numbers for Horrible Bosses, by the way, I am going to be going to Chicago from July 14th through July 18th for this year's Pitchfork Music Festival, which means that Processed Grass is going to be contentless for the next few days. Also as a result of this trip, my weekly box office prognostication column is coming a couple of days earlier than it would normally be posted. And this week is a big one with two beloved franchises going head to head for all the affections of children and adults the nation over. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two attempts to conclude the long running franchise with a thrilling, emotionally satisfying conclusion, while Disney's Winnie the Pooh brings back a much older literary figure for a completely new adventure that targets the heartstrings of all the people who have ever been familiar with the honey loving stuffed animal. So is the marketplace going to be split, or does one have the sheer strength to out power the other?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oblivion's Been Knocking Since I Gave It My Address

The Illusionist (Chomet, 2010)

The previous year was an incredibly strong year for animated films the world over. Japan delivered the strongest showing with Summer Wars, Ireland brought the fantastic The Secret of Kells, and France yielded the joyous display of absurdity known as A Town Called Panic. And once again we find ourselves in France for Sylvain Chomet's adaptation of Jaques Tati's script for The Illusionist. While Chomet plays his comedy in a broad sense, likely a departure from Tati's signature style, the pull of the film is located in its ability to balance strong emotional scenes with the tension of an ever changing world.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wish There Was Something Real In This World Full Of You

A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner (Shortened Version) (Holland, 2011)

Earlier in this year J.J. Abram's latest film Super 8 made unapologetic plays toward the nostalgia of audiences the world over by hoping to tap in to childhood memories of beloved Steven Spielberg classics. With the latest made for TV Nickelodeon movie, A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!, we have appeal to a nostalgia that I think is likely still there for a large section of the audience, at least it's there for me, while still being able to draw in recent viewers who have taken a liking to the cartoon series that spawned the feature length live action adaptation. I still remember watching the very first episode of The Fairly Odd Parents, actually the pilot on that cartoon collection thing that Nick had which was similar to Cartoon Network's What A Cartoon, and finding, alongside a great block of animated programing that Nickelodeon was pushing out at the time, another show that I became instantly addicted to for a good deal of time. But all too many times with these types of movies making the transition from animated series to full on film is even more difficult than turning a television show into a movie in the same format, so despite being interested in the cast I was even more excited to see how the movie handled this transition.

I've Been Wandering The Desert For A Thousand Days

Singin' in the Rain (Donen and Kelly, 1952)

Over the course of history the affection built up for certain ‘genre films’ has proven to be an incredibly fascinating phenomenon. In many cases the perceived notions are incredibly warranted, capably withstanding the test of time while still retaining the magic that originally marked a film as great. Dr. Strangelove is the epitome of the black comedy, Men in Black defines the summer popcorn movie, and Toy Story captures all the strengths of the ‘family film.’ All of these films take genre convention and present plots that are unique and engaging while also delivering memorable characters and experiences for the viewer to make the films memorable; however, for every Annie Hall there is a Sideways, a film that does enough to make it look unique while doing little to actually elevate the genre, yet it still ends up being heralded as a triumph. This confusion of style for quality brings us perfectly to one of the greatest offenders, Singin’ in the Rain.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

CEO, You Don't Have To See ID

The Green Hornet
(Gondry, 2011)

I had a chance to catch an advanced 3-D screening of Michel Gondry's latest film, The Green Hornet, last night, so I am taking a bit of a break from my 2010 coverage to venture in to the present. Never early enough to get a jump on the current year, especially when that jump involves the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind, and others. Not to mention a script from the men who penned Superbad, an Asian pop star taking up acting, and one of the more compelling comedians working today. So with all this talent involved this cannot possibly go wrong, right?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Box Office Battle - July 8th

One of the things that I have recently started loving about movies, thanks in no small part to a wonderfully fun game that I always seem to come in second place at over at the Filmspotting Forums, is keeping track of the box office. I know I tend to specialize in review here, but there's something thrilling about prognosticating about what Mrs. and Mr. Jane Q. Public will potentially be seeing this weekend, and exactly how much money each big new movie is going to make. So why not share my guesses with more than just my Filmspotting Circle (Google Plus trademark pending)? So how might this weekend's box office shake out? Well, let's do some projecting!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day of Reckoning: Harry Potter Announcement

You see that picture above? That's a photograph from London of thousands of people camping out for the London premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It premiered over there on July 7th (today!). I couldn't be there, so I am going to be doing the next best thing. If there's one thing I love more than Harry Potter, it's big, dumb elaborate stunts that test the very limits of my psyche. There is, perhaps, something incredibly appealing about the art of self destruction (this should be the title of the failed novel I attempt to write). It is with that mindset that I have decided to undertake what is, largely, an incredibly trying task. I am going to be watching all seven of the Harry Potter films back to back to back to back to back to back to back as a way to completely send one of my favorite series of all time out with a bang.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Taking on 2011 - Top Films (Q2 Quarterly Review)

It seems like it was only yesterday I was writing up my Top Tracks and Top Albums of 2011 so far. In fact, it was a couple of days before yesterday. Despite the year being phenomenal for music, as I was looking over the list of movies I have seen in 2011, the abridged list (so the one that excludes all the 2010 releases that I am carrying over because of Filmspots eligibility purposes) is incredibly top heavy. So much so that I almost considered just doing a Top Five Movies list at this point in time because I did not think I have seen ten 2011 movies that were worth dedicating entire paragraphs to at this point in time. The trade off, I think, is that the movies that are at the top of the list are, in many cases some of the millennium's best films. Be sure to look back on the Q1 Top Films list to see how things have shaken up since then. Now dim the lights, grab the old fashioned popping corn, and let's make a list.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Come On Pops, I Need A Little More Speed

Cars 2 (Lasseter and Lewis, 2011)

When I searched Cars 2 on, it was the first result, but right below it was (somewhat inexplicably) Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, another sequel that was lambasted by critics who apparently felt scorned. Prior to the release of Pixar's latest film Cars 2, there was a brouhaha regarding the movie's existence as nothing more than a mindless cash grab. It seemed like far before the movie was even screened for critics that it was practically destined to be shredded by the critical community. Now in the past I have had my share of problems with Pixar, as it always seems to me that since Wall*E the studio has done its best to artificially manufacture emotion for the sake of seeming profound. This notion was incredibly clear both in Up's sectioned off sections of emotion that were jarringly inserted alongside its broad comedy, and the same could be said of many of the scenes in Toy Story 3. So I entered Cars 2, a sequel to what I consider one of the worst of a catalog of mostly lackluster entries, expecting to come out, as many other critics were, completely furious. But in the end, I was mostly left wondering one thing: why?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Taking on 2011 - Top Albums (Q2 Quarterly Review)

My personal vendetta against 2011 continues along at a quick pace, following up the Top Tracks Q2 Review with a larger focus. We're going to be talking about albums, those complex monsters that haunt the innards of our iPods. Crackling on the speakers in the car during long rides, pulsating through ear buds while you're on the day's run, albums are meant to be digested. Even though the year is only half over, I am actually surprised at just how great a year it has been for music. Not to mention that my most anticipated albums are still to be released! Below we have the good, few marks of ugly from 2011. Before reading, check out how the list has changed as well, but catching up on the Q1 Quarterly Review of Top Albums. Here at Processed Grass I am all comprehensive, all the time!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Taking on 2011 - Top Tracks (Q2 Quarterly Review)

So, we have officially hit the halfway mark of the year. How are those New Year's Resolutions holding up? Mine had already been abandoned by the time I composed the first Quarterly Review, so now I have resolved to make no more resolutions. Even if that does not cure my shame and disappointment, I can at least take solace in the fact that this year has produced a number of great songs to inhabit this list. Just a forewarning, this list is going to be a good deal different from the Q1 Quarterly Review. More eclectic! More daring! More music!

Before we begin I should probably issue another short reminder: this is a Quarterly Review because I do them every three months, not because the list only contains songs released in these three months. They are all building to the final lists in January, and as such I think it is important to see the process up until that point. Both for myself and, hopefully, for you the reader. Some songs that were my favorites earlier have had time to sit, marinate, and fall or rise accordingly. These are the ideas that fascinate my mind! As usual, click the links to listen to the tracks. And with that, put the needle on the record!

Friday, July 1, 2011

In The Squares Of The City - In The Shadow Of The Steeple

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Bay, 2011)

I don't think I've ever really liked NASCAR. I know I enjoy elements of the sport, I know I am intrigued at pondering what it represents and where it finds its popularity, but as hard as I have tried I simply cannot discover the appeal on a large scale. As is the case with most sports the only real purpose is to assert dominance, and specifically in racing the appeal comes from watching the wanton destruction on the track when cars crash. Michael Bay's Transformers: Dark of the Moon - and the series in general - has always struck me as sort of similar to NASCAR. I understand it has a purpose, but I never really understood how this purpose is pragmatic. However, much like the motor sport I have attempted to love, perhaps even genuinely found flashes of excitement, I find myself ready to line up for each new entry that Bay attempts to pump out. So whether he is conscious of it or not (I don't think it matters much one way or the other), Bay has to be doing something right. Right?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Was Raised Up Believing I Was Somehow Unique

Cedar Rapids (Arteta, 2011)

Vacations seem like a foreign concept to me. Not because I don't take vacations, but mostly because the idea of seeking out an escape is always a way of thinking that I fear. However, I think the greatest appeal of a short escape, especially one taken by oneself, is the allure of being able to completely reinvent yourself. It provides an opportunity for a complete escape, an immersion in a new identity that challenges all the lies we tell ourselves in order to get by each day. It is this conceit that, at least partially, propels Miguel Arteta's latest film Cedar Rapids.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Taking on 2010 - Albums

It has been a while, the grass has grown, now we are back to being processed. With the year drawing to an end I have found myself compiling lists on top of lists in an attempt to make sense of the past twelve months in all venues of culture. Well, the ones I I feel comfortable discussing. Now I should probably do a Top 20 Tracks first, but I am still working my way through the Pitchfork list to make sure I have filled in my blind spots. Albums I think I have a fairly comprehensive list, and I can certainly expand on last year's list. I have not gotten a chance to listen to a few records I would still like to check out, but 33 records are probably enough for now, right? Right. Let's get to counting down.

Taking on 2010 - Tracks

I may have tipped my hand a bit by already posting my Top Albums of 2010, but I hope there are still plenty of surprises left for my continued conquest of all aspects 2010. Today I am going to be looking at tracks, but before I go on I should probably state that I am not including covers in this list. I am only including one song per band/artist. So far those are the only stipulations. Sadly, that means that Weezer's excellent cover of "Viva la Vida," likely the second best song of the year, is not eligible. It also means that "Monster" will not be making the list. With those possible marks of shame out of the way, we are on to the list.

Taking on 2010 - Supporting Performances

With the year officially over, and my inclusion of 2010 winding down as well, I need to start wrapping up my end of the year awards. Naturally I have not seen all the films I hoped to get to over the year, but life happens. I am going to try and continue to catch up with films that need to be seen, but for the most part I think I have had a chance to see most of the films that boast the buzzed about performances. It should probably be noted that I am only drawing from a sample size of 80 films for these lists.

Taking on 2010 - Top Performances

We walk a road, a long road. Follow up my previous Top Supporting Performances of 2010 post I now am going to take a look at those who occupy the screens for the majority of a film. The A-listers, the stars and starlets who dazzle us with those big performances, those few who have risen to the top of their profession, jumping from reel to reel with ease. As was the case with the Supporting Performances list, I have not seen every 2010 film but I have seen most of the contenders. I need to let it be known, mostly for the leading females (and two males, I reckon), that I have not seen Another Year, Blue Valentine, or The American. Apologies to all the terrific talents involved with those films. I also seem to be in a position where I will be counting Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives as a 2011 film because I do not think it is being released around me until April. With those two notices issued we move on to the leading men.

Monday, June 20, 2011

When The Lights Go Out, We'll Be Safe And Sound

Requiem for a Dream (Aronofsky, 2000)

Throughout my life I have had a number of tiny addictions, nothing ever completely self destructive or all consuming, but addictions nonetheless. However, as I watched the lives of the characters in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream play out it certainly seemed like all of my road bump dependencies were absolutely irrelevant. However, when approaching this movie it helped me to look back on the addictions that I have had in the past. Whenever I realized that I was becoming dependent, it always helped me to identify exactly what I was addicted to and either downsize its role in my life or excise it entirely. So as I watched Requiem I applied this strategy and quickly began to discover that the source of the addiction is completely terrifying.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Now In The Morning I Sleep Alone, Sweep The Streets I Used To Own

The Social Network (Fincher, 2010)

It seems that once every year a film comes out during 'Oscar season' that is labeled as immensely topical, a true testament to our time that perfectly captures a specific mentality that defines our world now, perhaps even defines a generation as a whole. Most of the time these films are mislabeled. Last year we had Up in the Air, the year before was Milk, and now it seems that David Fincher's The Social Network has taken the mantle of my generation's voice. However, just like all of these other films that are incorrectly labeled as purely topical ploys for attention, Fincher makes an attempt to transcend the times and deliver a cinematic experience from what appears to admittedly be a very topical concept: the invention of Facebook. So does Fincher deliver a film accessible by all, or something better left just for friends?

The Power In Your Voice. Your Rough Touch. You Keeping Care Of Me, Keeping Watch

The Tree of Life (Malick, 2011)

"Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding."

And with that brief verse from the Book of Job, Terrence Malick's latest - Palme d'Or winning - film The Tree of Life begins to lay the foundation for a thorough examination of humanity. Moments later we have the primary female voice, via trademark Malickian voice over similar to Badlands and Days of Heaven, posit a thesis that carries throughout the film: during life humans must either walk the path of nature or the path of grace. As we are thrown in to a small 1950's American town the movie makes it blatantly apparent that it casts a wide net, takes on a scope as large as life itself. It really is a beautiful juxtaposition to open the film with, starting as wide and expansive and then keeping those ideas contained to an incredibly specific, focused area. Malick presents the quintessential American life, 1950's USA white, middle class suburbia, and reaches for an understanding of the universal. And from there the film only grows.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I Shoot The Lights Out

Super 8 (Abrams, 2011)

As I was driving home today I thought back to my psychology classes in high school. One day we talked about multiple personality disorder. The details are sadly scarce, but I like to think that the concept has its place in cinema as well. That at some point during the construction of J.J. Abrams's latest film, Super 8, the split between Cloverfield~esque monster movie and coming of age tale ala almost any film that involves children and/or teenagers. The first genre has enough high points to make me interested, while the latter is my cinematic kryptonite, so despite Abrams making a direct appeal to Steven Spielberg nostalgia, of which I have none, I hoped that Super 8 would find a way to bring these two genres together for some huge awesome cinematic cocktail.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dreams That We Once Had, Did We Have Them Anyway?

Kung Fu Panda 2 (Nelson, 2011)

I have professed a few other times that I really love animated films. In fact, if I could just watch animated films for the rest of my life I would probably be perfectly happy, despite missing out on many other live action greats. However, recent American animated movies have generally left me mostly cold even when they have been generally regarded as 'successful' films. Kung Fu Panda 2 is a sequel to a film for which I have little love, so I entered the movie with fairly tempered expectations. But sequels, at least on a theoretical level, are supposed to be ways to improve, so I hoped that since the characters and world was established the film would be willing to deliver a few interesting action sequences situated around a competent story line. I do not ask for much, yet Kung Fu Panda 2 still does little besides disappoint. Why, Po? Why do you hurt me so?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I Am Just Different

X-Men: First Class (Vaughn, 2011)

By and large, I think of the first X-Men film to be one of the paramount movies to usher in the recent comic book movie craze, and I have actually enjoyed all of the X-Men films I have seen up to this point. Sure I skipped out on what looked to be an abysmal spin off entry with the recent X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but with a cast that bolsters Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy, and Jennifer Lawrence, a script from Bryan Singer, and at least an experienced hand orchestrating everything in Matthew Vaughn I was excited to go back in time and really see the characters who set this universe in action. But, given my adverse reaction to Vaughn's previous film, Kick-Ass, I entered with tempered expectations, hoping for more, but expecting little outside of another run of the mill origin story.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Assault on E3 2011: Nintendo Announces the WiiU

At this year's E3 Nintendo just kind of, sort of announced their new console: the WiiU. Supposedly this machine is a successor to the Nintendo Wii (missed nostalgia opportunity to call it the Super Nintendo Wii), but the focus of the conference was placed primarily on the new controller. This new device is a pad with two joy sticks, looking like a beefed up Playstation Vita that Sony showed off just a night prior. In what seems to be an attempt to fire back at Apple's dominance over the non-gaming electronic market, the new controller will also be a touch pad. What is really mind blowing, according to Nintendo representatives, is that the actual console can be playing some other form of media while the controller itself runs an actual WiiU game. Nintendo did not explain how this works, though I would have to guess that the two devices still need to be within some range of one another otherwise the 3DS seems to have become a bit more irrelevant (despite the announcements of a great slate of games earlier in the press conference).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Escape Is A Paradox, Because The Childhood Is Locked In That Music Box

Lemonade Mouth (Riggen, 2011)

I have had a long standing love/hate relationship with many of the Disney Channel Original Movies; however, with the release of The Suite Life Movie earlier in the year and the recent release of the newest in the long line of High School Musical~esque films, Lemonade Mouth, I am finding fewer things to complain about in regard to the movies that the company is making for the small screen. Anchored by a startling strong cast of Disney's newer stars (Bridgit Mendler and Adam Hicks) and some new comers (Blake Michael and Naomi Scott) who make up the rag-tag titular band, the movie has a solid foundation to build some momentum. So does the latest Disney Channel Original Movie ever elevate beyond the strong foundations and become a film worth the time of the many people who would readily dismiss it? That question is, unfortunately, a bit difficult to answer.

The premise of Lemonade Mouth is fairly simply: a group of high school kids form a band to speak out against an overly oppressive principal. They are led by for Wizards of Waverly Place guest star Hayley Kiyoko in the role of Stella. We'll probably learn some sort of life afirming lesson by the end of the film too. You know where this plot is going. However, the way it gets there is notably more mature than many of the other Disney films that have preceded it. There are illusions to jailed fathers, broken homes, and fathers wedding girls half their age or something. Most of these are only touched on briefly, and I fault the film for that, but that they would even be brought up without being there simply to manufacture emotion, but rather to add to the characters and their relationships, is encouraging from a film that could very easily be a mash up of Camp Rock and High School Musical.

And as you might expect from a mashup of those two franchises, the true pull of the film should be the music. Here's the thing, I have watched all of the HSM movies and both of the Camp Rock movies. It is tough to compete with a combination of Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers, and the high points of the Camp Rock soundtracks are better than the best of the songs from Lemonade Mouth, but this film probably has the most consistently enjoyable collection of songs from any of the other films. And actually, what I love about Lemonade Mouth is how the songs reveal themselves during the film. They are able to be showcased naturally, as organic parts of the plot. There are not the bombastic, jarring breaks of a High School Musical, nor is there the artificially manufactured superstar led camp of a Camp Rock. Much like Camp Rock or Once, Lemonade Mouth is a musical, but the music happens in a believable context, and unlike Camp Rocke high school environment is much more (Baudrillard be damned!) believable. And the film benefits because of that, the immediacy of the relationships between the band mates is felt more strongly. These years are fleeting, there is no time to let this dream slip away.

Lemonade Mouth is not an in depth look at the high school experience, and despite some solid camera work and a striking color palliate used visually in the film the movie is not a technical wonder either. But the five actors that hold the band together do turn in incredibly solid, and usually more so, performances that showcase a natural chemistry between all of them. Combined with a well rounded and incredibly enjoyable soundtrack, Lemonade Mouth is a movie with more than enough charm, and even some deeper topics, to stand on its own as a quality diversion from the more serious elements of cinema.

Netflix Rating: ***/*****


Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

Also I am on the old Twitter thing so I guess you can follow me at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Your Hair Is Brown. Your Eyes Are Hazel, And Soft As Clouds

Lost in Translation (Coppola, 2003)

At the heart of what is likely Sophia Coppola's most iconic film, Lost in Translation, is the idea of two lost individuals finding themselves in a land where reality mingles with artifice. Obviously this does not imply that Japan is some stand in for society at large, but the location should not be trivialized as it is in a film like Before Sunrise, where the location is tangential to the overall romance. No, here Tokyo is almost essential to the central relationship because it exists as just far enough away, displaced enough to ensure that Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) and Bob (Bill Murray) are going to have to spend some time together if only to pass the time, to have someone else who will listen. The film champions the most basic of human connections, and from there it continues to grow.

Coppola is known for being able to set moods in her films thanks to strings of visually evocative images that are interwoven with fairly simplistic stories. Lost in Translation proves to be no exception, especially for much of the first half of the film. Sure Murray is able to make the viewer empathize with a man who has apparently been beaten down by life. Despite being a once successful actor he is not passing on passion projects in order to cash in on his likeness. Johansson's Scarlett is just as aimless, being trapped in a relationship that keeps her locked away during the days and nights, simply passing the time in this high quality hotel. What is a philosophy major to do? Contemplate. These are two people who may not be lost, so much as stagnant. And despite the beautiful construction of scenes the film sort of stagnates with a couple half laughs and some passing interest in the singular lives of these two characters, but it never really picks up until they both begin leaving the hotel behind.

Shedding the confines lifts a type of oppression from the film, and the the vibrant streets of Tokyo make for an excellent retreat from the retreat when paired with the energy between the two leads and Coppola's wonderful camera. A run through a Japanese pachinko parlor, basically a slot house/arcade hybrid if my American interpretation of the game is reliable, stands out as one of the early sequences where we can begin to see the bonds between the two developing. While it would not be difficult to put a decidedly sexual undertone to the whole relationship, it seems more to me that each are simply learning from one another. Charlotte seeks affirmation that her life will get better than Bob's, and he seeks reaffirmation that there's still reason to continue with his life. As the film continues to build it becomes stark, beautiful, and utterly heartbreaking because the script takes the initial simplicity and, seemingly naturally, stumbles upon some of the most honest and truthful dialogue ever written.

Some films thrive on flash, and while there are plenty of visceral thrills and pleasures to be had with Lost in Translation it really is the minimalism that makes the film work so perfectly, especially towards the end. You can dig in to the film and find a complexity that is as wide open as the final encounter between Charlotte and Bob. People don't live or die, people just float. And in many ways, this film is a beautiful exercise in people floating along before encountering another individual. Having that chance to be free, to bare your soul to another, to learn and interact. It's this sense of freedom that the film captures, juxtaposing with with the newness and construction of the travel experience. We can't hold on to these feelings, but it makes us wonder why we hold this freedom back from others, how we perform for the world, and what it means to not perform. Eventually we will go on floating again, how permanent is any relationship? Maybe everyone has the answer, Lost in Translation certain appears to, but maybe we just don't want to hear it, we want to never know.

Netflix Rating: ****/*****


Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

Also I am on the old Twitter thing so I guess you can follow me at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

These, These, These Are The Words - The Words That Maketh Murder

Scre4m (Craven, 2011)

Returning to Woodsboro, quite literally this time rather than the fictional return of STAB, a film series within the series based on the events of the first Scream, found in Scream 3, suggests that the Scream series is making an attempt to return to its roots. Sure the core characters have changed, the disdain between Sidney (Neve Campbell) and Gale (Courteney Cox) has disappeared as the two are now able to reflect on their past mishaps and enjoy a mostly peaceful present, but the cast is still primarily made up of Sidney, Gale, and Dickey (David Arquette) trying to figure out who is responsible for the latest in a string of Ghost Face murders. The problem with a return to Woodsboro after 15 years since the initial events in the story is that the horror genre has changed so much since then that the slasher is an antiquated subgenre. Not to mention that too much of the 'same' storywise could easy get stale.

Thankfully, Scre4m, from the very opening sequence, manages to avoid most of the pitfalls by embracing all of the elements that have made the three preceding films successes. Continuing with the appeals to the meta, the Williamson script has the film open with another occurrence of Ghost Face terrorizing on screen victims, but then it pulls out to reveal that it was a part of a STAB film. Nothing new for the franchise, we have seen this done before. However, this event is then recreated one more time, only to pull away in a reveal that the initial scene was the characters in STAB 7 watching the opening of STAB 6. Included are a few comments about the emergence of torture porn in modern horror, the changed rules, and some more banal, but humorous, jabs at the modern genre. These, though, are all mostly abandoned after that second pullout occurs to reveal the actual first two murders in the real town of Woodsboro. This opening sequence perfectly establishes the current perception of Ghost Face, clearly detached and a bit of a joke for the new generation in Woodsboro, while still making the audience aware that this is, in fact, a Scream film where the scares are going to come interspersed with commentary on how and why these events are happening.

The formula has worked for Craven so far, and Scre4m shows him in what may very well be top form. Craven has succeeded in the past when his camera is allowed to exert a sense of control over the audience. Through this control he is able to make the scares work and to keep the tension building throughout the film. In what may be a first for the franchise, the film actually maintains its tension as it continues closer and closer toward its conclusion. Most notable is a scene on a balcony where the score, the camera, the dialogue makes it almost apparent that one of the characters is going to be killed. A turn is made, a head-like figure is seen, but all is not as it seems. Taking this anticipation and withholding it is what makes the scares work, though none of this is possible without Craven's steady hand orchestrating the camera.

He also coaxes a number of fantastic performances from his entire cast. Most notably, and surprising, was the way that Hayden Panettiere as Kirby, one of the two main horror buffs in the movie. In fact, there is not a weak mark in the entire film, except for, perhaps, my favorite member of the cast: Emma Roberts. I will return to this and correct my misleading statement (I would likely argue that Roberts gives the film's best performance) when I throw up the spoiler tag and get more in depth with what each actor is asked to do throughout the film.

You know what? Now is as good a time as any to put up the SPOILER WARNING. If you haven't seen the film and do not want to know what happens, then you should stop reading. Basically, this film is very good, but below I will explain WHY it is very good!

What Craven does, and I suppose this is partly Williamson's writing as well since it seems to be a script decision, is find another meta layer that can easily be missed if you are not keeping an eye, and ear, out for it during the film. Emma Roberts plays Jill, Sidney's cousin and, eventually, one of the two killers behind the murders. What I find most interesting is that, I would assert that it is by no coincidence either, her character's full name is Jill Roberts. What seems to be happening throughout is a play on Emma Roberts's traditional roles. This is seen in her performance, where she is a bit subdued, mostly playing a standard teenage character. It lulls you in the entire time, completely diverts suspicion, and then she becomes unhinged in such a brutally natural fashion. It is a testament to her ability as an actress to make this change so quickly and sell it so perfectly. I would argue that the reveal actually makes Emma's performance all the more impressive in retrospect, giving a reason for her choices to play quiet and inconspicuous. And the way she eventually throws herself around and confronts Sidney is another masterwork in what is one Hell of a resume that she has put together. I should end this paragraph with the obligatory mention that seeing her kiss Rory Culkin reminded me of a sicker, inverted version of Lymelife, though I would not assume this was part of the writer's intention in the same way the use of surname is.

The way this revelation is handled, originally seeming quite ridiculous, is actually one of the film's strongest points as well. She attempts to frame ex-boyfriend Trevor (Nico Tortorella) and fellow conspirator Charlie (Rory Culkin) as the two killers, echoing Billy and Stu from the first film, in an attempt to garner the fame that Sidney possesses. The motivation behind Jill's murder actually gives the film something to say. She, quite simply, desires fame. Though it feels as if the film is moralizing a bit too much when she gives her monologue explaining why she joined up with Culkin's Charlie to recreate the Woodsboro murders, it does ask the viewer to think about the way that media has been, and can be, manipulated to completely skew a public image. This idea is further reinforced in the brilliant final scene where, after Jill makes one final attempt to kill Sidney and her crew and is killed in the process, outside of the hospital a number of news reporters are talking about how heroic her actions were. Personally, I think it would have been interesting to see Jill succeed in her attempts, getting rid of Sidney and existing as this successful antagonist, but the current ending is still beautifully poetic, and it does add that extra layer of theme to a film that, up until that point, only hints at the recurring idea of trust to hold it together.

Despite the Scream film never being about theme, it is nice to see the movie attempt to reach for some kind of commentary beyond the usual genre deconstruction. But that also does not mean that the deconstruction goes by the wayside. While not as fully fleshed out as some of its predecessors, the way that technology has integrated its way into the Scream universe is not shied away from in the film. Charlie and Robbie (Eric Knusden) are wired in youths who know their scary movies. Charlie explains that the killer should, in a modern context, be taping all of the crimes to immortalize his art. We see, at times, Robbie broadcasting his entire life to the world wide web. This strand of the story is never actually fleshed out, which is a shame because it could have been used to further deconstruct the modern horror where killers like Jigsaw play games with their victims, similar to the trivia games that Ghost Face is known for using. I had high hopes for how a world of Twitter and Facebook, where we are always connected, would manifest itself in a series where the killer preys on those who are never alone. Unfortunately this was not explored. The use of caller ID in the film is much more prevalent than it was in the older films though. A sign of the times. What I find interesting is that it is only an advantage to the killer, providing a reason for why, when the killer calls Jill on the way to school at the start of the film, she does not look to see who is calling. It's a nice touch, though I wish these touches, these ideas, were explored more in the film.

Though I suppose after 11 years off from the franchise there are bound to be a couple of missteps. It is a shame that some are so large, so prevalent in a film and series that are all about the meta level; however, not enough to make Scre4m a disappointment by any stretch. In fact, since seeing the film I may even go as far as saying that it is my favorite entry in the franchise. It's the only film where the tension is never let go, where the excitement is always there, and where the ending actually makes the previous parts of the film more interesting (though I guess the first film does this as well, to a lesser extent). Does the plot sometimes harken back to the first Scream film too much? Possibly, but it also subverts that film and takes on an identity all its own. Therein lies the beauty of Scre4m. It expands the world on a both a contained and meta level, the characters, and is one enjoyable ride with a lite bit of thematic depth that the series is not known for. Sometimes that's all I need.

Netflix Rating: ****/*****


Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

Also I am on the old Twitter thing so I guess you can follow me at

Friday, April 15, 2011

You're Keeping Control Of The Knife, But I'm Not Your Darling

Scream 3 (Craven, 2000)

The question I was left with at the end of my Scream 2 review was exactly how Craven was going to continue layering more levels of self referential material on the series without it eventually breaking apart. After watching Scream 3 it seems almost obvious that the best way to handle the world within the world within the world of Woodsboro would be to have the characters meet up with their on screen counter parts. What could be better than Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) teaming up with fake Gale Weathers (Parker Posey) in an attempt to uncover the mystery revolving around a string of murders in the latest STAB film, STAB 3: Return to Woodsboro?

The answer to that question is rather easy: bring back Randy (Jamie Kennedy) for a video taped cameo where he gets back to what made him most effective in Scream: laying out how exactly these trilogies work. Apparently, as Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is once again hunted down by a new masked Ghost Face, all the bets are off. The killer should become superhuman, capable of taking as many bullets as possible to the chest without dying, becoming a supernatural presence in the film. Craven plays up this bit nicely, showing the Ghost Face figure being shot at, apparently uncaring about any of the bullets that have hit him. He even makes it believable by portraying Sidney as a tad mentally unstable. She hears her dead mother speaking to her throughout the film, which all ties back to the killer's plan to reveal the truth about Maureen Prescott. It would be easy for the film to go off the deep end with the supernatural, odd considering how grounded in reality the rest of the series has been, but perhaps fitting in the way that genre is broken down. I'm glad Craven kept to continuity rather than deconstruction though, as it allows for a much more cohesive viewing experience and a more emotionally engaging film

The central mystery in the film is a compelling point, and Craven gets back to generating scares by blending his steady camera with an occasionally deceptive score. Even the reveal at the end works nicely in the context of this film, and the series up until that point. Still, the main attraction has to be the way that the movie sets itself up as a metacommentary on the industry that has spawned it. Specifically, what works in this entry is how the killer plays with identity in order to create a sense of unstable bonds between a primary core of characters who have twice survived similar situations. It also asks the viewer to question what is happening in the film, a device that plays well with the fabrication of location that serves as the STAB 3 set. In this near perfect recreation of Woodsboro, we explore a world we know, only for something as trivial as the opening of a door to reveal that our sense of place is being completely manipulated. Just looking at the way that Craven crafts these scenes, that he uses artifice to refer to artifice, demonstrates his mastery over his material.

In the previous two films, the series has dabbled in the implications of its characters's actions both in relation to the genre, and simply as characters. The most genuine moments of Scream 3 can be found when Sidney is asked to reflect on herself. Does fear ultimately control Sidney, the cipher through which the audience is meant to experience this world? Where does the line between blameless killing and deplorable murder exist? The film probes at these questions, I think I may have to give up hoping that anything of substance will be reached by watching the series, but I still cannot help feeling at least slightly unfulfilled even if the entertainment value was back up in this movie.

Still, when Scream 3 works, it works overtime for double pay.The highlight of the film that I come back to is found early on when one of the actresses in STAB 3 is asked to read the lines of the script over the phone. The moment is played perfectly, with enough sinister undertones that you know at some point the scene will go wrong, but also asking the audience to know to make this association by reworking the initial dialogue from the first film. The second movie in the series also attempted to do this as well, but we had a screen separating us, here the results were going to be real. The Scream series has gone from deconstructing cinema to deconstructing reality, and in doing so asking each viewer to ask how much of a difference is found between the two. It goes as far as having Jay and Silent Bob make baffling cameo appearances, characters within characters. Perhaps even within characters. When do they stop becoming characters?

As the series evolves we see technology evolving with it. The cell phones become slightly smaller. Caller ID is replaced by *69. It is hard, at times, to ever make these characters feel truly alone. When this happens, Craven examines vulnerability. Does Scream 3 always generate fears? No. But it does manage ambition, to capture a changing world in a world that is completely fabricated. Craven taps in to the basest of human fears and juxtaposes it with the modern context where no one is alone. As I prepare to enter Scre4m, the developments between the turn of the millennium and the present day are ripe for examination and exploitation in a way that, I hope, only Scream can tackle.

Netflix Rating: ****/*****


Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

Also I am on the old Twitter thing so I guess you can follow me at