Sunday, July 20, 2014

Movie Review: Purge: Anarchy

The Purge came out last year, a new idea on the future in horror movie form.  The first movie centered around a family who sold security systems in America for the one day a year when all crimes were legal, including murder.  The idea was a population control mechanism, though it didn’t seem to always work out that way, being a way for people to kill others.  The movie alluded to crime dropping significantly because of this one day, letting people act out their aggregations in a ‘healthy’ way.

The only flaw of the first movie is that it followed one family and the revenge the neighbors wished to enact upon them.  In this sequel, the original is a distant memory and now the world is acclimated to this activity and the viewer follows the lives of several different groups who are being pursued for being out and not at home during the annual night of the purge.

The different groups that are followed were rather stereotypical, yet they still added a little variety through the narrative allowing them to buck the norms that would be expected for each character.  The person who you might think would be the first to die, isn’t who you expect and it flies in the face of a lot of what we expect.

What this sequel did that built off of the original is it gave context to the first movie, to what society would be like if this were a reality.  If the world turned to this, there would be order in the chaos, but there would be those who would realize that this is a way for the government to control the lower classes, as they were the ones who were purged more than the wealthy.  The story took some eventful turns which kept me engaged and interested throughout.  This is a nice entry to the horror movies that have come out in 2014.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Movie Review: Snowpiercer

In most cases I don’t go in for the triple AAA Hollywood action movie.  When I go to the movies, while I do like to be distracted, I want it to have some semblance of order and not just be over the top.  When I read about this movie in Entertainment Weekly, they made it sound like it was a new-age action movie, something I’d never seen before.  That wasn’t entirely true, but it wasn’t wrong either.  The movie delivers enough story to make the over-the-top action seem like a second element to the story itself.  There may be SPOILERS below, if you plan on seeing this movie and want to be surprised.

The premise of the movie centres around a train that is travelling around the world, which has turned to ice for reasons that were never established.  Chris Evans plays Curtis, a man who is stuck in the back of the train, what would be considered steerage of the Titanic.  The train is comprised of different sections where people who paid more live in the lap of luxury, and those who don’t, they are relegated to live in poverty.  With the outside world gone, the class system is preserved in this train.  Curtis leads the back of the train forward in an attempt to take the train and no longer be cowed the affluent. 

The story unfolds with a delightful ensemble cast supporting Evans, including Tilda Swinton playing a love-to-hate villain as well as Octavia Spencer as a crazy mother separated for her son.  There was also a father-daughter combo who were playing a very curious role of seemingly addicts, but the addicts were collecting the drugs for use as an explosive as opposed to abusing.  When Evans finally gets to the end of the train, the story twists again, revealing the plot that he was set up to come forward from the beginning and must now decide to inherit the role of the man in the engine room or not.  The movie ends in a chaotic sort of way, perhaps to give us hope that the world hasn’t ended, but it still looks bleak.  A very unusual action adventure that kept me engaged and guessing.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Movie Review: Deliver Us From Evil

My penchant for wanting to see horror movies gets tested time and again.  You’d think at some point here I would learn my lesson, but lucky for you, alas no, and I went to see this latest scary movie.  For some reason, I often feel like scary movies should come out when it’s cold out.  Like summer horror movies seem odd, unless they’re set in a summer setting.  Regardless, Eric Bana is easy on the eyes and that alone makes this movie passable.

There really isn’t much new to this story.  Though the story claims to be based on true events, little of it seems startling.  In essence, it almost flies in the face of the concept that reality is more frightening than fiction, because I’ve been more frightened by fiction (and my sister’s pants) than reality, sometimes.  This movie doesn’t even compel me to research how much of the story was Hollywood-ised vs. the original.  I do want to say that if any of those things were real, even one, then I sympathise and apologise to Sgt. Sarchie for any defamation of character or integrity.

Have you seen the Exorcist?  Okay, then you know what you’re getting into.  If you want to be surprised, then stop reading.  Basically, this movie is about a disbeliever (Bana), who starts experiencing crazy, unexplainable things and is brought back into the fold of Catholicism once he realises that only the power of Christ compels you.

What makes this movie so overdone is that there is nothing new to it.  The scares are just that, and I did cover my eyes every once in a while, but at the end of the movie, I didn’t feel scared and it didn’t stick with me.  The story actually unfolds in an interesting way, but the ending is so anticlimactic, sort of, that it makes the build-up seems like a waste.  I understand that endings are hard and based on true events, perhaps they didn’t want to make something out of thin air, but I felt like there were so many more questions besides what happened to the main police officer, especially when there were so many other loose ends.  This movie could have been better, more closed, but it wasn’t and that’s why I can’t actually recommend it.  With no other horror movies out, this might be your only option.  For $7 at AMC, it wasn’t a complete waste.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Girls Rule the World

I had been hearing about this book, Lean In, for a while now.  At first, it didn’t play any differently than any other self-help book, to be honest.  The stories became more familiar as I continued reading and I realised that while I may never like Sheryl Sandberg (the flaunting of riding an e-bay plane stuck out in my mind), she makes some very valid points.

Sandberg chronicles her own experiences throughout her career and touches on a lot of issues that we, as women, face in our daily work lives.  Gender roles dictate a great deal of our behaviour and those traits are sometimes hard-coded from birth.  The key, Sandberg espouses, is that we must both recognise this and act upon it.  The trouble is that not only are we as women guilty of it, which is bad enough, but it is compounded by what we already know.  The crux of the message is to not only be aware of it, but to make others aware of it as well.

With each story, Sandberg shows the reader how a situation is shaded by the assumption of gender-based roles, men being better at women at certain things and the reverse.  A recurring image is women working outside the house and men being stay-at-home dads.  The goal being that neither should strike anyone as strange and it is incumbent upon all of us to shake off what we might want to assume and help enable people, no matter their gender, and allow them to be their best, in whatever role they choose.  In many ways, her teachings of equality would fall in great with the LGBT community as well.

To say that this is recommended reading isn’t quite enough.  This book didn’t change my life, not as the Mistake book I’d mentioned a few blogs ago, but it certainly will help me reflect upon things I am capable of changing.  Therein lies the issue, there is what you can change, and the many things you can’t.  If we all do our best to alter our perception, ever so slightly, we might find success a lot closer than we thought.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Movie Review: Maleficient

It seems that Disney has somehow created a Renaissance for themselves, the rest of Hollywood should really take note.  Instead of rehashing the same tired story, how about taking a new spin on an old story?  This movie takes the story of Sleeping Beauty and gives the vantage point of what made the witch evil, as has been done in Wicked.

The story follows a fairy, both strong and beautiful, who befriends an ambitious young man.  Instead of returning her affections, he spurns her, cutting her wings off and giving them to the king so he can be king.  The witch, in all her rage, curses the small child.  The curse is not to take effect until her sixteenth birthday and in that time, the witch befriends the child and her three nurses (who are actually fairies).  In time, the audience sees the witch soften her heart, growing fond of and caring for the child as a mother would.  When the curse is about to take effect, the witch realises her mistake and tries to undo it, but to no avail.  She then goes in pursuit of a prince to awaken the young girl, but the kiss has no effect.  It is only when the witch kisses the girl does she awake, as only a kiss of true love, not necessarily romantic love, breaks the curse.  The king tries to kill the witch, but ends up dying instead.

What made this movie so intriguing was the idea that the evil witch might not be so evil after all.  The idea that the story is told from the ‘good’ perspective is something we often take for granted.  I saw this with my cousin, who mentioned a famous quote I’ll be paraphrasing now, history is written by the winners.  In that sense, this movie was told by the loser, so to speak.  The unfortunate thing is that the retelling completely debunks the original ending, if I remember it correctly for the cartoon.  I doubt there was a way to give a happy ending in addition to being true to the original.  While this movie comes in 3D, I saw it in regular definition and it was wonderful as is.  This one is well worth seeing no matter your age.

Movie Review: White House Down

When you’re spending time with the family, you can’t always select the movie being watched.  When I first saw the trailers for this movie, it didn’t interest me.  I watched it this past weekend and my interest didn’t increase.  The only thing that could have saved this movie might have been shirtless Channing Tatum, or possibly a new idea.  I think RedBox was all this movie was worth.

The story, try to act surprised, is a man (Channing Tatum), takes his daughter on a tour of the White House and it gets attacked by terrorists.  There is some more story to unfold here, but ultimately he ends up having to save the president and his daughter from the terrorists and gets a job out of it.  That’s it, pretty much.

In a nutshell, this movie is about guns, blowing things up and all things manly and making women weak and in need of saving.  I think I’ve just described ninety percent of what Hollywood has to offer.  It was like every tried and true idea was used and abused and while Channing Tatum is easy on the eyes, and Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of ‘Obama’ was entertaining, that can’t save a bad movie from an overused ending.  Not worth seeing, except free or for a dollar, maybe.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pop Culture and Philosophy: Ultimate HP

I still remember the first pop culture and philosophy book I picked up, the Simpsons one.  To this day, almost without exception, if I’m familiar with the pop culture, I pick the book up if it is made.  In some cases, the books are exceptional, in other cases, less so.  The first Harry Potter themed book was published before the final Harry Potter novels were released, and I felt it was incomplete and lacked punch, much like the Twilight book (though, in fairness…look at the source material).  This Ultimate Harry Potter book makes up for any shortcomings from the first edition, providing fresh takes on the same theories.

If you’ve never read any of these novels, there is a certain cadence that they all carry.  Most essays, and each book is broken up into twelve or more essays that range from any and all topics that are considered in any one series.  In the Harry Potter series, as with the novels, there are a myriad of topics that can be broached.  The editors tried to separate them based on similar subjects with mixed results.  In each book, there are always essays that are far superior to others.  In this novel, I found one out of every two or three essays were outstanding, while a few were uninspired.

The most compelling essays in the novel dealt with Harry’s brush with death and his moral character, citing his flaws and abilities to learn from them.  With this edition covering all seven Harry Potter books, it became clear that all most all the essays ultimately ended up spending great amounts of time on the sacrifices of characters like Snape, Dumbledore and Harry, spending far less time on any other characters.

I feel like I can never do an adequate job of summarising why the overall book is good or bad, relying on the feeling I got once I was done.  For the most part, the essays made me think, and that is what any good philosophy will do.  It isn’t about convincing you to change how you think, but to make you think at all.  This novel makes you think, and if you’re a fan of Harry Potter, then you will find the examples compelling enough to hear out, but may get stuck when some essays drone on about the same thing.