Sunday, September 30, 2012

Green Bay Packers

I just had to put this up!

The new Bond film

     The movie looks very interesting and impeccably filmed by Roger Deakins. Let's hope it is much better than the previous Bond film Quantum of Solace. The new Bond film Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes and the villain played by Javier Bardem looks to harken back to the classic vile characters of the Connery years and the villains that want to rule the world through fear and corruption. 



     Wow! Let me start off by just saying how enjoyable and flat out brilliant this show/miniseries is from the BBC. It is so great to watch a program that is so inventive, intelligent, engaging, addictive and filled with outstanding acting, writing and top notch production value. Sherlock is a perfect, modern day update of the classic stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous works of the infamous sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his colleague Dr. John Watson. Watching this series is like watching a high end movie that delivers on all levels and is never, or at least so far, disappointing and proves that shows and series can be has exciting and innovative as a feature length motion picture when the writing, acting and production value is at that top of its game.
     The series, which consists so far of two seasons of three episodes, each episode being right around an hour and half each, and I really hope there is another season, brings modern day, 21st century technology into to all the cases of the eccentric consulting investigator with the London police and a hyper kinetic flow of energy brought to the character of Sherlock Holmes by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch. He brings such great humor, excitement and a detestable, ironic disposition to all whom cross wits with him. He has totally encapsulated Mr. Holmes with an idiosyncratic way of isolation from anyone who attempts to out smart him or undo his massive ego and ability. Holmes has no friends, although Dr. Watson, played with exceptional humor and an understated sense of irony and heart by Martin Freeman is the closest thing he has to that feeling of companionship, platonic and sexual, but not in a physical way. Cumberbatch brings great honesty and skill to the role, where at times when Holmes can examine someone for less than a minute and give an almost life history to the examinee with super speed talking and investigative bravura that is just plain brilliant and shows the immense talent in his acting and in the writing of the series.
     The series takes great Holmes stories such as "The Hound of Baskerville" and "The Scandal of Bohemia" and gives them such life, humor and thrills. Co-created by Mark Gatiss, who also plays Sherlock's powerful and mysterious brother Mycroft, and Steven Moffat, who both have helped reinvent and write episodes for the extremely popular and cult followed Doctor Who, have created a contemporary drive for the classic stories of Doyle's work. I'm bias. I love British crime and thriller shows. I have always loved Helen Mirren in all the Prime Suspect episodes and am very fond and thrilled by Luther starring Idris Elba but those pale in comparison to Sherlock. Being a film lover it a joy to constantly be looking at the mise-en-scene in all films and shows, even though I really don't watch all that much TV unless its from HBO, Showtime, AMC and the BBC, and the care and attention to detail in this program is beyond words. The score is an inquisitive and thrilling piece of music that gives a beautiful sense of humor and tension to a show that is constantly funny and exhilarating. And the cinematography is so smooth and breathtakingly films London and its beautiful skyline and streets with colorful gusto and panache.
     The real value of the show is in the relationship between Sherlock and Dr. Watson. Cumberbatch and Freeman are at the top of there profession. In this program they feed off each other with such brilliance and ease that brings such great harmony and frustration to their relationship. Sherlock is not a people person and does not have any friends. The cops use him when there intellect and skill set is out matched, which, according to Sherlock is the majority of the time. He is not a private investigator, but a consulting detective. A profession he has created and basically gets the London police out of trouble when they do not have the intellect or creative ability to solve the numerous cases they are confronted with. Sherlock is egomaniacal and has the hubris of a megalomaniac. He knows he is smarter than anyone around him and is not at all hesitant in lambasting those so-called professionals that desperately need his help, even if they wont admit it. He is sarcastic, a smart ass and fully obsessed with keeping his brain turning and turning. Sherlock could be akin to having Asperger's disorder in that he is not very good with social interaction, but is fixated on a vast intellect that keeps his mind going at a hundred miles an hour and never worries about what other people are concerned with outside of the case and the task at hand. Sherlock has no respect for your privacy and lack of intelligence, and only wants something exciting and extremely challenging to focus on. But, Dr. Watson, who in the show is an Afghanistan war doctor and veteran meets Sherlock through a friend and becomes Sherlock's flat mate at 221B Baker Street, and in a tough way brings Sherlock some normalcy and just a smidgen of compassion. Sherlock constantly says he has no friends, but Dr. Watson throughout the series becomes not only his partner in solving these numerous crimes, which Watson also needs desperately cause he so bored with modern day life after the anxieties, scares and rush of war, but he is his one and only friend. The relationship is pitch perfect with peculiar sleuth and his partner. Oh yes, there is one more infamous character that is the only true challenge and equal to Sherlock's massive intellect and ego, Moriarty. Moriarty pops up throughout the series and constantly knows how to challenge and craves that challenge with Sherlock Holmes because in the end, these two equals are the only ones that can truly test each other at the game.
     Sherlock is one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life, hands down. My favorite show and films are thrillers. Anything containing crime, psychology, horror and politics and I'm usually sucked in. I love Hitchcock films because there is always a twist at the end or a person that is accused of doing something he or she did not do. I like movies that make you think and test your knowledge instead of just inundating your head with CGI and music sympathy that basically tells you what to think. Shows like the BBC shows I've aforementioned as well as Breaking Bad, The Wire, and Game of Thrones are shows I'm fascinated with but none are like Sherlock. Sherlock is a fascinating work that is demanding, darkly funny and full of thrills. Thank you BBC for creating this adaptation of Doyle's great stories and I truly appreciate a show that doesn't play down to its audience and constantly keeps this viewer excited and wanting more.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Man

Everybody, if anyone is out there. Today is the birthday of one of the greatest individuals the world has ever known. A man of refined tastes and impeccable bravado. He is a cultural icon, the coolest human on the planet, a magnificent thespian, a comedian of the highest class and ability. He is a hero, a legend and, from what I've read, an master of the golf arts. Sports enthusiast and avid supporter and fan of all teams in Chicago, as well as the state of Illinois. The one... the only...  BILL F***ING MURRAY!


The Cabin In The Woods

Directed by Drew Goddard
Written by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon

            The horror genre of filmmaking is filled with so many clichés that anybody who has seen a horror film from the dawn of cinema F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and the original monster films of the 1930s, to the current obsession with gory, blood-soaked cinema, the Saw franchise, can pick them apart. Add to the fact that many of these films have been told, retold and retold again without suggesting any chance or attempt at reinventing the genre and taking this fun, mindless, eyeball orgasm enjoyment of cinema in a new direction. We might have found, at least with this raucous ride, a film that plays on all clichés and characteristics and puts a little spin on it that rehabilitates the horror genre and if not completely a “game-changer,” (the internet buzz was ecstatic and oozing with fanboy excitement when this film premiered at the 2012 South by Southwest Media Festival in Austin) gives hope that there are directors and writers that or trying to think out of the box. Well, thought out of the box a little bit with The Cabin in the Woods.
            The story revolves around five college students that go away for a weekend to woods, where, yes, guess what, there is a cabin in pretty much the middle of nowhere. Things go awry and one-by-one we see the demise of these young individuals. Now, I know that doesn’t sound to different than any other amalgamation of horror films from the isolated cabin in Sam Raimi’s mind-exploding, all-time favorite of mine The Evil Dead series, and the young kids, some full of innocence and some full of arrogance and sexual temptation, going to camp or summer vacation similar to Friday the 13th films. Remember, bad monsters do not like pretty woman, cocky guys, intelligence and most of all, SEX. They have some kind of deformity that causes a jealous outrage and they want to purify these sexually induced teens and college kids of their carnal desires. But, Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s film plays on all these genre-laden clichés and stereotypes, and supplants a comical twist on a game of supposed free will and straight up fun filmmaking.
            The Cabin in the Woods is best seen, like most horror or thriller movies, well any film for that matter, going in with as little information at all. I really hate it when you talk to people that have seen a movie before you have and they give away plot details and scenes. Let me see the movie first and just tell me your opinion about it without giving too much away, thanks. The unknown of what the hell is going on and the comedy fuels the film. Yes, the comedy is really good. It contains an orgy of great references and a true appreciation of the horror genre. The movie is a great break from the formulaic splatter, torture porn cinema that has been over done to death, not to say it doesn’t contain its moments of gore, but in the end the things that make the film stick out also cause it to be somewhat disappointing and a little drawn out in the end. But, check it out. It’s a horror film and they usually are the best escapist cinema and loads of fun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Franklin Experience

     So, I believe, and I'm pretty sure cause I've given a week to settle in, that I've experienced the best Barbecue in not just Texas, but the whole country:  FRANKLIN BARBECUE!!! It is freaking fabulous. I went there with my wife on a Wednesday and knew that was the best chance, during the middle of the week to hopefully not wait in line forever. I work with some fans of the place and read the article about Chef Aaron Franklin in Texas Monthly. I knew that rumors and mystic of this, now, Austin, Texas institution. The lines can last for  hours and the joint opens at eleven and closes when the run out of meat, usually around two. Yes, I was very excited for this chance and honestly, didn't care how long I had to wait or how much it cost. When the foodie world is buzzing about a place that is said to have the best barbecue in Texas, you have to check it out.
    My wife and I got there at 9:30am and were about, oh I'd say tenth in line. We brought some reading material, but most of the time enjoyed each others company, the love of my life, and the company and companionship of the other patrons in line. The smell was intoxicating, let me tell you. Once the doors opened it took about twenty minutes to get to the counter where the owner, Mr. Franklin, is talking to everyone that orders and is cutting the meat right in front of you. There is something great and appreciative about a chef or a "bbq-ologist" that is communicating with his customers and gives you a great feeling of class and the laid back, homey attitude that thrives throughout Austin. Oh yeah, Austin is without a doubt the best city to live in Texas: great music, films, food and environment.
     I ordered the brisket, fatty of course, sausage and turkey, while my wife got the pulled pork sandwich. Unbelievable I tell you. The brisket was juicy and melted in your mouth, trust me, you didn't need to hardly chew it; the sausage had great snap, don't laugh, and a great peppery flavor; and the best of all was the turkey, awesome!!! So tender, so juicy, so unctuous. Best turkey I've ever had. And my wife's pulled pork was I gigantic sandwich of nothing but wonderful goodness. I'm telling you, anyone that may read this, go to Franklin Barbecue. Yes the line can wrap around the wood and turquoise building and you may get told in line that you are too far back and may not get served, but you have to go. The ambiance is great, the menu on the wall is written on butcher paper and the beer is cold. Go people and you'll not regret it. And sorry Lockhart. Your barbecue is great, my favorite being Black's, but you don't have anything on Franklin's. The man is a genius.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Also this fall

In addition to those 5 films I mentioned, I am also very intrigued by:

                                    The Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell
                                    Cloud Atlas by The Wachowski's and Tom Twyker
                                    The Place Beyond The Pines by Derek Cianfrance


     The best time of year is upon us, well actually we are already in it. For the most part, the best movies of the year are beginning to tour the fall festival circuit, or at least the one's I'm usually looking forward to and also better movies and rest from wham bam, CGI infected films of the summer. Football, college and pro is beginning, with the exception of my team, the Wisconsin Badgers, really sucking it up today. I mean, you got to be able to run better than that against Oregon State and especially when you are known for your running game. Being from Wisconsin although I was born in Texas, lived in WI for 20 years, then moved back to TX to complete college, I root for my teams and universities from both states. The ideal situation is for a UW v. UT national championship game, but that will never happen, but there is great possibility of a Green Bay Packers v. Houston Texans Super Bowl. One can only hope. And then, my favorite sport, basketball begins in a couple of months.
     Also have Austin City Limits Music Fest in about a month, can't wait to see Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Iggy and the Stooges, Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys. Then the Austin Film Festival which I hope to attend a couple of screenings and volunteer. The fall is my favorite time of year and finally this damned heat SLOWLY begins to descend and shit, maybe by December it will actually feel like fall weather.
      Movies, movies, movies!!! It's my passion and I'm obsessed with them. My most anticipated films for the next 4 months:
                                     The Master by Paul Thomas Anderson
                                     Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino
                                     Seven Psychopaths by Martin McDonagh
                                     Amour by Michael Haneke
                                     Argo by Ben Affleck
At least are my 5 most anticipated as of right now.

The best movie I've seen so far this year was without a doubt Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson. A great continuation of Anderson's beautiful style and attention to detail, but a heartwarming and sometimes anxious look at childhood romance and confusion in growing up. And great respect and love for Richard Linklater's Bernie with maybe the best performance of the year from Jack Black. And also really, really loved Christopher Nolan's completion of his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. A complex and adult summer blockbuster that proves once again the talent and abilities of Nolan and that summer don't have be dumbed down for American audiences with explosions, CGI and lame, unrefined storytelling. The action, drama and the great acting make this film very special and worth multiple viewing.
    Like always, keep watching and loving movies.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Killer Joe

Directed by William Friedkin
Written by Tracy Letts

“Killer Joe” is a dark and twisted Texas hillbilly noir, set in a Dallas trailer park that has seen better days. The film, directed by Academy Award winner William Friedkin (The French Connection and The Exorcist) combines elements of degrading horror with the slow burn of a classic, dark film noir. It focuses on a family that is out of touch with any form decency and humanity, and will do anything, and I mean anything, to out do the others. The film is not for the faint of heart, or stomach for that matter, with grotesque scenes of violence and inconsideration for human life. It doesn’t deliver on every level, although some scenes will be hard to erase from the viewers mind, but is a must see for the brilliant cast and gorgeous cinematography by Caleb Deschanel.
The story revolves around the Smith clan, initiated by Chris, played with unsettled enthusiasm and ignorance by Emile Hirsch, and after his mother steals his drugs leaves him in debt to his drug dealers. Chris devises a plan to murder his mother and claim a $50,000 life insurance policy, and hears of Killer Joe Cooper, the wonderful and devilish Matthew McConaughey, a police detective who murders for hire on the side. Chris convinces his dim-witted, beer-drinking father Ansel, played by the wonderful Thomas Haden Church to assist him in this plan. These reckless men do not have the cash up front to pay Joe and Joe wants a retainer until they have the money, that retainer being Chris’ sister Dottie. Played by Juno Temple in a haunting and unsettling role of a naïve, young girl who is in for more then what she knows and is being a useful pawn in this ill advised plan. And not to forget Sharla, a toned down, make-up smeared Gina Gershon who has many fingers in the scheme as well. These events sets in motion a series of violent and comical scenarios that lead to this disgusting thriller that has no end of goodness in sight.
The film is filled with nudity, sex and hardcore violence that delve the viewer into a chaotic world. The movie presents a deplorable world, not of just poverty and total disregard for human emotion and life, but the limits, and lack of, that people are willing to go to save their own ass from their own ignorance. Friedkin sets the mood with barking dogs, old vehicles, and thunderstorms that relentlessly present a set piece for the catastrophe the viewer is about to be spun into. The trailer park presents a downtrodden, economically depraved part of Dallas that gives a sense of neglect for one’s self and an elimination of progress in this part of town. The film doesn’t work on the fact that the characters are so deplorable and are sunk into their own misguided views on civility for their own family members. The constant dark humor that flows from this sickening group of townies, especially in the scene between Ansel and Chris where Chris describes what the retainer is to his father, is a great respite from the pure evilness of the characters and adds to the feeling of gory, unconditional horror in the film.
Throughout the whole film the star, and rightfully so, is McConaughey. He brings an eerie calmness and an unnerving coldness in his eyes to the main character that is so unsettling that I could never forget. His malevolent actions exemplify the ways you do not upset the man you have hired to perform his duty. Killer Joe will get paid no matter what he has to do, especially when he succeeds in his hired task. Killer Joe lives by a set of rules, a disciplined and necessary approach to keep his side business of killer clean and profitable. If these rules are broken you will not live to see the day past your stupidity and reluctance to abide by these rules will not go without violent punishment. McConaughey has delivered his best performance and has proven he can use his machismo and suave to more effective use, with a maniacal mentality that show his great range and growth as an actor.
Friedkin’s film, based off the play and written for the screen by Tracy Letts, the two collaborated on another of Letts’ plays “Bug,” has no problem in earning its NC-17 rating. The violence, and the uncomfortable use of a chicken leg will stay in my mind as long as I think of violent, horror films, but the performances in the end outweigh the actual film itself. This gothic, Texas thriller is beautifully composed, acted and directed but in the end, the incomprehensible depravity for human life and the disregard for your own family members leaves its mark with a disgusting after taste. The film is minor in Friedkin’s work with the exception of the fine performances, grotesque violence and that damn chicken leg. The film is minor in Friedkin’s work, but show that he has not lost his taste for the macabre and grotesque, and that damn chicken leg.