November 28, 2007


Thanksgiving photos...

Just added some photos I took over Thanksgiving...

Click here for the album.

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November 27, 2007


Review: The Mist

It just so happens; it IS a dark and stormy night...which is why its a very appropriate setting for watching a scary movie.

I just saw The Mist (IMDb) (Trailer), adapted and directed by Frank Darapont, based on a novella by Stephen King, (Note: This is the third feature-length project Darapont has worked on based on a King story; the other two: The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile. Interestingly, although this is not Darapont's first horror/thriller film, the genre King is best known for, this is the first feature-length horror/thriller Darapont has directed based on a King story.)

I appreciate the homage right at the start of the film to other classic horrors/thrillers... David Drayton, the main character, has in his home studio covers for books and films; he is an artist who makes covers for a living, one of which closely resembles the original cover for John Carpenter's classic horror The Thing (and in case you haven't seen it, is awesome!) which is appropriate because this film is very similar to The Thing—in both films a group of people are forced to isolate themselves to escape a supernatural menace. And in both it's more about how the characters interact than about the menace.

In The Thing, the characters are researchers in Antarctica isolated by frozen conditions. A wondering dog makes its way into their camp but, as it turns out, is really an alien life-form that has the ability to imitate other life forms it comes in contact with, and naturally it wants to kill and eat them. So, the researchers are forced to isolate themselves and band together.

The Mist is about a small town that undergoes an invasion of vicious creatures that coincides with a mysterious Mist that envelops and isolates the town. The characters are forced to take refuge in a small grocery store. In both films, as the desperation increases, the characters begin to turn on each other.

The Mist does an excellent job of contrasting extreme distorted religiosity with equally unyielding rationalism; both of which come to bloody conclusions; and it presents these points of view in such a way that as the viewer you're never quite sure which side the storytellers are on.

The best part of this movie is Marcia Gay Harden as Ms. Camody. She is so easy to despise; she is the real menace in this film. Good movies, especially those that deal with issues of morality and ethics, tend to have great antagonists. But antagonists are rarely acknowledged in awards ceremonies—if they were, Ms. Harden would deserve some recognition.

Note: The other cover in Drayton's studio at the start of the film is one his is painting which appears to be the main character from King's novel The Gunslinger, an amazing science fiction and first part of the Dark Tower series of novels. Does this mean there might be a film version of The Gunslinger from Darapont? That would be excellent.

overall, aside from some slightly campy dialog, The Mist is pretty good: 4/5

Darapont's next film will be an adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic sci-fi Fereinheight 451 (IMDb).


November 22, 2007


Reviews: Wristcutters, Lars and the Real Girl

I've recently been fortunate to see two excellent movies... Wristcutters: A Love Story, and Lars and the Real Girl.

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2007) - (IMDb) (Trailer)

Wristcutters is a film about a young man named Zia (played by Patrick Fuggit of Almost Famous) who as the film begins cuts his writs and then finds himself in an afterlife, where interestingly everything is exactly like it was before, except slightly less pleasant; and what could be a more appropriate punishment for someone who's fed up with life and commits suicide than to end up in a place that's exactly the same but worse. A place where, for instance, smiling is outlawed.

Soon into the film Zia and his new friend Eugene, a former Russian musician who offed himself on stage during a rock concert, begin a trek to find Zia's ex-girlfriend who offed herself shortly after Zia did. Along the way they meet a young woman along the road who is searching for the P.I.C. (People in Charge) who are alleged to be distinguishable by their white suites, because she believes she has ended up in that afterlife by mistake. Further down the road they meet up with a elderly man, played by Tom Waites, who gives an amazing performance as their mentor/lunatic guide.

Anyone who's ever experienced a mild to major depression in their lives may appreciate the afterlife described in Wristcutters. Its a place that will connect with anyone who's ever been in a listless place in their lives, not sure what to do or where to go, with no particular aim or goal in sight.

I don't want to give too much away but my particular favorite scene involves a group of people watching a slide show and hearing a story about a conversation between trees. It's a priceless moment. If you can appreciate absurd moments of surrealist humor then this film will give you plenty of moments to laugh. 4.5/5

Lars and the Real Girl (2007) - (IMDb) (Trailer)

Lars is one of the best films I've seen in a really long time. It stars Ryan Goslin who (coincidently?) was in one of the best films I watched from last year, Half Nelson (and if you haven't seen that, you should).

I went to see this movie without knowing a whole lot about it...Just that it had a good review on NPR, and from what bits and pieces I'd heard I was expecting it to be just a funny film about a guy with an obsession with sex dolls who is challenged to start a relationship with a real woman. But the film is not really about that at all; and it has so much more more depth...

Lars, lives an extremely quite and reclusive life; all the while, a pretty young woman living in the same small northern town, working at the same place, and attending the same small church, does everything she can to reveal that she has a huge crush on him. Despite this, Lars does all that he can to politely avoid any form of physical contact with anyone. That is, until his coworker unwittingly convinces him to purchase an “atomically correct” life-size female doll (usually purchased for sexual reasons) but in Lars' case purely as a supplement to real companionship—ultimately transforming into a delusion for Lars that she is a real woman needing his care.

But what makes the film great is how shows Lars' Brother and sister-in-law, his fellow churchgoers, as well as the whole town, and all of his co-workers all comming together to support Lars with his problem. Lars is a touching film about the compassion of the people in Lars' life. Here is the trailer (but DON'T WATCH IT; it gives away too much of the story. Instead, take my word for it, and just go and see this film). 5/5

November 19, 2007


Asheville Film Festival - 2007

Well it's come and gone; the 2007 Asheville Film Festival. It was last weekend (Nov. 8 - 11th). This was my second time going and I'm not planning on stopping anytime soon. As someone who loves movies going to a film festival is basically like visiting a holy land for me.

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Here are my reviews of this years films I saw that were in competition.

And here are some pictures I took of me and my friends in Asheville for the film festival.

My personal favorite was War/Dance, a documentary about Ugandan children living in a refugee camp because of the war between the government and rebel forces while preparing for a song and dance competition. It was powerful and moving, and very well put together.

Unfortunately because I was only there for the last two days I missed a lot of really interesting ones. Like this one.


November 5, 2007


New Pics...

I've added some photos I took of Charlotte and the first couple Habitat Houses I've worked on...


Reviews: Micheal Clayton, Stardust

I've had the chance to see some pretty good movies lately.

You can tell that writer/director Tony Gilroy has benefited from his experience writing the screenplays for the Bourne trilogy. Michael Clayton is intense from the absurd opening monologue to the climactic ending. The big difference between Clayton and Bourne is the absence of action sequences and violence, which Gilroy has proven is unnecessary to create a grippingly suspenseful movie. As with Bourne, the stakes involved are very high. One of the ways I can tell I'm watching something good is when the bad guys are just as complex and believable as the good guys. Too often the protagonist is given all the spotlight. But the bad guys are well established so that by the end it's difficult not to care if justice will prevail.


I've enjoyed several of Neil Gaiman's novels. So I was interested to see a trailer a while back for a movie adaptation of one of his stories I've not read. Gaiman's stories tend to present a more grown-up perspective on the fantasy genre; they tend to convey both a clever and dark sense of humor, as well as a unique way of depicting reality that becomes drastically skewed as the story goes on.

Stardust (the movie) is much more of a typical fairy tail. Its more focused on romantic love than other of Gaiman stories I've read or seen, but still maintains some themes characteristic of Gaiman's stories: The main character passes from a normal world to a fantastic world where the heart of the story takes place; Also, the protagonist, in this case a young man, is a character who has less ability than heart necessary to prevail against the antagonists.

While not the story of Gaiman's that I'd most like to see as a film, I understand why Stardust has movie appeal. I hope the sucess of this film leads to some of his other stories going to theaters.

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Afraid of the dark...

Halloween has come and gone. And I was thinking about how I like certain scary movies, but not just any. The scary movies I tend to like are what I categorize as “Survival/horror” which, to me, are equal parts exciting and frightening; such as when an individual or a group of people are pitted together against something supernatural. So they're not necessarily realistic but what makes them interesting to me are the relationships between the characters dealing with a crisis of some sort. Zombie movies are almost always good examples of “survivor/horrors.” Dawn of the Dead (the original and the remake), 28 Days Later (and 'Weeks Later' as well, although not as good as the original) Alien, Aliens, Cube, The Thing, all fit this category. I can watch the remake of Dawn of the Dead over and over.

Anyways, it looks like we have some pretty exciting horror movies on the way...

30 Days of Night – already in theaters, based on a graphic novel about vampires coming into an Alaskan town when daylight is absent for an extended time. Here's the trailer

The Mist - 11/21/2007 -Usually when director Frank Darapont works on a Stephen King story you end up with a good result (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) but this will be the first horror flick based on a story by King. The concept sounds scary—a small town enveloped by a mist that brings mysterious creatures that terrorize the community. Darapont has also signed on to do a film adaptation of the novel Fereinheight 451, coming out in '09

I am Legend - 12/14/2007 - I was really interested when I first read about this. Will Smith plays Robert Neville who somehow is the last human left on earth; the rest of the human race have become something similar to either a zombie or vampire or both. Neville is not only the sole remaining human, but also somehow has the capability of saving humanity from what it has become; this sounds familiar...Here is the second trailer for the film.

And around the corner, early next year, will likely be the most hyped horror flick of all time (and I've written about it three times before: 1, 2, 3). It still doesn't have an official name, just a release date: 1-18-08. There is tremendous speculation about what this film will even be about. But there seems to be a clear consensus that it will be about a monster attacking NYC, and not just any monster, but a serious bad ass monster. Interestingly the film is set to take place simultaneously as it's being released in theaters; hence it's tentative title: 1-18-08. here is the trailer that exploded on the Internet after it appeared with no warning before Transformers this summer. If for no other reason, this film will likely be remembered by those who study the film industry for how ingenuity of its viral marketing techniques.

Stay tuned for more updates...