Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Friday, January 31, 2014

True Detective

If you're one of the eight or so readers who follow my blog with any sort of regularity, you'll know that one of the things I do when a new TV show that interests me starts up is that I'll watch it and then share my feelings about it, It's taken me three episodes to get around to doing so for HBO's new show True Detective. Partly that's because I've had time constraints and pesky computer problems, and partly that's because my thoughts on the show, much like the murder case going on in the show, are muddled. There's one thing I can say with certainty, though:

It's damn sure not TV. It's HBO.

True Detective belongs right in the middle of this delightful Venn Diagram.

The quality of True Detective is what we've all come to expect from an HBO show, especially a drama, and then some. Each episode feels like a movie in terms of the beauty and care with which it's shot and directed. It feels like each frame is painstakingly planned and everything means something. Likewise, the writing is brilliant. It's witty and deeply philosophical and again, it feels like everything means something. But none of that would mean a thing if not for the cast and some of the best acting currently on television on display in every episode.

No, it certainly wasn't.

If you had told me a few years ago I'd one day be associating Matthew McConaughey with the idea of being an amazing actor, I'd have died laughing. But recently, that's exactly what he's become, and I'm not even talking about his latest films. In this show alone he is absolutely riveting. His Detective Rust Cohle is cold and aloof and perhaps a little insane, but the shit he says and does and the absolute stoicism he says and does it with is brilliant. And while it's true he's getting all the praise right now, I think his performance is elevated by the job Woody Harrelson does as his partner, Detective Martin Hart. Marty's relationship with Rust is hilarious; it's built on a simmering, barely-there tolerance for Rust's nihilist, pessimist observations and the looks that Harrelson shoots McConaughey to go along with his one-liners and pleas to just shut up are fantastic.

So I've praised the acting, writing, and direction. Effluent praise, one might say. Why then, did I say my thoughts on the show are muddled?

As much as I enjoy the above aspects of the show, I'm not sure I like the show itself. Everything about it feels slow to me. The pacing and plot developments of a murder mystery within a mystery and the way it's all structured are unfolding in such a way that I find my attention drifting for much of the show, only refocusing when something big... or just loud... happens.

It's entirely possible my attention also refocuses whenever Alexandra Daddario is on screen. I mean... damn.

I have a suspicion, however, that all the slowness is leading to a brilliant explosion of pace that will make the wait worth it, so I'm willing to go along for the ride. And while I wait, there's plenty of great acting to enjoy. So check out True Detective if you haven't already, I think you'll enjoy it. And even if you don't... well, there are only eight episodes, so what do you have to lose?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Goodreads Book Review - Napalm & Silly Putty

Napalm & Silly PuttyNapalm & Silly Putty by George Carlin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Much like Carlin's first book, Brain Droppings, a lot of this book is a printed collection of his stand-up material. There's a lot more fresh material in this one though (fresh to me, at least; I can't lie and say I've seen everything he ever did live so I can't be completely sure), and the whole thing is much more coherently organized. As always and in any medium, Carlin is hysterical and if you're familiar with him you'll probably hear a lot of the book in your head in his indelible delivery. Definitely a great book to read if you're in the mood for a brilliant balance of witticism and wisdom.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Goodreads Book Review - Brain Droppings

Brain DroppingsBrain Droppings by George Carlin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've always been a huge Carlin fan but I've never gotten around to reading his books until know. His stand-up performances are easily my favorite comedy specials of all times, which is why I was slightly disappointed in this one. Most of the book is just routines of his written down... and considering how brilliant his live delivery is, the material loses a step on the printed page. And since his delivery is so memorable, I heard his voice in my head most of the time I was reading. I enjoyed the book, but I was hoping for a bit more, and am still hoping his later books will give me that more I'm looking for.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Goodreads Book Review - Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to start out by saying that Gillian Flynn probably has one of the most brilliant and imaginative minds of any author I've read in a long time; to be able to come up with a story so layered with double and triple meanings and so full of twists and turns and swerves is really just creatively genius. This story kept me guessing right up to the last page (okay, that's hyperbole, it only kept me guessing up to the second-to-last page, but you get the point). It's hard to say anything more about the plot of the book without giving away spoilers because the twists start jumping at you as early as the end of the first chapter, but I will say that it takes the basic plot of a wife gone missing and addresses all the associated tropes in a way that turns them all on their ear, and it is entertaining the whole addictive, hard-to-put-down way through. The only reason I didn't give the book four stars is that the structure requires you to get into the minds of two rather unlikeable people through first-person narration, and the awfulness of those leads detracted from my enjoyment just a little bit. Other than that, this is an amazing read.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Advance Movie Review: The Railway Man

I received passes to attend an advance screening of The Railway Man in Manhattan Tuesday night. This was apparently a very big deal screening as, while the movie has been out in Europe for a few months now, it doesn't yet have a U.S. release date. Even Harvey Weinstein was there; seeing him (credit where credit is due, I didn't notice him at all until my girlfriend pointed him out) was pretty exciting for a movie buff like me. I'm not going to spoil the movie in any way because, one, I feel like it's kind of rude to spoil a flick when you're seeing it for free at an advance screening, it's kind of disrespectful; and two, they said this was still a workprint version of the film so there might be changes made to it before its official U.S. release.

What I will say about the film is that, as I saw it, The Railway Man is a pretty damn good film. It's based on the true story of Eric Lomax, a soldier in the British army during World War II whose unit is captured by Japanese soldiers after the surrender of Singapore and forced to work on building the Burma Railway for them. It's a traumatizing experience for them, and the movie picks up after he gets married and begins to relive the horrifying experiences of torture he went through.

Again, not going to spoil anything, so I'll stop there and say that the movie is very well-written and directed, but what sells it is the cast. As Lomax, Colin Firth is outstanding, and Jeremy Irvine, who plays the younger version of Lomax in the flashback scenes, does a very good job as well, despite being overshadowed by his older and more experienced co-star. Stellan Skarsgard is almost as good as well, playing an old army buddy of Lomax' who went through at least some of the same experiences. I can't say much about Hiroyuki Sanada without spoilers, but I will say he was really good in his role as well. If you, like me, have no idea who he is when I say his name, well, perhaps this will jog your memory:

The surprising weak spot in the cast was Nicole Kidman as Lomax' new wife. Her role calls for a fair amount of pathos as a loving wife who has no idea what is going on with her husband and who is scared and concerned... but hers is just a monotonous one-note performance that displays no emotion of any sort. She was clearly phoning it in, and I have no idea why, or even how she could be that bad surrounded b the talent she was.

In the end, The Railway Man is a powerful, well-written, beautifully directed, and for the most part amazingly acted movie about the horrors of war and the psychological traumas they cause and it is also, ultimately, about forgiveness and the power of the human spirit. I sound corny, I know, but it's absolutely true, and if any of that sounds like your cup of tea, I highly recommend this movie.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 Oscars Nominees Announcement Reactions

The nominees for the 2014 Academy Awards were announced this morning, and, as usual, I was all over that shit.

Well okay, not really, because by the time I woke up the announcements were over. And also not really because, of the nine films nominated for Best Picture, I've only seen three (12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity). I'll see them all, as well as any extraneous ones listed in the actor categories, before the show itself so I can do my usual predictions and whatnot, but until then, I can react to some things and, perhaps more accurately, just talk out of my ass a bit.

When it comes to Best Picture, I wasn't surprised by anything except the exclusion of Inside Llewyn Davis. I've not seen it yet, but with all the talk about it I was certainly expecting it to be there. Or, y'know, anywhere on the show, but it's nowhere to be found. Likewise, I'm surprised Blue is the Warmest Color is totally missing, considering all the hype.

I guess the Academy doesn't enjoy poorly-plotted movies about absolutely nothing that aren't anything more than the veil a creepy old director used to see just how far he could get two actresses to go sexually for "art."

Yeah, I said it.

I hated that fucking movie.

In terms of directors, I'm not sure there's any way Alfonso Cuaron doesn't win. I'm not saying I think Gravity should win Best Picture or anything, but he did an amazing job on that one.

Best Actress is totally up in the air in my mind, but is there any possible way Best Actor goes to anyone other than Chiwetel Ejiofor? You'd have to put in an astounding performance to beat him. We'll see. Right now Fassbender put in my favorite performance of the Supporting Actor ones I've seen, and you all know I'll be pulling for Jennifer Lawrence in the Best Supporting Actress category, of course.

Those are the sort of immediate thoughts I had today. I'll say a lot more once I've seen all the movies, something I'm looking forward to doing because this really is an incredibly strong selection of films this year. Anybody else feel like sharing their thoughts or having a wonderful debate about mine? Shoot!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Goodreads Book Review - 20th Century Ghosts

20th Century Ghosts20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's always difficult to rate or review a short story anthology because there are always quality discrepancies with the stories. There are invariably some you love, like "Best New Fiction," "Pop Art," and "You Will Hear the Locusts Sing," and some you like remarkably less, like "Last Breath" and "Better Than Home." It makes it hard to pick an amount of stars to give the book as a whole. In most anthology cases too, there will be stories that you think downright suck. In this case, though, there weren't any, which made a four-star rating a no-brainer. Even the stories that appealed to me less personally than some of the others were easily recognizable as well-written and thoughtful. To me this book was a lot like The Twilight Zone: not every story was scary as the title might imply; some were just strange, or a little wild, but each and every one makes you think about something, some little aspect of life you might take for granted. And isn't that the mark of great writing?

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My 11 Most Anticipated Movies of 2014

Yeah, that's right. 11. As in, eleven. Not ten. I'd love to say there was a reason for that number, a clever (or even semi-clever) gimmicky reason to prove that it isn't just some arbitrary number, and I suppose there is, because it isn't. I set out to make a top ten list, ended up with fifteen, and whittled until I couldn't whittle any more. So basically, there are eleven movies on this list because I couldn't bare to not have any of these in my top ten.

Yes, it's cheating, but this is my blog, my rules, so shut up.

So's your face.

There's an Evil Kermit in this one, y'all. That's comedy gold.

The first Captain America flick was a great movie, and this one is based on a really great story, so high hopes all around.

This is one of the two on the list I think I might end up regretting. The first one meant a lot to me for personal reasons I'm not going to get into, but even without that factor I think it was a good movie. This one, however, has the makings of a clusterfuck written all over it. But it could go the other way and be exciting as hell.

C'mon, do I really have to say something?

X-Men has always been my favorite comic book franchise. I loved the first two movies by Singer. I loved First Class. This is a definite recipe for success. I hope.

This is the other movie on the list I know I might regret.Yes, I know Bay's Transformers have been equal parts bad and good, if not a little more bad sometimes, but I'm an '80's kid and I love those giant fucking robots, so I can't help but be excited.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was, in my opinion, one of the best movies of 2011, so there's plenty of reasons to look forward to part two.

Jupiter Ascending

There's no poster for the next Wachowskis movie yet, but since it's from them, you know it'll be interesting, must-see cinema... even if it doesn't make a lick of fucking sense.

A long-awaited sequel to a really great movie.

I haven't bothered to look up a damn thing for this movie yet. It's Christopher Nolan. I don't really need to know anything more.

I loved the first two. I love Jennifer Lawrence. I'm in.

So there's my list. Anyone out there in the great wild web have any thoughts about these movies? Or feel like sharing the flicks you're looking forward to that aren't on my list? hit the comments, let's talk about them!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Goodreads Book Review - The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor, Part One

The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part One (The Governor Trilogy #3)The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part One by Robert Kirkman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book, and really this series as a whole, proves one thing: all tie-ins are not created equal. However, whereas the first two books in the series were filled with original ideas while they fleshed out a character from the comic and TV series, for the most part this book is just a retelling of the events at Woodbury as they happen in the comic, but with more of a point of view focus on the Woodbury characters. Which is why I gave it two stars while the previous installment just got one from me; all the same flaws of boring repetition are still there, but it's at least more interesting when Rick and co. got involved. The side-plots about Lilly and Austin and Bob and whoever else are just anchors, however, dead weight that should be jettisoned. Or fed to walkers, whichever.

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 and 2014

I didn't get a chance to do this yesterday because I was busy being out enjoying the New Year's celebration and all, but I wanted to take just a brief moment to commemorate in words the end of 2013 and look ahead a bit into 2014. Because really, 2013 was a great year for me, easily the best year I've had in a good five or six years, maybe more.

What made 2013 so great, you may ask? For one thing, I had the best track record with employment than I had in an year since 2007. I worked with Verizon from November of 2012 all the way through the end of April in '13. Then I spent the month of June working for Google, and after a month's hiatus I resumed that job in August and worked through just about the end of October, and have done a few other little temp assignments since then. In terms of my other work, I did a decent amount of writing this year. I clocked a total of 89 blog entries, which may be down from my total in 2012 (100 posts), it's still good enough for my second-highest posts in a year.

I successfully finished a fairly fun project in 2013 as well in the form of my Recommended Reading Challenge, where I read nothing but books other people told me about for an entire year. Yeah, yeah, I know the bulk of it was in 2012, but I'm still counting it! It was part of me meeting my goal of reading 50 books over the course of the year, too.

Hmm, what else made 2013 so great? I guess meeting my wonderful girlfriend counts, right? She was only in the year for the last two months or so but she made them memorable and I'm looking forward to spending this new year with her.

Of course, the year wasn't all wine and roses. I might have worked most of the year, but I ended it pretty solidly out of work. I might have written a lot of blog entries, but it was less than last year, not more; and while all those posts might count as writing, I don't think I finished a fiction project all year long (then again, I'm convinced nobody out there really gives a damn what I write here, let alone what stories I write!). I might have finished that reading challenge project, but the other project I was really excited about starting up this year failed miserably (through very little fault of my own, though). Lastly, I gained back a decent amount of all the weight I lost over the course of 2012.

But those failures have a point, and this is where 2014 comes in. As the new year starts, I am dedicating myself to rectifying those failures. I will write more fiction, even if all it does when it's done is sit on my computer and make me feel proud of myself quietly to myself. I will top my blog posts, and will do so by finding more to do than just review books, movies, and TV shows. I will get back into my healthier living kick and lose this weight again. I will find another project to get into, to get excited about, and to get off the ground successfully.

And I will find a damn job, because none of that stuff will be cheap. And neither is being in a relationship, for that matter!

But it's all worth it when life is good. And life is good.

Happy New Year, y'all.