Archive for Movies

Beetlejuice, Better Off Dead, and Brain Dead

Posted in Movies, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2015 by Aaron

If there are any movies that start with the letter B that have impacted me greatest, it would be these three. When I was 8 years old I watched Beetlejuice every single day for a whole summer. It was the prefect mix of a completely wacky story, not-to-scary (except for Large Marge, she is still terrifying), and an awesome style that I would later learn was Tim Burtons second feature film (after Pee-wee’s Big Adventure).

Every. Single. Day. My dad still makes fun of me.

Beetlejuice copy

The next film that I would watch incessantly was Better Off Dead. The Bouncing Souls was a band that I loved. One of their songs had a quote from the film. I didn’t rest until I found out what movie that was. In 1997, that wasn’t so easy… the internet wasn’t omnipotent yet. I loved that there was a young Jon Cusack in it (Grosse Pointe Blank had recently come out), my favorite band loved it, most of my peers hadn’t seen it, and it was totally wacky. A white kid in suburbia trying to grow up with the perspective of trying to make sense of the world.

Dead-Alive-Poster copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually I would get into horror movies. Still, to this day, my favorite is Brain Dead (otherwise known as Dead Alive in the US). You guessed it … it’s wacky! A young Peter Jackson directed this one. It is full of silly blood-and-guts that is totally over the top. It borrows a lot and builds on the amazingness of the Evil Dead series. As you watch it you continually tell yourself that you can’t be shocked anymore, and then your jaw drops again, and again …

Dead-Alive-Poster

 

These movies totally hold up and I would whole heartedly recommend them.

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Film Review: The Wolfpack

Posted in Movies with tags , , , on June 4, 2015 by Aaron

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I got the chance to see the film The Wolfpack this week. It is directed by first time feature filmmaker Crystal Moselle and I really like it a lot. It is a documentary that tells the story of a group of 7 children who were raised in a New York City apartment completely isolated from the outside world. Their father wouldn’t allow them to leave more than a few times a year and their mother homeschooled them. While they weren’t allowed to watch TV or go on the internet, they were seemingly allowed to watch all the movies they wanted. One of their biggest forms of entertainment were to act out movies with elaborate homemade props and costumes and spot on impressions of the actors in the real films. Things begin to change when one of them escapes.

I don’t want to give anything away so I just want to talk about some of my impressions that I left the film with. First of all, I think that Crystal Moselle did a fantastic job of walking the line between respecting her subjects as humans and profiteering or taking advantage of their story. I say this because the abuses they endured from their alcoholic father growing up leaves them socially awkward. They are shown to be very intelligent and introspective throughout the film and their love for each other and their mother is apparent. This could easily have fallen prey to exploiting the family by just saying “look how strange they are!” It doesn’t, it reveals them all to be real people who can be empathized and sympathized with. Every once in a while it takes a step back to remind us that the conditions they grew up in aren’t normal or okay. Without a doubt this was an abusive household.

The Wolfpack reenacts a scene from one their favorite films, The Usual Suspects for @sundanceinstitute #thewolfpackfilm

A post shared by The Wolfpack (@thewolfpackfilm) on

The thing that I walked away from the film with I hope to hold onto is the joy they experienced from encountering things that most people would consider mundane. On their first trip to Coney Island they remark that it reminds them of Lawrence of Arabia. That was probably the first and last time someone will innocently liken those two things to each other. In a “real” world when many people are tied to their screens, they engage with it in delight. I hope to look at the world with wonder.

This is a great documentary that leaves the viewer with way more questions that it answers. If you are okay with ambiguity then you should check it out!

RPG Gaming Dialogue Evolution

Posted in Games, Movies, Random Musings with tags , , , , , , , on November 30, 2009 by Aaron

Most of my gaming life I have been a fan of RPGs. Role Playing Games. This is a genre of games (like action, shooter, puzzle, etc.) that allows the player to take on a persona other than their own. I don’t want to think too much about the psychological implications of this but I do know it is fun. The best part about it is being something you are not, acting in a way that you wouldn’t in a place you can’t go. Some people can argue that this is dangerous and it teaches people that they can do all these “in game” things in the real world. Personally I think that any adult (I say adult because younger children can’t grasp the concepts of abstract ways of thinking of situations) who thinks they can act in a dangerous or hurtful way in real life “just like in that game” has more way more problems that need to be addressed.

That brings up the topic of sex/violence in films, advertising, video games and more. I don’t claim that I know any statistics but having been an avid gamer/horror fan and also knowing a lot of them, seeing fake violence does not = doing violence. For me there is at least some sort of filter in my brain that says that fake violence is okay while the real stuff isn’t. In fact, I am semi-disgusted when I see images that I know are real. You know those movies, Faces of Death? I got the first one thinking I would want to watch it and ended up turning it off after 5 mintues.

Okay, okay. You may be thinking that perhaps I can deal with it in a responsible way but not everyone can. Yes. I partially and conditionally agree. When I was watching these things and playing these games as a kid, I knew they were in my imagination. Thanks to my parents. Good parenting is the key to raising kids who know the difference between real and fake.

Situations where good parenting is more difficult due to social and economic “variables”  is an entirely different subject. No, I don’t think those kids shouldn’t be playing any less of these games or watching any less of these films. What they should have is a real person in their life who they can look up to who doesn’t have to deal with that intense stuff in their real life. When you see it in your games and movies and you see it out your window, that could be one place the line starts to blur.

Now that I have veered very far from the original intentions of this blog post I want to make a sharp turn and go back to the beginning. This article is an in depth look at the evolution of players choices in RPGs starting at the beginning. Check it out!

Film Review: Blindness

Posted in Movies with tags , , , , on June 21, 2009 by Aaron

Last night I watched the film Blindness (2008). Something about this film got me but I wasn’t too sure if I liked it very much. It is about the response to people starting to go blind by seeing white (instead of black), one character describes it as being “like swimming in milk”. The government response being the quarantine of all these people into a jail of sorts. All the “inmates” are left to fend for themselves amongst each other and conditions quickly deteriorate. Our protagonists include Mark Ruffalo, a doctor, Julianne Moore, the doctors wife who still has her sight thought the film, and their companions, Danny Glover, Alice Braga, and more.

You could compare the prison to an internment camp where fear of its inhabitants causes them to be treated as animals and forced to live in horrible conditions. They are given packages of food and that is all. What happens when you put people in a crazy situation and treat them like animals? They start acting like animals. With no one cleaning up because they are more intent on the newness of the lack of sight (this point is illustrated with the lack of any characters being given names), the place pretty quickly becomes a mess. We don’t even know how long they are imprisoned throughout the film when the doctors wife, the only one who can see, forgets to wind her watch.

Just like in most post-apocalyptic films the situation quickly degenerates into the strong vs. the weak. The inhabitants in Ward 3 decide that they are in charge and take control of all the food and give it out as they see fit. First for jewelry, then once everything else that anyone has is in their possession, they move on to women. While watching this I couldn’t help thinking about the Stanford Prison Experiment.

In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. In this film however, Gael Garcia Bernal, not the doctors wife, plays the part of the King of Ward 3 who pushes the action beyond the unendurable. This can only last so long and I kept finding myself wondering why everyone was letting him get away with this. I had to realize that when faced with extreme situations people never act very rationally. Eventually our characters leave the prison and we find out that, it seems, the entire world has gone blind. At this point the film almost turns into a zombie movie. There are hordes of starving people moving about looking for anything to eat. We don’t see them eating each other but I assume that this isn’t far off. Things look bad, but nowhere near as bad as the were on “the inside”.

The film ends with a message of hope but I think it was too little too late. The director, Fernanado Meirelles, did a really great job showing the horror that follows the collapse of civilization on the small scale of the prison. Then, when they left he took a step backwards. Instead of getting into a crazier and more intense situation, the film takes a more hopeful approach. It is almost as if they are saying that the people who are in prison are more like crazy, destructive warlords and that people who are on the outside, in the same situation, can coexist in a more peaceful anarchistic sort of way. Please refer back to the Stanford Prison Experiment. Our protagonists are the sane, shining light making their way though the insanity of the situation.

I think that I wanted to like it but there is something that doesn’t sit totally well with me. There were some really awesome moments but it doesn’t come together into a really great movie. Meirelles did a good job showing us blindness with the way over exposed film look the whole movie and also used a couple cool little tricks that he should have taken more advantage of.

Should you see it? Sure. Should you see it now? No.