DVD | Movies

Too Many Secrets: Sneakers

Whistler: “I want peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”

Abbot: “We are the United States government! We don’t do that sort of thing!”

Along with L.A. Confidential, which I wrote about here, one of my favorite all-time movies is Sneakers, made in 1992 and directed by Phil Alden Robinson. It’s a light, funny caper film, with a lot of ridiculous but enjoyable hacker nonsense and a great ensemble cast. I first saw it when I was working in a theater pub in Florida, and during its run there I saw twice a night for about two weeks. And that still wasn’t enough: I owned it on VHS and I’ve probably watched it another dozen times in my life. It’s still one of those films that, if it’s on TV, I’ll sit and watch it every single time. Major spoilers to follow.

Robert Redford is Martin Bishop, the head of a security firm who, as a teenager, got caught hacking into bank accounts and computer networks and fled to Canada, leaving his friend Cosmo to take the rap and the jail time. Sydney Poitier is the tightly wound ex-CIA agent Donald Crease, Bishop’s partner at the firm. The rest of the team is comprised of Darryl “Mother” Roskow (Dan Aykroyd), a technician with a head full of conspiracy theories, Erwin Emory, known as “Whistler” (David Strathairn), a blind computer whiz whose sharp ears make up for his lack of sight, and Carl Arbogast (River Phoenix), a young, earnest, yet somewhat awkward prodigy.

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DVD | Movies

Hold Up Your Badge: L.A. Confidential

I’ve been playing L.A. Noire, and what with all the fedoras, old-timey cars, and talk of “bracing” witnesses, it’s put me in quite the mood for one of my favorite movies, L.A. Confidential. I stayed up late watching it again the other night.

There’s a shorthand in a lot of movies, especially cop dramas, when it comes to character flaws. Want to quickly build an anti-hero? Give him a drinking or drug problem. Give him an ex-wife (or a dead wife) or an estranged child. Give him a couple days of beard growth and a crummy, messy apartment. This signifies to the audience that your hero is struggling with demons without having to do all that pesky work of, you know, writing a good, believable character.

L.A. Confidential takes the harder, longer route, and it pays off in spades: the three main characters are all horribly and realistically flawed and thus incredibly compelling. Exley is a overly ambitious weasel, a political rung-climber obsessed with outdoing his father, and happy to wear the disdain of other cops as a badge. Vincennes is a charming sleaze, willing to sell out for fame and headlines and not interested in solving crimes as much as starring in them.

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DVD | Movies

I Can Never Let It Go

I was going to write a review of the film Never Let Me Go, but the first half-hour of the film featured a scene that distracted me so badly that I’m going to mainly talk about that instead. There are some premise spoilers ahead, though nothing I hadn’t already heard before watching the film.

Never Let Me Go is science-fiction, but it’s “light” science-fiction, which means the science-fiction is really just the backdrop, rather than the center, of the film. The film wants to tell a story about people, and doesn’t try to or need to explain the sci-fi stuff. Unfortunately, I’m the type of person who really does need that stuff explained, as I’ll detail below.

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Black Swan

Quickie review: It was okay.

Longer review: Natalie Portman is a ballet dancer who is preparing for Swan Lake, and this one time she sees her face on someone else’s body and then when she looks again she doesn’t see it anymore, and then pretty much that same thing happens like five hundred more times and each time she’s like “Did I just see something weird?” and then she looks again and decides she probably didn’t. And I guess the audience is supposed to be spooked out about it and we are until maybe the 40th time it happens and then it just gets boring. And maybe we’re supposed to wonder if it’s something supernatural or if she’s just nuts, but it’s pretty clear she’s just nuts, as far as I could tell.

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TRON: Legacy (DVD)

I watched TRON: Legacy on DVD this weekend. I don’t think there are any serious spoilers below. This isn’t really a review, just some notes I made while watching it. [Read more…]

DVD | Television

Wednesday Night Menu

I watched Unstoppable on DVD. Based on a true and interesting story about a runaway freight train, it was directed by Tony Scott, who I think realized too late that he wanted to make an action film but most of the action boils down to two guys sitting in a train cab, talking.

His solution was to never, ever stop swinging the camera around and around and around. It was almost funny if not for the fact that I was almost getting motion sick. No matter how mundane the topic, the camera was always swooshing all over the place. Anyway, the movie was not enjoyable awful, nor awfully enjoyable. It was just sort of there.

To the menu!

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DVD | Television | Video Games

Monday Night Menu

Quick recap of Sunday night’s entertainment:

We watched episode 2 of The Killing. With an entire season devoted to one case, the information is coming in at a leisurely trickle, which is good, though I admit I’m already impatient for more. I sort of wish we’d missed the season, waited until it was out on DVD, and rented it so we could consume it big, multi-episode gulps (The Wire was much more satisfying that way). Still, it’s very good, and it’s devoting a lot of time to the family of the deceased and how they’re trying to cope, which is both painful to watch and extremely rare for television to show. Generally, the only time you see the reaction of the family of a murder victim is when they’re informed of the murder, and they cry a little, and they mention “She used to hang out with this kid down the street” and then the investigation shifts away from them, until maybe you see them in the courtroom at the end.

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DVD | Movies | Netflix

Aliens Invade Los Angeles, Mexico, and Los Angeles

Aliens! They be invadin’ all the time. Am I right? Ladies, back me up on this.

I’ve seen three alien invasion movies in the past month or so: Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles, and Monsters, but before we get to them I want to highlight a few things about alien invasion movies in general.

There are three main rules that make up most alien invasion films:

1) The aliens have a poorly conceived attack plan
2) The aliens go door-to-door looking for humans (there are billions of us and we have a bunch of doors: this is gonna take a while)
3) The aliens have a glaring weakness that humans can exploit

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On The Menu: Nazi Dinosaurs, Medieval Stoners, and Norm!

As I’m typing this week’s menu, I’m sitting in a cafe across from two young people clearly on a first date. Man, I’m so glad I’m not single anymore. The mid-day coffee date is the worst date ever. Even if things totally work out, both people have horrible coffee breath and it’s the middle of the afternoon (on a Sunday, in this case). Luckily for these two, it is clearly not working out, though they’re both trying to pretend it is. I feel like I should pull a gun and rob the cafe, if only to give them an excuse to cut the date short.

This cafe also appears to be a prime spot for divorced couples to swap out their shared children. So, this whole place is incredibly depressing.

Anyway, here’s what’s coming to screens this week!

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