Category Archives: Review


Last night (7/5/16) my friend sent me a link to this list on imgur.

As a film student I try and watch as many films as possible, here are a dozen of my favorite I’ve watched this year

As lists go, not very good. Random person, not very eloquent, with lots of grammatical errors. The movies listed aren’t exactly bad, but there’s no real connection between them. Just “movies some random person watched and liked.” Also the way the person writes gave me the impression that they aren’t very well educated, or maybe not very intelligent. Continue reading List…

The Lorax and Metropolis

The Lorax and Metropolis

John Carter and Casa de mi Padre

These are the four films I haven’t reviewed yet. Maybe it was seeing all four in close succession, but I started thinking about how those films are all tied together. For a moment, I had it figured out.

In my head the films paired together in an interesting way, but now that I think about it it’s hard for me to pair all four films like that. The Lorax and Metropolis still share that thread I saw, but I had a thought for how to compare John Carter and Casa de mi Padre, and it has escaped me.

You might say, “Well obviously John Carter is supposed to go with Metropolis. Both are science fiction, and they originate from more comparable eras. They’re both pretty epic.” That’s true, and I would say they probably fit together well enough to pair them up. But that’s not as interesting to me as tying Metropolis with The Lorax. What stuck out to me watching the restored cut of Metropolis is the same thing that stuck out when I saw The Lorax. To me, that’s so interesting that I even came up with a way to compare John Carter with Casa de mi Padre. If only I could remember what that comparison was…

Maybe it’ll come to me, so instead I’ll start with The Lorax and Metropolis.

Once-ler holds The Lorax
That's right, both at the same time.

Continue reading The Lorax and Metropolis

The Secret World of Arrietty

Been sitting on this one for a little while. Time to reflect on the latest stateside Ghibli release. I hope using these images counts as fair use.

Karigurashi no Arrietty poster
The Secret World of Arrietty

I’m probably going to get some flack from my more well-read friends because I never read books when I was a child, but this latest film from Japan’s Studio Ghibli is based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I would probably not know this book even exists if it weren’t for this film adaptation. I don’t want it to sound like I’m bragging about my ignorance, this is a fault of mine, not something to be proud of. That said, I don’t feel like I’m going to jump in on any ‘children’s novels’ any time soon. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea. If you’re out there reading this, and you’re a fan of The Borrowers, maybe you can change my mind. All I can say is, good luck.

So, while I can’t really talk about the source material, and I don’t feel like I can really talk about the film as it was originally intended (more on that in a second), I can talk about the film I saw, The Secret World of Arrietty, released by Disney.

Before I get too far into it, I want to just say that the film is good, and it’s worth seeing on the big screen while you can. Even if you’re like me, and can’t stand dubbed movies, it’s still worth your money. I mean, check this out.

A background of the garden house seen in all versions of Arrietty.
If that's not more detailed than your dreams, then you must be on some good drugs.

Backgrounds like that are reason enough to see this movie in a proper theater, and the movie is filled with them. Also, even with the dub, the sound design on this film is amazing. I don’t often hear about sound design when it comes to Ghibli films, but it’s every bit as wonderful as those painted backgrounds. Go see, and hear it.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me talk about some specifics.

I noticed this problem of mine as the movie started. I get cynical when I see previews and the pre-show ‘entertainment.’ Especially when it involves child-targeted advertising, and even more especially when I see something with my peers. Part of it is well deserved. I mean, how can you watch this, and not get offended? You’d have to be >5 years old, that’s the only way I can imagine. And when you go to the movies, especially Disney movies, even though the audience for a film made by Ghibli or even Pixar is probably larger than the >5 demographic, you’re just bombarded by ads like that. There’s something about being my age seeing ads like that, that make you just be snarky and cynical. And maybe that’s okay, most of these ads totally deserve it.

But eventually, the movie you came to see will actually start. You have to try to remember to shut that shit off. I don’t always do that. I realized this as the title cards were coming up…but I worry I realized it too late. Even if I did realize it, I’m not sure if it’s something I can just turn off.

Arriety & Spiller
This picture is not actually in the movie.

In typical Ghibli fashion, this film has a complex tone that shifts dramatically and masterfully. As was pointed out to me a while back, it goes from quiet to frightful to comedic in a 30 second window, and it’s all natural. The maid woman is especially crazy/awesome with her expressions/motivations.

Maid lady
I'm sure this maid character has a name, but I forget now. Oh spoiler alert, the borrowers get discovered by the human beans.

Now, I saw the American English dub, so I can’t really comment on the original Japanese or even the British dub, but the voices in the US version aren’t terrible, but they have some issues. Firstly, the dad, I guess his name is Pod, has this kind of gravely, Batman/Grayson Moorhead Securities/Cornfed Pig voice, which I actually liked a lot. It just felt a little bit odd. Then there’s Amy Poehler, who I didn’t even recognize in the part, doing her best not to sound like Olive Oil. The dub overall had kind of a Popeye sound to it in terms of its pacing. Not a bad thing, I suppose. Carol Burnett helps to make the maid lady that much more crazy.

But then there’s the boy.

The boy
'Who me?'

I could not care less about this boy. Does he do anything? So he’s dying, who cares? He has all these lines but it all felt unnatural and stupid. I’m not sure where this problem comes from, is it in the original source material? I don’t think you can blame this on the dub, I bet this kid would be equally annoying in any language. Even his mom doesn’t want him around. He’s especially annoying ‘cuz Spiller is there, and let’s just say he’s more Arrietty’s type (HE CAN FLY).

He has trouble with math, though.

I think Arriety herself, both the character and her voice, manage to convey the spirit of a spunky kid who makes some beginner’s mistakes.

Plus, she can be pretty cute.

I did see the film digitally. I suppose that’s becoming the norm for all theatrical presentations. For a moment I felt bad that I was seeing something hand drawn but not on film, but then I remembered that film projection sucks. Digital is superior when done right. Film or no film, though, it’s still worth seeing on as large a screen as possible.

Using my iTunes star rating I discussed last time, I have to give this a 4 out of 5 stars. It’s by no means my favorite Ghibli film (pretty low on the list, actually), but it’s still very good. I hope, if you haven’t already, you give the film a shot.

Speaking of giving movies a shot, there is a Ghibli retrospective coming to the Bay Area in July. If I can manage, I want to see every film (except maybe Grave of the Fireflies, which I don’t really need to see ever again), and I want to drag as many people along as I can. It’s a special event to see such wonderful examples of craft on the big screen, and worth every penny to do so. I hope to see you there.

It’s not you, it’s me


Writing this one from my phone ‘cuz the god damn Internet had been down for like 3 days here at the Starbucks. Nobody knows how to restart a router? Gotta wait for AT&T to come fix it? You’re losing customers this way, idiots.

Anyway, what shall I talk about.

I kinda blew it yesterday. No Internet here plus no motivation to do anything kinda messed me up. I did do some work on a radio show, so that’s something, but it’s no where near finished. I need to bring up production on those things.

I also get the feeling I should stop watching tv… Now that most of my day is devoted to shit not around a TV, when I get home I just wanna watch TV. But I only have like 2 hours before I just crash, plus I have to share the TV, and the people I share with don’t always want to watch what I watch. Basically that means I end up watching Perry Mason when I get home from work. Don’t get me wrong, I like Perry Mason, but is that what I want to be watching? I’ve got a DVR full of shit I’d rather watch, but I’d have to be antisocial to do it.

If I cut that out, maybe that’d be the way to go. Maybe.

I have enough stuff to watch even without having TV. Speaking of…

I’ve seen 2 movies and I haven’t reviewed either of them. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be! So, briefly, here’s my critique of one of them. I’ll get to the other one another day, hopefully when the Internet is working.

Trash and Progress by Abe Dickman

Instagram Photo

So, as I said before, I worked on this movie. I actually did the production sound for a very pivotal day’s worth of shooting. And, either they looped it really good, or I was able to record some good sound up there on that hill. Just because I was there, I’m going to assume it was looped really well, but I at least gave them some good guide tracks to go by.

First the good: the movie looked good, sounded good, had good effects, good music, good production design. Considering a student made this on their spare time with their own money, all there is to say is Bravo.

But then come the faults. This movie felt long. Really long. And I don’t think it was very long. The writing was kind of bad, but maybe that’s not fair. Maybe the problem really lay in the acting/pacing. I didn’t care about any of these characters. There’s this girl that was naked on a space ship with some dude, but then the ship crashes and the guy dies, but so what? There’s nothing about this girl that makes me want to hear her story. And then she’s there for the rest of the movie, but she does nothing at all. Is she the main character? Why does it start and end with her? Why was there a shot of her holding her belly? Is she pregnant or something? By the dead husband from the space ship? What does any of that have to do with the rest of the movie?

Speaking of pregnant, in the middle of the movie there’s this scene of this adult kid and his parents, and the mom has like performed a coat hanger abortion on herself, and then the dad has subsequently beat her because of it–all off camera, thankfully–but why was that there? What is he trying to say about society there? Another problem was the dad and the mom looked around the same age as the kid.

Speaking of casting, everyone in this movie was probably too young to bring any weight to this story. It ends up feeling like a high school play.

There was a half good idea at least, band of rebels…should I say spoiler alert? Nobody is going to see this movie unless they make in some festivals. But if you’re a festival goer, maybe skip this paragraph. They rebel against this chancellor or governor or general or something, but at the end it turns out the scary dictator is actually a computer enforcing a subconscious democracy. So they’re all really rebelling against the little bit of themselves in the larger majority. Not a terrible idea for a macguffin. But it comes down to the problem where I just don’t care.

One more thing, there’s some weird choices for effect shots in this movie. For instance, there’s a long shot of a 50s style radio that I’m 99% sure was computer generated. Why? Couldn’t find a radio that was satisfactory? Couldn’t get that camera move on your own? And the big computer at the end looked 2 dimensional.

But still, I can’t really pick on the look of this movie. It’s good.

I hope it leads to other projects for the guy, ’cause there’s clearly some talent there, but I hope he gives up trying to write his own stuff. And he should get a casting director that knows more than 8 people.

If I were like a classical Hollywood executive, and I saw this movie, I’d probably be upset. I’d say probably advise to focus more on the scientist and the lesbian bounty hunter out for revenge. Cut the bit with the abortion, and the whole religious crazy guy. Shift the importance of certain characters. Never mind if the reporter/writer/outworlder is pregnant, because nobody cares what she thinks anyway. If she’s there to tell the story, she needs to be a part of the story.

That’s my 2 cents anyway. If you have the chance to see it, I’d still say see it, ’cause its visually pretty good, and it is kind of inspiring to know that such work is possible from a first-timer. It’s a reminder of what you can do…

So why am I not doing it? This movie kind of shows why. I would not allow myself to make those mistakes, at the expense of not doing anything at all. I wouldn’t get past the writing stage of a movie like this, because I’d ask all these questions before I even put anything on paper. It would fall apart and go nowhere. So I have to applaud Abe for getting past that stage and just diving in to make a feature.

So that’s all for now.

You’ll get caught up in the, Ghost Rider.

Today on the EdSoft blog, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengance.

Sleep for 2/16-17/2012
Every night is different! Is it the app?

Enough about that, now. What about Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance?

First a little scenery. Arrived a little bit late to get into this screening, so we had to sit up in the front row.

Did I mention this film is in 3D? Oy.


It worked out surprisingly well. The 3D effect was worst on the far right side of the screen, since we were on the left, but thankfully there was only 2 or 3 shots in the whole movie where the main focus of the image was on the right side. I can see some of the front row appeal, as illuminated by David Bordwell/, and Roger Ebert. I don’t think it’s something I would do for every movie I see, especially if I had a choice about where to sit (I prefer about 5th or 6th row center, usually behind the aisle in modern theaters, right in the sound sweet spot), but there is some fun in seeing a scope picture and having to turn your neck to see the whole picture. Kind of makes you pay attention. Tell you what else makes you pay attention: sitting right in front of the sub woofer. The only real down side, apart from the 3D problems, was there were some crazy hand held shots in the beginning. It’s hard to follow that when you’re in the front row. The other problem with sitting in the front row, it was more obvious when they switched from their nice cameras to their lower-quality consumer-grade cameras. Sit a few rows further back and this shouldn’t be a problem for most people.

So why would you see this movie? I can think of a couple reasons.

  • You’re a fan of the comic. I mean, there must be some fans out there somewhere.
  • You like Nicolas Cage. Especially the crazy Nic Cage.
  • You’re into supporting Marvel, especially its less popular titles.
  • You’re a fan of 3D.
  • You’re a fan of fake religious movies.
  • You like an old Christopher Lambert covered in tattoos.
The Angel Inside
Or, maybe you can feel the angel inside.

There was also this woman, Violante Placido, in the movie, playing the Kid (immaculate son of Satan)’s mom. Stephan, who got me into this movie, was really interested in this woman for some reason, but her role in the film was unexciting, and really anybody could have played that part. But if you’re a fan, you might get more out of her performance than I did.

Sometimes this movie was weird on purpose, and that’s always good. I bet you’ll never look at a flame thrower the same way again. But some things were weird with little explanation. For instance, this movie is supposed to be in Italy or Spain, or something European like that, but half way through the movie they go to an ‘American truck stop.’ I doubt such a place is in Europe, but I could be wrong.

If you’re a fan of b-movies, which I am, then I think you can get a kick out of a movie like this. I would just try not to pay for it. Or if you have to, see a matinee.

Nic Cage at his best
You see a film like this for moments like these.

This being my first movie review, I’m going to explain my rating system. I’m going to use the star system I currently use on my iTunes library. 5 possible stars.

When it relates to music, the stars break down like this:

  • 5 stars: I’ll listen at almost any time. Very good.
  • 4 stars: good, but I wouldn’t want it to take up space that could be taken up by a 5 star.
  • 3 stars: it’s still good, but it does something that makes me not want to hear it very often, if ever.
  • 2 stars: awful. I could never hear it again and be totally happy.
  • 1 star: worst of the worst. Usually only have them for completionist purposes.

I’m not sure how this applies to movies yet, but I plan to figure it out as I go.

So, using this scale, I’d give this one:

  • 3 for fun
  • 2 for story
  • 3 for visuals
  • 4 for crazy
  • 2 for music

Overall, the movie is a 3.

A paper mache flame thrower
I don't think he'd have a good time at a 3D movie. One of his eyes is fucked up.

I’ll think about adding images later.

Have Some Faith In Magic

One of my favorite webcomics is Questionable Content, which I’m still surprised I even like at all (but I’ll get to that another day). I first started reading reading it at the end what I guess was 2004 (holy crap) and Jeph Jacques had posted his year end best albums review. Jeph Jacques is a very different person from me, but there is apparently a small overlap in our vastly separate repertoires. Back then, he recommended The Go! Team’s Thunder, Lightning, Strike, by saying ‘Imagine if Fatboy Slim and the RZA got together to record a soundtrack for a 70’s cop show directed by Quentin Tarantino, and you’d get something remarkably similar to the funky, hip-hop-inflected party music that this British band puts out.’ I don’t know about you, but I’d watch that show. And so, I bought that album. And I’ve been a The Go! Team aficionado ever since.

But since 2004, Jacques has been all dub step and metal and god knows what…So I thought maybe The Go! Team was a fluke. Then he mentions something called post-rock. I’m not an expert on modern music, I couldn’t tell you what post-rock is, but something inside me said ‘eh, wtf, go for it.’ And I did.

Have A Little Faith In Magic by Errors.

Now, like I said, I don’t know what post-rock or post-electric or Mogwai is (something about gremlins?), so I can’t rightly place this music in a genre. However, I am a large fan of nostalgia. Probably half (if not more) of my music collection found its way in there because it reminded me of better times. Jacques said it sounded like a rock band making a video game soundtrack, and that alone would probably get my attention. Video games are very nostalgic on their own. I listened to it, and it did make me nostalgic, just not for video games.

When I think video game rock, I think of chip tunes, 8bit emulations or imitations of what video game music was back then. Groups like Anamanaguchi, or YMCK. But they sound new. I like them because they sound new, while reminding me of music that’s nostalgic. But this Errors record is different.

The nostalgia it brought up in me was more in line with music from the 80s. There was a sound then that has mostly disappeared from my perspective (at least until now). I’m talking about music like Tears For Fears, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Vangelis, and Dire Straits, to name a few. Maybe I’m describing what post-rock or post-electric is, but that’s not what interests me. What interests me are these new albums coming out that come pre-baked with nostalgia. This album feels like a record I used to listen to all the time, but has lay dormant and forgotten for 20 years. It’s stunning.

Another album that hits this tone is the soundtrack for Drive. Have Some Faith In Magic is good enough to make me want to revisit that soundtrack to see how it stacks up. Is it new music, new old music, or new music that feels old. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to distinguish it, but it’s worth angry.

Another reason I like this album is because it’s very interesting without the need for lyrics. I love my instrumentals. Music can be so good when there aren’t words to cloud your judgement. This album may contain some lyrics, but they’re so chorale and distorted that I can’t tell. Which is just the way I like it.

And that’s my review. I’d like some feedback on it, specifically, did you get anything out of it? Should I include some arbitrary scale or points system or thumbs up/down or 4 or 5 stars? Are the words enough on their own? Should I say anything more, do more research, or is this anecdotal account enough?

Now it’s 9 o’clock and I find myself…tired. Gonna go to bed and do it again tomorrow, though.

Tomorrow’s potential topics: My first day at work, dread, Great American BBQ, House and/or Alcatraz, Berkeley West Edge Opera