September 29, 2011

A Brief History Of Sword Throwing On Screen

Thislalife readers know that I'm all about OSMs (Oh Shit Moments) in my movies. Recently I've discovered that one sure fire guaranteed OSM is the sword toss/throw/hoist. Now let me be clear it's not like I just watched 15 action movies in a row, but as I was thinking about "Gladiator" yesterday (as I often do, Gladiator is the shit FYI) it made truly realize how potent and powerful the sword toss is. If I was gonna put it in an analogy here it is

Indie Rock: Soulful Adult Finding Themselves Movies
Sword Throwing: Kick Ass People Finding Swords in Their Bodies Suddenly Movies 

Here is a list of some of my favorites:

The Last Samurai
Say what you will about this Tom Cruise or this flick, but that fact of the matter is, there was definitely some dude who gave serious notes on the script that said "yeah, this is interesting, but can't he throw the sword through the dude's chest." So much cool fighting with so many OSM's and sword tossing left and right. Badass flick and this final scene is so satisfying.

The frost, sometimes it makes the blade stick....yeahhh maynnne. Legendary scene here, and probably the most underrated scene in the entire flick. One of the best sword tosses cause you don't see Maximus toss it, but you know he did.  It's like showing not telling, it's genius

Stick around! (see above)

Ahhh, the emotional moment of truth sword toss, kind of sucks it doesn't land in anybody, but it's effective none the less.

Star Wars
Don't wanna get too deep into the Nerd abyss here but light saber throwing in the Star Wars flicks is common and cool.

Mr. Stallone has carved a quite a career for himself as a sword/knife thrower. Good for you Stallone.

I'm sorry if I missed any, this website is way more comprehensive than mine. To some extent, the modern era has been kind to sword throwing. I mean "Thor" is pretty based around throwing hammers through battle.

September 27, 2011

Foreign Flick: Elite Squad 1 & 2

"Elite Squad" is the spiritual sequel to "City of God" that you always knew you wanted, but you just didn't know how to find. What's that, you haven't seen "City of God," really, c'mon son, not only was it one the best films of the previous decade, it's one of the best films ever, but enough about that flick, we're talking about "Elite Squad" heya. Co-written by Braulio Mantovani,  the film is police thriller based on the BOPE, or the Special Police Operations Batallion in Rio de Janiero. And just like "City of God" it's unlike anything you've ever seen before.

Currently there are two "Elite Squad" films, but the second film "Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within" is getting some press as it has just been submitted for the foreign film Oscar for Brazil.  The films are lightning rods for controversy as they show the extent of corruption in Brazil and the shocking levels that the protagonist Colonel Nascimento (Wagner Moura) goes for justice. Nascimento is mix of Jack Bauer, Dirty Harry, and the Terminator. All he cares about is taking down the corruption and seeking justice. And "justice" is a key word here as while both films  feature heroic cops, thematically the film explores the need for justice and retribution in a corrupt society. Both films feature parallel story lines that focus on intellectuals and how they see the ruthless police in the eyes of "the system." It's very fluid and while it's often compared to HBO's masterful "The Wire," it is much more heavy handed, with Nascimento providing some crazy voice over for the bulk of the film that's something along the lines of this:

The intellectual's love to call me a fascist, but I'll still show up when the criminals come knocking down their door and they need protection.

Ahh, "fascist," this is a word that comes up frequently when discussing the "Elite Squad" films. Many reviews including one from Variety have labeled the film simple recruitment material for fascism. With  politicians portrayed as corrupt, intellectuals coming across as naive pansies, and that the only worth getting is the peace through superior firepower/torture mentality, it's easy to see how people believe this. Yet director Jose Padilha brings up a good point:
Did people say Coppola was a fascist for creating Michael Corleone? It’s clear that we don’t think torture is OK, we don’t approve of the way Captain Nascimento behaves. We’re just showing how it is – and in reality, it’s actually worse.” 
And while I haven't spent anytime in the slums of Rio, the films really do come across as how "it is." These are brutal, violent, gritty films that have are style that feels so real it's impossible for it to feel thrilled while watching it. Padilha's first film "Bus 174"  was a documentary about a bus hijacking in Rio and his knowledge of savage nature of the slums comes across in his films both in tone and production design.

With the sequel generating considerable press, the films are serving as launch-pad for all those involved. Padilha is already working on rebooting the "Robocop" franchise and the film's star (featured above) Moura is starring in Neill Blomkamp's follow up to "District 9" with Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and Diego Luna. If you liked "City of God" you gotta check out these flicks, they are one that people are going to be talking about for a long time.

September 26, 2011

TPG's Chemistry Class: Episode 11 "Crawl Space"

Everything has changed. More than any other episode, and yes, I'm including all the action heavy tension filled episodes of yonder year, this is the most game changing episode yet story wise. Where our characters go from here is anybody's guess. But, let's make sure our carpet is where we want it to be, and get started.

1. This episode was titled "Crawl Space" and in addition to the lab, the car-wash, and the desert it's a key piece of Breaking Bad lore. It was here that that Walter's compulsiveness really came to a fore-front when he was trying to take care of the fungus, it's here where Skyler stashed his money, and finally, now it's where he totally lost his mind. That cackle at the end, a man finally being crushed by everything above him. He's being pushed into hell.

2. This was one of four episodes that Bryan Cranston produced, and I can see why, his is a tour de force of acting makes the episode. That laugh in the end when he's in the crawl space was haunting.

3. Gus Fring was definitely in the Chilean Army when General Pinochet was calling the shots. You don't get private hospitals, with stashes of blood types, and expert doctors without having some serious connections. Also, it would explain where he learned his detailed, thorough, and ruthless approach to chicken and enemies.

4. Everyone knew Ted was going to die, but I gotta say, while I appreciated the very "Godfather" obvious homage with the oranges falling on him, I was a little disappointed that it wasn't more intense. I guess he died like he lived...carelessly. After all this was the guy who had an affair, cooked his books, and bought the Benzo. Yet I found his "I'm doing the right thing" speech to be a ray of light amidst the dark souls of this show.

5. Impressive that Hank referenced "3 Days of the Condor," it's an old school thriller starring Robert Redford about a vast conspiracy full of morally ambiguous people, sounds familiar.

6, The last time Jesse was playing Sonic Racing he was drugged out mess. Now, he's playing it with Andrea and Brock while eating popcorn, a happy little domestic unit, and who comes knocking at the door. Mr. Danger Walter White! The roles have been reversed. Jesse is the stable one and Walt is the drug-addicted mess. He's addicted to power and control. And damn if there any doubt Walt was off the rails he gets cattle prodded like some crazy animal.

7. Will Tyrus, Gus's current henchman live longer than Victor?

8. What does Gus want from Hector? Does he want him to cry? Lose it in his pants? Explode? Seriously, Gus, what you looking for? Your Jordans?

9. Change is coming:

  • Gus - He's got some hard choices. Killing Hank/Walter are bold moves. He's ruthless, he's going to try to kill Hank
  • Jesse - Does he have any compassion left for Walter. I don't think so.
  • Walter- A broken deranged man, he's going to confess to Hank and try to get out. My co-worker is correct, he'll be in hiding by the end of the season.
  • Saul - He's in too deep with the death of Ted and the witness protection thing. He's probably dead.

September 23, 2011

Jason Statham Needs To Fight More Monsters

Some of my most dedicated readers have been getting on my case about why I'm not pumped for "The Killer Elite." By all account I should be excited for it, I mean it's got cars, babes, explosions, guns, and fighting, that's kind of like my peanut butter and jelly, so what gives? Honestly, it's Jason Statham. I am a fan of Statham but I don't really feel the need to see his movies. How does that work?

Simply put, he's been doing the same thing for to long. I honestly can't tell the difference between "Blitz," "The Mechanic," and "Killer Elite" because they all feature him beating the shit out of dudes while he he wears dark colored clothes. That's a rule, he can only wear dark clothes. But seriously, what is he lacking, how come I'm not 100% on the train?

It's cause he's not fighting monsters or boxing.

Whaaa? Fighting monsters, c'mon son! I'm serious, look at Arnold. His first big movies had him playing a cyborg killer machine, chopping up giant snakes, and fighting intergalactic bounty hunting aliens. That's how you prove you're a badass, you take it to the next dimension, not the next level.

But what about Stallone? Stallone thinks Statham is the next great action star, this is a fact (Stallone once told me this himself) but while Stallone hasn't slayed as many monsters as Arnie, he's got his own genre: the boxing film. Stallone made many of them (perhaps you know this) and Statham should as well. It makes the audience see you as more as an underdog of the working class, instead of a top dog of the assassin with an accent class.

Of course, there's one thing that I know you all are thinking: "The Expendables!" Yeah. Whether it's the ridiculous basketball fight or the fact that he has the most kills, Statham owns that movie. However, he does have a legendary cast with him that provides some type of cool action multiplier (this happened to Arnold in Predator FYI). "Killer Elite" on the other hand has him paired up with De Niro, who I see as serious thespian, and with Clive Owen, who is cool, but has always been afraid to go full badass.

So basically, Statham just needs to switch it up a little bit. And based off this article he should star in a movie with a plot line something like this:

The US Olympic boxing team is recruited and trained by the US Government to to protect earth from an invading alien force.

Sign me up for that.

September 21, 2011

The Grey Trailer Is Born To Be Wild

Why hello there preview for a film I'm going to be relentlessly hyping for the next couple of months. Yes, this preview is correct: Liam Neeson fights wolves in the wild. I mean, how can you not be excited for this?

Neeson + Wolves = Sign Me Up

September 19, 2011

A Real Hero: Drive Roars To Life On The Silver Screen

For anyone complaining about the lack of creativity in Hollywood these days, go see the dynamite new film "Drive." With Ryan Gosling at the wheel, the film, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn is something the casual viewer will find mesmerizing and film nerds will salivate over. With it's dynamic camera work, killer score, and just plain insane direction, the whole thing just radiates cinematic power.

Not enough can be said about Gosling who just takes every scene he's in and owns it. Part of the pull of the film is lies in the contrasting nature of his character. On one hand he's a oft silent, handsome auto mechanic, caring for his neighbor and her son yet on the flip-side he's a ice-cold killing machine. Let's clear the air, there is some graphic ass violence in this flick, let me say that again THIS MOVIE IS VIOLENT AS HELL. Gosling deserves to get a Oscar nomination for his brooding intensity, but I think the Academy will bitch out because out of all the blood.

His killer support cast includes Albert Brooks (in a rare villainous turn), Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, and Oscar Isaac all bring it, but the star of the show here is Refn. "Drive" looks like an art movie; shots linger, colors pop off the screen, and L.A. has never looked seedier. One of the greatest things about the flick is how well all the elements work well together. The cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel is bananas, the original score by Cliff Martinez heightens every scene, and the script by Hossein Amini keeps things focused.

Refn who made the incredibly divisive masterpiece "Valhalla Rising" gets more confident with each film and "Drive" has him operating on top of his game. Good thing one of his many follow ups on tap is a big budget remake of the sci-fi classic "Logan's Run," with Gosling on board as well. In fact Gosling has become something of his dude, the DiCaprio to his Scorsese, with another project called "Only God Forgives," coming next.

Thislalife readers will now that I've been hot in pursuit of "Drive" for a while, even dedicating the Hype Train honor on it before it even dropped, and while sometimes that blows up in my face, no such thing happened with "Drive." The film is still driving figure eights all over my skull right now as I try to gain control of how excellent it is. Go see it, it's the truth.*

*'s violent.

TPG's Chemistry Class: Episode 10 "Salud"

Happy Father's Day everybody! Sorry did I get my dates mixed up? In case you didn't notice last night this episode was all about what being the unique relationship between a father and a son and just how far each will go to protect each other. Besides that it was a tense, action packed episode, full of a lot of people getting "GUSSED!" Yes, I just made up that word.

Gus:  (Verb) To be removed from the equation when you least expect it. Thought those mosquitos were going to be a problem but Hank really gussed them so we're good.

1. As I stated above, this episode was really about father figures. Walt's story/parable to Walter Jr. about how he remembered his father was heartbreaking, both because of how heartfelt it was (Cranston! Acting!) and how also how indicative it was of how much Walt still wants to control how he's perceived. On the flip side we had Jesse taking a family vacation with his father surrogates Gus and Mike. During both of story lines the son played a crucial part in saving the father. Walter Jr covering up for his's dad bloody well being and Jesse spilling blood to help his fathers' well being. Way to step up son! That was some Cat Steven's shit!

2. Speaking of stepping up! Tonight was the crowning achievement of Jesse Pinkman's career yo! Seeing him boss around the Mexican scientists, watching the crowd grow, and that final tick up to purity was tense, but the payoff for Jesse considering where's he been and what he's done was 100% pure satisfaction. It firmly cemented him in the Gus/Mike camp and that was even more prevalent by just how quickly he started blasting his gun like Tony Montana at the end. I'm 100% rooting for Pinkman and really hopes he becomes the Michael Corleone of this show.

3. I pointed out last week that the show is paying Homage to Scarface in a big way, but it seemed like this week they were paying homage to Fat Joe and Big Pin (RIP) with all those large Mexican gangsters!

4. I pointed out last week that the show is paying Homage to Scarface in a big way, but it seemed like this week they were paying homage to Fat Joe and Big Pin (RIP) with all those large Mexican gangsters!

5. Give up for RJ Mitte who plays Walter Jr. Last week I asked for some more scenes involving him and this week we got em'. Thanks gang.

6. As much as this season is about the continuing adventures of Gus Fring and the gang, it's also about Skyler's descent in moral depravity. She just like Walter has a taste for power and control and if you think that sweet ol' Ted and his new Benz are going to the end of the season, go back to watching "The Voice." That dude is marked for death and Skyler is going to give the order.

7. No Hank this week, and you know what I kind of missed the guy.

8. "There's no place for emotion in this," says the Head of Cartel to Gus, which is ironic because it's both true and false. Gus is the king of being emotionless whether he's slicing throats, serving up savory chicken, or killing a group of rivals en mass. Yet, Fring is also full of emotion, he taunts Uncle Hector, he makes a point to toss his nemesis into the pool, and smiles when Pinkman comes through with the cooking.

9. Good to see Morris O'Brian back on TV.

10. THE RETURN OF THE MIND MELT: While there have been more than a couple news stories about educators becoming Meth cooks, the story that seems to be paralleling the show now is the trial of Edgar Valdez Villarreal or "La Barbie." Born in Texas, Edgar got involved in the drug trade, became an enforcer for a cartel, and rapidly rose to power in the Cartel. He's now awaiting trial and most likely is responsible for over 150 deaths. I don't know if Pinkman has a dark enough soul to become that intense in the power structure of the cartel, but with Gus and Mike wounded, it's now on him to be emotionless and take over tha game!

September 16, 2011

Cred Confessions: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I never really got Star Trek. I saw"Star Trek: First Contact" mainly because my buddy Ryan described "The Borg" as villain on par with Bobba-Fet. Of course Bobba-Fet is one man and the Borg are collected hive mind....whoah I'm getting ahead of myself. So in order to see what the old "Trek" was all about, I recently watched the highly acclaimed "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" on blu-ray. And yes Trekkies, I did watch the episode "Space Seed" first, so put your phasers down.

From what I understand part of the reason the film is so beloved is Khan, played by Ricardo Montalban is so damn money as the villain. This dude chews up scenery like a hungry Rancor feasting on people Jabba doesn't like (wrong series...sorry nerds). His quest for vengeance against Kirk does make for a exciting film and the action and story beats hold up very well. However some of the acting is a little over the top and the special effects are pretty janky. Scenes of torpedoes being fired from ships that look like glowing golden orbs are just pretty bootleg. I'm not sure if it's cool to judge old films on their special effects but if nerds are gonna worship something, then I'm gonna hold it to a high standard.

I was also struck how the film isn't afraid to address some real deal themes, you know like life, death, religion, and if you should strike things up with old flames. But seriously, the "Kobayashi Maru" test which popped up in the reboot is a plot point in the film that effectively muses about being prepared for death. Scenes involving McCoy and company ruminating on the "Genesis" project, kind of an atom bomb of planet creation are a noble attempt at something more substantive.

Director Nicholas Meyer does a solid job and there is some memorable camera work, particularly with scenes set outside the spaceships, yet the best part of the movie is the highly quotable space dialogue that is highly memorable and always touching. Spock's "I have been...and always shall be...your friend," is the real deal when it comes to emotional moments and McCoy's simple comment about Kirk getting out there to "hop galaxies" makes Kirk sound like the space age Don Draper (which maybe he just is).

So is it worthy of me doing a cred confession (i've done some pretty serious films)? Yeah, it is, it's a successful genre film that succeeds at becoming something more. Guess I'm starting to get it.

September 13, 2011

TPG's Chemistry Class: Episode 9 "Bug"

Well, we now they would end up beating each other up sooner or later right? 

1. "Breaking Bad" as I've mentioned in previous posts is seemingly inspired by "The Godfather" and regardless of what Vince Gilligan says, it seems to be me he is very inspired by Brian DePalma's gangster masterpiece "Scarface." Just last week we had Tony Montana's brother Steven Bauer pop up in an episode and now Jesse, Gus, and Mike are headed to Mexico for a summit with the cartel. Same thing happened in "Scarface" and some threats were made and people were hung from helicopters.

2. This is one demanding show. Not only was the the beat down at the end hard to watch, but it requires you to pay attention to everything. For example, all that business with Skyler and the funny accounting from previous seasons with Ted Beneke. Some people I trust regarding the show thing that Ted has already been approached by the D.E.A. is on a sting to bust up Heisenberg. I'm not sure I'm on that train yet.

3. I didn't care for the slutted out Skyler, her character is consistently my least favorite thing about the show. Speaking of characters, I'd love to see Walter Jr. get move involved in the plot this season.

4. Seeing Gus run into those bullets was straight bananas. Not too much to say about that.

5. Let's have a brief moment to focus on the super intense acting that was in this episode. First, Gus Fring, dinner scene, how this dude keeps it so collected and calm is beyond me. Second, when Pinkman losing it about his fear about Mexico, that was one take and Paul just brought it the whole time: Also peep this classic scene of Gus Fring, aka Giancarlo Esposito in the legendary: "Do The Right Thing."

6. You gotta start wondering when Hank is going to think Walter has been acting really sketchy. I mean connect the dots bro.

7. So Walter and Jesse had a fight, but when is it going to be Walter vs Jesse for real. My hope is that the entire season is them trying to outwit each other.

Ira Glass on Storytelling

Just a nice little video for anyone out there that is doing creative work. While Glass does kind of sound like a seasoned storytelling wizard talking to a padawan, I dig all the science that he is dropping here.

September 7, 2011

The Quest for Liberty: What Breaking Bad Is Really About

Instead of my usual Breaking Bad Recap, I've decided to do a reflective piece on the show. If you are serious about needing a recap for Sunday's Gus Centric episode here it is: H O L Y S H I T guy. Moving on.

AMC's "Breaking Bad" is not only one of TV's most thrilling shows, it is also a show that tells much about the times we live in. On the surface level it's a re-telling the classic American narrative of a rise and fall of a criminal, yet if one looks deeper into the show and it's incredible characters, it becomes clean that creator Vince Gilligan is creating something that speaks to current national values. I'm not talking about consumerism, the drug war, or life in the southwest, I'm talking about ye olde' standby: Life Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness.

At the start of the series, Walter White was playing by the rules. He had a nice family, a reasonable degree of autonomy provided by two jobs, and with a baby soon to be added, a ye olde quite life. Of course this all changed with his cancer diagnosis, it was one thing that shifted his entire view on everything. Life - it wasn't looking good. Liberty - he know was at the mercy of disease. Happiness - he had to live with knowing he didn't have enough money for his family after he passed. Simply put, he had lost control.

Control, power, liberty, free-will, or whatever you want is the key focus on this show. Every character from Walt to Marie wants to be in control over their own destiny. In the most recent episode Walt snarled "Never give up control" to another cancer payment. I loved this because it confirmed what we already knew, Walter was no longer sick with cancer, he was sick overdosing on too much control. He had more money than he'd ever need, he had tasted the rush of murder, and he saw himself as smarter than Jesse and Gus.

And that's what we all want, right? We want to have more power at our jobs? We want to have more money to be able to provide for our loved ones. We want to be the masters of our destiny, not some schlub who can't see that life is out there for the taking. If you look at the characters who have got iced on the show many of them lack the ability to control their situation. Tuco, Combo, and Jane all were drug addicts who died because of being unable to handle their shit. Gale had the skills, but couldn't control his own destiny by taking the top job, and Victor lost control of the situation at the crime scene.

In contrast the most sturdy characters on the show exert an almost super-human level of control of their life. Gus, the best character on TV right now is power player because he controls so much, same can be said of Mike the Cleaner. Yet, if the people with the most liberty are the bad guys, what exactly is Gilligan trying to say if that that the only way to achieve maximum control is to...wait for it...break free from societies'...or break bad.

September 6, 2011

Expendables 2 Casts Arnold, Sly, and Bruce

That sound you hear is a thousand serious actors starting to cry because the master thespians Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone, and Ahnnnnulld are back. It has just been announced that the power trio will return with bigger roles in the sequel which comes out next year.

September 1, 2011

Rupert Grint Doing It!

I guess he's the spokesperson for some Band of Outsiders clothing line, but yeah let's be honest, he just shot to the top of the must party list.