Tag Archives: The Avengers

Big Screen Ballyhoo – “The Sessions”

As I continue to fulfill my quest to watch 50 percent of the Oscar nominated movies this year, I keep finding movies I enjoy. Which is quite nice, to be sure. Still, I’m going to have to pick up my pace to reach my goal.

My most recent viewing was “The Sessions,” nominated for Best Actress for Helen Hunt, and directed and written by Ben Lewin. I don’t know if I’ve seen a more crowd-pleasing movie nominated for an Oscar outside of “The Avengers.” While some critics may think “crowd-pleasing” means uncreative and boring, or unchallenging, I think the movie was just fantastic.

The movie, which I’m going to go ahead and say is rated R and has quite a bit of nudity and sexual content considering the subject, is based on the true story of Mark O’Brien, a writer and poet effectively paralyzed from the neck down due to polio. Unlike Disney “based on a true story” movies (with the possible exception of “Cool Runnings”), this movie has a lot of heart and goes places you didn’t necessarily expect it to, containing a powerful amount of emotion that you don’t realize until you get toward the end.

O’Brien (John Hawkes) spends most of his time in an iron lung. He can be out of the iron lung for about four hours every day, depending on how he’s feeling and how excited he gets. The movie is told in a partial first-person narrative style, based on an article O’Brien wrote called “On Seeing a Sex Surrogate.” The movie kicks off with O’Brien’s condition being shown, his care in the hands of a rather rough-looking woman. A Catholic, he goes to church and strikes up a conversation with the new priest, Father Brendan (William H. Macy). After consulting with the Father, O’Brien decides to fire his current caretaker and look for someone new. He finds a new caretaker in Amanda (Annika Marks). Unfortunately, after developing strong emotional feelings for her and telling her so, she is unable to reciprocate and leaves.

He ends up having two caretakers after that, Vera (Moon Bloodgood) and Rod (W. Earl Brown). O’Brien’s wit, charm and generally good disposition allows him to strike up conversations easily with his caretakers on a variety of subjects, making their relationships seem very comfortable. Eventually, O’Brien gets an offer to write an article about disabled people in the area and how they manage to have sexual lives. This gets O’Brien thinking about his own sexuality, his virginity and how he wants to get rid of it. So, he looks into hiring a sex therapist, after getting an okay from his priest.

He finds help in Cheryl Cohen-Greene (Hunt). Limited to six sessions together, they work together on helping O’Brien discover his body and eventually work into sex and sexual intimacy. As they have their sessions together, they learn more about each other and open up to one another, becoming more emotionally invested than therapist and client.

The movie has some real heart in it, and never in a massively cheesy way, I don’t think. It’s got great humor, and O’Brien is very charming and humorous despite his condition. The moments shared between O’Brien and Father Brendan are often quite humorous, but also contain a level of conflict that’s very interesting to watch, I feel. After all, a Catholic priest is basically having to approve of an extra-marital sexual affair between a man and a married woman, as we discover. Such a decision doesn’t come lightly to a priest, I’m sure.

Hunt is well deserved in her Oscar nomination, I find, and I think the writing of the movie was very good. Much better than a certain other screenplay that got an Oscar nomination… Different category, sadly. Anyway, the movie seems to be pretty funny throughout, without any real expectations of heavy emotional investment, but the end really has the potential to be a tear-jerker. It sneaks up on you a bit, hitting you before you realize what’s happened, and that is that O’Brien has won you over with his charm, the same way he wins over most of the people in his life.

I strongly suggest the movie if you’ve got time to see it. It’s worth a viewing.

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Big Screen Ballyhoo – My Favorite Films Of 2012

Ha. I wrote Favorite Films of 2011. My bad. These are from 2012, I swear.

It’s the end of the year, and I think you know what that means. It’s the time of year where everyone and their mother starts compiling lists. Some lists are of course better than others… I think my list of lists last year proved that. This year, as I’ve actually been seeing a decent number of movies from this year (well into the double digits, which might actually be a first for me), I’ve decided to actually tell you what my favorite movies are.

Note: These are not my picks for Oscars or anything like that. The Oscars will ignore at least one movie on my list, likely more than that. My Oscar picks will be around the time the Oscar nominations come out because who the heck knows what those crazy people are actually going to nominate. If I can get 50% of the picks right, I’ll be doing fantastically.

Anyway, here’s my favorite movies of the year.

1) “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” – I adored this movie. I never read the book, but I can tell you that the movie was just fantastic. And, as the movie was both written and directed by the author of the book, Stephen Chbosky, the purity between book and movie was very likely maintained. Also, people that did read the book say it was. It has some fantastic acting, particularly from Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller (Emma Thompson has fantastic moments, too), and is delightfully quaint and surprisingly emotionally heavy-hitting. It may be the best coming-of-age film I’ve ever seen.

2) “The Avengers” – Holy crap, this was just a fun movie. I very nearly ended up watching it in theaters three times. Would have if it weren’t for an excessive nap. King of the nerds Joss Whedon directed this massively dangerous film, an attempt to balance Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and S.H.I.E.L.D. in a cohesive action story, and he pulled it off fabulously. One of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen and perhaps my favorite superhero movie, with humor, action and heart combined in a fabulous combination. That’s how superhero movies should be made. I’m looking at you, Spider-Man franchise.

3) “Wreck-It Ralph” – I saw “Brave.” I liked “Brave.” It’s a good movie, and it’s almost certainly going to win the Oscar for Best Animated Film. Pixar has a habit of doing that. But, frankly, “Wreck-It Ralph” was beyond my favorite. As someone who enjoys video games, the premise and massive number of cameos/references from old video games was just beautiful. The nostalgia of the arcade was pitch perfect (I miss the mess out of those things). And the movie brought the emotions on way more strongly than I expected. I’m talking “Toy Story 3” levels, just about. Fantastic movie.

4) “Les Miserables” – I’ve been waiting for a film version of this musical forever. No joke. It’s my favorite musical of all time. And, while the movie isn’t perfect and misses some emotional moments many versions of the stage musical have, but it brings its own powerful emotions and beautiful picturesque scenes that would be unachievable on stage. It may have problems, but it’s ambitious and, I think, ultimately a major success. I find it hard to imagine a better version of the musical being put into film.

5) “Argo” – Ben Affleck is really coming into his own as a director, and becoming more comfortable as an actor, I think. A movie that deals with a far too neglected part of American history, this movie was one of the better thrillers I’ve seen in a while. Not only was it a great thriller, but it also had some surprisingly funny and well-crafted moments of lighthearted comedy, particularly when they’re trying to craft the phony film back in Hollywood. While I personally don’t think it will win, I wouldn’t mind “Argo” winning the Golden Globe, or maybe even the Oscar, for Best Picture. I may change my mind about that once I see “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” but for now that’s what I think.

6) “Skyfall” – I’m really hoping that this movie gets more Oscar recognition than just a Best Original Song nomination. I never really watched many Bond movies in my life. Beyond “Skyfall,” I only ever saw “Die Another Day” all the way through. For some reason, my dad doesn’t own any of the old movies. So I may have missed some of the jokes and references in the newest Bond film, but I didn’t miss out on the action and humor. This was, in my opinion, the best crafted action film of the year after “The Avengers.” Beautiful use of colors and shadow throughout, great imagery, wonderful acting from Javier Bardem… I know others will rail against me for saying this, but I would much rather Sam Mendes and this film get Oscar recognition over “Django Unchained.” But that may just be me.

There were so many other good films this year, too. There were only five films that I saw this year that I didn’t like or thought were bad. That’s quite a bit less than half of the movies I saw, too, so I think this year is doing alright when it comes to movies.

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And Now Is Nap Time

I really tried to curtail the “I’m feeling ill” posts. Honestly. But this has been going on for a while, and I don’t like it. Now my temperature is bouncing around on a trampoline, from 101 to 97.9. It’s ridiculous. And when I get a bit feverish, usually whilst in bed under my SINGLE cover, I start shaking harder than the earthquake in Alaska that broke a 9 on the Richter scale that likely very few people recall.

Thanks in part to my shaking (and my cat, who ate through my cell phone charger last night (this is not related to the me being sick, I’m just annoyed by it)), sleeping has been difficult. I also have sores in my mouth. They’re sores I’ve had before, sadly, and they really suck. The one inside my lip isn’t so problematic, it’s caused because me incisors keep accidentally biting me there. But the partner on the same side of my mouth, the sore on the left edge of my tongue… That one’s the worst. And when I say edge, I don’t mean it’s on top. It’s on the side. So even moving the tongue hurts. Makes eating awkward.

Especially eating a sandwich. Which I did yesterday, because I was fed up with things and my stupid condensed soup needed a can of milk, not a can of water like I assumed it would. Stupid broccoli and cheese…

Anyway, I had planned to write about how Mitt Romney is terrible and how his 47 percent thing perpetuates a false narrative about the working lower class (such as, they are worthless and/or don’t exist), but I don’t have time (or viable conscious mind) for that. So, between dreams of appearing on “The Voice” (where I sing “Collide” by “Howie Day”), I’m writing this update. Technically, this thing has until about sundown tomorrow to buzz off, but it seems less and less likely that that’s going to occur. So, Friday, when I’m not having to be at work all day (just the first half), I think I’ll swing to a doctor. Assuming they take non-insured people for less than an appendage or two. Or an organ, I want to keep those, I think.

But! I do have something cool to beg forgiveness. It’s a video with Grover and Cookie Monster making fun of “Twilight” and singing musical versions of “The Hunger Games,” “The Avengers,” “Doctor Who” and “The Newsroom.” My only complaint is that Grover doesn’t quite sound like the Grover I recall, but Muppeteers change. Many times because they die. Sadly.

…anyway, enjoy that! I’m going to pretend I’m completely healthy and sleep an uninterrupted sleep, as opposed to only two hours like last night.

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Big Screen Ballyhoo – “The Avengers”

Marvel is beating the everliving pants off of DC right now.

“The Avengers,” a superhero film joining some of Marvel’s most popular and well-known names, particularly after their individual films have come out over the past few years, has shattered records in the theaters, opening up to a domestic weekend total of $207.4 million (beating out “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”) and a second weekend predicted $103.2 million (beating “Avatar”), busting the world-wide $1 billion mark in a mere 19 days (tied with “HP” and “Avatar”) and making it the first movie to break $100 million two weekends in a row.

So, with all that money, you’d think this is a good movie right?

Well, it is. It totally is.

Joss Whedon, bringing his writing talents back into the film making world alongside his directing talents for only his second feature-length film, was faced with the daunting challenge of creating a movie that joins Captain America, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury and the other agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. together in a way where none of the characters were swallowed by the clutter so many heroes brings to the table, and then pitting them against a foe that could actually plausibly give these forces for good a difficult time.

I’ve watched a lot of Whedon’s work. I was introduced to him via “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” then through “Firefly” and his first feature-length film “Serenity,” before I ended up watching the thing that put his name on the map, the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” television series. He has a penchant for action in his direction, a good understanding of drama and emotion, an interesting, casual and somewhat quirky way with conversational speech, a great ear for music and a comic wit filled with amazingly well-written one-liners and humorous moments.

All of this comes out clearly in his “Avengers,” perhaps more than ever before. Maybe it’s the multi-hundred-million dollar budget he finally got to play with. Maybe it’s the strength of the base characters. Maybe it’s the actors, all of whom do amazing work in this movie. I feel no real need to specify any particular actors except Mark Ruffalo, the third man to portray Bruce Banner, Jeremy Renner, who was previously seen as Hawkeye but not in as in depth a fashion as this movie delved into, and Cobie Smulders, making her first appearance as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill. Also, fans of Agent Phil Coulson will be pleased to see Clark Gregg reprise his role in a much bigger way. Otherwise, you can see the other actors in the other movies sporting the names of the characters they play, and they of course all do fantastically.

Watching the previous movies – “The Incredible Hulk” (the one with Edward Norton), “Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” “Captain America” – is not strictly necessary for “The Avengers.” I missed out on “Captain America” and “Hulk” myself. But the writing in this movie is extremely well done, making sure no one is really too terribly lost. I won’t say it’s not a good idea, especially if you know nothing about the comics, but it’s not strictly needed.

I went and saw the movie opening night in a normal screening, then again earlier today in a 3D IMAX showing. The 3D, while done post-production, was actually pretty good. I’m sure movies like “Hugo” or “How to Train Your Dragon” were better. But this film was exciting in 3D. And the IMAX allowed me to notice details just a little more clearly than before.

The first time I saw the film, I was practically rolling in the floor with laughter at the humorous lines scattered throughout the entirety of the film. I avoided doing so literally because those floors are gross. I still got caught up in the drama and pain present in the film, but that hit me much harder the second time I watched it. Even knowing what was going to happen, the emotions behind the film sucker-punched me quite hard that second time. I’m not saying I was bawling or anything, but the film tapped into an emotional section I wasn’t sure a superhero action film could.

Those of you that know Whedon’s previous work will likely be gripping the edge of your seat with fear. I won’t specify why for those of you that don’t understand what I’m talking about and haven’t seen the movie. Which, at this point, is probably just my family, so. But Whedon’s treatment of the characters, combined with the superb acting from the actors, creates an amazingly engaging film. You won’t even realize it’s over 2 hours long. There is never a dull or slow part. And Whedon’s interpretation of the characters is part of that.

Chris Evans capture the struggle of the Captain’s desire to respect the chain of command but also do the right thing. Robert Downey Jr. is given some very good emotional moments, underlying Tony Stark’s desire for individuality and freedom as it conflicts with his desire to help people and perhaps correct the sins of his weapon-making past. Ruffalo portrays a very shy, intelligent Banner, trying to stay out of the way for fear of hurting others. Chris Hemsworth brings the sometimes confused, alien Thor back to first speak very eloquently (almost Shakespearean, actually), but also to portray the torment a man has for his brother, whom he loves but must also stop through any means necessary. And Tom Hiddleston brought back the chaos-loving, violent trickster Loki in true form, making the audience constantly wonder if he’s the bad guy or simply a pawn. Samuel L. Jackson of course brings a well-portrayed leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. back as Nick Fury, manipulative but ultimately a good guy (and kind of a bad-ass), with Smulders and Gregg playing their loyal Agents well. Scarlett Johansson and Renner brought emotionality and depth to Black Widow and Hawkeye respectively, often times when sharing the screen. And, from a heterosexual man’s point of view, all of the ladies (Johansson, Gwenyth Paltrow and Smulders) were in mighty fine form. From what I’ve been told, from a heterosexual woman’s point of view, so were the men. (Did I say I wouldn’t talk about specific actors? Oh, well.)

The fear in a movie with so many players is structure falling apart and people being left behind. “Spiderman 3” shows that fear well. “The Avengers” makes you wonder why you ever had that fear. It is easily one of the best superhero AND ensemble movies I’ve ever seen. And for those wanting excitement and action, don’t worry. If you’re 5 minutes late to the movie, you’ve already missed a fight scene and part of the plot. And the final fight in New York City would have, apparently, caused around $166 billion in damages. Michael Bay wishes he could create such a good movie and still have so many explosions.

If you’re one of the five people that apparently still hasn’t seen it (I’m looking at you, family), do so. And be sure to stay through the entirety of the credits. There are TWO after-credits scenes.

Basically, what I’m saying is, please let Whedon make more movies. Especially if they’re Avengers movies. And this movie is a must see (and potential Oscar winner in the technicals).

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Taking The Night Off After A Full Day

Today was a busy day, and it all started yesterday.

Yesterday was opening night of “Inside the Tornado.” I think it went well. My roommate and our mutual friend (both ladies) kind of tackle-hugged me when I got back to the apartment. Which was nice, to be sure. But that day was also grocery shopping all day for today. …how I wish there were a better grocery store in Tuscaloosa that held more variety, particularly in produce. Like peppers. I had to wing my sweet chili a bit, as Walmart and Publix both lacked the peppers and sausage I usually use.

Anyway, after the show was over, around 9:30, I went to buy a few more last minute items for the cookout that I was planning for today. I brought it all in and started prepping my chilies because I wanted them to be able to sit.

Well, prepping the chilies meant dicing up a lot of peppers and cooking those, cooking around 2 to 2.5 pounds of meat per chili, opening a billion cans and getting it all thrown in a pot and slightly cooked together. I had to buy a new 6 quart pot to be sure I could fit everything, and I still had to remove liquid from my spicy chili due to 6 quarts being right on the limit of space for my chili.

I did all this before bolting out the door and making it to the movie theater just in time to catch the trailers before “The Avengers.” Which was an amazing film I’ll review later. After the movie was done, I came back and finished cooking up the chilies, which took another hour or so to get them actually cooking and balance the spice/flavor profiles… Intense work. I came upstairs to work on the story I’d written for work a little bit, not really getting anywhere at all with that, before collapsing and going to bed around 4, 4:30. Then I woke up at 8 a.m. to continue working on my cooking. I was also bringing two cheesecake sopapillas and some roasted potatoes.

I left my apartment at around 9:45, after a lot of work prepping the potatoes and finishing up the chilies, and headed to the Pink House, where the event was to be, to finish everything up.

More stuff bought, cooked, et cetera… my clothing got covered in food stuffs… (How I wish I’d found my apron…)

I ended up staying there until 5:30 p.m., making sure I got to see everyone that came and got some food (I will apparently have to cook some veggie chili soon). Traffic was the worst, so instead of even trying to bother going home, I just went straight to the show about 30 minutes early. And then we had our show, and now I’m home.

So, what I’m trying to say is, I’ve had a lengthy day. A wonderful day that I wish lasted longer so I could have spent more time with my friends, showing them my love and appreciation in one of the ways I best know how. Also so I could’ve eaten more. I didn’t get to eat too much (dinner was an apple)… fortunately, my chilies are hefty and chock full of meat and such. They’ll fill you up.

Due to said day, I’m taking the writing day off (he said, 500+ words later). Goodnight, world.

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My First Super Bowl Sunday: A Recap

Okay. So as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve never been to a Super Bowl party, never watched a Super Bowl game all the way through… none of it.

That has all changed.

I rooted for the Giants because, first, they were the underdogs, but second and more importantly, most all of my friends watching the game were very anti-Patriots. …also anti-Titans when I shouted that out as a joke. Oh, well.

We weren’t a bunch of football obsessed people, so there was a lot of just simple hanging out and chatting. There was food, there was fun, I met some cool new people (who, depending on how hard hitting those bottles were on their system, may or may not remember me)… it was in general a good time. I even committed my first slight party foul and tipped a drink.

Woo.

The game wasn’t immensely exciting, though the Giants had a couple of extremely memorable plays. Particularly the game saving catch. The half time show was alright, I suppose… I particularly enjoyed Cee-Lo Green’s appearance and the wacky way the show ended… But, as we all know, the real reason to watch was the commercials.

Most of which were disappointing.

I mean, come on. If you’re going to pay that much money to get a commercial on during the Super Bowl, make it good. And make it new! What is up with showing commercials we saw a month ago? Or leaking the commercials early? Yes, I’m looking at you Ferris Bueller commercial. Even if you were nostalgically fun (not for me, since I’ve yet to see that movie (please don’t kill me)), I saw you a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t need a repeat.

There were some great movie trailers that I’m excited for, too…

But I’m going to break down my best and worst moments of the Super Bowl (all but one of which are commercials):

Best moments:

5. “The Catch” – Okay. I’m not really a big football fan. To be honest. But I like well played sports. I like risky maneuvers that pay off. I like skill. Ergo, I really liked this crazy Giants play that shouldn’t have worked.

4. “Doritos: The Bribe” – Wow. This one was one that was actually kind of dark, but still pretty funny. And it was much more satisfactory to me than the other Doritos commercial.

3. “The Voice – Vocal Kombat” – I really love this show. It is SO much better than American Idol. There’s no berating. There’s actual teaching, coaching from singers, singers that don’t swap out every week. There’s constructive criticism, there’s banter, and there genuinely seems to be a real caring nature from each of the coaches imparted onto each of the singers. It’s great. And this premiere? It’s hilariously over-the-top, off-the-wall ridiculous. I love every second of it. Especially the Cee-Lo parts. That guy is simply entertaining.

2. “M&Ms – That Kind Of Party” – This thing is terrible. And hilarious. Terriblious? Hilarible? Anyway, quite good.

1. “Audi – Vampire Party” – This appeals to everyone that disdains Twilight… and everyone with a sense of humor. This is well done and set a great tone of humor. One that wasn’t met well, but it was still great. My favorite, by far. (Well, not super far. The others I listed are awesome.)

Honorable Mention. “NBC lineup – Brotherhood Of Man” – I put this as an honorable mention because I didn’t see it until after the Super Bowl. But that allows me to link you to the longer version! Borrowing from “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” this showcases some of the best shows on television, even if NBC doesn’t realize it.

Best Trailer. “The Avengers” – I will again link the long version. Because it’s great. I’m really hoping this movie is as good as it could be.

There were others I could’ve included in this list, like the fat dog, that were fun, but I have to stop at some point, right?

Worst moments:

3. “Debbie Spenditnow” – This wasn’t one I got to see in my area… but I definitely saw it later. The only reason it’s number three is because it wasn’t in my area. But it’s definitely stupidly racist enough to get on the list.

2. “GoDaddy.com – Body Paint” – I have never liked GoDaddy commercials. They were alright when no one knew who they were. Now they’re just annoying and stupid. Please make them go away.

1. All the bad beer commercials – Seriously. What happened to the Budweiser frogs or “Whazzup?!” Those were fun beer commercials. The rescue dog commercial was cute, and had a nice message at the end… but there were sooo many beer commercials. And they were, by and large, no good at all. And Bud Light Platinum? Well, I’ll let my friend John Davis talk to you about that.

And that about sums it up. More good than bad, that’s for sure. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be back to talking about real issues.

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