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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Looper Review

If you’re looking for convention and routine, Looper isn’t going to be your most fulfilling catch.  Here we have a film that incorporates time travel but doesn’t go balls out with showing off technology or advances.  Normally the two go hand-in-hand, but we’re shown stuff that’s as subtle as it is familiar, aesthetically.  The focus instead rests on the story and characters, one of which is normally compromised for the other in other sci-fi films.  But since we have less blunt distractions in our way, the focus remains where many will argue it should be.

Speaking of the story, quite a bit goes on here and, without spoiling anything, let’s just say that ties and lines are twisted and strained.  We’re given a modest future, to say the least, where people from even later on are sent back to be killed and literally eliminated–no traces or fingerprints to find.  It’s a premise that will either fascinate or frustrate you (or both) the more you dig into it, which you can argue as being part of the fun here.

Actually, that might be the only fun you’ll get, as the film doesn’t tread lightly.  Save two or three chuckles, you’re really left with a serious face during the film’s runtime.  Thankfully, this is an engaging watch with hardly a slow or dragging moment.  That said, there were points I was saying to myself “man, I wish this movie was a lot longer so we could get and see more.”  On one hand it’s great that I’m being sucked in, but on the other I feel like since more sci-fi films stretch well past the 2 hour mark, why not Looper?

This is also to say that you shouldn’t expect a building climax that builds to epic proportions.  Looper is, at its core, a fairly personal story that brings several characters into play, but doesn’t show or build things to a grand, awe-inspiring scale.  Think of it like The Terminator with less indication of the war in the future.

Shape and spectacle are not what you should look for in Looper; but instead thought and personal investment.  The idea and premise is less original and more innovative, but it’s nice to get a little something different.  And with a year already full of solid films, it should have no problem fitting comfortably on most viewer’s top releases of the year.

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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Blog, Film, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, Review

 

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Double Feature: Fantasia & Fantasia 2000

Anyone who’s followed Doug Walker knows his favorite Disney animated film is the original Fantasia.  He’s touched on this at least two times between his Top 20 favorite films and last year’s Disneycember.  As a kid, Fantasia was almost this silent horse figure to me.  I’d watch it repeatedly–much like the original Star Wars films, but it never really crept up in discussion with others.  But hey, not all dark secrets need to remain locked away, just like my virginity.  Disney have protected me well.

One of the few Disney films I haven’t seen (or hadn’t, as of this post) is Fantasia 2000, which came out around that sour transitioning period from elementary to middle school for me.  Since then my interest in the movie catapulted, especially when I saw bits and pieces of the grander parts.  And since I was in the middle of a walk to my nearby BlockBuster (yes, we still have one here) I decided to treat myself to a double feature of both Fantasia films.

Heading in, I feel like the proper way to tackle these films is to talk about each segment individually since that’s essentially what these films are.  Admittedly they’re both achieving similar results by attempting to create an experience of sound and visual, but when you look back on these movies, you think of them in bits and chunks.  I’ll simply have to make them slightly more interesting than your generic track-by-track review off of Amazon.

So first up we have the original Fantasia which, believe it or not, is over 70 years old now.  And the film still looks great to this day, outdoing several contemporary releases from more than just artistic and visual standpoints.  It was supposed to mark a new direction for Disney, but fell short of being a monumental enough hit; kind of the same way The Dark Knight Rises’ box office isn’t big enough since it was outdone by The Avengers.  Because as we all know, the inferior crap earns the most money.  But I digress.

Fantasia opens with the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, gradually transitioning from the choir to colors, shapes, patterns and the like meant to compliment the music.  This is just a wonderful and vibrant combination of sound and visual with the music being passionately represented by what are often abstractions.  It’s a piece that sticks with you well after even one viewing.  I’d also say it’s one of the film’s most memorable selections, simply because it embodies what I think the film is really about: Music and visuals expressing and complimenting each other.

The opening of the Nutcracker Suite has become synonymous with Christmas, so it’s only fitting that the collection of pieces included depict the changing seasons.  This is where hints of a story come into play, but it’s less about a story and more this barely cohesive guideline.  It works for telling something but never gets in the way of the overall experience.  Like the weather and seasons, you’re picked up and swept away as the music sways through the peaceful and upbeat sections.  Besides, how can your attention not be caught after seeing mushrooms and flowers moving around just a notch shy of salsa dancing?

By now The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has become THE piece most would synonymize (yes, I made that up) with Fantasia.  I mean, you’ve got the titular character of said piece on the cover of the film’s box art, what else is there to say?  This is also where the film finally tells a definite story, one that, upon recent viewing, I’ve elected to refer to as “Moses after officially taking up sorcery.”  Maybe Mickey was somehow born from Moses, maybe he was just adopted.  Either way, this remains an enjoyable, charismatic scene that, like the previous two segments, sticks with you.  Whether that’s because it’s most frequently used when referencing the film or the fact it’s a good piece I leave for you to decide.

The longest individual segment from the film, Rite of Spring, has always stood out to me.  A key part of it was definitely the dinosaurs, something I was obsessed with as a kid.  Seeing it now I have to say the music used is quite dark, which the visuals have a tendency to compliment, especially during the opening half with smoke coming up to indicate lapses in time.  There are other parts like the T-Rex, the drought, volcanoes erupting and terrain shifting which build to make an enthralling 15 minutes.  In some ways I’d argue this as my favorite part from the film because it’s always the one that draws me in the most.  And go figure with the dark engagement, since it’s followed up by…

The intermission, also where we “meet the soundtrack,” which provides a brief demonstration of a few instruments in a bit of a visualizer style.  It’s entertaining and gives us a nice idea of what some of the individual selections of instruments are like, but is strictly what it’s labeled as: an intermission.

Afterwards we move to a far more colorful and upbeat piece with Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, something I’d prefer to call “a more fulfilling film than Hercules could ever muster to.”  Much of what we get here can be disputed as silly and certainly romantic, but my guess is that’s in keeping with Greek tales (please don’t hurt me, hardcore scholars).  I think it’s a good piece overall, especially with the centaurs and cupids, but I’d be lying if I said it was very engaging.

Then we get Dance of the Hours, which is supposed to provide stretches that apparently represent the times of the day, but I probably wouldn’t draw that reference were it not pointed out.  Of all the pieces between both Fantasia movies, this one is probably my least favorite, since hippos and elephants dancing is less fascinating and more…odd.  I’m all for ballet style too, it’s a key reason Black Swan worked–not as good as it should’ve, but that’s another debate–it’s just this isn’t a piece to really grab you and, even with a reasonable runtime, it simply drags.

Thankfully, the film’s closing is far more rewarding with a return to the darker and more engrossing Night on Bald Mountain, followed by the wonderfully calming Ave Maria.  Apparently the two were picked because they’re so different from one another, but I always found the transition from one to the other to be very seamless.  Rampaging and viscous darkness succeeded by an almost brooding calm that builds to something faintly triumphant is such a wonderful combination which only does one thing for the entire film: Complete it.

This brings us to Fantasia 2000, a surprisingly shorter but expectedly interesting sequel that, in most respects, lives up to the standards set by its predecessor.  One area I’ll admit that the film loses points is with the cameos from celebrities, which make my attempts at wit and satire look about as successful as a George Carlin stand-up performance.  Set that aside and we have a real treat of a film that consistently delivers what it should, especially given the fact it’s a more modern film.

So what better way to kick things off than with Beethoven’s renowned Symphony No. 5, which does a fantastic job assuring us the visuals will be terrific and do well to accompany the music.  There are points here and in the other pieces that don’t seem to take advantage of a few sways in the music, but they’re minor distractions at worst.  Admittedly, however, the intent for this opening to simply depict abstractions is quickly disproved since we’re given some sort of a narrative, even thematically.  But this remains a solid opening and serves to foreshadow the inevitability that I’d never reach anything remotely close to this film’s artistic prowess.

Pines of Rome has become a favorite for many people, which is very easy to see and understand.  I’ll admit the eyes on the whales are a bit distracting, but otherwise it’s a great segment which builds to one fantastic climax sure to get your jaw stuck on the floor.  This is definitely a segment to watch and feast on Blu-ray.

Rhapsody in Blue is in the running for my favorite piece from the film since it rings with today’s troubled times while paying homage to the 30’s and 40’s.  The art style here is phenomenal and a rare treat when most animation nowadays is either the standard 2D style that Disney became synonymous with or the highly detailed 3D courtesy of Pixar.  It’s a bit on the long side, but the connections made between characters pulls you and grips you surprisingly well, especially for an almost comedic piece.  From the get go with the outline of the buildings I knew this was going to be a great segment and it did not disappoint in the least bit.

As is Disney tradition, their adaptation of The Steadfast Tin Soldier alters things in a way that gives audiences young and old the most accurate depiction: That all obstacles have a totally happy ending.  Like the Pines of Rome, there’s a 3D-esque look to this piece that almost makes it seem transcendental for Disney, especially for the time.  The plotline is a bit out of touch, but the core story is easy to get behind.  As a bit of a side note, since I only just saw the film recently, this piece immediately reminded me of Hugo with Sacha Baron Cohen’s character.  Thankfully, that was one of my favorite parts of that film, so it helped to strike a chord with me.  Definitely not the strongest part of the movie or the most memorable, but it’s not totally forgettable, unlike Dance of Hours (fortunately).

Easily the most infamous musical part of Fantasia 2000 is The Carnival of the Animals, sparked by the question “what would happen if you gave a yo-yo to a flock of flamingoes?”  I think the real question to ask was given courtesy of James Earl Jones (“who wrote this?”).  Despite its reputation, I don’t mind the piece at all.  In fact, I rather enjoy it since A, it’s fun and upbeat and 2, it’s short and harmless.  Is it the worst piece of the entire film (outside of the cameos)?  Probably, but that’s like saying Peanut Butter M&M’s aren’t as good as Reese Pieces.

Cue a retread of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and we move on to Pomp and Circumstance, which might as well be called “Noah’s Graduation Ceremony.”  A tired joke perhaps, but it is easy to think about some sort of graduation when the animals board the ark.  Given that our key player here is Donald Duck, you can tell it’s going to be a less serious film.  Also, did anyone else see the piece as a big throwback to An American Tail with Donald narrowly missing his love over and over?  If there’s any piece that I’d argue the animation as being less than impressive, I’d probably point to this one.  That said, there’s some fun slapstick humor to be had and it did get a few decent laughs out of me, which is something we can all use more of.

And we wrap things up with the Firebird Suite, which I hotly anticipated (pun not intend) after each piece ended.  As viewers of the film know, this is some of Disney’s best animation, easily holding up over a decade later.  The story and use of color here is top notch, surpassed only in scope by Pines of Rome and rivaled in emotion only by Rhapsody in Blue.  I actually took a Nature Writing course (no, I’m not a hippie) in college and one article I read was that controlled forest fires are actually necessary and beneficial for tree and plant life since it essentially rejuvenates them in the long run.  This might not necessarily be the message of the piece, but it’s some good food for thought; especially so when you take the message of becoming bigger, better and stronger after things have hit their worst.  It’s a terrific tale of recovery and a definite contender for the Top 5 pieces between both Fantasia films.  And most importantly, we get another solid conclusion to a very worthwhile release.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Blog, Film, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, Review

 

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Weekly Stumblings (9/24)

Mondays suck, but I’m here to make them suck just a bit less.  Besides, we’ve officially entered the first days of Fall, so that’s something to look forward to.  Assuming pumpkin and candy corn flavors and themes are to your liking of course.  But we’ll get to those some other time.  For now, you can dwell on the latest crop of my weekly stumblings.  Enjoy!

A Line: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/8gpkfZ/www.barcinski-jeanjean.com/entries/line3d/index.html

Slot Sofa: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/A3Bhys/www.behance.net/gallery/Slot-Sofa/3572015

Depth of Field Test: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2hkzAx/mrdoob.com/lab/actionscript/pv3d/dof/05/

Pop Culture Ice Creams (if Ben & Jerry’s want to completely dominate the ice cream market, they’d better incorporate these flavors, both permanently and nation-wide.  Or they could do them regardless just to be awesome): http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1yqT32/jonnyetc.prosite.com/18214/220082/home/pop-culture-ice-creams

A Game of Love: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2l2BOl/home.scarlet.be/~bbonte/portal/love.html

47 (More) Brilliant Advertisements: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2npMLZ/www.rsvlts.com/2012/08/04/brilliant-advertisements-photos/

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Blog, Uncategorized

 

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The Blossom Experiment

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when it comes to baking, I get excited at just about any possibility.  What better way to enjoy life than to pick your poison for death by sugar overdose?

One particular combination of flavors I’ll happily die by is peanut butter and chocolate.  I’m not even just talking Reese’s, I mean anything with those flavors together.  The combination leads to an automatic categorization of awesomeness  That said, it’s amazing that I haven’t tried a little twist on the classic PB & J: Peanut Butter and Nutella.  I probably should.

What am I getting at with this?  Well, let me entertain one last tried and true combination so I can transition: peanut butter blossoms.  The first time I learned about these as a kid, I freaked.  I HAD to have them.  And like a polarized cousin to the peanut butter cup, I fell in love.  Since then I’ve pondered varying twists on how I could deform the original blossom.  One that I made twice and yielded moderate success with was chocolate candy cane blossoms for Christmas.  What were those?  Take chocolate chip cookies and instead of adding normal Hershey Kisses, use the Peppermint Kisses from Christmas time.  They probably work well with regular sugar cookies as well, but I like variation in the consistency of my food.  The fact I can have chocolate while I’m at it helps too.

And with the advent of Fall upon us once again, I got some ideas for a nice, seasonal twists on the classic blossom.  Curiosity brought me to two combinations: peanut butter cookies or gingerbread cookies with regular Kisses or Caramel Kisses on top.  But then I thought…why not have both?  The two don’t seem so alien from each other to me, so I figured I’d find a couple recipes for peanut butter and gingerbread cookies that used similar core ingredients and mix them together.

By that point the most challenging part was getting the portions down, but I took an average of whatever two weren’t too demanding and yielded a similar quantity.  This is to say that I prefer to be more sparing than six dozen cookies, I’m not THAT addicted (I swear I’m not).

There were two final things I needed after deciding how I’d handle the quantity and preparation of ingredients.  The first came from looking up ginger cookie recipes, most of which involved dipping or covering the rolled up cookie dough in sugar.  I guess the ginger, cinnamon and sugar in the dough already just isn’t enough sweetness for everybody.  At that point I thought what would be a nice way to put a little twist on that as well?  Last-minute summer staples began to converge on my creativity as the latest idea popped: graham cracker crumbs.

That’s right, we got ginger, peanut butter and graham crackers together at once.  And we haven’t even reached the second of the two final things I alluded to.

Like I said, the Fall season is already in full swing with pumpkin literally being infused into everything.  If the stuff from a recent Spotted on Shelves (courtesy of The Impulsive Buy) wasn’t enough for you, I saw a bottle of pumpkin flavored vodka from Pinnacle.  I think we all know where this is going, what with the blossom topic: Pumpkin Spice Kisses.  But I still had a hard time deciding between pumpkin and caramel for the Kisses flavor, so once again, I decided I’d include both.  Half the batch would have one flavor of Kisses and the other half the other flavor Kisses.  Once again we’re getting the best of both worlds, because I believe in awesomeness like that.  Politicians should really listen to people like me.

Much like a previous recipe I tried (dark chocolate raspberry cupcakes for one’s birthday), this was a moderately lengthy, occasionally frustrating experience.  I always forget how tough it is to mix ingredients when finally brewing the actual cookie dough itself.  “But hey,” I though, “the results have to be worth it.”

Turns out the batch I concocted yielded more cookies than I would’ve liked, which left me rummaging for extra baking sheets and struggling to fit them all in the oven at once.  Those of you who know baking and cooking can probably tell this is a big fat no-no, especially when you’re only putting your work in the oven for a few minutes.  Cue a burning smell and the bottom baking sheet (almost half my batch) was burnt.  Yet the top sheets seemed to come out alright, so I focused on taking a frozen Kiss to indent in them a spot for the remaining Kisses.

As I let the good cookies cool off, I checked underneath the burnt bunch and only two of the 21 didn’t seem too bad.  And by that I mean they didn’t look pitch black.  Biting into those to see if they were any decent yielded such a bittersweet emotion.  I loved it.  The cookies were great, even burnt and without Kisses on top.  And as someone who doesn’t look fondly on stiff cookies like regular Chip A-Hoy! (chewy for me), these crunchy babies were remarkably scrumptious.  All the more reason I hated my egghead move.  Success and failure all at the same time.

The sway of flavors is interesting.  When I bite in, I’m immediately greeted by the ginger, with the peanut butter quickly being picked up before the ginger comes back once again for that final aftertaste.  As I said, the cookies came out rather stiff in texture, which is probably because of the molasses.  This was also the first time I used or got a whiff of molasses…I almost thought of not including it the second I opened the jar.  It’d be nice for these to be softer, so if you forgo that and try these, let me know how they come out.  I’d say these were successful, but I’ll have to work on them again to nail down what I really want.

Here’s the recipe I used:

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
About 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
3/4 to 1 cup of sugar
1/3 stick of butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable shortening (room temperature)
1/4 cup mild-flavored light molasses
1 egg
3/4 cup (smooth) peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 3 whole graham crackers smashed into crumbs
1 bag of Hershey Kisses of your choice

-Combine first 6 ingredients in bowl with whisk, mixing in crystallized ginger.  Set aside
-In large bowl, cream together white sugar and butter.  Add and beat brown sugar and shortening.  Add egg and molasses and beat until blended.  Mix in peanut butter and vanilla.  Add dry/flour mixture and mix until blended.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or so.
-Grease cookie sheets
-Preheat oven to 365 degrees
–Using lightly wet hands, roll and form dough into small balls, dipping in crushed graham crumbs to finish.
-Bake until golden brown (about 10 minutes)
-Create crease in cookies with a wrapped up kiss (frozen/refrigerated).  Add Kisses immediately.  Set cookies aside to cool off.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Baking, Blog, Candy, Food

 

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Weekly Stumblings 3 (9/17)

Yes, it’s rather abrupt to bring a Weekly Stumblings when I posted a late one just a few days ago.  But I naturally want to do a better job at keeping my word by providing them every Monday.  And since I’m right in the middle of working six shifts in a row, it’s probably a good idea to post it before going in for the fourth night.

So enough preface, here are the latest weekly stumbling:

Swole Me: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1jTh7i/:1iovTpgiA:WF@SFSRM/swole.me/

(More) Brilliant Advertisements: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2npMLZ/www.rsvlts.com/2012/08/04/brilliant-advertisements-photos/

How Long Does It Take to Burn X Calories? http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1ehK4r/www.healthassist.net/calories/

5 Ways to Hack Your Brain: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2DYV5w/www.cracked.com/article/127_5-ways-to-hack-your-brain-into-awesomeness/

How Stop Lights Should Be: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1Lk88i/www.boingboing.net/images/201011191019.jpg

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Blog, Uncategorized

 

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Quote Review: The Expendables 2 (2012)

“Let’s make it more dramatic.”

The Expendables 2 knows its audience and prides itself on giving us what is, let’s be honest, wonderfully pleasing stupidity.  Testosterone levels don’t get much more pronounced than this.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Blog, Film, Film Review, Movies, Review

 

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Weekly Stumblings (9/13)

Ball Droppings: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/18ugm0/balldroppings.com/js/

Plot Scenario Generator: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/4h1II3/www.archetypewriting.com/muse/generators/plot.htm

Videogame Fonts: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/8VaXkB/www.howtogeek.com/howto/21794/desktop-fun-video-game-fonts/

The Floating Home: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2xm9Sr/www.sub-find.com/trilobis65.htm

Shelf Life Guide: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/3334nX/www.stilltasty.com/

Mac and Cheese Cups: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/22ZYjS/cupcakesandcashmere.com/mac-and-cheese-cups/

Silly Taco Bell Tweets (hey, their food sucks, at least they can do something else right): http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/3TQiIA/twentytwowords.com/2012/07/12/silly-tweets-from-taco-bells-corporate-account/

How Movie Theaters Should Be Laid Out: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1QyzZq/theoatmeal.com/comics/movie_theater_layout?boobsareneat

Great Resume Designs: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2FW2AD/www.youthedesigner.com/2011/06/21/great-resume-designs-that-catch-attention-and-got-people-hired/

And for my personal favorite of this week’s stumblings (going to be a tough one to top in the weeks to come): http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2ruTxe/img14.imageshack.us/img14/1500/pokemondrinkinggamev20o.png

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Blog

 

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