In an effort to speed along the effort, we've taken it upon ourselves to list our eighteen favorite character names from Pynchon works. Why eighteen? Well, that's a hidden reference to a conspiracy that you need to argue about on message boards for years. Note: with the acres of episodic text that has poured from Pynchon's fingers, this is really just a drop in the bucket. We fully expect angry letters handwritten on graph paper to arrive via Thurn-und-Taxis post.
One might exit the theater after seeing 'The Signal' and feel compelled to run down a list of its seeming influences. 'Chronicle,' 'Dark City,' 'The Island' and John Byrne's acclaimed 'Next Men' comic of the early 1990s all spring to mind, not to mention scores of movies where a bunch of teens foolishly go somewhere dangerous and isolated when logic says they should turn around and run. But in the thick of it, William Eubank's low-budget sci-fi/horror/thriller is so focused on keeping you in the dark (despite its bright white walls) that these influences don't seem so obvious. The simplicity and elliptical nature of the script and the empathy from the actors (namely relative newcomer Brenton Thwaites) sustains this crafty and modestly budgeted film's hook. You kinda sorta know what's going on from the start, but the movie is sharp enough to toy with you, making it a good deal of fun.
'Godzilla,' the 2014 version from relative newcomer Gareth Edwards, is just about as good as a big fat summer tentpole movie gets these days. It's fun, scary and awe-inspiring in just the right places. Some of the acting is dull and the dialogue isn't exactly dripping with nuance, but these concerns are secondary. The set pieces are marvelous, the special effects are terrific and great care has gone into keeping the visual storytelling fresh.
You want a poster quote, cause here it comes: this 'Godzilla' is a monster!
Most of what I know about complex science comes from comic books, so forgive me if my understanding of quantum mechanics is a little off. But, I think it can mean that particles can exist in two states simultaneously. 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2,' a film loaded with such half-understood notions of difficult scientific concepts, is a quantum movie. It manages to be both awful and entertaining, frequently at the same exact time. The script is ludicrous, even by summer blockbuster standards. The characters behave irrationally and without motivation and the story makes lengthy, frequent pit stops into dull backstory. But, for every moment of tedium and confusion there is a tiny explosion of joy. Director Marc Webb just barely ties this collision of half-baked ideas together in a sticky Spidey bow.
"Nature, red in tooth and claw." - Alfred, Lord Tennyson
"It's like a freakin' Country Bear Jambaroo around here!" - Homer J. Simpson
Disneynature, the French production arm that's probably something of a tax write-off for the gigundo Walt Disney Corporation, is back with another top-shelf family-friendly naturalist film. 'Bears' is their fifth Earth Day-timed title released to theaters (two others went straight to DVD) and it yet again affords us 80 minutes of sitting in a theater muttering "how the hell did they get that shot?"
When I was a young man and the Internet was new, I made the same joke every time I dialed-up and heard those dissonant, scratchy tones. “Chhhhhhh-CHHHHHH-Chhhhhh” my modem would bray, and as soon as there was silence I'd turn to whomever was in the room and conspiratorially say, "all right, we're in."
'Transcendence,' the first feature film directed by Christopher Nolan's longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister, is two straight hours of that “all right, we're in,” with (slightly) updated peripherals. Featuring more technobabble than a middling episode of 'Star Trek: Voyager,' Rebecca Hall and Johnny Depp star as husband and wife computer geniuses who, along with artificial intelligence labs across the country, are attacked by a band of “neo-Luddite” terrorists.
Whereas Tom Hanks' Captain Phillips talked, finessed, sweated and went into shock to rescue his crew, Chris Evans' Captain America jumps onto a hijacked boat from a helicopter without a parachute. His liberation of a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel captured by international terrorists involves flinging himself across the deck; a human pinball with terrorists as his easily neutralized bumpers. Make that a super-human pinball, because as much as Steve Rogers maintains his golly shucks good nature, he is, after all, a Marvel superhero and he's here to save the day in the most preposterous and camera-ready fashion that's possible. Welcome to 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'.
Here's a tip. If you and your bros ever decide to “never stop filming,” reconsider. Not the filming – make the most of that graduation present – but whatever epic trek you are about to take. Something unsafe, and perhaps undead, is about to happen.
The story of Noah as it is written in the King James Bible is about three pages. If you want to Google it, read it, then come back to this you can go ahead. I'll wait here as I continue to stream some of Clint Mansell's spooky and enthralling score to the new Darren Aronofsky film starring Russell Crowe.
Back? Yeah, so, not a whole heck of a lot there. But did you catch the tiny references to things you may not recall from Sunday School? The “giants in the Earth” and the “flaming sword”? These are the pools from which Aronofsky irrigates his 'Noah.' This is, to adopt a phrase, the “old, weird Bible,” and its visual language more resembles 'Lord of the Rings' than any typical sandal epic.
There are two chief takeaways from 'Ernest & Celestine.' The first is that in France and Belgium they don't have a Tooth Fairy, they have La Petite Souris, which is, basically, “The Tooth Mouse.” I also learned that when the story is funny, the characters are well-rounded and the world is imaginative, a modestly budgeted hand-drawn animated film can still have just as much effect as a big, blown-out computer generated affair.