Drool on the Frog

Friday, April 27, 2007

Willa's Flic Pic: The Prestige * * * ½

The PrestigeThe Prestige

- Christopher Nolan
- Drama/Thriller, 2006
- PG-13
- Trailers

* * * ½

Alfred Borden: The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything.

Last week when I discussed Thr3e, I said, "A film can play slight of hand along the way to advance the story but I shouldn't be able to see the ace up your sleeve while you're doing it." When the subject is magic, you're dealing with this head on. The Prestige handles it so well, that when I watched it a second time, I had an entirely different reaction than I did with Thr3e.

The Prestige is about two enormous, competing egos. Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) are magicians who started out studying and working together. But when Angier's wife dies on stage during a trick, he blames Borden and they part ways very bitter. From here it's a tit-for-tat as each tries to ruin the other's career in one-upmanship and dangerous sabotage.

When I watched Thr3e the second time through, I was hit by all the implausibilities. "That's ridiculous" and "that wouldn't happen" crossed my mind several times. But with The Prestige, it was more "oh, wow, they got me on that one" and "oh, I see now." It was very well crafted. While showing magic, it was performing magic on the viewer at the same time and doing it well. I never completely figured it out and neither did My Geek, which is saying something.

The story is pretty intriguing but I have to say that I didn't like either magician at all. In that sense, I was much more empathetic toward Thr3e's Kevin Parsons. Borden and Angier take tremendous risks but they involve other's without full disclosure. Had Borden and Angier's unwitting friends and family known, they would have at least had a choice. Instead, they are casualties in a mere battle of egos. But isn't that always the case with brilliant minds willing to risk anything to do the impossible? Look at the tragic lives of our greatest poets, artists and scientists.

I've loved Christian Bale in everything I've seen him in (Equilibrium, The Machinist, Batman Begins). He's a smart, dedicated actor and it's art to watch his strength on screen. Angier goes a long way in seperating Jackman from Wolverine, which he needs. (I haven't seen The Fountain but I'm anxious to.) And could we have more David Bowie, please! He should do like Christopher Walken and make a cameo in every film. He's always interesting and so diverse - a master craftsman.

As My Geek said, "I am so over Scarlett Johansson." Anyone could have played Olivia and probably given it more than a pouty face. But then, again, we are still recovering from The Black Dahlia. Rebeccah Hall did a much more interesting job as Sarah, the only utterly sympathetic adult character in the entire film.

It's understandable that the director/writer/producer, Christopher Nolan, could pull off something complicated like this film when you see his track record: Momento, Insomnia, and Batman Begins. If Nolan has a film coming out, you should take notice.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Art Unleashed 2008!

It's back!

Art Unleashed was so successful in 2006 that the Forsyth Humane Society of North Carolina has decided to do it again.

This blog began as a journal of my participation in the original AU 2006. My intention then was to write about three things. First, to keep everybody up to date on how I was progressing with painting my dog. Next, to keep up some excitement about the project during three months of silence while the artists franticly painted their forms. And, finally, to write about everything I learned about painting a fiberglass 3D form.

Last time, I found out about AU only eight days before the artist submission deadline! I was so excited about participating, though, that I worked constantly to get my design finished and submitted, quite literally, in the last hour. It was a wonderful experience so I was thrilled to hear they were doing it again.

Now that I'm on their mailing list, I got early notice that the deadline for artist design submissions is June 1, 2007. And wouldn't you know, my mind is a complete blank. Was it just serendipitous last time? I don't typically work better under pressure; I'm a wreck, actually. So I'm struggling. I will be infinitely sad if I can't participate again.

Stay tuned.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Willa's Flic Pic: Thr3e * *


- Robby Henson
- Drama/Thriller, 2006
- PG-13
- Trailer
DVD Release April 24, 2007

* *

Jennifer Peters: When was the last time you left this house?
Uncle Eugene Parson: Why would I leave the house?

While at the library last year browsing the New Releases shelf, I ran across a book with Frank Peretti's name on it called House. I snatched it up. It had been several years since I had read any Peretti so I was pleased to run across it. Then I noticed it was co-authored with Ted Dekker. I had no idea who Dekker was but I was pleased anyway. I watched Thr3e for the first time a couple of weeks ago and recognized Dekker’s fingerprint immediately.

Thr3e is a descent thriller. And because it’s a thriller I have to be careful about what I discuss here so I don’t reveal anything.

For some reason, the RK serial killer is after Kevin Parsons (Marc Blucas), a struggling seminary student. Jennifer Peters (Justine Waddell), a criminal psychologist, has thrown herself into the case. Because of her writings, RK had targeted her earlier, resulting in her brother’s death. Personally and professionally she’s intent on stopping RK but he seems to always be three steps ahead of her.

The issue I have with this film is believability. And it becomes even more unbelievable when you watch it a second time. A film can play slight of hand along the way to advance the story but I shouldn't be able to see the ace up your sleeve while you're doing it. Without giving anything away, there is a character whose actions and whereabouts are just impossible. Don't get me wrong. The premise is intriguing but the context in which the character is set is way too tight. The story simply can't hold up to it.

The character is puzzling but not blatant like some other far-fetched things in the film - like how a seminary student winds up living in a top floor loft apartment and a garden shed having a sub basement ten times its size.

The director and crew did a great job with the look and feel of this film. Like Children of Men, it uses texture to build mood, scene and character. It was great that the "3" theme was not heavy-handed. In fact, it could have been used more. I loved the shots looking into the three big windows of Kevin's apartment. Costuming was also great.

I was pleased to see Marc Blucas in the lead. The last I saw of him was his appearances in seasons 4, 5, and 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He does a great job as Kevin and is amazing in the climatic showdown.

Justine Waddell was a problem in this film. She has a great face. I love her brooding, smoky appearance. But she came off highly choreographed and posed and all of her lines were delivered with a breathy seductiveness that didn't fit her character. I understand from Dekker's blog that they had trouble getting this role cast up until the last minute.

If you are a Ted Dekker fan, you will probably enjoy this film. If you are a thriller fan, you'll probably be disappointed.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Fox Faith Movies

My friend Sandi is a member of the Fox Faith Movies Press Room. As a member, Sandi gets early releases of films before they are released either in the theatre or on DVD.

From their web site, here is what Fox Faith Movies is about:

FoxFaith Movies is the Christian moviegoer’s online guide to current and upcoming faith-based theatrical releases from FoxFaith. FoxFaith is a new branded distribution label from Twentieth Century Fox, created to house and distribute its growing portfolio of morally-driven, family-friendly programming. To be part of Fox Faith, a movie has to have overt Christian Content or be derived from the work of a Christian author.

Since I write movie reviews here every week, Sandi wrote her contact at FFM and got me in the Press Room. In the future, if I happen to be reviewing a FFM, I will include the above logo in the review so that you'll know it comes from them.

You might be scratching your head at this point. The movies I review are not considered family friendly and, as I said from the beginning, this is not the site to go to if you are looking for recommendations in that area. I like thrillers, action, and drama and everything I have reviewed has been R rated. But this was a great opportunity to hook up with the review community so I took it.

I don't know if my reviews will be helpful to them. I hold movies to a high standard and don't expect any less from the family friendly genre.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jupiter Images Contest

DEADLINE: June 20, 2007

For those of you who are story tellers, Jupiter Images is having a "Life is Tough" contest.

Jupiter Images is an on-line stock photography company - they sell high quality photographs for your graphic design needs.

They're giving away three 2007 Volkswagen Eos convertibles for the best "Life is Tough" story. It's a promotion of their product and company. Life may be tough but doing your job doesn't have to be if you use Jupiter Images.

There's no charge to enter but you do have to register. Go here for instructions on how to enter.

They also have weekly winners so the sooner you get in the better. Go here to see the winners so far.

Even if you decide not to enter the contest, go out to read the stories that are entered. They're very clever.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Willa's Flic Pic: Stranger Than Fiction * * * ½

Stranger Than FictionStranger Than Fiction

on DVD
Marc Forster
Comedy/Drama, 2006
* * * ½

Dr. Jules Hilbert: The thing to determine conclusively is whether you are in a comedy or a tragedy. Have you met anyone who simply might loathe the very core of you?
Harold Crick: I'm an IRS agent. Everyone hates me.
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Well, that sounds like a comedy!

This is one of those movies that's incredibly difficult to explain. It's not complicated just familiar story told from an upside down point of view. I don't want to give anything away but I want you to be excited about seeing it. So here goes.

Harold Crick is an IRS agent who starts hearing a voice narrating his life. He's the only one that can hear it. He pursues typical mental health means to explain the phenomenon but makes no progress in getting rid of the voice, much less in being understood as anything but a psychopath. Then he hears the narrator predict his "imminent death" and Harold has only one option left - he enlists the aid of a literature professor.

I love it when someone finds a unique way to tell a familiar story. In this case, Zach Helm (writer) deals with the question: What would you do if you knew when, where and how you were going to die? It seems easy. Don't get out of bed that day! But Helm turns this on its ear. Harold makes his choice and, in that moment, the film is asking you - What would you do?

But every character in the film has a choice to make - to take a risk or to change their priorities - either for the betterment of themselves, those around them or the world. We're all connected and our choices do not function in a vacuum. Will you try something new, seize the day, pursue love, risk getting hurt, give hard advice or face a fear?

I have a friend who has an aversion to Will Ferrell movies. Understood. But like Jim Carrey (Man on the Moon, The Majestic, Eternal Sunshine), Ferrell has great breadth. He adds only the amount of humor necessary for Harold with the needed charm of a man waking up to life for the first time. Harold is noble, sweet, generous and thoughtful. You really grow to like Harold and hope for a happy ending to his story.

Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman also have great characters and do a brilliant job as the author and literature professor. The characters are so engaging, I want more stories about them when the film is over. Queen Latifah plays a writer's assistant. My Geek thought the character was unnecessary but I thought she served a great purpose.

Marc Forster and his crew do a great job in creating the look and feel for this film. The scenes were set with lots of white and neutral angular spaces. It reminded me of pages in a book.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Quickie Book Review 4

A Million Little Pieces
- James Frey

Reality TV heralds the promotion of posers and mediocrity. American Idol is the best example. Young people belt out tunes based on little to no experience or training outside of what they mimic in the latest fabricated pop star. But there are brief moments when a singer, musician, chef, or designer exhibits almost other worldly abilities by comparison. My Geek and I say, "they own it." They know their craft so well they play with it, taking it beyond what it has been.

I think Frey owns writing. I haven't read anything else of his but, in this novel, he plays with story telling. It's beyond simply crafting words, characters and plot. For example, he abuses punctuation and capitalization so effectively it's additive. I love the creativity in it.

As a modern day memoir, A Million Little Pieces is engaging and cohesive. It's about Frey's last chance. With an unbelievable lifetime of alcohol and drug abuse, Frey is at the point where he is going to die if he doesn't clean up. This chronicles the time he spent in rehab - for the last time.

When I read it, the controversy had already come out that parts of this non-fiction piece were not accurate. For most of the story, I didn't care. From what I understand, the details about an arrest and time served is greatly exaggerated. But this doesn't affect the story and is minor in light of other elaborate situations like getting extensive dental work without anesthesia and becoming friends with an influential figure in organized crime. And I'm o.k. if these are also exaggerated. Most autobiographies are perception anyway.

But when key events of the story may be fabricated to promote a specific idea or agenda, it's not o.k. It's obvious Frey has no respect for God or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) . I don't have a problem with that. But I do have a problem if he has to lie about the events to prove his points about God and AA. Is it true that a priest tried to molest him? And does that undo God or just the priest? In the end, instead of validating that AA is a crutch and God a power trip, he completely invalidates himself and anything he has to say on the subject. As Dr. Martha Watson once wrote on one of my algebra test papers, "For Shame."