Release: Friday, September 28, 2012


Either I am beginning to appreciate the value of having a great agent by your side to guide you through role-playing decisions, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt is just becoming this good. I suppose it might be a bit of both. He has shown up on many a big-screen in a rather short space of time, including films (pardon my raving here) that have achieved insane levels of success like Inception, TDKR, and now, Looper. (I guess it is yet to be determined how this latest Rian Johnson project will stack up compared to those others I just mentioned, but I have this tingling feeling in my gut that it will do pretty well…)

Jettison your mind roughly 35 years into the future; what do you see? What do you think you might see? Floating cars? Jet-pack-propelled baby strollers? Eh, not likely. Looper hints at those cliched technological developments in its use of alternative-energy guzzling cars that look like something out of the Jetsons space age. But there the joke kind of stops, the silliness ends, and the real movie starts to take shape.

However, even that — taking shape — is an elusive concept in this two-hour sci-fi flick from the director of Brick and even a couple episodes of the hugely successful cable T.V. series Breaking Bad.

The premise is relatively simple: kill the bad guys who have committed crimes in days yet to come by sending them back in time to meet their fate — usually in the form of a shotgun blast (or what they call blunderbusses due to their incredible inaccuracy at a certain range). The kill happens within nanoseconds of their arrival. The film opens with such an action, immediately pulling you in to the future with Levitt’s eyes as piercing as they’ve ever been. It’s amazing how contact lenses can make him look like the older version of himself, played by Bruce Willis.

And on that note we have our central storyline, our conflict. On the day-to-day, Joe (Gordon-Levitt/Willis) must kill all those criminals sent back to him. But when a friend, Seth, makes a critical mistake by failing to kill his next victim (none other than his future self) and is then hunted down and murdered because of his choice, Joe is forced to reexamine the process. It’s not exactly a career of humanity; in fact, it may be the definition of the opposite. Jeff Daniels plays Abe, a man from the future that now runs this organization of loopers. By the way, don’t expect him to become any Dumber than he was in times past….this is an entirely different, unfunny Daniels who plays the part nicely.

Back to the plot: shortly after his friend goes down rather horribly for his dereliction of duties, Joe experiences his own moment of trepidation. During a routine on-site killing, the big, bad, balding Bruce Willis appears….a.k.a., older Joe. And of course, he can’t do it either. He’s in the same position as Seth. But with Joe’s problem we have the rest of the film: a series of chasing through cornfields and through the chaotic chasms of a Kansas metropolitan in 2044. Both forms of Joe have two different purposes in mind: one is to fight his past self from making further, stupid choices; the other, to prove that he won’t.

The film moves brilliantly and seamlessly through several tense scenes including a very pivotal scene that reveals a child who is deeply ‘disturbed.’ This character comes to be known as the Rainmaker, an exceptionally bright kid whose telekinetic powers serve as something of a judgment day for both forms of Joe — and practically everyone involved in the looping process. This child is otherwise a very nice boy, being raised by a single mom (Emily Blunt) who seems to be able to hold her own ground just fine in the face of imminent danger. Sara’s parenting of Cid (“Rainmaker”) serves as a stark contrast to the brooding violence that dwells within Joe and the rest of the loopers, who, to be fair, are only trying to do their jobs. Her rationale for not killing the dangerously emotional Cid is that if he learns to grow up well and be treated nicely, he will resist the urge to do terrible things.

One can hope that love will be a stronger motivator than a blunderbuss.

Packed with stunning effects and creative action sequences, this futuristic thriller should have you begging for more by the time the credits surprisingly start rolling in an eerie silence.

Bruce Willis in Looper

4-0Recommendation: “It’s Back to the Future meets Field of Dreams,” as one of my friends described it. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Maybe throw in a little bit of Bladerunner here and there, and you’ve got the picture. If you enjoy any of those you’ll love this. What’s that? You’re curious about time travel? Yep. Go!

Rated: R

Running Time: 118 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

ABYSS – North America’s Highest Bouldering

The Abyss 1

Release: Fall 2012


I love rock climbing; it’s been a part of me since I was eight years old, scrambling up trees and rocks, freaking out parents standing nearby who were wondering what in the heck this kid was doing 30 feet above the deck. So, I have to apologize that this is a rave review of sorts….not because the video was amazing (it was) but because the subject matter definitely was. More importantly, the issues tackled involving the sport of climbing were very important and often times culminate as THE point of mass discussion amongst climbers — young and old. Without further ado, I want to discuss Louder Than Eleven’s latest video project, ABYSS: North America’s Highest Bouldering.

When you rock climb, you kind of belong to a minority of sports enthusiasts. Maybe that’s what makes climbers so passionate — they know the risks involved, physical and otherwise. In the same way climbers appreciate and value how innocent it may be to have fun climbing on rock, they know it’s not a muse without its complications. As beautiful as climbing is, it more often than not comes into contact with other’s interests: landowners, property owners, golfers.

Louder Than Eleven, a company founded by several enthusiastic and youthful boulderers, has decided to take on the burden of providing unlimited media for today’s climbing community. I say ‘burden’ because really — let’s call it what it is. The implications of taking an Instagram-ready iPhone (let alone a badass $4,000 videocamera and the support behind lugging that stuff) into unspoiled territory can be far-reaching. Case in point, Joey Kinder discusses some of the pitfalls of being up there in the rocks during bad weather. Cut to a scene where he’s hunkered down under  some rocks and a bolt of lightning strikes within 100 yards of their spot. The camera nearly went deaf. Christ.

Although I don’t boast a ‘COLORADO NATIVE’ license plate or bumper sticker or what-have-you, my few pilgrimages out west can confirm that above a certain elevation, it is truly another world. It needs protection. With the development of such amazing lines as those featured in this 45-minute short, time will only tell how fast the wave of excitement arises around the global climbing community about how absolutely wonderful it would be to climb there (never mind the fact it could have possibly been visited before in the past…..) The discovery process in climbing is like finding a soulmate: finding potential in new rocks and getting to choose exactly what rocks you want to climb….Damn, that’s pretty much perfection. The Abyss is perfection.

Unfortunately, this potential and development can also imply destruction, as well. In the high-alpine world, this easily can translate to stepping on the wrong flower, or scaring away native billy goats. May sound funny, but that’s what gives climbers the stigma that bureaucracies love to cling to.

With that said ABYSS NAHB tows a nice line between showing you these areas while respecting and abiding all laws set forth by park officials. The high-altitude populaces of goat and wild grass won’t necessarily take kindly to you’re plunking down of a massive Revolution boulder pad…but its respectful what these guys do. With a healthy dose of input from several high-profilers in the climbing world, the guys at LT11 provide quite a comprehensive narrative on the relationship between climber obsession and the complication of the world and the beauty of all of its environs.

Features interviews with world-renowned climbers like Chris Sharma, Peter Beal, Matt Wilder, and many more. Packed with boulders resembling anything from peanuts to razor blade aretes, to puffy marshmallow sloperfests, it hosts the gamut of beautiful camerawork, attention to detail and the maintaining of correct, mature perspective with a good backstory.

And, it contains more bouldering action and first ascending than one could ever hope for. Some routes that particularly stood out: Iron Lung (V10); Rule of Thirds (V3); Death to Traitors (V12); All Hands On Deck (V13) — each one a classic due to their premier location, their complex beta (path-of-least-resistance through), and/or exposure. The film does an excellent job of convincing one to do the work and get there, because as Glassberg and friends prove, there’s simply no end to the climbing up there.

“[The] Abyss is a climber’s playground, and the most impressive line out there wasn’t a boulder at all. It was a route. It seemed fitting that the coolest thing to come out of all this, was on the tower that [we] saw at the very beginning. Putting up a sport climb at 13,000 feet was the ultimate way to end the season and to leave a lasting contribution to our climbing community.”

ABYSS is surely LT11’s best work. It undoubtedly will stand as one of the most informative, pervasive (or is that, persuasive?) and visually attractive climbing-video projects to be released thus far. And trust me, there have been scores out there vying for such accolades. If you’re an avid climber, you’ll start realizing the truth behind what it takes to establish what could become future, and ultimately, well-worn climbing areas. No worries if you’re not so much a climber, much less an high-alpinist/boulderer; simply, you’ll learn much, much more.

Click here to watch full video!

Jon Glassberg on 'Do Or Die, V8'

4-0Recommendation:  If you want to find out for yourself where the sport of climbing is going, it would be a good idea to check out this film, along with a few others, including King Lines, Rampage, and the Dosage series. Get outdoors and discover the world, one pristine rock scar at a time.

Rated: Awesome.

Running Time: 47 mins, 32 secs.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.vimeo.com 

Dark Side of the Lens


Release: Summer 2010


Let’s take a different approach and review a short film. This week I got forwarded a link to this masterfully filmed surfing docudrama off the coast of Ireland. TO SEE FULL FILM, CLICK THE LINK IN THE ‘RECOMMENDATION’ SECTION!!

“I never want to take this for granted. So I try to keep my motivations simple, real, positive. If I only scrape out a living, at least it’s a living worth scraping. If there’s no future in it, at least it’s a present worth remembering.”

This six-minute film is more motivating than I can even describe. With lines like that, it’s pretty clear I guess. But beyond its praise and affirmation amongst the many critics and ratings boards, popular opinion has to be that Dark Side of the Lens is a stunning masterpiece that will lift your spirit higher and — as one of my friends said, and with which I would most definitely agree — get you as motivated to wash dishes as this guy is to surf heavy, cold waves.

And yes, my kitchen is now spotless. Not really, but that’s a good game plan for tomorrow. That, and a few more viewings of this short film. Considering its brevity, this monologue takes you miles away from your couch, your desk or wherever you may be perched, attached to each word of the film and sweeps you into waters colder than ice.

We are swimming in northern waters, after all.

When you take the serenity of the Irish coast — what, with the violence of foaming crests battling it out with razor-sharp rock beaches and cliff lines cut with arches that look like doorways to Heaven — and balance it with that of the maturely written script, you’re in the process of polishing off a rather rare gem.

Directed and written by Mickey Smith, Dark Side of the Lens is afforded a way around the trap that unfortunately many a short film fall into (due mostly to dismissive,  outrageous claims critical or otherwise): being dubbed apotheosis; overly showy and glorifying the subject to some unnecessary degree. In some ways, like poetry is often cast aside with some level of indignation because the majority of readers can’t interpret metaphor, the short-film format invites its own stigmas, as it is technically a contrivance of full-length features. Here’s one, though, that works well with its time restriction. Extremely well.

Let Dark Side be as provocative or ambiguous as you want it to be for you; take the journey as you see it. Smith lives on the edge, for sure. But its not what he’s doing that really matters, but how he’s doing it and how he got to do it in the beginning.

“I wanna see wave-riding documented the way I see it in my head, and the way I feel it in the sea. It’s a strange set of skills to begin to acquire. It’s only achievable through time spent riding waves.”

Dark Side 3

4-5Recommendation: Please see it. Even if you do not surf, or don’t even like it. You’ll lose yourself in this…..  Dark Side of the Lens on Vimeo.

Running Time: 6 mins. 15 secs.

Top Awards: 

Best Cinematography (Rhode Island Int’l Film Festival ’11);
Best Short Film (Waimea Ocean Film Festival);
Best International Short (Canadian Surf Film Festival);
Digital Short of the Year (Surfer Poll);
Grand Prize (Chamonix Film Festival ’11)

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.thisisnotaplace.wordpress.com 



Release: Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Happy Labor Day! I had no idea I’d even be seeing this movie until an hour before it screened near me. I had non-concrete plans to go see some Boomsday fireworks (this is how Knoxville, TN does it!!!) but the weather didn’t look great, so out I went to Wynsong 16. Here’s what I have to say about this adaptation of Matt Bondurant’s factual novel, ‘The Wettest County in the World.’

Written by Nick Cave and Matt Bondurant, the film Lawless may not be flawless, but it is a justifiably intense and violent spectacle directed by John Hillcoat and filmed beautifully in backwoods Virginia — Franklin County, to be more precise.

It tells the story of the three fiercesome Bondurant boys, all living outside the law as moonshine bootleggers during Prohibition-era America. When one particular out-of-towner starts meddling in the small town’s illegal business it thrusts older brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) into the middle of a bloody farce that leaves more dead and wounded than saved.

For me there were a number of elements that worked, but a few major items detracted from Lawless‘ ambition to become another truly great American history drama.

To focus on the film’s grittier side, the bloodshed and tears seem incongruous with LeBeouf’s still Disney-like performance. Somehow, that Even Stevens boyishness will never quite be shed, and its awkward in a character intended to experience (read: serious) growing pains here. As the youngest of the Bondurants, he manages to sell the whole “scrap of the litter” thing pretty well when he gets his ass whooped by that one nasty Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce). And that’s only because this glimpse of great acting is based out of primal fear of dying via brass knuckles and a shotgun barrel.

But three-quarters of Hillcoat’s recruits are perfect pawns in this battle between standing on principal and conforming to national law. Hardy’s Forrest has this quirky little groan he mutters when something doesn’t sit right with him. It’s a simple character trait that goes miles. He’s the big guy, the macho man with few words but more restraint than his siblings. In some ways he is the town, a voice over local authority. That is, until Rakes arrives from Chicago, wanting a cut of the brothers’ moonshine profits.

As the movie goes on the violence escalates, including some grisly throat slashings, tar-and-featherings, and an implied rape scene. It starts to stack up to something rather sickening; that is, until we see Shia again, then everything is once again fun and games. Sort of.

Well, that and the comforting feeling you get when after seeing these horrific scenes you just know the Bondurants will respond, or rather, retaliate with all the bloodshed forthcoming as justified as it could ever be.

However, the biggest blunder was having Shia read the prologue and epilogue that accompanies; it all seems way too easy and contrived for a movie reaching for historical accuracy and (presumably) an Oscar. Perhaps that would have worked better had one of his elders been describing the state of the Union at the time, but they don’t and we have to take Jack’s inexperience as an experience.

Apart from the undercast Jack Bondurant, we do get a healthy dose of great acting from the other guys, most memorable of all being Pearce’s menacing Charlie Rakes. Gary Oldman weaves a minimal, yet effective performance throughout as the merciless killer, Floyd Banner. Jessica Chastain is wonderfully sublime as a relocated Chicago club dancer seeking solace from city life. Understated as only Tom Hardy can, “this town ain’t the quiet place you were expecting.”

Tom Hardy as Forrest Bondurant

3-5Recommendation: Go in to this movie expecting gore. Lots. It’s not the traditional popcorn flick, but maybe you’ll find the occasional scene where eating might be tolerable. All-in-all, a damn good thrill ride.

Rated: R

Running Time: 115 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com