Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pleasant Time Travel

Three Stars

The film opens with the musical number, “I’ve got everything that I need!” and basically that’s the spirit of this film. When you’re a kid with a bowl of pop-corn, and the Muppet Show on your TV set, you do have everything you need. The cast and crew obviously love ‘The Muppets’, and the three main characters are absolutely giddy throughout the movie whenever they get a chance to talk to Kermit and the gang. It’s a childhood dream come true, obviously.

‘The Muppets’ isn’t really much of a reboot. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s quite the opposite. It’s actually a clever way for the older people in the audience to be nostalgic. Thus, it’s a little bit of a baffling film in some ways because the intent had to be re-introducing the Muppets to a new audience instead of simply funding co-star and co-writer Jason Sigel’s childhood dream. Right away it dives right into nostalgia. The movie is really self aware, which once again, isn’t a bad thing. We are introduced to Walter (Jason Sigel) and his brother, Gary. I wasn’t sure if they meant brother as in best friend since childhood or actual brother. Gary is a Muppet and Walter is a human, but I guess I’m being an old scrooge. Sometimes I just have to put away the film critic hat and put on the movie lover hat. I mean, this film is about the Muppets. Not some serious art house piece. Gary and Walter are big fans of the Muppets. It just happens that it’s the 10th anniversary of Gary and his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams). So, along with Gary, they go to Los Angeles for a big trip after a song and dance number, of course. They go to the Muppets studio when they arrive, only to find it broken down and abandoned. Gary sneaks into Kermit The Frog’s old office and hears an evil plan to tear down the studio because there’s oil under the studio. The evil millionaire is played by Chris Cooper.

So, they go see Kermit The Frog, who tells them that he hasn’t seen the old gang in years. Kermit decides it’s worth a shot to get them back together. Everyone jumps on board except Miss. Piggy, who has an unexpected adult scene where she and Kermit talk alone. Kermit regrets some of the things he said to Miss. Piggy last time they were together.

The movie mostly works. It’s a pleasure to see Kermit and the old gang again. So, the Muppets try to put on a show to rescue the old studio. They are turned down by every network, all of them saying the Muppets are not-popular anymore. Once again, the kids in the audience do not know who the Muppets are, and that’s kind of the premise of the film. They even throw in the robot from the 80s science fiction fantasy movies, Short Circuit. He’s now Kermit’s butler. He serves New Coke and Tab. Once again, some of the jokes are really over the kids head. They even reference a Charlie Chaplin movie in one of their dance numbers.

That being said, it’s not a bad movie to take your kids to. It has a nice message about family and staying in touch. The Muppets are still charming all these years later. I remember when I was a kid, watching all the Muppet movies on VHS, watching the Muppet Show on TV, and watching Muppet Babies as well. It’s nice to see old friends again. Kermit and friends still charm. Gary, Walter and Mary still believe there’s a place for the type of entertainment the Muppets deliver. The Muppets struggle in this film to put on a show and save their name and theater. That being said, they all do pull together. There are some really funny cameos. A lot of cameos, including a song “Am I a Man or A Muppet?” where the Gary looks in the mirror and its Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory.

It’s nice however, it gets a little too heavy on this stuff, to have nostalgia for the older people in the audience. All the kids these days get to have their fun with being nostalgic over stuff like Harry Potter. While introducing the Muppets to today’s kids, the movie also reunites, in a way, the older people in the audience to their nostalgia. Yeah, the movie tries a bit too hard sometimes, but it’s got a good heart and a lot of innocence and that’s all that should matter in a movie starring an old frog and pig.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hugo Is Enchanting

Four Stars

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in the train station walls. He runs the clocks, after his uncle abandons him. His father (Jude Law) is dead from a fire. The opening long shot of the camera panning through the train station is breathtaking. We go through the entire train station and all the way into the clock hanging by a string that Hugo lives in before the camera pulls back to the entire train station. Then we get to the title of the film, “Hugo”. No one is denying that Martin Scorsese is a master. The film is about Paris in the 30s, and something I wasn’t expecting. It was about the birth of film. Based on a children’s novel by Brian Selznick, the film takes the viewer from Hugo’s life as an orphan to a mystery involving the early films of Georges Melies. Running at 130 minutes, the film presents a mystery for the kids to follow. It’s a treat when we get to see a Georges Melies film on the big screen, along with a clip of Harold Lloyd. That being said, Martin Scorsese presents a history lesson on film for kids presented through the tale of a lonely orphan worthy of J.K. Rowling.

Hugo steals from various vendors in the train station until one day he is caught by the man (Ben Kingsley) who runs the toy stand. The man takes away his notebook much to Hugo’s horror. In Hugo’s notebook is the layout for a robot he is building. If he can build the robot, and find the heart shaped key to the robot’s chest, then the robot can send him a message from his father. He meets in the train station Isabella (Chloë Grace Moretz) another orphan, yet in a better situation than him. Hugo always lives in fear of the station inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen), who takes glee in catching orphans and sending them away to the orphanage. When Hugo finally does find the key shaped heart, he gets a message from his father. The message turns out to be a picture. He sets out on a mystery involving the films of Georges Melies. For those of you who don’t know who Georges Melies is, he’s one of the first pioneers of film.

Love of film is written all over this picture. It’s obvious why Martin Scorsese wanted to make this film. He wants to educate the kids in the audience on films, and it’s certainly interesting. Every shot of this film is beautiful. The film has a mystery involving old films and the history of film. That being said, I don’t want to give away the mystery. Certainly this picture is more interesting than a lot of other pictures out there. Often, I had to put away my film critic hat for this film, and put on my film lover hat. Georges Melies is thought to be dead, but alas that is where the mystery lies. Maybe he’s not.

I have no doubt that kids will be enchanted by this master filmmaker. Hugo is a lovable orphan like Harry Potter. It’s amazing this was directed by the same man who brought us films like “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas”. I hate to admit it, but I wasn’t sure that Scorsese would be able to pull off a kid’s film, but he does very well here.

There were was the scene when boxes of letters fall onto the ground and go flying. I thought of the scene in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, where the letters from Hogwarts go down the chimney and go flying. The relationship between Hugo and Isabella is a bit charming, as well. They hold hands and a kiss on the cheek. It’s nothing too intense for younger viewers. The montages of classic films are wonderful, and really interesting. Martin Scorsese, at the heart of this picture, has a message not only about friendship and family, but about film. He obviously wants to teach the kids film is important. If anything, “Hugo” is an important film because it might make the kids in the audience know about well, film. “Hugo” is simply an enchanting film, and it invites kids to learn something close to Scorsese’s heart. Throughout the picture, Hugo talks about finding your purpose. Hugo’s purpose is to fix things. Scorese’s is to tell us stories, and in this film, teach us as well.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

An Unlikable Writer of Children’s Books Learns a Lesson or Two

Three and a half stars

Mavis (Charlize Theron) is a burned out queen bee, who was popular in high school. She is now a writer of a semi-popular young adult series of novels. One day, she gets an e-mail from her old flame announcing the birth of his child. She’s probably on some mailing list of his but I totally get why it gets to her. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s hearing about people’s successful lives through e-mail or Facebook. That’s not to say Mavis is likable. What she does in the film, is return to her old town, and tries to rekindle her relationship with her old high school flame. The problem is that her old flame, Matt (Patrick Wilson) is married with a new born. That’s not very nice of her. When she arrives back she checks into a hotel with her dog in her purse, goes to a bar and reconnects with Buddy (Paton Oswalt). She at first doesn’t remember who he is than she notices he walks on a crutch. She remembers him as the hate crime guy who got severely beaten up by a bunch of jocks in high school because they mistakenly thought he was gay. She spends the rest of the film meeting up with her old boyfriend, his wife and getting drunk with Buddy, who shows up everywhere she is.

Buddy serves as the moral compass of the film, constantly playing against Mavis. Paton Oswalt is very good in this film, and moves it along. He constantly is there to remind Mavis what being an adult means. Mavis doesn’t seem to want to grow up throughout the film. She says many uncomfortable things to Matt. She brings up little things about their high school past. Mavis is a perfect example of what a lot of people go through. Not getting over high school. She may have been popular in high school, but her life didn’t turn out the way she really wanted it to. She figured that Matt and her should have been together. What she fails to notice is that she is different then the people in her small, rinky dink town.

She has moved onto the big city of Minneapolis, and is a sort of success. She has her own condo. She’s a professional writer. So why would she want to go back to her old, small town and try to get back her high school boyfriend? I guess the film answers that question in a way. The thing about all these characters is that they are still stuck in their high school form, and I guess in a way, we all can relate to that. No one ever completely gets over their high school role but we all do move on. The only person in this film who knows how to be an adult is Buddy. Matt is still a boring hometown guy, who tells her that they are expanding the mall, and that way they won’t be a hick town anymore. Mavis is still obsessing over her teenage years.

Something I really did like about this film is its cynicism. In one scene, Mavis’s cousin who is in a wheelchair rolls up to Mavis and Buddy in the bar. Buddy groans and says “Here comes the happiest cripple in Minnesota”. Mavis’s cousin gives a speech about how happy he is, how he can do anything, and how being disbled means he can do more than a able body person because his passion for life is recharged. There’s no reason to be happy for people being more successful than you, and there’s reason to celebrate life’s screw over’s. Here’s a film that doesn’t do that.

Charlize Theron is very good as Mavis, and Mavis is definitely a character we aren’t supposed to exactly like. This is the second collaboration between Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman since ‘Juno’. They keep the quirky nature of their partnership alive throughout the film. In a way, this is an interesting character study because they don’t present a main character who we are cheering for. She is immature and can be totally over the top. At the same time, we kind of get reasons of why she is the way she is. Another thing I liked about this film was the constant little narrations we get from that trashy teen novel she is writing. She may be writing for teenagers, but she, herself, is no longer a teenager. She discovers that maybe she has no reason to be jealous. Once she learns to accept herself, than she can start to grow up. And write that ending to her book.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Six Seasons and a Movie: 6 Reasons to Save "Community"

I love “Community”, the brilliant NBC sitcom that’s sadly going on hiatus. “Community” is madly original, every single week. How many shows can you say that about? With a different style, pop culture references, well defined characters, “Community” is funny, sweet and wonderful. Jeff, Abed, Troy, Pierce, Shirley, Annie and Britta, need to be saved. We need to see these characters graduate Greendale Community College. For those of you who don’t watch, “Community”, the show is about a group of students at a community college in Colorado, who start as a study group but end up becoming more like a family.. So, here are the top six reasons why NBC should reconsider and renew “Community” ASAP.

1. The characters- Jeff (Joel McHale) started out as the central character. The show, though, has evolved to become equally about all of them. Jeff gives great speeches, and becomes the anchor of the group, while learning to become more human himself. Troy(Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) (we will get to their relationship in a little bit) are wonderful as they form a unusual friendship. Piece (Chevy Chase) is a sweet inclusion into the group because they seem to want him in there even though he is way older than all of them. Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) is a sweet character, super religious but realistic as well. Annie (Alison Brie) is the youngest of the group, and is said to have a “Disney” face. Jeff is attracted to her and wants a relationship with her, but they are actually realistic about this. He’s older then her and feels uncomfortable forming a relationship with her. And Britta (Gillian Jacobs) is wonderful with all her odd causes, trying to be the voice of reason of the group but screwing it up. The best part of the characters of “Community” is that they are so realistic. We’ve all known people like them.

2. Abed and Troy’s relationship- In the pilot, Troy was shown as just a former high school jock but he has developed this relationship with Abed, where together, they have built a blanket fort the size of the school, dodged bullets together in paint ball wars, moved in together (Annie eventually moves in too), and bonded over a pop culture nerddom that’s awesome. I’ll be sad if I never hear the words “Troy and Abed in the Morning” ever again.

3. Chevy Chase- It’s just wonderful to see Chevy Chase having such a great time. Chevy Chase’s “Pierce” is such a lovable old guy, who is often considered the villain of the group but also is a beloved member of the group. He’s funny but there’s also sweetness to the character. He’s been in community college for like ten years, but for the first time, in this study group, he makes actual friends. It’s also great seeing a pro like Chevy Chase every week, who works with this younger cast. At the San Diego Comic Con, he said that he was so happy working on this wonderful show.

4. Syndication- NBC might not have a hit on their hands in the original run. And how could they? They put it up against the Big Bang Theory, which is ironic because these two shows have the same audience. As constantly versed on line, if they did have six seasons and a movie, than I bet this show would be a hit in reruns. “Arrested Development” only ran for 53 episodes, and it’s a bigger hit in syndication that ever was during its run. I bet if they made 88 to 120 episodes of “Community”, it would be a bigger hit in reruns than it would ever be on the air. Of course, I think CBS should pick up “Community”, and put it on after “The Big Bang Theory”. I think my TV would explodes from awesomeness if that happened.

5. It’s awesome- They did an episode that brilliantly spoofed “My Dinner with Andre”. Their paint ball wars episodes. Their fake clip show. The Dean going crazy making a commercial for the school. Senior Chang being a security guard. John Goodman as the director of the Air Conditioning department. An anime sequence in the fossball episode. The completely clay animated Christmas episode. And who can forget the six different timelines?

6. And finally, it’s actually a sweet show- The idea that all these misfits would be friends is really believable, and they always come through for each other. What shows these days usually end with the characters really coming through for each other? Like the last episode with the Foos Ball where Shirley and Jeff walk away with each other, reverting back to kids. That was heartwarming. Them throwing the surprise part for Abed. The speech at the end of the fake clip show, where Jeff believes they can form a super group like the Traveling Wilburys of Pain.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

'Idles of March' is a Old Fashioned Politicial Drama

Three Stars

Political scandals are a dime a dozen, and make good fodder for movies. George Clooney’s “Idles of March” isn’t the best political movie. It’s a straight forward drama that doesn’t really rise above a made for TV movie, but it’s well made and well-acted. It starts with a young campaign worker named Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), who believes in his candidate. Mike Morris (George Clooney) is a solid candidate on the Democratic side who looks like he might be president. He appears to be a clean cut family man who believes in the playbook of center left politics. The campaign manager Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) comes off like an old pro. The other campaign manager Tom (Paul Giamatti) is also a pro at this kind of thing. In a way, “Idles of March” is an old fashioned, straight forward political drama. I think there’s enough here to keep you interested. I kept saying “Uh-oh” as the scandals got deeper and deeper throughout the film. I have to say that Stephen isn’t really the sharpest tool in the shed. Sure, he knows his way around politics, but does make the mistake of sleeping with the unpaid intern, a pretty girl in her early twenties named Molly (Rachael Evan Wood). Golden rule of politics. Never sleep with the intern.

Well, I guess that Stephen can be forgiven. After all, while older than the intern, they are both basically young adults. The problem arises when the cell phone goes off at two in the morning. Stephen picks up. Why is the senator running for president calling the intern at like two in the morning? Uh-oh. That’s when the scandal starts to get out of hand. Ryan Gosling really is a likable actor, so we want his character to do the right thing. No such luck, really. He’s still a political guy, and ends up blackmailing the senator to move up in his campaign. I kept saying uh-oh throughout the movie, as things got deeper and deeper. Though, I also kept thinking of really great political films like “Primary Colors” or “The Candidate”. I mean, maybe I’m expecting too much. This is a uh-oh kind of film. Politics plays a large role throughout the picture.

George Clooney being the bad guy is a bit odd, but then again, the film is about politics. I kept going “uh-oh” throughout the movie. Things got deeper and deeper. This is a dialogue heavy film. A lot of scenes of people talking in hotel rooms and dark rooms. Cars driving up. Scandals. It’s not that different than real politics. I guess asking for Jed Bartlett is too much. Things aren’t going well, as Stephen gets deeper and deeper in the political scandal surrounding what appears to be a pretty good candidate. Heck, I probably vote for this guy. That being said, ‘Idles of March’ is a well-acted and decent drama. I suppose that Stephen is a bit chilling as a guy who instead of doing the right thing, uses what’s going on to help himself move up politically in the campaign.

Based on the play by Beau Willimon, ‘Idles of March’ feels like a play. A lot of scenes of people talking and dark rooms. I suppose that’s real politics too. This isn’t a great political film, but not a bad one. My brother, who’s a political junkie, said that the film got politics totally right. I’m not disagreeing with that. As someone who’s seen a lot of politics, though, I wouldn’t say this is a great political film. It’s a good political film. The screenplay ties together the personal and political sides of the people involved. It doesn’t tell us anything new about politics. Not every film needs to tell us something new. Neither did “Primary Colors” one of my favorite political films. The performances are all good, and George Clooney isn’t a bad director. He did make the wonderful "Goodnight and Goodluck". We get some cameos by people from real cable shows (like John King of CNN or Rachel Maddow of MSNBC). I think Larry King has had the most cameos in movies, of all the cable guys. The senator here goes on Charlie Rose. I’ve always liked PBS, so probably I be more likely to vote for a guy on Charlie Rose.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Real Steel is a Sweet Family Picture With Boxing Robots

Three Stars

This film doesn’t require a very long review. I get the feeling that the script to ‘Real Steel’ could have been written by a 12 year old. It’s corny and sweet. No real value, but not every movie needs to be. I have to admit, the story of a down on his luck dad, and his spunky long lost son made for a sweet film, even if they were bonding over robot boxing in the future. I think they made a Twilight Zone episode based on the same short story by Richard Masterson. I remember the original short story being a lot tougher than this, but whatever. This is a film you can bring your 12 year old to, and not worry too much. There’s some violence and mild language but not enough to really make you uncomfortable watching it with your child. I don’t think any self respecting adult would buy the premise of this film, but no need. Hugh Jackman is good as the down on his luck guy who starts out as a jerk but then learns to love his son, Max (Dakota Goyo). Yes, the script feels like it was thrown together from other family pictures, like the scene where Max promises the robot that he will keep his secret that they can understand each other or when they teach the robot how to dance. Sometimes a movie can make you invest in a story that’s corny and ridiculous. It’s a shamelessly sweet story, as the script focuses more on the father and son learning to love each other than the boxing robots. The boxing robot scenes might make an adult roll their eyes, but it’s a good way to kill a few hours with your tween. I wouldn’t bring really young kids to see this film, but the film plays it mostly safe. And it should.

So, simply put. I’m giving “Real Steel” three stars. It exceeded my very low exceptions going in but turned out to be a sweet film with a gimmick. This film is called “Real Steel”, and the kids should get a kick out of both the spunky kid, the down on his luck boxer and the fighting robots. It runs a bit too long (127 minutes) but if you need a film to bring your tweens to, this is a nice bet. You should be mildly entertained. I know I was. Sometimes criticizing a film harshly, really isn't worth it. Sometimes a film is simply entertaining, and kind of sweet even if it is kind of silly. This film is one of those.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

50/50 is 50/50 on Laughs and Drama

Three and a half stars

Sometimes movies can make us think about life in general, and that’s what the new film ‘50/50’ attempts to do. I know as I watched this film, I thought about what it would be like if I had cancer. How would I take that news and what attitude would I have? In one scene, Adam (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogan) go to a bar and try to pick up girls with his cancer diagnosis. That might sound horrible, but the scene is played for laughs, and the movie treats the topic in a sensitive way. I thought to myself, would I try to pick up girls if I had a cancer diagnosis? Well, we are all human, aren’t we? Though, the film isn’t a laugh riot, nor should it be. Adam goes on the web and finds out that with his rare form of cancer, he has a 50/50 chance of survival. The film shows Adam go through all the motions of this terrible news. First, he tries to play cool. Then he gets mad. Then an older friend of his at the hospital dies, and he decides life isn’t worth much. He is assigned a therapist (Anna Kendrick) who is cute as a button. She’s 24 years old and when Adam refers to her as Doggie Houser M.D. she doesn’t know who that is. If I went to a therapist I would want my therapist to be like her. It’s a little predictable that Adam is going to get together with his therapist, and let’s be honest; we want them to get together. If we can’t cheer for a guy who has cancer with a 50/50 survival rate, then who can we cheer for?

Joseph Gordon Levitt seems to be building a career of taking quirky scripts. I gave 500 Days of Summer four stars. 50/50 is a comedy with a cancer gimmick, so that’s pretty quirky. People react differently to his cancer. His friend, Kyle, tries to make the best of it. Adam’s first girlfriend, Rachel (Bryce Dallas Howard),doesn’t take the cancer diagnosis well. Adam offers to let her bail on him if this is too much, and we get the sense she might bail on him. His mother Diane (Angelica Huston) gets overprotective when she is told her son has cancer.

At times, Adam can be a jerk, as suggested by his therapist. His father has Alzheimer’s disease, and Adam seems to skip his mother’s phone calls, thinking she’s overprotective. His therapist points out that she has a husband who can’t talk, and a son who won’t talk. That makes Adam a bit of a jerk. Adam is realistic about his disease, as I said earlier. The script keeps it light mostly. It keeps it as a comedy-drama. The screenwriter, Will Resier, had cancer himself, and decided to write a script about it. It’s interesting he picked to write a script instead of a memoir. The film is good in the way it doesn’t try to overdramatize everything, as films about terminal diseases often do. We don’t see long scenes of him in the hospital bed, giving final wishes. Instead, we are treated to scenes of him hanging out with his friend, Kyle, trying to just live life and make some small talk. It’s a little odd to watch a light comedy about cancer, and makes the reviewing of it a little hard.

When a film has a sensitive topic, and plays it for laughs, without being disrespectful, it’s a bit hard to categorize the film. I don’t have cancer, so it’s hard for me to write about this film in a critical fashion. I don’t know how realistic this film is about cancer. Though, if you do have cancer, you don’t stop living your life, and that’s what this film portrays. You want Adam to live, and you get the sense that yeah, this film won’t end on a downer. The film can proceed a bit like a standard comedy at times, and doesn’t go as deep as a film about cancer can, but I don’t think that was the purpose. The film goes on with everyday life with the disease looming, and tries to make scenes funny and sensitive at the same time. Like the scene where they cut off his hair in the mirror, and Kyle says they shouldn’t have done that. Adam questions what Kyle uses the razor for. Where is he using that razor to shave? What part of his body? Adam once again tries to make light of the topic, and much like this film, Kyle is doing a bit of a balancing act. The film is trying to be sensitive and comedic about it at the same time. That being said, it did make me think about how life can be sometimes. How things can change in an instant. The title 50/50 is good for this film. As I said earlier, I never had cancer so I can’t say what it’s like having cancer, so I’m not sure how I can judge this film entirely. I’m not sure if I would be calm about it or have a sense of humor about it, though what I can say is this movie does have us thinking about life. Movies are not a cure for a terminal disease, but they can be good medicine.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

'Moneyball' Goes Behind The Scenes of Baseball

 Four Stars

‘Moneyball’ opens with the statement, “$114,457,768” vs. “$39,722,689”, to symbolize the budget of the two teams at play. One is the Yankees, and the other is the Oakland A’s. The Yankees beat the Oakland A’s in the Division games. This greatly bothers Billy Beane (Brad Pit), the general manager of the team. He talks on the phone, then talks to his higher ups about what kind of money he can get for the team, then talks and talks. Of course, the team isn’t doing well, disappointing the fans, and this doesn’t hold well for their budget. So, he travels to Cleveland to talk to the Indians about a trade. It’s there, he meets a young guy named Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a nerd with a economics degree from Yale. Impressed by his skills, he makes a trade of his own, and Peter comes on board with him at the Oakland A’s. Brand has a philosophy about baseball, that they can build a great team by getting undervalued players cheap. To everyone’s surprise, Beane decides to take a chance on this guy, and his higher ups look at him like he is crazy.

His team manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a bit offended at the fact that Beane is taking advice from some nerdy kid instead of experienced baseball experts, like himself. Brad Pitt turns in a calm performance as Beane, a straight forward guy who wants to win. Jonah Hill’s performance is focused and very good. They make an unlikely team. Something starts to happen, as the team starts to win, after a few tries of different guys. This is a film that knows that baseball is a business, like everything else, and doesn’t boggle down in baseball movie clichés. It isn’t about the players as much as it’s about the people putting together the team. The screenplay, no surprise, is full of dialogue and talk scenes. And that’s no surprise because the screenplay was co-written by Aaron Sorkin. The film was directed by Bennett Miller, who directed Capote. He does a good job here, making the film have an office feel. The film has a business feel. It spends more time in the office than it does on the baseball field.

This film isn’t about the glory of the game. It’s about what goes on behind the scenes of the glory of the game. Even when the team is winning, Beane feels that it doesn’t mean anything until they win the big one. Beane states he is just a guy with a high school diploma who would like to send his daughter to college, unlike Brand, who has a diploma from Yale. You can tell both these guys really love the game. Yes, in different ways. Yet, you can tell they share a love for this. Beane used to be a baseball player himself, and Brand loves putting together the numbers, even if it’s questionable whether he himself has ever picked up a bat.

The performances here are very good, and so is the script. At the end of the film, as I won’t give away, but I suspect those who have been keeping up with the sports pages over a number of years already know, Beane turns down something huge. My brother, who’s a big baseball fan, already knew the story that was going to happen. I’m just a movie critic, so I didn’t follow this story. My stuff appears on the entertainment and arts or lifestyle pages (or wherever the newspaper decides to stick this syndicated review column), so I came into this movie not knowing the full extent of how the A’s got to the top. As someone who doesn’t follow sports, the film still kept me interested.

That being said, ‘Moneyball’ is an intelligent homerun. It’s a business film, and a baseball film. It’s no surprise it’s a business movie, as it is based on the book by financial journalist Michael Lewis. I think you don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this film. It is an intelligent and mature picture about baseball without all of the glory and clichéd scenes of sports figures. It’s about the real guys behind the scenes of the ballpark and not about just the baseball players. At one point in the film, one of the characters says you can’t play kids games forever. And Beane knows this, and so does Brad Pitt. Here is a film that takes baseball seriously.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

10 Novels Every Writer Should Read

I just want to say before you read this list, that unlike some of my previous lists, this isn’t a favorite books list. This is a list of books I honestly think every writer should read. This list is based on importance and what the writer can learn from these texts. So, while I love Huckleberry Finn, I at the same time don’t claim to be a scholar of Harry Potter, even thought I thought the books were good. This list is of importance I feel these books should be read. It is also in no order of importance, expect for Huckleberry Finn, which I feel deserves the number one spot. And there is one book that isn’t a novel on the list, but Stephen King giving writing advice should be read by everyone who wants to write. I feel he is the storyteller of the second half of the 20th century. Some of the books on this list may be debated, like Interview with a Vampire, but I feel it is a great book. The one thing I think we can agree on though, and if you don’t agree with this, put down your pen, you are not a writer, is that if you want to write, YOU MUST READ. That is not up for discussion. People keep coming up to me and saying "I want to write, but I don't really like to read", or "I want to write for TV or the movies. Why do I need to read books?" Well, a few reasons. Books are the only form of media that doesn't abuse you. They don't have commerical breaks, over simulation and product placement. So, put away the movies and turn off the TV. I have a few books for you to open.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain---Well, duh. This is where it all started, folks. Mark Twain was the first writer to try dialects. If they are from the south, they should sound like that. Also, Huckleberry Finn is a memorable character. Very memorable. You should know the story, but if you don’t, it’s Huckleberry Finn, a young boy on the run from his adoptive mother and wicked father, as he meets up with a runaway slave, Jim, and they sail across the Mississippi. Everyone from Roger Ebert to J.K. Rowling has put this on their favorite books list. It is the ultimate masterpiece of American literature. That’s saying a lot. And no, I don’t want to hear its racist, one more time. Mark Twain was anything but.

2. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut--- And now we come to the 20th century’s version of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. The ultimate American humorist. His story is untraditional, and not a straight narrative. It’s the story of Billy Pilgrim, and his experiences with the firebombing of Germany. Meanwhile, it’s also about his physiological aftermath. Things start to get out of control as he imagines himself telling war stories to aliens.

3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling--- Every modern writer should read Harry Potter. It’s the defining book of the current era. Rowling did something right, and it’s seen in her prose and strong characters. She also gives a master class in world building. She creates an entire alternative world out of thin air. Her world is detailed, and mixes humor, characters, commentary and a magical core. Just think Tom Browning’s School Days with a dash of magic.

4. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman---And riding the coat-tails of Harry Potter, comes the brave Lara, an orphan in an alternative universe. Like Rowling, Pullman creates a detailed alternative universe out of thin air. Lara is brave, strong and goes up against an evil organization kidnapping children called ‘The Church’. Already, you can see this is going somewhere interesting. Its good commentary disguised as fantasy.

5. Necromancer by William Gibson—and speaking of alternative universes, Gibson creates one too. No, this one isn’t about magic but Arthur C. Clark once said magic is just science we don’t understand. Though, what is so interesting about Gibson’s world is that it reflects our own. Written in the eighties, Gibson’s novel predicts what would become the internet. The story of a computer cowboy named Case, and a Blade-runner named Molly Millions, the story takes place in the future where the mob and Case entangle in a world-wide network that resembles the modern day internet. Gibson, who coined the term cyberspace, predicts what would be a large part of our world.

6. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien--- The lush description and detailed world J.R.R. Tolkien created kick started a whole world of fantasy. Every piece of world building fiction owes a great amount to J.R.R. Tolkien, and his story of war, greed and fantastical creatures and worlds, as the characters journey and sacrifice all in the name of one ring to rule them all.

7. On Writing by Stephen King- This isn’t really a novel, more of a memoir but come on. It’s advice on writing from Stephen King. It also happens to be one of the most down to earth guides on how to write. I think Stephen King is the master storyteller of the second half of the 20th century. Some will argue J.K. Rowling is the master storyteller of that era, and as good as her story is, she did just tell one story. Stephen King has told over the span of eighty novels and three hundred short stories, many, many, many stories. I can’t think of a better guy to get advice on writing from, than the master storyteller himself, Stephen King. And oh yeah, pick up one of those novels by him.

8. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice- I think Anne Rice is one of the most underrated prose stylists. Sure, she’s a popular author but her actual writing is very good. Lush description mixed with a vampire’s narration of how he became one, Lastat at and Louis are two memorable characters who personify Rice’s erotic way of writing about something that’s not erotic. Rice mixes the two styles together, horror and eroticism and the result is a beautifully written novel. I think her mixture of lush prose and horror makes for a great novel.

9. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson---Not every novel on this list needs to be a traditional novel, and Hunter S. Thompson’s cross between fiction and fact, commentary and narrative, and travel log is anything but normal. Of course, it’s the story of Hunter under the name Roul Duke and his traveling companion who he keeps referring to as his attorney, traveling around Las Vegas, getting in trouble. The trunk of their car is full of drugs. Paranoia and surrealism come into play. It’s good for a writer to read a non-traditional narrative every once in a while, and this is certainly that.

10. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen---Jane Austen creates great characters. Her story of Elizabeth Bennett is an example of a strong woman in early literature. Her love interest, Mr. Darcy is the forerunner to every romantic male character in literature (I’m looking at you, Edward Cullen), and it’s just plain good to read a story that takes place a long time ago. It’s a classic among literature, and it’s a story that should continue to be read. It’s a romance but with a strong female lead, which was unusual at the time.

Happy reading, fellow writers.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' is a silly but pretty good film

Three Stars

Here’s a rule of thumb for movie goers. If the film has a long title, there’s a big chance, it’s going to be silly. So, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is about everything you would expect from a movie titled “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. It starts with a lab. In this lab, in a big office building, is where they test chemicals on apes. Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist who works with these apes, testing chemicals on them. He is determined to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. His father (the great John Lithgow) has it. When an ape goes on a rampage in the building, the evil head of the company (David Oyelowo) demands that the apes are put to sleep. Feeling that he can’t do that, Will takes home one of the apes and raises it as his own, watching his intelligence rise. We are treated to some really good graphics of the ape swinging through the house. He names the ape Caesar. We know that if this ape gets too smart, things are going to be bad.

Of course, things do go bad and Caesar ends up in an animal control center. This raises a lot of questions. If this is San Francisco, where did all these apes come from? That’s a lot of apes for California. Did they all escape? Did the budget for zoo security get cut? Ok, I have to remember that this film is titled “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and not Woody Allen’s 2012 Summer Project. This is one of those films where it’s better not to ask questions. This brings in Tom Felton, in a role that’s a little perplexing. Only because why would he want to play the jerk again after playing that little jerk Draco in the Harry Potter films. He’s a total jerk to the apes in this film. Of course, I have to say, it’s better not to ask questions.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a pretty good film. A popcorn film, which leads up to a big confrontation between the humans and the apes that goes on for like ten minutes. And big chase scenes with apes on the Golden Gate bridge. The apes are well animated, and look like real apes. The graphics are good. Of course, I won’t give away the end. Though, I have to say it does set up the squeal. I mean, yes, there’s some questions. Like when Caesar organizes the apes by passing out cookies. Where did he get the bag of cookies? Remember the children’s book, “Never Give a Mouse a Cookie”? Well, I guess you don’t want to give an ape one either.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is kind of silly. And yes, it’s trying to set up a franchise where the humans and the apes face off. Caesar’s a pretty smart ape. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention one more thing. Will gets a girlfriend named Caroline (Freida Pinto), who’s a primatologist. You know, all the scientists in films these days are beautiful. The scientist in “Thor” was Natalie Portman. I’m starting to think I went into the wrong profession. If I paid more attention in science classes back in high school, maybe I too could have dated a beautiful scientist but whatever. I guess what I’m saying is that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is a silly, pop-corn, science fiction thriller where we know that us humans are going to have to deal with apes who want to rise against us. I suppose, we should treat these apes better. As you can see, I don’t really have too much to say about this film. Is basically is what it is. Though, I do think it’s about time for the San Francisco Examiner to do a big expose of apes escaping in California. I mean, ok. I’m sitting here analyzing a popcorn movie; up to the point that I’m thinking that a real newspaper should investigate a fictional problem in what is basically a big budget B picture. Darn, I really do have too much time on my hands. I guess it’s time to take up a hobby. I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Oh, and that I did take up the wrong profession. Scientists get all the girls.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Superman Belongs to America

The British have produced a lot of heroes and homegrown mythology. They have given us Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, Discworld and James Bond. I have nothing against the British. They are the masters of the fantasy genre. We Americans have not come close to them when it comes to fantasy. Who wouldn’t like to be a fly on the wall when J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would get together for beer and talk about those two novels they were working on? That being said, we Americans seem to have something that the British don’t. We have our comic books. Yes, comic books. We may not have J.K. Rowling, but we do have Stan Lee. That’s what we Americans have. We have created Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, Batman, Archie, Wonder Women, the Justice League and who can forget, well, Captain America. So, you Brits may have created timeless fantasy novels, but we Americans have created timeless comic books. I think that’s a fair trade off. The recent trend is that in the new comic book movies, Hollywood has been shipping off our American superheroes to British actors. The new Spiderman movie stars Andrew Garfield. The new ‘Batman’ stars Christian Bale. Now, I think I could handle this. As much as I think ‘Spiderman’ is the all-American teenager, insecure and somehow heroic at the same time. All while pining for the girl next store, Mary Jane. I think an American teenager would have been a better choice, instead of a twenty something British guy. Anyway, it’s the recent trend in Hollywood to hire British actors. There is an exception to my tolerance. They have casted Henry Cavill, a British actor, to play Superman.

Now, I have nothing against the British, but I don’t think its right to cast a British person as Superman. Superman is our hero. He is the All-American hero, and I think Superman should only be played by Americans. Before you yell at me that this is an unfair judgment, ask yourself this question. Would you cast an American kid to play Harry Potter? Now, yes, I know Harry Potter and Superman are very different, and in some ways, similar to each other, but you can’t deny they are both icons of their respective countries. Now, the last ‘Superman’, was played by an American, Brandon Routh, in 2006. He’s a soap opera actor and model. I guess that franchise reboot didn’t work too well if they never invited him back to play ‘Superman’, and yes, I have to admit, the movie was stiff and not one of the better Superman films. That being said, if they are going to do a re-boot, they still need to cast an American actor to play Superman.

Now, what you don’t know about Superman I will tell you. It all goes back to history. Superman was created by two Jewish comic book writers named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. They envisioned Superman as both a Jewish response and an American response to Hitler’s idea of a perfect, blue eyes, blonde hair society. I mean, think about it. All you have to do is look at an early issue of ‘Superman’, which I don’t expect you to because it’s one of the most highly priced comic book issues ever, but stay with me here. He was a man with black hair, in a suit that was red, white and yellow. He lived in Metropolis. His persona was a mild mannered reporter for a newspaper called ‘The Daily Planet’. His love interest was an independent woman who’s profession was journalism named Lois Lane. His adoptive parents where Ma and Pa Kent, who lived on a farm in Smallville. He’s an alien. He’s an outsider. Yet, he’s a hero. He’s an immigrant. Doesn’t any of this just scream America?

So, I just think it makes no sense for Warner Bros. to cast a British actor to play Superman. The British already have their fictional icons, and Gawd, they’ve done great. We Americans deserve our own, and that’s the comic book superheroes. Those are our icons, and thus should be cast with American actors. I wouldn’t dream of casting an American kid as Harry Potter, or cast an American guy as James Bond. So, why should we cast a British guy to play Superman or Spiderman? That makes no sense. We Americans need our own mythology like everyone else does. So, casting a Brit to play Superman, is well, not super.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Um, It's A Art Picture

One and a half stars

‘Tree of Life’, the new film by Terrence Malick, I really didn’t get. I hate to bash an art film, but at the very least it’s trying to do something different than the usual barrage of trash that commercial vendors and mainstream media throw at us. Though, this film is full of what the fudge moments. A montage of the earth being created, including a computer animated dinosaur, which I had to ask: what was that doing in this picture? The scene goes on for almost ten minutes. When they cut to a scene of the mother in a glass casket in the woods, I thought to myself, this film is pretension city. The father (Brad Pitt), one moment is a good guy and then the next moment is an awful jerk. One minute he’s hugging his kids, than he’s yelling at them to call him father instead of dad? Or how about the constant moments of the film with the camera constantly pulling in for close ups, or the constant moments set to music. The film never has any scenes of just dialogue. I don’t like the way the film is constructed. Was it really necessary to have a scene with a kid dying in the pool? Maybe I just don’t get art films, but on the contrary, I’ve written a lot of pieces about art films, and I love good cinema as opposed to just good movies at the mainstream theater. I’ve given a lot of thumbs up to films that are art films, and off the map, films like this one, that have weird construction, somewhat artsy feel that try to do something different. I like a lot of films where nothing happens for long stretches of time. I think there’s something to the art house picture that’s great. Though, this film broke a lot of rules of films I usually give a good review to a film that does that. Though, this one I just didn’t get. What was so good about it?

First of all, the film needs to have either a story or characters I could care about. By the end of this film, I kind of had a hard time caring about any of the characters. Brad Pitt’s character is a jerk. The mother (Jessica Chastain) is kind of useless. The kids are realistic kids, but I had a hard time caring about them. I think a movie fails if you have a hard time caring about kids. By the way, as my companion who saw this movie pointed out, the mother had a tattoo on her foot. This film takes place in what? The 1950’s? Who had a tattoo in the 50s? Anyway, this film throws a lot of stuff at us about biblical meanings and religion. The story doesn’t really lend itself enough to religion in the first place. But can you really call this a story? Then there’s a problem of narration. There’s more than one narration but none of them are linear. The narrations come in small little voices. The problem is that none of the narration, I think, makes any sense. One of the kid’s narrations asks God to kill his father. His father is kind of a jerk, but not bad enough for a kid to ask God to kill him. Then again, do I really want to hear a kid ask God to kill their father in the first place? No. Not really.

Something that could be pointed out from this experiment, and learned is the following. First of all, escapism is important. That’s one of the prime reasons we go to the movies. This is a piece of cinema, not just another movie. So, if you are going to tell a story that’s a bit harder around the edges, you still need to tell it like a story instead of being all over the place. I started to wonder as I watched this picture if they told this story straight, would it have been a better picture? I guess I will never know, but this film is a prime example of why people hate art pictures. It’s very pretentious, and it reminded me of a line from a Woody Allen film about how some artists pass off their pain as art. I think this film is an example of this. I mean, yes, using film to try to figure out where we are in the universe is important and can be done well, but this film knocks you over the head with that. It yells ‘art picture’. I have to give it some credit. It’s beautifully shot. It makes an honest attempt to capture the surreal nature of childhood, but I’m sorry this film just didn’t click with me. I think a film like this can be thought provoking, and it’s good to ask questions about the universe, but I didn’t like the way this film went about it.

I’m sure a lot of people will say I didn’t get this film. They will also say that it takes a certain kind of viewer to view this film. I would agree with that. I often am that kind of viewer. I like many off beat films. It’s a certain kind of offbeat I like. I like films that play with the traditional feel of a film. I can’t recommend this film. I found it off putting, and at times, rather creepy, to be honest. I don’t want a montage of the creation of the earth. I don’t want narrations of child asking God to kill their father. I totally didn’t click with this film. That happens, sometimes. I’m sure there are people who will find this film life affirming. I didn’t. I found it to be pretentious and at times, boring. I have to be honest. I left the theater and the first question I asked was “What did I just watch for two hours?”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Harry Potter's Final Spell

Three and a half stars

‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2’ is a fitting finale to the most profitable film series in history. For the last fifteen years, J.K. Rowling has cast something of a spell on the world’s readers, hooking them on her magical stories of a boy who discovers he’s a wizard. Well, Hogwarts looks much different than it did way back in 2001, where we first met the young Daniel Radcliff, as a lonely little orphan living under the staircase of his wicked aunt and uncle’s house. Since then, Harry and his friends, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) have left innocence, as they come face to face with the evil wizard, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). The last act in the ‘Harry Potter’ saga starts as Harry is on the run with his two friends. He is coming closer and closer to the big showdown with Voldemort. Steve Kloves’s script raps up J.K. Rowling’s epic tale, and gives good weight to the dialogue and the danger lurking in the magical world Rowling has created.

Danger lurks at each door, and the film gets closer and closer to the big battle with the evil wizard Voldemort. Harry is determined to get the Horcruxes, which are explained as parts of Voldemort’s soul. The scenery is dark this time, and the three friends run through different locations as they finally arrive back to Hogwarts. When they arrive back to Hogwarts, the school doesn’t look sunny and magical anymore. It looks dark, and the new headmaster is Snape (Alan Rickman). There’s also the usual company of actors who have populated this series. Harry Potter has become something of a place for good British actors to have scenes. Many distinguished British actors have worked in the Harry Potter series, and many of them make appearances here. Probably, though, the standout here among the company of the supporting actors is Alan Rickman. He does a great job playing Snape, and I won’t give away what happens with Snape, though I suspect most of the people in the audience have read the books. So, don’t put the spoiler police on me. Alan Rickman and even Ralph Fiennes as the evil Voldemort deserve Oscar consideration.

Bellatrix Lestrange, Rubeus Hagrid, Professor Dumbledore, Ollivander, Lucius Malfoy, Sirius Black, Severus Snape, Remus Lupin and Prof. Minerva McGonagall all shield Hogwarts from the evil of Lord Voltemort. Hogwarts is placed under a magical shield from the armies of Voldemort. Ralph Fiennes makes Voltemort evil. Screenwriter Steve Kloves has a big task to tie up all the loose ends and includes many scenes and speeches. Hogwarts is reduced to ashes and ruins as the kids run through the battles and evil sorcery. It’s leading up to a big confrontation. There are many themes about death and sacrifice and standing up to evil.

This is a wonderfully shot film, though it is dark and dealy. The series has remained faithful to J.K. Rowling’s original idea, though the tones of the books and films have grown darker since the series has progressed. I suspect though that’s one of the reasons the series has been so successful. ‘Harry Potter’ always remains good at heart, the tone of the series and films deals with issues of growing up and Harry facing certain death. The film is well staged, and the dialogue is good. Harry Potter and his friends have captivated a whole generation of kids to pick up a book. It’s a mixed blessing in a way for us writers. On one hand, she has set the bar pretty high as far as storytelling goes, but we are grateful to see a book become this big of a thing. I don’t think my forthcoming novel will sell as many copies. The last scene of the film will make those who love ‘Harry Potter’ tear up. It also leaves room for a squeal, though J.K. Rowling has said she wouldn’t write one. Hopefully, the kids who grew up reading Harry Potter will continue to read long after their favorite boy wizard has moved on with his life. The last scene of ‘Harry Potter’, I won’t give it away. I never give away endings, though I suspect you know this one. Let’s just say that this is the final class at Hogwarts for those too old to attend, now. Class dismissed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Write A Review

One of the most marketable things for a journalist to do is become a reviewer. It’s a safe bet that everyone likes movies, is looking for a good book to read and when not feeling up to a book, have a television set hanging around. Though, that’s the traditional reviewers. In 2004, Dan Neil received a Pulitzer Prize for writing reviews of automobiles. This year, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism was an art critic for the Boston Globe. Me, I’m a film critic, who occasionally writes a book review (and poor attempts at novels) but until then, I’m a film critic. I was talking with my father about the idea that my reviews might be syndicated to newspapers one day. I said that it’s a safe thing to syndicate to newspapers, because everyone likes movies. People can debate columnists like George Will, but no one really can debate Roger Ebert. You might disagree with a review of his, but you don’t walk away from a review so angry that you want a bottle of gin. If you don’t believe, just look at how many people are going to go see the new Harry Potter film. It’s a weird thing that film has survived, I suppose. We have television, books, computers, cell phones, laptops, and information pills we can take that provide us with everything we need to know as we sit with our morning coffee preparing for the day (well, ok, maybe we don’t have that, yet). Anyway, as I was saying, movie reviews are a safe bet. As long as there are movie theaters, there will be reviewers. I like to think of what I do as a consumer guide. If you want to be a critic, too, I suggest these following tips.

1) Pick a topic- You need to pick a topic. This is probably the easiest part. What do you want your column to be about? Movies? Books? Music? Television? Or maybe you don’t want to write about mainstream stuff like that. There’s nothing wrong with being an art critic or a restaurant critic. Though, you’re more likely to get a national audience if you’re reviewing, say, movies, you can still have a good job reviewing local restaurants. Jonathan Gold, of the LA Weekly, writes a column about local restaurants in Los Angeles, and he won a Pulitzer Prize for that.

2) Tone- One of the dangers of criticisms is becoming a snob, but I’ll cover that in the next tip. Let me start by talking about the tone of your review. Your tone shouldn’t be condescending, and as a critic, there’s always a danger to that. Know what you are reviewing. If you are reviewing film, know that you’re not reviewing a political scandal. Your tone should be conversational, and shouldn’t talk above the heads of your audience. You should have a tone that conveys an ongoing conversation about the film or whatever you choose to review. Remember, you are the guide through your review, and you shouldn’t be lecturing your audience. You should be talking to them.

3) Don’t be a snob-You should be able to like both ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Tree of Life’. I’m not saying you should be a critic who likes everything but show your audience that you are someone who can see the value in both entertainment and thought-provoking art pictures. Also, if you don’t like a film, give reasons that make sense beyond I was bored. If a kids film has a bad message for children, than warn your audience about that. If the picture is just a cute kids picture, and is somewhat harmless, than you sound like a snob if you write up a bashing of it. For example, in my review of ‘Cars 2’, I run the risk of sounding like a snob because I didn’t like a Pixar picture meant for children. It’s a picture about talking cars, for crying out loud. Not a biography of Gandhi. So, I explain early that while I didn’t like the picture, I take no enjoyment in writing up a bad review of a kid’s film, unless the film has a bad message for children. Though, you probably do know more about film than the person reading the review, don’t make them feel like you are some professor lecturing to them. You should make them feel that you, too, are a normal guy going to the theater. Though, you also want them to know that your opinion is informed. It’s a balancing act.

4) Make yourself trusted- It doesn’t hurt to put into the review things that show you know what you are talking about. You might have never picked up a camera to make a movie or started a draft of your own novel, so that’s a common thing lobbied against reviewers. What do they know? Well, I know a couple things. For example, I know something about film history, which I try to put into the review. I also know something about film news, the cast, the filmmakers and I try to put that information into the review while trying not to knock the head of my reader over with it. Roger Ebert does this well. Another thing I try to do in a review is give the reader some kind of suggestion of something else they could do instead of watch a film that’s not very good. Like for example, say you have a daughter who’s around eight, and she wants to see a movie called ‘Justin Bieber: Never Say Never’, and it’s a concert film about the newest teen sensation, Justin Biber. While I think Bieber is harmless, I do think there are better ways for your daughter to spend her two hours instead of some teen marketing campaign that tells her she should have a crush on the latest version of the Jonas Brothers. I try to make a better suggestion for the parent who wants to show their daughter something better than a movie about girls obsessed with Justin Bieber. I suggest they keep their daughter at home, and rent out ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, which happens to be on DVD, and is a wonderful animated feature from Japan (but trust me, Disney released it dubbed so your daughter doesn’t have to read sub-titles) about a young girl who happens to be a witch. She goes off on her own and comes of age. That may sound silly, but let give you a new way to think about it. Kiki is a strong female character. There, I just saved you 8 bucks, 2 mind-numbing hours and your daughter has just met a better role model.

5) Know what you are writing- You’re writing a review of a film or a book or whatever topic you choose to write about. So, your language should reflect what you are writing. You should keep the tone light if it’s a comedy or a fantasy adventure. You can get more serious if the film is a drama or a thought provoking piece of science fiction. That being said, your review is still a column. It should sound like one but also, it shouldn’t sound too much like one. One of the fun things about writing about a topic is that you spice up the language a bit with references. Take for example my review of ‘Paul’, where I end the review with the line ‘she knows a thing or two about fighting aliens.’ What political column could you end that with? And I mean actual aliens. Not illegal aliens. You should also be to the point, I feel. You’re writing a review. The person wants to know if they should see the movie or not. They don’t want to spend twenty minutes reading a review of a film. They want a break from the horror stories in the paper, by thinking about what movie they should see, or what car they should drive, or what art show they should see or what’s on TV tonight. You can provide a service by saving them money. Though, you also should show them you know what you are doing. You’re not trying to sway them to a political position or telling them which president to vote for.

6) Finally, remember, you are writing on something everyone can agree on. That’s the cool thing. While we might disagree on if a film is good or not, no one can deny we all like seeing them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Off The Grid Summer Reading

The iconic literary and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Philip Roth says that he has stopped reading fiction, altogether. I happen to believe that good fiction is still out there. I’m not going to be a prude and say that mainstream fiction isn’t good. I might make criticisms for a living, but I am by no means a snob. At least, I try not to be. That’s always the danger of professional criticism. For example, if Harry Potter and John Grisham are your homeboys, that’s fine. One thing that does annoy me about people’s reading habits is often they don’t look off the grid for some good reads. We see this often with summer reading lists. I mean, if you want to read popular novels that amount to soap operas, I have nothing against that. Whatever floats your boat is my motto when it comes to reading. At least you’re reading something. Though, I feel that supplementing that with some off the grid reading when you go to the beach isn’t a bad thing. Perhaps you might find the following suggestions for summer reading enriching, life affirming and thought provoking as have I over the years. Just because you’re reading on the beach doesn’t mean that your brain turns off. As I said, light reading is fine. I rather you read anything than stare at a phone, a laptop, texting, watching films on your cell phones or said computers (seriously, stop streaming movies. Go to a damn theater and pay the eight bucks. Jeez) but I digress. Hope these suggestions prove memorable reading experiences. Let me explain a bit how this reading list is going to work. It’s going to go from heavier reading to lighter reading. Let’s start with…

1. Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Recently, a picture was snapped of Harry Potter’s Emma Watson reading this book, or as my brother puts it: his future wife. Anyway, back to the book. ‘Perks of Being A Wallflower’ is one of America’s most banned books, because it is a YA novel that deals with sex, drugs, and suicide. It’s one of the most memorable books I’ve read. This one can be read by both adults and teenagers. I would suggest you buy your teenager this book instead of a ticket to see the most recent summer blockbuster. The story is a series of letters by a kid named Charlie addressed to someone. We don’t know who he is writing these letters to, but he does have a secret that we don’t know till the end of the book. At times shocking and at times, life affirming, this book has been one of the most beloved of my suggestions. Charlie is a depressed teenager who with the help of his two friends, experiences what it’s like growing up on the edge. Oh, yeah, the film is Emma Watson’s first project, post-Harry Potter.

2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a story of a nerd before the time it was cool to be a nerd. He starts out a slim, good looking kid that everyone thinks will go a long way. Such a good looking kid, they suggest he’ll be breaking hearts. But soon that all goes wrong, as he become overweight and obsessed with being the next J.R.R. Tolkien, writing his novels and becoming involved in nerd culture. Though, that’s not all the book is about. The book is also about his mother’s time in the Dominican Republic. His sister’s problems. His friend’s observations about him. It all accumulates into a story just as much about being different in America as it does about legacy, heritage and the culture that engulfs our lives.

3. Any book by Nick Hornby- the British master of light, fun books to read, he also makes memorable characters. Mostly known in the states for books that get made into American movies, like ‘High Fidelity’ and ‘About A Boy’, are something that are wonderful. Because Hornby doesn’t write big epics (like Oscar Woa) or life affirming dramas (like Perks), he instead writes about people and their lives. I don’t want to fill this list up with a ton of books that might depress you. Nick Hornby is funny, honest and writes books about people you might know. And as I try not to depress you too much, I move onto…

4. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. I suppose a lot of you are looking for something to read after Harry Potter, but probably don’t want to go through an ordeal with a villain as evil as Vodemort. You can read my review of ‘Percy Jackson’ on this blog, but let me summarize it for you in this article. Rich Riordan brings a funny wit to a story of a dysfunctional kid from New York City who discovers at a camp the son of a Greek God. He ends up going on adventures with his two friends as they fight evil and try to stop the Gods from starting another war. Ok, this sounds like Harry Potter, but so what? It’s a well written YA novel.

Hope you all have a good summer.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

'Cars 2' spins wheels

Two and a half stars

You know, it’s hard for me to knock a kid’s movie. Even as a film critic, I really take no delight in writing a bad review of what is really meant for kids. Unless the movie has some really bad message for kids I need to warn parents about, then I don’t really see why I should write a bad review of a kid’s movie. Pixar’s new film, “Cars 2”, doesn’t really have a bad message for kids. Also, its main characters are lovable, as usual. Pixar characters are always lovable. The film is about the friendship between the talking cars, Mater, a dim-witted but lovable tow truck voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, and his friend, the race car, Lightning McQueen, voiced by Owen Wilson. They live in Radiator Springs, a little American town. Of course, this is a universe where there seems to be no humans. Everyone’s a talking car. Lightning McQueen happens to be a famous racecar, and he decides to take Meter with him to Tokyo for a big race.

In Tokyo, Pixar has some fun with the culture. It is fun seeing Pixar poking a little fun at the Tokyo culture. The sequence looks great. While in Tokyo, Meter gets mixed up in a spy-plot with two spy cars. One voiced by Michael Caine. They mistake him for an American spy. You see, there’s a plot about the cars in the race using a new fuel, but the evil cars want the cars to use their fuel. So they sabotage the race. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t really relish political messages in children’s entertainment. I think teaching kid’s morals, old fashion morals, is fine. Like that good prevails over evil or friendship. Though, I don’t like some message about oil and the environment and alternative fuels and evil oil companies in a picture by Pixar. The subplot is rather unnecessary. So, Mater gets mixed up into the spy plot and is zoomed around from Tokyo to Paris to London. Every five minutes when I thought that maybe the film would pick up a little, they go back to the spy plot. The spy plot kind of falls flat.

I don’t like bashing a kid’s movie, as I said earlier, but this one kind of spins its wheels. Meter talks throughout the picture, and he’s not a bad character. As I said, the dim-witted pickup truck is lovable, but I’m not sure he makes the best main character. I can honestly say I was bored half-way through this picture. The kids in the theater didn’t seem to laugh once. Look, I’m not going to be one of those critics who say that everything Pixar makes needs to be a masterpiece or have a deep emotional core like the people who told me they cried at the end of ‘Toy Story 3’. I think a good afternoon at the movies with your kids isn’t a bad thing. I, for one, don’t believe that all children’s entertainment needs to always be great. Sometimes entertaining the kids is enough. That being said, I think this Pixar film is going to bore the adults.

If you want to bring your kids to this movie, it's not the worst thing in the world. There are some scenes of cars in explosions that might scare younger kids. I don't expect greatness from every Pixar or kids film, and I don't think a merely entertaining kids film is a bad thing but this film could use some repairs.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Love Letter to Early Spielberg

Three Stars

I loved seeing the Amblin logo on the screen again. Hello, old friend. ‘Super 8’ is J.J. Abrams’s homage to Steven Spielberg, and I came prepared to this film. I came prepared to feel twelve again. The story opens on our twelve year old hero, Joe Lamb (Joel Countney). He is sitting on a swing set with his head down. It’s his mother’s funeral. His father Deputy Schiff Jack Lam (Kyle Chandler) is upset as well. Cute kid with a great loss. We are already starting to feel the Spielberg effect here. A couple months pass by, and he and his friends are hanging out, as they work on a film. It’s the summer or 1979. Joe and his friends Charles (Riley Griffiths), Cary (Ryan Lamb), Martin (Gabriel Basso), Preston (Scott Mills) and Alice (Elle Fanning) are all spending their time making a cheap horror flick on super 8 film they bought from the local store. They are filming a scene at the local train station. All the boys are enchanted by Alice, as they cast her to play the girl in their film. They start to film the scene, but before they know it, a car goes on the tracks and the train crashes into it. Huge explosion and they get more excitement than they bargained for. The scene is a very good action sequence, and is the type of thing J.J. Abrams does well. I am reminded of his last film, ‘Star Trek’, which also had excellent action sequences.

Weird things start to happen in their small town like all the dogs disappearing and people disappearing. The military sets up camp. Weird things that look like Rubik Cubes start to appear. I was reminded of Stephen King’s ‘Stand by Me’, as these young kids band together to confront something weird and evil happening in their community. As all this is happening, though, their main focus remains making their little film with their camera. I felt like I was watching a film from the late eighties to early nineties. The kids are all in a scary situation, and they are quicker than the adults to figure out what is going on.

The film can be kind of obvious at times. It makes up for that with a charming group of kids. Movies like this make up for their short comings with innocence and relationships including kids. That’s what made E.T. and other movies of that time period work. The kids have their quirks. Charles is the young director, who is strict about the direction of his film, and despite everything happening, is determined to finish it. Things get crazier and crazier. The kids run through the town on fire, and they get to the school where they discover more film with evidence of the truth the evil government had been hiding.

One of the things I love about this film is the love letter it is to Spielberg and film in general. Film is very important to the plot, from the kids making a film of their own to the scene where Joe and Alice watch the film of Joe’s mother on the wall. Film is important, apparently, to J.J. Abrams, and that’s really the joy of ‘Super 8’. The film can feel a little rushed at times, and the ending is directly pulled from Spielberg’s playbook. Though, I suggest you take your kids and yourself to this film, because this film has the right spirit. I’m suggesting this film mostly for its spirit. You don’t get films like this anymore. It’s a story of kids facing great danger, but going on a quest and trying to save their friend from a monster. Perhaps this film will inspire a kid to pick up a camera and make a Super 8 film of their own. Ok, maybe people don’t use super eight film anymore, but people don't make films like 'Super 8' anymore, and it's perhaps trying to recapture some of that magic.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Woody Allen’s Magical Romp Through Paris…and Time

Three and a half stars

Woody Allen’s new film, “Midnight In Paris”, is a magical romp through Paris. What I didn’t expect was that it would also be a film about time travel. Woody Allen, I suppose, could have been an English professor. When I was in college, I was an English major, and I have heard of all the people that are referenced and played in this movie through my American and English literature classes. This film isn't about just time travel, but about a man's desire to fulfil a dream.

The film opens on screenwriter, Gil (Owen Wilson), and his girlfriend, Inez (Rachel McAdams). They are in Paris with her parents. Gil is an old time romantic when it comes to Paris and literature. He wants to go to Paris so he can give writing a novel a shot. His girlfriend and her parents would rather go shopping, and go dancing. They meet up with another couple who want to do the same. Gil just wants to walk through Paris, and be inspired by it.

One night, when he is sitting on the steps of a church, an old car pulls up and invites him in. He rides in the car, and arrives at a party where he is introduced to two people who he kind of recognizes. They end up being F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife. They go to a café. Hemmingway is sitting there. Gil is shocked. The film keeps going back and forth between Gil’s modern life and Gil’s time travel adventure. He keeps going back to the same spot night after night, and he keeps getting into the car. One night he ends up at Gertrude Stein’s house. They all speak the way I would imagine them speaking,intellectually. Gertrude Stein will read his novel, after she is done arguing over culture with a friend of hers. Stein is played by Kathy Bates. Ah, to go back to that old time culture where high class people sat around at parties talking intellectually and listening to Cole Porter. But then I digress.

One of the wonderful things about Woody Allen, is that he doesn’t really care if you know who these people are, but if you where a English major or a person of a certain age, you really should know who these people are. When Gil comes back and tells Inez of his time with Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Elliot, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein and other important people of the bygone era, she thinks he is nuts and has a brain tumor. Owen Wilson is obviously playing the Woody Allen part, and he makes a charming Woody Allen.

Gil, like Woody Allen, is in love with the city. The film opens with a montage of Paris. No one shoots a city like Woody Allen. This is a film that people who are well read will get a kick out of. Not to say that someone who never heard of these authors and writers will not enjoy the film. They will. Woody is tipping his hat to a bygone literary era. These are writers Woody Allen probably admires as well. I wonder if this film, if made years from now, would have people traveling back in time to meet up with J.K. Rowling and Stephen King? Only time will tell.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Thor" is the stuff of Saturday morning cartoons

Two Stars

“Thor” is kind of a silly film, and it’s a mystery why the director is Kenneth Branagh, the director of mostly Shakespeare movies. Yes, I know, he probably got paid a lot better to direct “Thor” than he did to direct “Titus” or “Hamlet”, but still it’s kind of a perplexing choice. The scenes where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is in another realm (universe? a friend of mine pointed out that its perplexing. How did anyone miss the realm that seems to be floating right above earth?) Anyway, the good news about this film is that everyone seems to be in the joke. While films like “Spiderman II” seems to take the idea of a superhero seriously, “Thor” seems to laugh at itself at times. The audience I saw it with seemed to be laughing at certain scenes, like when Thor tastes coffee for the first time, throws it down on the floor and says he wants more or when his friends from the other realm show up, all dressed up in their gear in the little New Mexico town Thor showed up in. “Thor” starts out in their own realm where they are at war with ice creatures (I’m not sure if that’s the right term for them). Thor is going to become king in the beginning, but soon makes a mistake by fighting the ice creatures without his father’s permission. I’m not sure if I was supposed to laugh out loud when Thor’s father shows up on the horse, and Thor turns around and goes “Father, we can fight them together!” but come on.

Anyway, of course, on earth, he meets a scientist (of course, the scientist is Natalie Portman), and they end up falling in love. She falls in love with him after he shows her the stars. But things get messy when the evil government comes along and takes away all her files, because the government is trying to figure out about the hammer that Thor left in the ground. No one can seem to pull the hammer from the ground. I don’t really know why the government cares about a hammer no one can pull from the ground. Natalie Portland is probably the most attractive scientist I’ve ever seen (no offend to scientists). She has another scientist with her, who also is very attractive (Kat Dennings) and a guy who is helping them lead their science experiments (Stellan Skarsgård) Anyway, Thor crash-lands on earth, after his father banishes him. His father falls into a deep sleep, and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes over. He becomes king, and he betrays his brother and his father by going over to the other side. Anyway, there’s a lot of mythology going on.

There’s a lot of stuff going on. Including betrayals, fights with giant robots sent from the other dimension and so on. The scenes where he is battling in the other dimension felt like a Saturday morning cartoon to me. The film isn’t all bad, and has some laughs. At least we know that even the cast has a sense of humor about this, but the problem is that for those who want a serious superhero movie, “Thor” isn’t really it. The current films, “Spiderman” “The Dark Knight”, "Iron Man" and "Superman Returns", takes the idea of a superhero more seriously. The villain doesn’t really measure up either. We kind of understand why he would go to the dark side, but still he doesn’t really fit the bill. There are way better superheroes and way better villains. “Thor” seems weirdly outdated. He runs around without a shirt on, all strong, with long hair and talking about how he needs to go back to his world to fight.

Going back to the conversation I had with my friend, she said she was annoyed they messed up with the mythology and that mythology is interesting the way it is. I’m no expert on mythology myself. As I said in another review, while I was in college, I just hardly passed Greek and Roman literature. That being said, I hear that Rick Riordan’s bestselling YA book series, “Percy Jackson”, which is about a kid who discovers he is half Greek God and goes on adventures that include mythology probably did a better job of not messing with mythology so much. Though, with today’s fantasy and science fiction, there are plenty of better superheroes out there. The kind of superhero, a strong, shirtless man from another realm has kind of seen its day as far as superheroes go. We love Spiderman, Batman and Superman because let’s face it; they are still kind of insecure. Heck, why can’t Percy Jackson or Harry Potter be considered superheroes these days? That being said, “Thor” is a fun film. The problem is that there are just better superhero movies than “Thor”. Part two of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Harrows”, opens in theaters this summer. Harry Potter takes its fictional tale very seriously, as does Batman and Spiderman and Percy Jackson. Harry’s not really considered a superhero. Though, who’s to say who isn’t one these days?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind

Three Stars

‘Paul’ is a spoof of science fiction films, and references ‘E.T.’, ‘Aliens’ and even um, ‘Mac and Me’ and while it’s not a great satire, it’s a sweetly nerdy satire and celebrates the genre of science fiction. It’s the story of two nerds (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) who get their wish in a way of meeting an alien. The film first takes us to a faraway place where people act strange and alien, which is the San Diego Comic Con. People in costumes, comic books and their favorite science fiction author, Adam Shadowchild (Jeffery Tambor) are all there. The two nerds Graeme and Clive are having a blast. They are two science fiction loving geeks, and Clive even has written his own comic book which he hands to his favorite science fiction author. “Let me guess,” He says, “you’re a writer.” Then they go off on a road trip in a big RV across America to see different places where UFO’s have been sighted. They end up on their way meeting an alien (CGI voiced by Seth Rogan). They decide to save the alien from Area 51, and then get in a bunch of trouble.

The film follows Pegg, Frost and the alien as they are on the run from a government agent (Justin Bateman). Then they bump into a girl (Kristen Wiig) who is a creationist and at first thinks Paul is the devil. She even had a t-shirt of Jesus shooting Darwin. They eventually become friends, and the film becomes something of a science fiction spoof crossed with a road picture. The film has plenty of science fiction references, but not overboard. Paul’s favorite candy is Reese’s Pieces and he even advises Spielberg at one point on an alien movie he is working on back in the eighties.

Like ‘Hot Fuzz’, the last film written by Pegg and Frost, ‘Paul’ is a one joke premise. Two nerds find an alien, and do a straight forward spoof of other science fiction films. It spoofs mostly the film, E.T. and tries to play it fairly straight. The film, though, does a pretty good job of playing it straight. It always has some American/British humor thrown in there. The two nerds are from Britain. Though, they always dreamed of coming to America, if not for any other reason than to go to the San Diego Comic Con. There’s a couple gay jokes thrown in about the two best friends traveling together, and Paul even asks them if they are together. They aren’t. They are simply two nerds who are achieving their dream of going to Comic Con, the super bowl of nerd culture. So, a trip to see the best UFO spots and meeting an alien along the way seems appropriate.

There’s plenty of nerd humor in ‘Paul’ but you don’t have to be a nerd to enjoy this film. At times the humor works better than other times, but the film never falls flat the way it could of. Paul isn’t the most interesting alien. He smokes and does mostly normal stuff. He moons people from the RV. Apparently, he’s had much influence over popular culture of the last sixty years. Despite the two nerd’s first reaction, fear of being probed, Paul assures them that’s not what he does. He’s way too interested in smoking and cursing to tell the two guys about the secrets of the universe. The humor can be a little crude at times, but nothing crude enough to flatten the premise. The main point of the film is to reference science fiction and nerd culture, and ‘Paul’ does a pretty good job of that.

The cast has fun with the premise. It’s basically a nerdy love letter to science fiction. They have some nerd humor thrown in there. The film is directed by Greg Mottola, who directed the funny ‘Superbad’ and he lets everyone just have fun with the premise. ‘Paul’ was written by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, who made the very funny ‘Shawn of the Dead’, and though ‘Paul’ is not quite their best work, it’s funny. And there’s a cameo by Sigourney Weaver. She knows a thing or two about fighting aliens.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Turn Up The Volume, New Paltz

Excuse me, as I turn up the volume. Oh, didn’t you hear? New Paltz is facing a noise ordinance. Which bands do you like? R.E.M.? Pearl Jam? The Rhodes? Ghost Mall? I really like Motion City Soundtrack and Jimmy Eat World. I know that’s a bit emo. But hey, this is New Paltz, and this is quite the noisy town. Oh, I guess I’ll just have to blast something I’m really good at blasting: My words.

New Paltz without noise is like a film without a soundtrack, it’s like a country without a president, it’s like a bar without beer and it’s like a newspaper without articles. This noise ordinance being proposed by the mayor is more than just about New Paltz and its noise level. It’s about the soul of this town. It’s about the music scene. It’s about the college town we are. And believe me; this is coming from someone who hates noise. I’m a quiet soul. I like to write and read, and I like it to be quiet. Though, I love this town and I will not see it be changed by a mayor who wants to turn this into just another town. No. No. New Paltz is a college town. Not a quiet suburb. And it’s time for us college students to fight against the noise ordinance being proposed by the mayor. I ask you; fellow New Paltz residents to stand against the noise ordinance. Turn up the volume and blast Mayor Dungan. It’s time for New Paltz to fight back. Not quite sure what I am talking about? Well. Let’s look at the noise ordinance.

The Noise Ordiance reads that “Otherwise hereinafter provided, it shall be unlawful within the limits of the Town of New Paltz for any person to make, continue, aid, countenance, cause to be made or assist in making any unreasonably loud, disturbing and unnecessary noise on Sunday commencing at 8:00 p.m. and continuing through and including Monday at 7:00 a.m. and during the same hours upon each successive evening and morning of each successive day of the week thereafter through and including Saturday at 7:00 a.m. and on Saturday commencing at 8:00 p.m. and continuing through and including Sunday at 9:00 a.m.; provided, however, that the foregoing hours shall be extended until the hour of 9:00 am.” That’s right. Kiss your weekend goodbye, New Paltz. Mayor Dungan wants you to give up your drunken weekend and loud bar nights because he wants it to be quiet on a freaking weekend. I hate to sound like a party animal spoiled brat, but hey! I’m writing this for your own good, New Paltz. This is New Paltz. This isn’t the little hometown you came from. Let’s be honest, fellow New Paltz students. Do you want to give up your weekend nights?

Mayor Dungan wants you to. He wants peace and quiet. And hey, when I’m studying or not going out to the bar myself, I understand the need for peace and quiet. Though, I am willing to give up my discomfort about noise in order for the greater good of New Paltz. The Noise Ordinance reads that “Yelling, shouting, etc.: yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing on the public streets, particularly between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. or at any time or place so as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of persons in any office or in any dwelling, hotel or other type of residence or of any persons in the vicinity.” Here, we go again. The Mayor wants to fine you for talking too loud and singing. That’s inane. And I bet, he knows it, and I am willing to bet that this isn’t about just about noise. I feel like this noise ordinance is about a radical transformation of the town of New Paltz.

Notice the language that is used in the New Paltz Noise Ordnance for noises that are deemed acceptable. The ordnance states that “lawnmowers” and “church bells”, as well as noises created by carnivals and the local government and industries shall be excused. It’s ironic that it mentions local industry. What? The bars on Saturday night aren’t a local industry? If it wasn’t for the revenue the students of New Paltz, bring to this town, New Paltz could end up another ghost town. And what about the New Paltz music scene that is so embedded in our town’s culture. This noise ordinance is aimed towards the students of New Paltz. That’s a shame because, as I said, I love New Paltz, and I would hate it to transform into just another town along the freeway. Check out the facebook group "Say No to the New Paltz Noise Ordinance". So join me, New Paltz. And bring your boomboxs.