Spring Breakers

A fairly dark look at young decadence, which despite the art-film aesthetic offers about what you see on the cover – spritely pop stars in bikinis and James Franco with cornrows and a grill. Neither of which is necessarily a bad thing. The generally depraved proceedings, overexposed camera shots, and constantly repeating imagery and dialog don’t make for light entertainment, but they’re admirable enough from an artistic perspective. Until a ridiculous ending makes the whole thing seem like posturing.

Lorde: Pure Heroine -Album Overlorde Mix-

Ever since hearing Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine I’ve been meaning to put together a DJ mix for it.  It’s not often I’m inclined to make a mix for a single album, but it’s not often I hear a pop album where nine out of ten tracks are 4/5-star efforts.

So now that the New Zealand anti-diva has won her well-deserved Grammy for “Royals”, here’s my “Album Overlorde Mix” of the album Pure Heroine.  If you like it be sure to buy the unabridged album and share the mix with other alt-pop (the genre, how convenient) loving friends.

Amazon (CD) / Amazon (MP3) / iTunes

Fast & Furious 6

Fast Five was a well-oiled machine; this sequel shows some of the series’ mileage but still makes for a fun ride. After a strong start the movie stalls in its middle section from too much loosely connected plot and too little action, until hitting the gas again for an exciting finish. A bit too fast maybe, as a couple of major developments happen to prominent characters and hardly anyone seems to notice.

The action, though, makes for good fun – not only the car chases but several brawls that do the bone-crunching Rock-Diesel showdown from the previous movie proud. And just being able to talk seriously about the plot in a Fast & Furious movie shows how far the series has come. Fast Seven and Tokyo here we come.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

More driven than the meandering first episode, but still hampered by uneven pacing and far too much plot, much of which still feels inconsequential two films in. As in the first film, the abundant action too often looks like a video game – not so much in the special effects as in the ridiculous actions that characters are performing onscreen. (One sequence has them Chun-Li-stomping on heads one minute and Mario-hopping into barrels the next.)

The dragon Smaug is impressive, as are the cavernous underground vistas (enough almost to make me wish I’d seen it in 3D). And the ending does set the stage for a climactic conclusion. Whether Jackson can provide that in the third and final film remains to be seen, but judging by these first two episodes I’m guessing not.

Pressed for Time: First-time WordPress Installation & Customization in a Day

When the time came to create a personal blog – the one you’re looking at now – I decided it was finally time to try out the web’s most ubiquitous CMS, WordPress. Though I’ve been creating websites from scratch in PHP and MySQL for years, aside from a short stint with Joomla this was my first start-to-finish experience with a CMS.  My two burning questions coming into the project:

  • Is WordPress as easy to use as they say – not only the installation but also authoring and administration?
  • Is it customizable enough for someone used to coding everything from scratch?

I’ve documented my installation and early customization process – including any pitfalls encountered along the way, along with their solutions – in the hope that it’ll come in handy for anyone else debating whether WordPress is right for them.  I consider it a fair example of how far you can go in building and customizing a WordPress site in one or two work days. Continue Reading

And We’re Up

After fifteen years doing web publishing in some fashion – mostly dedicated to a niche hobby of mine – I’ve decided to finally do the blog thing.  For a new blog you might notice there are quite a few older posts – these are imports of my various movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes from the past several years.  Along with continued movie reviews, I expect to post what useful information I can about web development, along with reviews and opinions from the tech realm as well as perhaps some musings from my travels.  Not exactly the most uniform of content but that’s what these things are for, right?

Gravity

“127 Hours” in space. Both films focus almost exclusively on a single character in life-threatening circumstance; both would have never worked without a talented actor in front of the camera and a great director behind it. In place of the orange desert hues of the former movie we get the deep blacks of space, immersive special effects (with excellent 3D) and the trademark long, extended shots of director Alfonso Cuarón. Absolutely see it in a theater, and give good consideration to 3D or even Imax.

The World’s End

Quite possibly the greatest British sci-fi-action comedy ever made. Despite a slow start and an incredibly annoying protagonist, the comedy is good for several silly laughs, and the action – even with its cast of pasty forty-somethings – is more impressive than almost every big-budget Hollywood flick of the summer. Best viewed with as little prior knowledge of the peculiar proceedings to follow as possible.

The Wolverine

A solid Wolverine solo story spoiled by a stupid ending. By taking Wolvie out of his element and into modern Japan, the movie starts strongly with some interesting scenarios and some pretty exciting action (if a bit tidy even by PG-13 standards). After a slow but tolerable second act, however, the film implodes in a mess of Hollywood excess and stupidity, including a shockingly misguided take on a classic villain, a ridiculous villainess, some awkward copycat scenes of movies ranging from The Matrix to The Lord of the Rings, and about three inexplicable and unneeded story turns too many.

Altogether it’s still far more watchable than the first Wolverine movie, but it could have been so much more. The Blu-ray release reportedly will offer an unrated edit; I’d recommend waiting to see if that version at least has a little more bite.

Pacific Rim

Guillermo del Toro’s ode to anime is faithful to the genre in every way, both good and bad. For the good we have giant robots fighting giant monsters, and it looks damn cool when they do. The massive sense of scale and city-smashing destruction is impressive, and Del Toro nicely pays tribute to classic anime while keeping the look modern and somewhat realistic.

For the bad we have cliched characterizations, mediocre acting, and juvenile comic relief.

Did I mention there’s giant robots?

World War Z

One category of movie that should never be average is the zombie flick. Better wickedly good or delightfully bad, but not average.

World War Z is decidedly average. It never gives the sense of epic catastrophe that the zombie epidemic in its premise is made out to be, nor does it offer the smaller-scale scenes of tension that I Am Legend accomplished so well. And just as the film begins to pick up with a couple of impressive action set pieces, it promptly falls apart with a strange change in tone, painfully simplistic storytelling and the most anticlimactic of anticlimactic endings. (It was widely reported that the studio spent huge amounts of money to re-shoot the third act. Good to see that money was well spent.)

For cheap zombie thrills you could do worse but you could also do better, starting in the B movie section.

Man of Steel

Easily the most palatable Zack Snyder action movie to date, for what that’s worth. The cast of characters as written and acted are solid, from Amy Adams in the hard-to-pull-off role of Lois Lane, to Michael Shannon as the surprisingly sympathetic villain Zod, to Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe as alternating father figures. As for the Man himself, Henry Cavill very much has that essential noble quality of the classic hero (not to mention the square jaw and astounding physique). Writers David Goyer and Chris Nolan neatly pack an origin story, a coming-of-age story and some city-smashin’ action all into one briskly moving film, along with one of the more poignant scenes from a movie in recent months.

That said, Snyder still has difficulty filming action and effects that don’t look like a video game (aside from the prologue, where he’s clearly copying Avatar). Even that most staple of Superman effects – that of our hero levitating in the air – looks like a cutout of Cavill plastered over a background. There’s a good deal more superhero action than the last Superman reboot, but while seeing characters zip across the screen too fast for the eye to follow until they’re walloping someone upside the head looks cool at first, it loses its zap the fifteenth time around.

Despite the respectable attempts at installing human drama, come the end of the film it still just feels like an action movie. And an average one at that.