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Movie Review: Mad As Hell

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Like any good biography, Mad As Hell doesn’t always paint its subject in a positive light. Just like the show itself, this film keeps it real and on a personal level. The movie is inspiring, especially when you see that the growth of the Young Turks online show was anything but a straight line. The only constant was Cenk Uygur’s drive to succeed.

My one critique with this film is that I wanted to know more. I wanted to learn about all the hosts I’ve grown to enjoy hearing from, and the risks they took to make The Young Turks a success. I’m also curious too at a deeper explanation of just how revolutionary their approach is. It’s certainly a better model than old television news, where you sit obediently and listen to a white haired man read you stories without analysis.

The Young Turks show is part of my morning routine, like a morning newspaper of old. As I settle in at work, I listen to their YouTube videos from the day before. Unlike major network news, TYT doesn’t analyze news from a place of deference to authority, their ethos is instead using critical, compassionate thinking.

I’m so glad TYT exists, presenting an intelligent, strong and compassionate progressive perspective. I could never talk for that long and intelligently about so much important stuff.

The news should be challenging, interesting, educational, and at times be fun. Thanks to the Young Turks it is. See Mad As Hell is the inspirational back story, but that’s just the beginning. Watch their show.


Movie Review: Proxy

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The easiest way to describe this fantastic movie and give it the credit it deserves is to say that it’s like Psycho, but updated for modern times. Just like in Hitchcock’s classic, the horror stems not from gore or the supernatural, but instead from something much more horrifying: extremely disturbing behavior.

Malicious insanity wrapped in a normal-looking package scares well. We’ve all seen it. We all know it exists. We’ve all heard the comment, “He seemed like such a nice guy,” said about a murderer, pedophile or other horrible person.

Psycho wove under your skin at many levels. First there was the horror of the killing, then the eerie tension of watching the killer hide the body. Lastly, the final reveal of the mother’s corpse in the attic. It was a hat-trick of creepiness. The word now has a complete description in movie form.

For those who don’t know, there’s a mental illness called Munchausen syndrome. That’s when a person pretends to be suffering to get others’ sympathy. Munchausen By Proxy is when a person intentionally harms a loved one in order to get sympathy. In today’s world of attention addiction, you can start to see how this is ripe ground for storytelling.

“That person’s a psycho.” Such a phrase is solidly entrenched in American vernacular. If this movie gets the attention it deserves, it will receive the same honor. “That chick on Facebook is always worrying out loud about her kids’ health. She’s a total proxy.” Perhaps the usage isn’t clinically accurate, but the meaning will be.

This is the best type of art. It’s a great film on a mystery level as you try to understand what’s happening. It has that rare combination of shock and surprise, then backs it up with substance. It also says a little something about our world. In parts it feels a little long, but it’s a must-see.

p.s. Make sure you see Proxy (2013) by Zack Parker (IMDB Link.) As of this writing, there is another movie called Proxy listed on IMDB set to release sometime in 2014. (IMDB link.)

Fear of Watching HBO’s The Leftovers: Raising Questions Is Easy

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I’m curious about HBO’s upcoming series The Leftovers. I’m interested in anything disturbing based around a mystery. That said, I’m also very cautious. Many reviews of the novel complained that there was no real explanation for why the people disappeared.

Pardon me, dear reader. I need to pause a moment to feed the trolls. Trolls, before you call me an idiot or an uncultured moron, let me say I understand that sometimes in a story, every question isn’t answered. I understand that’s the case in real life as well. However, there are stories that leave questions open and make you feel cheated and there are those that leave questions open and still leave you satisfied. The former far outnumber the latter. Okay, trolls fed, let’s move on.

The trailers for The Leftovers look cool. The premise is interesting, but whenever I see the words, “From a former writer of Lost,” my guard goes up.

So the trailers for The Leftovers look cool. The premise is interesting, but whenever I see the words, “From a former writer of Lost,” my guard goes up.

I can never forget the absolutely insane, bizarre, dare-I-say psychotic (I dared) level that some fans of Lost went to in deciphering the hidden messages and symbols while trying to understand why the island had such strange powers. They were rewarded with no answers. So of course, while I enjoyed the movie Prometheus (written by an ex-Lost guy) I was intrigued by its ancient aliens premise, I didn’t meditate on it too much. (As I said in my review here.)

Maybe it’s not fair to hold Lost against its writers, in the same manner it’s not fair that I am wary of Stephen King novels. In my teen years, I got burned by one too many of his tales that beautifully established wonder but then fizzled out by answering nothing. That’s why, in my opinion, the move The Mist was better than the story. I loved both, but the movie closed off questions more adequately.

So what other movies leaves questions open well? I personally vote for Cloverfield. You don’t get all the answers, but you get some. You can argue whether the movie sucked or not, or if the answers were lame, but you see the monster clearly, you learn enough to realize the monster was either an alien or woken by a meteorite crashing to earth. You follow the characters to their ends. You don’t get all the answers, but you get enough. I’d also vote the same for the Godzilla reboot. You don’t learn Godzilla’s entire history but you learn enough. There are others, but I’m not here to discuss specifics, just a general dislike of the difference between unanswered questions that satisfy and those that don’t.

HBO has done a superb job of translating Game of Thrones to the screen. In fact, I think it’s one of those rare cases where the video is better than the book. The books are insanely verbose and I don’t need to know for the fortieth time that a capon was eaten at a feast. The HBO version may lose some character detail, but it’s better than the books because it loses a dung heap of pointless details.

HBO is probably the top producer of shows and movies there is, I can only hope they provide the same treatment to The Leftovers. If not, I’ll disappear as a viewer. Lousy pun intended.

Movie Review: Bad Grandpa

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I’m a huge fan of Jackass and their ridiculous stunts. I can watch TruTV’s World Dumbest… series for an inhumanly long amount of time. As a connoisseur of stupidity gone public I had high expectations for Bad Grandpa. I wasn’t disappointed.

A typical Jackass movie is just one stunt after another. I actually liked Bad Grandpa better because the film weaved the stunts in such a way that it told a story. The loose plot was this: a guy’s wife dies, so he needs to get his grandson away from the child’s no-good mother (his daughter) and into the hands of his no-good father.

As you can see, there’s plenty of room here for playing pranks on unsuspecting folks (the funeral for Bad Grandpa’s wife, the behavior of his daughter at the funeral, the video conference in a coffee shop with the son-in-law, and many more.)

Along the way, the usual happens, but it’s always unpredictable: Grandpa does and says outrageous things and innocent people who witness it are left shaking their heads or gasping in horror. Bad Grandpa’s grandson was hilarious, too. He even got in on the act with the stunt at the climax. Like the best pranks, there was also a bit of a statement, but I’ll say no more so I don’t spoil it.

I generally avoid comedies because they are too often some ex-SNL cast member performing excruciatingly long versions of their already done-to-death skits. The Jackass crew and Johnny Knoxville are not so tone-deaf, so I hope to see more like movies this.

A micro-mini spoiler follows.

During the credits, you get to see the reactions of the people once they are told that they are part of a film. Those clips were almost as entertaining as the pranks themselves and I wish they had shown more of that.

Movie Review: The Silence

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Other reviewers have compared The Silence to the AMC series The Killing, and that’s accurate. I’d add that it also fits in the mold of movies like The Pledge (with Jack Nicholson) and the more recent film Prisoners (with Hugh Jackman).

If you’re a fan of disturbing and bleak crime drama, this is a must-see, unless you’re not fluent in German and can’t stand to read subtitles.

This being bleak drama, the good guys aren’t guaranteed to win, and all sins won’t necessarily be punished. Part of the entertainment and frustration of The Silence is that, as the viewer, by the end you’ll know all (or most) of the secrets, while the characters still grapple with the unknown. The movie is good at bringing closure to you, so you won’t feel cheated, but you may feel bummed out.

There’s not much to complain about other than the movie feels a bit long (a full two hours) and some of the characters seemed lost in translation. The tortured police officer (a staple of bleak crime dramas) acted almost cartoonish at times.

What was most interesting about The Silence was that without advocating the criminal behavior the movie showed that not only does the victim suffer, but the perpetrator (or perpetrators) aren’t having a great life either. Even if the criminal escapes civilization’s justice, they are still doomed to torment by their very nature.

There are some very deep themes here, told slowly. The Silence isn’t a film for a light movie night, but if you want a mystery that takes its time to unfold and rarely lags, then The Silence is for you.