Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Movies You May Not Have Seen

I just posted to my Facebook profile a list of 5 movies that I love, which, in my experience, not a lot of people have seen.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  I watch a lot of movies that no one has ever heard of.  So I tried to limit this to fairly recent films that a lot of you may have heard of, but for whatever reason dismissed, or probably should have heard of, but didn't.  And I may be wrong about what people have and haven't seen.  At least one of the movies was a pretty reasonable hit, but for whatever reason, it seems like few people in my peer group have ever watched it.  Regardless, it is a list of 5 really good films that I think deserve watching.  So fire up your Netflix queue, go down to Blockbuster, or whatever.  And if, for whatever reason, you don't like one of the movies . . . well, I won't give you your money back, but I'll personally explain to you why you are wrong.

City of God
A 2002 Brazilian film about gang warfare in the slums of Rio de Janeiro.  The movie is brimming with energy.  It is exciting, funny, heartbreaking, violent, and beautiful.  It has been compared favorably to Goodfellas.  I go further than that and say that it is better (I have always though that a very weak final act brought down Scorcese's classic, but that is another matter entirely).  I am currently watching the spin-off television series, City of Men, and it does a excellent job of capturing the style and substance of the original film.

1999 was arguably the best year of cinema that I have lived through.  Fight Club, American Beauty, The Matrix, Toy Story 2, The Sixth Sense . . . I could go on all day.  I was going to the theater nearly every weekend that year.  But lost in the shuffle, I feel, was a darkly subversive little Reese Witherspoon film about high school politics.  The movie works on many different levels, hitting on truths both about high schoolers and high school teachers, and also about how real politics can be just as juvenile as high school.

Out of Sight
This film made quite a bit of money and was nominated for several awards, but it often seems to me that when I try and talk to people about it, they'll say something to the effect that they caught a little bit of it on TV, didn't like it, and changed the channel.  This always frustrates me.  Because it really is a great movie.  The director, Stephen Soderbergh, normally goes back and forth between making pretentious indie movies (Sex, Lies, and Video Tape), and light and fluffy big budget "hit" movies (Ocean's 11).  But in this film, he walked the line beautifully with big-name stars (George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in the only movie I've ever even remotely liked her in) and based on a popular Elmore Leonard novel, but being extremely experimental with the editing, time-line, and coloring of the movie.  Plus it has Don Cheadle in it, which to me is always a mark of excellence.  Seriously, I don't think that guy has ever been in a bad movie.

I've written about this movie already, here, but I will continue to sing its praises.  Brick takes high school cliches and regurgitated film noir dialog and combines them into one of the most original movies made in the last few years.  I love it.

A Simple Plan
As much as I love this movie, whenever I start talking about it I tend to scare people off of it.  That's because it is inky, pitch black dark.  But it is also one of the most affecting movies that I have ever seen.  It is a horror movie in the truest sense.  Not about some monster, but about the dark things that ordinary people are capable of, given the right circumstances.  About how a simple plan can spiral hopelessly out of control.  This movie was directed by Sam Raimi, of Evil Dead and Spiderman fame.  And as much as I love those two series of movies, it is kind of a shame that they are what he will be forever known for, because this is his masterpiece.  Just don't plan to be happy for a good long while after watching it . . .

So there you go.  Watch them, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Last night, a friend emailed me asking if he should go "all in" on a Nintendo Wii.  Since I have had one for a couple of months now, he wanted my opinion on how I've liked it, what games I had, what the prospects were for the future, and, most of all, whether he should get one our not.  I felt that my response would make a good blog post, so hopefully he won't mind having our conversation aired in public.

The Nintendo Wii is a very different video game console than any ever made.  Last week, over spring break, I was at home playing Wii Sports Bowling with my mother (who hasn't wanted anything to do with a video game since the days of Pong) and my 5-year-old cousin.  Not only were they having a good time, they were both pretty good (my mother averages over 200, actually).  My mother wouldn't touch an X-Box or Playstation, and Brittany certainly wouldn't be able to hang with me in Soul Calibur.  So it's certainly got that going for it.

But we're more advanced gamers.  We've put a beat down on Sephiroth in FF7, Ares in God of War, and Dracula in Castlevania.  What does the Wii hold for us?  Quite a bit, actually.  The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess is every bit as deep and good as past Zelda games such as A Link to the Past and The Ocarina of Time.  I also have SSX: Blur, and while it does feel rushed in places, it has the most innovative uses of the Wiimote yet, requiring more precision and timing than you could ever achieve with buttons on a controller.  Very rewarding to a hardcore gamer.

And as to the future?  I'm very excited about Super Paper Mario, Metroid Prime 3, Super Mario Galaxy, and Smash Brothers Brawl.  And that's all scheduled to come out this year!  Also the possibilities of the controller are promising.  Imagine a RPG where you point at enemies to target them and then do a gesture to cast a spell instead of selecting it out of a menu?  The Wii Sports games are all pretty simple, but I would love to see more advanced games such as Hot Shots Golf or Top Spin Tennis use the controller in the same way.  All in all, I'm very excited about the future.

But with all that said, I also really like what the X-Box 360 people are doing.  The have hands down the best online functionality.  They're really hitting their stride with quality titles such as Oblivion, Crackdown, and Gears of War.  And trailers for games like Assassin's Creed and GTA-IV make me drool with anticipation.  Plus they're coming out with a black one.  If I weren't a poor college student with not enough time to play video games already, I would buy one.  The PS3?  Wake me when God of War III comes out.

So should you go all in?  I say yes.  It's considerably cheaper than either the 360 or the PS3.  There are already some really fun, innovative games out, and more coming.  It's great at a party and also has some depth for the serious at-home gamers as well.  It gets the Wiley-Style seal of approval.