A Slice of Fried Gold

The Catch Up Plan

Saturday, July 31, 2010
I think a lot of my problem with getting back into blogging is the fact that I feel like I just have so damn much to cover from the past couple months during my slacker days of writing. At least, that's what Sheri and I came up with while she was up visiting. So in lieu of going back through and posting every little thing I wanted to post about and beyond, I'm going to unveil a three step plan to getting back into blogging.

1) Catch up in pictures - One post, tons of pictures, all showing what I've been up to when I haven't been blogging

2) What music I've been digging - Not a list where I rank my favorite albums like usual...more of an aggregated list of what I've been digging in one place. Expect lots of awesome because I've been enjoying my fair share of new music recently.

3) What movies have caught my eye in 2010 and why - I haven't written much about movies this year except Inception and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (immediately preceding this post). Time to talk about what I've liked about in recent memory and to finally catch up on that.

Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

I want to preface this review with an important note about myself as a reviewer. As a comic fan, my personal preference for comic movies is an entirely new take on a character/comic rather than a slavish recreation. I like to think of these films as another universe in which these characters exist, quite like All Star Superman is to Supes or Kingdom Come is to most of the DCU. Its a new sandbox for filmmakers to play in, which is why people like Christopher Nolan thrive while the Zack Snyder's of the world struggle.

With that said, Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim is a whole different animal than previous comic movies: its a comic in which so much of its charm exists in its specificity. In the careful exactitudes and moments and comedic beats that he nails throughout the series.

Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) clearly understands this, as throughout this film he nails the important bits that make O'Malley's series so transcendant in its existence. Kim Pine's count offs as Sex Bob-omb prepares to launch into "Launchpad McQuack." The pure hilarity of drunk Wallace's recreation of Scott's side of their conversation ("there he is"). The stylistic story bubbles that revealed ratings and the ownership of belongings and things of that sort. Comeau + Crash and the Boys being included. The way Stacey Pilgrim always knows everything immediately (thanks to Wallace). These are the types of things that makes this book so damn amusing to its core, and in kind, make the film so delightful.

In a lot of ways, Wright takes even the comic to a new level with the way he stages fights. Sure, he takes some short cuts in these sequences (no Honest Ed's as Todd and Scott face off, and no robots much to Brandon's chagrin), but at the same time, these are places he has to take them. The film is sub two hours. The series is SIX BOOKS LONG. Cutting these fights down to their core not only allows Wright to focus on making them hugely entertaining and kinetic (good lord are these fights energetic), but also allows more time for story and character moments. In particular, I liked the way he spliced together the Todd Ingram fight (and the stunt casting of Thomas Jane and Clifton Collins as the Vegan Police - yes!), losing some of the core elements but still making it work in its own right.

The movie shines as Wright turns this film into a living, breathing video game, having fights culminate with the Smash Bros. "K.O." ringing through our ears and one-ups being a way of life (literally). It is an uncanny visual accomplishment by Wright, and something that is really an astounding achievement overall (bonus points for incorporating O'Malley's art into the movie also).

Yet, not everything worked for me. In fact, there were a few things that bothered me greatly.

Namely, I felt that the core women in the story (Ramona Flowers, Kim Pine, Envy Adams) were poorly developed. Sure, their development had to be cut to a degree to make the movie a manageable length, but without their backstory and their fleshed out relationships with Scott, the movie seems weightless at times. Kim Pine was just there often, being sardonic but never really acting as the stabilizing factor she always did in the books. Envy Adams was a bitch, but not a redeemable one really at all. She was just kind of there, and then she wasn't.

Ramona was perhaps the most criminal, as not only was she not given a ton to do nor was the relationship between her and Scott really real feeling, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead left me feeling colder than the way she broke up with Scott. To me, in the books it was easy to fall in love with Ramona. She's mysterious, vivacious, and often brilliant, but in the movie she was mostly lifeless. I found myself wanting more from her as a character, and without her pushing the plot along the end game just felt like...well, a game. At a certain point, it seemed like a freaking awesome version of a fighting game fully realized on the screen.

The book series was so phenomenal because the way it infused the stylistic genius of O'Malley with a tried and true plot strained through years of video gaming and indie rock, as well as infusing it with rich characters that layered true weight into an occasionally fluffy story. Wright got most of it right, but was found lacking by yours truly at times.

I have to give credit where credit is due though, a lot of the cast killed it. Michael Cera...well, there just couldn't be another Scott Pilgrim. He is the guy, and he was right from the very beginning. Casting Kieran Culkin did two things: truly brought Wallace to life as well as making me even more shocked that Culkin isn't a star. Brandon Routh, Chris Evans and Jason Schartzman (unsurprisingly) stole the evil exes show in my book, and not just because they are the most famous...they also happened to be the most awesome (Routh in particular killed as Todd Ingram). Allison Pill was Kim Pine on screen, but she really didn't get a whole lot to do - I would have killed to have more with her.

Wasn't a huge fan of the casting jobs on Knives and Stephen Stills, but they were satisfactory, just not superb like most of the cast.

The music throughout was superb - I loved the Beck written, Broken Social Scene performed Sex Bob-omb tracks. I really dug The Clash at Demonhead in execution. They really made the music almost a character on its own, and I greatly appreciated how Wright worked throughout to make that such an important factor.

All in all, this movie was more successful than it wasn't. Was it enjoyable? Yes it was. I found myself to be incredibly pumped by many sequences, and I was enthralled throughout. However, there were things that nagged at me: the aforementioned weightlessness and some scenes (early ones, in particular) that were so aimed at the core audience that they almost felt choked out by the attempts to recreate the comic. It was a very entertaining movie and a damn fine adaptation, not to mention one of the most unique films I've ever seen. But it could have been so much more.

I do have to say Brandon and I went with someone who hadn't read the comics, and unlike the comic heavy group at the theater, he found most of the film to be utterly preposterous. More so than ever, I'm more than a little concerned about SP's chances at the box office - can a movie like this succeed financially? I have my doubts after seeing it for myself. It's a movie for the hardcore, and not many more, I fear.

We'll see if I'm wrong come August 13th.

Final Verdict: 7.8 - Buy (a ticket)

Doppleganger David

Friday, July 30, 2010

In the past year, the idea of having a doppleganger has somehow become a hot concept. You had Doppleganger Month on Facebook, the whole of the most recent season of How I Met Your Mother somehow being mostly about finding ones double, and an odd mix of other examples. Never did I think I would actually find mine.

But then I did.

Last night, as my friends and I crashed a Calista event (open bar and free food? Yes please) we managed to come across a person who looked fairly similar to me (I think I'm more attractive). I was very resistant of meeting him because I figured the world would explode if we came into contact, ending life as we know it for the rest of time, but when Amy forced the issue nothing happened. Thankfully.

With that said, he did turn out to be odd and sort of a creepster. He hit on my friend Cate and managed to make a group of people who normally is never awkward (i.e. Cate, Amy, Eric and myself) very awkward.

Still, I had to share photographic proof of this bizarre event with my readers. Enjoy, and let me know if you think he resembles me.

Another Article!

I had another article in the Play section of the Anchorage Daily News today, as I wrote the feature for the upcoming Cake concert. This meant I got to talk to the lead singer of one of my favorite bands and write about them in a way I never thought I'd be able to in the past. It was my favorite article yet, and I really think I'm getting better with each passing article.

Check it out here, and look for me to get back in the swing of things this weekend on the old blog.

Review: Inception

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In a summer filled with (even more) brainless action flicks and romantic comedies, getting a movie that even qualifies as good (save Toy Story 3) was beginning to seem like a lost cause.

That we finally get a movie that is not just high quality but also wildly inventive and completely unlike anything else we’ll see this summer (or anything else ever more than likely) is shocking, until you realize it’s virtuoso filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s handiwork. This past Friday, his new film Inception came out and it not only met the towering hype that preceded it but surpassed it.

The film begins with kings of extraction - the art of stealing from others dreams – Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) attempting to ransack the dreams of energy magnate Saito (Ken Watanabe). The genesis of this job stems from the comic prequel Inception: The Cobol Job, but the comic isn’t necessary as this film stands entirely on its own. This job goes poorly, and the whole of the film spins thusly from there. However, to go into the plot seems like it would just be a foolhardy task. This film in its two and a half hours of running time weaves many plot threads together while going into a level of depth (this word will have new meaning when you watch the film) that you just don’t see in blockbusters – if I wrote about the plot, I’d need probably at least 10,000 words.

Suffice it to say, you should just watch it.

But why should you watch it? Many have quickly drawn parallels from this film to The Matrix, and while I see bits of that, I think that’s an entirely unfair comparison. People find the need to compare one film with another incessantly because it is an easy way out, but to rely upon that convention would be unfair to the film: Inception is one that stands entirely on its own as a fiercely original and remarkably innovative spin on classic filmmaking. Not only that, but unlike other pioneering efforts, Nolan manages to ground these ideas with sheer perfection in storytelling.

The basic premise is a man that wants to get home, and the lengths that he’ll go to make that happen. Around that framework, Nolan expands and creates like he’s one of the dream architects from the film. In comics, many people say it’s the perfect artform because the sole hindrance on quality and innovation is the creator and his/her imagination. With full studio support after a stunning list of previous efforts behind him, Nolan becomes perhaps the first auteur to make a film of pure, unadultered imagination that works as unabashed spectacle as well. Whether you’re talking second level Arthur developing the kick to awaken his team knee deep in Inception (the job, not the movie), Ariadne’s (Ellen Page) first efforts as a dream architect, or the expansive third level showdown against a slew of winter commandoes, this movie is filled to the brim with well crafted action set pieces. It’s a massively entertaining film that is elegantly paced and ferociously intelligent.

Yet, all of these elements would be for naught if the players bringing them to life were not game. Thankfully Nolan pulled out all stops and assembled a veritable all star team of actors. You’ve got DiCaprio giving us a restrained and smoldering lead performance. There’s Gordon-Levitt taking a different turn on his formula as the unimaginative yet effective Arthur. When Page comes into the equation, she turns the story as a whole with her ever-evident intelligence and her charisma that acts as a bridge between the cast. With those three, you have a remarkable top three, but it goes far deeper than that.

For me, Tom Hardy as Eames stole every scene he was in. Exhibiting the same charm he has as a scoundrel in films like Guy Ritchie’s Rocknrolla, the screen crackles when he is on it. Recurring Nolan players Watanabe and Cillian Murphy give us nice spins on their norm, as Watanabe gives us an angel that always seems as if he could be the devil at any turn, and Murphy manages to take a more basic role as a mark and make it an emotionally resonant and well developed one. Everyone kills it in this movie.

I could just go on and on. Wally Pfister continues his beautiful symbiotic relationship with Nolan, as he continues to create an iconic look and feel to each of Nolan’s films with his cinematography. Hans Zimmer’s score is heavy and atmospheric, ever present but never really existing anywhere besides in the back of your brain (very similar to what he did with The Dark Knight). Everyone on the visual effects team…well, they did an incredible job at fully realizing Nolan’s imagination on the screen, and I bet each job they get after this will seem boring in comparison.

Long story short, Inception is definitely the best blockbuster film since The Dark Knight, and perhaps one of the greatest summer offerings ever. What Nolan does with this film is essentially throwing down the gauntlet to all other filmmakers, effectively telling them that just because they are making a big budget movie doesn’t mean that it has to be brainless or old hat. In a time where everything we get anymore are retreads, remakes, and ridiculous dreck, to experience a film like Inception is utterly refreshing and reinvigorating. It gives hope to this viewer that originality is still a possibility in a medium that I love that so often falls back on places they’ve already treaded.

I have to say though; it only makes sense that the two camps that have produced films that work as both entertainment and as art this summer have been Pixar and Nolan. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

To close this review, I have this line from /Film’s David Chen:

Buying a ticket for Inception is buying a ticket in support of high-quality, original filmmaking at big movie studios. It’s buying a ticket in support of the idea that a movie doesn’t have to be dumb to be popular, that it doesn’t have to cater to the lowest common denominator to make money.
Couldn't agree more. Make sure you catch this film.

Final Verdict: 9.5/10

The Weekend Edition

Sunday, July 11, 2010
Another weekend down, and one in preparation of a new adventure that I never expected to take. It was a good weekend, and one that was definitely better than the previous one (which was a tad dramatic for my taste). What went down?
  • Getting off work early, time for Frisbee Golf with Marc and Colver!
  • Filming 4 Color News & Brews with Brandon
  • Moose's Tooth with Darren, Cate and Eric
  • Downtown bars (and riding the bull!) with Eric, Cate, Lorna, Cassi and others
  • Hitting up Fire Island with Steph
  • 3rd/4th Place game in the World Cup at the Bear Tooth with Marc and Eric
  • Foosball like CRAZY!
  • Watching Colver and Joanne's softball team with Marc (free beer and burgers!)
  • Grilling and hanging out at Colver and Lorna's with a slew of people
  • World Cup final at my place with Marc, Eric and Colver (horrible game)
  • Frisbee Golf with Marc and Colver (again!)
  • Hula Hands!
  • Cake article writing!
  • Hanging out and watching movies!

Because this isn't necessarily worth a full article (and nothing really stands out as momentous enough to have its own big moment section down here), I figure I'll talk about movies.

Recently I signed up for Netflix on my Xbox 360, allowing me to instantly stream movies via Netflix on my TV...and it is freaking AWESOME.

I've been watching all kinds of movies lately on it, and massively disparate ones at that. In the past two weekends I've watched King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters, Ink, 2 Days in Paris, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 180 Degrees South and Zombieland, all without having to move or really do anything besides pressing a few buttons. There are tons of movies that I want to see on there that I haven't seen yet, and it instantaneously makes the whole Netflix paradigm worthwhile for me once again. Plus, with so many movies on there I've never heard of, I may find a new favorite purely by accident.

If you haven't tried it out (and I'm sure you have, because I'm behind on everything cool), I highly recommend it.

My Article is Up

Friday, July 9, 2010

My article is up at ADN.com and it's even currently on the front and center. I'm a featured writer, everyone! Yeah! Check it out and please notate the apparent mistake I made in the article that fleets of people have noticed already.


I'm in the Paper! (Again)

Thursday, July 8, 2010
It seems that my raw writing talent has struck the fancy of the Anchorage Daily News once again, as I'm writing not just one but TWO articles for them over the next month. The first one will be appearing in Friday's edition on the front page of the Play section (for non-Alaskans, this is the Entertainment section that appears every Friday) and is a profile of Alaskan musician Jared Woods. He's a heck of a nice guy and very talented as well, and it was a blast getting to know him. I'll link to this article tomorrow.

On top of that, I was offered the piece on Cake much to my delight. Cake is one of my all-time favorite bands, and one that I've connected with for a very long time. In fact, I'd say they're perhaps the most consistent band in my life. I like them as much today as I did when I first liked them.

This gave me the chance to have a phone conversation with lead singer John McCrea (!!), in which I got to speak to him specifically for the piece and took the opportunity to ask a couple questions I always wanted to ask. The guy was a gem, and it made me extremely happy to say "holy crap, I interviewed one of my favorite bands."

Considering I'm basically a big fraud who can't write at all, it's pretty cool that I've managed to interview so many artists of different mediums that I greatly respect over the past few years. Thank god none of them were in person, otherwise I likely would have had a panic attack and been breathing through a paper bag throughout the conversation. Turns out that is frowned upon.

That piece will be coming some time shortly before the show (if I was a betting man, I'd say July 30th), and hopefully I can do an okay job on that one too. No less, look for my name out there as I use the ADN as a launching pad for my dream career: traveling food writer. This is totally going to work. Traveling to the south of France to sample escargot, going to the far reaches of Thailand for the top curries in the world, and all the way to NYC to try the best in bagels...great. Now I'm hungry. This job is going to ruin me.


I'm sure that if you have a pulse, you've heard the deafening buzz about LeBron James and his free agency. Given that he is inarguably the most talented player in the NBA and so many teams have opened up cap space for him, it has been pretty much insanity through and through. Will it be Cleveland? New York? Chicago? Who will it be? We'll find out tonight on his TV special where he announces his intent (seriously), but according to Chris Broussard of ESPN, it looks like he'll be heading to Miami.

Much to the chagrin of Bill Simmons.

As Simmons points out, it is starting to seem like this has all been manufactured drama by the big three free agents: James, Dwyane Wade, and their far less talented and interesting counterpart Chris Bosh. It seems Wade and Bosh had been filming all of this for a documentary, and all of the action has played out like a bad reality series. The parallels are there, as Simmons points out, and I have to say if its true I'm pretty disgusted by it.

The weirdest thing about all of this is the fact that I honestly don't think a team of those three players and 9 scrubs will win an NBA championship. Odds on none of them getting hurt are low, and all of them are such nice guys that I don't think that I'd find it hard to believe that they'd have the killer instinct to dispatch other squads. Would they have a chance against the Lakers? I really don't think so.

It is all very disappointing to me as well, as I genuinely like LeBron and feel as if the place for him is Cleveland. I miss the days of yesteryear - supporting the team that supports you. Paying back fans with honor and with respect. If LeBron goes to Miami, it seems to me that he's sticking it to all of his faithful fans, and quickly becomes a villain in my mind.

The good news about all of this is it is a win win in a lot of ways. If he stays in Cleveland, he regains my respect. If he goes to Miami, I have a new team to root against. The question is, will the 2010-2011 Miami Heat become the new Evil Empire? According to Broussard (who is, in my opinion, a complete toolbox and wrong about 99% of the time), they will be. Here's hoping Broussard keeps to his pattern of being wrong about everything.

The Evolution of a Soccer Fan

It seems like with each passing World Cup I become a slightly bigger soccer fan. I've always been one to a certain degree, but this World Cup has been a definine one for me as I've been unbelievably into almost every match I've laid my eyes into. It wasn't just USA's inspiring and also disappointing run (these games were SO FUN to watch at Humpy's though), but I find myself quickly becoming a passionate supporter of whichever team I enjoy watching in any given match.

Whether it's watching the complete dismantling of Argentina by Germany or the quiet cool of Spain as they protect their lead against the same Germans, I find it intoxicating to observe these players working together in a synchronicity that you rarely see in American sports. Plays don't develop on the ball necessarily - every moving piece factors into each and every play, and it is a joy to watch some of the best creators out there like Thomas Müller, Wesley Sneijder or Xavi do what they do best - pick apart defenses and make it rain on dem hoes.

That's right.

I did bring up Müller intentionally. The only blemish on the Cup as a whole has been the rather shoddy reffing - no way in hell should Müller have missed the Spain match, and he easily could have turned the tide for the Germans. He was a catalyst throughout the Cup for them, and he's one of the best young stars in the game. It was a shame to have him out for that match.

With that said, the Cup ending is a truly sad event for me. I'll be paying more attention to the EPL and other leagues going forward, but the Cup has just been an unbelievably exciting time for me. It's going to culminate on Saturday and Sunday with two great matches, as Eric, myself and perhaps others will be watching it live on the Bear Tooth big screen. My take? Germany is going to walk all over Uruguay (I'm thinking 4-1, or something similar to the dismantling of Argentina), while I like the offensive pressure of Holland to overtake Spain and their "let's get a goal and protect" methodry 2-1.

Enjoy the games this weekend everyone!

"Let the Right One In" >>>>> "Let Me In"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I try not to judge a movie by its trailer too much. Often, films look way more awesome or way worse than they are based off the trailer. I tend to at least give them the benefit of the doubt until I see reviews.

But the trailer for Let Me In, the American remake of the absurdly good Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In is just ridiculous. It looks like it recaps a lot of the moments of the original, it seems to miss the point and the pace of its predecessor. I generally think remakes are a bad idea, especially when recent films that were remarkably fresh are concerned. This isn't just a movie that didn't need to be remade, it shouldn't be remade.

Yet here we are, with video proof of this remake that didn't need to happen. Le sigh...