6.28.2010

Journey to the Centre of the YouTube, Part Two

And we’re back, with a Steve Steven’s track that you might remember from 1986…

This, like Top Gun, might be one of the best worst things ever. Good night, everyone.

-Sean

6.27.2010

Vital Statistics: Week of 06/20 – 06/26

If I’m going to be perfectly honest then I have to say that these posts are kind of stupid. For some reason though, I find them very soothing. There’s just something nice about having a week-to-week record of what I’ve been reading and watching and writing. And besides; what the hell else is a blog really for? So, here is volume three of my weekly list of things you didn’t need to know. Now with little reviews!

Books Read:

  • Pages of Pain, Troy Denning, 1996.
    • The summer months always put me into a funk where all I really want to read is franchise fiction and pulp lit. It’s great, easy summer reading and can be a wonderful way to find more work by authors whose original stories and novels you really enjoyed. Troy Denning is one of those guys, but Pages of Pain is really anything but easy reading. The prose is fairly dense and the subject matter is rather dire. I’ve been working on this one for more than a week now, but I keep getting distracted. If I were to ever want to run a D&D campaign set in Sigil though, this is the book I would fall back on for locations and little details.
  • Star Wars: Hard Contact, Karen Traviss, 2005.
    • Traviss is another of those authors who I’ll usually track across the boundary between franchise and original fiction. Her original long-form military sci-fi series sort of petered out for me at the halfway point, but she remains an author that I really enjoy. This was her first novel in the Star Wars stable, and it kind of shows, but it’s still thoroughly enjoyable if you like that sort of thing.

DVDs Watched:

  • Outland, Warner Brothers/The Ladd Company, 1981.
    • I see you are interested in Outland. Outland is a wise thing to be interested in. Please see this post for more information about Outland if you would like to know more about Outland. Outland.
  • The Road, Dimension Films/2929 Productions, 2009.
    • Gorgeous scenery and production design and some really fine performances from some really fin performers. When I wasn’t drooling over the little environmental details and started paying attention to the film though, I will reluctantly admit to being nearly bored to tears. Post apocalyptic fiction may be great for allowing the players to moodily navel-gaze and lament the things that they have lost, but in a film it doesn’t really make for a solid viewing experience. I don’t mind watching a survival story, but at least have your actors behave in a way that lets me believe they’re actually capable of surviving. An extra dose of half-baked voice-over philosophizing makes this a beautiful but tedious film.
  • Edge of Darkness, Warner Brothers/BBC Films, 2010.
    • Welcome back, Mel.

Comics Read:

  • Star Wars: X-Wing, Rogue Squadron: The Phantom Affair (Series Issues #5-8), Dark Horse, 1996.
    • You may have figured out that I’m awfully fond of Star Wars. No matter how many times George Lucas may try to hurt me, I’ll still have some room in my heart for the franchise, especially when it’s focused on characters who either aren’t from the films or only played very small roles. The Phantom Affair is the second story-arc from Dark Horse’s ongoing monthly from back in the ‘90s (now the third, thanks to a botched semi-reboot a few years back) and it is where the series really hit its stride, I think, finding the balance of humor and action that Mike Stackpole established in his novels while also really nailing the vibe and look of Star Wars. Succeeds despite the truncated storytelling style of the medium, and some inconsistent art.

Writing:

  • Pages Typed: 9
  • Pages Edited: 0
  • Pages That Are Any Good: 5?
  • Pages Typed in a Barnes & Noble Cafe: 9
  • Electrical Outlets in that cafe: 1 (Seriously? Seriously? Just one, guys? That’s the best you can do?)
  • Number of Computers Being Used by the Girl Sitting in Front of the Outlet: 0
  • Number of People in Line for the Outlet: 4
  • Number of Times She Laughed When People Asked Her to Move: Many, that absolute bitch.
  • Excuse Given When Staff was Confronted with the Issue: “But we have free 3G Wireless!”
  • Number of Damns I Give About That: 0
  • Review of the B&N Cafe: Guys, you have great iced tea and scones, but I move around a lot during the day, and until more than one person can plug their laptop in to work, don’t expect me to come back.

-Sean

Working Through the Stack, Part 2

I love the 1981 Peter Hyams film Outland. It’s one of those quiet, serious science fiction films from the ‘80s that seems nearly perfect when you’re watching it, but is sort of hard to encapsulate properly when describing it. So, in lieu of a proper write-up, I’m going to present you with an equation I cooked up on GraphJam.com to better explain the film:

b242cd46-f183-4618-bcac-df0f61127142

Now armed with this information, I feel that those of you unlucky enough to have not seen this film should be tempted to seek it out. Because if the pure, unbridled power of Movie Mathematics can’t convince you, nothing can.

-Sean

(NOTE: Working Through the Stack is a multi-part project in which I have dedicate myself to exploring the lost and forgotten corners of my DVD collection. More information may be found here.)

6.24.2010

Working Through the Stack, Part One

Not long ago, I announced my intention to work my way through the forgotten and mislaid stretches of my DVD collection. Having set this goal for myself, I went ahead and started off with the Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall collection that Warner Brothers put out in 2005 as part of their Signature Collection series of releases.Bogie and Bacall  CoverWhat follows will be a series of short reviews; mostly comments and basic thoughts, with little technical bits here and there. So let’s begin:

6.21.2010

Vital Statistics, Week of June 13-19

Last week was pretty busy for me, so there was little activity here. I’m still not finished with the first Stack article as I still haven’t gotten a chance to watch Key Largo, and the site has gone unchanged because It’s been hard to find a spare minute. So, in lieu of actual content, here is more gibberish:

Books Read:

  • Gun, With Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem, 1994.
  • Pages of Pain, Troy Denning, 1996.

Films Watched:

  • DVD:
    • The Boat that Rocked, Universal, 2009.

Writing:

  • Pages Typed: 2
  • Pages Hand Written: 6
  • Pages Edited: 0
  • Blog Posts: 1

Thank you for your patience during this trying…whatever. Normal broadcasting operations should be resuming shortly.

Finally, here is a photo I took of the stack of movies and television shows that I have made it my business to watch:

100_2631

-- Jesus Christ, how did I let something like this happen? --

-Sean

6.15.2010

Vital Statistics, Week of June 6-12, 2010

While I finish up the first entry of my “Working Through the Stack” feature, here are some things that you really do not need to know:

Books Read:

  • The Regulators, Stephen King (Writing as Richard Bachman), 1996.
  • Gun, With Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem, 1994.
  • Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Allies, Christie Golden, 2010.

Films Watched:

  • DVD:
    • To Have and Have Not, Warner Brothers, 1944.
    • The Big Sleep, Warner Brothers, 1946.
    • Dark Passage, Warner Brothers, 1947.
  • Theater:
    • The A-Team, 20th Century Fox, 2010.
  • Television:
    • The Specialist, Warner Brothers, 1994.

Comics Read:

  • Serenity Float Out (Series Issue #7), Dark Horse, 2010.
  • DMZ: Friendly Fire (Volume #4, Collecting Issues #18-22), DC/Vertigo, 2008.
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Commencement (Volume #1, Collecting Issues #1-6), Dark Horse, 2006.

Writing:

  • Pages Typed: 7
  • Pages Hand-Written: 4
  • Pages Edited: 12
  • Blog Posts: 4

I would also like to take the opportunity to direct your attention somewhere offsite. The Outpost, is an in-development collaborative project that myself and a few others are hammering out. Most of my content there will mirror things that I post there, but our intention is to create a more comprehensive center for finding reviews and thoughts pertaining to all kinds of media. I’ll keep linking to the main page as the idea continues to evolve, and if it seems like the kind of thing that you would be interested in reading, then I would encourage you to bookmark it for future use.

In the coming days I’m going to try and institute a couple of format changes that have been suggested to me, and I’ll have my thoughts on the Bogart/Bacall box set up as well.

-Sean

6.11.2010

In the Theater: The A-Team

 

TheATeamI have a serious soft spot for Men-On-a-Mission movies. In a lot of ways they represent the sense of fun that I look for in an average summer theater-going experience. With that in mind, I was really pleased to discover that we had three such films coming at us this season, starting with The Losers (one of two films I’ve seen this year that I liked well enough to see twice), working through The A-Team, and closing with Stallone’s The Expendables later in the year. So, in the end, I may not be the best person to voice a wholly impartial opinion on The A-Team, but I’ll try to anyway.

The A-Team isn’t a smart movie. There’s nothing wrong with that, because it really isn’t a stupid movie either. It’s a summer movie and it knows that. It is also just smart enough to know that it isn’t smart. So instead of setting its sights on being an edgy or brooding reboot—that tries to impress by being a hard-edged version of a thing that the audience is already familiar with—it dedicates itself  to just being fun.

And it is fun. The A-Team is big, and it is loud, and it is one serious mother of a mover, and it is fun and over the top without ever becoming too cartoonish (I’m looking at you, Transformers) or offensive or stupid (I’m looking at you, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). The film very rarely takes a break during its runtime of an hour and fifty-seven minutes, moving rapidly from action sequence to exposition to montage to comedy set-piece with a sort of tirelessness that it commendable for being furious but never tiresome. The action sequences also work well for the most part, keeping with the pace and not relying overly on the use of digital effects. Some of these sequences do get a bit too frantic for their own good, unfortunately; pulling in too close and putting too much emphasis on shaky-cam style shooting and editing. The action also lacks the quietly extravagant style that Joe Carnahan brought into earlier efforts like Smokin’ Aces and Narc.

The film also does a nice job of modernizing the franchise and establishing itself, taking the audience from the team’s original coming together in Mexico to their last mission in Iraq quickly and efficiently without getting bogged down in the political situations prevalent in either country and maintaining a sharp focus on getting us involved/familiar with the characters as rapidly as possible. The story also stays enjoyable and pretty straight forward for the duration, but it does lose some traction towards the end of the second act when it tries to break out a couple of twists and double-crosses. It also never really establishes the stakes. Don’t get me wrong, the audience is told what is going on, and what could happen becomes quite obvious…but the film concentrates so wholly on the characters that it does tend to lose sight of the fact that there’s more at stake than the continued freedom of Hannibal & Company.

And speaking of the team: The casting here solid and occasionally inspired. Liam Neeson works very well as Hannibal, mugging and chewing scenery with the same enthusiasm as predecessor George Peppard. Sharlto Copley is excellent as well, dropping the drama from his turn in District 9 and dialing the neuroticism up to show some serious comedic range. Bradley Cooper continues to do a good job being Bradley Cooper, which is fine in the context of Face. Jessica Biel turns out a surprisingly solid performance that actually holds a decently hard edge. Patrick Wilson’s wannabe CIA Super-Spook/Villain is surprisingly manic and unpredictable. And Quinton Jackson does a good job of trying to put his own spin on B.A. Baracus, even if the script does seem to want him to just pretend to be Mister T the entire time.

So in the end, it isn’t a great film, but it is a good one. It works hard to provide a sense of momentum, giving up some good action and a few genuine laughs along the way, and it hardly even tries to set up a franchise at the end. So, if you like action films or buddy flicks, if you have a sense of nostalgia for the old show or if you just want to spend a good afternoon in the theater, you could do a whole hell of a lot worse than The A-Team.

-Sean

Journey to the Centre of the YouTube

Back when I ran a crappy little blog called The Digital Litterateur I used to highlight YouTube videos that really stood out to me, not just for being funny in that YouTube kind of way, but for being genuinely clever or interesting or even just really ass-backwards and weird. Since I know that I’m going to keep doing that here too (it’s just part of who I am), I’ve decided to put up one of my old favorites.

Never before have I been so touched by the power of the human spirit. On YouTube.

6.08.2010

The DVD Collection That I Forgot

Since I finished my undergrad work a little over a year ago, my DVD collection has sat largely unused in a pile of boxes tucked away in a quiet corner of my living space. Recently I decided to pop those boxes open and do a sort of headcount—making sure that nothing had been broken or otherwise damaged—and I was surprised to realize how many of the cases had never been opened. When I counted, I discovered that at some point during my Senior year I had bought no fewer than forty-four movies and seven seasons of television that I had  just never even bothered to watch. Many of them were films that I had seen before, but all the same…I feel a need to rectify this (personally perceived) issue.

So, over the course of the next few months I am going to try and watch the films that I forgot I owned. As I work my way through them, I will probably do a short write-up on each one. These smaller articles will probably be posted in clumps that represent a week’s worth of viewing. In the case that a film inspires some larger analysis, then those will be posted on their own. I will also likely not discuss the season box sets, because that’s an awfully large amount of content to try and craft a short consensus on.

I’ll be beginning this week with the Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall box set that Warner Brothers put out in 2005. I bought this one used because I of a sudden desperate need to own a copy of The Big Sleep, and I have never seen any of the other three films included: To Have and Have Not, Dark Passage, and  Key Largo. So be sure to look for thoughts on all four films by the end of the week.

-Sean

6.07.2010

Sound Check

For those of you looking for a standard-issue Welcome Post, this is the closest you're liable to get, fellow travelers. I'm finally dedicating myself more fully to doing a blog, I've got a name on it that I like and a layout that I'm fond of. As such, "welcome" to any readers who see this (and even to the ones who don't), thank you for visiting and for your consideration. I know that finding a website worth reading can be difficult on the best of days, and even harder when it comes to blogs. I hope that All Strange Places suits you or any person who you might recommend it to.

As far as a declaration of intent goes, you won't find a more concise one than the description in the sidebar. I'll be posting essays and opinion pieces here, as well as reviews of films, books, games, and comics when I think I have something interesting to say on the topic. You'll also find the occasional piece of film criticism and theory dedicated to older films as I discover them or work something out on them. There will also be periodic links and videos and other standard blogger crap, but I'll try to keep that interesting too. I'll also endeavor to keep the politicking to a minimum.

So, again: Welcome and enjoy.

-Sean


PS: I'd also like to take this chance to get some usage stuff out of the way. This is a blogger page, obviously, so there's that. The posts here will all be written by myself unless otherwise noted. I don't have a problem with a reader quoting anything, though I would appreciate a link to your content and an acknowledgment. (If I post a piece of fiction, things will be different, but please contact me about it.) Finally, the header graphic was made using an old NOAA chart of the Virgin Islands and the text is done in HeadlineHPLHS, a font made freely available by the inestimably awesome HP. Lovecraft Historical Society.