Friday, June 29, 2012

Atlantis Resort's Film Potential

The Atlantis Resort, Royal Towers. Paradise Island, The Bahamas.
My family and I took a surprise last minute trip to the Bahamas and stayed at the massive resort Atlantis on Paradise Island.

This newer and ever expanding resort is an interesting place that in many ways is one of a kind and I've found myself asking what type of "on-premise" film potential this large resort and water park has for film.

The Bahamas themselves have been a place occasionally used as film oasis for films like Cocoon (1985), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006), Flipper (1996), and a handful of James Bond films (You Only Live Twice, 1967; The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977; Moonraker, 1979; For Your Eyes Only, 1981; Never Say Never Again, 1983; Casino Royale, 2006).

The film potential seems to rest more with the tropical beaches and ocean rather than the actual setting of the Bahamas, with the exception of off-shore swanky resort settings as used in Casino Royale with One&Only Ocean Club in Nassau, Bahamas used for Casino Royale.


That being said, I want to offer up a new potential film setting. I've blogged before about disaster films regular habit of destroying landmarks such as the New York's Statute of Liberty (destroyed at least 12 times in film).

But what about destroying the Atlantis Resort in a disaster movie setting?

The Royal Towers (pictured above) feature one of the most unique resort experiences, particularly with the bridge suites shown above between the two towers. The Bridge Suites have been listed by CNN a few months back as one the world's most expensive hotel suites (listed at #10 at $25,000 a night).

Now if you ask me, this suite in the sky seems like the perfect spot for a CGI tidal wave to come and destroy bringing it to the ground, as a change of pace (or in addition too) the usual suspects: Statue of Liberty, The Chrysler Building, The Hollywood sign, The Golden Gate Bridge, The White House, Christ the Redeemer (Brazil), and Big Ben.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Review by Margie: 127 Hours (2010)

Margie Cracken is a guest blogger for StrangeCultureBlog.com, her style & taste are not typical to the Film Blog Community. You can read more about Margie here.
James Franco, 127 Hours
I really was interested in watching a feel good movie this week. You know the type that just warms your heart, something along the lines of Pollyanna. I love the way Halley Mills is able to transform the town with her gentleness and goodness.

I hadn't decided on the film for this weeks review, but I saw RC post the other day about someone who watched a film that inspired them to have a baby. That film was 127 Hours.

If this film is inspiring someone to have a baby, I thought this might be the heart warming treat I was looking for, although I promise you I am in no way interested in having a baby. I love my adult son, but I'm too old to go down that path again.

I tried to joke with the video store guy and I asked him, "Will this film make me want to have a baby?" And he looked at me like I was a crazy old lady.

Then I put the DVD in at my house and you can imagine my shock when I start watching this film. I wanted to give it a chance, but for some reason from the start I was skeptical. I don't know how a typical movie reviewer would describe what was happening, but the music just did not match the movie. Also sometimes you would watch one thing, and then the clip would change and it would be something else completely different. It was very distracting.

Now I must admit, the landscape in that valley of Utah was beautiful. I've never been to Utah, but it reminded me of a Georgia O'Keefe painting. And I like some of Georgia O'Keefe's paintings, although sometimes she paints animal skulls. I always imagine that if you were doing some home decorating, there is no room of the house where you would hang a print of an O'Keefe skull in the desert. It's distasteful anywhere. Although those flower pictures can be delightful.

Now that I write this, I think that the same people who like the O'Keefe skull paintings probably would also like this film - it's all brown, desolate, and ultimately has this gruesome violent moment that is also distasteful.

I understand that this is a true-story and James Franco's character, Aron Rolston's story is true. I don't want to be the type of person to judge anyone's decisions and choices. In fact, if I were to read Rolston's story in the morning paper I think I would find his story to be absolutely fascinating.

Yet, this is where Hollywood has really missed the boat. I can read the story about how he had hullicinations and did some awful things to save his life. But to see it in film, now that is pushing the limits far too far. Not to mention (I hate to even mention it here but I feel you must be warned) but there is a part of the film where they show the guy drinking his own urination. And to think, some people bought tickets to watch these awful scenes, and surely they did not have warning.

So, I'm not sure how this film could inspire you to do anything, other than remember to tell your mother where you are going.

To the man who said this film inspired him to have a baby, he must of have seen something in this film that I completely missed.  But certainly, congratulations on the birth of your son, although I don't think this film has the power to create a baby boom like there was after World War II. More likely it will motivate you to bring more water on your hiking and camping trips.

I need to find something better to watch next week. Anything would be better.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reader Feedback: When Film Changes Life - 127 Hours

The other day I got an e-mail from a reader regarding the post on 127 Hours titled: 127 Hours & Aron Ralston's Motivation

Alec MacKnight sent me an e-mail and asked him if I could share his e-mail.

I loved your short piece on this - it was this film that decided for me that the time was right...
I now have a 9 month old little boy, and he is the greatest...
I would suspect that Alec didn't walk into the theater thinking this film would lead him to want to have a child, but I think that's the power of film in action. When an unconventional real life adventure story about a thrill seeker changes the lives of families forever.

Thank you, Alec for sharing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reel People: Jonny Weston is Jay Moriarity

Gerard Butler & Jonny Weston
The film is Of Men and Mavericks. The film is directed by Curtis Hanson with a screenplay by Brandon Hooper and Kario Salem.

Jay Moriarity


Jay (James Michael Moriarity) was born June 16, 1978 in Georgia. His family moved to Santa Cruz, California when he was young.

His father, Doug Moriarity was an adventurer -- Green Beret, Airborne ranger, parachutist and surfer. He introduced Jay to surfing as a pre-teen, and by the age of twelve, Jay won a National Scholastic Surfing Association competition at Pleasure Point.

Young Moriarity encountered Rick "Frosty" Hesson, an older former collegiate swimmer and life-guard who was speaking about a new surf hot spot called Mavericks, a surf destination outside of Half Moon Bay at the village of Princeton-By-The-Sea, California. Jay requested that Hesson help train him mentally and physically to surf Maverick's.

Moriarity became very skilled at both longboard and short-board.

At the age of 16, in 1994 Moriarity was captured in a photo surfing Mavericks, and his photo graced the cover of Surfer magazine. Three days after the shot, internally acclaimed surfer Mark Foo died surfing Mavericks.

This moment propelled Moriarity onto the surf scene making him a regular contender and champion at various surf competitions. His primary sponsor became O'Neill. Moriarity also became an instructor for the O'Neill Surf Academy, along with Robert "Wingnut" Weaver and Richard Schmidt.

Richard Schmidt and Jay also worked together on a book published in 2001 called The Ultimate Guide to Surfing.

It was also during this time he eloped and got married to his wife Kim, whom he had met at the age of fifteen (Kim was 17).

On June 15, 2001, a day before Jay Moriarity's 23rd birthday, he was doing a photo shoot for O'Neill and drowned doing free-diving. He was holding his breathe in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Lohifushi in the Maldives. His wife Kim estimates that he was 80 feet below the surface.

Jay's memorial service was June 26th, and his wife scattered his ashes on Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, California.

Of Men and Mavericks

In addition to Jonny Weston playing the part of Jay Moriarity, the high profile lead of the film belongs to Gerard Butler who plays the part of Frosty Henson, his early instructor and trainer who prepared him to surf Mavericks. Jay's mother, Christy Moriarity is played by Elizabeth Shue, Henson's first wife Brenda is played by Abigal Spencer, and his wife Kim is played by Leven Rambin.

(Cooper Timberline and Harley Graham also play younger versions of Jay and Kim).

Jonny Weston, as star, is relatively an unknown, but that hasn't stopped an unknown from becoming a known and receiving awards recognition.

Will Weston receive awards attention, maybe even an Oscar nomination for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Review by Margie: Once (2006)

Margie Cracken is a guest blogger for StrangeCultureBlog.com, her style & taste are not typical to the Film Blog Community. You can read more about Margie here.
The Irish Guy and the Czech Girl, Once
I didn't want to let RC down by not doing a post today, and so when I went to get a movie to watch, I asked the video guy if there was a good and short one. I wanted a short one because I was hoping I could watch Operation Cupcake on the Hallmark Movie Channel.

The video guy knew I was pretty annoyed at the recommendation for Hanna, and he promised to try to come up with a better recommendation this time. He said the movie, Once, was pretty short. He said it was about an Irish guy and Czech girl who have this unique sort of musical-romantic type encounter.

He also said it had that famous song "Falling Slowly" was in it, he wondered if I had heard it before, and he sang a couple lines. I, of course, knew what song he was talking about. It's a sweet little tune I fell like I've heard a few times. I'm sure you've heard it as well.

So readers, I know this movie is a little bit older, but if you are looking for something interesting to watch, beware, because the film has three main problems.

The first is that the two main characters (I don't even think they had names in the film) are not typical stars. I know that this movie is Irish, and maybe the Irish film industry is not as superficial as Hollywood, but these actors look like regular derelicts you might see in any downtown. I'm not superficial myself, but they must be the directors cousins or something, because I don't think they must have held auditions.

Second, you can't hardly understand a word they are saying. In retrospect, perhaps I should have figured out if the movie had subtitles I could turn on because I thought it was a love story, and all they seemed to talk about were vaccuum cleaners, and then they sang that "Falling Slowly song" in some guitar shop.

Third, this movie is so boring, that the most awful thing happened. I fell asleep watching it, so I admit, I don't really know how it ends. I think they should have named the film Falling Slowly Asleep because it could do wonders for a case of insomnia, it would put you to sleep in a wink. But in my case, it's called Once because I will only watch it once.

So to make matters worse, because I fell asleep, I woke up and found that I had missed the beginning of Operation Cupcake on the Hallmark Channel, which was the biggest disappointment of all.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Point of Caution on the 200th Anniversary of the Beginning of the War of 1812

June 18 of this year, just days away, will be the 200th anniversary of the start of the what is commonly called The War of 1812, also knows as the Anglo-American war which was fought for three years been the United States of America and the British Empire.

Now, I admit, I'm a little sloppy on my 19th century history, so just in case you find yourself in a historical trivia discussion around the water cooler might I offer some assistance to avoid a historical blunder.

If you're like me, when I hear "1812" I think of two phrases.

  • The War of 1812
  • The Overture of 1812
And I must admit, for most of my life, I thought that the Overture of 1812 was about the War of 1812.

I find the mistake reasonable since with it's bombastic themes, incredible build up, and the sound of cannons, The Overture of 1812 has become synonymous with 4th of July firework finales.

Yet, here's the reality, for anyone out there who's ever wonder why a Russian (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky) would write such a fantastic American patriotic tune.

The Overture of 1812 (formally known as The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major, Op. 49) is a reference to another military event in 1812 - the Battle of Borodino found September 7, 1812 in Borodino, Russia. This battle was a Russian defense against the Napoleon's invasion of Russia during the French invasion of Russia. The Battle of Borodino is created as the bloodiest day in all Napoleonic wars, resulting in an estimated 70,000 casualties. 

When the Overture of 1812 debuted on August 20, 1882 in Moscow, I'm sure Tchaikovsky would not have  thought it would become part of Americana, and despite that fact, just don't play the Overture of 1812 in the office or any other bicentennial celebration, lest you might be corrected and feel silly. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Anticipation of Downton Abbey Inspired Dessert

Downton Abbey's Cook, Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol)
In Season 1 of Downton Abbey, episode 5, Cora invites Sr. Anthony Stallan to dinner, in hopes that he might be a potential husband for Lady Mary.

Wanting to impress her she presents the morning of the dinner party a recipe to Mrs. Patmore, the Downton Abbey cook for Apple Charlotte, proclaiming it one of Sir Anthony's favorites. 

Mrs. Patmore with her own limitations claims that the dessert for the evening cannot be changed, and refuses to make Sir Anthony's new favorite dish. 

And it was that moment, I told my wife that I didn't want a present for my birthday, but I wanted Apple Charlotte. 

My birth is less than a week away, and I have never so much anticipated a birthday present as I do this year, because my wife is already prepping for this very complicated dessert (particularly because it was requested to be made in an authentic "Downton" style - no imitation or modifications here - so she's following Julia Child's recipe from Mastering The Art of French Cooking).

It's too bad Sir Anthony and guests didn't get this treat...especially since instead of Apple Charlotte they received raspberry meringue pudding (salted in error, not sugared).

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Review by Margie: The Descendants (2011)

Margie Cracken is a guest blogger for StrangeCultureBlog.com, her style & taste are not typical to the Film Blog Community. You can read more about Margie here.
George Clooney, The Descendants
After last week's horrible film recommendation by the video store guy, I made my own choice. The video guy wasn't there, so I couldn't complain to him directly, but I let his manager know.

So many of my friends think George Clooney is just something else, so I rented The Descendants.

I was a little surprised that the first lines of the film have George's character whining about how Hawaii isn't that special, something to the effect that his friends on the mainland think all he does is drink Mai Tais and live in a state of permanent vacation.

I thought, well this guy must have a rough life. Until you quickly find out that his rough life isn't so rough at all. He's a well to do lawyer, has a nice house, and has nothing to complain about, other than things that are his own fault.

I've seen people who live in awful cities, like my friend Carol who lives in this awful part of Indiana. Believe me, this George Clooney guy has nothing to complain about compared to Carol. 

Where Carol lives it's gray and humid, and believe me there are no swimming pools in the backyard for the kids to jump into. There's no ocean, and sure people there get sick and have their own problems in Hawaii, but somehow Carol just seems to have problem after problem. First her youngest kid got sick, her husband checked out when he lost his job, and then her daughter starting dating this awful fellow with ear piercings, and all the time, Carol's trying to figure out how to pay the rent to live in such an awful place. She though she's sell jams, but you have to make a lot of jam to pay the rent.

If there's one thing that seemed pretty clear in this movie is that George Clooney's character starts complaining at the beginning and the complaining doesn't stop. Is it any surprise that his own children are so prone to bellyache about this, that and everything else under the sun.

In fact, that Alex girl really got on my nerve with all of her complaining and attention grabbing stunts she tried to pull. And that younger girl, poor thing, her life is already a mess at eleven. But I promise you, that has nothing to do with living in Hawaii, that has to do with bad parenting, can't say that the coma mom situation even makes a different, she's in a rough spot. That's for certain.

And talk about a family reunion when all those people get together to decide what to do with the family land. If the first lesson of this film is that whiny parents will raise whiny children, the second lesson is that kids of any age seem to never stop asking for money from their parents, even after they're gone.

I must admit, I was pleased that George Clooney decided to keep the land, but just wait until he passes away, those kids of his will sell that land in a heartbeat. Sure George Clooney may be a lawyer, but I can tell you those girls won't make it, not with all their grumbling and poor decision making.

Now that I think about it, speaking of Carol, her kids certainly would try to sell off the family house if it was worth anything when Carol and her husband die, but there won't be money when all that happens, I can tell you that. Poor, Carol. Life has certainly handed her a bad deck of cards, and now that's real tragedy. This movie on the other hand captures a pathetic self-induced tragedy of this absent dad, a cheating wife, and spoiled fussy children.

As for Hawaii, Hawaii seems beautiful and I'd love to go there some day. I can't accept George Clooney's negative sentiment about a place just because his life is so miserable. That's pea-brained thinking there. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Mah Nà Mah Nà

After watching The Muppets (2011) with my daughter (almost four) she's latched on to a few of the songs in the film...okay, admittadly I have as well. So we've been enjoying a variety of the songs from The Muppets original soundtrack.

But, the song that's stuck in my head from the movie is not an original to the 2011 movie, in fact, it's a muppets staple. It's the song Mah Na Mah Na.

So much so...it became history time!

The original version of the song was written by Piero Umiliani, and used in the 1968 Italian film Sweden: Heaven and Hell (Svezia, Inferno E Paradiso). The film is apparently a nine segment film about various types of sex in Sweeden.

Below is a clip of the song off the soundtrack, sung by Alessandro Alessandroni.


Apparently, a minor European hit, it also appeared in the Benny Hill Show and The Red Skelton Show.

But it's American success came from the 14th episode of Sesame Street in 1969.


And then from there, it was in the first episode of The Muppets in 1971.

And I'm still singing it...over 40 years later.

So however you spell it or say... Mahnamanah to you!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Why is Downton Abbey So Addicting?

My wife and I just recently watched season 1 of the critically acclaimed BBC series Downton Abbey.

In fact, it seems anyone we know who's watched this first season of the show seems to just love it, and they seem to tear through the first seven episodes in a wink.

On the surface, I find this surprising. In the beginning of the show it reminded me quickly of Gosford Park (logical, due to writer Julian Fellows role with each) and The Remains of the Day. I enjoy both of these films, although I honestly find both of the films at times to be somewhat slow at times.

Yet, that is not the experience viewers seem to have with Downton Abbey. Which has led me to wonder, what it is about this show that makes this off-the-beaten path period drama so enticing.

Here are some possible reasons:

  • We're attracted to noble and honorable male characters. Generally most of the male characters here are very honorable and clearly are trying to make "the right" decision. This seems to hold true for all the male leads (Earl Robert Crawley, Matthew Crawley, John Bates and Mr. Carson), with the exception of the antagonist Thomas Barrow. The upstairs and downstairs men are principled gentleman, against Thomas excluded.
  • We might like the honorable male, but the dishonorable female even more enjoyable. When it comes to the "upstairs ladies" there is a plenty of dis-honorableness, gossip, and manipulation to go around. Lady Mary and Lady Edith are simply awful to one another, and Countess Cora Crawley is certainly not a shining example of motherhood, although her character bares it's own complexity. And then, there is the dowager countess (Maggie Smith). The "downstairs" females are not nearly as bad, although downstairs there is the worst of the worst in Sarah O'Brien.
  • We like to see poor people happier than rich people. There is something to be said about the lovely fair scenes when everyone has a lovely time, while the rich people continue to deal with their perpetual problems of no importance.
  • We like romantic tension. I always assume it's because romance and love can be awkward, we tend to enjoy seeing other people's relational discomfort more than we like to see two people happily in love. The build up is the formula for addicting TV, and while this TV show doesn't rely on it, it certainly does a great job peppering plenty of on-again-off-again romance in both it's upstairs and downstairs characters.
  • We like (for whatever reason) period-piece comments that are absolutely ridiculous and irrelevant. In the same way we gasp when the pregnant mother smokes in a TV show like Mad Men, we drop our jaw almost every time the Dowager Countess speaks with lines like: "Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else's house."
  • We like good stories. We don't just want characters, we want stories, and Downton Abbey doesn't take episodes developing characters and plots, but jumps right in with a tragedy (the sinking of the Titanic) and let's us the viewers spy on this family when we figure out there stories and watch how this event is just a domino that leads from one thing to the next in a fantastic, although melodramatic at times, story.

Monday Review by Margie: Hanna (2011)

Margie Cracken is a guest blogger for StrangeCultureBlog.com, her style & taste are not typical to the Film Blog Community. You can read more about Margie here.


Saoirse Ronan, Hanna
My son just got me my first DVD player and so I went to the video store for the first time in awhile, since those stores don't carry VHS anymore.

I asked to clerk for a movie recommendation. He asked me what I liked. A few years ago I saw the movie Atonement at my son's house, and remember thinking it was okay. I particularly liked the beautiful costumes and the fond memories I had of my old type-writer.

When I told the clerk I liked Atonement he thought for a moment and recommended Hanna, saying it was one of his new favorites. Hanna, he said was directed by the same guy as Atonement, and stared that same girl Saorise Ronan (I only know her name because it's on the box, I certainly could not spell her name unless it was in front of me, and I certainly can't pronounce it). 

Now, I am going to recommend they fire the man at the video store because this movie is nothing like Atonement. In fact, this movie is horrible. I thought Saorise's character was awful trouble-maker in Atonement, but that little scrawny girl from Atonement is a violent beast in this film Hanna.

Not only is she a violent beast, she is a violent beast who needs a hair cut and a little exposure to the sun. I have never seen such a pasty girl with savage locks in my life. I just wanted to get my sewing shears out and cut that girls wild mane.

I was told I shouldn't give away the crucial plot points when writing a review, but let me tell you, this girl is violent. She shoots guns, uses bows and arrows, and kills people with her bare hands. I never had a daughter, but I can tell you this, I would never let her watch a movie with girl like this in it. And to think, I used to think Hannah (spelled with two "H's" of course) was a nice name. Now, oh my, the name has been tainted. 

Speaking of child rearing, this girl has some mystery mother, to be honest, I don't know if I really understood that part of the plot, but it seems unimportant to the plot. All the story here is some teen girl karate kicking adult men. It's really dreadful. But most dreadful of all, is the father. He has made his daughter a beast and teaches her all sorts of wonderful things out of encyclopedia's and then leaves her to kill people.

That being said, it reminds me of an old friend of mine who home schooled their son. He's in jail now too, I always said, it must have been the lack of social skills he would have picked up in a traditional primary school, but alas people make choices. Often they make bad ones. 

Admittedly, I made a bad one when I listened to the recommendation of that guy to rent this one. I knew as soon as she killed that Moose at the beginning. I will certainly tell the video store next time that I do not want a movie where any young girl kills a moose. 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Meet Margie & The Reviews By Margie Series

Beginning this month you will see a new series of reviews by new blog contributor Margie Cracken.

Margie Cracken is not your typical movie watcher. I don't believe she would mind me saying, that she is rather out of touch. As such, Margie's reviews will rarely be of movies in the movie theater. In fact, Margie just received a DVD player from her son, so she is attempting to catch up on her film watching.

I have recommended Margie watch a few movies to begin her series, but you are more than welcome to recommend a film for Margie to review as well by placing your request in the comments.

Margie is going to attempt to kick off this series with a weekly review that will be posted on Monday based off her weekend film viewing. You can look forward to enjoying those post every Monday, and I will also collect her reviews here in this post as well for your own pleasure reading.

Welcome Margie.

Index of Monday Reviews by Margie

127 Hours (2010) (posted June 25, 2012)
The Artist (2011) (posted July 2, 2012)
The Descendants (2011) (posted June 11, 2012)
Hanna (2011) (posted June 4, 2012)
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) (posted July 9, 2012)
Source Code (2011) (posted October 22, 2012)
Once (2006) (posted June 18, 2012)
We Bought a Zoo (2011) (posted August 13, 2012)

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Hawkeye & Black Widow

There are a lot of reasons why the Avengers is a great success.

It could be the worst movie ever and the box off would have been astounding, but at the same time, I think generally fans and critics have been pretty positive about this film.

As stated, there are a lot of reasons it is a great success, but for me one of the reasons I found The Avengers to be interesting is that it took the chance to continue to develop and introduce more-minor characters, having previously laid the groundwork for this development.

The Avengers takes some lesser superheroes and makes them interesting in their introduction to the characters, and for me where the Avengers shines is the development of the Hawkeye (Clint Barton, played by Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff, played by Scarlett Johansson) stories.

Both characters had introductions in previous films (Hawkeye in Thor and Black Widow in Iron Man 2), and there characters are brought together here seamlessly. Not as an origin story, but a more subtle introduction that for me, really put both of their characters center stage, often above the stories of A-list avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor).

The Avengers line up offers a whole realm of unknown (unknown to most) superheroes (many are listed here), giving plenty of opportunity to continue to expand and re-introduce, in a very big way, new property to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and toy shelves near you).

There are certainly some drawn out scenes in The Avengers that could have been cut, but none of those scenes were scenes with Hawkeye and Black Widow.
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