9

“9”, an animated fantasy adventure film directed by Shane Acker, was first released to general audiences on Wednesday, September 9, 2009.

Plot Synopsis

9 takes place in a world parallel to our own, in which the very legacy of humanity is threatened. A group of sentient rag dolls, living a post-apocalyptic existence, find one of their own, 9 (Elijah Wood), who displays leadership qualities that may help them to survive.

Initial Reaction

I was very much looking forward to this movie. The trailer was very interesting, and it was cut using a song by Coheed and Cambria which I’m very fond of. Overall, I was happy with the movie, but it felt somehow too short to me, like I wanted a little more from the movie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great movie with some fantastic action scenes, but I just wanted a bit more.

In-Depth Discussion

The movie begins as 9 wakes up for the first time and takes in his surroundings. He is a small rag doll with carefully crafted hands, eyes, and other parts, but he has been given the spark of life.  Over the course of the movie, he questions the nature of the world and gradually finds the answers to his questions, learning the truth about what happened and why he and his fellow dolls were created. I felt that the story was pretty strong and compelling.

Another thing the movie accomplishes very well is the feeling of being very small in a large and threatening world. Almost every obstacle that they encounter is made more difficult to overcome since they are tiny dolls. This made for some rather inventive ways to use regular household objects for other purposes. Very cool stuff.

Finally, the animation was pretty great. It went for a more dark, fantasy-based feel than most CG movies do these days. They didn’t shy away from showing some darker-themed things, such as a dead man laying on the floor, in order to establish the grim mood of the film.  As for the action sequences, they were easy to follow visually, and allowed for some truly epic stunts for such pint-sized characters.

Overall, I would say this movie is good, not amazing. It went for something unique and original, which I truly respect. I just felt that things ended rather quickly. I would have liked the movie to have been a little longer, I think. Still, I’d say it’s a movie everyone should watch at least once, it’s very good.

Casual Observations

  • I have always liked the idea of tiny characters in a huge world, like Toy Story. Where even something like a dog or cat could pose a serious threat. This was played up greatly in 9, with characters using things like scissors or steak knives as if they were swords.
  • I dug the 50’s “world of tomorrow” feel of the scientific stuff in this movie. I’ve always liked that style.
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Lost – Episodes 2×22 – 3×02

Episodes twenty-two through twenty-four of season 2 and episodes one and two of season 3 of ABC’s hit television show Lost first aired from May 17, 2006 until October 11, 2006.

Plot Synopsis

After surviving on a mysterious Island for over a month after a plane crash, the search for rescue has taken a back seat. When the survivors discover an underground bunker built by an organization named The Dharma Initiative, the era of exploration and discovery begins. As it becomes increasingly clearer that there are other inhabitants on the Island, thoughts turn to defense rather than only survival.

Initial Reaction

Week 13 of my Lost Rewatch finds me at the end of season 2 and the beginning of season 3, reviewing the episodes “Three Minutes”, “Live Together, Die Alone”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, and “The Glass Ballerina”. The season 2 finale was amazing. I mean, we finally got to see what happens when the button isn’t pressed, and it is indeed catastrophic. I also felt season 3 started off pretty strong as well. When I watched the show as it aired, I got a bit frustrated during this first run of episodes in season 3, but subsequent viewings have led me to like the episodes more.

In-Depth Discussion

In “Three Minutes,” we get an on-Island flashback of Michael, and see what happened to him during the time he was away hunting for Walt. He was allowed to see Walt for three minutes, and was told to go back to the survivors’ camp and bring back Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley. In the present, Michael goes about trying to get only those people to come with him to get Walt, but Sayid gets informed about the situation and decides to help as well. He tells Jack he suspects Michael has been “compromised,” and they should plan to expect a trap. A funeral is held for Ana Lucia and Libby, but it comes to a surprising end when a sailboat is spotted offshore.

In “Live Together, Die Alone,” we see some flashbacks of Desmond for the first time. We see him getting out of a military prison and being dishonorably discharged. He gets in the car with Charles Widmore, who attempts to bribe him to stay away from his daughter forever. Later, Desmond decides to join a sailboat race around the world to prove to Charles that he is man enough to marry his daughter. He receives the sailboat to use in the race from none other than Libby, but ends up crashing on the Island. Kelvin rescues him and brings him into the hatch, and teaches him all about the setup and the button. He shows Desmond about the “failsafe key” as well. Eventually, Desmond snuck out to follow Kelvin to discover that he had repaired the sailboat and was planning on leaving. After an altercation, Kelvin ended up dead, and Desmond almost missed pressing the button. On the Island, Desmond is the one in the sailboat. Sayid decides to use it in order to set a trap for the Others and Michael, while Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley go with Michael to hunt for Walt. Sun and Jin join Sayid in the sailboat, because they know how to operate it. Meanwhile, John has completely lost faith and decides to get Desmond to help him force Eko not to press the button. Desmond initiates a lock-down, keeping Eko out of the computer room. Meanwhile, everyone finds out about Michael’s betrayal when Jack tells them, but they keep going as part of the plan. At the hatch, Eko rigs some dynamite to try to blow open the blast doors to no avail, almost getting himself and Charlie killed. Sayid finally reaches the Others’ camp only to find it abandoned, with a fake Dharma hatch door. Team Jack finds the exit point for the pneumatic tubes of the Pearl, emptying into an open field. They see Sayid’s signal fire, and realize Michael is leading them to a different location. They are assaulted and captured by the Others. In the hatch, John gives the printouts from the Pearl to Desmond, who begins pouring over the pages. He discovers that the time he missed pressing the button corresponded exactly with the moment flight 815 crashed on the Island, confirming for him that the button is real. John actually breaks the computer to prevent the button from being pressed, but Desmond rushes underground and turns the fail-safe key. Meanwhile, everyone is captive on the docks, and Ben makes the deal with Michael to leave the Island. Finally, we see a scientific outpost somewhere in the arctic, and two people call Penny Widmore, telling her that they believe they have “found it.”

In “A Tale of Two Cities,” we get a fantastic season-opening scene in which we are first introduced to Juliet Burke, the melancholy Other, who is hosting a book club meeting when it gets interrupted by a loud crash, none other than Flight 815 itself. In the flashback, we see Jack obsessing over Sarah after their break-up, trying to find out who she is going out with now. He ends up clashing with his father yet again. On the Island, Jack, Kate, and Sawyer find themselves in captivity in the strange Dharma station named the Hydra, some sort of zoological research center. Jack is held in a sort of shark tank, while Sawyer is kept in a bear cage. Kate is treated to breakfast as Ben explains that the next two weeks would be “very unpleasant”. Juliet spends her time talking to Jack, trying to build up a level of trust with him. Sawyer spends his time figuring out how to get “fish biscuits” from the animal feeder in his cage. He meets another captive named Karl, who briefly escapes only to be caught again. Jack makes a break-out attempt when Juliet brings him food, but is surprised when he opens the outside door and finds that they are actually somewhat underwater, and the place becomes flooded. He is knocked unconscious and brought back to his prison. Kate is brought to a neighboring cage near Sawyer. When Jack comes to, Juliet is waiting, and reveals that they have extensive files on the survivors. Jack shares a moment with Juliet briefly as she assures him his ex wife Sarah is happy now. As Juliet leaves the room, Ben congratulates her on her progress with Jack.

In “The Glass Ballerina,” we get flashbacks of Sun and Jin, and find out that Sun has a bit of a dark side as well. It is revealed that she indeed had an affair with Jae Le, her English teacher, and her father found out about it. In response, he sends Jin to “deliver a message” to him. Jin refuses to kill him, but tells him to leave Korea instead. Jae Le, thinking Jin has found out about the affair, decides to kill himself by jumping out of the window. On the Island, Sayid, Sun, and Jin continue to monitor the signal fire, waiting for Jack to meet up with them. The Others follow the smoke, however, and find out about their sailboat. Ben sends a team to take the boat away from them. Meanwhile, Kate and Sawyer are forced to do manual labor, clearing rocks out of an area. Kate meets Alex, who is hiding in a bush, and she asks Kate about Karl. Meanwhile, Sayid decides to set a trap for The Others, lighting a signal fire to alert them to their location in order to try to get information  about Jack and the others’ whereabouts. They all arm themselves and prepare for an ambush. At the construction site, Sawyer defies the Others and kisses Kate, which leads to a big fist fight. He says he did it to test their strength. Ben goes to visit Jack, and says that he will let him leave the Island in return for a favor he will ask in the near future, proving he has contact with the outside world by showing him a video tape of the Red Sox winning the World Series. Back at the boat, the Others sneak on board and steal it, but Sun shoots one of them, Colleen, in the stomach before she is able to escape.

Casual Observations

  • In Michael’s conversation with the Others, some very interesting questions are asked about Walt, including “has he ever appeared somewhere he was not supposed to be?” This further solidifies Walt’s “special” status, and explains why the Others are interested in him.
  • In “Three Minutes,” we get introduced to some new “Others”, including Pickett and Ms. Klugh.
  • Desmond has an interesting theory that the Island is in a “snow globe”. It’s also a pretty accurate statement, as we find out in seasons 4 and 5 that there is basically a sphere of electromagnetic energy surrounding the Island, and it prevents travel to and from the Island except on specific bearings.
  • The infamous four-toed statue makes its first appearance in “Live Together, Die Alone.” We get next to no information about this thing until well into season 5.
  • Kelvin, the man who trained Desmond in the ways of the Dharma Initiative, was the same man who taught Sayid how to torture.
  • Kelvin mentions Radzinsky to Desmond, saying he was the one who figured out how to fake a lockdown and started the blast door map. We actually meed Radzinsky in season 5, and it turns out he is kind of a jerk.
  • The opening scene of “A Tale of Two Cities” pretty much blew me away. The Others were always built up to be this primitive culture with ragged clothes and tents, and here we discover a suburb in the middle of the jungle with book club meetings. Not to mention seeing the plane crash from an outside perspective. Just awesome.
  • In “A Tale of Two Cities,” Tom tells Kate she is “not his type.” This one throw-away line was paid off much later in season 4 as we find out Tom is gay. It’s cool to me how even insignificant lines like this are thought through way in advance on this show.
  • While Jack is in the room alone, the intercom starts going off, and we clearly hear Christian Shephard’s voice say “let it go, Jack.” This is one of many cases of whispers mysteriously channelling the voices of the dead.
  • In “The Glass Ballerina,” Sawyer and Kate are forced to help the Others with some sort of construction project, clearing rocks out of an area. At the time, I was completely confused as to what they were doing. It isn’t until a long time from now that we get an answer. Juliet jokes with Sawyer, telling him they were building a runway… “for the aliens.” In season 5, this finally pays off as Ajira Flight 316 is brought down safely by Lapidus, conveniently landing on this area. Damon and Carlton later revealed that the runway’s construction was ordered by Jacob.

Inglourious Basterds

“Inglourious Basterds,” an action drama film directed by Quentin Tarantino, was first released to general audiences on Friday, August 21, 2009.

Plot Synopsis

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “The Basterds” are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish teenage girl who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers.

Initial Reaction

This movie rocked pretty hard. The trailer and marketing for the movie was pretty deceptive, selling it as a straight up action movie, but I was pleased to find that this was not the case. It had the classic “Tarantino” trademarks – long scenes of uninterrupted dialogue, the expert use of slowly building tension, a classic soundtrack, and tons of pop culture references. I was wondering how Tarantino was going to squeeze some pop culture into this movie since it is set in the World War II era, and I thought it was brilliant how he made one of the main characters be the owner of a cinema, and the setting for the final showdown be a theater. This let him have the characters discuss merits of various directors and actors of the time, as Tarantino is wont to do. This is a really fun movie.

In-Depth Discussion

First off, I’ll address Tarantino’s fantastic attention to detail and drama in this movie. Each scene was put together perfectly to maximize the “build up” of tension. The scenes were allowed to breathe, and the uncomfortable pauses in between dialogue are allowed to sit with the audience. The small details of each scene also added insane amounts of depth to each character in the film, whether it be a close-up of a guy lighting a corn cob pipe, a guy manually filling a pen with ink, or a lady eating a delicious-looking Strudel. I think each frame of this movie was carefully chosen, and it really shows.

The acting in the film also deserves a lot of praise, specifically the performances of the two main actors, Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine and Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa. Brad Pitt was both comedic and frightening, brash and forceful. He was a perfect symbol of the American attitude during the war, and he delivers many quotable phrases over the course of the film. As for Christoph Waltz, his portrayal of Hans Landa was literally the best thing about the entire movie, in my opinion. He plays Landa as polite but brutal, respectful but merciless. He is the perfect villain – cold, calculating, and logical. I had a great time watching him perform his duties as a master detective for the S.S..

All in all, I’d say this is one of Tarantino’s best movies. I think I still like Kill Bill (treating parts one and two as a collective whole) more, because it has a sort of epic feel to it. It’s a tough call, to be honest. I definitely recommend seeing this movie if you’re a Tarantino fan.

Casual Observations

  • The Strudel scene really stuck with me, without going into spoilers. Notice that they are in a French town, in a French restaurant. The Nazi officer orders Strudel, a German dish, says it is “not so terrible” here, and orders a piece for the French character without asking if she actually wants any. It’s a very subtle thing, but it really symbolizes the invasion of German culture in addition to a literal German invasion of soldiers, as the German dish is basically being forced upon the French character.
  • This movie really made me want some aged whiskey or Scotch. The “moment of truth” for the British soldier was endlessly entertaining.
  • Brad Pitt’s character was such a larger-than-life one that the other Basterds are really just background decoration. This didn’t hurt the movie in any way, but I suspect that people who went into the movie expecting a “summer blockbuster” action movie probably left a little disappointed. I was actually happy that it was a “classic Tarantino” movie rather than the movie the trailers were trying to sell.

Lost – Episodes 2×19 – 2×21

Episodes nineteen through twenty-one of season 2 of ABC’s hit television show Lost first aired from April 12, 2006 until May 10, 2006.

Plot Synopsis

After surviving on a mysterious Island for over a month after a plane crash, the search for rescue has taken a back seat. When the survivors discover an underground bunker built by an organization named The Dharma Initiative, the era of exploration and discovery begins. As it becomes increasingly clearer that there are other inhabitants on the Island, thoughts turn to defense rather than only survival.

Initial Reaction

Week 12 of my Lost Rewatch finds me reviewing the episodes “S.O.S”, “Two for the Road”, and “?”. This was a pretty good block, as it chronicles Locke’s gradual loss of faith, Micheal’s return and subsequent murder-death-kill rampage, and sort of sets the stage for the events in the finale. “S.O.S.” really felt like a callback episode of season 1, back when we didn’t know anything about the characters. It was a bit of filler, honestly, but it was a GOOD bit of filler.

In-Depth Discussion

In “S.O.S,” we get a flashback of Rose and Bernard for the first time, and see how they met and eventually came to be married. Rose had cancer, and Bernard tried to help her by taking her to see a psychic, and she reluctantly went to no avail. As another interesting revelation, we find out that Locke wasn’t the only one who was healed by the Island, as Rose’s cancer has disappeared since the crash. On the Island, Bernard decides to start building a giant “S.O.S” sign in the sand with rocks in hopes that a passing aircraft will see it, but Rose is surprisingly opposed to the idea. She eventually explains to him that she believes the Island healed her, and he should stop trying to “do something” and start enjoying their time together on the Island. Meanwhile, John is feeling more and more frustrated with his new station in life, pushing buttons and trying to recall the details of the blast door map, nursing his injured leg. He yells at “Henry”, asking him if he was telling the truth about not pressing the button. Locke is clearly beginning to lose his faith. During this time, Jack decides to try to make a trade, the newly discovered Other “Henry” for Walt. “Henry” scoffs that they’ll never give him Walt. Jack and Kate go out into the jungle to find the “line” they are not supposed to cross to talk to the Others. Although they get caught in a net that is presumably Russeau’s, they eventually find the place and wait for hours. Eventually, they are shocked as Michael stumbles out of the jungle to meet them.

In “Two for the Road,” we see a flashback of Ana Lucia. She loses her job as a cop after the body of the man she killed was found. She seemed to have a job as airport security until she met Christian Shephard, who hired her to come to Australia with him. On the Island, Ana was trying to feed “Henry” when he attacked her. She decides to go to Sawyer to get a gun, and eventually steals one from him. Meanwhile, Jack gives medical attention to Michael in the hatch and refuses to let “Henry” go. When Michael wakes up, he tells them that he found their home, and they should begin planning for an assault. On the beach, Hurley begins making preparations to take Libby out for a romantic picnic. Jack, Kate, and Locke go to Sawyer to get the guns back, leaving Ana Lucia alone in the hatch. She tries to kill “Henry”, but cannot pull the trigger. Michael says he will do it instead, and grabs the gun. In a shocking twist, he shoots and kills Ana Lucia and Libby as well, who was coming down to the hatch to get blankets for her picnic with Hurley. Then he unlocks the vault and sets “Henry” free, and injurs himself to make it look like an escape.

In “?”, we get an Eko flashback in which he is sent to investigate a possible occurrence of a miracle. A girl who was dead woke up a day or two later in the morgue. Later, this girl tells Eko that Yemi is proud of him, but he still owes him a church. On the Island, Eko receives another powerful prophetic dream, in which he is told to help John and make him take him to the Question Mark. He goes to the hatch in time to meet up with Jack and the others, and they discover the carnage Michael caused. Libby is still not dead, but eventually dies before she is able to tell Jack that it was Michael who killed her. Eko takes John out, pretending to track down “Henry,” but begins asking about the Question Mark, and eventually makes him take him there. They arrive at the crashed Nigerian drug plane, and discover a hatch underneath it, the Pearl. In this hatch, there are many monitors, and they find another orientation video which explains the Pearl’s purpose is to watch all the other hatches and keep extensive notes, as they are all just psychological experiments. This news completely breaks Locke’s already fragile faith, and he refuses to press the button anymore. Eko, however, says he now believes the button to be of vital importance, and takes Locke’s position on “button duty.” Before they leave, they print out logs from the computer.

Casual Observations

  • We get our first mentions of “Frogurt” in this episode. Neil “Frogurt” is a long-running inside joke amongst the fans and Damon and Carlton. Eventually, Frogurt actually shows up in the “mobisodes” and later in the show itself in season 5.
  • Rose and Bernard’s quarrel in “S.O.S.” was over Bernard’s tendency to always “do something” to fix their situation. He comes around to her way of thinking, and we see them finally settle down in season 5, content to let all the other survivors run around while they built a cabin.
  • It’s interesting to note that the psychic Rose went to see is named Isaac, while the leader of the Others is named Jacob. Now, whether or not there is a connection between the two characters is anyone’s guess, but their names would seem to suggest so, as Jacob and Isaac were brothers in the Bible.
  • Isaac first posits the notion of specific spots on the globe with “unique” energy, saying these “ley lines” could be used for healing and other purposes. The Island is clearly one of these spots, perhaps even a sort of “nexus” of all ley lines on Earth. That’s a personal favorite theory of mine.
  • Also of note from “S.O.S” is the type of rocks Bernard uses to make his signal. These rocks are the product of volcanic activity without a doubt. There have been several mentions and hints of a volcano being located on the Island. Will we see an eruption in season 6? That would be a truly epic source of dramatic tension. We shall see.
  • I love the title “Two for the Road,” because it could refer to the many alcoholic drinks consumed by Christian Shephard, but mainly because it refers to the two survivors that were killed in order to get “Henry” out of confinement.
  • The lady Christian Shephard goes to visit was Claire’s aunt. He clearly says “I want to see my daughter.” This is the first mention of her being related to Jack.
  • When Ana Lucia dropped Christian off at the bar, this location was the same place where Sawyer met him in an episode in season 1.
  • Mr. Eko is so cool. I love how he gets prophetic dreams and just follows them blindly.
  • The father of the girl who came back to life is none other than the psychic who warned Claire about Aaron’s importance.

District 9

“District 9,” a dramatic action sci-fi film directed by Neill Blomkamp, was first released to general audiences in the United States on Friday, August 14, 2009.

Plot Synopsis

A group of aliens is forced to live on Earth after their ship is damaged. They are forced to live in District 9, which quickly turns into a slum riddled with crime and poor living conditions.

Initial Reaction

I freaking loved this movie. It’s easily in the top 5 of movies I’ve seen this year, hands down. In my review, I’m going to try very hard not to reveal anything about the plot, because I honestly feel the best way to go into the theater for this one is to know nothing about the story. Be surprised for once, it’s totally worth it. Go see this movie now.

In-Depth Discussion

First, I should mention that this movie was made on a pittance compared to normal Hollywood standards, a mere $30 Million. That may sound like a lot, but compare it to a movie like Transformers 2 (which had a roughly equivalent amount of computer animation, maybe a little more) which had a budget of $200 Million, and you’ll see how impressive it was to make this film for so little. To accomplish this, they shot the movie in Johannesburg, South Africa and used a large percentage of relatively unknown actors. Most of the budget unquestionably went to computer animation. Even though the budget was so low, the film doesn’t suffer for it at all. In fact, I think it helped the movie, because they didn’t have a studio breathing down their necks telling them to water the film down to appeal to wider audiences in order to make back a budget as high as $200 Million. They were able to go for a full “R” rating, and not shy away from uncomfortable scenes of violence and things like that.

The film is unquestionably a social commentary on modern society. District 9 is very similar to many slums in cities around the world, it just has aliens living in it. This serves as the setting for a very astute and scathing view of racism and poverty in the world.  These themes run throughout the film, but I would not say they are shoved in your face in the way a lesser movie would do. These elements are handled expertly, in my opinion.

I absolutely loved the main character, Wikus Van De Merwe, played by Sharlto Copley. He very much reminded me of a Steve Irwin type of a guy. He was utterly excited and fascinated by this alien species that had become stranded on Earth, and wouldn’t shy away from danger in order to study them. As a counterpoint, he shared most people’s view that the aliens were a sort of animal species, and this shaped his actions toward the cruel or unfair. I loved watching his gradual change of opinion over the course of his journey in the film.

And that’s it. I will not go further into the plot details, because I refuse to ruin this movie for anyone. Go see this movie right away if you haven’t yet. It’s a great achievement for the director, Neill Blomkamp. I look forward to seeing what this guy does over the next few years.

Casual Observations

  • The “documentary” style of the first section of the film really added to the realism of the world. It makes this movie seem like it could actually happen in real life. Of course, the film gradually moves away from this into a more narrative structure, but it returns to interviews from time to time to illustrate a point or provide a bit of insight. It is noticeable when this begins to occur, but you quickly settle into the new “grove” of things and abandon the documentary style you’ve gotten used to.
  • The alien technology was really cool, but not “cartoony” and over the top. The practicality of the alien tech also lent a great deal of realism and credibility to the story.

Wikus Van De Merwe

500 Days of Summer

“500 Days of Summer,” an independent romantic comedy directed by Marc Webb, was first screened at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 2009.

Plot Synopsis

To borrow from the trailer, this is a story of “boy meets girl,” but you should know up front, this is not a love story. Tom Hansen grew up thinking he would never find true love until he met Summer Finn, the girl of his dreams. She was not as optimistic, and only lived for the moment.

Initial Reaction

This movie is extremely charming, and is one of the most honest portrayals of how it feels to deal with a broken relationship I’ve seen in a movie. I liked how it strayed from the conventional “romantic comedy” genre, and stuck to following the main characters long after the relationship has gone sour. It’s ultimately a story of dealing with loss and learning to move on in life after bad things happen to you.

In-Depth Discussion

First off, the non-chronological storytelling in this movie is phenomenal. The editing was really tight and clever, and allowed for some stark and hilarious contrasts between different “eras” in the relationship. I was pleased at how they used the “500 Days” counter to easily inform the audience about the time frame.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a great performance as Tom. I loved him in Rian Johnson’s film “Brick,” and was looking forward to seeing him in action again. He plays the perfect hopeful romantic, and later turns it around into a great portrayal of a dejected cynic. Zooey Deschanel gives an equally notable performance as Summer. Even though some of her actions are emotionally devastating to our main character, you can’t help but feel empathy for her as well. It’s a real testament to her performance that you don’t end up blaming her for all of the problems in the world. This movie is a great character study.

Finally, there is a general “fun” quality I love about the movie. There are several genuinely hilarious departures from the main narrative in the form of imagined or perceived cut scenes.  There is one very inventive scene with a split-screen view, but I don’t want to give it away (just know that it is very clever). All in all, it’s a great movie, and I would recommend seeing it if it is still in a theater near you.

Casual Observations

  • I already was in love with this movie, but one scene near the middle of the film really sealed the deal for me. I don’t want to give it away, but lets just say it employs music to great effect.
  • Speaking of music, the soundtrack in the film was outstanding. Yes, it did veer slightly toward the “indie movie” habit of over-emphasizing the music, having characters specifically mention a band name during their interactions, but I can forgive it this small infraction.
  • One character, the little sister, could have had a smaller presence in the movie in my opinion, and it would have been an improvement. This is another “indie movie” habit, giving larger-than-life clever dialogue to small children who are wise beyond their years. Again, it’s a forgivable offense in this movie, as it wasn’t heavy-handed or overused in my opinion.

Lost – Episodes 2×15 – 2×18

Episodes fifteen through eighteen of season 2 of ABC’s hit television show Lost first aired from March 1, 2006 until April 5, 2006.

Plot Synopsis

After surviving on a mysterious Island for over a month after a plane crash, the search for rescue has taken a back seat. When the survivors discover an underground bunker built by an organization named The Dharma Initiative, the era of exploration and discovery begins. As it becomes increasingly clearer that there are other inhabitants on the Island, thoughts turn to defense rather than only survival.

Initial Reaction

Week 11 of my Lost Rewatch finds me reviewing the episodes “Maternity Leave,” “The Whole Truth,” “Lockdown,” and “Dave.” This was a pretty great block of episodes. We finally get to learn what happened to Claire back in season 1 when she disappeared between the episodes “Raised By Another” and “Special.” We learn more about the mysterious “Henry Gale” and get some very intriguing dramatic scenes in the hatch. We see the infamous “blast door map” in the Swan, which has been intensely studied by fans on the internet for the last few years. To cap it off, we get a nice Hurley episode in which they tease us to think everything might in fact be going on in Hurley’s mind. Pretty great way to play with the audience.

In-Depth Discussion

In “Maternity Leave,” Aaron is starting to feel ill, and Claire gets a visit from Russeau, who warns that the baby may be infected with a sickness. Claire approaches Libby, who claimed to be a clinical psychologist, to help her remember what happened to her and the baby.  Here, we get a series of flashbacks as Claire slowly remembers her time on the Island after she was kidnapped. We see Ethan performing various blood tests on her and the child as Claire is kept sedated with some sort of hallucinogenic drug. The tests were performed in a yet-undiscovered Dharma bunker with medical equipment. One day, a teenage girl we now know as Alex Russeau helped Claire escape, saying they were going to “cut the baby out of her,” and Danielle found her in the jungle and brought her the rest of the way back to her camp.  In the present, Claire and Kate decide to search for this Dharma hatch. Along the way, they find Russeau, who accompanies them. They find the “Staff” hatch, but it is empty except for a few costume props, including a fake beard (presumably used by Tom during his theatrics to scare the survivors). Meanwhile, Jack and Locke continue to try to keep their prisoner a secret. Mr. Eko figures it out, and asks Jack if he can speak privately with him. When he does, he apologizes for slaying the two Others in self defense on the first night after the crash, and cuts off the two strands of his beard he has been growing as a reminder of them. After all of this, “Henry” pushes Locke, asking why Jack is calling all of the shots. Locke is clearly affected by the words, and throws things across the room.

In “The Whole Truth,” we get a Jin and Sun flashback in which we see they are having trouble conceiving a child. They go to a fertility specialist and Sun finds out that Jin is sterile, but decides to keep it a secret from him. At the same time, Sun is taking English lessons from Jae Lee, the man she was put together with during the matchmaking in an earlier episode. It is unclear, but it appears she was having an affair with him as well, while planning to leave Jin and go to America. On the Island, Jin is feeling protective again after Sun’s recent attack in the garden, causing them to get in another fight. Later, Sun is feeling sick, and decides to go to Sawyer to ask for a pregnancy test. It turns out to be positive, but she knows Jin is sterile. Eventually she confides everything in him, and he accepts it as a miracle, apologizing to her for the recent fight. Meanwhile, Locke asks Ana Lucia to interrogate “Henry,” using her experience with the Others and as a cop to help her. In their conversation, “Henry” tells her the story about the balloon crash, and draws her a map to the site and his wife’s grave. She takes Sayid and Charlie with her. Back at the hatch, Jack and Locke find out that Ana, Sayid, and Charlie are gone. In a brilliant conversation with “Henry,” he ponders what he would do if he WERE one of “them.” He speculates that he would draw a map to an ambush, and use them as hostages to bargain for his own release. He finishes with, “It’s a good thing I’m not one of them.”

In “Lockdown,” we get a Locke flashback, and see his father fake his own death to get away from some people he cheated. Locke helps him recover the money, and in doing so he loses his relationship with Helen. On the Island, Jack plays against Sawyer in poker for all of the medical supplies and wins. In the hatch, “Henry” continues to play mind games with Locke, and a mysterious alarm condition causes all the blast doors to slam shut. Locke is able to get a large bar under one of the doors before it shuts completely, and enlists “Henry’s” help to attempt to get it open before the button needs to be pressed. Eventually, his leg is caught under the door, so he asks “Henry” to crawl through the ducts to press the button. While he is gone, a black light reveals a hidden map of the Dharma stations on the Island. Near the hatch, Jack and Kate find a “food drop” that had parachuted in while the blast doors were locked down. Meanwhile, Sayid, Ana Lucia, and Charlie find the balloon, but come back with the surprising news that they dug up the grave, and found the real Henry Gale buried with a picture ID. The prisoner is indeed an “Other.”

In “Dave,” we see a flashback of Hurley at the mental hospital. We find out he has an imaginary friend named Dave who tells him to eat unhealthy food. Finally, we discover that Libby was in the same hospital as Hurley for an unknown reason. On the Island, Libby and Hurley are out exercising, and he decides to show her his secret food stash. They destroy it together, but soon find out about the Dharma food drop that came from the sky. Hurley begins to panic, and starts seeing his “friend” Dave walking around. Hurley starts losing it, and begins doubting his sanity and the reality of his situation. Dave tells him the entire ordeal he has been through is all in his head, and he must kill himself to escape it all. Libby consoles him and talks him out of it, assuring him that everything will be OK. Meanwhile in the hatch, they all confront “Henry” and demand information. He says he can’t say anything because of what “he” would do (we later discover he means Jacob). He tells Locke that he didn’t press the button, he just saw some hieroglyphs and a lot of noise happened, but nothing else, and that the Swan station was a “joke.” Again, he knows the exact words to say to push John’s buttons.

Casual Observations

  • “Maternity Leave” is an interesting episode in that it is the first episode of Lost to have flashbacks that take place entirely on the Island. “The Other 48 Days” also took place entirely on the Island, but those events were seen first hand, and aren’t considered a true “character-centric flashback” in the sense that “Maternity Leave” is.
  • The mobile in the crib in Claire’s flashback was playing “Catch a Falling Star,” a song that is strongly tied with the Shephard family. Christian told Claire he used to sing it to her as a child, and Jack said he remembered a similar memory.
  • Tom mentioned a “list” to Ethan in Claire’s flashback, and also mentioned a mysterious “him,” which could refer to either Ben or Jacob.
  • I’m still confused by all of the implications of “Maternity Leave.” If we assume the “sickness” is the time sickness that caused some of our Losties to get nosebleeds, this all would make more sense. Russeau seems to think the “sickness” is synonymous with the “doppelganger” effects of the smoke monster. It’s all very confusing, especially since Claire has now completely vanished from the earth. Hopefully this whole mess will be clear by the end of Season 6.
  • The pregnancy test Sun uses in “The Whole Truth” is made by a company called “Widmore Labs.” It seems Charles Widmore made his fortune by dabbling in a bit of everything, from construction to scientific research to other ventures, including the crashed balloon they find in the jungle, which clearly has the “Widmore Labs” logo on its side.
  • I love the little “fake-out” Charlie does when giving the gun to Sayid. For one second, he made it appear he was giving it to Ana Lucia.
  • “The Whole Truth” still wins in my opinion for the best closing line for an episode. The simple phrase, “You guys got any milk?” has never sounded so ominous and scary. I love Ben Linus so much.
  • The woman Locke is doing home repairs for in his flashback is Nadia, Sayid’s tragic love interest.
  • Kate had a nice comment when Jack and Sawyer were messing with each other during the poker game. She said, “Should I go get a ruler?” Pretty funny.
  • Once again, Locke sustains a leg injury in “Lockdown.” If I were him, I’d start wearing protective gear.
  • The Dharma food drop is pretty mysterious. It seems the blast doors lock down when a food drop is scheduled to arrive, but the thing is the Dharma Initiative no longer exists, so where is the food coming from? I suspect it has something to do with time travel. Like, they found a way to infinitely duplicate this food and drop from the sky on a schedule.
  • We see Eko continue to build his church in “Dave,” and he enlists Charlie’s help.
  • The “Libby in the mental institution” thing was a set up for a later episode that would never come. Unfortunately, she didn’t want to be on the show anymore, so they killed her character. Later, Damon and Carlton came out and said she was in the hospital for awhile after her husband died, and she got out before the scene in which she gives the boat to Desmond in the season 2 finale.
  • Hurley’s epic battle with Sawyer was one of the funniest things ever.
  • I always wondered if Hurley seeing “Dave” has any connection with his ability to see dead people like Charlie later in the series. My instinct is “yes.” I think Dave was one of the people who died in Hurley’s accident (the deck collapse).

Pineapple Express

“Pineapple Express,” an action comedy directed by David Gordon Green, was first released to general audiences on August 6, 2008.

Plot Synopsis

A stoner and his dealer are forced to go on the run from the police after the pothead witnesses a cop commit a murder.

Initial Reaction

I loved this movie. It started a little slow, to be honest, and it felt like it was going to be another stoner comedy. When the action elements kicked into gear, however, I was completely sold. I would describe this film as one of those awesome over-the-top action movies from the 80’s, but the main characters have been replaced with complete screw-up potheads. Seeing these guys ineptly stumble their way through serious danger was quite a ride. It’s a very fun movie, to be sure.

In-Depth Discussion

We start the movie as most drug comedies do, seeing our main character Dale (Seth Rogen) going about his daily routine, smoking weed while on the job. He pays a visit to his drug dealer, Saul (James Franco), and buys a bag of “the good stuff,” Pineapple Express. Things go bad in a hurry later that night when he accidentally becomes a witness to the murder of a man by a police woman and Saul’s supplier of drugs.

The rest of the movie plays out like an 80’s actioner, but Dale and Saul are unwilling participants. Two thugs (one of which is played by Craig Robinson) spend all of their time tracking down the two screw-ups. A third party, “Red” (Danny McBride), gets pulled into things as well. Dale and Saul must deal with the thugs, the police, and a rival Asian drug cartel, all while trying to maintain their high.

There are some pretty awesome action pieces in the film, including a hilarious car chase and an epic showdown at the end. What surprised me was the utter brutality of the violence in the film. It provides a stark contrast to the two light-hearted main characters, and gives a real sense of the danger they are in.

This movie is a fun ride, and it’s now on Netflix Watch Instantly. You have no excuse, go see it.

Casual Observations

  • I love Craig Robinson so much. He has a sort of dry delivery that I’ve always found hilarious.
  • James Franco was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in this movie, and I believe he deserved to win it. He was a perfect stoned drug dealer, and had most of the truly hilarious moments in the movie.
  • The scene in the coffee shop at the end of the film was a perfect capper to all of the insane events that came before. Just three normal guys talking about all the crazy stuff they lived through.

Visioneers

“Visioneers,” an independent dramatic comedy film directed by Jared Drake, first premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival on June 12, 2008.

Plot Synopsis

Visioneer George Washington Winsterhammerman lives a comfortable but monotonous life in this slightly futuristic black comedy. But when people start exploding from stress and George is showing early symptoms, he’s forced to examine his life.

Initial Reaction

I’ll start by saying that this movie isn’t for everyone. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it going in, to be honest. It draws heavily from the “1984” concept of a homogeneous future society, in this case run by a corporation. Emotions and independent thought are considered to be bad things, and dreams are seen as a symptom of mental illness. The movie draws a lot from this somber tone, but also mixes in some elements of Zach Galifianakis’s bizarre humor along the way. I won’t say it’s always successful, but it is interesting to say the least. I’d recommend watching this movie if you are a fan of Zach Galifianakis, but don’t go in expecting a full-on comedy movie. It’s a drama first and foremost.

In-Depth Discussion

A bleak, monotonous view of society is presented in the film. A single company, the Jeffers Corporation, controls most aspects of society. The main character, George Washington Winsterhammerman (Zach Galifianakis), goes about his daily routine with a palpable feeling of misery and boredom. His wife (Judy Greer) stays at home all day and watches this world’s equivalent to Oprah all day, mindlessly buying any books or performing any tasks suggested of her. These elements add up to make an interesting setting for the film, a setting much like the one in 1984 or Equilibrium.

It seems modern society comes with one increasingly common problem – people are spontaneously exploding. Of course, independent thought and emotions are blamed for the epidemic. When George begins dreaming that he is his ancestor, George Washington, he begins to fear he will be the next to explode. Matters are made worse when Charisma (Mia Maestro), the only ray of sunshine in his bleak existence at work, is suddenly fired. The film centers around George’s quest to master these feelings that are beginning to surface. I really enjoyed this plot.

The thing that really sets this movie apart from others in this genre are the small elements of twisted humor that I can’t help but feel are there because Zach Galifianakis is in it. For starters, the last name of the main character, Winsterhammerman, is great and ridiculous, right up Zach’s alley. The Jeffers Corporation greeting is giving the middle finger to people. The biggest tell-tale Zach entry into the film is the pronunciation of the word “chaos,” pronounced in the film exactly as it is spelled (pronouncing the “ch” as you would in “chair”). These small bits of humor are interjected into this otherwise bleak world, but it is sometimes distracting. It seems to detract from the otherwise somber mood of the film. Don’t get me wrong, I love Zach and his humor, but I’m not sure everything quite works in this movie.

Ultimately, it’s a decent movie, and I’d recommend watching it. I’m not sure I’ll ever revisit this film, but it was an interesting watch, I’ll give it that.

Casual Observations

  • Zach Galifianakis dressed up as George Washington in the dream sequences was pretty hilarious.
  • I adore Judy Greer in anything she’s in. Her role as Kitty Sanchez in Arrested Development pretty much sold me on her from day one.

Lost – Episodes 2×11 – 2×14

Episodes eleven through fourteen of season 2 of ABC’s hit television show Lost first aired from January 18, 2006 until February 15, 2006.

Plot Synopsis

After surviving on a mysterious Island for over a month after a plane crash, the search for rescue has taken a back seat. When the survivors discover an underground bunker built by an organization named The Dharma Initiative, the era of exploration and discovery begins. As it becomes increasingly clearer that there are other inhabitants on the Island, thoughts turn to defense rather than only survival.

Initial Reaction

Week 10 of my Lost Rewatch finds me reviewing the episodes “The Hunting Party,” “Fire + Water,” “The Long Con,” and “One of Them.” The first and last episodes of this block are phenomenal, but I really felt “Fire + Water” and “The Long Con” represent a kind of misstep for the Charlie and Sawyer characters. They sort of relapse back into their previous ways, even after all of the character growth they have undergone. Not to say this is a bad thing, but it’s just a little disappointing. Ultimately they do redeem themselves, but this is a dark time for both characters. “One of Them” introduces one of the show’s best characters, a man named Benjamin Linus. And so the fun begins.

In-Depth Discussion

In “The Hunting Party,” we get a Jack flashback in which he is asked to perform surgery on a man’s spine by his attractive daughter. Jack has gained a reputation as a “miracle” worker after Sarah’s amazing recovery. After getting involved in the case, he kisses the daughter. After confessing to Sarah, she reveals that she has been having an affair and they should be divorced, telling him, “You will always need something to fix.” On the Island, Michael locks Jack and Locke in the vault of the hatch, and runs off to save Walt. Needing his bandages changed, Sawyer goes with Kate to the hatch just in time to push the button and let them out. Sawyer, Locke, and Jack grab weapons and go after Michael, leaving Kate behind to tend to the button. By nightfall, they reach a spot in the jungle and are greeted by “Mr. Friendly,” aka “Zeke.” He tells them the Island is theirs, and Walt is a “special” boy. He uses Kate as a bargaining chip (because she snuck out to follow them all), and tells them to never cross the “line” to look for Michael, or it will mean war. Later, Jack approaches Ana Lucia and asks what it will take to train an army.

In “Fire + Water,” we get a Charlie flashback in which we witness the decline of Drive Shaft. Liam is in full-on druggie mode, misses the birth of his daughter, and collapses during a commercial shoot. Later, he sells Charlie’s piano without permission. On the Island, Hurley begins talking to Libby and strikes up a friendship with her. Charlie begins having vivid dreams that tell him Aaron is in danger. With his relationship recently on the rocks, he tries unsuccessfully to patch things up with Claire. As his dreams become more defined and surreal, he is convinced he must somehow save Aaron from danger by baptizing him. When he wakes up holding the baby in the middle of the night, everyone suspects that he has started using drugs again. Locke discovers Charlie’s stash of heroin statues and takes them away, storing them in the hatch vault. Later, Charlie starts a fire as a distraction and takes the baby to baptize it. At this point, everyone fully doubts Charlie’s sanity and shuns him, but Claire is convinced that he means well in spite of it all. She goes to Eko, and he performs the baptism for her.

In “The Long Con,” we get a Sawyer flashback. We meet Cassidy, the newest victim of the same con we saw Sawyer pull before in “Confidence Man.” She sees right through the con, however, and asks him to teach her everything he knows. After a long time getting to know her and teaching her, he eventually takes her for all her money and leaves her. On the Island, Locke and Jack decide to consolidate all valuables in the vault and keep the combination between the two of them, including guns and the medicine. Jack takes all the medicine from Sawyer’s stash, which angers him greatly. Meanwhile, Ana Lucia and Jack are still planning to start training people to fight. While in her garden, Sun is attacked, alarming everyone and fuelling the fire for Jack’s plans for war. Sawyer convinces Kate that the attack was staged to provide motivation for Jack’s army plans, and blames Ana Lucia. Locke, fearing escalation, listens to Sawyer and decides to hide the guns in the jungle. Later, Sawyer reveals that he has the entire stash of guns, claiming that “there’s a new sheriff in town.” We later see Sawyer and Charlie in the jungle, and it is revealed that Charlie helped Sawyer get the guns by following Locke to the hiding place. Charlie wanted to get back at Locke for embarrassing and punching him in “Fire + Water,” and was also responsible for the attack on Sun. When Charlie asks how anyone could think of a plan like that, Sawyer replies, “I’m not a good person, Charlie. Never did a good thing in my life.”

In “One of Them,” we get a Sayid flashback in which he is captured by American forces and used as a torturer to gain information. On the Island, Ana Lucia gets Sayid and tells him she has seen “one of them” in the jungle, but it turns out to be Russeau, who claims to have something important to show him. She reveals that she has captured one of the Others in a trap, and it is none other than Benjamin Linus, who currently claims to be a man named Henry Gale from Minnesota. He attempts to escape, but Russeau shoots him with an arrow. Sayid carries him back to the Swan, where they put him in the vault. He says he and his wife crashed on the Island while trying to cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon. Jack takes the arrow out of his shoulder, and Sayid convinces Locke to change the combination in order to “get the truth out of him.” Sayid proceeds to torture “Henry,” to the protests of Jack. When the alarm sounds for the button, Jack stops Locke from pressing it before he opens the vault door. Locke barely gets to the button in time, causing hieroglyphics to appear in place of the countdown timer. Sayid is convinced that “Henry” is “one of them,” but Jack is not convinced.

Casual Observations

  • By the time The Hunting Party rolls around, it’s clear that everyone has fully bought into the notion of “pushing the button.” I thoroughly enjoy the analogy created in season 2 of faith in regards to pushing this button, and Locke’s season-long test of faith.
  • The scene of the first open confrontation between Jack, Locke, and Sawyer and the Others in the jungle is one of the most iconic images from the entire series. It is in this first conversation that we get a hint of some over-arching leader of the Others, when Tom mentions “somebody a whole lot smarter than anybody here.” Also, he says, “Bring her out, Alex.” We later find out he was speaking to Russeau’s daughter, who has been raised as an Other her whole life.
  • Locke mentions to Sawyer that he knows his real name, James Ford. From this point forward in the series, Locke never calls him “Sawyer” again. He always calls him “James.”
  • The “army” Jack proposes to start with Ana Lucia never really took form. None of the survivors were really interested in getting involved in physical confrontation.
  • And so the legend of Geronimo Jackson begins when Hurley and Charlie find their record in the hatch. There are numerous mentions of the fabled band throughout the show.
  • The commercial director says the band he really wanted for the shoot was “Dirt Spigot.” Fantastic name.
  • Eko is making preparations to build his church in “Fire + Water” by marking trees. We find out later he is doing this to make amends to his brother Yemi, but the church is never completed before Eko loses his life.
  • In “Fire + Water,” we get our very first reference to Widmore. In the background of one of the flashback scenes, there is a sign for Widmore Construction.
  • Another “Scott / Steve” joke happens in “The Long Con” in a conversation between Ana Lucia and Jack.
  • Cassidy is a big part of the show’s mythology. During the time of the flashback in “The Long Con,” she becomes pregnant with Sawyer’s child. At some point after this, she meets up with Kate and teaches her how to become a better thief, and also helps her see her mother. Even later, after they leave the Island, Kate strikes up a friendship with her again and brings Aaron over to play with Sawyer’s child Clementine.
  • Hurley tries to cheer Sayid up in “The Long Con” by giving him the radio found by the “tailies.” Sayid fixes it, and they hear a radio station with a song named “Moonlight Serenade” playing, which was recorded in the late 30’s. Sayid says the signal could bounce off the Earth’s atmosphere, and could be coming from anywhere. Hurley jokes, “or any time.” The funny thing is, this could very well be true, as we saw radio transmissions travel through time in season 4 with Daniel Faraday and the freighter people.
  • In “One of Them,” Sayid runs into two important figures in Lost mythology – Kate’s father Sam Austen and Kelvin Inman, the man who taught Desmond everything about the Swan hatch.
  • In “One of Them,” we find out Hurley has a secret stash of Dharma food he has kept since the big party in “Everybody Hates Hugo.”
  • A big question I’ve always had is this – did Ben accidentally get caught in Russeau’s net, or did he intentionally do it in order to infiltrate the survivors’ camp? I would believe either explanation.
  • Fun Fact – “Henry Gale” is the father of Dorothy Gale, the main character in The Wizard of Oz. Lost has many similarities to this work of fiction, as it does with others such as Through the Looking Glass.
  • The hieroglyphics on the countdown timer are the first hint at the ancient past of the Island. It is the Dharma Initiative’s way of paying homage to those who came before them. Later, the hieroglyphics were confirmed to spell “Underworld.”
  • Sayid and Ben’s dark history begins in “One of Them” when Sayid tortures him for information. Much later, Ben will use Sayid to kill for him. Even later than this (from Sayid’s perspective), Sayid will travel back in time to a point when Ben is a child, and attempt to prevent all of this pain by killing him. In effect, Sayid will cause Ben to become the person he is, or at least play a part in his descent.