Penn State Professor Reviews American Sniper Without Watching It

The New Republic published an article yesterday that is a movie review of the new Bradly Cooper film American Sniper that dramatizes the actions of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. The writer, Dennis Jett, is a career diplomat and university professor. What makes this review so interesting is that Jett didn’t bother to see the movie and mentions that in the review.

Now, to be fair, he has read Chris Kyle’s autobiography, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, or at least he mentions it like he read it and doesn’t let us know if he didn’t read that either. Most movie reviewers likely haven’t read the book, but seriously, would it have been worth 2 hours of Jett’s live to watch the movie before critiquing it?

Jett makes an interesting analysis, that would be worthy of discussion if he had only bothered to see the movie he was writing about.

World War Z Review

World War ZJust got back from the midnight show of World War Z and as an avid fan of the Zombie genre, I have to say I was disappointed.

The comments I heard as leaving the theater were that it wasn’t a ‘scary’ movie, it was an action movie, and that was exactly the case.

The opening sequence had a few thrill moments, but beyond that it didn’t have the punch of something like The Horde or the outright creepiness we’ve all come to expect from The Walking Dead.

Beyond that, the story was good. Honestly not a bad adaptation of a novel that was nearly impossible to adapt. What really got me, and this is the spoiler alert, was all of the inconsistencies and plot holes.

The Satellite Phone – The UN Undersecretary gives Gerry a Sat phone and gives his wife one and sends him off to the other side of the globe (Korea in fact) in a C-130 (that would probably have to refuel every 2,000 miles) with their top doctor to find the cure for the plague. They don’t bother to send a charger and this sat phone only has a battery that is good for about 15 minutes of talk time. The only person that has another sat phone is his wife, not the UN guy, not any of the soldiers, not any of the medical personnel, Gerry’s wife has the sat phone and they talk on it twice before the battery goes dead. You would think the last hope of humankind would be expected to give regular reports to someone besides his wife…

Removing a Hand – Next we move on to a great scene where Gerry, our hero, is able to remove a hand with a swipe of a best pocket knife . Really? That’s not a lightsaber you are handling there. All I could think of was Jack Bauer using a Fire Axe to remove a hand in the finale of 24 Season 3 and how much harder Jack had to work on it and how much tougher Gerry is than Jack.

Explosive Decompression – From there we move to a great airplane scene where explosive compression blows zombies out of an airplane at mountaintop level in Scotland. The highest mountaintop in Scotland is 4,000 feet. Even if we hadn’t seen the Mythbusters Episode on Explosive Decompression, I’m sure it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there’s now way it’s going to occur at 4,000 feet. That’s just silly.

My message of the day to all the World...Lost in the Secret Laboratory – Finally there is the climax of the film. Our World War Z hero, Gerry, is left alone in B wing of the WHO facility in Cardiff Scotland to retrieve items from a secret laboratory. He gets to the secret vault and there is a keypad. Apparently the people that sent him to the vault didn’t bother to give him the combination to the room. Fortunately one of the scientist was able to call him on the phone before he had to make a bunch of noise by breaking the window. What does our hero do then? In true World War Z fashion he is not able to punch the code in and open the door one handed, so he puts down his only weapon, a crowbar (which all Left 4 Dead players know is the worst Zombie weapon there is) and then leaves the crowbar on the OUTSIDE of the vault. Now, of course, he is trapped in the vault with no weapon by a super scary zombie with comically chattering teeth. Whatever is he to do. Of course! He must take the secret serum obtained in the vault in lab 139, but which one. He knows the scientists are watching by CCTV, knows there’s a phone nearby they can use to signal him, so what does he do? He rights a note “Tell My Family I Love Them!” (Which of course he’s already told them before he left and when calling on the Sat phone and they are in Nova Scotia nowhere near the scientists in Cardiff).

There is no problem with artistic license or bending the rules of physics here and there to make a story more fun. It’s the inconsistencies that make the main characters seem dumb or ignorant that are difficult to watch. Gerry was a UN investigator that had been in Liberia, Chechnya and a variety of other frightening places in the world, yet he’s not bright enough to keep his weapon when facing zombies? He can’t keep his sat phone charged? He doesn’t think to turn the ringer off when passing through a field of zombies silently? Maybe I’m spoiled by characters like Rick Grimes who’s failing isn’t that he does dumb things, it’s that he has trouble making and living with hard decisions. At the end of the day World War Z is a forgettable action movie with three or four cool zombie sequences in it. Dialog is fair, story is OK if you take out the dumbness, there’s no plot twist and no one you really care about gets eaten. Zombie fans watch it if you must, but wait for the Blu Ray, everyone else, enjoy it with some popcorn.

New Bond Movie – Skyfall

Daniel Craig makes a great Bond, even if his hair is the wrong color. Looking forward to more Bond movies from him.

Oh, and very few spoilers in this trailer. The only thing I took from it was that part of the movie is set in Asia.

All time list of best horror movies

My friend Alex Fairbanks just posted his link of 86 top movies for Horror fans

I’m not sure I agree completely, really, Zombieland only makes number 86, but looks like he has some great pics in there. A few of my favorites made the list, Frailty (2002), Dawn of the Dead (2004) and The Ring (2002). A few I didn’t care for, Event Horizon (1997) and Sunshine (2007). Some he missed, including the new remake of Fright Night (just watched that and thought it was fantastic).

Best of all, there’s a few I haven’t seen, including his number one pick 1408.

I encourage you to check out the list and see what you think.

Nike auctions Back to the Future shoes for Parkinsons

Nike has created 1,500 pairs of Back to the Future II replica shoes to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

The shoes are replicas of the futuristic, self lacing pair worn by Fox in the 1989 movie Back to the Future II.

The 1,500 pairs will be auctioned off on ebay, 150 pairs a day until Sept 18, 2011. Nike will be matching the proceeds raised and all money will go toward Parkinson’s research.

Nike Mag

The first pair of Nike Mags sold for $37,500 to 22-year-old British rapper Tinie Tempah. The shoes are all expected to have a significant price tag with current bids running about $5,000. These pairs don’t autolace, but they do light up with a built in rechargeable battery.

Even if you can’t afford $5,000 you should go make a donation and help find a cure for Parkinson’s.

3:10 to Yuma

Friday night we watched 3:10 to Yuma, the 2007 version.

I’m not going to write a complete review, if you are interested in that, Movie Habit has a great review. I’m just going to give this movie a hearty endorsement. Russell Crowe was outstanding, Christian Bale was stellar, the scenery was beautiful and the story was engaging. It’s got to be the best movie I’ve seen this year.

One detail that I thought was just amazing was the sound. So often gunfire in movies has a weak Hollywood sound. Anyone who’s ever actually fired a gun knows what I mean. Rifles have a very distinctive crack, and a pistol is typically so loud it makes your ears ring without ear plugs. In 3:20 to Yuma there is a great scene where there is an ambush. Not only does the rifle fire have a good sound, you can here the echos reverberate off the canyon walls just like they would in a real environment. I was very impressed.

I few plot flaws I would like to discuss, and there are some potential spoilers here, so you were warned.

A decoy is sent out in a ‘prison’ stagecoach to ward off the gang in an attempt to get to the local army post and get help. When the gang catches up to the stage there are three problems. First, the guy inside the stage only has one weapon. You would think you would bring a couple pistols, maybe a scattergun. Second, the guy in the stage is alone. You would think you could have hidden two or three guys inside to ambush the gang. Third, the stage was actually locked. Why lock the guy in so he can be brutally burned to death.

While the decoy was being sent out, the party left Dan’s ranch under cover of night, traveled an unknown distance and built a huge fire for the whole world to see. Why not travel all night and camp in the morning. They had already been fed by Dan’s wife Alice at the ranch, why build a fire at all. They were in Arizona, surely they didn’t need a huge fire for warmth.

Once the gang had discovered the decoy the comment was made that Contention City was eighty miles away. A tremendous distance by horse, but the party escorting Ben Wade to Contention City was still close enough to see the stage burning in spite of the stagecoach having traveled all night at a high rate of speed and the prisoner escort having traveled part of a night and part of a day toward Contention City.

When the party reaches Contention City, their first order of business is where to hide their prisoner. They choose the local Hotel. Now this just seems silly to me. Who would hide a prisoner in a hotel for two hours while waiting for a train knowing that his friends were going to rescue him. Not exactly easily defensible or very inconspicuous. Seems like the train station , the local jail or some random place where people wouldn’t look would have made much more sense.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the film, but the writers could have made a few adjustments to let us know Dan, the Pinkerton and the Railroad Man were a little more savvy.

You better get crackin’

Watched Confessions of a Dangerous Mind last night. I’m a HUGE fan of Charlie Kaufman’s work, but didn’t think this movie was near as good as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The movie was filled with the amazing dialog of a Kaufman script. My favorite line was this one by Jim Byrd, CIA recruiter, played amazingly by George Clooney:

You’re 32 years old, and you’ve achieved nothing. Jesus Christ was dead and alive again by 33. You better get crackin’.

Can’t wait to use this on somebody.

YouTube sued by ‘indie’ music publisher?

Read this article today about YouTube’s defense of the lawsuit brought by Viacom and other copyright holders.

One thing that caught my eye was

…lawsuits brought against YouTube by Viacom International Inc., England’s top soccer league — The Football Association Premier League Ltd. — and indie music publisher Bourne Co.

I thought to myself, “Wow, an Indie music publisher is suing YouTube?”. So I decided to do some research.

First, for those of you not really acquainted with the indie music and film scene, there is a certain connotation that goes along with the term indie (short for independant).

Wikipedia defines indie like this:

The term indie is short for “independent” and refers to artistic creations outside the commercial mainstream, without the support of a major record label, major movie studio, or other source of a large budget.

So, I did some research on this so called indie music publisher, Bourne Co.

BOURNE CO., one of the largest independent international music publishers, has since its founding in 1919, never lost its passion for the art of song writing or its deep respect for the creative processes involved in that art

So, they are one of the largest publishers of sheet music in the world. In this context, independant means ‘privately owned’, not ‘outside the commercial mainstream’. It really sounds to me like either the author of the article, Viacom or the AP is trying to spin this and make it sound like indie musicians are against YouTube, and that is just not the case. In reality it’s just a bunch of large companies (Viacom, Bourne Co., Football Association Premier League) angry because YouTube is making money off content they ‘own’. In reality, these publishers should be suing the individuals that actually post the copyrighted content to YouTube, but as the RIAA has shown us, that’s not a great PR move.

Tonight, Bill let me down

A few months ago I saw an ad for the William Shatner Sci-Fi DVD Club. The hook was that Captain Kirk himself would be personally creating a list of DVDs and sending them out for $4/month. How could I refuse, and honestly he came up with some good ones.

My personal favorite to date is Close Your Eyes starring Goran Visnjic of E.R. fame.

Unfortunately, I recieved an email a couple days that Bill is no longer going to be able to send me DVDs because 'his partners cannot continue to provide these movies at the current low prices'.

The club is going to send the remaining DVDs that I've already paid for, but no more special recommendations from the great William Shatner himself. How depressing.