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Dystopian Sci-Fi Pick

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

Love my dystopian sci-fi ! I’m a big sci-fi fan anyway and when you combine it with near-future elements and throw in a dystopian theme it can all add up to be not just entertaining but also thought provoking.

There are reams of films from which to choose in this category — dating all the way back to Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent masterpiece Metropolis.

Just watched Enders Game and I quite enjoyed it. Based on the hugely popular YA book of the same title by Orson Scott Card (yes he of the terrible racists rants) this is the first in the series. Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, a genocidal alien race which nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion. Heavy on the CGI, but that is a viewing hazard with anything futuristic, as the stuff hasn’t been invented yet and only exists in the minds of the artists so its not like the props department can run out and rent it.

Character development is pretty good and young Asa Butterfield turned in another good performance — you’ll know him from Hugo. Harrison Ford was pretty darn good in this as well. Don’t get me wrong — I like Ford, but he can be very wooden. This is the most emotion I’ve seen from him in quite a while. Round out the cast with a bunch of other solid young actors like Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Abigail Breslin, throw in some Oscar winners like Sir Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis (The Help) and it’s a pretty good way to spend two hours.

This certainly won’t be for everybody, but if you like the Hunger Games and Divergent chances are good you’ll like this. But do pay attention to the PG warning. There are some seriously harsh and disturbing scenes with the young people.

Matthew McConaughey Finally Launched

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

I wouldn't be lying if I said I've gone out of my way to avoid Matthew McConaughey movies. For many years all he seemed known for was getting his shirt off and cheesy Rom Coms. It wasn't always like this. Early in his career he turned in some very good performances in very good movies like Amistad and A time To Kill. Then there was a dry spell when he seemed just to be paying the rent with movies like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Wedding Planner and Failure to Launch. Even a very popular literary character turned into film, such as Dirk Pitt in Sahara didn't bring him any more credibility and it was hard to take him seriously as an actor.

However, seeing him in several recent performances has caused me to reconsider the man and his acting chops. You'll be aware he just won Best Actor for his role in The Dallas Buyers Club. I'm not sure if it was the best performance of the year but it was a very good performance of a very unsympathetic character. Anybody willing to lose 22% of their body weight to realistically portray somebody deserves a lot of kudos. Just prior to this role he had a very good turn as the title character in Mud. What started turning me around was 2011's The Lincoln Lawyer. I thought he was a great casting choice in this John Grisham book/film. Magic Mike I did not care for but I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority -- he got his shirt off in this one, and a whole lot more. This did so well there is a sequel planned.

But far and away the best performance of his long career is in television's True Detective which just finished airing on HBO and is scheduled for DVD release in early June. Woody Harrelson and he play two detectives trying to solve a gruesome crime over a seventeen year period. Everything about this show is superlative- the writing, the direction, the cinematography, and especially the acting. I can't stop thinking about what an amazing performance he turned in---best thing I've seen since Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad.

The Men Who Owned America

by Melanie - 0 Comment(s)

The fascinating period of American history after the Civil War seems to be foremost on a lot of TV minds recently as evidenced by popular Western series such as Deadwood and Hell on Wheels. The new-to-the-library documentary series The Men Who Built America (on DVD and blu-ray) casts its eye Eastward to the financiers who profited in the extreme from the technology innovations and discoveries of the time to the end of the Gilded Age.

Rockefeller, Carnegie and Frick, J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt, and Ford are the focus of this interesting miniseries that follows their various monolopies of the rail lines, oil, steel and then gasoline production, the stock market, and even the White House when they set rivalries aside to ensure their president was elected. The castles they built for themselves, such as Frick's next to Central Park, and the billions of dollars they held led some to call them Robber Barons.

The Men Who Built America credits these larger-than-life investors for the automobile, skyscaper, and development of the West. At the same time, it records their exploitation of workers and the deaths ultimately resulting from their free reign over the marketplace.

The series' editing reflects its original TV broadcast, so there is quite a bit of repetition at the beginning of episodes and where ad breaks would have been. However, the historical content, visuals, and interviews with historians, investment gurus, and motivation speakers (who analyse the qualities that both made and broke the men) make for good watching.