Bläeckfisk is the Swedish translation for the word octopus. I am not Swedish, but I do own a lot of furniture from Sweden and I like octopuses while admiring their multi-tasking ability. I would like to travel to Sweden at some point, plus I think it is a pretty cool looking word. Anyhow, speaking of words, I guess you could say that is why we are here. Words are the foundation for way we try to wrap our thoughts around everything in the galaxy. The tendrils that lead to emotions and curiosity. I am not here to solve the mysteries of the universe, just to discuss words in general. Specifically words written by other people and have been printed off and slapped between two slices of thin card stock. Many of these sandwiches go on to bigger and better things, some bigger and better than others. So, I guess we will be talking about those as well. If you share an interest in words or enjoi seeing what they can look like in action....välkommen! (Swedish for welcome.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

B22: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage-By Haruki Murakami

"The past became a long, razor sharp skewer that stabbed right through his heart. Silent silver pain shot through him, transforming his spine to a pillar of ice. The pain remained, unabated."

Another sterling read by sensei Murakami. If you have never picked up one of his works, you are really missing out. Murakami has an effortless style of writing that is both minimal and cognitively layered. His words create a clean yet searing image of the world around his characters, ultimately leading them down some version of the proverbial rabbit hole. This newest work is no exception. It is masterly written and unfolds like a forgotten memory. More so than any of his other books I have read, Colorless features a new empathetic protagonist, Tsukuru Tazaki that anybody who has experienced strong friendships during their high school years will be able to identify with.

The plot is about friendship and the perpetual craters that they form along the ridge of a person's existence. Some are shallow, but other's can be much deeper and of much greater consequence. Tsukuru's group consists of two other boys and two girl. Five friends, emotionally connected who shared everything. At a time in their lives when personalities are galvanized and life path's are forged, the five friends were inseparable, each contributing to the group in their own way. As the reality of college drifts closer and closer, the group suddenly and inexplicably exiles Tsukuru, severing all contact. Tsukuru, fractured, is set a foot in a dark forest of uncertainty and wavers between extinction and reconstruction. He does manage to find his way out and years later meets a woman who refuses to progress their romance unless Tsukuru explores the painful reasons behind his expulsion. 

I really cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. We have all had friendships that have dissipated or morphed into something that we could never have conceived possible and this story is a simple reminder that life is ever changing. Relationships shift, flow and ebb and the only constant is that unforeseeable way that they will end up. But, that is have the fun of the game of life; not ever knowing what is next. Pick this book up and when done, pass it on to a friend. You will be glad you did. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

F37: Fury-Directed by David Ayer

"Ideals are peaceful, but history is violent."

 History is without a doubt violent, as is this movie. But, boy was it awesome. I highly recommend seeing this new release starring the Pittster as a war hardened sergeant during WWII. For all the movies that have come out on the subject, it is really amazing how every year it seems, there is a new take or new glimpse into those dark years on the planet Earth. This movie packs a wallop as any good war movie should, with plenty explosions and mud and guns and grenades and body parts flying across the screen. It does do something different though that we have not seen, it profiles one of the most important tools that was used during the effort: The Sherman Tank. 

WarDaddy (Pitt) is the commander of a group of misfits fighting hard to end the war. They have crossed over into Germany territory only to have one of their mainstays torn to shreds. His replacement comes in the form of an fresh out-of-training greenhorn, played expertly by Logan Lerman. The plot is pretty straightforward from there, with WarDaddy taking the new gunner under his wing and doing everything he can to toughen him up for survival's sake. This movie reminded me of a favorite book of mine All Quiet on the Western Front, which was written in 1929. It follows the path of a group of youthful soldiers, not unlike our tank pals from Fury and how they would actually prefer to stay together in harms way on the front line versus return home and go their separate ways. If anything, this film reminds us of the incredibly thick, elastic relationships soldiers share and how, despite the abhorrent nature of circumstances surrounding them, they would make any sacrifice asked of them. 

See this movie. The shear scope of what you watch will blow you away. Brad Pitt's role teeter's on improbable, but the rest of the cast is marvelous. The tank on tank action scene is epic and I wouldn't be shocked to see Fury bag several awards. MACHINE!

Friday, November 7, 2014

F36: St. Vincent-Directed by Theodore Melfi

"And you, my good sir can go f$#% yourself!"

I loved this new Bill Murray flick. Dark comedies are hard to find these days, but when you see a good one, they are definitely worth noting. Finding humor in tragedy is tough to do, but nobody does is better than Mr. Murray. Like a gobstopper, his character in this new release is ever changing. Is he a drunk? A down and out gamble-holic? A fatally loyal husband? A well respected war hero? The pieces of who Vincent truly is slowly shift into focus as his relationship with a new young neighbor begins to unfold.

12 year old Oliver and his mother, Maggie (played by Melissa McCarthy), have just moved to Brooklyn. They are fleeing from the toxic relationship with Maggie's ex husband and looking for a fresh start. Oliver one day gets locked out of his house and is forced to ask Vin for help. The two start to form and unlikely bond, with Vincent leading Oliver around town. Our dynamic duo hit the race track, the bar scene and the nursing hospital where Vincent's wife is living. Vincent teaches young Oliver how to throw a punch and the worst curse words imaginable. He is far from a perfect role model, but at his core, Vin teaches Oliver the true meaning of compassion for others. I strongly suggest going to see this movie, it is much more than advertised. If anything go see it to pay homage to one of our greatest actors, Bill Murray. He is in his element with this role and truly shines with the help of a fantastic soundtrack. You will laugh, maybe cry but ultimately marvel at the talent of Mr. Bill Murray.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

F35: Gone Girl-Directed by David Fincher

"I'd love to just unspool her brain and find out what she is thinking."

I have a hard time saying no to anything that Mr. Fincher works on and this new rendition of the popular book is a great example of his brilliance. His artistic way of storytelling is distinct and the lighting and brooding undertones are evident. As is my apparent appetite for this newest work. It was awesome. Like riding a long wave, there are plenty of curious moments and unexpected plunges in the story line. Not too mention the ending which will undoubtedly leave you buffaloed.

Nick and Amy seem to be the dream couple. Both are well educated, witty and full of charm. They meet at a party and quickly fall in love, ultimately getting hitched soon there after. Fast forward several years and our happy little couple is suddenly oh not so happy. They are forced to deal with issues that are common in marriages, resulting in the splintering of their core relationship. Fincher directs the action by weaving past and present time lines, teasing the story out as he goes. Suddenly, Amy (played exquisitely by former Bond girl Rosamund Pike) has gone missing and all leads inexplicably begin to shade in the direction of her husband Nick (Ben Affleck). Hairpiece or not, Affleck plays the alluring role of misunderstood-but am I really-maybe I killed her-maybe I didn't husband to a tee. His likable character is an achievement due to all the layers coating Nick's persona and how expertly his makes you believe that he is not acting and that Nick could be a real person. Amy on the other hand, is a few clicks away from likable, but I will let you make your own assumptions about her character. 

Overall, I highly recommend seeing this flick, it was great. Nice to hit a home run considering the last trip to the box office was months ago.  Scored by Trent Reznor, this movie has some truly haunting undertones and is well worth your time. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

F34: Godzilla- Directed by Gareth Edwards

"We deserve to know what is happening here."

I will tell you what is happening here. Godzilla is about to doggy paddle across the ocean and start ripping through cities in his quest for total monster domination. I really liked this reboot of the Godzilla franchise and was not disappointed. While the plot may be a little on the shaky side, who cares. It's Godzilla, King of the Monsters. I am not interested in crafty dialogue or character development; I'm here for the carnage. I loved these old pulp movies when I was a kid and still love them today. This version definitely has a old school feel to it and director Gareth Edwards' attention to detail is obvious and I appreciate how he did not just roll out some weak, lame version of our beloved monster (see, or rather do not see Godzilla 2000). Godzilla is big and bad and makes the same iconic piercing cry that we all loved in the originals. The epic budget for this movie is conservatively estimated at 160+ million and it does not take long for you to see why. Mostly shot in CGI, the effects are fiercely ridiculous and to quote the great Chazz Michael Michaels, some of the scenes are flat out "mind bottling". 

A team of miners in the Philippians have been hard at work digging away looking for plutonium, when they make an unusual discovery. Two 4 story building sized fossilized eggs are buried deep underground and after an "accidental earthquake" at a nuclear reactor in Japan, one of the eggs is nurtured to term. Leave it to mankind to help the actual hatching of a giant rampaging, prehistoric creatures that needs to be stopped. The eggs are not those of Godzilla and conversely become his foes later on in the movie. I am pretty sure the monsters were inspired by different versions of the cult classics that G himself used to battle, but I digress. So, these new monsters hatch and start romping around the South Pacific, snatching up submarines and leaving a wake of utter destruction behind them. Before long, our old friend Godzilla emerges from the pits of the ocean to help restore "balance" to the universe, as only the ultimate apex predator could. 

Godzilla is without a doubt worth seeing, especially in the movie house on the big screen. This modern update does a really good job of portraying Godzilla as he was intended and by the movie's end you will be rooting for him. I have read that due to the early success of the film, part 2 is already in early development stages and we can only hope that Edwards stays on to direct the project. I would say that my only complaint about the film is its length. It is understandable why it is so long though, as it must be hard to 86 scenes that cost several millions of dollars to make. Overall though, I strongly suggest seeing it. Also, love the shout out to BART and how the three main locations chosen for destruction all have personal significance to me; Japan, Hawaii and San Francisco. Cue the Blue Oyster Cult and commence utter destruction.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

B21: Annihilation-By Jeff VanderMeer (208 pages)

"The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you."

Uncharted, dense jungle. Living breathing words. A heap of journals. Hypnosis. Spores. A beckoning lighthouse. Welcome to Area X. I have not read a piece of good sci-fi in some time and when I heard about this book, I picked it up right away. Much like the setting of the story, this book is not what it seems. It is scientifically fictional, yet is constructed through a dystopian prism that is constantly bending and shifting. What starts out as a sociological exploration of an abandoned stretch of coast, known as Area X, the events that transpire begin to frame more questions than answers. Being the first in a trilogy, the author does a great job of giving you a small taste of what could be, only to scamper back into the unknown. This book is sneaky good. If this first part is only taste of what is to come, I will be firing through the remainder of the series as soon as they are published, which I believe will be in May and August.

We begin with meeting our team of explorers. They have no names. And, they have no idea how they crossed over into Area X, only that they were recruited for the task of mapping out as much of the quarantined area as possible. All are women and all have a specialized set of skills; a surveyor, linguist, biologist and a psychologist. Our team is a part of what they think is the 12th expedition and we are taunted with a few fates of the previous teams. Complete amnesia. Mass Suicide. Terminal cancer. The story is told through the voice of the biologist and we learn that her husband was a member of a previous expedition. She is pragmatic, focused and will soon become infected.  Though she tends to lean on her scientific training, she is often at odds with what her senses are recording. Journeying into the unknown, the group comes upon a monstrous edifice that is buried beneath the ground. Is it a tower? A tunnel? A gullet? The ladies begin their research and after rounding several corners make a chilling discovery. Something has written biologically breathing script on the walls. Goodbye logic. 

I am really looking forward to solving the puzzle of this series and what ever the author was trying to do with this first edition, I swallowed hook, line and sinker. If you need a break from the everyday new stand fiction, I highly recommend this virulent little book. What it lacks in length, it more than make up with contrivance. Read it. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

F33: 300 Rise of an Empire-Directed by Noam Murro

"Seize your glory!"

Oh there will be blood. Oceans of it. While this second installment of 300 series was not quite as good as the original, it was still preposterously awesome. Back are the shredded abs of our Greek heroes, gone are the 300 Spartan troops that ultimately were annihilated by Xerxes' Persian army. Aesthetically, this movie is a ridiculous. It plays out like a living, breathing comic book. The style of how the action is filmed is terrifyingly beautiful as you can almost feel the whisper of arrows and swords gracing past your earlobes. Shot mostly against a green screen, the effects and fight sequences are gnarly and are definitely worth your $8.75.

Leonidas is dead and the angry swarm Persian troops begins its march to Athens. This film serves as both prequel and sequel as the action begins with the monumental Greek victory at the Battle of Marathon. Led by the cagey general Themistokles, the Greeks stave off the mighty Darius in an unlikely victory against his voracious army. Witnessing the embarrassing defeat of his father is the adolescent Xerxes, whose gluttony for revenge and gold body paint bring him back to Greece years later to finish what Darius started. Although he is leading the charge, the real villain in this film is the ruthlessly Machiavellian Artemisia, a Greek herself whose sole passion is the utter destruction of Athens. Historically speaking, she was a Greek female naval commander and did exact a great deal of influence of the actions of Xerxes. I loved seeing this strand teased out and developed into her becoming the arch nemesis of Themistokles. Everything comes to a head at the battle of Salamis. And if you paid attention in class, the rest as they say, is history. Highly recommend seeing this, just make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. To victory!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

F32: Dallas Buyer's Club- Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

"I swear it, Ray, God sure was dressin' the wrong doll when he blessed you with a set of balls."

We have a winner. Several, hopefully. Packing the force of a Mike Tyson right cross, this small 4 million dollar budgeted film is a force to be reckoned with. 34 days of filming. 47 pounds shed. And just a shade over 20 years to rework a screen play that culminates in Matthew McConaughey's epic role as the mercurial Ron Woodruff. I flat out loved this movie. The rawness. The grit. The assertive truculent way that the story unfolds. And then you have the acting. Holy tornado is there acting. After 5 minutes into Dallas Buyer's Club you forget you are watching a movie. You become swept up with the events onscreen and feel like you are parked outside a bay window with binoculars watching this man's life. There is something beautifully haunting about watching a train wreck and this movie is no different. McConaughey is cadaverously brilliant in his portrayal of a man who, faced with the grim atonement for the plethora of poor decisions he made in his life, fights with every fiber of his being for the chance of redemption.

Ron Woodruff is a drifter. Foul mouthed, homophobic and derelict he works his way through life at a break neck pace. Working at a rodeo outside of Dallas, in Ron's world he has it all. A little cash in the pocket, a liter of Jack in his belly and a legion of drugs crawling through his veins. His world unravels when his mild headaches morph into episodes of seizure and unconsciousness. While at the hospital he learns that he has HIV and is given 30 days to live. This death sentence galvanizes Ron's life and ironically, finally gives him purpose. He travels across the border to Mexico and begins smuggling untested, but effective drugs back for redistribution amongst fellow HIV/AIDS patients. Throughout his mission of reeducating people of how best to treat their illness he meets Rayon. Played exquisitely by the musically inclined Jared Leto, the two find comfort in their efforts and incidentally form the most improbable of friendships. 

Overall this film blew me away. After hearing about it for months, I was finally able to squeeze it in before the big awards show this coming weekend. With all the big budget movies it will be up against, I really hope that it gets the recognition that it deserves. While the Academy awards are not the end all for how successful a movie was, you just hope this movie gets what it deserves. The commitment of McConaughy to lose that amount of weight is astounding. He was on Actor's Studio discussing his role and how he stayed inside for 4 months to achieve supreme paleness and what his diet consisted of. Amazingly enough, he mentioned that despite all the muscle mass he lost, he felt extraordinarily acute and hyper observant to everything happening around him during filming. He felt like he became Woodruff and it definitely showed on camera. If you have time this week, find your way to the box office or check the In Theaters tab of your pay per view movie downloadables and watch this amazing movie. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

F31: Monuments Men-Directed by George Clooney

"Let's get outta here."

I really wanted to love this movie, but it stunk. With a sterling cast including Matt Damon, John Goodman, George Clooney and Bill Murray, I had really high expectations for this film and it was a major disappointment. Historical drama is just about my favorite genre of film and this one plotted around the Nazi ransacking of Europe's most famous art treasures had the promise of being memorable. Memorable it was not. It had the feel of watching a M*A*S*H marathon, complete with a score that was abhorrently annoying. This biggest problem with Monuments of Men was that it lacked the gravity of what a picture on such a topic should have embraced. It was too fatuous, too disjointed and poorly edited.  It was a collection of scenes loosely stitched together, set in entirely in different keys. Drama? Comedy? Thriller? Character study? Bollocks. 

Frank Stokes (Clooney) assembles a team of art enthusiasts to tromp around Nazi Germany in an attempt to reclaim over 1,000 years of high jacked culture. The biggest prize being the Madonna and Child statue of Bruges sculpted by Michelangelo. Our team of heroes bumble around unearthing caches of paintings and do everything they can to restore rightful ownership. With the war coming to a close and news of Hitler's Nero Decree to burn everything looming, the treasure hunt becomes a race against time. About the only positive thing that I can say about this film was how it made you think of how demonically unstable Hitler really must have been. Here is someone who loved painting and truly enjoyed an affinity for art, only to become hell bent on eradicating many of the world's greatest artistic treasures. Outside of that thought, stay away from this movie. Don't even bother renting it.  Enjoy the trailer posted below and the unfulfilled promise of what could have been a great movie. C'mon Clooney, you are better than that. 


Thursday, January 30, 2014

B20: Occupy Nation by Todd Gitlin (320 pages)

"I was unprepared for their sheer sprawl and inventiveness. In rapid order or disorder,they produced a social phenomenon that did not feel like a fad, because a fad is a single style and Occupy was all kinds of movements at once, some more visible and some less."

Need an interestingly eloquent non fiction book that reeks of rebellion? Snatch up Occupy Nation by famed Sociology professor of Columbia University, Todd Gitlin. He tackles to chore of dispelling myths and misconceptions regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement. I really became obsessed with this protest after a heated discussion in one of my classes revolving around the Freedom of Speech. After a viewing a short informational video, link below, we dove into this protest, dissecting the parts that drove this ultimate demonstration of dissatisfaction. While its engine was flawed in many ways, the story of how it came together and what it hoping to achieve is definitely worth learning about. 

In the late summer of 2011, anti-consumerist and pro environment magazine Adbusters ran a graphic initiating the call for a protest against the greed of Wall Street and economic inequality that seeps from the veins of America. "What is our one demand?" it beckoned. Occupy Wall Street it stated. Bring tent. And that ladies and gentlemen, is how a revolution is born. First amendment exercisers unite! What followed was a spectacular year in which media and social media were set ablaze with images and misgivings tied to this movement. Gitlin is very informative in his writing and charmingly pens an insightful account of what this explosive movement was all about. He sheds light on the fibers that held the movement together and more importantly how the OWS movement compares with other equally ebullient gatherings of people who are a little more than pissed off with their government. While the success of OWS is still being debated over, there is no debate on whether this book is worth your time. It is. After all, we are the 99%. 


Monday, January 13, 2014

F30: Lone Survivor-Directed by Peter Berg

"I've been around the world twice and talked to everyone once."

Whole-lee sh#&. This movie was incredible. It may not quite be movie of the year, but Peter Berg should win director of the year hands down. The former director of Friday Night Lights, despite his talent, sometimes has a suspect picker when it comes to screen plays (Hancock/Battleship). Not so with his latest release centered around true events of a clandestine mission in Afghanistan that went sideways. From the title we go into this movie knowing the ending, but what is unexpected is how craftfully this story is told. This film is beautifully vicious and savagely touching on many levels. It is filmed through a truly artistic prism and is a must see. I am very fond of the band Explosions In the Sky and Berg again taps them to haunt the score of his scenes. The cinematography is refulgent, the acting superb and the sequence where the troops spill down the side of a shale cliff is staggering to say the least. Anyone can make a simplistic military movie that blows everything up and leaves everybody wounded, but Lone Survivor will leave you thinking about war on a much deeper level.

The core of this story is the relationship of the team assembled to take out a top Taliban leader. These men have a passion for living and dying for each other and all parts are played incredibly. Leading the charge is Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) flanked by his right hand man Marcus (Mark Wahlberg). The team is stranded mountainside and faces a quandary when their position is stumbled upon by seemingly innocent goat herders. Taking the moral approach, the team cuts loose the herders and aborts the compromised mission. However, a quick extraction quickly dissipates when all communications are lost due to rugged Afghany terrain. Sure enough, the Taliban learns of their presence and all hell breaks loose. Literally. The quiet, serene mountainside transforms into a battlefield as a flood of enemy fire engulfs our heroes. 

Say what you want about war time situations, but I my opinion this movie is a reminder that the men and women fighting abroad are human beings and have a remarkably unbreakable bond between them. I am not going turn this entry into a soapbox for my own feelings toward war, but when watching this film, it just struck a cord with how deep these relationships run. Much like the classics Band of Brothers and All Quiet on The Western Front, this movie with be talked about and remembered for a very long time. Berg ends things in a touching way that humanizes the violence committed and pays an emotionally tribute to the lives lost during the mission. See this, stat.