Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weekly Wish List UPDATE The Adjustment Bureau

I've got two entries into Movie Night coming soon, but first I wanted to stay on top of my Weekly Wish List films. Today we will be looking at The Adjustment Bureau, the feature debut of George Nolfi starring PORTEmaus fan favorite Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. This came out earlier this year and promised to be a strong debut of a new talent, blending equal parts sci fi tale of fate and free will, and a sincere mature love story. I'm here to say that Nolfi succeeds on all levels. This is a solid film, that is worth all of your time, and hopefully a tease of what this director is capable of.

Nolfi plays the whole film as a wonderful balancing act. The film tells the story of Damon who is a shamed politician, who meets a woman on the eve of a great loss and continues to run into her throughout the film. The two seem inexplicably drawn to each other, and we see in the background agents attempting to keep the two apart by any means possible. It would seem that in the background of all of our lives there are beings who ensure we follow the correct path, and they sometimes intervene with subtle pushes such as a dropped call or a spilled cup of coffee which force us to miss a bus or pass by someone we wouldn't have seen otherwise. What amazes me here is that Nolfi never pushes the bar too far in either direction focusing equally on the romance between Damon and Blunt as well as the agents attempting to keep them apart. By doing this he opens up an otherwise sci fi heavy film to become a hybrid that is easily enjoyed by both fans of romance and sci fi.

Do not think he dumbs down the sci fi elements here at all, he gets pretty high concept with the intricacies of the Adjustment Bureau. Giving you just enough details to keep an air of intrigue, but allowing the viewer to understand the "rules" of this universe. Slattery and Mackie turn in gret supporting turns as "middle manager" within the bureau and the caretaker of Damon's "case" respectively. Mackie's role is quite small, but he really takes it and shows how these people can grow conscience. This is another wonderful turn for Mackie, who already did so well as Renner's partner in The Hurt Locker. Slattery plays his role with charisma and confidence, proving once again that the guy brings smooth to anything he does.

Just like Nolfi refuses to dumb down the sci fi elements, he also provides a well written love story. There is nothing more classic than lovers fated to be together, and here Nolfi manages to give these two people a different spin on it. In which fate and its agents seem at odds with one another. The conflict that Damon goes through is well acted and we see how difficult his decisions are as he goes through life weighing his choices between a life of love or achieving his own dreams and aspirations. Emily Blunt is wonderfully charming as the spunky carefree dancer who balances Damon's ambitious politician. You believe the chemistry between them even though we know they've only seen each other a handful of times.

I strongly recommend this title as a genre bending treat. It is a great adult drama that mixes sci fi and romance without sacrificing quality from either genre. I love seeing new talent burst onto the scene, and Nolfi does good work here. I doubt this will make any top ten lists, but it is a fine film worth checking out and hopefully the start of a wonderful career.


One last thought - Zod will always be a badass.

Weekly Wish List 8/30 Consisting of two weeks of cinematic bliss

I was running late on last weeks column, and then a hurricane came into town. All is well though at the House of Bence, and it's time to get back to business. I'm going to begin with some catch up including both last week and this weeks releases. Really amazing stuff this week, including a new criterion edition that might win release of the year(although we do have Star Wars and Jurassic Park coming out this year).


Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold - Morgan Spurlock
Morgan Spurlock is an interesting documentarian. He definitely takes the Michael Moore approach of infusing himself in all of his work, but rather than being as polarizing as Moore, Spurlock pulls of a sincerity that Moore never has. Now I don't mind Moore, I just feel that he is far nore interested in his point of view than presenting information. Spurlock seems like he wants to provide people with information, and does it in a very entertaining way. This documentary is about product placement and he takes us through every step of the way as we see him gain brand partners to finance the film we're actually watching. The results are hilarious, informative and at time shocking as to what this world of product placement is like. A decent documentary, but if you weren't a fan of Spurlock before this isn't going to change your mind. Oh yah the film provides more proof that Ratner is a douche.

Swingers - Doug Liman
One of the first indie films I searched out and watched thanks to a report by Ebert. This film like A Clockwork Orange were seminal pieces of my film watching youth. I discovered it in high school and shared with all of my friends. I think I even gave it as gifts to multiple people. By now this film has reached legendary status thanks to the success of all involved. Vince Vaughn has found some decent success in recent years, but this performance shows that he really can act, as he balances Trent, a charismatic man-child oblivious to his own lack of direction. Infinitely quotable, this film will always be a favorite of mine


Miller's Crossing - The Coen Brothers
This is a gangster movie done The Coen Brothers way. It is by far my favorite movie of theirs and one of my all time favorite films. Ths tale of love and betrayal is impeccably acted. Gabriel Byrne and Albert Finney have never been better. The cinematography is gorgeous and haunting especially as we take trips through the forest over and over. Everything about the film is perfect, and to sit atop the wonderful career of the Coens is definitely a triumph. I could keep going on and on, but this title is now on blu-ray and you all owe it to yourself to go pick it up.

Orpheus - Jean Cocteau
Now this is the release of the week. I cannot wait to see this one on blu. This is an update to the Orpheus myth as we have a poet played by Jean Marais who is obsessed with his talking radio, and ends up taking a trip to the underworld to rescue is lover. A wildly imaginative film and guaranteed unlike anything you have ever seen. Cocteau gives you the most unique "special effects" if the time and shows you just how much of an artist he is. The dreamlike nature of Belle et la Bête is taken to a much more sinister place here as Cocteau takes us to the underworld and back in this beautiful film of art and inspiration.

The Jean Vigo Collection - Jean Vigo
Criterion has really packed this week with amazing releases. Vigo had a short but influential career, creating slightly surreal absurdist stories of life and relationships. This collection brings all of his films to blu ray. The gem of course is L'Atalante, a tale of new love and their subsequent voyage on a boat. With a hint of absurdity peppered throughout this is a must see for anyone who loved the French new wave or the works of Bunuel.


One last thought - I dunno.... Kinda curious...just Like that hobo movie.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fashionably Delicious: Treasure & Bond, marrying retail and charity with style and sophistication.

Welcome to installment number two of Fashionably Delicious. We are ecstatic about the response to our first piece in which we looked at the Prospect Park Food Truck Rally, and today will be the first piece of our fashion side. Once again we strive to find new and interesting examples of food and fashion that push the status quo and attempt to be at the forefront of their respective genres. Today we will look at Nordstrom's new concept store, Treasure & Bond, in New York's best shopping neighborhood Soho.

Treasure & Bond is a new venture from department store giant Nordstrom. Its core concept is that 100% of its profits will go directly to charity after cost. Those charities will rotate every quarter, the first being the New York Public Library specifically programs for young adults, and the New York Young Men's Initiative. The idea of blending retail and charity is not entirely new. Product Red, which is dedicated to fighting AIDS in Africa is a collection of products which donate up to 50% of the profits to its cause. They have had success with partnerships such as Apple, The Gap and Armani. Toms, which is currently experience a huge boom is dedicated to providing footwear to poverty stricken children in Africa. So while these two examples should be commended, Nordstrom decided to take it one step further. I have never seen such dedication from a major retailer, pledging to contribute 100% of its profits makes this store a unique endeavor in the very crowded retail hemisphere.

For such a unique store concept to succeed it would need the proper location, naturally. Soho is the mecca of creative and unique shopping experiences, that still are accessible to the everyman. People come from all over the world to shop in Soho, because it is the place where you see major retailers at their best. Not necessarily biggest, but their best. The Gap houses one of only a few 1969 stores, dedicated to denim and offering up exclusive styles not even found in their flagship locations in Midtown. J. Crew has one of three concept Men's stores, as well as the modern boho focused Madewell. Soho is home to the (for now) only Uniqlo location in America, which offers up affordable Japanese style, think H & M without being TOO trendy. That's just a few, it also had the pop up Piperlime store, a CONVERSE store which allows you to customize your own pair of Chucks, and many many more. These are all places that offer familiarity and creativity in one location. These stores push the envelope of merchandising to give people a new shopping experience.

Treasure & Bond is no exception. It takes the idea of the department store and brings it in to the modern age. The result is a breathtaking two story shop that caters to the young professional. Like any good department store it offers a variety of goods, ranging from high quality housewares, books and candles, to kids clothes by Peek, and adult collections from Rogan, James Perse and Vince, to name a few.

When you arrive at the space to a huge building, with a glass storefront, allowing you to see the whole store in its entirety. A rather simple approach that fits in with the aesthetic of the store. Being constantly sparse but never feeling empty.

The first floor is a collection of tables housing various items. One section is clearly dedicated to housewares, where you can find monkey candelabras, and beaker vases, and glass water bottle carafes.

Another houses totebags with whimsical screenprints of handbags. The accessory equivalent of a self-reflexive film. There are also jewelry cases which give you a wide range of unique pieces, some with absurdly sized quartz stones, to statement necklaces, and down to simple bracelets with subtle details.

Against the back wall is a honeycomb fixture in stark white stuffed with different scarves and hats the all fall in the unisex category. Tucked in a corner is a collection of designer candles, which is flanked by a small but selective assortment of books. The kind you would expect to litter the modern intellectuals coffee table, offering up irony and humor along with design and fashion. Think more Bookmarc and less Urban Outfitters childishness. Before we head upstairs I have to mention my two favorite pieces, one an umbrella with a katana blade handle, easily the most badass umbrella you're likely to find, and two, the softest, coolest throw blanket I've seen made by Design House Stockholm. The blankets come in a variety of different colors and each have an accordion effect that would seemingly be in a paradox with the amazing softness of the material.

Up a small flight of stairs we walk straight into the kids department, which consists of clothes by Peek. Peek offers up fashionable alternatives to your standard children's fare.

There are also spiked backpacks, and some books and trinkets for the little one. Again like everything else it is all expertly chosen to give you the right amount of choices without losing any quality or cohesion.

The adult collections represent a similar ideology as the rest of the items in the store. They offer simple high quality pieces made with subtle features. Whether it's the simple brilliance of a James Perse t-shirt, to the classic elegance of limited edition Levis. They offer a variety of options that would easily fit in any city dwellers wardrobe and still act as powerful fashion statements. Chunky sweaters with spectacular buttons, shoes made of recycled material, as well as a healthy selection of bold pattern dresses and enough variations on slouchy ts to fill all your weekend needs during the fall.

Everything flows together naturally, and not one piece feels out of place next to another. Rather it is very focused on offering up accesible items that are still very fashion forward and something different than you'd find at a normal retailer. This permeates through each section of the store from the glassware, to the bedding, to the accessories, to the clothes. Everything has character and a sense of humor without being offensive. The store has a laid back feel as you stroll through picking your knick knacks and fancy scarves, knowing that as you purchase your brand new scented candles and porcelain take out trays that you are both making your house fabulous, you are helping the New York public library at the same time.
make sure to check them out if you're ever in the neighborhood
treasure & bond
you'll be happy you did.

Twincess and Bence

One last thought - seriously an umbrella with a katana blade handle, can you imagine actually being an urban samurai....kinda.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekly Wish List UPDATE Dylan Dog:Dead of Night

How can you not enjoy a tongue in cheek film noir set in New Orleans with plenty of vampires, werewolves and zombies milling about? So this is by far not a great film, but it is a damn fun one. This is a tale of private eye, Dylan, who after a personal tragedy left his title as impartial private eye to the undead to live a life of "normalcy" only to get dragged back in. Like I said this is extremely tongue in cheek, but Brandon Routh carries the movie with a straight face and charisma that I'm sure Singer is bummed he couldn't get out of him.

Let's get the bad out of the way. The film is extremely low budget, and when you have a film so deeply rooted in the supernatural then you're bound to show your limitations. This comes across horribly in the makeup. Some of it is passable, but when it comes time for the heavy lifting, say a werewolf in full wolf mode, it fails at an almost laughable level. You know you're in trouble when your wolf is much more menacing in his human form than in his wolf form. When the makeuo work is subtle it works fine, some fangs here, a missing limb on a zombie, or even Peter Stormare fighting back a transformation. If the director would've just realized that then the film would've been that much better for it.

The next thing that really irked me about the film was Dylan's assistant, Marcus, who happens to die early on and come back as a very reluctant and skittish zombie. Like I said the whole movie is very tongue in cheek, but Sam Huntington plays his character far too big for everyone else involved. If you've ever seen the American version of Being Human, he is the werewolf in that show and plays this character with the same amount of jumpiness and anxiety. The movie works best when the actors embrace the silly world they are in, Routh does fantastic work delivering groan worthy lines, but sells them here with plenty of cool to spare. Huntington is unable to achieve the same, he constantly is worrying about this or that and insists on yelling and making scenes out of everything. His character was the one that took me out of the film the most. Not enough for me to dislike the film, but hopefully if they move forward with a sequel(the film cost nothing to make so I don't see why not) they will tone his character down more.

So the good? Well I love the story. Monsters living among us, with a human as their intermediary. Great stuff, and the little touches throughout really make this world come alive. I love the zombie body shop, I've never seen that before and it was highly creative. I love that this is essentially a classic film noir with monsters added. We have similar story beats here, an old Private Investigator who's been out of the game for awhile, gets dragged back in to solve a difficult case. Reluctant heroes are always great, and Routh plays his well. It all begins with a dame(as it always MUST) and she of course has her secrets to carry. There are the tense relations between local gangsters, or in this case warring factions of vamps and werewolves. And remember we're dealing with vampires here so of course there is an underlying mythology dating back thousands of years telling of some apocalyptic prophecy.

I like Routh a lot. I even like his superman to some extent, but man when he is doing weird quirky stuff he really comes alive. His work in Scott Pilgrim is hilarious and delightfully douchey, and here he carries the whole movie on his shoulders. I hope we get another installment with maybe some more money added, as I'd love to see more adventures with Dylan Dog.

Munroe keeps up the good work he did on TMNT, and makes a fun film that is very much aware of the story it's telling. It never takes itself too seriously, and that is the movie's greatest asset. We are left with an incredibly fun escapist film noir mixed with the supernatural. Not going to make any top ten lists, but good for a rental and something you should check out if you have any interest in either the detective or supernatural genre.


One last thought - Peter Stormare is always reliable for some scene chewing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fashionably Delicious: Food Truck Awesomeness

It has been an amazing year here at the maus. We have seen an exponential growth over the past few months and continue to expand our social media presence daily. Manny himself has taken to the twitter and begun his tirade of mini rants so that you all can get the full Manny experience in real time. Which brings us to now. In the effort of continuous expansion and total web life dominance we will begin branching out into new categories of information as well as some new contributors coming into this mix.

I call this article Fashionably Delicious, and it is the brainchild of myself and Twincess. You may know her as the Director of Social Media for Portemaus, she also happens to be an expert in the realm of fashion and food. This article takes the same kind of mentality of Movie Night and translates it to the culinary and textile experience. We will explore new and exciting entries into food and fashion and give you our own thoughts and feelings here. Much like Movie Night this is about exploration and discovering hidden gems, not only just the next five star restaurant or newest boutique on 5th ave. Hope you enjoy. Here we go.

Today we are going to talk about the Prospect Park Food Truck Rally. We had the privilege of coming to the first Rally a few months ago, and since then it has continued to grow adding new trucks and gaining a significant following. Now it has become a microcosm of the best food trucks in NYC. A place where you can come and try all your favorites in one locale.The food truck craze is huge all across the country, and no city does it like New York. New York has always been a shining beacon in the realm of street food so it's no surprise that food trucks have caught on in a big way. The selection at Prospect Park is a great example of how diverse these options can be. In fact there are so many options now, you need to come with a plan, because there is no way you'll be able to try everything.

Here is the selection from this months rally.

Bistro TruckCoolhausGorilla Cheese NYC JoyrideKelvin Natural Slush Co.Kimchi TacoMexicueMud TruckThe Red Hook Lobster PoundRickshaw Dumpling Truck Souvlaki GR Taïm Mobile The Eddie's Pizza TruckThe Treats TruckVanleeuwen Ice CreamWafels and Dinges

Amazing right? But like I said impossible to indulge yourself in all of your choices, plus the later it gets the longer the lines, and for anyone who's been to a popular food truck the lines can get pretty out of hand, but don't worry the waffles are really THAT delicious.

This is our second time here and still haven't had the pleasure of trying everything but I'll walk you through some of the amazingness we have tried.

First off we begin every Rally with a stop at Joyride. Joyride offers high quality Stumptown coffee and frozen yogurt with fresh fruit. I can't speak for the yogurt but the coffee is a prime example of how delicious coffee can be when you don't burn the beans(you know who I mean) I had the The Balzac which has espresso, hot chocolate, and steamed milk. Relatively simple drink, but the flavors of the coffee and richness chocolate have enough depth to keep me coming back for more. The milk is perfectly frothed and you're left with an exceptionally creamy and smooth coffee latte that manages to celebrate the natural flavor of coffee rather than its bitterness.

Twincess had The Dickens, now this is a true coffee lovers drink. A double shot of coffee and infused with vanilla and cinammon and just as rich and smack you in the face strong as it sounds. The drink packs a lot of flavor into a tiny shot, it's an interesting choice and undoubtedly delicious, definitely not for those that are not true coffee lovers.

Now that we have our coffee, we take a few steps to the left and begin the feast with Eddie's Pizza Truck. Eddie's is serving up the thinnest of thin crust pizza with simple ingredients. You have a myriad of choices when it comes to pizza in New York, but you all ow it to yourselves to give this truck a try. The crust has the right amount char to give it the crisp that it needs, while stay mainting a bit of softness in the middle. Typically I prefer a much heavier cheese to sauce ratio, mainly because I think sauce is so hard to get right. Many times the sauce can be too sweet or too spicy and take away from the cheese or the toppings. Here though, the sauce is slightly acidic, very smooth and not chunky at all. It has the slightest bit of sweet to it, which is something I usually hate, but they pull it off better than anyone. I think that is because they marry it with the perfect amount of cheese. Now I'm not sure what kind of cheese they use but it tastes like a mix of mozarella and some aged parmesan. When you open the box the fresh cheese just hits you, and you know you're in for a treat.

The creaminess of the cheese is fits perfectly with the sauce, with one never overpowering the other and both being delivered to you on the perfect crust. Any person would be happy with just a simple cheese pizza. That's all you need because it's that good. But never one to shy away from trying new things we chose to do half meatballs. Now these meatballs are amazing, the best part about them is that even after cooking once before, and then being placed onto the pizza and back in the over they are not overcooked. They still maintain a crispy exterior and soft interior. They have an herbacious flavor that again sits perfectly atop the already sublime pizza.

Eddie's, if anything, is a master at creating a symphony of flavor, with not one aspect of the pizza overpowering another.

This is where some strategy really comes into effect. So while Twincess and the little guy indulged in some top notch pizza, I grabbed a slice and ventured to the next line. Up next, we were in search of a falafel from Taim Falafel and Smoothie Truck.

Taim is immensely popular and anytime I see the truck around Manhattan, there is always a huge line, but don't fret these guys know what they're doing and turn around orders with great speed. Today we opted for their signature item, the falafel sandwich, which consisted of falafel, israeli salad, and pickled cabbage, and tahini all inside a whole wheat pita. In the middle of pizza, tacos, and coffee this was a refreshing change of pace that added a completely different dimension to the gorge fest.

The pita was a masterpiece of spices, with expertly made falafel that really hit the perfect balances of spices to give the sandwich a great complexity. Add to that fresh veggies and some tahini for creaminess and this realy elevates any kind of pita I've ever had. Needless to say this pita might warrant the walk to times square on my lunch break to indulge in something different than hot dogs and wendys that midtown has to offer. Also if their falafel is that delicious and fresh I can only imagine how perfect a date, lime, and banana yogurt smoothie must be.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, we decided to venture out to one more truck before we finished it off with the best ice cream sandwich I've ever had. Mexicue had been calling my name all morning, and after hearing its praises from some coworkers I had to try it out. The concept is as simple as the name, Mexican BBQ. How that doesn't immediately get your mouth watering would be beyond me. The truck offers a simple menu of sliders and tacos, and as much as a burnt ends slider sounds amazing, I played it a little safe as I neared my breaking point and went with the tacos. We tried a short rib taco, and a chicken taco. The chicken taco was fine, a relatively middle of the road taco with some decently cooked chicken and lettuce and cotija. One thing for sure is that they don't skimp on the portion size packing that corn tortilla full of deliciousness for all. The best part of the chicken taco was the Alabama BBQ sauce, it had the slightest bit of kick at the end that added some style an otherwise unexciting chicken taco.

Now the short rib taco was a completely different story. This happened again with the ice cream, but this was a great example of having an idea in my head of what Mexican BBQ would taste like, and the food emulating that perfectly. The short ribs were super tender with a slight char on the outside, and had the most amazing blend of smoke and spice that no sauce was needed other than its own juices. The taco opted instead for pickled onions which were a perfect acid component to counter the richness of the short ribs. It really was Mexican BBQ at its finest and managed to give me a different take on the taco, while still keeping it very familiar. Maybe the best thing I ate all day, but with everything being so different it'd be hard to pick a favorite.

Oh yah and what better way to wash this down with some ice cold Jarritos.

Before we finish off with what might be my favorite ice cream of all time, I want to talk about some of the other food that we have had before, but didn't get this time around. These are gonna be short and sweet.

Rickshaw Dumplings Truck - Anita Lo's dumpling concept bar taken to truck form executes three styles of dumplings, pork, chicken and edamame. Each dumpling has its own special sauce that compliments it perfectly. The pork is easily my favorite, but the edamame is completely unique and the lemon sansho takes it to a whole new level.

Waffles and Dinges - we actually visit this truck a few times a month. Not much to say here other than they have the best waffle you are going to find. Using special Belgian sugar and topping the waffle with enough sweets to make your inner child scream with joy. Worth it just to experience the happiness that is speculoos on a waffle. Bacon baked into a waffle to wake you up in the morning, yes please.

Red Hook Lobster Pound - The actual storefront is near our local grocery store, so this is another one we enjoy on a regular basis. Simple lobster and shrimp rolls cooked to perfection and wrapped in a delicious Maine bun. Our favorite is the Connecticut style, which employs butter instead of the mayo, also nothing wrong with adding fresh tarragon to a shrimp roll.

Alright so after indulging ourselves in some delicious mobile food, we decided to finish the day with Cool Haus. A food truck dedicated to ice cream sandwiches and as previously stated perhaps the best ice cream I have ever tasted. This truck makes small batch homemade flavors with some amazing results. The standard Tahitian vanilla, and sea salt caramel, but they also have balsamic fig and mascarpone, and strawberry jalapeno, and the flavor of the day Key Lime pie. You order whatever ice cream you want(their flavors rotate with a handful to choose from each time) and then choose what kind of cookie to pair it with. The cookies are just as amazing as the ice cream with choices such as Maple White Chocolate, red velvet(yes a red velvet cookie is as good as it sounds) and ginger molasses. Each ice cream has the perfect texture smooth and creamy without feeling like soft serve, and they all manage to balance the sweetness perfectly. None of them are ever overpoweringly sugary, rather they celebrate the flavor of the ingredients.

I had the balsamic fig and mascarpone inside of a maple white chocolate cookie. This is a high class sandwich and something I would eat every night. The mascarpone and the balsamic have just the right amount of tart to balance out the richness of the maple white chocolate. Then you have the sweet perfection of a fig that adds another dimension of texture into an already smooth and slightly crunchy sandwich. The winner of the day though belonged to Twincess's Key Lime pie ice cream in between a snickerdoodle. This was the second example of having an idea in my head of what Key Lime pie ice cream should taste like and having the food emulate that perfectly. I have had Key Lime pies that weren't able to recreate the Key Lime flavor like this ice cream did. Down to the graham cracker crust which was recreated here as a ribbon through the ice cream, everything was firing on all cylinders and in between a top notch snickerdoodle. Twincess won the day with the best order by far. Cool Haus has a few locations all over the country, if you find one stop, pull over and go treat yourself to the best ice cream I've ever had.

That does it for the first installment of Fashionably Delicious. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it for you all. I know this first installment was quite long, but hey it is a an article by Bence so what do you expect? I did have a lot to cover this time around, expect future pieces to be much shorter in length. Again, really excited to be branching out here into other aspects of the cultural landscape. We should have another piece up soon representing the "fashionably" label in the title so stay tuned for that.


One last thought - that is pure bliss.

photos and consulting done by Twincess

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Always Thought You Were a Stunted Fool: A Qualitative Look at Game of Thrones Season I

Game of Thrones

Is there a network that knows how to do television better than HBO? Honestly, everyone is doing original programming but most of it pales to the powerhouse of paid cable programming (Well, AMC is a close second and FX has Justified). Anyway, I have to hand it to the network, they were able to get me interested into a show and the novel it is based off of from a genre that I personally do not care for. Are there better shows than Game of Thrones on television today? That is subjective... Not many take the risk that it has other than perhaps, The Walking Dead.

Game of Thrones is based upon a fantasy series with a mammoth page count. The television show created by David Benioff (25th Hour) follows several main characters (there are almost as many as I have fingers) fulfilling various storylines. Foremost is Eddard "Ned" Stark (Sean Bean), the reluctant "hand of the king," who is drawn into the politics of life at court. There is the House of Lannister, the power hungry family seeking to control the world essentially. To explain the 10 episodes of this first season would take more than a simple post from yours truly.

Needless to say, the world of this series if expansive and I found myself wondering who the people being mentioned were. This is why I typically avoid fantasy like the plague (I have of course read The Lord of the Rings... After all, what nerd has not?). As I mentioned in the last Literature Society post, I have been toying around with the idea of reading the book, Game of Thrones. So, expect that review sometime in the distant future as the book is massive but I digress.

I am curious how long this series will last after what happened to expensive HBO shows like Rome or Deadwood which were canceled because they cost too much to produce. I hope this is not the case because it is not everyday when one can watch the political machinations of some truly well-written characters play out. This was a series that took me by surprise, not only because of the expanse of the production or the writing but the quality of the cast. I largely watched the show for this reason and it was not limited to the stars but the supporting cast as well. Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage (who was nominated for an Emmy for his performance) alone are two reasons to watch this show.

Thanks again, HBO for forcing me into yet another series.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"I do not entertain hypotheticals. The world itself is vexing enough:" True Grit

Film Foray Cavalcade RETROspective no. Deux: True Grit

True Grit

At the end of last year, The Coen Brothers version of True Grit topped my list of ten films for the year that was 2010. After completing the novel the film was based upon, it provided an opportunity to watch the film again and see how it holds up. Would it be like The King's Speech and be better on its repeat viewing? We shall see.

Retribution. This is the core idea or value behind the story of True Grit. Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) has made it her mission to avenge her father who was murdered at the hands of Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). As she conducts closing her father's affairs in Fort Smith, she is also on the lookout for a man with "grit" to apprehend Chaney and insure that he is brought to justice.

She is given many names of many officers of the law but settles on Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) because his history for taking men dead over alive. Their paths also cross with a Texas Ranger named LeBoeuf looking for Chaney as well. The bulk of the film follows the trio through Indian country looking for their prey. Through a series of circumstances (namely, Rooster getting drunk and leading them too close to Lucky Ned Pepper's hideout), Mattie comes face to face with the murderer of her father.

After watching this film for a second time, I still enjoyed it immensely. It maintains the humor of the novel and flows really well from scene to scene. The Coen Brothers script made little changes from the novel with minor characters being omitted which led to minor story changes. Honestly, it was nothing that would make some say, "Consarnit! This ruined the film or book." In fact, the screenplay borrows heavily from dialogue in the book (which was not a bad thing), it just shows how great the novel was.

The acting was impeccable. Jeff Bridges did an amazing job to bringing Cogburn to screen. Hailee Steinfeld had (arguably) the toughest role of them all since she had to show that she was more adult than her age. This could have went the other way had the wrong actress been cast. As for Damon, it looked like he had a lot of fun with the LeBoeuf character and this comes across with his delivery. Finally, I thought Deakins did a wonderful job with his shot selection but I agree that Pfister was more deserving of the Oscar. Once the credits were rolling, it was clear that none of my enjoyment was soured from the first viewing nor was I upset that it was not a carbon copy in the book. Would it still top my list of top-ten films for 2010? Kind of irrelevant at this point but it is a wonderful film nonetheless.