Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lost Shots EP 9 Solitary

To say Hurley represents an innocence and optimism on the island is an understatement. Throughout the entire series, he acted as the harbinger of fun and a lightheartedness that was sometimes desperately needed in the darkness that was the island. This scene here is Hurley building a golf course for the survivors.

While everyone else was busy worrying about rescue, and building shelter, and the hopelessness of it all, Hurley knew that all they needed was a small distraction. Something fun to remind them what it means to be alive. Ridiculed at first, soon he has the entire batch of survivors watching as our main cast go head to head in Island Golf. What could have easily been a character purely existing for comic relief, Hurley becomes the heart of the island.


One last thought - spoiler, the van episode is my favorite throw away episode.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Movie Night: In Defense of... Premium Rush

Welcome to the newest entry in my evergrowing roster of articles. Today I begin "In Defense Of," in which I take a look at some...let's say controversial movies and put forth my own argument as to why they're worth a look. This is not about discovery in the way my journey through my pile is, this is much more about putting forth my own personal idiosyncrasies and maybe changing your mind on some lesser respected works. Today we look at the Bike Messenger epic, the Levitt starring Premium Rush, by one Mr. David Koepp.

Levitt stars as Wiley, the brash, handsome bike messenger with a death wish, who gets caught up in police corruption, immigration woes, and rival bike messengers. If you read that last sentence, and think that this film actually takes itself seriously, then just stop and move on. If you read that and get excited by just how amazingly tongue in cheek it sounds then this film will quickly rise to the top of your awesome list.

Koepp directs the film with style to spare as he fills each frame with an amazing kinetic energy, he brings us into this weird sub culture as bike riders race across town using blue tooth headsets(thus allowing his camera to zoom through the streets of New York while still keeping dialogue going)arguing over girls and trying to one up each other every step of the way. Wiley even has this unique ability to see the future depending on which path he takes, a technique that pays off with some hilarious(yah that's right) crash scenes. The film moves along briskly taking care to keep the plot coherent enough that Koepp is able to indulge himself with some great scenes. A breakout from a police impound involving bike parkour is a standout. Throwing in some pseudo intellectual bike metaphors masquerading as life philosophy Koepp delivers an entertaining ride(heh) from start to finish.

This is an unexpectedly smart film that apparently went over the heads of most critics. Ever aware of itself the film paints an absurd reality where anything can happen. Not that there is a twist, but the film keeps you on your toes to the very end. The film doesn't take itself seriously, so why should you. This is about celluloid fun and it delivers on all accounts. Highly recommended.


One last thought - if you still don't believe me, watch it for this guy chewing up the scene like no other.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Happy Birthday, PORTEmaus, you old Publishing and Blog Pal.

As Bence would say, it must be an anniversary, holiday or achievement post as these seem to be the only things to get me to come out of the woodwork. Well, that is kind of true and yes, this is an anniversary post. This is a very belated post to commemorate the fourth anniversary of PORTEmaus existing. It was back in 2010 when a man in front of modern type writer began writing the expose that caused the faintest of ripples in the world of journalism as only two people read the post.

Now, it is four years later, the world is still turning and PORTEmaus still exists. We have hit modest but altogether exciting milestones over the last four years and will hopefully hit larger ones in the coming four. Perhaps, there might even be a post from yours truly that does not have to do with anniversaries, holidays or milestones... It might even be tomorrow. So, raise a glass and celebrate this fourth year with us as this celebration is as much yours as it ours. Now, if you will excuse me, the clown has shown up and I must punch him in the face.

Your humble servant,

P.S. -Bence, thanks for holding down the fort.

Boyhood Trailer Hints at a Masterpiece

Could Linklater be the modern answer to Howard Hawks? Like Hawks he can seemingly do anything. The definition of American Indie director Linklater has dipped his foot in most every genre. Taking us on a tour of youth in Dazed and Confused and Slacker, showing us the hard truths of love and relationships with the Before series, giving us experimental films in A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, to family comedies with Bad News Bears and School of Rock. The guy even takes on gimmicks like the mockumentary or the single location film with Bernie and Tape. He is a director who wants to explore film as much as possible. There is a passion for the form that comes across in each film. But more than that his films are unabashedly American. There is a sense of youth and rebellion in each film. He shows us the American landscape in all of it's forms, from the small town to the city, from the immigrant workers in Fast Food Nation, to the small town weirdness of Austin in Slackers, to the romanticism of crime in Newton boys.

Now with his newest film, Linklater has made a film about a boy growing up. He has filmed this actor every year for twelve years, literally watching him grow up in front of his eyes. He captured all of this with the help of Patricia Arquette, and Ethan Hawke. The film has been playing festivals to much acclaim. The first trailer has just been released and it is breathtakingly brilliant. It has such incredible emotional resonance emanating from every frame, you can feel the passion and willpower it would taketo craft this film over the course of twelve years. Now this only a trailer...plenty of trailers make promises they can't keep. But like I said in my quick review of A Scanner Darkly, low end Linklater is still awesome, but this is looking like it's his masterpiece.


One last thought - how is Ethan Hawke's only acting nomination for Training Day?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Movie Night: Thoughts From the Pile - Perfume: Story of a Murderer

Tykwer burst onto the scene with Run Lola Run. An incredibly kinetic film overflowing with energy and style, that ultimately would not reflect the stylistic choices Tykwer would use in his later works. What it does have in common with the rest of his ouevre is the slightly surreal nature of the universe in which his films reside. Nothing too fantastic, but his films involve a girl stuck in a loop, modern fairy tales, a helicopter to oblivion, some Atlas thingy, Clive Owen, and this film, in which cannabilism and orgies and destruction of religion are all side effects of the perfect scent.

Perfume tells the story of Jean Baptiste Grenouille, an orphan born under a table in a fish market, with no social skills, an amoral outlook, and incredible olfactory talents, who just happens to become a serial killer. He finds himself under the care of various individuals throughout his life, each one giving him some more skills in identifying and capturing scent to produce perfume. Like some alternative form of vampirism or just a product of bad luck, once Grenouille is through, his previous caretaker perishes in rather horrible fashion. This is a great symbol for the type of serial killer he ends up becoming. He doesn't mean to kill any of the ladies who fall at his hands, rather their death is simply an unfortunate necessity for Grenouille to develop the perfect perfume.

I want to talk briefly about the way in which Tykwer takes you on an olfactory journey. The sense of smell is nigh impossible to show on film, but Tykwer accomplishes this with immense skill. He begins his story in the slums of Paris, giving us an incredibly sharp image close up shots of the dirt and grime everywhere. As well as showing us fish being sliced and diced and all the slime and guts that remain. He makes sure we see this over and over ultimately hiving us the sense of what it must be like to exist in this era. As Grenouille discovers he ability Tykwer shows us rotten fruit and sticks and flowers all in such gorgeous detail that we begin to imagine the smells ourselves. It's some great second unit work and, helps to really differentiate this film from any other. Lastly once we begin to see the effect that Grenouille's perfume has on people we begin to wonder ourselves what must the forbidden scent of humanity smell like? As Tykwer shows us Grenouille slowly scraping away the animal fat that has soaked up the essence of a human being,one can only wonder what is that like distilled? A beautifully dark and haunting story, that explores one mans journey for love only to find empty passion at the bottom of a bottle. Highly recommended


One last thought - Dustin, you nailed it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Movie Night: Thoughts From The Pile - Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is, above everything else, proof that persistence and hard work and an amazing passion will make your dreams come true. Kerry Conran spent years literally designing the computer program he would need to make his vision of an alternate 1930's come to life. And with the help of a short trailer he caught the eyes of some execs and now he has a film starring Angelina Jolie, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. Now whatever your thoughts are on the finished project, that is an amazing success story and deserves some respect. Yah yah but what about the film?

Based on the serials of old, Sky Captain tells the slightly campy story of a handsome fighter pilot caught up in a plot to destroy the world. Full of robots, insane aeronautics, ray guns, and maybe an underwater scene plus a Noahs Ark type rocket ship, this is the type of sci fi pulp Conran was raised on. Shot against a blue screen with some stylized dialogue that Jude Law and Jolie nail perfectly, the film moves along at a breakneck speed. It's fun and charming and, similarly to this years Lego Movie, you can feel that this was made by a giant kid. Paltrow makes me cringe half the time as she struggles the most with the snappy dialogue, and the movie never takes itself too seriously sometimes to it's own detriment. But you're not here for that, this is a fun film and one I was happy to revisit. Look forward to sharing this with the boy.


One last thought - if you like this film I strongly suggest you watch Danger: Diabolik and Battle Beyond the Stars, both are wonderfully campy takes on the spy genre and space opera.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The IT Crowd comes to an end, and a few thoughts on the state of streaming.

This streaming business is getting intense. By the way all discussion is under the pretense that only legal means of getting content will be acknowledged. To each their own, but here we will only discuss the proper means of getting media. Anyway, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon keep trying to one-up the other in an effort to offer something desirable enough to make someone use their service instead. Prime has just made a huge acquisition with the ability to license much of HBOs catalog, Netflix is of course the reigning king, and while their original content is more or less some of the best programming around, their streaming service is a bit hard to navigate if you are not looking for new releases. Now Hulu has long been a fan of buying up the rights to British shows, they've previously bought Misfits and gained the rights to continue that series, they have Moone Boy starting one Chris O'Dowd. And now they have purchased the rights to the Series finale of The IT Crowd. Definitely a niche purchase, but the type of purchase that will bring loyal fans in droves. The IT Crowd aired the finale last year, but short of a VPN(legal by the way) it's been rather hard to track down the episode here in the states, until now. The moment I saw it I immediately turned it on, after releasing a rather manly "squee", and proceeded to watch the last 48 minutes of one of the funniest shows ever produced.

So how was it? Well I have seen it 3 times now and I have to say, it is a fine send off that pays homage to some of the best moments in the whole series. Most of your favorite characters come back and are given a chance to shine one last time. It is not nearly as funny as some of the best episodes of the series, but this show is playing the long game. Every time I watch this episode it gets funnier and funnier and I catch things I didn't see the first time around, it's a smart approach, but I still would have loved something as funny as a fire at sea parks, or the dinner party or everyone going to the theater.

The episode takes it's opportunity to take shots at Twitter, fancy coffee shops, our obsession with voyeurism and even Anonymous. The subplot of Jen hating the homeless is really amazing, with easily my favorite shot as a giving a homeless person some change goes horribly wrong. Deynham has the most laughs per screen time as he spends the episode participating in the most amazing Secret Millionaire. We even see Ayoade find the secret to confidence in women's pants. The episode plays as one long fan service episode and if you've never seen the show I strongly suggest you start at the beginning. Otherwise Roy's last line will not have anywhere near the emotional and hysterical resonance it should.

As long as these three keep delivering better and better content in an effort to gain subscribers we are all going to be happy with the overwhelming gluttony of programming. Network tv is dying. They won't take risks for fear of losing what little market share they have left. Does anyone remember "event" television? This would've been perfect, the type of "special" we would've seen in the early eighties, the sort of exclusive event that would force us to sit down and watch NBC and maybe stick around for whatever was next. They either need to realize that quality will deliver repeat viewers. Now if you'll excuse I have to watch this entire series over again from the beginning. Thank god it's streaming.


One last thought - here's a question...who would eat a spider...I would.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Movie Night: Thoughts From The Pile - A Scanner Darkly

I remember being in college and thinking a library of 500 movies would be amazing. I remember crossing 100 DVDs and being insanely proud of myself. Well, 500 came and went, and now I'm well over a 1000. It's glorious and amazing and yet as I flip through my collection there are a decent amount of films that I can barely remember, or just flat out have never put in the trusty Playstation. All of you collectors out there have this same issue, us here at the Maus refer to this as "the pile" and it is an ever shifting organism that seems to grow and grow despite your best efforts. Well fuck that, these are my movies, I sit here and go on and on about how much I love film well now I will continue to back that up. The purpose of this column is to go back and rewatch films that I remember liking, but could barely remember one or two scenes. These will be short reviews and hopefully together we can rediscover some amazing gems, or we can collectively laugh at me for buying two versions of King Kong(I liked it...I think)

First up let's take a look at A Scanner Darkly from Richard Linklater. This was the second film from the indie legend in which he employs the same rotoscoping technique he used with Waking Life. A Scanner Darkly takes a look at a drug fueled future in which a policeman is tasked with investigating himself and the addicts in his circle of friends. Keanu Reeves does the Keanu Reeves thing and it's successful enough, Downey is awesome in a pre Iron Man maybe still drugged out version of Downey.

Working from a story by Phillip K Dick the use of drugs and it's disintegration of identity is not explored as deeply as I would have liked. Once you get past the dreamlike state of the rotoscoping, the film becomes quite repetitive with scene after scene of Reeves and crew getting high and then just sitting around being high. That's boiling it down to a pretty basic component and while there is plenty to like here, for me it never gets out of it's own gimmicky existence. Whereas Waking Life used the technique to great success, here we have one of Linklater's lesser more experimental works. Should you watch it? Absolutely, low end Linklater is still awesome, and he is always at least intriguing.


One last thought - freaky as shifting identity suits.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Nerdlert: Batman Turns 75

Ok, if you've read the site at all, you know all of us here to the Maus are devout Batman fanboys. He is, simply, the greatest super hero of all time. Whether you like Morrison's batshit insane take on the character as a representation of hero and fiction, or maybe you like campy 60's TV show, or Timm's wonderful Animated Series, or maybe Snyder's brilliant modern take on the dark knight, he is a hero that transcends all other heroes. He also happens to be celebrating his 75th anniversary.

WB/DC held a panel in which many of the most important people in Batman's history were present. And while your thoughts of Kevin Smith may have declined as you all got older he had one of the nights best quotes when asked about Batman's greatest villain, responding with "his humanity." He went on to describe his reasoning " it's only thing that stops him, and you see the frustration as he's portrayed throughout every medium where the inability to go that one step further. He resents Superman because Superman has no limits and Batman has spent his whole life searching for his limits, only when he hits the ceiling of his humanity can he possibly be stopped, as we've seen even then he overcomes it." Nailed it.

I personally love Morrison's take on the hero, the idea that Batman is bigger than just comics, that he represents an ideal and a concept of hero is amazing. You see just how important he is in all of our lives. Manny's son has a familiar sounding middle name, and for me it was the first comic my dad read to me, and the first comic I read to my little boy. This is a character that will live forever. He is literary, he is awesome, he is the greatest hero ever created. If you don't believe check out these two shorts. One by Bruce Timm and one by Darwyn Cooke, in just a few minutes they will inspire so much nostalgia and hope and excitement. Just watch that last shot of Cookes short as the camera pans through all the Batmen throughout time, we all have one we love, he will always be the hero we deserve even when we don't need him.


One last thought - I know everyone has their favorite actor, but they're wrong...cause this guy is and always will be THE Batman.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Hearthstone: The game that will destroy marriages

Man fuck this game. Since I've downloaded it I'm pretty sure I've spent 18 out of each 24 hours a day playing it. Every time I want to stop one of two things happen. I'm on an awesome streak and I don't want to lose it. Or I've been losing constantly and I want to leave on a good note. Either way both scenarios create a pretty healthy "just one more game" mentality. One more game is of course six more games, and then it's 3 a.m. Hearthstone. Get it now

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is Blizzards CCG and after an incredibly successful beta run it has finally been unleashed on American iPad users. Early results show it to be the number one downloaded app on the App Store and for good reason. It is extremely addictive and easy to pick up. Thanks to a wonderful tutorial that takes you through six missions, adding new game mechanics with each new mission, players of all skill levels I'm regards to ccgs will be able to jump in easily. Once your done with the tutorial then the game proper begins. Everyone begins as a Mage and once you defeat one person from each of the nine classes then you unlock that class. As you keep playing, you begin to realize that even though the game is simple enough for everyone to enjoy, the depth of strategy is near unlimited.

I have landed on Priest for the time being, I was a huge Magic: The Gathering fan for a long time and Priest is the closest to my White/Blue control decks that I used to drive people crazy. Priest decks are all based around card manipulation and health generation. Control the board and then strike with some incredibly powerful combos. Maybe you like the rush decks of the Hunter or the Warrior? Maybe you like fast incredibly risky magic of the Warlock? Or the balanced nature of the rogue or Druid? There is something here for everyone. Just don't use the Shaman, I fucking hate those totems.

This is an amazing game and easily my favorite game to grace the screen of my iPad. If any of you check it out feel free to find me. I am of course "bence"


One last thought - deck building...nerd porn.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Record Store Day 2014-Recorded at a Record Store: a brief conversation about the making of the exclusive album.

Let's start this off right. I don't even own a record player. My musical tastes vary between the iPhone collection of 12 yr old girl, pop punk from the turn of the century, some chip tunes, and Sufjan Stevens. Needless to say I leave the majority of the blogging related to music up to my good friend and music guru in his own right Mr. Hudson Hawk. It's not that I don't like music, in fact I'd love to own a record player and a proper sound system, but let's be honest, my passions are in books, movies, video games, fashion and food. Which is of course more than enough to keep my wallet empty. Alright well now that I've gained your trust in regards to music let's talk about the task at hand.

Record Store day has been growing in popularity since it's onset. A national holiday for vinyl lovers across the nation and built with a dedication to shopping local. This isn't a bin full of $2 blu rays at Best Buy for Black Friday. These are reissues that haven't seen the light of day for decades, these are popular releases that might've never made it to vinyl(in my research I learned that the 90's is a low point for vinyl availability, which explains the abundance of some vintage 311 available this time. Maybe if there was some Third Eye Blind I would've been more excited. This is a day that celebrates the serious collector, and depending on your tastes there's a gem in there for you to find. Even me, he of questionable taste, just perusing would've loved to get my hands on Rota's Amarcord score or Green Days "DEMOlicious."

I know, still haven't explained why Hawk isn't doing this write up, well I am honored and proud to say that Hawk has been hard at work in helping releasing an EXCLUSIVE record at Arizona's own Revolver Records. Entitled Recorded At A Record Store, the album features three local bands playing a song of their choice, and it was all recorded at the local haven for vinyl enthusiasts. Hawk had mentioned it to me awhile back and it really seemed like such an amazing idea that would be even more focused on the local scene than the idea of a record store already is. Hawk happens to be quite handy with a video camera, so our young upstart was the gentleman in charge of filming three music videos, one for each song. I got the chance to talk to Hawk about it and here is the conversation that followed.

Bence - so reaction(to the album) has been good?

Hawk - yeah the republic made a comment like "why did it take so long for someone to think of this."...and people have been loving it. Other bands are begging to be on the next one.

Bence - congrats man, how many videos did you do for it?

Hawk - 4 altogether, 1 for each bands performance and then a teaser/promo

You can find the teaser below.

Hawk - on YouTube if you search Revolver Records RAARS(Recorded at a Record Store) they should all pop up

Bence - How'd you choose which bands to feature?

Hawk - I that was mostly Jared's(the audio engineer) doing, he knows some local groups and felt these ones were a good mixture of styles.

Bence - Talk to me about the shoot.

Hawk - pretty much two takes per band was all I had. All the bands came ready to rock and worked fast, so had to film fast and was really happy with the amount of coverage we were able to get.

B - What inspired you to make the stylistic choices you made? Did the bands have any input?

H - No, really the styles just came from TJ and me. Like Cherie Cherie had sort of a Velvet Underground meets Vaseline vibe so it made sense to blow it out ok B&W then boost the contrast and add grain. It was also a longer song so I was able to focus on the store and mic's and the world around the performance.

H - The Petty Things were fast and sloppy so near the end it just felt natural to slap gopros on their faces and let them have fun. The cooler tint with them just kind if felt a little grunge, just felt right.

H - Playboy Manbaby had a lot of instrumentation and collaboration so it was about focusing on all that coming together and showcasing how even in a small space they have a certain amped up stage presence.

H - since these aren't traditional videos it was about fitting in the record store or in that case the "in the moment vibe" like the Playboy Manbaby video, they decided what song to do not five minutes before they played.

B - So the vinyl comes with a digital copy of the music. Have you ever thought about releasing the videos as well? Instead of just on YouTube.

H - We're thinking, especially once we do more, to maybe put the videos with behind the scenes footage and some interviews on a DVD.

B - So how did this idea originate? Was this purely collaborative?

H - Very collaborative, we talk about films and music a lot, and he's scored my films before(like Sound of Midnight). So he said "I have this idea to do a 7", wanna do some video stuff for it?" It was a no brainer to get involved. Even though it was collaborative I still had creative control in what I did or how I shot, the same way he did with recording audio or even the bands in choosing which song to play. It was all about everything coming together on one final thing that encompassed all these elements cohesively.

B - How big was the pressing?

H - 300, and a few of those go to people like me or the band members to have copies. It's on marbles pink vinyl

As of today Sunday there were still some available, so if you're curious head to Revolver Records and pick one up for yourself, better hurry though this is definitely a limited run.

B - so there's another Record Store Day in the fall?

H - Yah there's another on Black Friday. So he's already spitballing ideas to me for that one.

B - Are you thinking the same length?

H - He's got an idea for a documentary of a record sort of thing, and I have some ideas for a putting out a DVD of groups performing there. The ideas are unlimited really.

Like I said, I have questionable musical tastes, but I can always appreciate stuff like this that is all about building a community around shared passions. People like TJ who build this business dedicated to offering something you can't buy at a big box store, as well as giving the customer an experience in which you can talk and converse with like minded people, these are the people that will ensure a new generation will continue to share the same passion for vinyl and music, even in the face of juggernauts like iTunes and Spotify. Hawk and I continued talking about the rise of Vinyl collecting and the lack of an analog to local video stores.

B - Record stores are having a moment, well they have been for about what? The last five years?

H - Just going by what I've seen personally as a collector or customer, they've been continually gaining ground since 2006. Really vinyl is the only physical media who's sales are rising.

B - Local video stores are not having the same type of success. Is it that vinyl as a medium offers up something that is impossible to get at Best Buy or whatever big box you prefer, and for film there really is no vinyl equivalent.

H - Vinyl is tangible, it's got a sound that makes mp3's sound like xerox's of songs. You got these kids who've heard nothing but iTunes, hearing songs they know in a more robust way. And you start paying attention to things like album artwork and liner notes. Like you have to fully envelope yourself in theistic with vinyl. Listening to records all the way through, hiding something that reminds you it's a creation people worked on, not just a file. Sometimes it starts cause you find your dad's collection or maybe you walk in a shop with a friend, it's just a new world. It's both nostalgic and sonically superior at the same time.

Hope you enjoyed this conversation about Record Store Day and the exclusive album our very own Hudson Hawk worked on.

You can learn more about the store where everything was filmed here

You can see more of Hawk's work here


One last thought - should've taken a trip out for this awesomeness.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lost Shots EP 8 Confidence Man

I've already mentioned the dichotomy between Jack and Locke, but truth be told the show is full of this exploration. While Jack and Locke are ultimately representations of good and evil(arguably) Sawyer and Jack are essentially two sides of the same coin. Both are good men at heart with similar goals, yet they both go about achieving results in different ways.

Sawyer is of course the scoundrel, he's a good man, but has no problem with a little moral ambiguity. Jack on the other hand is more or less dedicated to helping others. This moment here marks one of their many encounters. The two fight over everything, even though they both want what's best for the survivors even if Sawyer will never admit it, a fact that becomes all too apparent in later seasons. I love this relationship, which is captured perfectly here. These are brothers fighting, but both barreling towards the same goal.


One last thought - Sawyer still got there first. Wink.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Movie Night: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America is a man out of time. A superhero born in history and as such lives his life by an old fashioned code of ethics. One of hope and belief that people will ultimately be good and that freedom is worth fighting for. While the Iron Man films proudly embrace their futurist hero by giving us techno thrillers and robotics to spare, the Captain America films pay homage to the films of history both in style and content. The first film played with the propaganda film of the 40s as well as giving us a taste of German expressionism with some great montages of the Red Skull. The newest film, now bringing us to the modern age, is firmly rooted in political spy thrillers of the seventies. Not only giving us amazing set pieces, but giving us a wonderfully woven plot full of twists and turns as our hero finds out that indeed no one is to be trusted.

Taking some cues from Brubaker's legendary run on Cap, this film introduces us to the Winter Soldier. While watching the film I was struck by how little the Winter Soldier actually had to do. He was after all the subtitle of the film, yet he is arguably not the main villain by any means. Even before the reveal as to who is controlling the machinations at play here, we know that the Winter Soldier is just another player for the other side. So why then is he worthy of the title?

The Winter Soldier represents many of the themes at play here. First and foremost he appears to be Steve's equal. There is constant visual reinforcement of this with the Soldier constantly either grabbing the shield with as much ease as Cap or towards the end eve netting the chance to throw it back at Cap(knowing where Bucky ends up in the comics this was extremely exciting to see). With him as Steve's equal, we begin to see what those parallels tell us about the story. The Winter Soldier is nothing more than a tool used by a much larger organization. He is a human weapon that is only activated when needed and pointed at whatever needs taken care of. As the film progresses we learn Cap is no different. He only thinks he has awareness of what and who he's fighting for, when in reality he is being used as a pawn just as much as the Winter Soldier is.

Once the reveal is made as to the identity of the Winter Soldier we learn that Fury was right about NO ONE IS TO BE TRUSTED. Even Cap's closest friends could be turned against him as we see in one incredibly well crafted elevator sequence. As cap goes lower and lower picking up more and more agents we realize all these men are here to capture our hero and the tension hits a peak before action ensues. The people in the elevator are the same people we see fight right along side cap in the beginning of the film. An exciting scene and one that reinforces just how corrupt the organization is that Cap works for.

This is a tight well made film that rivals the Avengers for the best Marvel film to date. It gives us a great foil for Cap with some real thought behind motivations and repercussions. The film hits hard and while there are no gods or monsters or aliens we have some of the greatest comic book moments seen yet as Cap, Falcon, and Black Widow all show just how badass they all are. Even if you know the twists the film takes the Russo's take you on an amazing journey filled with spies and politics and soldiers....and I can't wait to see what they have in store for next time.


One last thought - was falcon EVER this cool? Also in avengers will he begin speaking to birds?

Also tons of Easter eggs.....anyone catch this one?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lost Shots EP 7 The Moth

There's a million theories about what Lost was really about. Whatever your theory may be, it is undeniable that Redemption is one of the core themes of the show. Everyone has faults and transgressions, but the island gives them a chance to overcome those and make new choices in life. Some fare better than others and that's the point. Not everyone is able to change, some just don't want to. Even in these first few episodes we see the seeds being down as to who these people were off the island, and the first steps towards attempting a change.

This shot shows a turning point for Charlie. Faced with the pains of withdrawal, Charlie is struggling to find a meaning for his life, to prove to people that he is worth something. Here he literally shows that he is the perfect man for the job. Being of small stature he volunteers to climb into the cave to save Jack. The whole scene you can see the hesitation in everyone's face, unsure if Charlie is reliable enough. It's an uplifting moment seeing Charlie achieve something and prove just how valuable he is. He of course would go on to make similar decisions in future episodes including one of my favorite scenes in the whole series. Charlie here seeks redemption for his sins, but so does everyone, it's such a universal theme and Lost explores it in such a unique and interesting way through the lens of this insane puzzle of a story. I'm sure we'll revisit this again.


One last thought -'s all about the characters, not the monsters, the time travel, the supernatural, it's just about the characters.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Movie Night Dedication: The Talented Mr. Ripley

It's been three years dear readers and while the pain of losing my mother is a wound that won't soon heal itself, I can think of no better honor than to dedicate an article to her about one of her favorite films of all time. I've mentioned it before, but my mom never did get to read any of my pieces here at the Maus. She knew I loved films and reading, but she never understood just how passionate I was about writing. Now, I've written two dedication pieces before, both of then analyzing a film and relating it back to either my mom's life or my own journey through grief. This piece will be different in that this will be purely a straightforward discussion of the film in question. That film is THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.

Simply put, this is one of my favorite films of all time. Not quite top 5, but easily in the top 10. It is Minghella's best film by leaps and bounds, and to be honest I don't really care for much of his other work at all. But Ripley...Ripley is bottled up brilliance that has been splattered across the celluloid universe in a wonderful melange of euro fantasy, jazz, and some Hitchcock for good measure. It is beautifully crafted with impeccable acting and from the very beginning you know you're in for something special. This is going to be a short discussion so I want to focus in on my favorite aspect of the film, the visual representation of Tom's fractured identity.

The film begins with strips of film coming down to fill in the black screen. They piece together to create our anti hero Tom Ripley. All the while the camera pans around his face from light all the way to dark as we finish the opening shot with all the pieces together creating a singular shot and his face half in shadow. This music during this scene is also an opera piece representing Tom's actual tastes. So with a few minutes and some simple camera work we see a complicated literally pieces together, as well as getting a visual metaphor for his light and dark side. Simple and beautiful, a perfect beginning and it really sets the tone for everything to come. Minghella is never flashy, something's are more obviously symbolic than others but he never holds up flags while winking at the audience. The use of strips of film coming down to build a shot is used one more time, at the impetus of his journey to infiltrate the life of Dickie. This time the music is wonderful Jazz. This is the music of Dickie, and we begin to see the seeds being planted for what's to come. By using the same visual trick to build the shot of Tom in his apartment, thy was used to build Tom in the cabin, Minghella shows us just how fragile Tom's sense of identity is and how easy it is for him to construct new ones. One last thing in this scene, there's a throw away line where he's listening to Chet Baker sing My Funny Valentine and wonders whether it's a man or a woman. It's small and barely noticeable but a nice wink at the audience for not only blending identities but the sexual confusion Ripley will encounter later.

There's enough mirrors here, you'd think Minghella had just spent a lot of time watching Kubrick. We see reflections in everything from bath water to pianos. And each time that reflection is either shattered or split by a splash and a crash. Minghella peppers these shots throughout the entire film but my favorite example of this and my favorite shot of the entire film occurs when Dickie gets a ride back to the hotel and finds Tom dressed in his clothes and dancing. Tom is immediately embarrassed and hides behind a mirror.

Again it's a simple shot that tells so much about the story. First off, Tom is dressed in Dickies clothes, but not completely. He's only partially dressed as he dances around the hotel room, showing us that he isn't completely inhabiting Dickie's person just yet. We see from the shot that the mirror reflects back Dickie's body, with Tom's head sticking out. Again a beautifully simple way to show the audience just what is about to happen. Tom is enamored with this lifestyle, but he has so little grasp on his own identity that he literally pieces together an identity from other people, resulting in this Frankenstein monster of identity. A person built with characteristics and traits pulled from who knows how many sources. We see Tom juggle all these lies and just how close he comes to letting the pieces fall. It is only then, when once again the camera begins to shift to darkness.

Like most films I could go on and on. I haven't even touched on all the literary allusions from Tom's hamlet passage, to the bust form used to kill Freddie Miles. There's hints and clues everywhere in this film. Almost like Tom knows there's someone watching him and he's leaving crumbs for us to follow so he doesn't get completely lost down his rabbit hole of lies. This is one of the only movies that my mom and I both have on our favorites list. We used to rewatch it all the time and each time she elicited the same gasps at the thrilling moments and each time the movie ended she let out a simple "oh man mijo that was GOOD" We might now have shared a lot of similar tastes, but even in our bad times we always bonded over movies. We always enjoyed renting a bunch of movies making popcorn and staying up as long as we could watching movies together. Every visit, resulted in one trip to the theater. I always be sad she never saw just what movies meant to me, but I always be happy knowing that it was her who originally planted the seed of loving film. And for that I will forever be grateful. Thanks mom. I love you.


One last thought - my mom...the lady who took me to see Jurassic Park 5 times in the theater, also for those who don't know, in my top 5 of all time.