Archive | July, 2012

Email Is Not Dead. Now Shut Up.

30 Jul

Here we go again.

On Friday, the latest in a long line of “email is dead” blog posts was published, this time by a guy named Ted Landphair, and as if right on cue, folks I know in the email world got all riled up about it, going back and forth about how stupid and misguided the blog post was.

Every now and then this happens — too often, really — and it’s always the same routine: A provocative article gets published declaring the end of email. Industry folks and others all link back to the article, thus driving up the writer’s traffic. Email folks go on defense, arguing that email is still an effective marketing channel. Email folks claim moral victory. Nobody cares, and nothing changes. Continue reading

You Should Be As Afraid of Him As I Am

29 Jul

The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s thrilling final entry in his Batman trilogy, begins with a breathtakingly impressive and awfully scary sequence.

Shot in IMAX, it involves Bane, the bulked-up villain who wears an intimidating crab-like mask, taking a plane full of men hostage. “Now is not the time for fear,” Bane says as the plane attaches to another, tilts 90 degrees, and he injects one of the passengers with a needle that draws out his blood. “That comes later.”

Coulda fooled me.

The scene, which was previewed before IMAX screenings of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol last December, was shot largely with stunt actors in the air and not with green-screen-assisted computer effects. And yes, with those heavier, bulkier IMAX cameras.

It’s nothing short of amazing.

But that’s to be expected, given the way Nolan has rebooted the Batman story, infused it with such craftsmanship, and made each new film of his trilogy bigger and better than the last.

The Dark Knight Rises, while it may not be a better film than The Dark Knight, is certainly the most ambitious one of the three. And that opening scene sets our expectations pretty high (no pun intended). Continue reading

Good Luck with the Chicken

17 Jul

Is there a more sympathetic actress working today than Michelle Williams?

No matter what part she’s playing, whether it’s Marilyn Monroe or one half of a couple about to break up, she gives a performance of such subtlety and deep emotion that you can’t help but feel for her.

And it doesn’t hurt that with the exception of her relationship with the late Heath Ledger, her off-screen life has not been the stuff of tabloid fodder. As a result, she’s able to more easily disappear into her roles without us thinking about her wild nights out or other escapades.

This fact serves Williams well in her latest film, Take This Waltz, in which she plays a happily married woman who falls for her neighbor. Continue reading

What Songs Am I Listening to Right Now?

16 Jul

One of the best things about summer is driving around with the windows down and some good tunes cranking.

That means you need the right mix of music.

I like to keep a playlist on my iPhone of all those songs I’m into right now, so they’re at easy access. It’s like those “State of My iPod” mixes I used to make when I burned CDs, except now those mixes are fluid and easily updated when a good new song comes along — like Frank Ocean’s “Sweet Life,” which I’ve basically had on repeat for the past few days.

In the spirit of sharing the songs I love right now, and also, because on Saturday someone actually asked me for some recommendations for new music, I present to you some of the songs on my mix of current tunes … Continue reading

With Age Comes Exhaustion

12 Jul

Rome is a city of stories, we’re told early on in Woody Allen’s new movie To Rome with Love.

Sure enough, from Gladiator to Roman Holiday and beyond, Rome has been the setting for some pretty memorable tales.

Unfortunately, while I generally love Woody Allen’s work, the stories he’s telling in this film aren’t going to be remembered for very long.

The film seems confused, it’s oddly cast, it’s too long, and basically, it’s just not one of Woody’s best. Continue reading

Please Don’t Hurt Blake Lively!

5 Jul

At the start of Oliver Stone’s latest film, Savages, O, the character played by the lovely Blake Lively, informs the audience, “Just because I’m telling you this story, that doesn’t mean I’m alive at the end of it.”

And it was right around then that I decided the next time I see a movie or watch a TV show that Lively’s in, I’m going to watch it on mute.

In Savages, Lively’s O — short for Ophelia — is a free spirited California girl in love with two Laguna Beach marijuana dealers and best friends, Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch). This is no love triangle. Rather, the two men live together with and share O: They all go out together, and they both sleep with her (separately).

Ben and Chon are different types of guys: Ben is a peace-loving hippie businessman. Chon is an Afghanistan war vet (he enlisted to get closer to some primo marijuana) who … well, let’s just say he doesn’t follow the ways of the Buddha or Dalai Lama like Ben does. It’s O that is their common ground. Likewise, they fulfill different needs for her.

When O is kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel (headed up by a character named Elena, played by Salma Hayek) that feels Ben and Chon are threatening the cartel’s business, the guys are forced to go above and beyond to get her back.

Damn. The sex must be really good (even better than it looks). Because while O is undeniably hot, the film doesn’t effectively demonstrate what these two guys see in her beyond that, if anything. Continue reading

All This Is About Getting Even?

3 Jul

It’s been said that superhero stories reflect the times in which they’re written.

In 2002, for example, Sam Raimi’s first Tobey Maguire–starring Spider-Man film clearly took place in the post-9/11 world, with lots of patriotism and New York rah-rah sentiment.

2008’s The Dark Knight undeniably made statements about the political climate and actions taken by George W. Bush’s Homeland Security team.

Now we have a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, and it, too, feels timely.

The Amazing Spider-Man recasts Peter Parker as less of a nerd who gets strong and can defend his city, and more of a bullied loner who gets the chance to get even and show up those who have made him seem weak.

Instead of “With great power comes great responsibility,” now we get Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) telling his nephew, “If you have the ability to do good things for others, you have a moral responsibility to do those things. Not a choice; an obligation.”

So yes, this Spider-Man is about taking the (more heroic, sometimes lonelier) high road and standing up for the little guy who can’t help himself. It’s an anti-bullying message that feels appropriate for these times, and it’s a much more positive message than the Raimi series left us with in 2007, when Spider-Man 3 took a very dark (and not terribly satisfying) turn.

In fact, it’s not just the thematic nature of The Amazing Spider-Man that takes the high road. It’s the whole movie. Which makes it a welcome and pleasant surprise. Continue reading