Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Thanks to my sweetie Eva for this horror short.

WARNING: If you watch it, don’t be surprised if you find it frightening or disturbing. Enjoy! 🙂

The Year of Halloween

Darlings, tonight’s feature is a brief little film about two girls whose mamá has come to collect them. Creators Andres and Barbra Muschietti pack some eye-widening imagery into just three minutes, which is probably why this short was picked up for feature-length production by none other than Guillermo del Toro.  Enjoy!

If you liked tonight’s short, do watch the trailer for the feature-length production hereSet to release this January and starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones fame, this is definitely one I have on my watch list for next year.

Related Posts:

– Friday Night Features: “The Morning Ritual”

– Friday Night Features: “The Descendant”

– Friday Night Features: “Red Balloon”

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I’ve not yet had the opportunity to see Ken Burns’ masterful work, The Civil War.

But I did see this one clip. [1]

A week before the Battle of Bull Run, Sullivan Ballou, a Major in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, wrote home to his wife, Sarah, in Smithfield. The letter was written from Washington, D.C. July 14, 1861, on the eve of his unit moving out to war.

He wrote the letter in anticipation of his death.

It is, to me, the most moving love letter I’ve ever read. By the end, I was reduced to tears.

(Bull Run, Virginia – View of the battlefield)

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the First Battle of Bull Run.

In this 150th anniversary of those horrible, bloody years of the American Civil War, please take a few minutes and listen to Sullivan Ballou’s heart-felt sentiments.


[1] The music in the background is entitled Ashoken Farewell.

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On the eve of Star Wars Day (May the Fourth Be With You), fun by Geektroverted!

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I have to confess to a question that has been much on my mind of late… one that has been weighing heavily upon my soul.

Could a ‘Death Star’ really destroy a planet? Is it even physically and scientifically possible? Could a small moon-sized battle station generate enough energy to destroy an Earth-sized planet? I mean, really?

(That’s no moon. It’s a space station)

Luckily, or maybe not, the physics geeks over at PhysOrg.com have looked into this profound and troubling question and have come to a disturbing conclusion.

As I discovered in a recent article,  a paper by David Boulderston (University of Leicester) sets out to answer that very question and it seems the answer is… YES!

Well, isn’t that just lovely.

First, for the uninitiated and/or those who have been hiding in a cave for the last 35 years, here’s Death Star-101

According to Star Wars lore, the DS-1 Orbital Battle Station, or Death Star, is a moon-sized battle station designed to spread fear throughout the galaxy. The image above shows the Death Star as it appeared in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977). The Death Star’s main weapon is depicted as a superlaser capable of destroying planets with a single blast.

(Plan of DS-1 Orbital Battle Station)

Boulderston claims that it is possible to estimate how much energy the Death Star would need in order to destroy a planet with its superlaser. Taking into account a whole lot of assumptions in order to come up with the energy requirement (e.g. assuming Alderaan [the target planet in Star Wars IV] did not have any sort of planetary “deflector” shield and that the planet is a solid body of uniform density, using the idealized sphere model based on Earth’s mass and diameter, etc.),  it was possible to determine the gravitational binding energy of Alderaan, using a simple equation of:

U= 3GMp2

Where G is the Gravitational Constant (6.673×10-11), Mp is planet mass, and Rp is the planet’s radius. Using Earth’s mass and radius, the required energy comes out to 2.25 x 1032 Joules. Using Jupiter’s data, the energy required goes up to 2 x 1036 Joules.

Piece of cake, no?

(I find your lack of faith… disturbing)

According to Star Wars lore, the Death Star is powered by a ‘hypermatter’ reactor, possessing the energy output of several main-sequence stars. Boulderston asserts that, given that the power output of our Sun is about 3 x 1026 Joules per second, it’s a reasonable assumption the Death Star’s reactor could power the superlaser.

Put another way, since the Death Star’s main power reactor has the energy output equal to several main-sequence stars, even if Earth’s exact composition were used in the equation above, the required energy to destroy a planet would only be affected by a few orders of magnitude – well within the Death Star’s power budget.

So… the bottom line, according to Boulderston, is that wiping out a planet like Earth is no sweat… but if the Death Star wanted to take on a planet like Jupiter, that would be a much taller order but ultimately do-able.

Can’t wait for the Evil Empire to come up with their next nifty gadget, the Sun-Buster 3000!

May the Force with you… always!

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Untrammelled malevolence.

What a great expression!

The one and only time I heard this little word gem was in the 1990 film Metropolitan by Whit Stillman. [1]

(Poster for the 1990 Whit Stillman film ‘Metropolitan’)

In it, the character Nick Smith is bemoaning the upcoming visit with his father and his new wife. She invited him over to spend some of the Xmas holidays with them and Nick is suspicious of her motives.

“I’m about to go upstate to the domain of a stepmother of untrammelled malevolence, very possibly to be killed… and I get this!” ‘This’ being what Nick calls ‘whining criticism’ of his behaviour.

(Nick Smith: “Those surrealists were just a bunch of social climbers”)

To give you a taste of some of the ‘whining criticism’ levelled his way…

Jane:   You’re completely impossible and out of control with some sort of a drug problem and a fixation on what you consider Rick Von Sloneker’s wickedness [2]. You’re a snob, a sexist, totally obnoxious and tiresome, and lately you’ve gotten just weird. Why should we believe anything you say?

Nick:  I am not tiresome. [3]

As I believe I have mentioned in a previous article, I went to a very preppy law school. I finished writing my Bar Admission Exams and was called to the Bar the year Metropolitan was released. Many of the movie’s characters reminded me of the preppies with whom I studied.

I wasn’t allowed into their inner circle (no surprises there). They wouldn’t have exactly considered me PLU. Besides, to a large extent, I was the ‘token ethnic’ at school. [4] Hardly a welcome addition to their social group.

(Nick [to Tom]: “There’s something a tiny bit arrogant about people going around feeling sorry for other people they consider ‘less fortunate’… Has it ever occurred to you that you are the less fortunate?”)

Nick Smith is the person I wish I was when I was at law school. Suave, preppy, sophisticated, clever, good-looking, witty, cynical, charming, well-mannered, well-spoken and a member in good standing of the urban haute bourgeoisie. In other words, the kind of person I’d never met before going to law school.

While I myself am not a person of untrammelled malevolence, I’d like to be the kind of guy who can use the expression ‘untrammelled malevolence’ in conversation without coming across as Zero Mostel at a debutante ball.

(The exact opposite of what I would look like in top hat, white tie and tails)

 Luckily, I was never foolhardy enough to try to pass myself off as one of the UC. The entire enterprise would have been doomed from the start. Like the narrators say in those wildlife programs, “Sadly, there could be but one outcome.”

So a tip of the top hat and a clink of the champagne glass to Nick Smith, a young man of untrammelled malevolence when it comes to the titled aristocracy! [5]


[1] I highly recommend you read Sam Juliano’s ‘Wonders in the Dark‘ WordPress blog article on Metropolitan.

[2] Re Rick’s fixation: “Rick Von Slonecker is tall, rich, good-looking, stupid, dishonest, conceited, a bully, liar, drunk and thief, an egomaniac, and probably psychotic. In short, highly attractive to women.”

[3] To see the scene in context, click here.

[4] To give you an idea of just how preppy my law school was, I… an Italian Jew… was the token ethnic (two birds with one stone!) In a student body of 450, there was one black guy… and he was the preppiest of the bunch! 🙂

[5] A party at Sally Fowler’s apartment:

Nick: The titled aristocracy are the scum of the earth. What really makes me furious is the idea of a whole class of people, mostly Europeans, all looking down on me.

Sally: You always say ‘titled’ aristocrats. What about ‘untitled’ aristocrats?

Nick: Well, I couldn’t very well despise them, could I? That would be self-hatred, which is unhealthy.

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When I say that ‘everybody’ is in the movie The Expendables… I’m here to tell you, I mean EVERYBODY!

(If you didn’t get into this movie, you just weren’t trying)

Look at this cast… Sylvester Stallone,  Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Zayas. Heck, even Charisma Carpenter from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel is in it!

OK, here’s the deal… taken in large part from the back cover of the DVD package:

Sylvester Stallone is the leader of The Expendables, a tightly-knit team of skilled combat vets turned mercenaries. Hired by a powerful covert operator, the team jets off to a small South American country to overthrow a ruthless dictator. Mayhem ensues when, once there, they find themselves caught in a deadly web of deceit and betrayal. Using every weapon at their disposal, they set out to save the innocent and punish the guilty in this blistering action-packed thriller.

WOW! So, I’m thinking… yippee. An ‘old home week’ get-together of all the coolest 80’s and 90’s action-movie stars shooting off some big league fireworks, flexing muscles and generally blasting the bad guys all to hell. What could go wrong?

(The Expendables)

They opening shoot-em-up scene with Da Boys rescuing hostages from Somali pirates was just what the doctor ordered. Lots of bullets, blood and guts, and all round good old blasting. The ‘Mr Church’ scene with Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone just had me smiling all the way through it. Sly and Statham blowing up an entire dock load of goon squad soldiers was a lesson in priceless pyrotechnics. And Terry Crews has the most unbelievable kick-ass gun! There are lots of enjoyable fun bits throughout the movie and, as is to be expected, the climax of the movie delivers and delivers and just keeps topping itself.

My two cents… This is an über-guy movie. Sylvester Stallone knows his fan base, knows his audience and knows how to make a movie to appeal to that “guy” crowd. This movie is nothing more than what it purports to be… a whole lot of testosterone, bullets and explosives packed into a 93-minute opposite of a chick flick. I had a lot of fun. This is the kind of movie you watch on a big-screen TV with your buddies, some pizza, wings and cold beer.

Bottom line… If you’re into this kind of movie, you will have the time of your life. If you’re not… then stay away.

One and a half tough-guy mercenary thumbs up.

Oh and by the way…

(The Expendables II)

I understand The Expendables II is scheduled to be released next year!

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Oy, I’m on shpilkes! [1]

I just found out that Whit Stillman, the man behind Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco, has a new movie which premiers this coming Tuesday (September 13, 2011) at the Toronto International Film Festival in the Visa Screening Room at 6:00 pm.

(Damsels in Distress – cast)

I will post the synopsis directly as I read it this morning on TheDailyBeast.com

Queen bee Violet Wister (Greta Gerwig), uptight Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke), and sexpot Heather (Carrie MacLemore) set out to revolutionize life at their East Coast liberal arts college in Whit Stillman’s comedy Damsels in Distress. The beautiful trio welcomes transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) into their group, which aims to help suicidal students via musical dance numbers. Song and dance aside, the girls become romantically entangled with a series of men, including smooth-talking Charlie (Adam Brody), who threaten their friendship and mental stability. Stillman’s (Last Days of Disco) first movie in 13 years is slated to close the Venice Film Festival on Saturday before heading to Toronto. Though Gerwig admitted she initially struggled with the heavy and dry-witted dialogue, she told Collider.com, “I started saying very Whit Stillmany things as I was making it which I think was really annoying to my roommates.”

I am SO excited!

(Violet Wister, played by Greta Gerwig)

I cannot tell you how much I loved Stillman’s Metropolitan and what a profound effect it had on me. Along with Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, it is a movie I watch about three or four times a year.

Here is a Damsels in Distress teaser trailer from Toronto Life!


[1] Shpilkes (SHPILL-kiss). Yiddish [שפּילקעס] for ‘pins’, as in ‘pins and needles.’ Nervous energy usually from  anticipation.

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