Wednesday, December 3, 2008

An update to The World

I pretty much fell off the face of the earth this semester.
My goal will be to revive Bilbo's Red Book in some form or fashion very soon.

I would definitely like to continue the movie and music reviews, yet I will probably cross-post with A Narrow Road Rhapsody, which is a more spiritually based site.

Of a couple of movie notes for old time's sakes.

I LOVED Kung Fu Panda, simply because it was a movie that had heart and did not take itself too seriously.

I saw Twilight and thought it was good but could have been better because it DID take itself seriously.

Hellboy II was excellent, because it took itself seriously yet deserved to. This man will be perfect for the Hobbit movies.

I look forward to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button movie this December. Perhaps Brad Pitt will shine in this curious movie.

Here's to movies that make me think.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mini Movie Review: X-Files: I Want to Believe

X-files: I Want to Believe
rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing content, and thematic material
Film-making: 2 out of 5 stars
Moral rating: average
Overall rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

The X-files is one of those movies that did not need to be made. It had a boring plot, little weird "X-files" type material, and rather bland cinematography. The fans had not asked for another movie (for the most part) and this did not have anything to do with the TV series. While the acting and chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson is great, it still did not save the sick story- that features a pedophile psychic priest and bizarre body transplants- from sinking into the abyss of failed summer movies.

Coming one week after "The Dark Knight" made the movie seem even worse, after witnessing the awesome acting and directing job by Christopher Nolan. Morally, "X-files" was mostly clean, featuring a bit of language, some mature themes and a subplot that involved the renewal of Dana Scully (Anderson) 's faith. Overall, this is a movie that seemed like one that was made for TV. That is all it is good for really, viewing at 2 o'clock on Sunday afternoons- that blissful time of the day when you really don't care about what you are watching.

Signing out, The Buckland Fiddler

Monday, July 21, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight
rated PG-13 for Intense violence and menace
Film-making: 5 out of 5 stars
Moral rating: Better than average
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

The Dark Knight is without a doubt one of the best movies I have ever seen. Period.
Sure the hype was huge and everyone wanted to see Heath Ledger as the Joker but was The Dark Knight really going to deliver? The answer is absolutely.

From beginning to end TDK is a thrilling treat of psychological and intense emotional amazement, as characters like The Joker, Batman and Two-Face constantly redefine morality on a massive scale. As Harvey Two Face says at one point. "You either die the hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Powerfully prophetic words for his character.

Director Christopher Nolan brilliantly crafts the story as he intertwines the Meroni crime syndicate, The Joker's own agenda to kill Batman, and Harvey Dent's tortured soul and emotional struggles. The editing and story are partially inspired by the classic graphic series "The Long Halloween" and features some of the best writing i have ever seen from the Nolan movie team.

Acting on Heath Ledger's part was phenomenal. I have never in my life seen a role so perfectly performed. In every sense Ledger WAS the Joker. I never saw Heath underneath because he had taken on the psycho role of the Joker so perfectly that he always was in character. Without a doubt he will posthumously receive an Oscar nomination. Aaron Eckhart also deserves one as best supporting actor for Harvey Dent. These two newcomers are mind blowing with their performances, adding to the already amazing performances of Christian Bale and Michael Caine. Maggie Gyllenhaal takes on the role begun by Katie Holmes in Batman Begins and plays a beautiful Rachel Dawes.

I can barely write this review, I am so in awe, so I am not going to say much more than go see The Dark Knight. It has already broken 10 box office records, so this is one movie that critics and audiences agree on. As one reviewer said. "It is The Godfather of comic book movies".

Why is it so great? Perhaps it is that gritty realism and emotion. We can relate to Bruce Wayne's personal problems and pains. The psychotic villains, while very evil are still very much so believably real.

In this broken world it is good to know that there is a Dark Knight that is not afraid of doing right even though others might hate him.

Don't miss this one!

Signing out, The Buckland Fiddler

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Music Review: Coldplay- Viva la Vida or Death and all His Friends

CD review- Viva La Vida or Death and all His Friends by Coldplay
2008 music release
5 out of 5 stars

Coldplay has delivered yet again! After much anticipation, Coldplay just released Viva La Vida, the follow up to Grammy award winning A Rush of Blood to the Head and 2005's chart topping X & Y. This time around, Coldplay enlisted the help of U2 producer Brian Eno to give a new sonic vibe to the already innovative sound of Coldplay.

The Cd starts off with an instrumental Life in Technicolor that segues into the melancholy Cememeteries of London. Technicolor has an electronic sound with lots of reverb, setting up the new sound of the CD. Some creative instrumentation can be heard on this one, such as dulcimer. Cemeteries of London is a hauntingly beautiful tune that sounds similar to Parachutes era Coldplay. On track 3 however, the tone and sound changes drastically.

Lost! is an addictive song that utilizes heavy percussion and world rhythm while an organ carries the chord changes. "Just because I'm losing, it doesn't mean I'm lost. Just because I'm hurting doesn't mean I'm hurt." Chris Martin sings to this orchestration. During the chorus the rhythm picks up, leading to a clever electric guitar instrumental bridge. Hands down. this is my favorite track on the CD. If you do not like the departure from the traditional Coldplay sound, check out the acoustic piano version exclusive on iTunes.

42 is a sad mourning song that features the lyrics "Those who are dead are not dead, they're just living in my head." while soft strings carry the melody subtly. About halfway through this song though, the sound completely changes, leading to a major section with lots of percussion, guitar and piano. In a way, it goes from sounding like some of Coldplay's most plaintive songs to a happy pop hit in a matter of 4 minutes. This is another example of some of the brilliant wizardry from the production team.

Lovers in Japan/ Reign of Love is a beautiful romantic suite that uses more of the percussive sounds of the piano and what sounds like hammered dulcimer (which keeps coming back) to carry one of the most heart gushing songs I have heard in a long time. Like Sara Bareilles's Love Song, Lovers in Japan is happy, bubbly and is probably some of the most positive sounding music that Coldplay has put out to date!

Yes is another one of my favorites. It combines reverb Coldplay guitars, Arabian sounding violins and Chris Martin singing uncharacteristically low to spin a song that confronts the sins of lust. At times the guitar sounds very retro with screeching riffs and strings behind. Behind Lost!, Yes is my 2nd fave on the CD. After the song, a hidden track called Chinese Sleep Song begins that is more of an extended instrumental than anything, with screaming electric guitars and reverb falsetto vocals.

Viva La Vida is the one track that has received much publicity. Most people have either loved it or hated it, and I fall in with the former. It is the most extreme departure for Coldplay with the "Eleanor Rigby" style string arrangements, hammered dulcimer, church chimes, and timpani roll at the overly positive sounding chorus. Definitely the most original track, Viva La Vida reminds us why Coldplay is at the forefront of musical innovation. This goes into the next track Violet Hill, rather seamlessly. This was the first single to be released from the Cd and is the most rockin' song on the it.

Strawberry Swing is a very interesting track. When I first heard it, I was not sure if I liked it or not, but have since decided it rocks! The opening is rather African influenced with the beats and twin electric guitar leads playing a syncopated duet. When Martin's vocals come in however, the somewhat dissonant duet gives way to what is a beautiful love anthem.

Ending out the CD is the amazing Death and all His Friends. At first the song seems like a simple soft piano and vocal piece, but it builds up gradually for one of the best CD climaxes I have heard in a long time. As the guitars and synthesizers play, Martin sings "I don't want to fight death and all of his friends"- rather interesting lyrics for the world we live in.

Overall, I have been addicted to Viva La Vida and think you will be to. Coldplay astonishes me with their absolutely beautiful music and poignant lyricism. Chris Martin stated that their first three CD's were something of a trilogy and that Viva La Vida would be the start of a new musical direction for them. If that is the case, then I am on board and cannot wait for more!

Signing out, The Buckland Fiddler

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Movie in a Nutshell- The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk
rated PG-13
rating 31/2 out of 5 stars
Moral rating: Better than Average

A few years ago Ang Lee brought the Marvel comic character Hulk to the big screen in an emotionally dense, psychologically intense and special effects loaded version of the comic book that received a TON of negative criticism. Marvel enterprises now, apparently, wanted to try again and create a movie that would fit into their line of well-made and well-received movies such as X-men, Spiderman and Iron Man. Well, I would say that Marvel has finally succeeded.

Ed Norton plays a wonderful Bruce Banner, full of emotion and intensity as he runs from General Ross (William Hurt) who has been searching for Banner. Liv Tyler is charming as Banner's love interest Betty Ross. It is nice to see her back on the big screen in a GOOD movie!
Tim Roth plays Banner's nemesis...who becomes the amazing Abomination. A sort of monster version of Hulk.

In a nutshell....the acting is good, the action is good, the visual effects are great and the story is wonderful. This movie fits nicely into the Avengers arc of Marvel comic movies (Tony Stark has a brief role in TIH). It felt to me like a Jason Bourne version of a comic movie. Morally, there was little language and brief sensuality-but nothing really overbearing that would keep me from seeing it again.

My verdict- go see it. Particularly if you like comic book movies.

Signing out, The Buckland Fiddler

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Movie Review: The Happening

The Happening
Rated R for violent and disturbing images
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Moral Rating: Average
Written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan has the ability to be a brilliant filmmaker. He understands how to appeal to the audience's emotions, he picks wonderful actors and spins suspense filled tales full of allegory and emotional content. Unfortunately, the latest tale from this brilliant director leaves me wanting something else. Why? The story.....

The Happening opens with an eerie apocalyptic scene in which people in Central Park suddenly stop what they are doing and begin committing suicide in random, disturbing ways. What is happening? A terrorist attack? Or the environment? That is the theory of high school science professor Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg). As he struggles to escape this bizarre happening with his distant wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and his best friend Julian he has to find a way to keep from being targeted by this insane toxin.

As far as concepts go, this film comes across as being rather stupid. I felt like I was watching a horror version of An Inconvenient Truth. The film does not hide the fact that pollution and our lack of respect for the environment is what caused the plants to release this toxin and thus completely distances myself from becoming emotionally involved with the story. Is the message of saving our world supposed to really be "Don't pollute or the trees will make you ram a hair pin through your neck"? This is the major fault of the movie. This movie would have been immensely better if the toxin WAS actually a terrorist attack- something that audiences can relate to!

The acting in this movie was mediocre, as Shyamalan's scripts tend to do. (What the heck was that scene about the pharmacist supposed to mean?) If he gave his actors more space to do what they are payed for, it would have improved the movie much more.

Morally speaking, this was the first movie Night has made that received an R rating. Unfortunately, that means that he put excessively gory details into the movie just to satisfy his own experimentation. As people kill themselves we see the carnage in countless disturbing shots. One shot follows a gun as it travels through three hands, killing all three. Another shows construction workers hurtling off a roof to crash on the streets below. Yet another shows a man being chopped to bits by an industrial lawn mower. The director has lost his sense of good taste.

Language was minimal, and there was not any sexual content, but why did he have to put such pervasive violence in? I felt sick to my stomach as I watched two boys shot to death by paranoid rural home owners. This combined with a strange parable about global warming and pollution makes for a rather strange movie all together.

My verdict? Only see it if you like stuff like this. This film has style and is very well pieced together like Shyamalan's other films, but the left wing stupid allegory and severe bloody violence makes for an unhappy film experience that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Signing out, The Buckland Fiddler

Monday, May 26, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
rated PG-13 for adventure violence and scary images
Film rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Moral rating: Better than average

What is there to say about Indiana Jones? Without a doubt he is one of the most iconic movie characters in recent history. The first 3 movies in the series- Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade- are some of Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg's finest achievements. The question that everyone has been asking is this- does Crystal Skull live up to the Indy name?

The answer is YES.

While Crystal Skull is not flawless, it is without a doubt my favorite movie so far this summer. Instead of going up against Nazi Germany, this time Indy takes on Russian Communists. Instead of religious artifacts, this time Indy takes up something that is, well, out of this world.

My biggest concern going into this film was how producer George Lucas and director Spielberg were going to portray Indy, now that he is 60! The times have definitely changed in America in this movie and much has happened since the trilogy. In a nutshell, Indy is getting old! Amazingly, though, Indy is still just as much fun now as he was then. With spunk and wit, Harrison Ford's portrayal proves that just because Dr. Jones is getting old doesn't mean he is giving up! This time around he just gets a little more help, thats all!

Some of the help Indy receives is from Mutt Williams, portrayed by the talented young Shia LaBeauf. This guy has attitude AND a motercycle, so watch out! The supporting cast helps to make Crystal Skull what it is, featuring Ray Winstone and Cate Blanchett in major roles, and a return by Karen Allen- who played Marion Ravenwood in the first Indy film.

It would take forever for me to write all that I am thinking about Crystal Skull, so lets condense. The acting is superb, the cast is stellar, the dialogue is fresh, the action is amazing and the effects are VERY GOOD. Bravo to Spielberg for forgoing the new digital effects for traditional filmmaking techniques. And the plot is.....well, not perfect.


If there is one area that Crystal Skull has a problem, it would be the plot.
While the movie is amazing, this one just does not feel as much like an Indiana Jones movie as it should. The gimmick this time is the Crystal Skull which, it turns out, belongs to an alien visitor that came to South America hundreds of years ago.
NOTE, I am not criticizing this. The books and games are MUCH weirder than that. What I am criticizing is Lucas' insistence to put so much emphasis on them. We actually SEE the aliens and see their spinning ship (which Spielberg fans will recognize from Close Encounters of the Third Time). Never, has an Indy movie been about the prize. Instead, it has been about the journey that Jones has on the quest for it, and his character growth.
In Raiders he sees the power of God. In Temple of Doom he learns to value the people around him. In The Last Crusade- wow...there was a lot! This one however, merely resolves a few petty issues and leaves us feeling a bit stunned. The ending is massive alright.
That said, however, we do see the rift between Marion and Indy mended, which is a relief! Also, Mutt Williams gains some insight and life principles from his mentor. Because of this, I can forgive the majorly sci-fi plot.


Overall, I was very impressed by the 4th installment in the Indiana Jones series. The door was left open at the end of this one for a 5th. I am fine with that as long as it is the same caliber as the previous 4. Don't miss Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!

Signing out, The Buckland Fiddler