Europa Report for Sci-Fi fans looking for more science

20130728215522europa_3Europa Report, first and foremost, gets the science of interplanetary space travel right. Set in the near future, this thriller tells the story of a small crew traveling to the moon of Europa orbiting Jupiter. Based on actual findings, Europa is believed to contain liquid water oceans inside it’s frozen exterior and their mission is to find proof of life outside Earth. Funded by the private sector, because governments have turned their back on space exploration, the 6 person crew is made up of pilots, engineers, a biologist (specializing in oceanography) and a doctor.  Early in the film, the mission is applauded for making it the furthest in human history and decades after the last attempt in 1972.

The story is told through interviews of people leading the mission on Earth, the ship’s mounted cameras and personal video journals of the crew. This makes the film unique, with fixed cameras that occasionally gets garbled or goes black depending on what is happening. This filmmaking style adds to the suspense because you are not always seeing or hearing everything. This proves a bit much for Roz, as she had to walk away a few times, only to return to see what happened next. Blair Witch Project in space seems an unfair, but accurate description. If this sounds like your cup of tea, this is a recommended Sci-Fi flick that does not rely on typical Hollywood action and effects.

Europa Report is now available to rent via iTunes, Google Play, Amazon before it’s theatrical release.

Also have to note the performance of actor Sharlto Copley (lead in District 9, villain in Elysium) who once again gives a compelling and unrecognizable performance. This time, no South-African accent.

Golden Gate Bridge 75th Celebration

I could not find it on the tele, so glad I have this. My favorite American man made monument and Metallica to fireworks!

Caine’s Arcade

Great little story.

My Top 5 Movies of 2011

5. Moneyball- Even though I am a baseball fan, I didn’t believe a story about Billy Beane (manager of the Oakland As) unorthodox management of a team on a tight budget was movie material. What you get is one of the most effective pieces of movie making this year. Brad Pitt’s, charismatic, confident, Beane and Jonah Hill’s bumbling, understated team assistant, play well off one another. But it is ultimately Pitt’s performance that raises this movie to a new level. If you have zero interest in baseball you will still enjoy this, and that says a lot.

4. The Muppets- When this movie starts off with a song and dance number in Smalltown USA, my thought was… “really? You want me to go there?” I quickly surrendered to the  best time I had at the movies this year. I found myself sheepishly grinning throughout. The back to back songs by neglected ladies, Mary (Amy Adams) and Miss Piggy, singing “Me Party” and the strangely touching, duet from Gary (Jason Segal) and Walter, “Man or Muppet,” was pure joy.

3. Win, Win- I wrote something about this last year. Heartfelt, uplifting movie about flawed people in bad situations. Tom McCarthy remains the writer/director I can’t wait to see more from.

2. Hugo- A family movie that does not go to predictable places. Tells the tale of a orphaned boy living deep within a train station in early 20th century Paris, and lost filmmaker Georges Melies. Beautifully shot, this sits along side Avatar, as the best use of 3D film making yet. Perfectly captures how movies can cast a spell over it’s audience.

1. Midnight in Paris- A funny, inspiring movie that embraces art, literature and the beauty of Paris. The main character Gil, is identifiable as someone who seems to have everything— A successful writer, beautiful fiancé, money, yet still feels unfulfilled. Owen Wilson’s awkward yet engaging persona, perfectly embodies Woody Allen’s neurotic, hilarious voice, as he interacts with Art and Literary greats to find himself and happiness. This film shows me that engaging character interactions, always triumph the best action movie. I adored this film from beginning to end.

Just Missed

X-Men: First Class- The modern mythology of comic superheroes continues to dominate the movies. Although most of this year’s entries were effective, X-Men: First Class origin story was my top summer popcorn flick. This is in large part to the oscar-caliber acting of James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the leads. Fassbender’s scene in an Argentinian bar remains my most memorable of the year. This lands just under Nolan’s Batman films, as my favorite superhero movie.

The Decendents- This mature, well-acted dramatic comedy captures a man’s dysfunctional family as his wife suffers a boating accident and is in a coma. It causes him to re-exam his past and realize the damage his indifference to his wife and two daughters has caused. Set in the beautiful backdrop of Hawaii and it’s music, Matt (Clooney) also has to make a big decision on the future of land handed down by Hawaiian royalty as he finally deals with the relationship with his troubled daughters. Really a beautiful film, that just misses my top 5. Ultimately I think this movie didn’t have enough humor to defuse the tough subject matter like Alexander Payne’s past films. Clooney running around like a crazed madman and the stoner boyfriend didn’t provide enough for me.

The Adventures of Tintin- The effects in this world-spanning adventure are jaw dropping. Spielberg really outdid himself directing his first computer animated film. The camera angles he uses would just not be possible in traditional film making and he takes it to new levels here.The most dazzling, fast moving, action sequences this year, literally soaring through each scene on a roller coaster. Also, another stellar motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis, as the drunk Captain Haddock. This had me ordering Hergé’s Tintin books I enjoyed as a kid, and leaves me excited for the next installment. Another film that really benefits from 3D.

The Tree of Life- A film that is stunning to look at. Like a great photography book with seemingly unrelated images that surprise and inspire as you flip through it’s pages. Easily the best shot film I saw this year. I have a hard time with Terrance Malick’s films. The story-telling is almost an after thought and requires you to fill in the blanks. Does flying through the cosmos and seeing dinosaurs really help this narrative of a family in 1950s Texas? This is artsy-fartsy at it’s best. Depending on where you sit, you will either embrace or shun it’s results.

Films not seen yet, that may have made my list:  The Guard, Young Adult, 50/50, War Horse, The Help, The Iron Lady, Bridesmaids, The Artist

New Year’s Eve

Into Portlandia and Beyond

Sight, sounds, and tastes from the roadtrip. A travelogue of sorts

Portland

Crystal Ballroom – The driving force to hit the road, err.. after spending time with my two sisters, of course. Picked up 4 tickets to see a double-bill show of my favorite new bands, Manchester Orchestra and Cage the Elephant. Manchester Orchestra’s Simple Math is my favorite album of the moment, give it a listen.  The famed  Pearl district, McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom, with it’s “floating” dance floor was also a big draw. Although we missed a part of Orchestra’s set, Cage sounded outstanding and a good time was had by all.

Powell’s – The largest independent bookstore in the world, Powell’s City of Books occupies a full city block in the Pearl district. The store is easy to get lost in. I am impressed with a help desk in every color coded room with many clerks ready to assist, and even a gps iPhone app that will help navigate it’s labyrinth of corridors. This time I visited it twice and made it through only two sections, Photography and Graphic Design.  I could honestly spend a couple of days here, but alas people are always waiting on me.

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Win Win is a… well, you know.

Let’s cut to the cliché, this is a movie with heart. Writer-director Tom McCarthy has been on my radar since The Visitor, which I felt, was one of the best films in 2007. He has the magic to capture the conflicts in mundane, everyday life and make it exciting (which is fact, in most cases). There are never-ending selfish acts people make, while trying to be good, that permeates all over our world but is seldom caught on film. This movie has good people sometimes doing the bad things and bad people being more sympathatic then you expect. The conflict of life is to come to terms with your questionable actions, before we finish our quest for the dirtnap. McCarthy gets that.

Win, Win is the story of a father with good intentions, that gets caught in a lie that ends up being a blessing. This lawyer (Paul Giamatti), takes advantage of a elderly man to help pays the bills for his wife and two young daughters, and as a result, takes in a troubled teenage boy. He is a runaway, who quickly wins the heart of his fearful wife and family. He turns around his wrestling team and pulls into focus his priorities, in the process.

This is a film littered with outstanding acting, led by sad sack Giamatti (whom enbodies his role from Sideways and has become one of my favorites). Plenty others to like here. Amy Ryan (The Wire) provides, perhaps, the best performance as his wife. Her relationship with the boy is the strongest, punctuated when they compare tattoos. It also has all the supporting roles nailed, with comic relief from Jeffrey Tambor (who has been excellent since Three’s Company) and Bobby Cannavale (The Station Agent). Apparently the boy is a state-champion wrestler and has never acted. His performance proves excellence can be achieved with greatness around you. Best film so far this year.