If you told me I’ve only been in country 10 days, I’d say you’re mental, can’t be that short. Well, now it’s been…just about 2 weeks, two weeks tomorrow when I arrived here (I take far too long to actually write these posts). They’re gonna come in spurts, I can’t submit them from my residence, the internet is VERY limited. Therefore I need to wait till I have a free moment at work. Right then, status report.

We were met at the airport and taken to our initial housing: a Hostel. I had never seen a hostel before so I really had no idea what to expect. I best sum it up as a hybrid of a hotel and a dorm. The room is just your bed, kitchens are open access. Overall it was quite nice, tho a tad cramped with all my suitcases in addition to my roommate’s. We went on a basic walking tour of Wellington, saw the major places. That afternoon we mostly had off, then dinner, nothing big. The major challenge of the day was staying awake till 8-9. I had been awake since Monday morning. In order to quickly adjust to New Zealand time schedule, I needed to stay awake until about midnight Tuesday (home time). The time difference is (to Phoenix) 4 hours behind, but a day ahead or rather 20 hours ahead, I find the former easier.

Day two started with ZEALANDIA! It’s a nature preserve at the edge of town. They surrounded it with a 10 foot tall fence. The trees are cleared about 9 feet to each side of the fence. They are VERY serious about keeping predators; they even had us inspect our pockets and bags to ensure we weren’t bringing anything with us into the preserve. It was beautiful, but cold. The weather the first few days was not nice, cold, windy and misty (It has since warmed up). I couldn’t take the pictures I wanted, My long lens was MIA (deep in the suitcases) so I made do with the shorter one, but that means in pictures you’ll see white blobs instead of birds (once I find internet capable of such uploads). That afternoon and evening we had to ourselves, I just hid in my room, I was still quite tired.

Day three was cool. We began with a tour around Wellington to see shooting locations from LORD OF THE RINGS. It was cool, but not quite what you’d expect. If you’ve ever seen Plymouth Rock, it’s like that, still cool, but not as big as anticipated, at least for me. For example, the filming locations for Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith is a quarry, we got to look at a quarry from the far side of the road (it’s still working). I think my favorite was up on Mt Victoria. Up there the shortcut to mushrooms and night scenes with the Ringwraith were shot. It was cool to look up a hill and see where they made the famous silhouetted shot of the wraith. That afternoon was Te Papa, a giant museum on the Harbor of New Zealand, it’s a museum, not TOO much to say. Ate dinner with an intern who had been here 2 weeks, by herself (don’t envy her for that).

Now we’re on Saturday. From here on I’m on my own. That morning I was put in a taxi and sent to my new apartment. It’s a lot like a hotel room, not bad. The rest of the place looks as though it used to be quite nice, but it’s since fallen into disrepair. I’ve never once seen someone that works here, though things occasion are cleaner than when I saw them last. Well this is when it really hit me: I was essentially alone with NO clue what to do. That was a hard day, felt like crap, called home, the works. This is what we call “culture shock”. No matter how big and strong you are, you will break down crying at least once in confusion from the shock. EVERYONE I’ve talked to (a large pool) says the same thing. I am much better now, kinda settled in.

Thoughts: The food here is…ok, mostly small places, still trying to find places I’ll regularly visit. If you come here, I hope you like Thai/Malaysian/Indian, you’ll be eating that a lot. That’s not the problem, the REAL problem is prices. Yes the American dollar is worth a little more than the New Zealand Dollar, but thing here cost about twice as much, so your money doesn’t go quite as far. It’s been tricky finding affordable places that provide food I’ll enjoy many times. Also need to budget my money, 20 weeks is a long time. Alright, I’m off, I’ll tell about week one at work soon, probably type it up tonight. Cya!

In Flight Entertainment

So the 747 had some really good movies to choose from (mostly new ones), the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (non-extended), the original Italian job, even Looper. So I chose some off my 2012 list of things to see. It’s been about a week since I saw them, been quite a week too, so once again it’s the not-so-detailed reviews.

I started with Brave. Well what people say was true, it plays out a lot more like a Disney princess tale than a standard Pixar tale. The score was forgettable except in its very Disney-esque tone. There were songs, characters SINGING, something we’ve never seen in Pixar, but a STAPLE of Disney princess movies. It followed the same very predictable formula too. It really felt a lot like The Little Mermaid, but Scottish. Now I say that it FELT like that, not that it was that, similar elements and plot flow. It was really predictable. The visuals were quite good, they had our lead ACTUALLY FOLLOW THROUGH on her archery, something I’m surprised you don’t see often (Legolas I’m looking at you but speaking to everyone). I loved the voice acting, it was actually Scottish with Scottish actors, not so hard is it? Not bad, but definitely a weak link of Pixar films, nothing special honestly.

End of Watch, further proof that Jake Gyllenhal is a fantastic actor. I saw that it was a pretty good movie, but had heard very little else about it, so I went in thinking it’d be pretty good. It was actually spectacular to me. Jake and Michael Peña (dude I typed the ñ shortcut from memory having not done so in like 5 years :D ) really make this movie work. The whole film plays up their brotherhood, and the two of them sell the hell out of brothers. What End of Watch also does FANTASTICALLY is tension. You know exactly what’s going to happen, but still am nervous for it, there is just enough possibility of the unknown. Now that could be because I started watching this movie really late and I was tired, but I like to believe the movie did it on its own. Now I will spoil a TAD, it ends on a downward note. BUT after that down note it has the mind to give us a flashback that will bring a smile to our faces as we leave the theater. I’m sorry I can’t go into more detail with this one, I really liked it and feel like it should get more attention than it got.

So after that I attempted to sleep, I got about 3-4 hours of pseudo-sleep. After that I decided for another movie, Little Miss Sunshine. Dysfunction at its finest. Each actor brings their A game. It’s really refreshing to see Steve Carrell play a serious role AND be good at it. It was a good choice to give it the best screenplay Academy Award in its year. Funny, but still quite serious, those are not the easiest elements to balance. A good movie, quite solid.

SO, it’s gonna be a while til I have something new to review, so it’s back to those I’ve already seen. Thanks for reading!

Flying day

I wrote this on the plane (yes i know it’s a week ago, but I’ve only now got reliable internet)

Ok, so I’m writing this on the plane. It’s currently…1:00 where I’m from, And I still have ~8 hours left til we get to Auckland. I’ve taken pictures, but can’t post them, kinda in a plane. Yes I’m gonna go get sleep, but first I want to talk about my experience so far before I forget it. Bear with me, it may be a bit rambling, but at this point I doubt it’ll all still be in my head after I sleep. it’s been a long day.

Started at about 7 this morning, at the airport a little after 9. Spent better part of 2 hours waiting for my first plane. That flight was a cakewalk, spent most of it doing logic puzzles, yes I’m 10 all over again and quite frankly I love it. Then I got to SFO (that’s San Francisco Airport). I picked my bags up again, and proceeded to spend the next 3 hours carting them around and waiting. Silly Patrick, shoulda done your homework, then you would have known that Air NZ will not let you check in until 3 hours before your flight, there isn’t even a desk for it til then. After security, the terminal was eerily quiet. I fly a ton, I’m used to the din of airports. To see it…well not silent, but certainly quiet, was almost unsettling.

The 747 we’re flying to Auckland really is massive, never been on one before. Still only got my coffin space for shoulder room, but at least I’ve got the aisle. We got dinner, it was (as expected) pretty lousy, about par with Caf food. Got free wine to go with it tho, that was nice, wasn’t half bad either. Then there’s the entertainment, you get your own screen, attached are about 75 movies. I chose to watch Brave and then End of Watch, knocking two more off my list of things to see from 2012 (I’ll review them in another post). Problem was the sound, my headphones don’t really work since the ports on the plane take two plugs. Mine would work as long as I didn’t touch them, being in my coffin, easier said than done. The alternative was the provided headphones. Now they gave me a nicer pair than normal since I volunteered to switch so a couple could sit together, no loss to me, I went form Aisle seat to aisle seat about 10 feet forward. The problem with those was if I nudged them in some particular way (still not sure what exactly) they screech like banshee in my ears >.<. My legs and rear are killing me, seats are far from nice, but it’s what I got, the occasional lap of the economy section does help. And that takes us up to now.

I think I might just put all the photos in my photobucket account and just link the blog there (with an exception here and there. Well I’m off, try to sleep and all. Night folks!

Amazing and Premium

Wow, I’m gonna be flying to NZ in ~48 hours. That’s an intimidating thought. Right, MOVIES! I’m gonna keep ‘em short, I’m tired and stressed over packing and such, but want to review them while they’re still fresh

This is a double review, both The Amazing Spider-man and Premium Rush. Anyone guess which I liked better?

Spider-Man: I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of the reboot from the start. My stance pretty much never changed throughout it’s trailers and theater run. Garfield and Stone were surprising, They weren’t bad at all. The problem is that their characters are inexplicably bland. The elements of each of them are never really explored and we must take them as presented. On top of that they fall in love, but have NO reason to do so other than the movie says they are. I did enjoy the snarky and cocky spider-man, it felt appropriate for a kid who just got super powers. He then sheds that mentality just as quickly he drops his plot-driving vendetta. He’s seeking out Uncle Ben’s killer, but after a short argument with Captain Stacy, Spider-Man, without a second glance, gives up dreams of vengeance and is a good guy. He never learns a lesson, he just gets scolded. It seems far too abrupt for me. I didn’t get Lizard’s motivation either. He starts out with his own revenge story, but it is dropped and forgotten as quickly as Spider-man’s. Lizard then inexplicably decides the world must be Lizard too. Too many elements of the plot are just tossed around carelessly. Too much is done because the movie says so and it won’t really go into why. Kinda weird

Technically it was lousy. The First-Person shots that are randomly thrown in of Spider-man’s perspective (Ham it up for 3D I’m sure) were cheap and really distracting since there wasn’t flow into or out of those shots, there was no REAL reason to do those shots other than just to do it. The CG for Lizard was bad (not as bad as some people claim), I had more problems with his art design, he just looked terrible to me. Honestly he looks like a Goomba from the Super Mario Bros. Movie from the 90′s. I recall thinking how there was a significant lack of theme to the music, I kept my ear tuned for some dramatic piece for Spider-man, but it never really came.

It wasn’t horrible, but it is incredibly mediocre to me. Can’t win ‘em all.

NOW PREMIUM RUSH. This movie is fun. Not fantastic, but definitely simple. Simple can really work in a film’s favor, it doesn’t try to be anything more. It’s not deep, there are no real morals to speak of other than: “don’t be a gambling douchebag”.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Wilee, a bike messenger. He loves to ride his bike…with no brakes or coasting or extra gears, bit psycho to me (and to a lot of the characters in the movie too). Today Wilee gets a package that attracts the attention of Michael Shannon who today plays a cop with a gambling problem. And that’s it, that’s essentially the whole story. Wilee on his bike, doing crazy stuff and being chased by people.

How does this movie work then? because, like i said, it’s FUN. JGL and Shannon are both lively in their parts, they too seemed to be having fun. They poke fun at the whole scenario just as the audience would. At one point the bad guy (who is trying to run Wilee over at the time) says “I’m chasing a guy on a bike” and then chuckles incredulously. The movie knows how ridiculous a premise it is and just runs with it. The flashback sequences to show what got major players into this chase do break up the pace, but you gotta put it in somewhere and having it at the beginning would ruin early surprises.

The technicals aren’t amazing, but still a bit impressive. I’m pretty sure Levitt was actually riding the bike (whenever his stuntman wasn’t) as in to say no CGI. So he’s bolting down NYC streets, but you can always see him, and everything else, really clearly. This movie would fall on its face with shaky cam. The shots are already pretty fast to match the pace of the story, if we couldn’t see what was there we’d miss the entire movie. My favorite moments are the times that Wilee comes to a crossroad and has to decide which ways to best navigate traffic so not to get obliterated. We watch as he sees a possible route, we are then treated to a surreal account of how horribly wrong that way would go so he moves onto the next one. It totally works for me, made me chuckle.

No it’s not perfect, but hey, just because I’m a film geek doesn’t mean I can’t like movies that aren’t artsy or cinematic gold. Sometimes I enjoy just watching a well executed chase. It’s a treat when I can do that without turning off my brain. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a movie that is just a long chase (you’re welcome to remind me of some). At least I was never bored nor confused (more that I can say for Spider-Man).

So much for short reviews. Ah well, wish me Luck in NZ! Next post will probably be pics from the airport and my THRILLING tale of sitting on a plane for 12 straight hours.

A year in review

I will give brief thoughts on the movies i saw this year (not all in theaters). I’m gonna stick with ones that came out this year also. RIGHT THEN

The Hunger Games: This was my last review, and I must say it doesn’t hold up. Every time i looked back at it, I liked it less. When i saw it again after it came out it really was mediocre. the effects were lousy, the story really was betrayed, not in the details, but in the elimination of theme. There is no more hunger struggle, her oppressive loneliness in the games is eliminated. not terrible, but not very good any more.

Cabin in the Woods: I LOVED THIS MOVIE, though i can understand why people wouldn’t. I can’t really go into all the little things i love about it without spoiler reveals, so i won’t. I will say that it is a meta-horor film. a horror movie about making a horror movie. Good meta-cinema is solid gold to me. Just trust me when i say you should give it a watch, I won’t guarantee you’ll love it, but It’s a fairly safe bet if you ask me.

The Avengers: Definitely one of the best movies this year. There’s a reason i love Joss Whedon, he is GREAT at balancing the group. The dialogue was absolutely fabulous. The story was good, graphics were really good. One thing i love is the one long (compound) shot going from hero to hero watching them all using their powers beautifully. I mean c’mon Iron Man shoots an enemy by reflecting off Captain’s shield, pretty bad-ass.

The Bourne Legacy: eh. Unremarkable. Probably would have been a little stronger had it just been its own franchise instead of attaching to Bourne.

Prometheus: It was really inconsistent, I did enjoy it. Parts were good, parts were lousy. I didn’t really get the giant starfish monster (you’ll understand if you see it).The graphics were always good. Rapace and Fassbender were fantastic, they kinda carried the show. Not perfect by any stretch, like Bourne probably would have been better if it didn’t try to attach to an existing franchise.

Moonrise Kingdom: I just saw this a few days ago actually. I really liked it. The two kids will find a great career in acting, at least they ought to. I loved the juxtaposition of such silly visuals with total deadpan humor.

The Dark Knight Rises: It’s not as good as the Dark Knight, bu that’s like saying Mount McKinley  is short since Mount Everest is taller (McKinley is the tallest mountain in North America). The acting and story were great and I love this rendition of Bane. The biggest problem is the movie expected us to take a lot of the exposition without explanation, and spent a little too much time telling instead of showing. Anne Hathaway was probably the standout, she was a lot of fun to watch.

Looper:I really love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He and Emily Blunt in this movie were marvelous. Concepts were cool (just ignore that the science doesn’t really work) Good action. I particularly loved the part where the guy from the future suddenly found his limbs disappearing. I still need to watch it again since it’s been ~ 5 months since i saw it last and i really did enjoy it.

Skyfall: A Masterpiece. everyone has already said why this movie is amazing. throwbacks to old bond, good acting etc. What I loved was the cinematography and lighting. half the actions scenes have little to no light, several are done entirely in silhouette. I can say from experience that shooting in that little light is RE-E-E-EALLY hard to do. Not only do they do it, you never lose track of the characters, it’s quite clear what your seeing even though all there is to see is shadow. Probably my favorite part is the scene in front of the Jellyfish in Shanghai. It is definitely one of the well put-together Bond movies (if not THE best).

Lincoln: Daniel Day-Lewis has earned 2 oscars in 18 years. In that time he did about 10 films. This is another great example of why. He WAS Lincoln, the man doesn’t act, he becomes the character. It was greatly immersive, as my dad put it “one of the few movies i’ve seen where i REALLY felt like i was in the period” between lighting and dialogue it really felt like 1860′s America. Great movie.

The Hobbit: in one word: Lazy. It was entertaining, but overly simple. They could have done a lot more with the movie in my idea, with script, with acting, with music. It felt cheap. Part of the problem is making a bedtime story into an epic, especially trying to make it into 3 movies (I can understand 2).

Les Miserables: The most disappointing movie of the year. I love the musical. Heard that a movie was being made and got excited. saw the trailers and got totally psyched for it. Finally saw it and was crushed. The cinematography was awful. you can blame that one wanting to do live singing. Sure that got the emotions, but so often the music was abandoned. Everyone in the movie was really talented. This movie SHOULD be better, but it wasn’t. (I admit Anne Hathaway is as amazing as everyone says she is, good year for her).

Movies I want to see from 2012: Amazing Spider-man (have it now from Netflix), Dredd, Flight, Argo, Premium Rush, End of Watch, Brave, Wreck-it Ralph, Seven Psychopaths, Django Unchained

Those are what I saw this year (that came out this year). Enjoy

Miss Me?

To all my non-existent readers! I have been gone a long time, your silence discouraged me and I stopped caring about the blog, but now I’m back. We’re also undergoing a shift in content here at Serene Outlaw. Next week I will be departing to New Zealand for 6 months. I will be spending most of my time in Wellington working for Martin Square Productions. It will be awesome. ANYWAYS, the blog will now be bi-weekly updates (as required for my grade). It’ll be fun, I can still review movies, but need to talk also about how the internship is going.

In other news: Perfect Bench (my senior project) is nearing completion. I spent most of the semester prepping/shooting/editing this film. I quite like it. In my opinion it’s much better than Last Lies and Lasting Truths (which you can find on Youtube AND IMDB!!!!) and FAAAAR better than the music video. I hope that it ends up as amazing as it can, so far it’s fantastic.

I’ll be posting my year in review, awards and such. I will only give commentary of movies I saw, so if I didn’t? tough :)

Good to be back