DVDPurge-300 (Yes! Two blog posts in one day!)

Movie #2: 300, (2007), starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, directed by Zack Snyder

Boy oh boy, where do you start with this spectacle of violence?

The movie comes from the source material of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, and I think that stylizing provides ample punch to the amazing visuals put forth by director Zack Snyder (Batman vs. Superman, Man of Steel, Sucker Punch, The Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead) and company.

I’ve always been drawn to movies, books, and stories that dealt with heroes, underdogs, honor, duty, valor, etc.  There’s something about those ideals that have always spoken to me.  When I found this tidbit about Miller, I totally understood:

When he was a child, Frank Miller saw the Rudolph Maté film The 300 Spartans (1962), with Richard Egan as King Leonidas, and was deeply affected by it. He has explained that the film altered his perception of the ‘Hero’ concept insofar as he came to realize that the hero didn’t always win and that sometimes, to be a hero, one must sacrifice oneself. Ever since he saw the movie, he has been fascinated with Thermopylae.

Thermopylae is where most of our tale is set, in a battle against the Persians, their King Xerxes, and their Immortals.  I mentioned in my 80 Days post that I had always had an interest in history and the Civilization games, so when I first watched 300 in 2007, Xerxes and the Persians were well known to me.  I had been playing Civ since the 3rd version of the game came out in 2001, and was well-aware of this guy…(he looks a tad different in the movie, obviously.  The Persians were lead by Darius I or Cyrus in the next version of the game and then again by Darius I in the latest iteration).


But yes, even in the Civ games, the Greeks and Persians can participate in a little brouhaha.

However, the level of violence and insanely complex fight choreography is downright incredible.  The sheer amount of technical work, not to mention that countless hours of rehearsal and weapon’s training, is amazing by itself, and the time put in definitely shows on screen.  This movie is a text book when it comes to the fight scenes.

For all the terrific action sequences though, there are slower moments where the narration of actor David Wenham (Faramir from Lord of the Rings) truly carries the storytelling.  In the very beginning, one of my first notes was to find out who the narrator was, because the voiceover work seemed top notch.  Then all of a sudden, we’re hearing that same voice coming from Wenham’s character Dilios.  (While the movie wasn’t recognized by the big award shows, Wenham’s performance was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film awards, so at least some people enjoyed it as much as I did).

I felt Lena Headey’s turn as Queen Gorgo completely set the tone for her big future role.  (Also nominated in the ASFFHF **I totally made that up**awards for Best Supporting Actress).  It’s plain to me, that this role 100% influenced her casting as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones.  Her best scene is where she delivers her speech to the council, and then comeuppance to Dominic West’s Theron.

One of my favorite images from the movie:


Couple cool notes:

  • Young Leonidas (not teenage Leonidas that fights the wolf in the above image) is Eli Snyder, son of director Zack.
  • 300 served as feature film debut of one Michael Fassbender as Stelios.  He had only acted in television prior.
  • The quote, “Then we will fight in the shade,” is an actual one from history, spoken by the Spartan warrior Dienekes when warned about the enemies’ arrows. It is also used by Greeks today as emblems on soldier uniforms.

As much as I find myself saying “am I going to watch this again?”, the answer is undoubtedly a resounding “probably”.  🙂  Does that fly in the face of the purpose of purging a DVD collection?  Absolutely.  But, for the visuals and fight scenes, not to mention the fantastic music (especially the early choral chanting), make it a DVD I cannot part with.

Verdict: With four out of five stars, it’s a keep.

Next: 500 Days of Summer (will have to wait for Nicolette on that one!  Quite the genre change there, too.)



Movie #1: 50/50, (2011), starring Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, directed by Jonathan Leavine


Cancer is one of those universal things that has invaded the lives of so many people both within our own little personal part of the world, but also permeates just about everyone else’s too.  In that way, no one ever goes through this awful, awful disease alone.  Setting out to make what amounts to be a comedic drama, if there is such a thing, is a monumental task when it comes to being done right.

This film does a great job of not skirting over the ugly parts of cancer, in that it put’s front and center the pain not only that people with the disease suffer through, but also so many other people within that person’s social circle.  My Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer years ago, had his prostate removed and has been cancer-free ever since thankfully, but absolutely fresh in my mind to this day is the unknown that seeps into your brain when it comes to this disease.  Could this happen?  How bad is it?  Is he going to die?  How do they know?  It’s TERRIBLE.

Trying to visualize being 27-years old and finding out you have cancer is mind-blowing to me, and is something that I can’t really fathom dealing with.  So first and foremost, if you’re reading this, and have dealt with it yourself, I’m in awe of you.

No matter the type, stage, whatever, you are a fucking hero.

I have no clue how I would land on my feet, tell my family, or wrap my brain around basically losing my compass that takes me through life.  It’s an impossible situation.  The only thing I could think of to even remotely come close to what it must feel like would be to be flying a plane alone, at night, and you lose all lights and instruments.  Your engines are still running, you’re still flying, but it’s complete and utter darkness, and you have nothing at that moment to guide you.

Joseph Gordon-Leavitt does a wonderful job showing both the range of ups and downs that go with a diagnosis of this sort, as well as the incredible amount of awkward situations that arise within social interactions with others.  (His performance was nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe in 2012)  Whether it’s calling out Anna Kendrick’s Katherine on her “sea otter tap” attempts at establishing a physical connection between therapist and patient, or the fantastic give and take he has throughout the movie with Seth Rogen’s Kevin.

GL and Rogen’s chemistry really does shine for the duration.  Moments like Adam’s breakdown after driving Kevin’s Jeep one-way and kicking him out, or him finally bringing Kevin home and finding the “Dealing with Cancer Together” book in his apartment, but also him chiming in from the kitchen after confronting Bryce Dallas Howard’s Rachael after she cheats on Adam are all fantastically grounding, and humorously real, respectively.  (Her passing on going to chemo with him because of the “energy”?  Fuck that noise!)

Speaking of Rogen though, and this is not quite a knock, but is he the same character in every movie he acts in?  (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad (though I guess he’s a cop in this one, but still, a very similar feeling cop), Pineapple Express, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Green Hornet, This Is the End, Neighbors, and The Interview are all films I’ve seen with him starring).  I feel like the only variation of Seth Rogen is his weight at the time.  Thankfully, I find him entertaining regardless.  I’ve yet to see him in Steve Jobs (as Steve Wozniak) and the James Franco directed The Sound and the Fury.  Those would probably be the two more serious turns on his filmography and I’ll have to check them out.


They don’t come much cuter than Anna Kendrick, do they?  (That’s for you Lianna, if you’re reading).

She plays awkward superbly well, and I liked her just as much in this film as I liked her in 2009’s Up in the Air.  (I totally had this movie and that movie swapped in my head chronologically, would’ve bet my house 50/50 came out first).

Overall, I think this movie does a fantastic job of showing a hopeful and lighter-side of cancer while not ignoring the grit and the pain it causes everyone around it.  I think the soundtrack does a great job of matching both the tone and emotion throughout the movie, with a couple personal favorite’s of mine being “To Love Somebody” by the Bee Gees, and “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam.

Couple random tidbits:

  • Adam brings a girl home from a night out…oh hi Jessica Parker Kennedy, aka Max from Black Sails!
  • Will Reiser, writer and executive producer, wrote 50/50 using his experiences both dealing with and seeing others deal with his own cancer diagnosis.

Verdict:  At 4 stars out of 5 for me, it’s a keep.

Next: Zack Snyder’s 300.

80 Days-My journey with a really fun game!

Ever since I began gaming, I remember being attracted to games that had to do with history, geography, and all that flows in-between.  (It’s actually that same interest that has cost me to spend obscene hours of my life playing the Civilization games and watching things like America: The Story of Us).

But there’s also something about the story-telling that this game presents to you.

For starters, this game is based on the Jules Verne novel and your character is a French valet named Passepartout in the service of Englishman Phileas Fogg, who takes a wager to travel around the world in, you guessed it, 80 days.  You start in London, with his funds as the fuel, you have to work your way around the globe taking whichever route you desire.  There is a bit of a strategy element in planning out your routes, buying products at markets and selling them in other cities to further build your travel bankroll, and deciding when to attend to your master (and his health, you do need him to arrive back in London alive) or to spend the evening on a stroll where you could meet someone who could give you information on a good travel route, or pick your pocket.  There are innumerable opportunities for risk/reward decisions.  There are steam punk (crazy modes of transport, the Taj Majal is a walking robot!) and sci-fi elements sprinkled in, and a new random seed of events with every play-through, so traveling the same routes doesn’t always yield the same result.  The art, music, and writing are all superb.

Join me now, on a journey around the world!

  • Day 1-London-1872, we’re going on an adventure!  Mr. Fogg has accepted a wager that he can circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days.  He bids me to pack his evening jacket, along with his wool trousers and shirts.  (This completes the Englishman’s wardrobe set, which will help me us negotiate the times of some trips on our journey).  I’ve also packed some oil paints that maybe we can sell along the way!  We board the Amphitrite (Underwater!) Express to Paris at 8pm.
  • Coincidentally, we run into Jules Verne and query him about Paris and some of the travel routes that stem from it.  Paris to Zurich, and Venice to Rome are some of the routes we discover.
  • After arriving in Paris, I decide to explore the city.and learn of travel routes that can take us as far West as Bucharest!  It also just so happens there’s a World’s Fair going on for me to visit.  I decide to visit the Artificer’s Guild (think engineers, they predominately work with automatons, aka robots).  I purchased a bottle of wine to hopefully resell in Berlin, should we travel that way, as well as a pair of leather gloves that will help me keep Mr. Fogg prim and proper on any driving routes we take.
  • Day 2-Paris, I decide to book us passage on the Orient Express to Munich.  On the train, I decided to offer aid to a portly gentlemen who was struggling with some trunks.  Turns out, he’s Henri de Blowitz, foreign correspondent to The Times.  I decided to sit with him in the dining car and we overheard a pair of Parisian girls talking about war with the Ottomans, and that they intended to strike Istanbul.  de Blowitz informed me he was writing a story about it.  We should likely avoid that route.
  • Day 3-Munich, I decided that we would travel by steam carriage to Berlin to sell our wine for a large profit to fund our adventure.  I learn that we can travel to Warsaw, and then on to Minsk on to Moscow, and then entirely across the Russian landscape to the Pacific!  However, before we arrived we were accosted by an Ottoman airship helmed by a mysterious red-jacketed woman!  With a giant mechanical claw, we were hoisted by the airship as our driver prayed furiously.  (Monsieur Fogg was oblivious to the danger apparently, calmly looking out the window as we rose).  Airship pirates?  Perhaps an advantage we could press for our travels?  My master approvingly agreed with my sentiment.  Turns out, she’s after an engine part from our driver’s vehicle.  After talking my way out of things with an offer of tea and charming her I mentioned our wager.  She mentioned that she had something that needed to be delivered to Istanbul.  Do we dare go that way knowing of impending war?  She handed me a carved stone and told me to deliver it and that we’d be rewarded handsomely.  The pirates dropped us in Berlin at 11pm.
  • Day 4-Berlin, exploring in the early morning opened up route options to us that allowed me to try to get to Bucharest and connect with Istanbul.  After selling our wine and oil paints for a princely sum of 2600 pounds, we know had 6,195 to our name.  The private car for Bucharest wouldn’t leave until the next day, so we stayed in Berlin that night.
  • Day 5-Road to Bucharest, our driver’s name was Gottlieb Daimler. (Automobile pioneer!)
  • Day 8, 6PM, we arrive in Bucharest and spent the night.  Upon investigating the next morning, there were no ways out of the city that day.  I stopped into the Artificer’s guild and spoke to a nice woman named Steinberg, who supplied me with a paraffin wax mixture to help us speed along any balloon rides we might take in the future, and a Artificer’s Medallion.  I could sell the stone for 2200 pounds here, but am too curious about its purpose in Istanbul.
  • Day 10, we hopped on a freight train to Odessa so that we could catch passage to Istanbul via boat.
  • Day 11, we arrived and instantly caught a hydrofoil to Istanbul.  The trip was uneventful and we arrived around 9pm local time.  The plan forward was to take a public carriage to Antalya on the morrow, but a little exploring in the morning will possibly open other options.  Besides, we have to deliver the stone.
  • Day 12-Istanbul, the artificer’s shop held rows and rows of porcelain faces as I walked in.  Mechanical arms and legs and torsos strewn about, and hundreds of jeweled eyes started at me.  An automaton rose with a creak, and I greeted it.  It turned out to be the artificer with brass goggles and curly black hair.  I told him about the stone and he explained to me that it was from his very first creation, an automaton from the Ottoman court that ended up being sold off and lost to him.  The red-jacketed woman (a former student of our artificer) had been sending him pieces of one lost child in hopes it would help him forget another.  He asked if she seemed happy,  and I answered that I thought she had found a home with her crew, so that I thought so.  He counted out 3000 pounds as our reward!  Our total now sits at 8,235!  I decided we’d want to keep this profiting going, so bought a huge amount of olive oil for 310 pounds in hopes of selling it for more in Tehran.  Did I mention that I negotiated a change in the departure of the Tehran-bound Kamer-Taj (gigantic iron horse train) from two days from now to 8pm this evening?  Yes, I did that.  Apparently these things can reach a top speed of 75 miles per hour!
  • Day 15-Tehran, not knowing if I would ever actually get a chance to use the paraffin wax substance on a balloon, I sold it for 2200 pounds.  (9660 running total after trip expenses).  I did pick up an astrolabe for 160 pounds in hopes of flipping it elsewhere in our travels.  We leave for Kabul on the morrow.
  • Day 18-Kabul, our mechanical palaquin for Agra departs tomorrow and arrives in two days.  Not bad timing if we can swing it.  However, upon exploring Kabul, we were seized by a score of British Infantry and marched into a fortress.  My master protested our treatment, and I joined.  We were presented to one Mr. Smythe in a very fancy looking office.  I rudely pointed out that he had a fine office and he agreed it was a bit opulent for its current use.  Monsieur Fogg explained the urgency behind our passing through Kabul, and as our tale grew longer, Smythe grew more and more astonished.  Smythe explained that he had a friend who was traveling to Omsk, and said he’d appreciate us accompanying her.  (Omsk would allow us to catch the Trans-Siberian express all the way to Ussuriysk, or change at Karimskaya for Beijing.)  We stayed the night and decided to continue on to Agra though, not wanting to risk the biting cold of Siberia.
  • Day 19/20-road to Agra, we passed through Lahore and Delhi, and on the way into Agra all I could see was the Taj Mahal.  I had heard rumors of Agra being the “walking city”.
  • Day 20-Agra, the astrolabe sold for 6,600 pounds!  We are richer than I would’ve imagined three weeks in, with coffers that total 15,416 pounds.  I invested 5 of those pounds in an elastic banded wallet to protect our wealth against pick-pockets and a train-schedule and route map for America.  I figured we’d be heading through there at some point and that it’d be useful.  It appears that Agra will take us to Calcutta.  A roving city, the wonder!  No one knew how it was powered.  I was just glad she worked. I was able to procure a photograph on ferrotype during our travel as a souvenir.
  • Day 22-AI took a walk on the decks, I saw a young lady in a bright pink sari and yellow-lensed goggles pitch herself over the railing!  I sprinted across the deck and peered over the edge, bracing myself for the awful sight of her plummeting to the ground.  She waved up at me cheerily, however, suspended by a length of thick rope.  I waved back in shock.  She found me at lunch, and introduced herself as Daya. She explained that she was adjusting mechanics below the rail and that she had waited for me to show up before she jumped.  I complimented her performance.
  • Day 23-Calcutta, the olive oil sold for 1300 pounds!  Asking around for routes out of the city, I was able to negotiate passage to Hong Kong via the SS Thunder the following day.  Our trip is progressing nicely.
  • Day 24-We were off via steam ship and the captain promised us a journey of ten days rather than the usual figure of 12.  London to Hong Kong in 34 days would truly be something.
  • Day 31-enroute to Hong Kong, I helped a sick crewman in my cabin and let him stay until he was better.  He told me if he’d been discovered sick he’d have lost his job in Hong Kong.  As thanks, he told me if I needed to get to Manila quickly, that his uncle has an airship.  I’ve only mention his name and he will take us.  Not knowing if there was a way to cross the Pacific from Manila gave me pause though.
  • Day 33-Hong Kong, we arrived within the ten-day promise the captain gave us.  I have decided we will make our way towards Yokohama rather than Manila.  Our air ship leaves tomorrow.
  • Day 34-The Jade Tiger was a Persian airship decorated with Manchu luck-symbols.  I hope that does not mean she needs all the luck she can get…
  • Day 37, Yokohama, upon investigating our options, it appears perhaps we should’ve gone to Manila to get to Honolulu.  Our choice of travel from here is an “experimental hover-ship” that leaves tomorrow.  Fortune favors the bold?
  • Day 38, with some prodding, I was able to find out about a passenger ship that would travel from Yokohama to San Francisco!  No experimental craft for us!  Our ship, the Waterlily, was a ship-to-submarine prototype.  I looked forward to a peaceful crossing, but, we were not to be so lucky.
  • Day 42-at sea, I was climbing the rigging for exercise when I heard two crewman arguing above me, when one sailor grabbed at the other, missed his footing and fell over the edge of the platform!  I watched him die…the sailor he was arguing with slipped away.
  • Day 44, a huge storm hit us for six hours.  We were blown far off-course.  There is no land in sight in any direction.
  • Day 45, the captain has announced we are going to make for Hawaii instead of San Francisco.  We should arrive there in five days but we’d have to procure our own way off the island.  Monsieur Fogg was not happy, suggesting that our captain had broken his gentleman’s agreement to bring us to SF, and that we should not and would not incur more financial strain because he could not fulfill his end of the bargain!  He suggested a mutiny.  He also said it was up to me to set it in motion…
  • Day 50, outside Honolulu, the time has come for my mutiny.  Long story short and giving away no spoilers, my particular mutiny was successful, we turned the ship and made our way towards San Francisco.
  • Day 56-San Francisco.  We have made it, and somehow not lost even a day in the exchange.  I decided instead of facing a three-day wait for a train to take us West, we’d hop a gyrocopter to Gastown, and try to make our way to New York via Canada.  We’ll see if that pays off.
  • Day 60-After arriving and waiting two days for a train via the Canadian Pacific Railway, we booked passage to Winnipeg and then on to Ottawa, where hopefully we could quickly find a way to get to London.
  • Day 63-Slow goings on the train and rumors of a “floating city” spurred us to debark in Regina.  But, I saw a walking city, could a floating one by that far out of the realm of possibility?
  • Day 64-Regina, after finding a mystery device in an alley after a fist fight between some native tribes and white men, we boarded an air ship to Toronto.  As the air ship took off, the device began to buzz and lights flickered.  This can’t be good.
  • Day 65-I awoke with my hands bound.  Monsieur Fogg bond similarly.  A tall Lakota woman entered the room, introduced herself, and threw the mysterious device at my feet, and accused us of being whisky traders.  We were to go in front of their council in….THE FLOATING CITY!?
  • Day 67-Floating City of the Sioux, with my unabashed telling of the truth, the council found us not guilty of being whisky traders.  The Lakota woman explained we’d be dropped in Quebec City.  We don’t have much time left…
  • Day 73-Quebec City, our only hop was to catch a hot air balloon from Quebec City to Reykjavik, but it cost us 3300 pounds total to have them bump up the departure a day.  Thankfully we had the money, sadly I sold the paraffin wax ages ago.
  • Day 76-Reykjavik, I have paid extra to spur passage to London sooner as we are up against the clock.  We leave today in hopes of arriving under 80 days…
  • Day 78-LONDON!  WE MADE IT!  My master won 20,000 pounds!

So, in total, here are the stats of our journey….

  • We visited 18 cities
  • Traveled 26,055 miles
  • 11,688 by sea
  • 6,279 by land
  • 7,105 by air
  • 984 by other means

I obviously left out some of the narrative pieces to not spoil the fun and spontaneity of the game.  In some cases, the outcome happens regardless of your choices, but there are definitely ample opportunities for the story to branch and grow on itself.

All in all, if you’re a PC gamer, I encourage you to give 80 Days a shot.  You won’t regret it.  $6.69 on Steam until July 4.


You know what they say about best laid plans….

(in case you don’t, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” and holy god, that Neil Leifer photo above is freaking amazing isn’t it?  One of my favorite athletic images ever.)

So my best laid plan was to go through my DVD collection alphabetically, but, sometimes things change when one of your heroes dies.

I remember reading that Muhammad Ali was hospitalized and of course thought, “is this it?”

Turns out it was.

The Greatest is gone.

So, in honor of the monumental life that Ali lived, I’m starting my DVD purge quest with Michael Mann’s Ali (2001).  I’ll revert back to the alphabetical course after that.

In many ways, I think I was drawn to Ali for the same reasons everyone else was.  He was boisterous, funny, charming, talented.  It wasn’t until I was older that I learned more about his life and doings outside of the boxing ring.  The man lived life-like we all should…with kindness, grace, bravery, and perspective.  He fought for what he believed in.

“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”

Ali was one of those people I’d pick if you asked me the question, “if you could only pick 4 people to have dinner with…”.  (Robin Williams and Johnny Cash would’ve been on that list too)  Not only because he could tell amazing stories, teach life lessons, etc., but because I guarantee you that anyone who came in contact with him was made a better person just by breathing the same air that he did.

His trainer, Angelo Dundee, was quoted saying Ali, despite losing the very prime of his boxing career after having his boxing license revoked for being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War and refusing the draft, never heard him complain about losing those years.  The world never got to see Ali at his finest.

“Ali had been passing a high-rise building in 1981 when he noticed a commotion; a man was threatening to commit suicide by jumping from the ninth floor.  Ali asked the police officers if he could help and duly coaxed the troubled man down from the ledge.” -Photo: Bettman/Corbis

With that in mind, let’s get to the movie…

If you had to boil down this movie to its simplest idea, I’d say it’s about a man who fights to gain the heavyweight boxing crown, has it taken from him unjustly, and then fights to get it back.

But it’s not that simple, of course.

Michael Mann does a fantastic job in picking a period of time that shows us Ali’s most turbulent years.  (Some of my favorite films are Mann-helmed: Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, Collateral, Public Enemies)  The deaths of the Kennedy’s, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X basically had most of the country in a state of perpetual despair.  Ali was the light in the midst of that darkness.

Will Smith does an excellent job of portraying Ali, complete with mannerisms, verbal genius, and charm.  His performance lead to a Best Actor Oscar nomination. (The award went to Denzel Washington, for Training Day)  Equally as adept and entertaining is Jon Voight’s turn as Howard Cosell.  The give and take between these two whether demonstrative (Ali grabbing Cosell’s toupee during an interview), to the quiet, (when Cosell calls Ali to tell him he TKO’d the U.S. Government), are masterfully done.  The scene when Cosell is screaming “It is over! It is over!  It is over!” after (spoiler alert) Ali knocks out Foreman is just pure emotion.  Voight’s Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor was well-deserved.  (Jim Broadbent won the award for Iris)

I definitely identify with historical figures and characters that have flaws.  There’s something about the imperfection.  There are times during this film where I found myself feeling stagnant…bored even…mostly, these scenes were the ones where Ali was interacting/courting women.  He was a womanizer, but I felt like those parts of the movie were just awfully slow.

Some of my favorite scenes though are just when Smith is riffing as Ali.  When he’s in his hotel room watching television and learning about termites…”these itsy-bitsy things eatin’ people’s houses down” and “ah man…” when the house actually falls.  When he asks his trainer Angelo Dundee if he think’s that Ali still has the tools to beat Foreman.  “You still have the tools, but they’re different.”

The score is amazing, perfectly capturing the essence for the time-period, the discourse, and the triumph of Ali’s greatness.

Overall, I’d give this movie 4 stars out of 5.  I think it could have done a bit more to show how much of a Titan Ali was to people of all ages, races, ethnicities, financial backgrounds, etc.


Verdict:  KEEP

For a few more minutes of an excellently narrated and produced goodbye to Ali, check out this HBO Sports tribute:  https://youtu.be/ThJbZR8M9a0