Saturday, June 29, 2013

Double double! "World War Z" and "Man of Steel" Review

Toil and trouble! Today, after much too long a time with nothing new posted here, I am quite pleased to present a Dynamic Duo Double Feature Double Dialogue Review, with my brother and fellow writer and movie-lover, the fantastic Joe Faultersack! This will be a much more informal approach than usual, as we'll basically just be going back and forth with our thoughts on the two movies we saw last weekend and this weekend, respectively, "World War Z" and "Man of Steel."

Joe:  "World War Z."  This one is an very nontraditional zombie movie.  The things that make it different are the following: 1) suspense instead of just action 2) tastefulness instead of tastiness 3) scope. 

Dan: Well, I'm no expert on the zombie genre in general, but I'd say that some other zombie films probably feature a mixture of suspense and action as well. But you're certainly right in pointing out that the way this film combines those two things works very well. I'd almost say they basically just alternate, and it works splendidly.

Joe: Yeah, well put.  What stands out most to me about the suspense is that it is done so well.  They kill off a couple characters early on--characters who you think might become important side characters.  This means that later on, you think any of the side characters could suddenly get killed off, and so you're nervous.  They add to that the fact that the zombies are mainly attracted to sound, and that gets you wincing and silently screaming every time someone kicks a soda can.

Dan: Indeed. The sound-attraction thing is a plot point that the script plants very early on, and it pays off majorly in the third act, where, as you said, we in the audience are wincing a lot as the characters keep making these small but potentially deadly noises. It is interesting too that we go from a lot of action in the middle sections to a very tight, small-scale, suspense-driven sequence at the end. That whole part in Scotland with the [plot details] was what really won me over to this film. There were some very epic, even iconic moments, I thought.

Joe:  Absolutely.  A lot of movies try to make their end "epic" by just making a really, really big battle at the end.  "World War Z" does it just by brilliant suspense, high stakes, and like you said, at least one very iconic shot.  Another thing that won me over for this movie is Brad Pitt's character, Gerry.  He's not a "stand out" character as far as quirks are concerned, but I found myself thinking throughout the movie, "What a guy."  You really, really root for him.

Dan: Agreed. And I think that is the value of an actor like Pitt who is also a "star" in the classical sense--even with a very basic, everyman type character, his talent and charisma pull you in and make you care about the guy. Also, to jump into some comparisons, I think the thing you just mentioned about epic not necessarily meaning big was a problem with "Man of Steel," and one spot at least where "World War Z" had it beat. "Man of Steel" goes very big and very cacophonous at the end, full of smashing and explosions and bright lights and jittery camera work.

Joe:  The end battle in "Man of Steel," which indeed is more of the last third of the movie, is big, and like you say, "World War Z" wins out there.  I find I get board very quickly with big action sequences with lots of explosions and flying stuff, and more and more movies are obsessed with those these days.  I didn't notice the jitter too much in "Man of Steel," but you do have an eye for that, so they probably did use it, (and it is in general an overused style).  Before we move away from "World War Z," my last comment on that one is that it side-steps the blood-bath style of zombie flick.  Zombie movies have so much potential, but they also usually revel in this sort of Roman Circus love of blood, guts, and outrageous violence for its own sake.  "World War Z" deliberately avoids this time and time again.  That's tasteful.

Dan: Agreed. And it should be noted that it is PG-13, and more scary than gory for the most part. I'll add that the jittery camera is present in "World War Z" as well, especially in the first third or so, which was perhaps part of why it took a little while for me to get into the film. But once it had its hooks in me, I was very engaged. Anyways, on to "Man of Steel," which I think you liked considerably better than I did. So why don't you start us off!

Joe: Right-oh.  "Man of Steel" got my attention with its first teaser trailer, featuring music lifted from Howard Shore's Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack, Russel Crowe narrating, and beautiful, dream-like imagery.  I started to wonder, "is it possible that this movie could be as good as this trailer?"  I'm still not sure.  That trailer was hard to beat.  But the movie overall was beautiful to me.  First of all, I hope it at very least gets an Oscar nomination (if not award) for Best Cinematography.  It was shot in a fantastic way.  And I mean that in both senses of the word: it was really great shooting, and it was unearthly shooting.  Unearthly both in that it was visually striking sci fi and that it had this imaginative, lyrical quality to it.  So that shooting combined with the feel of the score and some of the ideas the film played with to make it a beautiful movie, that in its best moments was haunting.  It's less great moments... well I'll let you take those.

Dan: Lyrical is a great word to describe what "Man of Steel" does well, to a large extent living up to the promise of that excellent teaser trailer, at least visually. Where it doesn't quite do the trick, in my opinion, is in the story department. The teaser made me imagine a detailed and emotional origin story somewhere along the lines of Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" or Sam Raimi's original "Spider-man" (both of which "Man of Steel" admittedly beats by a mile visually). But there wasn't a whole lot of that. Maybe it is because he is inherently less complicated of a character, but I never got very emotionally involved with Clark Kent in this film. He has some identity/destiny issues, yes, but in the super-hero/adopted alien world, who doesn't?

Joe: Certainly the weakness of the movie is the lack of specific emotional attachment.  I felt emotionally involved at specific moments and in a general, thematic sort of way, but not very much with specific characters throughout the course of the movie.  This is actually the first Superman film I have seen, but it is my impression that other ones might try to get down to a more personal level with Clark.  I assume Smallville tried that.  In a way, maybe the Superman story does not lend itself super well to intense, personal, character emotion stuff, so maybe "Man of Steel" finds other strengths to build on.

Dan: I think you've probably hit on something there. And "Man of Steel" definitely has its very impressive strengths, don't get me wrong. The performances are all solid, with no weak spots, which actually strikes me as a bit of an amazing feat for this type of movie, which usually has a least one weaker performance holding it back. I will specifically call out Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, who do tremendous work with their relatively small amount of screen time as Kal-El's adopted earth-parents. And as we keep coming back to, the visuals are just continually gorgeous. I compared it to "Tron: Legacy" on the car ride back, but that's not quite right. The images are deeper, more vibrant, whereas "Tron" was all about shiny surfaces, either glowing or reflecting light. "Man of Steel"'s images offer more weight and significance, especially that flapping red cape, which I think handily encapsulates both the sense of royalty and old-fashioned, uncomplicated goodness. Perhaps some of the troubles are in trying to make Clark Kent too moody and troubled then? Was that wrong route to take? But the melancholy/elegiac mood is part of what works so well . . .

Joe: Yeah, I didn't have a problem with the moodier side of Clark Kent, since he didn't really mope a whole lot.  A last couple thoughts on other characters before we close up: General Zod and Lois Lane.  I love Michael Shannon in "Take Shelter," but he has a little less latitude in this movie.  Zod isn't quite the maniacal 2D villain that many Action or Superhero movies sport, but the writing for him doesn't allow for a huge level of depth.  He has too many monologues.  That said, there is one moment near the end where you suddenly see his soul, and I love that part.  Also near the start, Michael Shannon pulls off a moment of genuine fear, which you don't see often in the bad guy.  Amy Adams plays Lois Lane, and does a very competent job of it, though again, the character doesn't go deep.  She and Superman had some moments that I like, but there was one that just didn't work for me.  She has a line about relationships just going downhill after the first kiss, and he has a quip back about being an alien.  It sounded like it came out a normal superhero movie.  This movie has a lyrical tone, so that kind of line has no place in it.  Their relationship also didn't have time to develop, so I thought they should have just played up more fairy-tale style in it.  It would have fit the tone and it was unrealistic anyway, so...  Anyway, I thought it had great imagery, interesting themes about genetic manipulation and destiny, and a wonderful feel.  The last flashback was brilliant.  I'll let you close us out.

Dan: Agreed on all those points. (I guess our differences must come down to how much we're weighing story/characters vs imagery and "intangibles" for this particular movie?) I think we've pretty much covered everything. So I hope everyone had a fun time reading this; maybe we'll try another double-feature dialogue review sometime! And thanks, Joe!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On a different note than usual. . . .

. . . here's a link to an article describing a new very positive, innovative, and surprisingly simple approach to pro-life activism.

And here is the website of the non-profit organization:

Take a look. As a staunch pro-life guy who's often been frustrated with pro-life activism's methods, I for one find this very encouraging.

File:Asian Openbill (Anastomus oscitans) in Kolkata I IMG 0495.jpg

Friday, April 26, 2013

Looking Ahead (brief thoughts and trailer round-up)

Just a quick note to convey my brimming enthusiasm and optimism about movies this year, even as we are headed into summer blockbuster season, a time that often has disadvantages for strong, well written films. This years crop looks outstanding.

The year 2013 is shaping up to be quite a fine one for film. Already I've seen an ambitious and epic indie in "The Place Beyond the Pines" and a genuine brain-teaser from Shane Carruth (of "Primer") in "Upstream Color," which I feel remarkably unqualified to write about (Mr. Overstreet, a critic I greatly respect, appears to have liked it more unequivocally than I did). Like "Primer," I understood on first viewing only the broadest brushstrokes of plot and emotion. (Let me put it this way: Pigs and bugs and sound effects and mind control are involved.) I'm not even sure I can say whether I liked it or not. Perhaps, like with "Primer," I'll be more clear on such basic things if I see it again. And this weekend sees the limited release of another indie that looks promising to me: "Mud," from Jeff Nichols, director of the wonderful "Take Shelter" and "Shotgun Stories."

I've also watched a big and bold, but also intelligent and beautiful sci-fi picture, "Oblivion," which I'll touch on briefly here. (I might write a full review eventually, but certainly not before I see it again.) It stars Tom Cruise, who despite being an actor I'm not particularly drawn to, has undeniably been on a roll with this and the spectacular "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" last year. It also is the rare modern science fiction movie that throws in interesting ideas and real emotions along with its superb visuals and high-flying chase scenes. And it has an honest-to-goodness real live third act, one which is not given away by the trailer. I walked in thinking I had the movie basically figured out, and was pleasantly surprised to discover otherwise. Also in the sci-fi department, we will soon have the newest J.J. Abrams "Star Trek" film, the interesting casting of which I wrote about here.

There's also been a new Terrence Malick film released, less than two years after "Tree of Life," which is really something considering Malick has been known to on occasion go twenty years between movies. I've yet to see Malick's "To the Wonder," so I clearly can't recommend it point blank, but on the strength of "Tree of Life" and "Days of Heaven," I'm certainly interested.

Joss Whedon will be revealing his take on Shakespeare, filmed entirely in and around his own house with handpicked actors who will be familiar to those familiar with Whedon's past work. Whedon and Shakespeare seem like a splendid match, so their "Much Ado About Nothing" could be one to keep an eye on.

We'll also be getting what looks to be a fantastic summer (and fall) full of superhero movies:

-"Iron Man 3"

-"Man of Steel"


-"Thor: The Dark World"

Also, this Christmas season we will get the second part of Peter Jackson's lengthy adaptation of The Hobbit, for which there is no trailer yet.

You'll notice quite the array of different types of movies here. It is a good time to be a movie lover. I for one am incredibly, perhaps unreasonably, excited.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

"If you ride like lightning, you're going to crash like thunder."

Some films take over my head, replaying themselves vividly in my mind's eye and dominating large swaths of my waking thoughts. These tend to be films with either dense and complex narratives (like "Inception"), or unique and arresting visual displays and cinematography (like "The Fall" or "Tree of Life"), or both (like "The Prestige"). But other films linger in the back corners of my consciousness, and their power seems a bit harder to pinpoint. Derek Cianfrance's remarkable "The Place Beyond the Pines" is such a film, and it has been lurking in my head for a week now, haunting me with its ambition, simplicity, and deep melancholy.

I want to convey some sense of why this film is powerful, and at the same time I don't want to give away the emotional and structural surprises up its splendid sleeve, so I'm going to tread carefully here, and also warn you against reading plot-heavy reviews or synopses if you want to see the film unspoiled, because it is rather difficult to talk about it in-depth without giving away certain aspects of the story which are probably better left for the viewer to discover.

"The Place Beyond the Pines" stars Ryan Gosling as Luke, a carnival stunt biker who discovers he has a son by way of old fling Romina (Eva Mendes). To his credit, he decides he wants to be involved in their lives, and quits the carnival so he can stay in town. The way he goes about providing for this makeshift family from there, however, quickly becomes somewhat less than admirable, and less than legal, to put it mildly. Gosling gives easily the best performance in the film, projecting at once both a reckless outlaw cool and an intense emotional vulnerability. A nice visual touch that neatly summarizes the captivating duality of the performance is the tattoo at the corner of his eye that looks like a teardrop, until you look closer and see that is in fact a dagger dripping blood. Here is an utterly convincing portrayal of a man who can show incredible gentleness and sweetness giving his baby son ice cream for the very first time, and then a couple sequences later be screaming hoarse profanities at the petrified employees of a bank he is robbing. (See! I'm already giving things away!) The great thing though is that you can hear the rising panic and desperation in his voice in those same screams, the fear of a man who may have a perfect and daring plan for his heist, but on the other hand may not have what it takes emotionally for a sustained life of crime.

The now seemingly omnipresent Bradley Cooper co-stars, but the less I say about his role in things the better. He carries it off well though. (Who would have thought that the earnest and unlucky reporter from "Alias" would ever end up being a major Hollywood star and Academy Award nominee?) Mendes also gives a fine performance, but her role as Romina, though incredibly sympathetic, is much less developed (as is too often the case with female roles) and she gets a bit less screen time. Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn brings a weary slyness to his part as a workaday criminal who may also be playing, unaware, the part of a devil in the larger drama around him. Just listen to the music when he and Luke meet in a sunny but ominous clearing in the woods. The way Cianfrance is able to use this character both as a perfectly commonplace albeit opportunistic criminal, someone I was absolutely convinced I could find in the real world, and also simultaneously as a symbolic figure of dark temptation, is emblematic of the way the film as a whole works, functioning at once both as realism and as heightened epic, with the weight of some forgotten Greek or Shakespearean tragedy that has been shifted seamlessly into a modern environment. The alternately gritty and soaring cinematography works together with the gorgeous score to help accomplish this. The former grounds us in the real, specific, detailed day-to-day world, while the latter ties the characters and the themes together and emphasizes the scope and the emotional weight of the events. Ordinary moments are thus imbued with chilled majesty, and certain shot/score combinations held me entranced. Combined with sharp writing and acting, this results in everything that transpires feeling fated, and yet always dependent on the choices of these profoundly screwed up characters. I could have sworn this was an adaptation of a great undiscovered novel, but no, the whole thing is an original script by Cianfrance and his co-writers Ben Coccio and Darius Marder.

Again wording things carefully, I'll simply mention the fact that the film is divided roughly into thirds, and that this division has advantages and disadvantages. For one thing, the structure often makes it hard to tell where the story, or any given arc within it, is headed. This unpredictability lends an air of intensity and realism—anything could happen!—but also at times left me feeling adrift, unconnected to the plot. Only at the end could I see what it was building too. And frankly, the last third does not, for my money, quite live up to what precedes it. It fails to fully capitalize on and bring full circle all the emotions and sense of grandeur instilled by the first sections and the generally ambitious nature of the film. In fact, to put it harshly, the three acts of the story are each slightly less compelling than the one that came before, when they should be building on each other's successes. Nonetheless, "The Place Beyond the Pines" is a strong and fiercely emotional film about fathers, sons, violence, and generational consequences.

"The Place Beyond the Pines" (R) ***1/2

Note: This film was on limited release, but just this week got a wider release, so the likelihood that it is available in a theater near you just went up significantly.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On heroes, villains, and demographics.

It recently occurred to me that in addition to more structured writing such as film reviews or stories, I also gave the impression that I would be offering random snippets of my thoughts on this blog, and that I have not really been doing so. In that vein, some thoughts on casting in the highly anticipated but awkwardly titled "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Now before I go any further, I should clarify my position on the film in general, as much as that is possible having not seen it yet. I am very much looking forward to this movie. J.J. Abrams' franchise reboot with the 2009 "Star Trek" was solid, likeable, and completely entertaining. With pitch-perfect recasting of iconic roles, it reinvigorated a series bogged down by its own storied history and high-handed humanist pretensions. Still, I'd go short of calling it the brilliant, unqualified success that some heralded it as. There was, for me at least, the air of something lacking. There was a certain weightlessness to the events, even when planets were being destroyed, that made it feel like an unmistakably minor work. And "Into Darkness" looks to correct all that with a more frankly emotional, dangerous, and, for lack of a better word, dark storyline. Plus, it has Benedict Cumberbatch, who is fantastic in BBC's "Sherlock," and who I fully expect will give a terrific performance here as the powerful and villainous, if blandly named (if that is indeed his real name), John Harrison.

File:Benedict Cumberbatch 2011.png

That brings me, belatedly, to the point of this rather rambling train of thought. An interesting note about this movie is that the primary villain will be a young white sane male human. Something felt unusual about the concept of "Into Darkness" in my mind, and I kept coming back to this point until I realized why it stuck out: A young white sane male human as the main villain is rather rare in action/sci-fi movies. Think about it for a moment. In fact, I want to suggest that its rareness is directly related to the commonness of a young white sane male human as the main hero of such movies. Usually the villain in such movies is different from the hero in at least one of these five ways:

(1) The villain is significantly older than the hero, in order to give him more gravitas in comparison with the young, brash protagonist. A prime example is Bond movies, where the classic villain is an old man in a chair with a cat and a diabolical scheme for world domination. Having your villain be, if not quite senior citizen material, at least in the middle-aged department, also has the advantage of allowing the casting of a veteran actor with proven experience and an air of authority. To see evidence of why this works so well, think of the primary villains, and their respective actors, from "Batman Begins," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl," "Spider-Man"s 1, 2, and Amazing, all the Damon "Bourne" movies (Cooper, Strathairn, Cox, Finney, what a round-up!), "Mission Impossible"s 1 and 4, "Star Wars" episodes 2-6, "Superman," and countless more. This can, of course, be flipped on its head, such as in various movies where the hero is played by a now older actor like Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, and faces off against a younger villain. Expect a lot of jokes about how freakishly old the protagonist is. "Red" is a prominent recent example of this inversion. The point is, there's a substantial age difference between the hero and the villain.

(2) The villain is a minority, or close minority stand-in (read very humanoid alien) to give a dangerous sense of "other"-ness. Hollywood has perhaps been trying to move away from this of late, sheepishly aware of its own rather racist past, but it is definitely still a factor. It seems to me that the most common new way to go about this often involves making the villain an aggrieved and thus somewhat sympathetic figure, one who has legitimate grievances, which has the advantage of raising moral dilemmas, calling the hero's ideology into question, and creating a more complicated and compelling antagonist figure. This trope sometimes pops up in cop shows, but it also still occurs form time to time in movies. Think Denzel Washington in "Training Day," who was street-smart and charismatic; Javier Bardem in "Skyfall," who was betrayed by his boss/mother figure; the Klingons, who had their own fully developed culture and were pretty much the coolest people in the galaxy; Khan in "Wrath of Khan," who had been stranded by Star Fleet (if memory serves); and Nero in the latest "Star Trek," who had his own planet destroyed before he decided he needed to do the same thing to Spock. (Notice that Star Trek movies seems to do this a lot.) Loki from "Thor" is another example; although he looks a lot like Thor, he is really the child of a frost giant, and he has a massive chip on his shoulder about it, but somehow remains a somewhat sympathetic villain. This minority villain/majority hero tendency can also be turned on its head. A notable example of such an inversion is Michael Mann's "Collateral," in which down-on-his-luck African American cabbie Max, played by Jaimie Foxx, is terrorized, but also oddly championed and taught confidence by, merciless white successful-businessman-like assassin Vincent, played by Tom Cruise. Again, the point is that the hero and villain are often on the opposite side of a race/ethnicity line.

(3) Similarly, but less commonly, the hero and villain can be on opposite sides of a gender divide, which usually plays on sexual tension of some sort, with either an evil seductress tempting the hero to abandon virtue or faithfulness, or a heroine facing off against a physically stronger male villain with the threat of rape present or lurking in the background. See Grendel's mother in "Beowulf" and (SPOILERS) Miranda Tate/Talia al'Ghul in "Dark Knight Rises," a stealth example, since for most of the movie she does not appear to be the main villain (END SPOILERS) for examples of the former, and pretty much every slasher/home invasion movie ever made for examples of the latter.

(4) Taking the minority angle further, and in a less potentially confusable-for-racism direction, the villain is of an entirely different species than the hero. This one's pretty simple. It stems from classic monster stories, and draws on our very basic human fear of things out there in the woods that want to eat us, rip us apart, and kill us, preferably not in that order. Think any sort of vicious animal or alien that is not very humanoid. Classic examples include: the alien from "Alien," Godzilla from "Godzilla," the jaws from "Jaws," the Terminator from "Terminator," the creature from the black lagoon from "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," etc. etc. As you might suspect, this too can occasionally be inverted, in which case you usually end up with a movie that features a cute little monster/alien/robot running from evil human authority figures with the one little human who understands him/her/it. For a prime example, I'll give you a hint: it begins with the letter E and ends with the letter T.

(5) The villain is crazy. Especially in this age of widely-publicized senseless violence against children and other civilians, this is one is very scary and effective, because we see evil that is hard to explain rationally in the real world too. There is no war or profit motive, or even any particularly relevant backstory that would adequately explain this type of villain. The villain is just nuts, no other explanation offered or needed. Jack Nicholson's Joker from "Batman" is mentally unbalanced. Heath Ledger's Joker from "The Dark Knight" is mentally unbalanced, to say the least. (Though he does seem to have something of an ideology he's trying to prove.) In contrast, and for fairly obvious reasons, the hero is usually not crazy. (Or IS he? Dun dun dun!) Any which way, the hero and the villain are separated (at least apparently) by the sanity/insanity line, which makes for a stark contrast.

Circling around back to Star Trek, I'd like to point out (though you've probably already noticed where I'm going with this) that Cumberbatch's John Harrison has NONE of these major distinguishing differences from Chris Pine's Captain Kirk. Demographically, they are interchangeable. If they were filling out demographic stats on themselves for a poll or a census, they would be practically identical. Additionally, Cumberbatch usually plays heroes (voice acting in The Hobbit adaptations aside). I guess what I'm saying is, it is highly unusual to have the main villain be so similar, demographically-speaking, to the main hero. Most villains could claim at least one of the points listed above that would distinguish them from the hero. This John Harrison fellow is thus a remarkable irregularity from most cinematic villains, at least in large-scale action movies.

 Of course, the Star Trek franchise has played with similarities between its heroes and villains before, most notably with Tom Hardy as the villain of "Star Trek: Nemesis," who, while admittedly much younger than Picard, was in fact his clone. The choices of each reflected directly on the other. I wonder if there will be a similarly strong parallel made in "Into Darkness" between John Harrison and Kirk? Will they be revealed to be two sides of the same Federation-trained coin? I'm interested in finding out, whenever I see "Into Darkness," which is coming out in May. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 14, 2013


File:Moon (2008) film poster.jpg

“Moon” is a movie I was all set up to fall in love with. It looked great, and promised brains and heart. The problem is that every good movie is a blind date (unless given away by a too revealing trailer). Where does this movie go wrong? Why did I feel like it fell flat on its pretty face, despite enormous potential?

“Moon” stars Sam Rockwell, an actor who displayed terrific talent both in “Galaxy Quest” (the terrific spoof that is like the “Princess Bride” of science fiction) and in Ridley Scott’s “Matchstick Men.” In this movie, he plays Sam Bell, a solitary worker on a mining base on the moon. He misses his family, who he can only talk to via slow and unreliable recorded video messages. The presence of a smiley-face robot named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) is useful, but not very reassuring to us in the audience if we remember “2001: Space Odyssey.” Neither does the machine offer much comfort to poor Sam Bell, although it could be given credit for trying. Sam has been up on the moon base for a long time; in the opening scenes we see him with a thick and untamed beard, an unusual look for Mr. Rockwell which serves to underline how long he has been up there. He has been isolated so long, in fact, that his sanity is clearly on edge. This makes the events that follow (which I will try not to give away, although the trailer spoils a bit of the plot) all the more interesting, because we are always wondering how mentally stable Sam really is. He does hallucinate, and recognizes it, so we have to question whether some other strange things that go on might be hallucinations too. It also may not surprise you that his employers are not entirely to be trusted, and everything is definitely not as it seems.

This fits the type of story I love: tight, contained, suspenseful, character-based dramas. Even better, it is science fiction, a genre I have a weak spot for, and “hard” science fiction at that—it feels realistic, and could probably be based on some simple extrapolations from current science and technology. Too many science fiction movies these days are nothing but gunfights and explosions, just action movies (good or bad) dressed up in sci-fi clothes. This one is intelligent and subtle, for which I must give it credit. And Sam Rockwell gives a terrific performance as this lonely, insecure, unstable man, who may know much less about himself and his situation than he at first appears to. He is the only actor on the screen for easily 95% of the movie, and he carries it off just fine. (Although, thinking about it, I have to say Will Smith did a better job of winning over my sympathy with his one-man-wonder portrayal of loneliness in “I Am Legend.” But maybe that’s just because he had the advantage of possessing the almost invulnerable charisma of Will Smith. Or maybe it was because he had a dog instead of a robot.)

So why didn’t this film quite click with me? Despite all the twists and the thoughtful turns and introspection, and the logical consistency of the story, I was left cold at the end. I guess I’m left wondering what the larger truth behind this movie is, other than the frankly self-evident ones that loneliness stinks, and can drive someone to the edge of madness. There’s also a feeling of incompleteness, that perhaps the real story, with higher stakes and more character interaction, might be actually just about to begin. And “Moon” could have perhaps gone further with its premise. I expected it to ratchet up a couple levels of crazy further than it did. So, in the end, while I might have a crush on the concept and careful execution of this movie, I have yet to locate a heart or a truth that could take it from competent to great. For anyone out there who has seen this, I would love to be proven wrong.

"Moon" (2009) **1/2

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hidden Gems of Netflix: Raising Arizona


"It's a craaazy world."
"Someone oughta sell tickets."

Overall I find myself harboring mixed feelings about the work of the Coen brothers. They are clearly possessed of excellent craftsmanship, yet while their films are always fascinating and entertaining at the very least, there seems to lurk beneath the surface of most of them a certain cynicism. Some of their harshest critics accuse them of being out-and-out misanthropes, perhaps snickering up their sleeves at the often hapless characters that inhabit their tonally patchy and sometimes abruptly absurd stories. And I can see that this line of reasoning could indeed be applied to some portion of their oeuvre. Still, I will not go nearly so far as to say that such injurious appellations as misanthropy properly reflect each and every one of their films indiscriminately.

And thus I want to champion an early example of a film of the brothers Coen that has genuine heart and optimism. I dare to suggest that "Raising Arizona" (being the second film by said brothers, and being the chief subject of this review), represents their most sincere effort to come alongside their screwed-up screwball characters. In H.I. and Edwina (Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter), the repeat offender criminal and the policewoman he marries, they proffer protagonists who are at once woefully incompetent and deeply sympathetic. For this oddest of odd couples have a persistent, ingrained, and emotional desire to have a child, but Ed is barren. The farcical plot of the film is launched (after a splendidly paced opening that introduces these characters to the audience and each other), by this most primal, natural, and Biblical of human desires, and by the desperate and criminal plan that the two dream up to fulfill the glaring lack in their newly minted domestic life. Because of H.I.'s criminal past they cannot adopt, so they decide to steal a baby, one of the Arizona quintuplets.

This rash actwhich the film readily admits through H.I.'s earnest though somewhat torpid narration is not such a great idealeads to a multitude of problems, not the least of which is that neither of these two would-be parents really know how to take care of a baby. Their ineptitude fuels much of the comedy, but at the same time we are shown that though they are clearly misguided (can there even be comedies about sane, reasonable people?), they love this kidnapped kid and they love each other. The other main difficulty they encounter stems from the fact that almost everyone in the wacky world of "Raising Arizona" is a would-be parent. Nathan Jr. the missing Arizona boy is in very high demand, and H.I. and Ed are soon surrounded by alternately quirky and over-the-top criminal elements, comically determined and hell-bent on the baby himself and the reward money respectively. Both of these elements link back directly to the hapless and continually flustered H.I.:  two of his prison friends break out and want to hole up in his house, and his nightmares predict and/or produce a ridiculous bounty hunter outlaw, the grenade-loving, small-animal-obliterating Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, whose visual introduction very much lives up to that title. The Coens clever script makes plain that this figure of almost abstract macho evil (the farcical forerunner of Javier Bardem's stone-faced killer in "No Country for Old Men"?) is the embodiment of the bad and criminal tendencies that keep pulling H.I. back in, and the danger in which he thus puts his fragile new family. This tangle of conscience, consequences, and comic catastrophe builds slowly but surely to several great scenes: a fantastic whirling slapstick set-piece that keeps doubling back on itself, a genuinely touching emotional and moral reckoning, and an intense and bizarre showdown involving guns, grenades, and a revelatory tattoo. The films final moments express a graceful and sincere hopefulness that is incredibly refreshing.

And thus, to my pleasant surprise, I can report that the famously sarcastic and weird Coen brothers have smuggled within the undeniable oddness of "Raising Arizona"a goofy and misshapen crime dramedy farcea thoughtful reflection on parenthood and responsibility.

"Raising Arizona" (PG-13) **** (Available on Netflix Instant)

Vantage Point

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When people say a movie is “non-stop action,” they don’t mean it. The phrase is a useful hyperbole used to describe films that have intense action scenes in them. Because of how "Vantage Point" is structured, it really does become non-stop action. A terrorist act is displayed early on, and then the movie dances around explaining repercussions from different angles for the rest of its length. From the point when that crucial explosion occurs on, the movie does not let up. By the end, this becomes exhausting, and the movie feels much longer than it actually is. It does not help that the performances are not great. Dennis Quaid does his best with the underwritten role of a body guard with an Important Past full of Regrets. He emotes well and has a desperate energy, and he wins our sympathy, and so holds the movie together more than it deserves. We care, because we sense his innate decency. However, Sigourney Weaver is wasted here in the role of a news producer. Her character goes nowhere, and I wondered if she was added so the cameraman could film something while the other actors were desperately trying to catch their breath between takes. Forest Whitaker is merely passable here as a tourist with a video-camera and a sense of urgent compassion. The script gives him no other traits. William Hurt, a great actor in the right part, is also sadly wasted as the US president. You would think it would be an important role in this kind of movie, but he is allowed barely any screen time. Finally, the terrorists are rather unbelievable. They are always five steps ahead of everyone else. Their reasons for the act of terrorism are alluded to, but never fully fleshed out. Yet somehow, against all odds, this film was entertaining. The never-let-up pace didn’t let me think about the problems with the movie while watching it. And the gimmick of showing multiple angles did add an air of mystery, and somewhat covered up for the fact that other elements of style, like good camerawork, were mostly absent. So this movie basically worked, despite the leaky script and barely-there performances from its leads. I wouldn't exactly suggest going out of your way to find it, but if you're in the mood for something exciting and mostly mindless, and you're wandering around one of those stubbornly lingering movie rental stores, there are certainly worse options than the tense and somewhat loopy thriller "Vantage Point." How's that for a recommendation?

"Vantage Point" (PG-13) ***

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hidden Gems of Netflix: Changing Lanes

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"Changing Lanes" came out in April of 2002, smack dab in between the self-important Oscar-bait films of the previous fall and the dumb and noisy action
flicks of the summer, and long enough ago to have slipped past. It received relatively favorable reviews, made a good box office showing, and then promptly disappeared. Its solid reputation could not save it from obscurity, and neither could its stars: Ben Affleck was about to enter a downward spiral as an actor (see "Paycheck" and the widely despised "Gigli") that he would only later pull out of as a director, and the always reliable Samuel L. Jackson performs in so many movies, both good and bad, that another appearance by him is hardly a major cultural event.

However, this film should not be forgotten. It tells an excellent story of a very unusual sort for Hollywood: one with real moral issues on its mind, issues which it can articulate well. It is also an engaging and effective thriller, boasting Affleck's best performance and possibly Jackson's as well.

The premise is as follows: A successful lawyer and a desperate dad become entangled in each other's lives after a fender-bender in hairy New York traffic. This one small event sparks a horrible day of thoughtless cruelties and reckless reprisals from both of them as the veneer of polite society falls away. Running late for an important case, ambitious lawyer Gavin (Affleck) hands the weary insurance salesman Doyle (Jackson) a blank check. Doyle protests; he wants to handle things the right way. But Gavin drives off, leaving Doyle, whose car is inoperable, stranded and unable to get to a custody hearing—in the same courthouse!—in time to prevent an unimpressed judge from granting custody of the man's two sons to Doyle's ex-wife. It only gets worse from there for these two mismatched enemies. And this all happens on Good Friday.

 See? It doesn't even sound that good. In fact, it sounds dangerously high-concept and ready to teeter over into contrived and schematic what-ifs or tacky literalism. I set about watching it the first time expecting a by-the-numbers revenge thriller that would probably throw in some pseudo-profound babbling about fate and chance and being not-so-different, you and I. But director Roger Michell, working off an excellent script from Michael Tolkin, Chap Taylor, and Anthony Picharillo, has crafted a much more compelling film, a moral thriller centered on two entirely believable characters who are neither heroes nor villains, but men stuck with having to make increasingly harsh moral choices that have likewise escalating impacts on their lives and those of the people around them.

Affleck often stumbles around over-earnestly in roles that don't do him any favors. (He was the weakest link in the ordinary but likeable "Sum of All Fears," even though he was first-billed.) He's not cut out for to be an action hero; he's not magnetic enough to skate by just on charisma as a leading man; and he's too bland to be a character actor. But here he is handed a complex role and fits himself to it ably. Gavin is slick and self-confident, a man with a buried conscience who is all too comfortable in the ethically dubious situations his job puts him in. As the bad Good Friday progresses, however, and he keeps crossing moral lines, Affleck does a masterful job of showing Gavin's growing unease with himself and incredulity at the mess he has gotten into. "Is there any other way?" he asks at one point. "Sure," says the man with his finger poised above a mouse-click that will wreak havoc on Doyle's finances. "Call him up and just be nice to him." But that would mean humbling himself, and by that point both characters are already acting out of spite and anger. Affleck sells both sides—the doubt and the arrogance.

Jackson on the other hand has long been one of my favorite actors. He elevates whatever he is in. He was revelatory in the stylish "Unbreakable" and his perfect delivery single-handedly saved the ending of that film from potentially groan-worthy dialogue. However, he is admittedly an actor who has a basic type he often returns to: the loud, angry, charismatic, menacing troublemaker who swears up a storm but has a core integrity beneath the rage and the bluster. He perfected this role as Jules in "Pulp Fiction." We see some of that fire here. There is a moment where he is telling a story and his eyes lock into a stare and his voice goes flat, and it is chill-inducing. But overall Doyle is almost the opposite of Jackson's typical role: he is a weary and cautious everyman, a man of integrity who strives to be a responsible father but is limited by his history of mistakes and battered by the grinding, mundane details of modern life until the quiet rage and desperation long coiling inside him is finally loosed in a cacophony of raw emotion. And when Jackson does show that rage, it is all the more potent and frightening for having been hidden so long beneath Doyle's meek and patient exterior. It is followed by trembling amazement at how far he has allowed himself to go, and a weary regret. Jackson's Doyle is one of the most memorable, believable characters I've encountered in film; while watching him I feel like I know exactly who he is, in the way usually only possible after having lived with a character for a long time in a novel or television series. Every time he comes up against a hard choice, I desperately want him to make the right decision, but every wrong decision he makes is perfectly motivated and perfectly understood.

Jackson's performance makes Doyle the more sympathetic of the two characters, but he is also a recovering alcoholic on the edge both of falling off the wagon and also, more importantly perhaps, of failing as a father. One of the film's strongest moments is when his AA sponsor (William Hurt) calls Doyle out on his flimsy excuses. Hurt is the first among equals in a uniformly excellent (and perfectly cast) cadre of supporting actors, including Amanda Peet, Kim Staunton, Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, and a splendidly creepy yet ordinary Dylan Baker. Special mention should also be made of the fantastic Sydney Pollack, who as Gavin's boss plays a powerful, intelligent, and self-righteous man who justifies himself with the notion that, "At the end of the day, I think I do more good than harm." This is the central line of the screenplay for me, an exposure of a very commonplace type of moral code as in fact a compromise. It's this "I'm a good person" logic that the literate and tightly-constructed script deviously interrogates and undermines. At "the end of the day" (or life), is "more good than harm" good enough?

If I had to name a fault with "Changing Lanes," I could perhaps point out that it is occasionally too obvious with its parallels between the situations and actions of Doyle and Gavin (both have confrontations with their respective wives, who are wise to their patterns of behavior). Or I could complain that the ending seems a touch too upbeat, and risks undermining the moral horror story that came before. But these are nitpicks that I won't dwell on, because so much in this film—from the writing to the directing to the acting—is head-and-shoulders above 99 percent of what crops up in this genre, and in Hollywood in general.

"Changing Lanes" is a thoughtful and intelligent picture, full of fleshed-out characters and bravura speeches that cut to the quick, a criminally underrated work that deserves to become a modern classic.

"Changing Lanes" (R) ***** (Available on Netflix Instant)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Office of Information – Restricted Resident Division
Report of Resident Safety Monitor Rudd ‘Door’ Burby
            My gracious respects, an honor.  An honor, most respected equal.
            So, resident Will, um, well, he spends his time buildin’ elaborate structures out of playing cards.  Yea-up, playing cards.  Paper ones, naturally.  Yeah, we gave him a deck.  It amazes Door how Will can balance them one on top of each other, or leaning, counterweighted just so, never tumblin’ till he wants them to.  Don’t mind Door talking in the third person.  Door is “me”, OK?  They call Door that ’cause he’s so stinkin’ wide; yeah, like a door.  But Will, he can just sit there doin’ it for hours and hours, you know?  Like he’s got nothing better to do.  Haha.  Yeah, Door’s quite the joker, ain’t he?  See, Will use to look up at the safety cameras every now and then, and Door’d wonder if maybe he knew it was him up there monitorizin’ him.  Shouldn’t know, though; shouldn’t be any way for him to know, as Door can figure.  Door’s never mentioned it, for sure.  But, that was more “used to,” and it’s a thing not happ’nin’ anymore.
So Door watches resident Will puttin’ together these houses of cards, and Door realizes, eventually, not right away, you know, but eventually, that although Will builds lotsa different structures, he always uses the cards in the deck we gave him in the same order, you follow?  Like a code or somethin’.  Like this:  first he takes one joker and he throws it, like as if he’s pretendin’ like he’s still all mad, huh, and it bounces off that padded wall and lands just to the left of the door, face down.  And then, he takes the other joker, and he does the same, ’cept he does so it lands just on the right side of the door, and it lands face up.  Weird?  Yeah, and Door has to watch him do this every stinkin’ day.  Now how can he do that so precise?  He certainly does know how to throw his cards.  But once he finished with the two jokers, real particular, he starts on the deck proper, so to speak.  Puts out the ace of diamonds an’ the ace of hearts, and leans them against each other, fine and proper.  That’s how it always starts, ev-er-eh single time, but then it changes from there.  You know, ’cause like Door said before, Will don’t build the same thing twice, not so long as Door’s been watchin’ him, least.  But the order’s always the same.  He works through the face cards of the hearts, then two through six of the spades, then the face cards of the clubs, then the ace of spades, then the queen of spades, then jack down through seven of spades, then the king of spades, then all the rest of the clubs, ’cept the ace, mindya, in what seems like a real freaky random order, and then ten down through two of hearts, and then the even numbers of diamonds and then the odd ones, a-and, las of all, he puts the ace of clubs on top of whateva structure he’s gone an’ built, and sometimes these things are half the width of the cell.  Honest truth, Door swears it.  Oh, and then he pulls out the queen of hearts, and the whole thing goes to the floor.
Alrightae, you want more particular?  Instances?  Ok, ooookay.  Lemme think a moment.  That’s right, you straighten that collar yours.  Heh-heh.  Yes, respected equal, okay.   Was the time, was the time, when, eh . . . when he described to Door how he used to drink in “establishments,” ’fore the Glorious Liberation.  Said to Door, “Door, listen to me very carefully as I explain this to you:  I would step into the bar, order something and sit down with it at my table in the back corner where I could see everyone and I would slowly sip my drink.  I knew exactly at what point it would start to give me that fuzzy feeling and I would always stop right before it hit me.”
And Door thought, “That’s impossible,” but what he said was, “An’ how’d that feel, Will?”  Door finds askin’ the resident how he feel can do a mighta good, times, let ’em know two things a’once:  ya care, you know?  So not disadvantagin’ them.  And you’re checkin’ up, keepin’ track, watchin’ like, and haven’t forgot ’em.
And Will looked at Door with dose wanderin’ eyes of his, and he said, “I shouldn’t answer that question.  Because you don’t really want to know.  You’re just asking to fill air space.  You and I, we don’t interact.  We just pretend to interact.  But to fulfill my need to feel that I’ve communicated, let out something of my soul, so as to avoid the oblivion of being ignored by history, I will tell you.  It felt like I was in control.  Alcohol couldn’t touch me; couldn’t control me.  I controlled it.  And I felt big for a moment; like I controlled everything.  Illusion.  Chimera.”
And, wouldn’t you know it, he wouldn’t say a word more after that.  Looked off into the distance, ’cept of course there wasn’t a distance to look off into, heh heh, but he was trying, and Door just gave him his nourishment injection for the day and went off and locked the door behind me and all, of course, but the rest of the day, that little speech of his just kept on runnin’ through Door’s head.  Couldn’t forget it, much as woulda liked to.  Be sitting at the desk watching Will pacin’ bout on the big screen and feel like was hearin’ that quiet, harsh voice of his again, talking on about control and illusion.
But, true be told, respected equal, I know what you’re looking for, here.  Looking for Door to tell you if Will could be the one in particular that we’ve been looking for all along.  But true be told, Door don’t see a resemblance to the old footage.  Neither in face nor in attitude.  Yeap, of course, most equal, Door knows that the countryside’s been searched thorough.  So he must be in here, huh?  That the line of reason?  Well, Door doesn’t say Door don’t agree with it.  Just it’s like this:  the Disruptor was all confi wasn’t he, all boom and bluster?  But this fellow, this Will, he’s a Cerebral for sure, and not un-dangerous Door won’t disagree, but he strikes Door as more of a wannabe, you know?  He’s got so many stories in his head, and he doesn’t right know which one he’s part of, Door’s thinkin’. 
Yes?  Yes, equal that is correct.  He did tell me a half again story ’bout the Disruptor, yes he did.  Well, okay.  It was like this:  Door comes in, you know, and Will’s sitting there in the far corner with his legs stretched out into the middle of the cell and he’s shufflin’ that card deck and eyeing it like it’s the last emotion-shot there is, and Door gets out his nourishment injection and try to lope over easy and make some sound brushin’ the door as comes through so don’t startle him, you know, but Will looks up, very knowin’-like, and he goes and says, “Not today, Door.”
So, Door’s a bit startled ’imself, as he’s sure you can appreciate, and so he asks, “Well, come on, Will, as blinky why not?”
And Will stops shufflin’.  And he says, “Let me tell you a story, Door.”
And Door think-checks his chrono and finds he’s actually forward of schedule anyhows, and he closes the door ’hind him for safety’s sake and says to Will, “’Kay, go ahead.”
And Door can’t be blamed if and he don’t remember all the ’xact words that resident Will used, but he started like and this:  “The Disruptor.”  And he pauses like, for dramatic ’fect, Door’s thinkin’, and he then he on-goes, “You and your people, your GL, and your Opportunity Advantagement, you got the Disruptor wrong.  He’s utterly unselfish.  What he seeks to break is the Mistake.”  And he went on like that, you know, with that kinda rhe-toric, for a little while, and Door stands there, and he nods, ’cause you wanta kinda lettem think you’re symp, you understand them, but then it was like Will ’membered he was meant to tell a story, not go spoutin’, and so he sits up straighter, and he looks Door in the face, kinda bold-like, and he gets this glintin’ behind his eye, you know what I mean?  And he says to Door, “The Disruptor once went six days without his injections, to let his friends have them.”
Here’s that when Door interrupts, askin’, “Friends?  Don’t you mean lovers?”
But, “No,” Will says, all dramatic like.  “I mean friends. Understand this:  the Disruptor believes that not all close relationships are, or must be, or should be, sexual in nature.  He looks to the example of history, the real history, as it was known before your Glorious L, and sees that friendship, mutual unselfish assistance and kindness, was much of what made the Old Nations work.  The death of friendship made your GL almost inevitable.  But that,” and there he paused again, kinda put-on art like, and he says all slowly, “that was not even my point.  The Disruptor knew how to sacrifice, and that,” he put his hand over his chest, “is my point.”
So, that’s probably what you wanted to know about, ain’t it, ’spected equal?  That was his only moment of Disruptor talk, though Door supposes there’re other moments wouldn’t meet anti-standards of hate or dogma rhetoric.  Talked ’bout failures, times, too, respected equal; how recipients weren’t as happy as they pretended to be, how “shortages” (his word not Door’s, I ’umbly point out) existed, and the what-like.  But Door knows for fact, from talkin’ to love-sharer of mine who efforts in this division as well, that the resident she watches also has such talkin’, times, and says others as well.
. . .  Well, you’re welcome, most ’spected equal, and always a pleasure for Door to be of serv-- er, to assist an equal of such great and honored equality as yourself, most equal.
Oh, really?  Door ain’t sure . . . means, is that nessecary?  Might not like it, Will, and sure and you won’t get straight answers out of him talkin’.  No, Door wasn’t suggestin’.  Yes, m’spected.  Uhum.  Door will do that.  And, please remember Door favorably, if his name does ’appen to come up in conversatin’ with, eh, other most equals.

Office of Information – Restricted Resident Division
Responses of Restricted Resident William Rethhouse
            Now that was an abrupt “question”, wasn’t it?  It that your style now, point blank?  I’m afraid it just will not work, not on me.  I’ve told your “equals” hundreds of times, I am not the Disruptor.
Grah!  Please, don’t do that again.  It’s a victory for me every time you hurt me, you know.  It proves how hypocritical your system has become.  It started well enough, of course, but you know what they say about noble intentions.  So by all means, let fly.  In the name of love, yes, hit me!  “Reconcile” me.  I have been offensive.
Graaaah!  I bite iron.  Physical pain shall do nothing to me.  The defense of old, infirm liberty is stronger than you give credit.  Beat and get blood, but our veins run deeper than you know in many bodies.  You shall not reach our heart by breaking skin.  Don’t sneer!  It’s unbecoming.  Pretend rather that you are posing for one of those Free Equity posters.
Graaah . . .  Don’t bother hitting me.  Uh.  I’m merely attempting to save you some trouble.  Physical abuse will accomplish nothing.  And I’m afraid I’m already rather broken psychologically.
Why of course I’ll answer some questions.
I am aware of the trouble the Disruptor has been causing.
Hmm.  Well, in my opinion, he serves a proper end with incorrect means. . . .        I mean it.
Because the extremity of them destroys any potential yield of recognition of his validity or legitimacy.
Well, that was a sudden change in direction.
Excellent question, actually.  What is the harm?  You’ve already eliminated them from your dire equation, anyway, haven’t you?  Oh, unaware, is it?  Well, I’ll get to it then.  Glean what you will.  I imagine your profiling books are already pretty full.  Enough to stock an Information department shelf, probably.
It was just before the endemic when I last saw them.  Me and some friends, (yes, there’s that subversive, offensive word again!) were at a concert.  You know, music.  Old days music, not like the post-ethnic stuff your unity-stations play now.  I received an alert, and my wife (long live such subversive concepts!) wanted me home for an early supper.  My two sons were there, eight and twelve and boisterous as ever.  The meal was delicious.  Maybe some of the last potatoes ever to be harvested and eaten.  I’ve almost forgotten what that was like, chewing and tasting.  I remember Lisa was quoting from a movie she’d seen at her cousin’s u-port half the supper hour, and explaining the various explosions in it, but I was always less interested in movies than my wife.  A rebel against the repressive mainstream society, I think it was.  Movies like that were allowed back then, although I daresay there wasn’t too much actual thinking done by the characters other than how to escape various situations.
Yes, yes, note that down in my file.
I remember we laughed, all of us, at various wonderfully funny and nonsensical things Toby said.  The news wasn’t on.  There was rioting in some of the streets, I knew from the broadcast on the way home, but inside the home security field, we felt safe.  Electric lights were still warm colors sometimes back then, not the cold white everything is now.  The heat was on, as high as we could afford it, and we were all wearing gloves and scarves.
Tell me this, master MRE, why can’t we have that back?  My time aboard the Solidarity was hellish, true be told, and this is worse.  If you want, I can tell you more stories about the Disruptor.  That’ll give you the evidence you want, won’t it?  You’ll be able to cite in the Unity Courts and in your Information reports.  Your associates and myriad love-sharers will be much impressed, I’m sure, that you figured it out.  The protesters and the resisters will be disheartened, surely, and that’s what matters most, admit it.  But I’m not the Disruptor.  And you, personally, will have to live the rest of your very most equal life with the precious knowledge that you, most respected, were wrong.  And soon enough, I suspect, the Disruptor will do something else out in the world, that you won’t be able to deny, and you’ll have to admit you disposed of the wrong person.
Wait, you’re getting up?  You’re leaving?  How can you do this?  After all we’ve been through!  Will I ever see you again?  Oh my.  Best of luck writing your report for your more most equals!

Office of Information – Restricted Resident Division
Recommendation, based on Analysis and Summary of Restricted Resident and “Disruptor” Suspect William Rethhouse by Most Respected Equal Nolan Teague
            Having spoken with both the resident and his Resident Safety Monitor, it is my informed conclusion that said resident, William Rethhouse, is undeniably one and the same as the long-sought unstable, degenerate, seditious, and anti-social Disruptor, out-standing insurgent in armed and violent antagonistic and hostile opposition to Tranquility, Unanimity, and Love Unfettered, may they ceaselessly direct us.  As a precursory perusal over the preceding texts, trans-corded directly from standard equipment issue 4.5mh audio-nets, will confirm, we have numerous exceptional and indubitable reasons to surmise that the resident in question was intimately, thoroughly, and systematically involved with and implicated in deviant, aberrant, and violently insensitive and disruptive activity, in unprecedented defiance to the Unanimity of Tranquility, prior to and (auspiciously, for only a succinct interlude of time) shortly subsequent to the Glorious Liberation.
            Please make careful note of the following phrases from the text of the prisoner:  “recognition [the resident’s] of his [the Disruptor’s] validity”, “infirm liberty” (illegal word pairing), “he serves a proper end”, “dire equation”, “various explosions”, “repressive mainstream society”, “rioting”, “hellish”, “disheartened”.
            It is my unwavering estimation that if these phrases are run through a proper and well functioning Subconscious Analysis Streamliner that the results will be both steadfastly indicative of offense and unflinchingly unequivocal in their blatancy.    That is aside from the obvious and rampant sarcasm and extremely and repetitively insensitive disrespect employed in referring to all things correlated even in the most marginal manner to our essential precepts, these aberrant attitudes occurring consistently throughout the consultation.  The Commission of Resident Hosts and Caretakers has stated to me categorically, in a document which I can provide if necessary, that they are in full agreement with my prediction of these forthcoming results.
With the consideration of the safety of the Restricted Resident Facility, and the other Residents and their Caretakers therein, foremost in my consciousness, I recommend, with the most suitable and customarily natural sorrows at this regrettable necessity, and with the opinion of the Resident Health Overseer in unwavering agreement with my own, the immediate implementation of the following procedures (at the following levels):
-Retraction of Potentially Detrimental Memory  (thorough)
-Tranquility and Continuity Awareness Enhancement  (durable)
-Personality Optimization for Affirmative Societal Contribution  (comprehensive)
to be performed on the person of respected equal and current Restricted Resident William Rethhouse, individuation # k8i3*-/th6.
I am Tranquil, Unanimous, and Loving in my optimistic anticipation that this shall prove to be the lasting conclusion of all unconstructive and ingenuous actions on the part of the “Disruptor”, whose dubious designation I now feel free to put in quotations, and whose pacification I have no cause to doubt will constitute a definitive step of affirmative progress in furthering the complete restoration and preservation of the Unanimity of Tranquility.
Most Respected Equal  Nolan Teague  , Office of Information, RRD