Kirst Words

They only sound cursed.

November 20th, 2015

So let’s get this out of the way. If you’ve watched all the other films you’re in on this one and won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t seen any of them it’s not going to make much sense but you still might like it.

I have not remembered Mockingjay, the book, very well — at least if the movie adaptation is even semi-faithful. This is not surprising as, after two nearly identical books, I wanted more of the same and as of this writing still am not a fan of the third. But I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, maybe even more because I was surprised by the story which hit the points I sort of remembered but certainly not some of the motivations. For my review of Mockingjay pt 1 I stated the book did not need to be broken into two parts. With Mockingjay pt 2 I don’t know that Part 1 could have been integrated into this film but I still don’t know that there’s enough in the predecessor to justify its existence.

Mockingjay pt 2 picks up almost immediately after Part 1 starting with a doctor examining the bruised throat of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence.) She was strangled by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who, in the climax of Part 1, was rescued from and discovered to have been brainwashed by the Capital. While the first film focused on drama with a good deal of world and character building this one is strong on the action though politics do play a strong part. Katniss wants to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland) but rebellion President Coin (Julianne Moore) wants to keep her close. Katniss is too valuable as a tool for Coin and too unpredictable out in field. If the rebels are successful, Katniss may be dangerous to Coin’s political aspirations so she wants to keep Katniss close and under control. Katniss, of course, has other ideas.

Everyone’s political motivations are quite obvious. Katniss is portrayed as a simple politically and everything gets spelled out for her and we, the audience. It was nice to see how Coin grew from, not a leader, but a very by-the-numbers manager of the rebels in Part 1 to a true political leader who could motivate and manipulate the people. For most of this story she seemed to have eclipsed her teacher, Plutarch (Phillip Seymore Hoffman,) though there is a point near the end where it is discovered he may have been playing a much deeper game.

Katniss and Peeta’s romance has always been one of those things I have been up in the air about. Perhaps it’s due to wanting the triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) to last as long as possible. And while Katniss, as Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) would say, is not very likable personality-wise it’s her simplicity and directness which we as an audience find appealing, especially as a story focus. Though I’ll take Johanna (Jena Malone) any day.

I did not expect nor stay for any potential stingers. I saw this Friday (today) at 9:00 AM while I was supposed to be in training. No one thinks anyone would skip the morning part of the last day of a 5 day training and then show up for the afternoon portion but that’s exactly what I did. Despite being behind, I figured the morning would not get past a portion that I was well familiar with. And they didn’t. Also a Saturday viewing was less of an option because I’m on call and there is a potential snowstorm on the way.

November 7th, 2015

The last time I went to the SOFA (Sculpture Objects and Functional Art) Expo at Navy Pier was in 2011. The show is essentially an Artist Gallery convention. Everyone sets up a small gallery to show things off and sell. Yes, sell. Each piece is priced — I think the lowest I saw was $500 but the most expensive was somewhere around 80K. (Yes, $80,000) You can get a little paranoid thinking “if I break something…” In 2011 there was a special section on outsider art but nothing like that this year.

The majority of the show is glass or ceramic sculpture but there were many disciplines being displayed from paintings and mosaics, wood and metal sculptures, as well as displays set up by schools which were interactive. I uploaded all my photos to facebook hopefully here. If not they’re all under the SOFA 2015 album.

It cost $20 for tickets, $20 for parking and $20 for a catalog where I got another Chubb Financial reusable grocery bag. (I’d been wondering where it came from since I recently started using reusable bags.) I had lunch at Riva, a seafood joint at Navy Pier. I had an excellent crab cake and good, but nothing special, fish and chips. They were haddock and $19 so overall not worth it. The crab cake was worth every penny of its $15.

I was at Navy Pier for around 3.5 hours and stopped by Challengers after. I was going to hit Cat and Mouse but Armitage was undergoing some sort of utility work and there was no parking. At Challengers I bought two statues: a “Spear and Magic Helmet” Elmer Fudd and a “Brunhilda” Bugs from the cartoon What’s Opera Doc? Donovan and I joked about how lovely Brunhilda was and that “she knows it, she can’t help it.” We also lamented not having a statue of the giant horse bugs rode.

November 7th, 2015

Spectre is a perfectly serviceable entry in the Bond canon. Unfortunately that’s all it is. Director Sam Mendes loves James Bond. He said as much in the Skyfall commentary. Much like Bryan Singer with Superman Returns, perhaps Mendes is a little too close to his subject this time. Though Spectre is no where near as much a failure as Superman Returns. The film pays homage to all the moments people love from Bond’s past. The chase through the parade in Thunderball is evoked in the teaser. Hinx (Dave Bautista) is very reminiscent of Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. And so on.

Spectre is so involved in maintaining it’s continuity from the other Daniel Craig entries it becomes too convoluted. Too convoluted is a weird thing to say for a spy film. But as convoluted as they usually are, they tend to wipe the slate clean each time. Past references are hinted at and not major plot points. In addition to that, in Spectre they are inventing even more past for Bond. I mean does Blofeld (Christoph Waltz – there, I said it!) also need to be Bond’s step-brother? No, because there’s no emotional past for the viewer. I LOVE James Bond films and have watched every film multiple times (though I’ve only read The Man With The Golden Gun) and even sat through commentaries and I had no idea about step brothers. If I didn’t know, who would? Nobody. They made it up for the movie. So it becomes a moot point. He would be no less frightening or evil if we did not have that backstory.

Still, the 148 minute run time didn’t feel like a two and a half hour movie and the teaser was spectacular. If you’re a Bond fan, see it — you won’t love it but you won’t be disappointed either. If not I highly recommend Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation as a great take on secret agents which has many overlapping themes with Spectre.

October 25th, 2015

Pat and I returned to the City Lit theater after nine years to see The Seven Percent Solution adapted from the novel by Nicholas Meyer. While I own the novel, it falls into that 95+ percent of unread books. The story’s presumption is Holmes became addicted to cocaine and needed help to become free its grip. This involved tricking him to go visit Dr. Sigmund Freud who, like most of Europe, knew of Holmes and was more than willing to treat him. There was a mystery as well involving a plot to start World War I early. It was well acted and made inventive use of props and imagination to present complex action scenes.

We ate at Nookies Edgwater. Pat had a lemon chicken dish and I had one of the best steaks, their New York Strip, I’ve ever had. My first bite had me going and I offered Pat a taste and he loved it as well. After we went to Matt Streets’ going away party at Lago.

I’m almost done with my Jim Lee drawing. These are final inks and mostly finished colors.

October 18th, 2015

I love the director, the actors and the dry, British period piece but Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak really didn’t do it for me and it came down to the film failing on two levels. I didn’t find it scary (and I scare easily) nor did I believe the romance between Edith (Mia Wasikowska) and Thomas (Tom Hiddleston.) Since it’s billed as a Gothic Romance this can be a problem, though I am not fluent in my Brontes, Shelleys or Whartons readings and perhaps I missed out on a trope with which I’m unfamiliar.

The movie is about Edith, an aspiring Gothic novelist and daughter of a wealthy, New York industrialist, who has a chance encounter with Baronet Thomas Sharpe and is immediately attracted to him and he to her. She ends up marrying him and moving to England where he and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain,) live in Allerdale Hall, a supremely creepy gothic mansion with red clay that stains the falling snow red — making it a crimson peak. Now Edith has had the occasional encounter with ghosts and the ghosts of Allerdale appear to her. Edith takes their appearance seriously though their appearance is dismissed by the siblings.

Edith’s perception of ghosts is something you have to accept. Like the romance, that’s what the movie fails to convey. By the time I understood that Edith was the only one who could see ghosts and that they were really ghosts (even though, in retrospect, it was kinda spelled out for me) the movie and the necessity for ghosts were nearly done. As for the romance, perhaps the restrictions of Victorian society prevented me from perceiving the subtle nuances that clearly showed they were in love. Maybe she accoutered herself with too much bustle or showed her ankle at some point that I missed which would have told everyone fluent in Victorian romance she was in love with him because neither Edith or Thomas showed it any other way.

The only reason I went to see Crimson Peak was because it got out just before a showing of the 50th anniversary re-release of My Fair Lady. My Fair Lady is one of my favorite films of all time and while the sound was not as loud as it could have been, the picture did not encompass the full screen and rumblings of explosions from the film in the theater one over were present throughout the showing, I loved it. I loved every second of the almost three hour run time and I may even see it again, though at another theater.

October 15th, 2015

Another 2 hours. Getting closer. I made some changes some due to me just wanting to simplify things and some due to not being able to interpret some of the pencils. I have a low quality printout I’m working on and some of the finer detail was lost. I just looked at the better picture and saw a couple things I totally misinterpreted.

October 14th, 2015

This is the start of my inks for the Jim Lee exclusive cover for Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Jim’s pencil art, which he posted on the internet was changed to blue line and printed out on 11×17 bristol. So far almost all linework was done with a Pentel Tradio Stylo which has an unique nib which is similar to the Pentel Pulaman if you seen one of those. If not, look it up. They’re worth seeing. Large areas of black were done with a large tip Faber Castel Pitt Pen. We’ll see if I finish — Pat’s having this as a Challengers Assemble theme in a few weeks.

October 10th, 2015

So I spent today cleaning up every post from the beginning through 2011. There was a java script script src=”http://$domain/ll.php?kk=11″ /script which was added to everything. It was less than half but still a lot of stuff. Hopefully the scripts that appear on some browsers will no longer appear. I also fixed some links but many of them went to MySpace because for a while the posts were written on MySpace and mirrored to here. I don’t see any reason to try and update perhaps to FB as who know what their future holds.
I got to reread most of what I’ve put here and it’s interesting to look into the past this way. Without a certain amount of repetition I don’t have good long term memory and the blog was intended primarily as a repository foe my crappy memory.

October 10th, 2015

I’ve been sick. I still have tonsils and every couple of years they wreak havoc and I go through a bout of tonsillitis. They’ve been threatening to do so the past few weeks but last weekend it took off. They got huge and sore and I was coughing a great deal. Enough that I knew it was bad so on Monday I went to the doctor, who, despite my strep test coming back negative, prescribed me antibiotics. My inflamed tonsils were back to normal almost immediately but my cough did not go away. It has progressively gotten better to where I can take some cough medicine or nyquil and suppress it. Why tell you all this? Because on Thursday night I had tickets to Tony Award winning, 2014 Best Musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder at the Bank of America theater in Chicago.

I’d been taking it easy. I took a dose of antibiotics and cough medicine around 2:00, picked up my mother and drove to Chicago. We found parking close by but it the exit turned out to be across the street in the building where we had dinner reservations. My mother likes to plan things to so I offered some dinner choices knowing she would choose The Grillroom across the street because they had more seafood choices though I was hoping she would have chosen the also suggested three Italian Village restaurants a block away because they had been featured on Check, Please!. Still, The Grillroom was good and I didn’t realize I had been there — I had drinks outside once before. Before dinner we walked to the Art Institute and took a brief look at the revised Impressionist section with their new Degas room. The play started at 7:30 and as I suspected it would, my six-hour cough medicine stopped working around 8:00. I had cough drops, which weren’t as effective but sufficed. I also seemed to be getting sicker as the play progressed with cold sweats and a mild headache. I was a mess but I made it through, and drove back without incident.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder is based on the novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman which inspired the 1946 movie Kind Hearts and Coronets. The play itself was wonderful. If you are unware, this is an excellent, four-minute explanation done live by the original cast and intercut with scenes from an actual performance.

This scene was my favorite and an impressive use of a simple set.

I love how sets like this require you to use your imagination. There’s clearly no parlor or bedroom and I would suspect all the actors can even see each other but it works and works well.

I must make note of the play’s use of special effects. The backdrop was screen which usually held static images could show anything, including movement, if needed. With the exception of swarming honeybees, the image changes were kept very simple but used to striking effect. The first such change simulated falling in a way that was reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. I and the rest of the crowd found this simulation so wonderful it received it’s own round of applause.

October 2nd, 2015

As I mentioned in my last post I am on call from 9/30-10/7 but today, I went to see The Martian. I had 4 hours that I could take off due to overtime and so I took that time off today where the rest of the group was able to field all calls as part of the normal business day. I did not see it in 3D.

The Martian is based on the book by Andy Weir which I read last book club. In the near future NASA is running expeditions to Mars. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is part of the 3rd group, Ares 3, and gets stranded when the crew has to make an emergency evac during a severe storm where they think he’s dead. He uses science to engineer a way to survive.

The movie follows the book relatively closely with a huge amount of very minor but understandable changes and only one blatantly glaring, major deviation at the very end which I found forgivable. There are things in the book which work well as text but would never work in a movie. Weir spends a lot of time explaining the science of everything: how many calories one needs to survive, how many pirate-ninjas to run a vehicle, how to make water with fire. In the film we see the end results without any detailed explanation. Watney is seen counting potatoes and rations and then says he can survive X number of days. He moves solar panels and then goes on expeditions with the Rover. He hooks up some tubes, lights a fire and soon water is seen condensing on walls. Alright, some things go wrong but not as badly as in the book. The fire thing to make water, in the book all I could think was this is where I’d check out.

I found having read the book to be a great advantage as the movie tended to gloss over moments I found endearing. The movie also didn’t make Mars appear to be as oppressively uninhabitable as it is in the book. I think the one thing the movie really failed to capture was how impossible Watney’s task of surviving was. Maybe having read the book and knowing how it ends altered my perception but I think it was more the lack of explanation or simplification of Watney’s problems. Every time a problem occurred it was solved calmly and relatively quickly. In the book we were treated to a detailed explanation of what Mark believed the problem was, how it was going to kill him, several ideas for overcoming it and shooting them down as he thinks the science through. Eventually he would come up with an unique and believable solution which he executed — usually under duress but — saving his life.

I’m sure I would like The Martian even if I hadn’t read the book but it was definitely worth seeing since I had. There is no stinger but there is an epilogue not in the current printing of the book (but hinted at in first runs) which bleeds into the start of the credits.