Monday, May 18, 2015


Nightcrawler just showed up on Netflix yesterday so I jumped at the chance to see it—I really like the types of films that Jake Gyllenhaal chooses.  Enemy, Prisoners and Zodiac are just a few of the creepy movies that he enjoys being a part of.  Gyllenhaal is a big part of the movie Nightcrawler—a film about a guy who chases down death and injury in Los Angeles, sneaking around filming people at their worst and then selling it to the news channels.

If you like crime movies, or thrillers, then this one is a slam dunk.  Gyllenhaal plays the role of Lou Bloom, a weird combination of really ambitious and hardworking guy who also just happens to be antisocial, awkward and a complete psychopath.  Or sociopath.  Anyway, he shows zero empathy and it is chilling to watch.

 The American Film Institute named Nightcrawler one of the ten best films of 2014, and you won't get any argument from me.  I think Gyllenhaal is a great actor.  He is riveting to watch.

One of the things that annoys me about movies is often they will insert a love story in there somewhere—as if women won't see the movie unless there is some chance that the protagonist will smooch someone by the halfway mark.  Well, there is a woman "love interest" in this film, but it is definitely not the usual romance arc of a story.  I don't want to give anything away, but let's just say that the relationship that Lou Bloom is seeking out seems to perfectly fit with his original personality.

I really enjoyed this film and recommend Jake Gyllenhaal's other creepy movies like Prisoners, End of Watch and Zodiac as well.  

Sunday, May 17, 2015

FRANK (Film Review)

One of the things that I love about weird films is that they are, well, weird.  You get to mentally go somewhere intellectually and emotionally that normally you wouldn't go. One of the things that I struggle with, however, is that the weird movies are... well... weird.

Such is the case with Frank, a film written by Jon Ronson (author of "So You've Been Publicly Shamed) and Peter Straughan, who wrote the movie version of Jon Ronson's book The Men Who Stare at Goats.  Both Ronson and Straughan were/are musicians and this movie is a bizarre cocktail of musicians, mental illness and escape.  Plus it's weird.

Start with Frank.  He's the lead singer of a local English band.  He's like Jim Morrison—poetic, cool and comfortable on stage to a degree—except he happens to wear a giant mascot head.  All the time.  Like while riding in a car.  Or in the shower.

I was a teenager when Nirvana's music hit big.  Before they were world famous, however, there was a relatively small group of fans (in Seattle and wherever they toured) that were hardcore, dedicated fans, but the larger world, kids like me would not really get it until they were globally huge.  Then all of us suburban regular kids jumped on board.  At my high school, a local band (really local, like made up of kids at the actual school) played "Smells Like Teen Spirit" a year before Nirvana broke big.  So none of us had ever heard this strange new grunge music before.  We all sat there in stunned silence (and not good stunned silence).   When the band was done, there was no slow clap that grew into a raucous roar of approval.  We just sat there.  We wondered what all that weird noise was.  This didn't sound like Poison or Bon Jovi at all!  Such is the attitude with Frank—the main protagonist (a keyboard player) joins this weird indie band and as a viewer, I can't decide if they are either totally brilliant or churning out complete drivel.  There seems to be a thin razor's edge that separates the two.

These quirky films can be tough to watch, especially at home.  It's difficult to get into a strange art film when telemarketers are phoning, the UPS guy shows up at the door and the cat decides he wants to throw up on the carpet.  However, I watched this film alone (it's on Netflix) and got right into it.  Put the phone away.  Let the cat vomit sit there for a couple of hours.  The characters in the film are not very likable, but they are, surprisingly realistic.  I've been around talented musicians that never seem to get their act together, so for me this film rang true. 

It's never serious enough to be a great drama and it's never funny enough to be a great comedy—but the combination between the two genres works.  The really weird thing is that about halfway through the film, I stopped seeing the large Frank bobble head.  Frank appeared somewhat "normal", which is really saying something about how strange the other members of the band are.  Overall, it was a weird, trippy dark movie and if you like those types of movies, this could be time well spent. 

Friday, May 15, 2015


It seems like every week there is another dummy in the news—someone tweeting some stupid joke that isn't funny, or someone caught on camera yelling profanities at a kid's soccer match, or harassing a reporter just trying to do her job.  Author, humourist filmmaker Jon Ronson has written another solid book.   So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a funny and surprisingly scary look inside the world of social media and how, if you make the nameless, faceless mob angry, it can turn on you and crush your life within a day.

I really like Jon Ronson—I have seen him on The Daily Show and he has a strong Internet presence with blogs, YouTube videos and his own website.
The book starts out innocently enough—Ronson confronts some academics who thought it was okay to set up a fake "Jon Ronson" twitter page.  No harm, right?  He also interviews a lady who sent out a weird joke about AIDS (wasn't well received) and another lady who stuck out a middle finger and pretended to yell while visiting Arlington National Cemetery.  The Internet said "no" and her life was pretty much destroyed—with an overwhelming landslide of hate, threats and public shame, she lost her job and lives in fear of her current employer finding out.  

I love Ronson's writing style—he is part of the story.  He attends workshops and describes things that are happening to him.  It really feels like you are just having a coffee and listening to him tell you weird stuff that happened to him.  

The book also explores the history of public shaming (and why the government does not use shaming in most courts today) and also the idea of the punishment fitting the crime.  On the one hand, each of these people in the book screwed up and did some weird stuff that most people would find a little strange and possibly offensive (or even very offensive).  Does that mean that their lives, jobs and future opportunity should be completely destroyed?  It is a fascinating question and Ronson does a great job of asking the question and then just following the leads, wherever they take him.
Highly recommended! 


I love collecting old comic books.  But how old is old?  I have heard countless times from friends to proclaim that they have a stack of old comic books, and then when I check the books out, they are from 2005.  That's not really "vintage."  Then they wonder why there is a middle-aged man sitting along in their basement laughing and laughing.  Get out of my house, jerk.

One relatively easy (and quick) way to see how old your comic books are is to check out the date on the cover.  It's not perfect, but it will give you a general idea on the age of the book.

Golden Age (1930s - 1950s) = 10 cents

Silver Age (1960s) = 12 cents & 15 cents


Bronze Age (1970s) = 20 cents, 25 cents, 30 cents

Copper Age (1980s) = 60 cents, 75 cents, $1.00

Modern (1990s and later) = $1.00, over a dollar

Again, this is just a rough guide—and an excuse to enjoy some cool comic book covers!  Most new comic books won't ever be worth a ton of money, but some will!

My personal favorites of all are the Marvel "20 cent" covers.  I just love the combination of "teaser" words at the bottom with the beautiful illustrations.