Saturday, September 29, 2018

Movie Review: Gunderson's (2011)

Gunderson's (2011) - USA - Comedy - NR
Short Subject - Dial Tone Pictures - 14 mins
Written by Phil Primason, Max Azulay, Mallory Westfall and Matt Porter
Directed by Matt Porter
Starring Max Azulay, Timothy J. Cox, Dan Azulay, Jeremy Fernandez, Eoin Cahill, Mike DeGasperi, Nicolina Capitanio, Jeremian Fox, Alex Michaelopoulos, Lexie Morin, Daniel Murphy, Phil Plucinski, Yemaya Rich, Robert Rossi, Cody Schmidt, Cassidy Steinhilber, Marley Sternberg, Linsay Tierney

Not quite fully erect but it's enough to get the job done.

Starting his first week of teaching health class as a substitute teacher at middle school, Max discovers he has a sexually transmitted disease called Gunderson's. Gunderson's may only have one symptom but the consequences of having it may be more trouble than the symptoms.

Gunderson's strength is in a talented cast, not lacking in production values and a natural sense of humor infused in the dialogue. Max Azulay and Timothy J. Cox, if I could just remember their characters' names, are wonderful in their respective roles as teacher and principal. Timothy J. Cox shines as an over-bearing principal and takes the opportunity to chew the scenery in a most delightful way. Max Azulay evokes a natural responsiveness in his scenes coming off as a real character and not as an actor portraying a character. The hallway scene between Cox and Azulay is classic and I get the feeling at least some of Azulay's responsiveness in the scene is him trying to hold it together while Cox pushes his buttons as he can do so well.

Another of the charms of this short film is a wonderful group of young actors playing the students. There are enough students in the classroom to make for a full class. There are no shortcomings in making this feel like any average school day or classroom. What interaction there is between Max and his students is well played.

A downside for me is that Gunderson's feels incomplete. Don't get me wrong, it successfully tells a story, but it is quick in doing so. I felt like I had started down a trail and abruptly came to the end of it and wondered what I had missed. I found myself wishing there was more.

Gunderson's, for me, may be lacking in its story development but it does ultimately succeed. It provides humor and tells it in an entertaining way.

My Rating: 3 Fingers Plus; that's a 7 out of 10 for IMDbers. I would give it more if there was more.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Coming Blacklist: Sites You Should Block

I will be adding a page to this site. It's a page that's not going to make some people happy. It's simply a page containing a list of websites you should avoid.

Let me be as up front with something I have said till I'm blue in the face:


I have stressed this time and again. If you don't use an ad blocker (and dammit, they're free! Adblock Plus), you are putting your computer at risk. And yet people gleefully surf the web without an ad blocker. And when their computer gets infected they are at a loss to figure out why. For those people, please reference the previous statement.

Are the ads the problem? No. It's the source of the ads where the problem lies. The majority of online ads are third partied from ad providers. Not all ad providers allow the ads they sevre to be third partied to them, which makes it safer. But enough do, and don't give a damn from where it is coming, what scripting is being used, or what kind of special delivery of malware is being made via a browser visiting a site running their ad scripts.

Years ago almost everyone I knew with a computer had their computers infected by a fake anti-virus malware that would tell the computer user their computer was infected (well that sure as hell was correct, they infected it), and of course offer to remove the infection for a price. Most of those computers had to have windows re-installed; and one had to have the hard drive replaced. Which computer didn't get infected? The one running an ad blocker.

The internet has evolved from the days of simple HTML sites. The advances in scripting has allowed considerable interaction with websites making it easier to use them and allowing the website to be more useful. The danger from loading a website in your browser has evolved just as well.

Not all websites with ads or ad providers have malicious intent, nor represent a threat. Sites such as Google (and their associated services), Amazon and Facebook source their own advertising. In order for their ads to be a threat their own servers would have to be attacked. Such companies, being that the internet is their business, have firewall teams to protect their servers and deal with problems.

Most of us with our own websites do not have that capability. Yes, the hosting providers do protect their servers and have the people to deal with problems. But a blogger or webmaster pasting code into their webpages does not. What that code is serving has nothing to do with the hosting provider; they have no control over it.

Advertising has been around for a long time. Ads in magazines and on television are not a threat to anyone (unless you're stupid enough to swallow their BS). Online ads are not the same thing.

The list I have referred to is a blacklist of websites that either request for you to disable your ad blocker or add them to your whitelist, or, especially, sites that won't allow you entry unless you disable your ad blocker. This is usually given with a BS spiel about how ads make the internet happen and how you are stealing money from these poor greedy bastards by using an ad blocker rather than being truthful and say they don't give a damn about the risk to you so long as they make a few pennies before your computer crashes and burns.

Some of these are big websites with a long standing brick and mortar business like national newspapers. Some are popular websites started by fans in some hobby, say like horror movies, and have grown into an authority site. But it seems like 90% plus of the internet has ads, and many of the bigger sites don't need them as their income comes from sources other than internet ads, they're just being greedy by using the 'accepted norm'.

The blacklist will just be a suggestion of sites to boycott/block, unless they remove their walls and warnings in which case they will be removed from the list.

I'm not suggesting avoiding all sites with ads. I'm just strongly suggesting you use an ad blocker to protect your computer and blacklist those sites that want you to do otherwise.

If after all this talk, and I can be quite long-winded, and you get your computer infected and have not used an ad blocker, please reference the all caps message above one more time.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Movie Review: Far from the Apple Tree

Far from the Apple Tree (In Post) - Scotland - Thriller - NR
Directed by Grant McPhee
Written by Ben Soper
Starring Sorcha Groundsell, Victoria Liddelle, Lynsey-Anne Moffat, Margaret Fraser, Adrienne-Marie Zitt, Scarlett Mack

A tour de force of visual indulgement with more up its sleeve than it lets on.

Attending an art exhibit, Judith not only becomes enthralled with a work, the artist herself takes notice of her. Agreeing to become the artist's archivist and protege to eventually show her own work, she discovers many films and videos of the artist's daughter, perhaps not coincidentally to whom she bears a resemblance... and develops an obsession.

Akin to Grant McPhee's directing style that I first saw in Night Kaleidoscope, the first foray into Far from the Apple Tree is like being dropped into the middle of a situation you don't understand. Your natural survival instinct tells you to get out, yet something compels you to stay. To follow the narrative you have to go into the next room. Perhaps you might not want to, but yet again you're compelled to do it, because you have to know. You may even end up back where you started, momentarily, but that's part of the journey.

Where this story is going to end up is foreseeable. How it's going to get there... well that's a different case entirely, and it's the journey that's the story. Grant doesn't just take the road less traveled, he goes where there was no road and builds one with his narrative. Linear the story is, but pastiches of past, present and who knows when invade each moment onscreen.

Visually, and you don't know how complex that singular term is in relation to this film until you have seen it, there are elements that reminisce of satanic and witchcraft films of the 70s with an austere and muted presence. Elements that hearken to giallo in untransfixed vision underplayed by a melody of a lost childhood. And full of esoterica brimming the lid off of this cauldron of visceral extrapolations. And yet I may have just been describing the passage of only 20 seconds.

A relatively small cast delivers good performances throughout. Sorcha Groundsell as Judith immerses herself in her role and likely will be a rising star soon enough. Victoria Liddelle compounds her role as a character who wafts between impassive and receptive. Her character's intent is not for me to tell but for the viewer to decide.

From my first viewing I was at a solid rating of 4 fingers. The story is complete which alone would have me giving it a 3, and the journey Grant takes us on abrogates the nominal in narrative to traverse its own original path, taking my rating up to 4. It would be nice if things were so simple, huh? A trivial question, so I thought, that I posed to Grant just out of curiosity... well the answer floored me. I shall not reveal what that is, but the performance and production that colluded to carry that out, that takes it up another finger.

My Rating:  5 Fingers. I give it a high five!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Movie Review: Five Fingers for Marseilles (2017)

Five Fingers for Marseilles (2017) - South Africa - Western Thriller - Not Rated
Directed by Michael Matthews
Written by Sean Drummond
Starring Vuyo Dabula, Zethu Dlomo, Kenneth Nkosi, Jerry Mofokeng, Mduduzi Mabaso, Lizwi Vilakazi, Hamilton Dhlamini, Dean Fourie, Kenneth Fok, Anthony Oseyemi, Warren Masemola, Garth Breytenbach, Aubrey Poolo, Brendon Daniels

A compelling film filled with stunning sights and sounds that from opening shot to final frame moves like an unstoppable locomotive.

Five boys in the township of Marseilles in South Africa form a pact to fight against the corrupt police oppression. They call themselves the Five Fingers, vowing not to become like their oppressors. But one day one of them crosses a new line in defending one of their own resulting in the death of two police officers. A self-imposed exile from Marseilles for him leads to a life of crime and violence, until some 20 years later he returns to Marseilles, a stranger, in what seems on the outside to have won the fight against oppression. But what lurks within, even within themselves, is a greater threat than what they overcame. Will he and his brothers in the Five Fingers be able to stand together... or apart?

Struggle is a word for many of us that we can only imagine... for others, that word is life. Oppression is a privileged tool of conquerors and raiders throughout history. Keeping people in check with brutality and despoiling of their property and goods is a significant part of that history and of colonization. The oppressors may have brought their names and infused their ways on a people, but within churns a spirit that was there long before they came. Dress them in different clothes, teach them a new language, a different religion, but inside people know who they are and that can't be taken away.

Opening upon a simple shot of the plains, the air is brisk, the sky is clear and a crackle in a voice sets the tone for what will follow. The narrative is a delight of sight and sound, not telling its story but revealing it. Filled with character and stylings, and permeated with a dynamic soundtrack ticking the mood, unveiled before the viewers eyes and ears is a visceral symphony. A contemporary western set in South Africa it is, but you haven't seen this before.

The story itself is highly allegorical. Most potent of these is the Christ figure represented by the central protagonist of the story, Tau, as well themes of crucifixion and resurrection. Ironically, central to the antagonist is one of entrenched legacy. The mixing of a western with socio-political and spiritual themes dates back to the beginnings of cinema. Perhaps that's why this seems such a good fit for Five Fingers for Marseilles.

For me the final act fizzles a bit. Yet it ups its pace at the same time, so it's give for take. From opening frame to closing shot Five Fingers for Marseilles is consistent in its delivery. So compelling it is that it grabs you by the [please insert preferred genitals here] and doesn't let go. A complete story it is, but just as ambiguous in places it is that too. This works well for it as I can't tell you what you should make of this. Five Fingers for Marseilles provides the ingredients for you to savor for yourself.

Five Fingers for Marseilles features a wonderful South African cast, and obviously a skilled crew. Sight and sound are beautiful to behold. The music throughout is tempestuous. It is subtitled, but this keeps the film text in check as even with reading the dialogue you can get a feel for what the actor is saying without having to understand the words.

My Rating: 5 Fingers

You can find out more on the film's official Facebook and Twitter pages.

Watch the official trailer on YouTube.