NRHS Project Promise Head Not Qualified for Job

By Sam Kench

ystl 1 cover cropped

When Beth Colby left the district this school year her job of running after school Project Promise and handling the school’s ELO program was split into two positions. Amy Yeakle took over the ELO side of her duties, and the Project Promise aspect was filled by Lori Lane. Before Christmas break Ms. Lane viewed the Newfound Filmmaking Club’s sketch comedy show “Yes Son That is a Lion” After viewing it and deeming it offensive she informed the superintendent of her opinion. Without watching the video, superintendent Stacy Buckley ordered that all copies of the DVD be confiscated. Vice Principal Paul Hoiriis confiscated the remaining DVDs so that they could no longer be sold, with the stipulation that they would be returned at the end of the day. The DVDs were not returned at that time.

Ms. Lane offered to go through the video and point out which parts she found offensive. After the offer was accepted she recanted and refused to discuss the matter further. Ms. Lane has not responded to emails regarding the matter.

While in possession of the DVDs, Mr. Hoiriis and Ms. Lane claimed that the school (Project Promise) had ownership over the DVDs. Ms. Lane claimed that the school had paid for the DVDs and cases making them school property. The DVDs and cases were not purchased by the school. The materials used in the production of the DVDs were purchased independently by film making club members, as proof of purchase receipts illustrated. Mr. Hoiriis and Ms. Lane continued to claim the school’s ownership over the DVDs. Their stance was that since the school owned the camera that was used to make the video, they therefore owned the video itself. In a meeting the point was brought up that: This would be akin to the school claiming ownership of a students painting, because the school owned the brushes and paint used to make it. Mr. Hoiriis and Ms. Lane changed that claim of ownership, from physical ownership, to intellectual property. “Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works” (World Intellectual Property Association). Mr. Hoiriis and Ms. Lane stated that the school owned the intellectual and creative property of the film club. This would mean that the school owns the scripts written, the performances given by the actors, the actual footage, editing, effects, etc. This point was argued extensively.

During this time of deliberation Mr. Hoiriis stated that the video was not allowed to be sold within the school or elsewhere, he also said that the video could not be made available to the public through any means. It was not allowed to be shown anywhere, to be available for check out at the public library, to be shown on the public access channel, or to be available through any other avenue.

Eventually a document was signed saying that the school had no ownership over the DVDs and that they were a product of Brickwall Productions. The DVDs were then returned. After the DVDs were signed over, Ms. Lane stated that film making is not an art and that there is no education involved in it. She was not open to argument on this subject and insists that there is no artistic, creative, academic, or educational merits in the medium of film making.

Upon pressing Ms. Lane on this issue she revealed that she had officially disbanded the club. This decision was made of her own volition without consulting the administration, or anyone else. Mr. Hoiriis was not aware of this until it was brought to his attention after the meeting.

Ms. Lane disbanded the club on the basis that there was no educational or artistic aspect to filmmaking. She has no issue with the Geek Club, Anime Club, Cooking Club, Drama Club, Thespian Society, or Camera Club, so why the filmmaking club is being targeted is unknown.

Mike Place, a film professor at a local college, wrote in a letter explicitly stating how film making is educational. He detailed how filmmaking enriches academics and demonstrated the ways in which it teaches core subjects such as reading, writing and mathematics.

The New Hampshire representative of the 21st Century Community Learning Grant (The grant that Project Promise operates by), does not feel that Ms. Lane’s decision was justified. She also made aware that there are several film clubs supported by the grant around the country. Many students, staff, and community members have given their support to the former members of the filmmaking club and a petition on the matter has garnered over 50 signatures from people who find Ms. Lane’s actions unacceptable.

 

 

Newfound administrators says ‘Film making is not an art’

By Amy Lyn Kench

“Film making is not an art and has no educational merits.”

This is what Lori Lane, the new Director of the Newfound Area School District Project Promise After school program said to teen film maker Sam Kench right before disbanding the Film Making Club that he founded two years ago.

For the past two years Sam had worked to build up participation in the club. He and fellow club members have produced original comedy shorts that have been well received by teachers, students, administrators and community members.


CLICK HERE to see an original sketch written, filmed and edited by the after school film making club. All the answers given,even the really ridiculous ones, are real things.

Fro the past 2 years I have acted as the club’s volunteer coordinator. Given Sam is under 18, I was required to sign a document stating nothing created by this club was affiliated with the school district before they would return the DVDs which were Sam’s personal property. Of course this was after the club’s work had been shared by teachers and students and seen by the administration prior to Lori Lane’s arrival.

After seeing the high quality of his work, teachers and administrators have asked Sam to film and create videos of activities and events around the school district. Before the after school program purchased a video camera, he used his own camera, computer and video editing software and spent countless hours outside school to put these videos together. All his work, prior to Lori Lane’s arrival, received positive feedback. But, in one fell swoop, she has negated all his hard work.

CLICK HERE to see the Youtube channel Sam set up for the school following strict instructions from the administration. He filmed and/edited the majority of the videos on the page but the administration and management of the page is in the hands of the school.

Lori lane has since denied her comment that film making is not an art, but in her formal letter disbanding the club she said the following:

“It is clear to me, from your comments yesterday, that the focus of this club is to give the students a forum to create scripts and film productions with content that they, themselves want to produce. There is no connection to improving student performance in core academic subjects like reading and mathematics or to complement their regular academic program…”

As you can see, in one sentence she states that the club members are writing and producing films, then contradicts herself in the next.

I’m pretty sure the majority of people would agree creating original scripts would help to improve reading, and writing skills. Given there are no film classes offered at the school and the advanced software being used to edit the films is not taught there either, the film making club was certainly a complement to the regular academic programming at NRHS.

When Sam read her statement he askedHow does the cooking club improve reading and math?” Her response was “There’s a lot of math in cooking.” Well, that may be the case, if you’re doubling a recipe or creating an original recipe. But you know what uses even more reading, writing and math skills? Creating original films.

Sam tried to explain to Ms. Lane that film making not only helps to improve reading and math skills but complements regular academic programs. He state that club members;

  • Create original scripts which take quite a bit of writing skill and creativity.
  • Read through scripts, memorize lines and choreograph scenes.
  • Line up angles, adjust camera settings and lighting to get the best shots.
  • Learn and use advanced film editing software that is not taught at NRHS.
  • Produce high quality films.

Sam and his fellow film making club members followed the rules as outlined by the previous Project Promise Director. When Ms. Lane started at Newfound Regional High School, she did not introduce herself or ask what we did in our club. I, as the club adviser, made a point of introducing myself to her.

She didn’t ask any questions about what the club did, only about the equipment the club was using. She did not give members any new guidelines or rules. She certainly never asked the students or the coordinator how the club was meeting the goals of the 21st Century grant. If she had, she would have learned our members have far exceeded the goals of the grant. In fact, the film club is specifically mentioned in the grant application. But, instead she made assumptions and a decision that has had a profound effect on my son and other club members.

Lori Lane did not consult with anyone in the administration who has worked with Sam and club members over the past two years. How do we know this? Well, because both the Principal and Assistant Principal heard for the first time about what happened when Sam and I told them. Ms. Lane’s behavior and lack of communication is totally unacceptable and Sam has filed a complaint against her. He also requested a meeting with the superintendent Stacy Buckley. (She has since denied his request.)

Below is the formal letter from Ms. Lane disbanding the Film Making Club:

film club disbanding letter

After receiving the above letter Sam informed club members what had happened. We then went over to the Gordon-Nash Library and arranged for The Newfound Film Making Club to start meeting there again. This is the community group we started this spring after several community members asked how they could be involved.

The actions of Ms. Lane will not derail Sam from his path. But, she certainly has cast a negative pall over the halls of NRHS. Show your support for film making as an art and for Sam’s work by commenting below and visiting his Youtube channels: Brickwall Productions and Brickwall Reviews and Tam Brickwall.

SPECIAL NOTE: On Friday, January 31, 2014 Sam was notified that a script he entered in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards won an honorable mention.

Dawn of the Dead – Romero Retrospective

This is the second part in my Romero Retrospective in which I discuss Dawn of the Dead. It’s not entirely necessary that you watch part one first.

Macabre Month of Horror #19 F.E.A.R 2

fear 2

fear 2 pooster

F.E.A.R 2 begins a short bit before the end of the first F.E.A.R game, however you play as a different character in a different location. Monolith still had a large part with making the game but now there is the addition of Warner Brothers.

Monolith still handles the horror elements which are in top form and Warner Brothers throws in some cash which makes the game much more polished than the first one was. The shooting is more modern and finely tuned. I loved the shooting in the first game after I got used to it, but the shooting is very good in the second game as well, but they are entirely different.

FPS fearThe first game had a lot of cramped corridors and droning offices but there were only a few locations and that meant you were looking at the same decor and art design throughout most of the game. Visually the game got a bit repetitive and stale.

They improved this greatly for the sequel. F.E.A.R 2 has a much higher quantity of settings as well as having more color and stronger more polished visuals which make the presentation of the game much stronger.

The horror works very well. There are some ineffective bits and relies on jump scares a bit too often, but there are still of creative, original, and ingenious scare tactics used to creep out any gamer. Alma is in full creepy mode, and though her transformation in the first game may have been a highlight, her figure in F.E.A.R 2 is creepy in it’s own right.

fear 2

The shooting is a great deal of fun. Once again the shooting takes some of the tension out of the moment and you feel safe from Alma when under fire, so the integration could still be improved upon.

F.E.A.R 2 is even gorier than the first game. You can shoot a guy with a shotgun and watch him completely explode leaving nothing behind save for bloody smears on the walls and ceiling. You can blow a guy in half at the waist and watch his upper half flail around in agony. You can blast a guy’s shoulder off and admire the gruesome ribs sticking out from the side of his chest. It’s a bloody good time. There is a wider variety of guns this time. Some useful and some not so much. The guns range from being awesome and cool, like the hammerhead which can pin people to walls, to being completely lame and not fun to use, like the napalm cannon.

There are some interesting set pieces in F.E.A.R 2. There are segments when you hop inside a battlemech type thing and fire machine guns and rockets. These parts feel out of place like they belong in a different game. At any rate they are not much fun and only manage to take you out of the experience. At times the action overall feels as if it’s on too grand a scale for a horror game, but the shooting is usually fun so I digress.

fear alma

*SPOILERS* The game ends with one of the downright creepiest game plot developments ever. Your character gets strapped to a chair and raped by Alma. That is pretty messed up, and disturbing to be sure, and further more she get’s pregnant, setting a wonderful stage for a sequel. *END SPOILERS*

F.E.A.R. 2 was a great follow up to the first game and furthered the cannon of the series. It was another great game being added to the eventual trilogy. Check back tomorrow to see if the 3rd could complete an entirely worthwhile trilogy.

CLICK HERE to order F.E.A.R. 2

Latest updates from the Bristol Books Examiner

spencer quinn dog on it

I’ve been writing for the Examiner about books and book related subjects and events in New Hampshire for a little over a year. The Examiner website has gone through some major changes not only to its look, but how it pays its writers.

You see, the Examiner doesn’t pay per article, they pay per click on articles, slideshows and lists that the writers create. So, not only do I have to write all my own original content, create slideshows etc., but then I have to promote the hell out of each one just to make a few bucks. It used to be easier, my articles hit the front page of the New Hampshire site every time. Now, they don’t give each state its own home page which makes it really hard for my articles to claw their way to the front page.

I write The Bristol Books Examiner page and mixed in with my book reviews, I like to help promote library events, local book store events and book related things happening in New Hampshire.

So, please click on the links below and help a freelancing bookworm out. 🙂

These are a few of my latest articles on The Bristol Books. Click and subscribe to receive updates in your email.

New eco art show opens at Nash Gallery 

Waste Made Hills eco art show“Internal Landscapes: Eco Art and Exploring Place” opened on Tuesday, August 6, 2013 at the Nash Gallery in New Hampton, NH. The new work by Cynthia Cutting Robinson is the second art show to exhibit in the newly refurbished Nash Gallery located on the lower level of the Gordon-Nash Library.

The artist, Ms. Robinson, has been a painter for more than 20 years, and now uses a wide variety of materials and processes to make artworks centered on environmental issues and ideas. Click Here to continue reading…

Hitchcock’s “The Birds” still terrifies 50 years later

Poster for "The Birds" by Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock  was the master of suspense and 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of one of his most chilling masterpieces, “The Birds” released in 1963. This classic thriller of alienation and horror was adapted for the screen from a short story written by Daphne du Maurier. The story was first published in 1952 in a collection of short stories titled “The Apple Tree” and republished under the name “The Birds and Other Stories” in 1963 to coincide with the film’s release. Click Here to continue…

Encourage the love of reading with a 2013 Ladybug Picture Book Award nominee

Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

In March 2013, the Ladybug Picture Book Award committee chose the nominees for the 2013 Ladybug Picture Book Award. This is a great selection of stories to encourage reading at an early age.

The Ladybug Picture Book Award is designed to promote early literacy and honor the best in recently published children’s picture books. A committee of children’s librarians from around the state selected 10 picture book titles for young readers to read and vote on. Click Here to continue reading…

‘Dog On It’ by Spencer Quinn is a must read for dog lovers

spencer quinn dog on it

If you are a dog-lover, and a cozy mystery lover, you should immediately add the Chet and Bernie Mysteries by Spencer Quinn to your reading list. Even if you are a dog owner who hasn’t picked up a book for pleasure in years, once you read Quinn’s first book Dog On It you will find it necessary to continue reading the series.

With Chet the Jet narrating the stories from his doggie point of view, you will laugh out loud and think “Hey, my dog does that” or “Wow, that explains a lot”. Click Here to continue reading…

The 2013-2014 Great Stone Face

Book Award nominees encourage young readers 

The Power of Poppy Pendle

Librarians, teachers and parents are always looking for ways to encourage reading. Sometimes a bookworm is born, but for some children, it takes just the right book to ignite the spark to turn them into a life long reader. Click Here to continue reading…

 

A Descent Into Insanity Double Feature Movie Premiere

double feature movie premiere event

doub feature movie premiere event

The Newfound Film Making Club (NFMC) will host a double-feature movie premiere event on June 26 starting at 6:00 pm at the Gordon-Nash Library in New Hampton, NH. The club will be showing two of it’s original short films. Both are horror movies with a similar theme of “descending into insanity”, but each is filmed in a very different style.

The two original, short films being featured at the event were written, directed, edited by and star members of the NFMC. The Club was founded in 2012 by Newfound Regional High School students, Sam Kench andShaun Hathaway.  Since its inception, in addition to making short films, the club has filmed several short comedy sketches and action shorts which can be viewed on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/user/tamguardians2.

The first short film of the evening will be “Fading Humanity”. The original screenplay was written by Kench and Hathaway. They drew inspiration for their short film from the book “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding and the movie “The Shining” directed by Stanley Kubrick based on the Stephen King novel with the same name. The film stars Kench and Hathaway as well as local theater favorite, Rebecca Turmel who starred as Peter in this year’s Newfound Community Theater production of “Peter Pan”. The gorgeous colors of autumn along the Pemi River are a bold contrast to the dark subject matter of the film.

The second film of the evening is the premiere of “A Lapse in Sanity” written and directed by Sam Kench. This is short black and white film with a very creepy,Darren Aronofsky feel. The director described the movie as “ a surreal nightmarish descent into insanity.” Kench gave further insight into the film saying that, “Some say your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. “A Lapse in Sanity” can be seen as an allegory for what your mind creates in those precious seconds before death. The mind creates a false, dream-like, reality to try and escape the imminent death, but the mind cannot fully distance itself from the true horror and instead throws the main character into a demented frenzy of horrifying images and brings him along a trail of his deepest phobias on his path towards death. A lot can happen in the blink of an eye.

Man Bites Dog (1992)

man bites dog poster

Spoiler Free

man bites dog poster

Man Bites Dog is a film that I had been trying to find for a while. A DVD eluded my grasp but I was pleasantly surprised to find the film available on youtube. You can watch it there if a DVD is not available.

I really like the title. “Man Bites Dog” It’s obscure and peaks the interest of any potential viewers, and it has great relevance to the film, in a metaphorical way.

Man Bites Dog is a Belgian film. The full original title is C’est arrivé près de chez vous which means “It happened in your neighborhood.” The film wants to convey a strong sense of reality immediately.

Man Bites Dog is a found footage film. I am not a big fan of the genre. I would almost say I hate the whole genre but there are of course exceptions. Most found footage films are terrible. Paranormal Activity is dreadful and there are more awful exorcism films than I care to list. There are a few good found footage films like the newish horror film V/H/S which I plan to review eventually. Is Man Bites Dog one of the few good found footage films?

The footage that has been found is a documentary that was being made by a crew of independent filmmakers focusing on the day to day activities of a serial killer. I find man bites dog sittingthis concept to be fascinating. It’s such an interesting idea and could easily make for a great film. The found footage effect is completely necessary in this film. Found footage is much more understandable when it has a purpose to the plot. Here’s an example, Man Bites Dog needed the found footage effect as part of the story. End of Watch (While being a good film) did not need to have the found footage effect. Change a couple lines of dialogue and it would have been just as effective.

Man Bites Dog is known as a dark comedy. The comedic element of the film is actually a major selling point, even the tagline promotes this ideal saying “A killer comedy”. I did not think of Man Bites Dog as a comedy. I feel that this could be misleading to some viewers. There are some funny moments, but it’s not a comedy in the traditional sense. It’s the absurdity of the situation and the reactions of the characters that bring the comedy. Calling Man Bites Dog a comedy is like calling Terminator a love story. Yeah there are some underlying themes and few key moments that represent the genre, but it’s not the center point, nor is it focused on a great deal.

Man Bites Dog is a hard film to classify. It’s very strange, which is a big reason of why it’s so effective. When picking a genre, I would say it’s close to horror. Not in the traditional sense of course. Man Bites Dog is horror in the sense that Red State is horror. The events that take place are heavily based in reality and could actually remyhappen. The actions of the characters are truly “Horrifying” from a realistic stand point. The fact that these things could very easily actually happen makes the situation frightening.

The main character is serial killer named Benoit he is played by a man who is also named Benoit. In fact, most of the cast uses their real names. They’re even playing themselves in way. In the film is a camera crew and director, playing the camera crew and director is, the camera crew and director. It’s strange to think that this guy is playing himself, who is killing people.

Benoit is a very interesting character. He’s not a mindless killer like Jason, and he’s not a high class intellectual like Hannibal Lecter. He’s closer to a normal guy. I think this makes the situation all the more tense. Here is a guy who can blend perfectly into society committing heinous acts. In fact there are scenes with Benoit’s parents who are his real parents. They thought that it was an actual documentary on their son, they didn’t know that their son was portraying a serial killer.

Benoit is an uncompromising killer who kills mainly just for entertainment. He does steal from the people he kills, but the money is not what he’s after. Benoit has a poetic nature about him. He even gives a full poem about pigeons. man bites dog pigeonHe makes stark commentaries on life while taking it away from others. He satires what is acceptable in society while breaking preset taboo’s.

Benoit is the focus of the film. He spends most f the run time talking to the camera, but there are other characters. The film crew which consists of three people at any given time. They are poorly developed aside from Remy the director. He is a well constructed character and you follow his progression throughout the film. The other film crew members are completely flat. The things that happen to them have very little impact due to their lack of build up. Most of the other characters in the film are simply people who get killed, there are some side characters but no one that stands out.

Man Bites Dog is truly shocking. The film sets out to surprise the audience and it succeeds in doing so. The film is very jarring in an intentional effective way. The black and white film and the handheld found footage really add to the effectiveness of the man bites dogcrimes that are committed. This is one film where the found footage effect enhances the film.

Right from the opening shot of the film, the tone is set. A shocking display of violence taking place in a public crowded area. That set’s most of the film up from there, aside from the social commentary. The film is incredibly realistic which is what makes it effective. The murder is not glorified, it’s realistic. The setting of the film enhances the effect as well. Crowded areas and abandoned areas alike. The filmmakers did not build sets for the film, they went out and found places where they could kill people, and places where they could dispose of the bodies. The areas are real locations in the city where the film was shot, true geurilla film making. the low budget and geurilla style of the film just enhance the experience.

Man Bites Dog is a truly unique experience. It’s unlike any film I’ve seen before. The film does drag a bit towards the end. It feels as though the film would have been just shy of a feature so they added a few scenes as fluff. The scenes aren’t completely bad, but they do feel out of and unnecessary. Almost out of character. The film almost feels as though it has two endings. The movie hits a spot where it could end, then continues a little further only to end right after that.0

Man Bites Dog is an incredible experimental experience and should get more recognition for it’s ingenuity. The filmmakers never went on to do any other films. the main actor has gone on to be in other films, but the directors mainly Remy Belvaux the main director ended after one film. It’s a strange case where a director or writer do only one film. He did commercials after but no features or even short films. Perhaps it’s a case of a man feeling the need to tell just this one story. Maybe he thought he had completed his masterpiece and wanted to go out on top. Maybe he just couldn’t think of anything else, I don’t know, I’d like to, but I don’t.

There is a very strange case that I just found out about. There is a sequel. Yeah, it’s just called “Man Bites Dog: The sequel” But it came out in 2012 a full 20 years after the original, and it doesn’t feature any of the same cast members. The same character of Benoit but a different actor. Now normally I would just assume that this was a fan film. It takes place in New York this time, so I would figure that someone saw the original and really liked and decided to make a fan tribute sequel where they lived. The really weird thing is that one of the writers of the film is named Remy Belvaux which is the name of one of the writer, director, and actors of the original film. That is really weird. Did this guy change his name or did he just happen to have the same name as the guy who wrote the original movie? That would be very weird. It’s even weirder considering the real Remy Belvaux committed suicide. It’s a very strange case. I would like to know more information on this.

Man Bites Dog is definitely worth watching. It’s not for the casual viewer and it may require you to be in a specific morbid mood, but the film is one of the best found footage films I’ve seen to date, and is an incredibly interesting profile of a serial killer, done with a low budget which only enhances the effect. Controversial and morbid, but a well done cinematic experience.

 

Repo Men (2010) Movie Review

repo men

*SPOILER FREE*

“Repo Men” is another film that came on that 4 dvd pack with 12 Monkeys and Children of Men.

I didn’t know what to expect from this film. I had no idea what it was about and usually on the 4 DVD packs there is at least one bad movie.

repo men poster

“Repo Men” not to be confused with “Repo Man”, or “Repo Chick”, or “Repo! The Genetic Opera”, or just plain “Repo”

Repo Men is really awesome. I was very surprised by how good it was. The movie has a great tone that jumps between serious and fun. The direction and writing are both very good and the cast is excellent. I’ve never really been a fan of Forest Whitaker, but I really liked him in this film. He brings a great performance to an interesting character. Jude law gives a great performance that really shines in a few key scenes. Jude and Forest have great on screen chemistry and the relationship between their characters is very well constructed. There are some odd supporting cast members. Only odd because they are small roles of actors that I’ve only really seen in one or two other things. Like “Cholo” from “Land of the Dead” who was uncredited in “Repo Men”, and the boss at the movie theater from theater managerDrake and Josh there’s even a cameo from RZA.

The film is directed by Miguel Sapochnik, who besides Repo Men has only directed TV shows. Usually just one episode on a few different shows, he directed 6 episodes of House, which is interesting. His only current work in progress is a TV movie, but I hope he gets another theatrical release, because he has real potential. His directing style is creative and has a personal flair. His sense of film style comes out in scenes such as the fast paced flashback sequence. He deserves another theatrical release if he desires one.

“Repo Men” is not just an action film, it’s not even mainly an action film. It’s mainly a sci-fi drama/thriller, and a pretty good one at that. I’m not a big sci-fi fan, I honestly don’t care much for the genre, but I know when one does it right. I saw the unrated version of this film, and it was very gory. In a good way mind you. It was a little excessive but not to the point of torture porn like “Hostel” or “Saw”.  There is an action scene towards the end of the film which is a gory as hell knife fight, and really makes me wish that there were more awesome knife fights in repo men knife fightmovies. “The Raid Redemption” has perhaps the greatest knife fights in a movie. Just letting you know.

There are a lot of digital effects in the film, some look a little weaker than others, and even a little dated (Which is odd seeing as it was made in 2010) But overall the effects look really good.

repo men characters

Repo Men is no masterpiece, but it is an enjoyable film. It has plenty of problems and at times has a B movie vibe, but I’ve always enjoyed that vibe regardless.

“Repo Men” is worth watching. Not a must see, but if the opportunity presents itself, check it out. 

 

Taken (2008) movie review and original artwork

Taken (2008) movie review and original artwork

 ‘Taken‘ Stars Liam Neeson. I think this is Neeson’s best role.

Neeson’s done a bunch of crappy movies in his time, but he can still be awesome. As long as he’s in a good movie like Taken‘.

The basic plot of ‘Taken’ is that Neeson’s daughter goes to Paris and get’s kidnapped. Then Neeson has 96 hours to find her. The thought of finding someone who is a continent away seems daunting. Neeson used to be a spy for the CIA, but retired to be closer to his daughter. His wife has divorced him, taken custody of the daughter, and remarried to this rich old guy. I’ll go out and say it, the mother is just a total bitch.

After Neeson saves the daughter, you might think that they throw the cliché in and have him and the ex-wife get back together again, but that doesn’t happen. That is a very good thing.

Original noir artwork created by Sam based on the Taken DVD cover

I like that the movie doesn’t follow clichés. The action is extremely well done. Unlike in the Bourne movies. I hate the Jason Bourne quick cut shaky cam technique. I think that it really takes away from the action, when you can barely tell whats happening.

The quick cuts also lack authenticity to the fights. Extremely long takes are hard to do, but are often some of the best shots, like in ‘Hard Boiled, the shot in the hospital that lasts four minutes, is considered the best shot in the movie.

‘Taken’ mixes short cuts and longer cuts, in a very good way. You can feel all of the hits. When Neeson hits somebody it isn’t just a random punch, you can see the precision he employs. Every punch or kick he throws is to incapacitate his target in the fastest and most effective manner. So all the hand to hand fighting is well done.

Liam Neeson in Taken

What about the shooting? What usually happens is Neeson is taking the guy’s out quietly with hand to hand, then a single shot get’s fired off alerting the other guys to his presence, then the shooting starts. The shooting is done well, very well.

The last part of the action is the driving sequences. This is my only real complaint about the movie. The driving scenes, are actually pretty boring. There is a chase or two, and there’s shooting involved, but they just sort of went on for too long, or maybe the scoring was the problem, but the Driving scenes were far less enjoyable than the rest of the movie.

The character’s precision and professionalism are really shown. His lethality is outstanding. It is interesting to see how the character thinks. The way he finds his daughter is very smartly written. The movie has balls. The character is ruthless and unrelenting. When he is torturing the man who took his daughter, after he finds out what he knows, he leaves him being electrocuted, until he dies, slowly. That is a good mark from me. A lot of other movies wouldn’t have had the guts to do that.

My favorite part of the movie happens right at the end. This moment really separates the movie apart from other action films for me. When the last guy is holding a knife to his daughters throat and Neeson is pointing a gun at him. the man starts to negotiate and Neeson just shoots him in the head. That is awesome! Most movies would have him throw down his gun and comply with the bad guy, but not “Taken”. The only other movie I have seen this done in was “True Lies” when Schwarzenegger does it to save his wife. It’s a little different, but basically the same.

Taken is a great action thriller. It has much better action than most thrillers, and a much better story than most action movies. I really appreciate that the movie went all out. Taken is one of my favorite action movies. a great film. (I am involved in the production of a TV show with about 4 episodes inspired by “Taken”)

 

Falling Down Movie Review Part 2 ~ by Sam

“Heavy Spoilers”

As previously mentioned he takes a baseball bat from a man whose shop he destroys. This is the very beginning of the film, the first thing he does after ditching his car is going to use a pay-phone, which he uses to call his (ex) wife but doesn’t actually say anything, nerves get to him and a story arch is later completed with him and his former family, that he is trying to maintain a role in, however unwanted his role is.

After hanging up he wants to call again immediately but doesn’t have the change, that is why he goes into the shop. The guy will not give him change unless he buy’s something, so he does, or tries to anyway. Now in the year 2012 the price needs to be adjusted for inflation but the point still gets across. The point is that the soda he wants to buy is over-priced along with everything in the shop. The shop owner is Korean, and the conversation is the start of why people believe that D-fens is racist. I don’t think that is really racist but just extremely patriotic. He doesn’t have a problem with the guy because he is Asian but instead because he feels the man coming to his country and not even bothering to learn English is what he find’s offensive.

After destroying the shop the man say’s “just take it, take whatever you want” D-fens is extremely offended by this. “I’m not a thief, is that what you think I am” he say’s before paying for his soda and leaving. He has morals and stealing is against his morals. He is actually a man who really values morals. Stealing is bad in his book but destroying a man’s shop is okay because he feels it is deserved for how he is treated, and as the movie progresses he starts using violence more and more to solve his problems because he see’s how easy it really is, and it pisses him off that he has worked so hard his whole life and not accomplished or been recognized for his achievements when he could have just been doing things the easy way all along and maybe ended up better off.

Things that push him to violence become smaller and more insignificant as he becomes more complacent with his violent actions. I think the writer really used little things that piss him off to use as things that push D-fens to violence. Most things that push D-fens are things that deal with everyday but he just wont take it anymore. He’s done putting up with it and now he’s making them pay for it.

Little issues people have with everyday life such as gang occupation, plastic surgeons being more wealthy than people more deserving, unnecessary construction projects just to meet the budget, he even pulls a gun out in a Whammy Burger because they won’t serve him breakfast. The situation escalates when false advertising makes its way into the standoff. He even ends up deciding that he doesn’t really even want breakfast after holding a gun to the manager because of breakfast in the first place, again showing how it isn’t really the act that angers him it’s the methods behind it.

False advertising is because of the burger he gets is flat and compares it to the picture while trying to have a somewhat casual conversation he has put in danger in the restaurant, even talking to a little kid asking him questions. In the same scene is another important character development moment. He is supposed to be an average guy pushed too far, and an average guy isn’t an action hero or an expert with guns. In the restaurant he accidentally fires the gun into the ceiling which really adds realism and reminds you of the “average guy” element. A similar moment happens later with the rocket launcher. He has a kid show him how to use it (and he still does it wrong).

From the beginning he doesn’t look for trouble, trouble finds him, in the beginning he tries to avoid conflict while being completely willing to follow through at the same time. But he has an extreme temper and when his anger builds up enough, that’s when he goes berserk.

Realism is really important in this movie and without a powerful sense of realism the movie wouldn’t be half as good. Good thing the realism factor is handled extremely well. The movie has many far away helicopter shots where the character of D-fens blends right into the crowds. There are so many pedestrians and random civilians all over the place it really makes the situations more intense and realistic. All the colors are very vivid and bright which is in sharp contrast to the dark tone of the movie. Pedestrians get caught in the way of all the violence; people on the street get shot in drive by’s, D-fens terrorizes a golf course and almost uses a family as hostages without realizing it. When he does eventually realize it he is mad at himself because he hurt the little girl by accident.

Speaking of little girls, his own little girl is what gives him direction moving him on his self-destructive journey. Throughout the movie he is trying to get to his daughter’s birthday party, and people just keep getting in his way. A darker reality surfaces with his family making a little bit less of an average guy but a little more twisted than previously led to believe.

The movie ends with a confrontation between the characters played by Robert Duval  and Michael Douglas. Michael Douglas delivers his line “I’m the bad guy?” he finally comes to terms with the fact that he is doing bad things, the entire time he thought what he was doing was justified and the right thing. Upon this realization he makes the cop kill him by pulling a fake gun and getting shot. The ending is great, he gets shot, breaks the railing and bounces back up to his feet to deliver one last line before falling over the railing to his assumed death (he fell into the water and there is a slight chance he could have survived the gunshot wound) but he is most likely dead, which is the most appropriate ending possible.

The story arch of D-fens is similar to the story arch of Tony Montana from the movie “Scarface” Both characters have a rise and fall both ending in their deaths. Both become corrupted in a sense and to a different extent hate themselves for what they have become. Neither start off as particularly good people but they grow significantly worse throughout the film.

Falling Down is a Fantastic movie that deserves more recognition than it has. The following of the movie is small enough to have the movie be known as a cult classic. The movie is extremely underrated. The movie is very deep but even without analyzing it and seeing the deeper meanings, I think the movie would still be enjoyable but to a lesser extent. I think the main message is that life isn’t fair but you have to deal with it, lose your cool and your world will come crashing down around you.