10 Wondrous Vantage Points That Make Western New York A Worthy Rival Of New York City

4

Waterfalls, striking state parks, and an eternal flame – I’ll bet the house that New York would be the last state you’d look to find gems like these. Sure, I’m used to hearing the cliches of people assuming New York State is a continuation of The Big Apple – one gigantic metropolis. Well, dear reader, I introduce you to Buffalo, New York, and the Western New York region. No, no, NO! It’s not Upstate New York. Wikipedia is lying to you. Don’t get me started.

Let’s go for a walk – or a scroll down this webpage – and discover why New York is so great to look at.

1. Niagara Falls

canada-niagara-falls-horseshoe-falls

 

You may have heard of this one. Wedged between New York and Ontario, this North American natural wonder is truly special to behold. Locals will tell you it’s nothing more than falling water that is over-advertised to draw tourist revenue. And while that’s partially true, the Falls must be seen to be believed. Millions of gallons of water plummet at its base every minute, and can be witnessed from various vantage points. The Maid of the Mist tour takes visitors for a close-in look, while the perspective from the Skylon Tower on the Canadian side supplies a perfect panoramic view of the sensation. Niagara Falls State Park – the oldest state park in the country – makes the trip even more worthwhile.

2. Eternal Flame Falls

eternal-flame-falls-23

One of the more quirky attractions to visit is the Eternal Flame Falls, a 30-foot waterfall with a small grotto at its base that emits natural gas. Use your lighter or old-school match to ignite the flame, and get out your marshmallows and sticks (note sarcasm). The flame is small, but this natural phenomenon is so uncommon it has drawn an exponential amount of visitors in recent years. The hikes to and from the flame are also fun, and will take about an hour.

3. Erie Basin Marina

9368431557_765bb913f7_b

I know, I know. At this point you’re wondering why Western New Yorkers like watching water so much. It’s the lovechild of hydrogen and oxygen, so what’s the big deal? The Erie Basin Marina is a waterfront that locals are proud to live by. Rent a boat and navigate Lake Erie, or pick a bench and savor the view. Many eateries flood the immediate area for local grub, drinks or ice cream. For the best possible view, visit the observation deck to soak it all in.

4. Sled Hill in Chestnut Ridge Park

maxresdefault

Also home to the Eternal Flame, Chestnut Ridge Park is a popular sledding destination during the winter. The infamous sled hill offers great views of the park from its summit, and on clear days offers great views of the Buffalo skyline and Lake Erie. Countless hiking trails surround the area for before, during and after your sledding session, and are more reasons to embrace the sometimes arctic atmosphere of Western New York winters.

5. Glen Falls Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hey, guess what? New York has a lot of waterfalls. Who knew? Hidden in the depths of Williamsville, New York, roughly 20 minutes from the Buffalo city center, Glen Falls Park is a miniature slice of natural beauty surrounded by suburban life. It offers minimal walking distances, yet the views are so striking it shouldn’t be overlooked. What was once inhabited by mills and factories now presides as a quaint park with interlocking, paved walkways that lead to a 27-foot waterfall. If you’re looking for somewhere quiet to escape to near the city, Glen Falls Park is what you want.

6. Hoyt Lake/Delaware Park

7600a87b04e3a071a7325c20e0937184

After visiting the likes of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Buffalo History Museum, take a stroll alongside Hoyt Lake, one of Buffalo’s unsung wonders. Found within the confines of Delaware Park, Hoyt Lake offers photogenic scenery near the city center. Delaware Park itself is a highlight of Buffalo; it’s home to Shakespeare in the Park – an annual summer festival that has been tradition since the 1970’s. Also nearby are the Buffalo Zoo, a golf course, several baseball diamonds and tennis courts, and a replica of Michelangelo’s David.

7. Peace Bridge

p2007815203-5

The Peace Bridge, opened in 1927, is an international bridge connecting Buffalo, New York to the neighboring Fort Erie, Canada. Its name derives from the United States and Canada reaching 100 years of peace (now almost 200). Its color scheme is radiant and spills onto Lake Erie to complete the picture. The Peace Bridge is one of the lesser talked about bridges in the country, but is one of the most vital when it comes to international trade and transportation. The EZ Pass station on the Canadian side was the first to be opened outside of the Unites States. If you’re traveling to or from Canada, the Peace Bridge is the most recommended route.

8. Canalside

778713-canalside-opening-gee1

This is Buffalo’s Time Square. With endless views, activities and events, and Lake Erie dominating the backdrop, locals suggest that Canalside is the heart of the city. It contains a little of everything for everyone: the newly named Keybank Center hosts Buffalo’s beloved Sabres, the Erie Canal is mesmerizing, and the prevailing HarborCenter is the glue that holds it all together. The best views of this area can be experienced when the outdoor ice rink is open. One of the most Buffalonian experiences is lacing it up and skating alongside the residents of the City of Good Neighbors.

9. Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park

7d1f333529ee4b32

A main fixture in the Canalside district is the stunning Naval and Military Park, which consists of several decommissioned US Naval vessels. The main attractions are the three ships: The cruiser USS Little Rock, the destroyer USS The Sullivans, and the submarine USS Croaker. Harboring on the shore of Lake Erie, visitors can board and tour the vessels. These massive structures are a must-see when touring the Queen City, despite being tourist bait.

10. Inspiration Point Overlook

img_4327

This one requires some intermediate hiking abilities, but is arguably the best view in Western New York. Located in Letchworth State Park – over an hour outside of Buffalo – the Inspiration Point Overlook is the best vantage point of Letchworth Gorge and the Genesee River. The scene is highlighted by the Middle Falls, with water descending 107 feet. Two other major waterfalls and a train trestle can be seen further upstream. Letchworth is also home to some of the best hiking trails in the state, and has amazing cliffs that rise up to 550 feet. If you are ever lucky enough to visit the park, mark the Inspiration Point Overlook as a can’t-miss.

What other views in Western New York shouldn’t be overlooked? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

Advertisements

Here’s all ya need: my reviews of 2013

The-Place-Beyond-the-Pines6

I know, I know. I have continuously failed to update this blog with fully-written reviews of the films I’ve seen in 2013. Part of the reason is because of my rigorous job at Darien Lake, but I don’t tend to play blame games. I’ve become exceedingly lazing in keeping up with my writing, I’ll admit it. That being the case, justice must be served. Listed here in alphabetical order will be my reviews of all releases in 2013. Each review is out of four stars as always.

56 Up — 4 stars — The eighth chapter in Michael Apted’s “Up” series catches up with the original group of orphans he has interviewed every seven years. He started this project with Seven Up! in 1964, interviewing a group of orphans in Britain how they wanted to grow up. How did they feel about marriage, about having kids of their own? What was their view of the world thus far? To everyone’s amazement, all of the original kids are still alive for the latest edition to this series. Some are recently are still marries, some were married in previous parts of the series but have since been divorced. Apted has done something revolutionary here. Every seven years he allows his viewers to peak into certain lives, subsequently allowing ourselves to peak further into our own lives. That’s Apted’s main goal: for his viewers to ask themselves how much they’ve changed the past seven years.

A Dark Truth — 1 star — I won’t lie to you. I had to read the plot synopsis of this film on IMDb to confirm I had seen it. I wish I had done so instead of actually watching this easily forgettable, sorry excuse of cinema. This is another of those films that appears randomly thrown together for the sake of being made because that’s what studios do, I guess. This is a waste of time, energy and space on this post.

A Good Day to Die Hard — 1.5 stars — During John McClane’s tenure as America’s Superman from the Bronx, he has killed so many terrorists, sometimes professionally, sometimes accidentally. He and his family should be in the Witness Protection Program by now, and be paid handsomely for nearly sacrificing himself since that daunting night at the Nakatomi Tower. But no, John still doesn’t even receive affection from his son, he says the ancient movie cliche “You were never there, Dad.” If my Dad was John McClane, and I assure you he isn’t, I would idolize him and ask him to teach me his moves in case I need to halt a global threat or two. 25 years after the first film, this time John and his son, Jack (Jai Courtney, a great villain in Jack Reacher), are the only capable men to stop a threat in Russia. I mean, it is Russia, it doesn’t have a competent military or anything. The film adds up to nothing more than a slideshow of shaky, incomprehensible bullet fests with the bad guys having Stormtrooper Syndrome, and the good guys rarely missing a target. Bruce Willis seems especially tired here, and doesn’t even pretend like he’s having fun replaying the most iconic role of his career. Unfortunately, this is the first bad film in the Die Hard series. Yet hope still shimmers for this franchise, and so I calmly brush this nonsense aside and hope they get it right next time. Hiring someone other than director John Moore, who hasn’t directed a good action film yet, would be a start.

A Haunted House — 3 stars — It seems I may be alone on giving this raunchy comedy a positive review, but so be it. I found Marlon Wayans’ screenplay careful not to tread into total ineptness. He was very knowledgeable about the handheld horror genre when writing and acting out this material. He’s charming and likable on the screen, and I look forward to his next picture.

Allegiance — 1.5 stars — An army medic learns his son back in the states is terminally ill. His Lieutenant attempts to help him go AWOL to see his son one last time. That’s all there is to this simpleminded waste of footage. None of the characters are credible enough to seem real, we don’t care about what happens to them… and here I go again, repeating myself about a similar problem in another bad movie. Maybe one day all filmmakers will think of the audience first before choosing to make a cheap dollar off of something that isn’t worth Abe’s nostril on a penny.

All Superheroes Must Die — 1 star — All Superheroes Must Die is to filmmaking as Lebron James is to basket weaving. This project exploits no imagination or inspiration from its creator Jason Trost, who directed, wrote, produced, edited and starred in the lead role. He is the leader of four superheroes who wake up to a Saw-esque situation of a man on a TV telling them to follow his instructions so no one gets hurt. The characters and their dialogue are all recycled from melodramatic monster flicks on the Sci-Fi network. Every scene is so bad it’s hysterical, yet at least these guys looked like they had fun making this mess with less than a shoestring budget. So it has that going for it.

Baytown Outlaws, The — .5 star — I would have payed good money to sit in on the conference meeting between the screenwriters and the members of the studio that funded this project. “Okay guys, so our movie will follow another band of stereotypical rednecks borrowed from Deliverance,” the writers say. “Keep going, we’re interested,” respond the studio executives. “Great! Like we were saying, our rednecks meet a beautiful woman whose godson is kidnapped by generic villains we’ve seen in the past. Then countless Mexican standoffs will ensue, the bad guys die, the redneck gets the girl, and there you have a movie.” That must have been one offer impossible to pass up.

Beautiful Creatures — 3 stars — Boy, the trailers really misguided me on this one. I avoided premiering this picture, in fear it was a defective attempt to cash in on the popularity of Twilight. While it may have been, I never felt so while watching Beautiful Creatures, which is better than any of the Twilight pictures. Most of the success stems from the two leads, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) and Lena (Alice Englert), who aren’t overwritten with gushy dialogue. Ethan is a good ol’ boy, who feels an inexplicable connection with the new girl in town. She accepts his love, and nothing could possibly ruin it. But, oh no! She reveals she is a witch! This gimmick didn’t seem phony to me, because we learn of the witch cult that raised Lena. When she turns 16 years old, she will be overcome by either the forces of light or darkness, because what other forces could there be? The forces of grey? Of course, if she continues to love Ethan, she will be taken over by the darkness for sure. This all adds up to another metaphor for teenage chastity, much  like the Twilight saga. But this couple’s love is so sweet and involving, I couldn’t help but root for them.

Bullet to the Head — 1.5 stars — Sylvester Stallone didn’t have an acting hiatus like Schwarzenegger did, yet the latter actor had a better year in the movies. While Schwarzenegger actually portrayed a character in The Last Stand, Stallone borrows his ancient tough guy persona that hasn’t disappeared since First Blood. This film seems  to have time traveled from the 80’s with its disgusting racist puns, mostly directed towards Sung Kang’s character, and Stallone acts like he never left the 80’s. The only excitement came from watching the main villain’s right hand man, played by Jason Momoa, a martial art Swiss army knife. He held more screen presence than Stallon’s racist, tired character did throughout the picture. I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie about him next time around. Or maybe I should be careful of what I wish for.

Broken City — 3 stars — So this is a political thriller that worked for me. Usually, I find myself drowsy after discovering the ensemble of characters of involved, and the labyrinthine conflicts within the ensemble. Political thrillers are often too melodramatic for me, in turn melting the realism away like The Ides of March and Lions for Lambs. Instead we get a coherent and exhilarating thriller involving Detective Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) and Mayor Hostetler (Russel Crowe). The film opens to Taggart standing in the streets holding his firearm; a body lies motionless in front of him, while sirens howl in the background. We steadily get the facts, but I dare not spoil the plot as that’s where all the fun lies. Great performances by Wahlberg as a middle-class hero and Crowe as a corrupt official are refreshing for the tired genre. We believe in these characters, and what they stand for.

Crawlspace — 0 stars — According to IMDb, this role of footage referred to as a movie was only theatrically released in Australia, the UK and Japan. That fact makes me reconsidering visiting those countries.

Freeloaders — 0 stars — One of the worst comedies I’ve ever seen. The people who wrote the script act must have come from Mars. I’m not certain those involved in making this project have ever seen a movie before, or know what one is. This will have audiences sitting there stupefied, having wasted about 77 minutes they will never get back. Don’t be one of those people.

Gangster Squad — 2 stars — A once-in-a-lifetime cast is poisoned by a terrible script that’s predictable and cartoonish in its attempt to portrayal of LA cops in 1949 trying to bring down mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). This is an Unstoppables wannabe, which also had predictable faults but was realistic and hard-hitting. This project seems concocted out of the minor leagues of filmmaking, from the kinds of minds that makes action flicks that target adolescent audiences who crave explosions and gun fights.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters — 0 stars — As I previously reported on my Facebook after having witnessed this film at my beloved Regal Cinemas on Transit Road, following the closing scene of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters I found an apple core beneath my seat and chucked it viciously at the screen. Normally I’m against using cliches in my writing, but I must report this movie literally sent chills in my skin, and every one of those chills wanted to find those involved with this project and send them to cinema purgatory for having crafted this debacle. I hated the senseless plot that only served an excuse for the audience to witness people being slaughtered on camera. I hated that Jeremy Renner, a great actor, signed up for this movie to cash in on his previous successes. I hated that director Tommy Wirkola, who made the bloody yet intelligent and hilarious Dead Snow provided me so much hope for this picture’s success from his previous film. I’ve seen some bad movies, too many probably, but I haven’t hated one so since Lay the Favorite from just last year, and that’s a compliment to Lay the Favorite. This movie will make my Worst Films list this year.

Horrid Henry: The Movie — 2.5 stars — Horrid Henry: The Movie, based on the popular British children’s program, had me pondering back in nostalgia to the days when I idolized such Nickelodeon gems as All ThatThe Amanda Show and even Rugrats, the standard childish yarn that followed kids or pre-teens who always knew how to outsmart, out-think and outmaneuver the stubborn adults who never knew any better. I could tell instantaneously that the show Horrid Henry is in this great tradition of outlandish toilet humor, herding in younger audiences in like sheep. Look, kids like this stuff, and Theo Stevenson plays the title role like a flute. He’s a gifted kid actor, holding your attention and giving you someone to root for. The film itself unleashes enough creativity to keep the gears turning, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Horrid Henry: The Movie  is harmless enough to leave on to occupy the littleluns, yet annoying enough to keep parents in the lobby and talk to each other instead.

I Am Not a Hipster — 4 stars — Here’s is an example of why I adore movie so much. I Am Not a Hipster touched me in such a way, I felt I knew its characters for years. Dominic Bogart plays indie musician Brook Hyde. We first meet him attending an interview on a talk radio show to promote his recent album, during which he acts apathetic and disturbed. He hates receiving commercialized attention for his work, and hates having to go through the standard routines of promoting his music only to be heard by a few hundred followers. This is a great performance that will certainly be overlooked for Academy season, which is a true shame. Bogart portrays a self-destructing man spiraling down into a haunting comfusion and frustration about the limits of life. This movie spoke to me on the level that personal favorites Platoon and Pulp Fiction have.

Identity Thief — 2 stars — I like Melissa McCarthy. I like Jason Bateman. Both starred in first-rate comedies, Bridesmaids and Horrible Bosses respectfully. Director Seth Gordon was the mastermind behind Horrible Bosses, which made me laugh obnoxiously nearly every scene. Gordon’s new film, Identity Thief, had me stoned faced, leaving me starving for a laugh, maybe even a chuckle. Identity Thief is so cruel in its depiction of McCarthy’s character I could hardly stand it. We are supposed to adore and root for McCarthy, like her Oscar nominated character in Bridesmaids. In that film, we met a caring, yet outlandishly blunt woman who was there for her gals when they needed her. Here, McCarthy’s character is painfully annoying, careless of anyone else’s feelings. I have no doubt there are people like this character in real life, but that isn’t a good excuse to make a movie about that person. There is one magical scene, however, when McCarthy finally opens up to Bateman and reveals her personal back story in one heartbreaking long shot. McCarthy can act damn well. I wouldn’t mind seeing her in a serious drama someday, she seems like she can do it all. At least she had the decency not to star in Movie 43.

John Dies at the End — 1.5 stars — I dunno, there was something about this movie that made me resist it. Its credibility is one of the issues. I never once felt that any of the characters involved were really in danger, or were real at all. This is another one of those randomly put together, cookie cutter quirky independent films that tries too hard to be original. Story takes a backseat to attempting being creative and groundbreaking. As much as I could tell, the human race is slowly being taken over by shadowy, alien-like beings, who body snatch people so we can never decide who is on what side. But frankly, this premise was too complex for its own good, and was not fun to sit through.

Knife Fight — 1.5 stars — Remember when I talked about bad political thrillers that have too many characters you don’t care about and that act so fake it’s unbearable? Knife Fight is a prime example. This easily forgettable waste of eyesight has cookie cutter dialogue, a throwaway title and just tells another story about some political campaign scandal that we’ve all seen from better movies. So, yeah, don’t see this one, not that you’ve ever heard of it anyways.

The Last Stand — 2.5 stars — He’s baaack. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his starring debut since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 10 years ago. Since then, besides governating California, he has made awesome cameos in films like The RundownAround the World in 80 Days and the Expendables series. For a majority of the 80’s and 90’s, Schwarzenegger was the head interface of action movies. He remains capable in The Last Stand, a simplistic yet effective bullet festival that proves the Austrian native can still win our hearts, the big lug. Solid supporting performances by Forrest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzman, and a cameo from Harry Dean Stanton to top it all off, The Last Stand is easily good fun. With the dress shoes finally hung up, it’ll be interesting to see Schwarzenegger dust off the cleats and hopefully provide some top-notch thrillers again.

Lore — 3 stars — One of the year’s most overrated films is Lore, a WWII film shot in Germany about a German family, but shot by an Australian director and submitted by Australia for the last Academy Awards. Abandoned by her parents near the end of WWII, a teenage German teenager must lead her four young siblings to safety after Allied Forces take over their town. Eventually they meet a man impersonating a Jewish runaway, and he swears to protect them as well as he can. I found no motivation why a stranger might do that to five kids, but hey, I didn’t live in that era. So they travel with their new companion, and nothing too special happens. This is a decent movie with heartfelt intentions and great acting all around, but the writing felt too forced for my taste, and I don’t consider this a great movie unlike most critics.

LUV — 3 stars — No coming-of-age film has ever been told like this. Vincent (Common) allows his 11-year-old nephew to skip school and takes him on a ride along to several business meetings, pitching his crab house to potential investors. Vincent doesn’t intend to raise Woody with a ghetto mindset, or does he? Common’s performance is mainly what made this movie for me, those deceptive eyes and cheeky smile prove to mask his true intentions from Woody, and the audience, too. It’s never clear if Vincent tags Woody along to really teach him about manhood or prompt the investors’ minds, which adds an odd mysteriousness to the film. And with an unexpected showdown in the final scenes with Danny Glover and Dennis Haysbert, this one will stick around in your mind for a while, even being a movie this small in the grand scheme of cinema.

Mama — 2.5 stars — A standard horror enterprise, that includes some memorable cinematography – one double-framed shot still lingers in my memory – and intense acting from Jessica Chastain that the horror genre normally doesn’t deserve. Guillermo del Toro – the brains behind the Hellboy series and Pan’s Labrynth – produced this project, and probably should have spent time editing the screenplay to make the film not so typical. But in a year that started its horror package with Texas Chainsaw 3D, you tend to give decent films like this a little slack.

Movie 43 — 0 stars — This is the worst movie of the year. I decided that back in the January when I premiered it. This movie isn’t just hateful, it’s humanely incompetent. I’m not certain any of the studio executives who approved this project, the directors and writers who crafted it, or the actors who forever blacklisted their resumes for appearing in this soul-sucking, dreadful, forced, numbing chunk of crap. Readers, when I or anyone else from now on talk about pieces of crap, we must all hold hands and stand in awe of Movie 43, and its abiding grotesqueness. I think back to the scene from Jurassic Park, when Jeff Goldblum’s character nonchalantly removes his glasses and stares at a mountain of dino droppings. “Now that is one big pile of s**t,” he said. If only the makers of this movie could be worthy of such praise.

My Best Enemy — 2 stars — During WWII, a Jewish captive swaps identities with his friend, who happens to be a Nazi. Ha, great punchline. I am still puzzled as to why anyone with a solid brain stem would consider this premise the makings of a comedy. Perhaps director Wolfgang Murnberger might have been influenced by Tarantino’s quirky, almost cartoonish Inglorious Basterds, only the latter took the violence seriously while embracing the old-fashioned war epics that influenced him. Murnberger’s reason for making this product is unclear to me; this material made less of an impact on me than the short films from my alma mater’s media production class.

Noobz — 0 stars — Hey, Freeloaders and Movie 43, long time no see. I want to introduce you to another throwaway comedy. Guys, this is Noobz. All three of you share so many characteristics, I thought you would hit it off immediately. What characteristics, you ask? Well, for starters, all three of you were written by beings from another planet. None of you act like you’ve seen a movie before, or know what one is. After meeting all three of you, I took a scorn towards the current generation of cinema, and thought about checking myself out of watching more. All three of you should forever be ashamed of considering yourselves funny, and should consider an early retirement. Okay, well it’s been nice knowing you, gotta run and see worthy movies from now on. I’ve already given you three more attention that you deserve.

Officer Down — 1 star — This film might have suited better as an episode of Law and Order, or a made-for-TV movie at best. This is another forgettable story with a plug-in plot and title. Boxofficemojo.com says this film profited $1,463 theatrically worldwide. That could have repaved a highway or two.

Parker — .5 stars — The third movie I premiered during the weekend of Movie 43 and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was Parker, or as refer to it to my friends, Jason Statham: The Movie. In fact, most of the films that Statham stars in can be labeled as such, since they are always assembled from the Jason Statham assembly line. Listen, the man has great screen presence; that glare makes me watch my back. But he has to be involved with better directors, writers, producers, the works. Director Hackford, who made this film, previous had grand success with such entries as RayThe Devil’s Advocate and An Officer and a Gentleman, but I think he entered the wrong genre here. If Statham can collaborate with such action experts as Sam Mendes (Skyfall), Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) or Brad Bird (Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol), then maybe the movies can take him seriously again. Apparently he is signed on to costar in the next Fast and the Furious picture, so hopefully he doesn’t butcher that series’ consistent success.

The Playroom — 3.5 stars — Once in a while, when browsing through random movie titles, you’ll stumble across a gem that catches you off your guard. The Playroom takes place during a single evening inside the home of a middle-class family in the 70’s. Every scene seems to be unfolding naturally, as if unrehearsed. The film opens to the four children of the family getting home. Maggie (Olivia Harris) is the oldest of the bunch, and meets her boyfriend Ryan (Cody Linley) in her garage to lose her virginity. “Do you love him?” Maggie’s kid sister asks later on in the film. “No,” she admits. I sincerely felt I was watching a documentary or reality television during all of this. The film is relentlessly honest about how family members treat each other. When the father gets home, played by one of my favorite actors John Hawkes, family secrets are slowly unraveled. He holds a spelling test at dinner. “Spell matrimony,” he asks his wife. This line purposely hints at the audience without informing the kids, because these types of dilemmas weren’t important during childhood. At that age, the most vital problems were getting good grades so your parents wouldn’t yell at you, have fun playing with friends and family, and so forth. This film is perfectly in tune with what what’s at stake with each age group, that many viewers will recall similar events in their own lives.

Quartet — 2 stars — Dustin Hoffman’s all but incoherent directorial debut ranks second in the list of recent films with “Quartet” in the title. Last year’s A Late Quartet was a challenging melodrama that took us backstage to witness four aging musicians clash and question each other’s morals. Hoffman’s film, on the other hand, is a watered down portrait of retired musicians roaming around a nursing home talking about the good ol’ days and old flings. Actors Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter), Billy Connolly (the Irish father from The Boondock Saints) and Michael Gambon (the second Dumbledore) are genuine in their respective performances; they seem like they’ve really known each other for ages. Well, in real life they have. Smith was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance, why I’ll never guess. But that’s not important.  What’s important is missing this film.

Safe Haven — 2.5 stars — As far as mushy rom coms go, Safe Haven is one of the more acceptable entries. This is the first Nicholas Sparks film adaptation I’ve seen, so no I haven’t tried The NotebookA Walk to Remember or Dear John, so a true comparison cannot be made by me. But, on its own terms, Safe Haven does not go over the top in the soap opera department, and focuses enough on real life struggles to recommend to Spark enthusiasts. Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel have great chemistry with each other, and they connect in a gradual, modest way. They don’t have that immediate starring contest at first glance because they know each other is The One. No, they fall for each other because each one feels half empty, and need to fill the void. Katie (Hough) and Alex (Duhamel) need to be needed.

Side Effects — 3.5 stars — This is the first great movie I remember seeing in 2013. This is reportedly the great Steven Soderbergh’s last feature film, which is an injury I don’t believe Hollywood can recover from. Emily (Rooney Mara) is finally cleared to leave jail, serving a sentence for attempting suicide. Her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), is still worried about her mental state. Dr. Banks (Jude Law) prescribes a new experimental drug called Ablixa. I’ll tread through the spoiler swamp carefully, only to reveal that this Ablixa, appears to have horrendous side effects on Emily, including sleep walking. Mara provides an Oscar-caliber performance as an empty woman who has nothing left to lose, although voters will probably forget this February release, which is a shame. This is a Hell of a thriller, with high intelligence and gradual pacing.

Spiders — 2 stars — This film was more fun than it probably intended to be. Yes, the special effects are cardboard, and the plot is simplistic and it all adds up to nothing. But this movie reminded me of another big spider movie called Eight Legged Freaks, which is far superior. This is another apocalyptic movie that centers on a divorced/separated couple, where the father wants to see the child more but the mother doesn’t think he’s responsible enough. The acting is far better than this movie deserves. I don’t exactly recommend this trashy picture, but if you crave some simpleminded fun, this is about the cut off line.

Stand Up Guys — 3.5 stars — I’ll watch any film that stars Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. I’ll even watch a documentary involving the three of them, sitting comfortably in a diner, talking about whatever they deem worth talking about. Stand Up Guys will probably be the closest I ever get to that documentary, and it mostly consists of Pacino and Walken talking about the past, most of the time at a diner, other times roaming stranded street and alleys, and even in a graveyard. And the premise is the most fascinating thing: Walken’s character has been ordered to execute Pacino, and Pacino knows it. But he won’t run from his dear, lifelong friend. This film noir clutches onto the value of friendship like a lifeboat, showing that when you eventually reach a certain age, all that matters is who you know and who knows you.

Storage 24 — .5 star — This film contains better acting than it’s worth. Like Crawlspace, this low-budget bloodbath follows a group of people who get picked off one by one due to a monster roaming about. If the monster looked even reasonably believable, if the special effects were up to date at all, if the plot was just the bit more interesting… well I probably still wouldn’t recognize this movie. According to boxofficemojo.com, this film grossed $72 worldwide. High fives, all around.

Struck By Lightning — 2 stars — Despite the film’s quirky humor, it ultimately fails by depending too much on its hateful main character. Chris Colfer from Glee who stars and wrote the film is convincing as the elaborate, self-centered lead, but watching him for 90 minutes is unbearable to the point of walking away from the screen. The opening shot is unintentionally hilarious, but hopefully you don’t find out why for yourself.

Supporting Characters — 3 stars — It’s clear to me that screenwriters Tarik Lowe and Daniel Schechter grew up watching Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith films. Here’s a rare film that takes such great care of its dialogue and character development that each line feels like taking another bite out of the best apple pie ever made. The leads, Nick (Alex Karpovsky) and Darryl (Tarik Lowe himself), are two amateur film NYC editors who frequently talk and debate about movies and women. Nick has his beloved, committed girlfriend, Amy (Sophia Takal), and Darryl has since girlfriend of a few months, Liana (Melonie Diaz, who was also great in this year’s Fruitvale Station). Many of the problems that Nick and Darryl are circumstantial and natural. Amy wants to get married, Liana does not. Nick doesn’t want to get married, Darryl does. Nick is an especially great character, because I can think back to so many people I’ve met who act just as he does. So on top of everything and sarcastic, but is careful not to boss anyone around. He loves the joy of making movies, and is willing to fill in all the small voids to make each scene perfect. I wish more people would be like Nick in Hollywood.

Texas Chainsaw 3D — 1.5 stars — This is the seventh installment of the Leatherface franchise, and you can bet your next paycheck it won’t be the last. The first 1974 cult classic was ripe with quirky authenticity, the rest are worth less than nothing. Texas Chainsaw 3D isn’t the worst installment, but that still doesn’t make it worthy of an audience.

Warm Bodies — 3 stars — I’ve been waiting for a movie like this for some time now. After countless movies, good and bad, about zombies engulfing intestines and so forth, I’ve always been curious about the possibility of a film that peers through the zombie point of view. Jonathan Levine, who also directed the magnificent 50/50, knows to tread carefully with his characters and shows compassion towards them. We meet a zombie, R (Nicholas Hoult), who only remembers the first letter of his name before he joined the undead. He meets Julie (Teresa Palmer). Hmm, R and Julie? Sounds familiar. Soon, the couple admits they have fallen deep into gushy, Twilight-like love for each other, and wouldn’t ya know, R’s undeadness slowly starts to melt away. Despite the film’s corny message, I felt it was expressing how dead people are nowadays towards each other. A bad economy has forced people to exclude others from their concern, and slowly their love for the fellow human being dwindles into nonexistence. Warm Bodies is about the importance of human feeling, passion being the main subject. It’s sweet, cornball, and shows more regard towards the human race than most other films do.

Yossi — 4 stars — It took some extra time after having seen this film to appreciate it as much as I do now. This is a plain as day film, with its centerpiece a gay Israeli man, Yossi (Ohad Knoller). Unlike most films, this film doesn’t automatically clue you in to his sexuality, and I found that brilliant and refreshing. First, we see a normal day in the life of Yossi, with no hint that he’s gay. He gets hit on by the secretary at the clinic he works at. He does physicals on patients. We learn he is a former soldier in the Israeli army. Then the film cuts to Yossi masturbating from gay porn. This fact is surprising, shocking us isn’t the film’s plan. We are supposed to take Yossi’s sexuality matter-of-factly and just role with it. This is one of the best films I’ve seen about gay people, because it doesn’t speak its opinion frankly to the camera. We are instead meant to sit and observe Yossi, who is still coping from the loss of his gay lover a decade ago in the prequel Yossi & Jagger, of which I only discovered after watching this film and quickly watched to compare with this film. Yossi is better, because it only deals with Yossi instead of wasting time with too many other characters like the first film.

Dear Mr. Basden,

I must admit right away that you have a meaningful voice in your writing, which every writer must possess when critiquing films. I enjoyed your voice, because you took the time what was really on your mind, instead of short-changing us with generic, unfulfilling synopsis of the films, like many other people in the class are guilty of.

I also liked how you separated each film response separately by individual works, instead of by week, like myself and most other did. I never even thought about doing that. I like you method of making different posts about each film, because then I can respond to one particular film at a time, instead of having to summarize all of the films we had to view in a week.

You do, however, need to clean up your writing mechanics and grammar. I do too, so don’t feel like I’m trying to kick you while your down, haha. Sometimes you need to capitalize a letter, sometimes you need to add a period. Nothing major, but I just wanted to bring that to your attention.

Again, you have great potential as a writer, because you don’t provide us with empty responses that don’t have heart. You show your heart in your writing, this coming from a guy who has written for The Spectrum for two years. I can tell the difference between when someone writes with passion, and when somebody doesn’t. You do.

Film Theory — Response #10

H20

This film is poetry for the senses, smoothly correlating a guitar soundtrack and stunning clips of nature at its finest. Steiner gives the outdoors its own soundtrack, almost like letting nature speak for itself onto us. Rain falls and rivers flow at natural speeds; water appears to act as a communicator for the audience, pacing along with the music in a rhythm. Much like written poetry, this film aims to evoke emotions without dialogue or much movement, instead focusing on the details of everyday events that occur outdoors.

Waving

Unlike H20Waving speaks its poetry to us through voiceover. Most of the film contains a single scene — a girl, seemingly drowning in a pool of water. We later learn that this girl is the storyteller’s sister, who died from drowning. By utilizing the voiceover here, this film allows us to become more personal with the film, and sympathize with the person speaking. We feel we are having a conversation with the storyteller, listening to her tell us one-on-one her personal tragedy.

Infinity Kisses

This film as the authenticity of a dusty, old family album. How remarkable, this portrait of the long, lovable relationship portrayed here. It goes without saying that this film works as poetry without words or spoken dialogue, but I must mention the film’s effortless ability to translate the meaning of love extracted and laid out in front of us. As we watch this film and travel the journey it has created for us, we feel ourselves aging alongside it, growing older and wiser about life’s natural laws about organism interaction. We, the viewers, watch this woman and her cat live their lives, without seeing anything else but one aspect — them kissing. This one type of photo tells us all we need to know about their relationship, without showing or telling us anything else. This is 1000 times better than the love story in Twilight.

Commingled Containers

I didn’t get it. I refuse to pretend otherwise. Perhaps the video quality of the version I watched wasn’t up to par enough, but I felt everything about Brakhage’s film is incomprehensible, random and meaningless. I see nothing of avant-garde-worthy quality here. This film tells me nothing. This film told me nothing. This film is nothing. Granted, this is my opinion, my perspective. I’m not right, nor wrong. There are no facts involved. That’s that.

The Reflecting Pool

This film, on the other hand, is a masterpiece. In the beginning, I began to question its existence, But then “it” happened, and I was startled. Genius, I thought. In the most thought-provoking way, Viola has managed to narrate the universal phenomena of time in this short clip. It raises harsh questions about how our world activates. How does time work? How do we, as living things, perceive time? What is time? Are there multiple dynamics or universes with various times at work here? The Reflecting Pool mirrors two possible worlds onto each other in one, amazing shot, without really defining what time is on its own.

Lost Avenues

I had to watch this one twice. I think what we’re getting here is a film that doesn’t pull any punches, and makes us look through its filter to view the dark, scary side of water. Like the other films, Lost Avenues opens by showing water as a bright, blue, peaceful occurrence. Then, the film switches gears to showing the water moving fast and dark. I wasn’t able to interpret and significant meanings from this switch, but it provided an interesting contrast between how nature looks and how it actually might be. Maybe that was the point.

Film Theory — Response #9

Science Friction

Science Friction is an early version of animated satire, using what look like magazine cut-outs to carry the narrative. Vanderbeek was making a commentary against the arrogance of human beings, who act as if they control the outcome of Earth, while actually it’s the opposite. He creates human characters that look like puppets being led through a catastrophic world containing The White House and other buildings, which don’t really matter in comparison with the powerful Earth.

Catalog

This film pertains to the use of advanced computer technology we talked about in class, particularly Jeff’s presentation. Computers eventually became more accessible and stored more data, opening the door for a new world of cinema never explored before. I can only imagine if films like Tusalava or Rhythmus 21 were open to this type of technology, or what these films would look like with today’s CGI.

Street of Crocodiles

Tim Burton certainly found inspiration from this film, especially for such works as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie. This animation isn’t quite to the standards of Pixar; then again, what is? Is experimental gem is still impressive in today’s cinema, especially with the lack of technology back in 1986. Street of Crocodiles is proof how far computer animation had traveled until that point, successfully creating such a daunting horror film, which resembled the shadowy, creepy eeriness of Nosferatu, at least in my eyes.

Scanner Processor Studies

This film is simply spellbinding. Using nothing but computerized graphics, we take a journey through this new world of limitless possibilities. Consider the first image that works like an animated landscape. It morphs as if we are flying past it. The second image is so simple, yet so important in the world of computer cinema, taking a complex 3D object and rotating it between different angles to suggest the capabilities a single shape can have on animation, which reminded me dearly of the great Free Radicals. The third image is very similar to the first, stretching this single image to its full capacity. I would enjoy seeing a feature film version of this film.

Watch

Honestly, this film got me. Even with the explanation halfway through, I still didn’t quite comprehend what technology was used in order to accomplish the footage. As far as I understand it, the shots on the left focused on the stillness of images, while the images to the right focused on the motions. Only images that moved slow enough would even appear on the screen, while others would be so fast that we are sometime unable to spot them. This has to do with how our eyesight is dishonest with us sometimes. I just wish I had a better understanding of how this feat was done.

Film Theory — Response #8

A Movie

Bruce Connor seems to be making bold statements against the cinema here. In his short film, A Movie, Connor appears to be jabbing at the flaws of commercialized cinema — from racism, generic action, random title cards and so on. We notice his portrayal of Native Americans in what looks like a western epic, a staple in cinema during this time period. I truly believe Connor was against this tired material, wishing Hollywood would break down its barriers and do something new for a change. One can deduct this from Connors making his title cards, sort of begging Hollywood to provide anything new.

Intervals

I consider Intervals to be a montage of clips of a dream sequence. The camera shifts locations at random, none of the people seen appear to have particular facial features — sometimes all we get is a man’s silhouette, and the only voice we hear is a voice-over, which might be the dreamer speaking in his/her sleep, or his subconscious talking directly to him/her. Also interesting is how there’s always something to look at; the audience must keep its eyes busy, looking at the people moving to reading a sign or noticing a building in the background. Then a dark silhouette will shriek by right in the foreground. This film is busy, showing a lot of energy in effortless fashion.

Scar Tissue

Scar Tissue essentially works as the other half of Intervals, focuses on the features of the people rather than the society they inhabit. Similar to Intervals, this film mainly features quick cuts of small scenes, this time narrowing down on the bottom half of people. We can tell the description of the society being shown by the shoes and clothing of the people, most of them dressed sharply. The women have high feels and dresses; the men have tailored dress shoes and suits. In the opening scene, what looks like an upper-class gentleman pauses and gives the camera a disapproving look. I felt we are looking through the eyes of the low or working class; we are literally looking down on these rich looking people, almost as if we aren’t allowed to look them in the eye or occupy the same space as them. The people appear to occupy a richer, secret world apart from our vantage point.

Blue

Unrelated to the Three Colors Trilogy, Derek Jarman’s Blue is appropriately titled. He provides us with a purely blue screen — remaining the same shade throughout — and only contains dialogue in a voice over. The dialogue is Italian, so I was unable to understand any of it, but I feel this film attempts to highlight the important of dialogue in cinema. The blue screen could symbolize the image from someone with his/her eyes closed, and without any form of movement or imagery, we are left to listen as closely as possible.

Film Theory — Response #7

Entrance to Exit

Entrance to exit indeed. The film takes its title literally, opening to the word “Entrance,” followed by a few minutes of colorless footage, and then finishing with the word “Exit.” These simple two words carry an abundance of the narrative here, practically telling its viewers they are about to go on a journey, and where they begin and end. This notion is curios, because viewers can normally notice when a film begin and ends. This time, however, the “entrance” and the “exit” are labeled as if they’re specific places for us to follow. These two words alone create a specific space within the film for us to follow, regardless of the fact that most of the film is, in fact, blank.

Word Movie

The meshing of different forms of communication is astounding. Here, in Word Movie, Paul Sharits manages to incorporate audio via voice over with visuals via text simultaneously. The text doesn’t exactly match the words spoken in the voice over, and this is intentional. We, the viewers, are intended to juxtapose separate meanings by combining the text with the words spoken. Consider when the text quickly reads “cuts,” and the voice over speaks “veins.” Or when the text reads “cancer,” and the voice over speaks “skin.” The opening title sequence says it all — by somewhat overshadowing both words of the title on top of each other, emphasizing the notion of overlapping techniques, which this film exemplifies throughout.

Artype

I believe Artype was solely made to challenge the attention of the viewer (as were most early avaunt-garde films, I gather). Maciunas teases us; he opens his film to a lone bubble, slowly working its way around the screen like a cell in the human body. Basic cinema rules teach us to focus all of our attention on this singular, moving shape in the  foreground. Then he randomly decided to push the fast-forward button, and soon the screen floods with multiple circles traveling at fast-paced speeds. Some, or most, viewers will get nauseated attempting to focus their attention on all of the moving shapes, and that I believe is the point of the film.

The Flicker

Like Artype, Tony Conrad challenges his viewers’ attention with his nauseating The Flicker. Bright lights flash from the screen, and they are rapidly flicked on and off for 30 minutes. I could be wrong, but I believe I noticed strange images within the light while it flickered. Either Conrad purposely placed those images within his film hoping people would notice, or he didn’t put any images in the light, and wanted his viewers only to think they saw something.

Maxwell’s Demon

Maxwell’s Demon is an upbeat, kinetic film that slowly builds itself steadily. This film experiments with the flexibility of humans by having a man exercising in the center of the frame. He starts out nearly motionless on the floor, then slowly his movements increases until he is jogging in place and doing other forms of compulsive exercises. In between takes of the man, the screen floods with bright, animated colors, which compare the animation capabilities of these colors to the man. This film serves as a great contrast between animated and non-animated film, never suggesting which is better, but contrasts between the two nonetheless.

Tails

This film is another example that cinematic art can be created in other ways than filming with a camera. Len Lye’s Free Radicals, for instance, consisted of scratched frames that were able to carry an entire narrative. Tails contains a downward trip of a roll of footage, some frames marked with obscure images. I believe I notices from letters and a picture of a girl’s face, but for the most part the imagery is ambiguous, probably intentionally. This film reminds us that images aren’t worth anything if not carried by a proper medium. An artist, let’s say a filmmaker, has a brilliant idea for a film, but is only able to purchase the cheapest camera possible. This filmmaker might have the best idea ever fathomed, but the camera is of extremely low quality, and therefore doesn’t project the idea up to standard. Tails reminds us of the sort of  behind-the-scenes of filmmaking; that all details about film come down to being able to project an idea properly to your audience. If you don’t, you idea may be misinterpreted or unclear.

Wavelength For Those Who Don’t Have the Time

Michael Snow reboots his own 1967 film, Wavelength, with this updated version that uses nearly the same techniques as the original, but save you time — about 27 minutes actually. In his original version, Snow used sharper cuts between transitions, until his camera finally zoomed in on that picture hanging on the wall, a remarkable shot. The rebooted version layers each frame with the next scene, in order to emphasize the relation between other areas in the room. In both films, Snow reminds us that each crevice in a scene contains its own space, creating unlimited possibilities in filmmaking. This time, people don’t play the characters; rather, the room does, concealing unknown secrets we shouldn’t know. How Michael Snow was able to make a solitary shot interesting for 42 and 15 minutes, I’ll never know.