Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tomorrowland Review

The Reel Perspective with Nathan Unck

Tomorrowland     Rated: PG for thematic elements, sci-fi action violence and mild profanity

7 out of 10

Writer, Director and Animator Brad Bird has done a lot of amazing things over the past two and a half decades. Originally a screenwriter and a showrunner for The Simpsons during what I call "The Simpsons Zenith Years" which consists of seasons 3 through 9, Brad worked his way up pretty fast by with his unique style by giving audiences both style and substance. His credits over the years include, writing and directing for The Iron Giant, writing and directing The Incredibles for Disney/Pixar (which I am also happy to report that he has started officially writing The Incredibles 2, the one Pixar film besides the Toy Story sequels that actually deserves a sequel.) Wrote  Ratatouille (My personal favorite Pixar feature film) and director of Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol. All of these films are some of the most fun I have ever had in theaters or on the small screen, (I am a huge Simpsons buff as well), so I have had Tomorrowland on my radar for a while now.

Not exactly based on the section of Tomorrowland at Disneyland, although it does share some similar styles as far as the way the future city looks, that's pretty much where the similarities stop, though there are little Easter Eggs hidden in the film that should make huge Disneyland fans happy, but not big enough to notice. I was also super excited that the film stars George Clooney who is a personal favorite as mine as well. The trailer seemed to keep the mystery of the plot under wraps, which is good because the less you know about the plot, the better the movie is, so I will just give you a quick rundown of the plot.

The film starts in 1964 and shows Clooney's character, Frank, as a child who likes to tinker and invent things. As a child, he takes a prototype of a jet pack to the World's Fair and tries to sell it off. The jet pack doesn't exactly work, but the fact that Frank is a dreamer and doesn't give up gets the attention of a young girl named Athena. We quickly learn that Athena has a secret, and Frank is shown a way into the future. After a great action sequence, the film then changes focus to a 16 year old girl named Casey. She is smart and kind of sassy, and after she gets arrested for trying to ruin plans NASA has to take down a platform, putting her father out of work, she discovers a small lapel pin  in her belongings. When she touches the pin, she is able to see the future, but only while touching the pin with her skin. The pin has a countdown on it that only allows her to see into the future and explore it for just a short amount of time. 

However, when she tries to find the mystery behind the pin and some crazy secret agents start to hunt her down, is she rescued and helped by Athena. After a little road trip, Athena leaves Casey  abandoned far from home, but on the farm of a now grown up Frank. Frank was kicked out of the future and sent back to his own time for a reason that gives too much away, so I will stop there. The film then takes us on an adventure back and forth between now and the future.

As I was leaving the theater, I overheard a lot of mixed reactions for Tomorrowland. Some loved it, some didn't. Some thought that it was too preachy, and it didn't bother others. I fell in the category of, it was a fun escape for a couple of hours, but knowing what Brad Bird has been capable of in the past left me wanting a little bit more. There are some hit and miss moments, but I felt that the hit moments were wonderful and won me over the miss moments. It was fun. Kids in the audience really got into it and loved it, which helped me think of the film from the perspective of a child around 9 or 10 years old, which was a good thing. Tomorrowland kind of takes us back to the early 80s when Disney had some fun family sci-fi adventure films like Flight of the Navigator, or other similar films, and this return to that style was actually pretty welcoming to me. It brought back a little nostalgia for me, and that was really cool. '

The special effects in the film are actually pretty impressive and fantastic. The parts of the future we see have some really neat and artistic senses to it. My personal favorite was a little section of the city that had some floating swimming pools where the water was being held by anti-gravity barriers that would allow people to swim in the water above the ground, but the coolest part about the pools is that they were layered and floating over each other, so a swimmer could swim to the bottom of the pools, dive out of the bottom, do some tricks and then land in the next pool below the one they were just in. There were moments like that where I was fascinated and loved. The film has a strong artistic theme that plays throughout the movie, and the views of these things were spectacular.

The actors all did a great job, especially Clooney and Hugh Laurie, who is always great as well. The language was very mild, but had the H word a handful of times and unfinished phrases of S.O.B., so it was kept kid appropriate. The action sequences and special effects are very much worth the trip to the theater. The violence was very cartoony, and although people were blown up, it was done in a silly way with purple goo and light, leaving no trace of gore. The content was very mild and this is very much a family friendly Disney adventure.

However, the film does try to make a point that the future is what we make of it, and we need to be more optimistic and work hard. Nothing is going to take care of itself, and will only lead to the Earth becoming not so pleasant if we don't. When overhearing people talk about that element after the film, I could understand why they felt they had been preached to. The film blatantly tells us it's message straight out in the script. Something that didn't really need to be done. However, as I was thinking about it from the perspective of a kid, the message seemed to really sink in and mean something. It gave the children ideas and made them think about how they want to live and treat the Earth. I think that it's a film the whole family can enjoy, but I think that it's enjoyment hinges on your personal interpretation of the message and if you can or can't think like a child. Not childish, but like a child who is full of wonder and amazement and optimism.

That's the frame of mind you should be able to be in in order to fully get on board with Tomorrowland, and if you can, the adventure is a fun one and worth the trip. If you can't, then there are a bunch of grown-up films about the end of the world that is probably more your speed. Tomorrowland was a nice, refreshing change of pace from your typical futuristic story about doom, gloom, and survival, and it's worth the trip. The bottom line is Disney and Brad Bird were able to make a fun sci-fi adventure for families with a good message and an homage to the older Disney sci-fi adventures of the past, though not as amazing as some of Brad Bird's earlier work.

Tomorrowland is rated PG for thematic elements, sci-fi action violence, and mild language.

Nathan Unck
Media Critic
The Magna Times

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spoiler Alert: My "Advice" Email to Another "Professional Critic".....

I have been working as a critic since September of 2007, and even before I was a "working" critic, I shared my opinions and thoughts about films with people, and one thing I have always respected is critics who don't spoil plot twists and information. I am glad that "Spoilers" has become a common and understood term for the masses when it used to be just an inside thing for huge nerds.

I also follow TV as well and am into a number of shows. Not sleeping much at night gives me a little more free time than the next person, so I tend to stay more caught up on shows. Being a comic book fan all my life and loving a bunch of the superhero movies can be tricky sometimes. I love comic book movies, but I usually know more of the plot twists and turns for the movies or TV shows.

On the most current episode of CW's The Flash, a show that I am having a fun time with, there were a lot of fun plot developments and new information that is setting the stage for some of the other characters to go down certain paths. I won't say which characters, or anything else for that matter, but it's going to be fun.

I like to check out the website every other day or so and catch up on video game, comic book, movie and TV news and reviews. I like reading other reviewers after I have formed my own opinions and feelings about things I have seen or read and written about so that I am not like probably 90 % of the people online who form their opinions based on other people's opinions without seeing or reading something for themselves. I have stated a hundred times at least that I hate "Fanboys" and consider the term the entertainment industry's "Fair Weather Fan" phrase due to those supposed "fans" hating anything that isn't what they picture in a sequel, remake, or prequel. 

Anyway, sorry for the "Fanboy" tangent.

I went onto IGN to read their review of the current episode of The Flash, which was a very favorable review, and he was nice enough to put the phrase "Full Episode Spoilers Follow" before his review started. In the review, he talked about the events that happened in the end of the EPISODE, which was fine, because he warned that he would talk about them, but then he went and mentioned spoilers for THE COMICS. 

Now, being versed in comic books, I knew the fate of certain characters, but there are millions of people who don't know comic books like I do. As a film critic, I have read a ton of books that have been adapted to movies, and I read them before the films come out. I have a wise bumper sticker that says "Don't Judge a Book By It's Movie", and it's true. That's why I try to read before I watch. Since comic book movies and TV are doing so well, as well as more than 25 more comic book films coming out in the next five years, not mentioning all of the Marvel and DC TV shows that are planned, I have been getting super well versed in comics even more than I was. 

I have talked to some friends who read the review on IGN and were super mad that the reviewer didn't mention that he was going to talk spoilers in the comic books as well. I have friends who have never cracked a comic book before, but have started reading The Flash due to them liking the TV show so much, and they were really disappointed and upset that they read the review where the reviewer said everything. Below is the email I sent the reviewer in response to everything.

"I have to say, one professional critic to another, if you make a note saying "full episode spoilers follow", DON'T mention comic book spoilers in the review without stating that as well. As a film critic, I read a lot of books before I see films based on them, but never mention future details in series as told in the books because not everyone is as well versed in some books, and in this case, comic books, as the reviewer. 

I already knew of the Flash characters that become future villains or heroes/sidekicks, but for the sake of a lot of other people who have been having this TV show as their first experience, at least warn them before they read spoilers for the other medium in the middle of a paragraph. 

I have a lot of friends who are fans of the show that really aren't into reading comics, and they had read this review and were very upset and disappointed. Not only does it spoil potential twists in the show that is helping them get into comics, at least a little bit, but it just makes it seem like you are throwing those bits of information in to make it seem like you know more than people, or are trying to look good for die hard comic fans. 

This show is fun, and what makes it fun for a lot of people is not knowing what is to come, and now you have given those people less to look forward to or discover on their own. It might be your job to know more about the subject, but that isn't the case with a lot of viewers. Next time, be courteous to your readers and warn them of comic spoilers as well as episode spoilers.  

Thanks for your time,  Fellow critic, Nathan Unck"

Anyway, if I get a response, I will post another blog about it and see what he says. I doubt he will with the amount of people that comment and probably email as well to a larger site like IGN that gets hundreds of thousands of hits a day, but maybe with me stating my name and that I am a critic will make him more inclined to respond. I don't care if he does or not. I just hope that he reads the dang thing and makes a note of it.

I usually give some story details in my reviews to set up the plot, but never give details or outcomes. I usually write something to the effect of "I won't say anything else, but it's worth checking out." or "I won't say anything here to give too much away, you will just have to see it for yourself."

Hope this post was fun to read. Have a great day and I will,,, well, I won't say anything else. I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Furious 7 Review.....

The Reel Perspective with Nathan Unck

Furious 7      Rated:PG-13 for extended action sequences, violence, partial nudity and brief strong language.

7 out of 10

Sometimes being a film critic is hard. While most people pick and choose what they want to see based on their tastes and whatnot, critics see almost everything, and in order to be taken seriously in the critic world, critics cannot afford to be biased or pass judgement until after they have seen a film. How can you have an honest opinion if you don't? For that reason, I try to be optimistic and be as unbiased as possible. I have certain tastes and genres that I am more interested in than others, but I try to view films that aren't in those genres with an open mind and sometimes try to put myself in someone else's shoes. 

For example, to say my dad is a fan of sports is an incredible understatement. My dad lives and breaths sports. I love sports as well, but sometimes sports movies fall into a very predictable pattern. My experience with a film about sports may not be the best every time, but I know my dad well enough to be able to recommend the film to him, knowing that he will really enjoy it. The films in the Fast and Furious series has always kind of been that way for me. I love action movies, but the first couple of entries into the series are pretty corny. Not that they don't have great car stunts and chase scenes, but the stories and acting were corny.

That being said, I feel that with each new installment of the franchise, the films actually get better as they go along. This is probably due to finding better writers and directors and of course, bigger budgets. Furious 7 had a 250 million dollar budget this time around, and the money was very well spent for this outing. Fans of the series are going to eat this film up and casual movie goers who aren't the biggest fans should still have a fun time. 

This time around, there is more story that doesn't involve car chase scenes, and even with a running time of two hours and twenty minutes, the longest in the series by far, the film never slows down from start to finish. The acting is better in this installment over the previous visions, and the stunts are bigger than life and haven't been seen before keeping it exciting and fresh. Don't get me wrong, the story kind of seems like an abandoned Mission: Impossible film plot idea that didn't make it, and the dialog isn't the greatest, but it is nice that the filmmakers are trying to add more substance to give the series more credibility. 

As for the story, it quickly reminds us of a plot line in an earlier installment where our team of heroes takes out a man in London. We find out that his brother, Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham, is out for revenge, but that he was part of an elite black ops team in England who was recruited based on his cruelty and strength over a sound mind, but when the government was through with him, they didn't realize that they had created a homicidal, one man death machine. Shaw, after seeing his brother in the hospital vows revenge on the team who put him there. Enter our heroes. Dom, played by Vin Diesel, Brian, played by the late Paul Walker, Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, Roman, played by Tyrese Gibson, Tej, Played by Ludacris, and of course, Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson.

After a big fight scene between Hobbs and Shaw at a police station, Shaw gets the names of everyone on the team and goes after them. After things quickly escalate, Mr. Nobody, played by Kurt Russell enters the film as a black ops military leader with a crew who asks our band of heroes to help them locate a device known as God's Eye, a device that will let the user hack into any camera or electronic device, making it impossible for bad guys, or anyone really, to not be seen at all times. Another evil team half way around the world has the inventor of the device as a hostage, and so the team goes to rescue the hostage and find God's Eye before any evil or corrupt government can use it, and in exchange the black ops team will help Dom and his team find Deckard Shaw and take him out. 

There are a lot of great fight sequences as well as car chase and stunt scenes, and they all fit in the the story well enough. Usually in a big action film, writers think up of big action sequences and try to build a story around the action, where as this time around, it seems that the action fits into the story and is justified. One thing I have always liked about the franchise is that even though the team is given their freedom in exchange for their daring escapades, and though they are all pretty filthy rich as well, the only thing that seems to be worth anything is their love for each other and their family. I think that's a pretty cool theme considering the source. 

There are some annoyances in the film as well. I hate that almost every time the team is in a new location, it shows them pull up in perfect parking spots in slow motion with girls in next to nothing, usually dancing and having water sprinkled on them. I think that one scene was more than enough of footage like that, but we are talking about four or give scenes here. I hate that the plot points start off like a poorly directed rap music video with poor taste. The objectifying of women in the film really bothered me and shouldn't go unnoticed. As fun and exciting as the movie is, those scenes were enough to make me roll my eyes and have a little less faith in men in this day and age. If your movie needs scenes like this to sell tickets, you should spend more time working on a better story, better acting, and better writing all around. 

The film is a very nice send off for Paul Walker and was quite sad. He will be a missed actor, and he was able to film most just about everything when he was tragically killed in a car accident, ironically. The film kind of ends where they could end the series and have it be a nice ending, but knowing Hollywood and the money that this film will inevitably make, especially with it being Paul Walkers last movie, I wouldn't be surprised to see an eighth film in the next couple of years. 

While the movie isn't the best movie you will see, it is the best of the series so far. It won't really make any new fans, but it won't completely drive away, no pun intended, newcomers either. When you go to a Fast and Furious movie, I doubt that, even the fans of the series, go expecting an air-tight story and great acting, they are wanting a great escape for the evening by watching cars drive fast, fight sequences and great stunts, and this movie has just about two hours worth of that stuff, so in the end, it's a decent way to get some quick thrills at the movies until a couple of weeks from now when the Summer movie season kicks off with a brand new Avengers film.

Furious 7 is rated PG-13 for extended intense action sequences, violence, partial nudity and brief strong language. Not a movie for kids, obviously, but teenagers and adults who are fans will get their money's worth.

Nathan Unck
Media Critic
The Magna Times

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Comics....Where do you even start????

It make come as a shock to some of you, but I am a comic book geek. I may not be able to win battles and arguments about every little detail that might come up, but I know my way around the block.

Whenever I start talking about a comic book, people are usually curious, and I can't blame them.  Between now and 2021, there are going to be close to 20 films based on comic books. What I love about the films is that ever since X-men's first film in 2000 made a splash, followed up by the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man film, there have been more fans that have come into the comic book universe, and that is awesome. Since then, there have been films based off of comic books, and they aren't going to be stopping with making them because of the money made. Last year (2014) Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy were two of the top grossing films around the world. Guardians did better, but man, Winter Soldier was great.

Anywho, with this big boom in people being interested in comic books, they can feel overwhelmed due to how many different comic books there are when they a walk into a store, or browse the internet and buy digital comics. (By the way, digitals are my favorites because they don't wear out and you don't have to find shelf space if you are a big collector).

It can be hard, and honestly, comic books are a lot like soap operas. Once you start one, it only takes a couple of episodes, or in this case comic books, to get caught up and understand what is going on. However comic books are almost 90 years old, maybe longer, and heroes like Superman and Batman date way back into the 30s. So where do you start? Here are a few tips on how to start getting into comics.

1. If you saw a comic book film and loved it, you should think about that character. There are exceptions, though. Green Lantern is a wonderful comic book series, and the movie was pretty lousy at best. The ideas were kind of right, but the story was bad and the actors could have been a lot better. This was also coming from the director who directed Daniel Craig's first James Bond outing, Casino Royale. It had the elements, but they weren't in line.  Anyway, that's that about Green Lantern.

2. Let's say you hear about your friends talking about comic books or whatever. Hang out, remain silent, and just listen to what they say.

3. When I recognize a hero that I don't have much knowledge of, is your friend when it comes to comics. They have all of the information on back stories and catch you up to what is going on. They may contain spoiler alerts, but are usually noted, so you can stop reading there. For example, if you don't know anything about Green Lantern, do a Wikipedia search on him. It can also be hard because not just Green Lantern, but other big heroes get changed up every now and again. The Flash was Barry Allen, but there are other people who come into play and become a new Flash.  There is a lot of history behind bigger names.

4. Go to the websites for DC and Marvel and browse and see if there is anything you like. The store owners or workers are usually friendly and will tell you about them.

5. The great thing about comics is that not all of them stick to superheroes. Some deal with horror topics, like The Walking Dead, or whatever. I love my superheroes, don't get me wrong, but there are some awesome comics out there that don't deal with superheroes. DC and Marvel are the two biggest comics competitors on the market, but my personal favorite comics come from Image. Sometimes they have a superhero, but most don't. However, when you move away from Marvel and DC the comics can get graphic. Not horrible graphic, but they swear stronger than the other two companies, but they are beautifully written and drawn.  I have been reading one lately called Day Tripper, and it's about a guy who is writing an obituary for the character in the story, then at the end of every book, there is an obituary of the writer who wrote the obituary of the character in the story. It's a ten issue story.

Also, I do have a gripe that I want to get out right here. Internet fanboys who think they are real fans because they only care about one particular character doing things that only they would want them to do is lame. The biggest thing lately is that people complain about origin story  troupes. Troupes are a simple way of saying, everyone does it and shouldn't anymore because it's already been done.

My problem with this is, for example....Who knew who The Guardians of the Galaxy even existed besides fanboys? Marvel has even come out and said, that they were nervous to do a comic book/sci-fi story that would take a lot of money to produce and actually do it, but they went for it, and the gamble paid out. My problem with the whole Origin Story is the fact that even though all of these nerdy fanboys that know the origins of the heroes make up about ten percent of the movie going public. I took a copy of Guardians of the Galaxy to my sister's house and watched it, and she had no idea that it was even a Marvel movie. My sister goes to the movies a lot and knows Marvel movies, and she didn't know.

So, you have ten percent of these dumb fanboys with tunnel vision thinking how everything is supposed to go, and when it doesn't come out exactly how they want, they get upset.  I feel that the general movie going public should see origin stories because they make up the film. If you did Guardians, but they were already together getting along and fighting side by side with each other, you would want to know how they came to be partners and friends. This summer we have Ant-Man coming out. I know a little about him, but not much. I am sure the general movie going public is going to want to know how he turns into Ant-Man. If fanboys are upset about it, Hollywood isn't forcing them to buy a ticket to go see it. If you don't like choices made, do participate and go back to watching other movies you have seen a million times and let the rest of us be.

One more thing. Online or at comic book stores, they have what they called TPBs or Trade Paper Backs. What those are are books that collect between five and seven issues at a time and put them into one book. Comics are hard to wait for every month if you are really into the story, and TPBs are great for not having to sit around waiting and when it comes out, you get five to seven issues at a time. So, those are great.

I lied, ha ha ha, two more things. Usually DC or Marvel put out DVD-Roms or CD-Roms of back issues. They might be a little pricey, but you get all of the issues from the past, so that is awesome. I have roms for Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America and The Avengers...and Mad Magazine, lol.

Finally, I should have probably mentioned this about but Comic Book Resources or    Have reviews of things before they hit shelves so that you can get a little preview of what is coming, and they have a reviews section as well. I personally hit that site every day to go to the Reviews section to see if anyone has posted anything with a good rating. The rating goes from 1 star to 5 stars, but they are cut in half sometimes. It's a neat place to check things out.

Anyway, I hope this blog helps you at all if you are trying to get into comics. It's pretty basic stuff, but it helps a lot, especially Wikipedia and Comic Book Resources,

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Sundance Epiphany.......

This one will be short, I promise.....

Earlier this evening, I attended two screenings at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Both films were world documentaries, one being from Romania and one being from the Ukraine.  The Romanian film, "Chuck Norris Vs. Communism" examined Romania in the early 1980s, and how their government made pretty much any form television or film illegal, unless it was shown on the countries' one television channel that only broadcast government censored propaganda for two hours a day, and how a guy went to Germany, bought a VCR for the same price as a car in Romania, and would make frequent trips back and forth to acquire and smuggle in tons of VHS tapes of American and Foreign films, the most popular being American action films, where a lady who would help the government censor their programming, but go over to this other guy's house and dub and copy movies, which were secretly passed around and slowly, but surely, helped the people of Romania stand up to their corrupt government and fight back, winning and gaining their independence.

The second film, The Russian Woodpecker, was about the horrible Chernobyl Nuclear Plant disaster, and how it may not have been an accident at all, but an event to cover up a huge mistake made by a high ranking Russian Government official. There was a lot more to it, but it would take a long time to describe everything. Anyway, it was brilliant.

Every year when I cover Sundance, I have a lot of chances to interview celebrities or go to fancy parties and everything, which I did for the first three or four years I have covered the festival, but tonight I realized something that I hadn't really thought of.

Every year, the news or entertainment industry sends people to cover Sundance, and they always try to talk to the big celebrities that come, or do "red carpet" ceremonies and things like that. I am not saying it't dumb to do that, that's what a lot of people like about the festival, but I realized tonight, I am the opposite.

This year I turned down a few interviews and canceled one yesterday. Tonight, I watched two documentaries that show the power of film and how it can inspire people to be better. How it can inspire people to rise up against evil dictatorship and governments. How film can present information to expose the truth, or at least show and explain someone's points of view. The ideas presented to me this evening were incredible and life changing, yet I get home, and the first thing I see on the news about Sundance is celebrities walking around red carpets in Park City doing celebrity things.

Sundance kind of has a funny cliche' people talk about, like, if you want to get a film into Sundance, make it dark, depressing, and have your characters either be gay, on drugs, or gay and on drugs. It's sad, but the cliche' is real. Not that those films don't have artistic value or themes to agree or disagree with, but the celebrity aspects to the films at Sundance drive me crazy. I hate it. The premiers that the stars come out for are premiers, meaning, they are already going to come out in theaters some other time in the near future. The films worth seeing, most of the time, are the ones without the big names attached to them.

I say it every year, the documentaries at Sundance are the bread and butter of the festival. You get real people experiencing real things, and you get their point of view on the subject. They aren't always awesome, and you can tell bad, biased docs when you see them, but for the most part, they are really interesting and a lot of fun. My Sundance Epiphany this year is that I could care less about who comes to the festival and for what reasons. I go because I love film, and I want to experience, learn and discover something not only new or interesting, but see how those things, though different, relate to me as a human being and how I can use that new knowledge to make me or the world around me a better place.

Again, not that the "celebrity" films are always bad, but there is so much people don't know and skip over at Sundance for the chance to see a snooty celebrity smile and take some pictures to look good so that they can make more money. That's just the nature of the entertainment industry. I hope this inspires you to watch a lot of different kinds of genres and also to give documentaries a try. There are a ton that have debuted at Sundance over the past three years that are brand new on Netfilx. I would be happy to recommend some if you are interesting. Just let me know.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Guys Don't Like "Chick Flicks"......

After having this conversation on five separate occasions, I finally decided I would write a blog about this topic.

As a film critic, it's kind a rule of thumb to not be biased about any particular genre of film. After all, it's kind of important to review and analyze a film based on it's own merits and themes presented individually, instead of grouping the film into a broad category and writing it off as "just like all of the others".

However, a lot of films that we see fall into the "just like all of the others" a little too often, unfortunately, but as a film lover and reviewer, especially when it is kind of your job to watch films and give your honest opinions and share experiences and make recommendations, you have to watch everything like it's the first time. It gets hard sometimes, but it comes with the territory.

I was recently involved in a conversation about how this particular woman was more than happy to go with her guy friends to see movies that are "guy movies" all the time, but they aren't willing to go to "Chick Flicks" with her or her other girl friends. There is a simple explanation, and I am going to give it to you. I will also include screenshots from the films I talk about to illustrate my points, except for a certain topic that you will understand later.

To make my point, I chose two films that are well liked and talked about. One very recent, and one that has been around for a few years, but it makes the points very clear. It does, however, apply to a lot of different films, and not just these two, but it's easiest to make my points with these two films.  I chose:

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy  VS.  The Notebook            I will talk about Guardians of the Galaxy first. I used Guardians of the Galaxy to make the points because the comic book was/is pretty obscure before the film was announced and made, and even when it was announced, people thought that Marvel had lost it. So, it's a little easier to use over something like Spider-Man who has been in pop-culture for a long time.

1. It's a movie based on a comic book. Not that girls can't be interested in comic books, but it's pretty much a proven fact that more guys are into comic books than girls. However, I know a few girls that are way into comic books. So, guys are behind this already, but there are a bunch of girls out there who are too.

2. It's a sci-fi action film. While this is something guys are interested in way more often than not, the science fiction is a change of pace for girls who are used to normal films, and the action is still entertaining and easy to enjoy by both men and women. The peril the actors face is still just as dangerous and exciting and thrilling to women, so both men and women can get behind this fact and enjoy it.

3. It's a comedy. Funny is funny no matter the genre, no matter the gender. Guys and girls both find the humor a lot of fun and silly.

4. There's a hot, green alien chick who kicks a lot of butt. Maybe this is more of a fantasy for the guys, but still, a super cool, kick-butt woman character is still pretty cool for girls, even if girls not as pretty as her call her degrading names behind her back, but that happens in real life and in chick flicks as well, so yeah, the guys might get the fantasy aspect, and by fantasy, I mean.....well, we know what guys think about when they see someone they are attracted to.

5. The plot is interesting. A good plot, and this goes both ways for guys and girls in any genre, but the plot of Guardians of the Galaxy is a lot of fun and interesting to watch play out. There is some childhood emotion that is involved with Star-Lord or Peter Quill, there is a little romance between Star-Lord and Gamora, There's a great partnership between Rocket Raccoon and Groot, Drax the Destroyer has a back story about his wife and daughter being murdered, and there is a whole planet on the verge of being wiped out unless the Guardians can make it there in time and stop a pretty powerful villain. It's interesting for everyone who watches it.

Those are five reasons why Guardians of the Galaxy is technically a guy film and why men love it, but let's be honest, it was one of the highest, if not the highest grossing film of the year, and was attended by millions and millions of girls and women as well. But there is something in Guardians of the Galaxy that women get that men, well, straight men, don't get.

That's right, a shirtless Chris Pratt with a nice body shape and great abs. Honestly, I am a little jealous, but not to the point of calling him a slut and demeaning him on Facebook, that's more of a girl thing....Just saying.....

So, really, what did a girl or woman have to "put up" with? They get a fun story, thrilling action, comedy, shirtless hunk, a cool kick-butt female hero to like and for the more nerdy girls, a fun comic book movie.

Now we have reached The Notebook.

I saw this film on a date with a serious girlfriend at the time, and it was still kind of hard to watch. I wasn't a critic at the time I saw the film for the first time, that's right, I have seen it more than once, but I still was open-minded towards all films, just as I am now. Like I said earlier, this is one film, and one example, but it can be applied to many others.

1. Rachel McAdams as the film's leading lady. While Rachel McAdams is a beautiful actress, and girls and women will argue that we get her when they got Chris Pratt, Rachel McAdams was, what's the best way to put this, made a "Plain Jane". What that means is that, yes she is a beautiful actress, but they made her look like a "regular girl" in the film. There is a great quote from The Simpsons that makes this point, and for the sake of time, I will just say the quote. If you want the reference, email me and I will send it to you. "I mean TV ugly, not Ugly ugly".

While still pretty, her character is supposed to make every girl or woman feel like they can relate to her. If she is done up like this....

Now, I am not here to debate on what is pretty or beautiful , and I know that people are more than just their body and that we can find people attractive by their minds and actions and how they treat others, and yadda yadda yadda. I get that. I am just saying that the intent of the film is to make Rachel McAdams look more like an everyday woman over a glamorous movie star. The reason is so that women relate to her, so that the romantic events that ensue seem likely and plausible to every woman. More about this topic later.

As far as I am concerned, the girls get a hot and shirtless Chris Pratt, where as I am pretty sure us guys will never get a hot and shirtless Rachel McAdams in any special edition version of The Notebook.

2. Drama. Now, guys can get behind drama if there is something exciting going on behind it. Drama can play out a lot of different ways. it can be intense, so Drama isn't really a bad thing and is used in every movie. That creates the conflict that our protagonist has to overcome whether it be aliens from another planet, or an eating disorder, drama is in everything. But really, the drama in The Notebook is will she be with the guy or not, or what will happen to them if they are? Not really that exciting. Sitting for two hours with an off chance of violence is a long time to sit through a film with no payoff for a guy.

3. This kind of echos my last point, but, little to no action. It's all about feelings and feeling excited when you find true love, and this sadness that the woman, SPOILER ALERT, doesn't remember her own husband and love story in the end, which he comes and tells her everyday, and not only that, but the only hint of violence that the guys like is at the end when the guy commits suicide and dies with his wife. While sweet and romantic to women, guys find this lame.

4. I guess since I posted the pictures of Rachel McAdams, and while I did post a picture of a shirtless Chris Pratt.....

That's right. Ryan Gosling.  I actually really do like Ryan Gosling. He is in a few brilliant films, including Lars and the Real Girl, which he was amazing in and should be seen by everyone, and the film Drive, which was also amazing. They are both worth watching. However, the girls get a dreamy hunk, and while girls can get behind a character like Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy because, yeah, she is hot and guys like her, but she is also a strong, independent woman who is tough and kicks butt, so they can get behind that. If I even say the phrase a guy getting behind Ryan Gosling, it's opening up a can of unclean jokes, so I will stay away from it, but you get my point. Guys don't care about other good looking guys. Which leads me to my next point....

5. SEX SCENES. But Nate, guys love sex scenes, I mean, that's all they tend to think about most of the time, right? And The Notebook has two, pretty long, (and uncomfortable, might I add.), sex scenes.  Well, yes and no. Guys like Male Fantasy Sex Scenes, and The Notebook has Female Fantasy Sex Scenes. What's the difference?  Quite a bit. A Male Fantasy Sex Scene is different in ways I kind of mentioned above. Men like sex scenes of a super hot girl, usually not wearing any clothes, which usually shows gratuitous nudity and acts that you would never talk about with, well, hopefully anyone, but honestly, guys fantasize about women they most likely could never be with or do that stuff with, doing things that just about every real woman outside of the movies and porn industry will never do. However, the same can be said for Female Fantasy Sex Scenes, but in a different way. My 8th grade English teacher defined Romance perfectly. She said, "Romance is something that is possible......that will never happen."  (Mrs. Hunter at Joel P. Jensen Middle School in West Jordan, Utah, You are still one of my all-time favorite teachers.). The difference is that the sex scenes in The Notebook are "Romantic Love Scenes". The girls and women fantasize about this situations happening to them with a strange new, hot guy. They usually aren't graphic, and kind of depict the sexual experience being awkward, but intimate and special. Just as porn or Male Fantasy Sex Scenes depict women doing things that will never happen that women feel that they can never aspire to, nore should they because it really is sick and degrading, Female Fantasy Sex Scenes give women a more realistic scene.......that will never happen, causing women to feel that they are under-appreciated and not treated with the same love and respect as the leading hunk in the film gives to the woman. It's still fantasy, and will never happen, just different. the approach is the same, but the different types of fantasies are played out different in different genres. And then, after all is said and done, if a guy goes to a chick flick hoping to score some points with the wife or girlfriend and is hoping to get lucky later that evening, even if he does, the lights are turned out, and the woman is fantasizing about Ryan Gosling instead of the guy.

Where are the payoffs for the guys in a chick flick? Granted, there are some chick flicks that do have things that men might like, but most of the time, chick flicks are made for women to be watched by women and enjoyed with by other women. In a relationship, you should do things you love to do together, but when it comes to movies, there should be some give and take, but there are certain films that are just for men, and just for women, so enjoy them that way, or even by yourself. I go to the movies by myself all the time, and I have a great experience just the same. I get what I go in for and enjoy the experience. If women don't want to go to a "guy movie", then don't go, or at least understand that there will probably be something in that "guy movie" that you can find to enjoy whereas this isn't the case MOST of the time. There are exceptions to this, and you will usually hear about a film that is great for both men and women that fall into the "chick flick" category that are worth seeing.

Also, Romantic Comedies don't count because men can get behind the comedy and enjoy that, and we have had a lot of instances where rom-coms can be guy movies as well. Pretty much any romantic comedy starring Adam Sandler proves this point. They are romantic and funny, but you get crude and usually sexual humor that guys tend to like over girls.

I am also going to say this right now, I find sex scenes uncomfortable despite them being male or female fantasy sex scenes. I think that they are gratuitous most of the time, and I think that sex can be implied without being seen. The film Fury that came out recently with Brad Pitt had a scene where sex was implied, but didn't show anything, and I was grateful for that. I really hope that guys don't think about sex most of the time and that men respect women and love and care about them for who they are and what they do and say over what they do behind closed doors. I hope that women recognize this and that it is a two way street. Men want to be appreciated and know that they are making their girlfriends, spouses, or partners happy by being themselves and treating them right, and not by how big their abs are....or if they have abs at all, and not in perfect harmony with their feelings all the time.

I love film, and I love the way it makes us feel and think. I love the way that people can gather into a theater and watch a movie and experience it intimately, as well as collectively. Movies can be personal, or an event shared by lots of other people, usually strangers. I think men and women should be more open-minded when it comes to certain genres of films, but I also know that this isn't as realistic as I would like or hope. Most people go to the movies for entertainment, and they tend to watch the genres that entertain them and complain about the genres that don't. My dad will probably never sit down and watch a documentary film, unless it is about sports, and then it's probably a huge maybe. I wouldn't bet on it. I think he might think I am weird for loving Documentary film, which is okay. We are all different and have different likes and dislikes, and to each his or her own.

Anyway, this blog is long enough. I hope you enjoyed reading it if you made it this far.

This is Nate signing out.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cheesy Christmas Newsletter.....

Every year, I tend to find a letter in the mail around the Christmas season, that is a family "newsletter" of some sort telling everyone what their family has experienced throughout that year. I have always wanted to write one as a joke with false information, just for fun. I think that sometimes they are kind of lame, but then I was looking at it from another side earlier today. Those newsletters in some way are almost like a short, non-electronic blog about the family, and sometimes I don't find blogs  lame depending on the person. Anyway, I thought about it. I am going to write a "newsletter" style blog with a couple pictures here and there, and tell people what I was up to this year, You can read it if you want, or not if that's what you want to do. I think this is a great year to do this since 2011 through 2013 kind of sucked, and this year sucked less. Anyway here we go.

This year has been a fast and crazy year full of changes and realizations of sorts. I have lived another year, so my plan to live forever is still working out for me. As you may or may not know, I have been divorced for a couple of years, and it only gets better as time goes by. They say that you are more happy in marriage the more time passes, and that works with divorce as well, let me tell you!

Even though I am single, which tends to suck, especially in Utah, it sucks a little less because I have a great four-year-old son who keeps me in check and constantly remembering what is important in life. I honestly feel closer to my faith in certain ways because I have a son who I want to be a good example for, since he has to get it from somewhere, and it helps me constantly realize what is important.

January is always a crazy month for me. The first half not so much, but the second half is the Sundance Film Festival which I have covered for the past six years, with my seventh year coming up in about four weeks from now. It's always a great time to see some great stuff that I will either never see again, or see on Netflix three years from now. If you want some recommendations of great documentary films from Sundance from three years ago that have barely found their way to Netflix, shoot me an email, and I will let you know some great, not so new, docs.

February, Basically, I turned 33. Everything else from that month isn't really coming to me right now, which probably means I wasn't doing anything special unless playing a video game or watching lots of movies is worth noting, but in this case, probably not.

March was fun. Basically auditioned for Shrek: The Musical out at the Empress Theatre. I got cast as Papa Bear and one of the Knights of the Back-up, which, yeah, were super small roles, but the friends I made in that show were great. Basically, April and May are me rehearsing for this show and performing them with some cool movie screenings in between. Most notably Captain America: Winter Soldier in April and May a couple too.

Also in May, I will just skip April, we performed Shrek: The Musical, and I auditioned for The Addams Family: The Musical.  I went in wanting the role of Fester, and I ended up in the role of Fester, and it was awesome, but we didn't really get started with that until......wait for it......

June,  Shrek: The Musical ended and I started right into rehearsals for The Addams Family. Everything about the show was a blast. It was double cast, so I had fun working with people who I didn't end up performing with...except for the one time Dallon and I switched nights so he could do something, but didn't want to miss out on a performance.  Anyway, Dallon was fun to work with. We played the character very different, but it was fun.

Also in June, we had a fun time with  Elliot and my nephew and two nieces, Carson, Elizabeth and Olivia. The summer was met with lots of splash pads and trampolines with sprinklers under them.

July and August was full of movie screenings for the summer as well as The Addams Family performances. I was at either a movie theater or the Empress.

Here I am on Fox 13 News in the Morning with Big Budah. It was a fun interview.  We had a good time.

Also in August, I gained a new niece, Stella.

September was a good month. Elliot turned 4 years old, and I can't believe that he is already that age. Four years seems like a long time, but when you have a child or multiple children, four years in nothing.

Also in September, I was made an uncle for the fifth time. My new niece Sophie was born!

Totally kidding, here is the real picture of Sophie, but really, that monkey is freaking adorable!

October was fun. I got back in the swing of things with The Jesters Royale out at the Empress. If you didn't know already from my annoying advertisements on my Facebook page, it is the Improv Comedy troupe that I play with on Friday nights. If you haven't seen us, you really should come check us out. Really, Magna is a lot closer than downtown SLC for most of the Salt Lake Valley.  We had a fun Halloween show. Elliot came and we went Trick or Treating before the show. He was a Blue Power Ranger Pirate from one of the 17 incarnations of the show.

Here are all of the kiddos in their Halloween get-ups. Olivia is the Witch, Elliot the Blue Pirate Power Ranger, Carson as a Karate Kid or Ninja, Lizzy as what every other girl in the country was for Halloween this year, Elsa from Frozen, Sophie as a Strawberry and Stella as a Cupcake, I think.....

In October, I also attended a Gala for The Empress Theatre, where we had The Emppys, which are awards for the shows for the past season. I was nominated in two categories:  Best Supporting Character in last year's Christmas show, The 12 Days of Christmas (We were supposed to do A Christmas Story where I was cast as the father, and then we had to change the show when the rights became unavailable to do the show due to a Broadway touring company wanting to do an East Coast tour, and we had to learn a new show within two weeks. It was crazy.), and Best Character Actor for Fester in The Addams Family.  I have said it before, and I will say it again, I am flattered that people loved me as Fester in that show, but you telling me that "I looked the part" isn't exactly a compliment, ha ha ha. The Gala was a masquerade, so I had Elliot color some cheap paper bear masks, since I was Papa Bear in Shrek this season. I was Papa Bear, Elliot was Baby Bear for the gala.

October ended and November began, which saw me rehearsing for A Charlie Brown Christmas. I played Linus in the show, which was great, but I will get to that a little later. I had Elliot more consecutive days in a row over Thanksgiving than I have ever had him before, due to the schedule I currently follow for the times we have him. I realized over this break that life isn't as good without Elliot around. I miss him tremendously when he isn't there and time seems to slow down when he isn't around, which isn't always a good thing. A few days almost seems like months when you want to see your child. It's hard to explain and hard to understand if you don't have your kid all the time. Some parents look for breaks from their kids...I wish I didn't have any. November was a good month. I also attended an Aquabats concert where Kepi Ghoulie, one of my favorite punk rock artists, was the opening act, which didn't disappoint, and the Aquabats were awesome too, and then a week later, I went to see one of my favorite bands, Coheed and Cambria. It was great.

Finally the end of November, and throughout December, most of my life consisted of rehearsing and performing A Charlie Brown Christmas. People in the theater world tend to not do Christmas shows because life gets so busy around that time of the year, which is true. Since 2007 when I started getting into performing a lot, I have been in five Christmas shows. Some have been great, some have not, lol. My first one in 2007 was an old time radio style version of It's A Wonderful Life, and that was a great experience. I loved everyone in the cast and had fun with it. Over the years, they haven't all been the best, but I almost feel like the holidays aren't special unless I share my talents on stage with other people by helping to tell a story to remind people of the spirit of the holidays.

This year, however, was probably the best time I have ever had with a cast, Christmas show or not. There were nine of us in the cast, and three musicians, one director, and a couple technical crew. That's super small considering for Shrek we had over three times that many people in just the cast. Anyway, the cast was made up of a couple of friends from past shows I was in, and then a couple friends from improv, and then a friend from my fourth grade class back in the day, and then one new person who played Lucy, which was weird considering that I had never met her before, and the first rehearsal I had was with just her, blocking out our scenes, and maybe she didn't feel this way, but it felt like, to me, that we had been in shows together in the past, and we knew each other and how we worked and acted. It was really cool meeting someone new and feeling like we were friends already. The show has only been over with for about five days now, and I miss it like crazy.

The 17 performances we had flew by. We would hang out and get food after rehearsals or performances. Saturdays were crazy between a matinee performance and evening performance, but we had lots of fun together with food and movies and games. We played Rock Band and Beatles Rock Band for hours after Saturday evening shows. We worked hard on the show, and then we played hard after. It was great. I am excited to be rehearsing a new show, Into the Woods, for January, with Chalese, who played Sally in the show, but I am going to miss Margo, Connie, Robert, Kevin, Kristina, and to a lesser extent, Justina ( who is going to be doing sound for us for Into the Woods), David (who is on the improv team with me), and our music director, Nancy (Who is our director for Into the Woods). Also, Lindsay was an awesome director and Nancy, Larry and Zach were a wonderful Jazz trio. I love you all so much, and thank you for making this holiday season wonderful.

Another great thing about doing A Charlie Brown Christmas, is that my character, Linus Van Pelt, or Li-Li V.P. as he is known in Detroit, Michigan, is kind of a know-it-all, but at the same time has the same amazement and wonder of a little kid, and his character is pivotal in the show as he helps Charlie Brown discover the true meaning of Christmas. Every show I had the wonderful opportunity to quote the Christmas story from the bible, but I truly believe in what I was quoting, with all my heart, and so being able to quote those passages was a way for me to be able to share my testimony of the birth and mission of the Savior, and I can't think of a better way to end the year, than by doing that.

As I look back at this past year, sure, there were cool or fun things like getting a Playstation 4 or going to lots and lots of movies, or concerts or whatever, but what really stood out to me this year were the talents I was able to share, the people that came into my life, the new family members gained, and the time spent with the friends and family that I love which are more dear to me than anything else. Sometimes in life, we get caught up in things and we sometimes gloss over the experiences we are having with friends and family. We work on achieving goals that are important, sure, but like John Lennon used to say, and wrote into a song, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans". It's profound, but simple. Remember this coming year to focus on the little things in life that make up your everyday life, and not just to the big moments, because the little things that happen are what make us who we are and that make us truly happy.

Here is wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous 2015.

Nate and Elliot Unck