Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Joss Whedon: A Renaissance

Who would have known? Avengers got an early release here in Vietnam (I am travelling on business) and I had the privilege of seeing this movie before my friends in the U.S. I can only hope that someone reads this before it comes out because it was well worth the time and money to see the film. In fact, I might even want to watch it again because it was so entertaining. Though The Avengers was great, I just wanted to expand the topic a little bit to focus more so on Joss Whedon, the director of not only this movie but produced another work that recently came out, The Cabin in the Woods.

Now just to preface anything on The Cabin in the Woods, I came into this movie with nearly no expectations. I did not even realize until the opening credits that Joss Whedon had even been involved in the project. It was  a sort of meta film that poked fun at all the conventions of modern Horror films. If you want a movie that involves ghosts, hellraisers, giant snakes, zombies and even a *gasp* violent unicorn kill then this movie is definitely for you. It involves the usual shtick of a lot of slasher horror films with a bunch of young adults going out to a cabin in the woods for a nice little weekend. Of course, ghouls, killers and buckets of blood come out to play and haunt these kids. You can sense Joss' conventions in the film with some pretty original thoughts on the horror genre and I must say this director, Drew Goddard, might have a pretty bright future in the industry as well.

Joss' star is on the up and up. He has had a lot of success in television with Buffy but also saw some commercial failures in Firefly and Dollhouse. Marvel, from a business stand point was taking a bit of a risk on Joss when they decided to let him take the helm on the Avengers. His only other venture on to the big screen as a director was muddled debut called Serentiy. Honestly, it is one of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time and thought the marketing was muddled and mediocre at best.

Anyways, Avengers did a great job of keeping the plot moving at a fast pace but still fill enough camera time and action for each of the characters involved. A few small surprises and revelations with each character grappling with their new roles as becoming key members of a new team in fighting a cunning and manipulative enemy. I was surprised how much plot development there was with so many opportunities for big name actors and characters to steal the show. If anything, I only wish there was more dialogue but I think a lot of the camera work and long takes helped tell the story.

Go see Avengers and if you have an open mind, go see The Cabin in the Woods. It will be time well spent.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Wow, has it really been a year and a half? So much has changed, I got a new job, new friends and family (looking at you Lucy) and most of all, have found a new appreciation for the city I love above all else. For now, I will stick with something light, a movie review, before I step into anything more serious.

Drive -


I feel like lately, some studios have been taking risks on established, though off-beat by any standard, European directors. Nicolas Winding Refn definitely seems like he has a pedigree for violence, blood and restraint? This movie was a little different from what I expected and in a good way. If you are looking for a Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer CGI orgy with tons of action and shitty dialogue then this move would be the polar opposite.* The movie stars Ryan Gosling (Notebook) as an almost silent protagonist as he journeys through life as a stunt driver/mechanic/getaway driver in Hollywood who is trying to make it big as a race car driver with the support of his mechanic boss played by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad). Of course things go awry when he gets involved with the "girl next door"/literal girl next door played by Carey Mulligan (Never Let Me Go). A shit storm ensues.

Film's Conventions

In a very minimalistic style, Refn successfully raises the tension without having to spell everything out for you which is where he successfully uses a lot of restraint in telling the story. The character of the driver himself seems like a man of few words, probably from his unspoken past spent on the road as a drifter. I really appreciate that in a film with all this cgi, testerone infused, confused drivel that gets released by studios. Though the story, in a sense, did not feel like the most original thing in the world, it definitely conducted itself in a refreshing way. Names like Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) were used in ways you would not expect. Despite having those exceptional curves, they did a great job making her look really white trash rather than another sexed up bombshell to attract the audience. Hell, they even casted Albert Brooks (Finding Nemo) in a serious role. The scenes of violence were great ways to help raise the bar of tension as they often came suddenly and quickly. At times, the film is hypnotic with it's lack of dialogue and great use of cinematography but sudden shifts in plot keep you off balanced enough making for a great thriller.


I definitely would not recommend this movie to anyone, as I would say about pretty much any movie. If you like the smash, bang and pop of films like The Island, Con Air, Transformers and Italian Job then this is definitely not a movie I would advise you to see. The subtleties might go over your head. However, at the same time if you like those movies but can still appreciate films with more understated plot points like Lost in Translation, Thin Red Line and Babel then this is certainly a movie for you. Think shockingly bloody violence wrapped in a box with a bow. Very pretty presentation but with a little blood splattered to make a nice accent.

*Note to self: future blog post? Do the opposite of those two directors and you will have a critically acclaimed work.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Guilty Pleasures.

"Finger Blaster"
- John Huynh

What is wrong with Hollywood? I feel like as time has progressed that there are fewer and fewer truly original stories coming out of Hollywood. Can the summer blockbuster seasons become anymore predictable? Even awards season sees sooo many movies based on books! Curious Case of Benjamin Button? That was a short story. Slumdog Millionaire? That was a book. The Blind Side? A book. Precious? The subtitle blatently tells you it is based on a novel.

Ok, now you might be wondering why I bring this up. I have recently been hearing a lot of whispers, rumors and speculations on some franchise reboots, remakes and sequels that are on the horizon to some pretty piss poor movies. The kinds of movies that are so epically bad that they are actually good. Sometimes these films played up to the worst of our desires in taste for film but they were entertaining nonetheless. I list 5 films below that I would consider guilty pleasures.

5. Independence Day 2 (and maybe 3)
Yay!!! More epic speeches by the "Prez" Bill Pullman that unknowingly but essentially say "fuck you" to the rest of the world.

Yes, this franchise is being considered for a revisit with at least Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox and Will Smith making a comeback with Roland Emmerich at the helm once more.

Release Date:
Do not know, do not much care.

4. Top Gun 2
I bet you do not know the real story behind the original Top Gun.
Click here.
Sword fight!

I need to Maverick to rock my world for another 25 years. Tony Scott and Tom Cruise are in collusion to write a new script to make a sequel to one of the most subtley gay portrayals of the Navy in American Pop Culture since the Village People.

Release Date:
2012? But we all might be dead anyways according Roland Emmerich (director of 2012).

3. Red Dawn
Wolverines!!! This time our enemies are the Chinese though instead of the Soviet Union.

MGM is in the midst of going through bankruptcy and is trying to prioritize on salvaging their rights to the James Bond franchise. Red Dawn's distribution has taken a backseat even though it has been fully finished.

Release Date:

2. Superman
Zach Snyder has been on a tear (in my eyes) with adapting comics and graphic novels to the big screen after Watchmen and 300. I can see no wrong that he can do in trying to revive Superman.

Release Date:

1. Tron: Legacy
Even though I consider this a bit of a cowardly move on Disney's part in that they are making a sequel. A lot of the other pieces involving this film really seem intriguing to me. They brought back some of the old actors (Bruce Boxleitner and Jeff Bridges) as well as some fresh faces (John Hurt, Garrett Hedlund, Daft Punk and Olivia Wilde) to make for a really interesting plot that I am hoping will feature some more original music. The original if you noticed reuses the same melody but at different tempos. The courageous thing I find in this film is that they gave a man making his directorial debut $170 million!

Release Date:
December 17, 2010

Good night all

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


"A guy who makes a new chair doesn't owe money to everyone who ever built a chair."
- Mark Zuckerberg in Social Network (not sure if he really said it or just made up for the movie)

So, I saw the new Social Network film and it really struck me in several ways. The dark genius of Mark Zuckerberg in both an entrepeneurial and computer sense was displayed in all its splendid form that only David Fincher could have portrayed. The appearance of Microsoft's founder in one scene seemed to raise a question in my mind. Were they trying to make a parallel between Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg? Both of whom are former students of Harvard (neither graduated) and went on to develop billion dollar ideas in the computer world under controversial circumstances.

More importantly, I wanted to write this post because of something one of the characters in The Social Network said. I truly believe in the education system wholeheartedly but there are deep distinctions between the top schools (looking at you Ivy Leagues) and the rest of the schools in the nation. He said something to the effect that "Harvard men do not go to school to get a job, they go to school to create one." Something about that self made man is really lost in our country these days. That quote ties into the Waiting for Superman film I mentioned in an earlier post.

It is an election year and I understand the importance of Waiting for Superman as a tool to enact political change. The subject matter of the film could really make an impact in swaying people's voting this November. The whole idea behind the title of Waiting for Superman is in the fact that people are sitting around hoping, praying and waiting for Superman to come along and save us. I personally believe that the education system might bring about another person with the kind of grand vision, enterpeneurial spirit and the will to make another billion idea happen like Facebook or Microsoft. Those are the kind of people that I hope will be able to make it through the horrible state of the education system that the film portrays. Though the film has yet to receive (and probably never will) a wide release date; Paramount is making waves where it matters with their production. President Obama has visited with the children of the film showing that the film is resonating with the people in positions of power. Click here to view the photos.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


"This is John...whatever."

Owen Wilson as John Beckwith in Wedding Crashers

Usually I have some vaguely original or witty way of tying in my epigraphs to the blog post I leave but I think this is going to be a tough one. I guess the random nature of that quote more than anything is going to exemplify this post. There has been a lot going on the last couple of months and I feel like I should update my friends and family just what it has that has my mind racing all over the place.

Nhu and some of my family at Pike Place Market
My lovely cousin My (but for the sake of avoiding confusion I will use her legal name of Nhu) came to visit for several weeks during August and September. That was quite a fun and exciting two weeks I got to spend with her and my family. Of course when the parents get involved the stuff we did in Seattle was extremely tame and cliche. We took her to Pike Place Market and to Kerry Park in Queen Anne District. Both gave a pretty good taste of Seattle character. We also went on an Argosy Cruise around Lake Union and Lake Washington to experience a few more sights as well as learn a little more about Seattle's history.

My cousin at the top of Rockefeller Center
A few days after arriving in Seattle, Nhu's US tour continued onto its DC-NYC leg. Our first stop was DC where we were greeted by my mom's cousin as he drove us to his humble abode out in the suburbs of Virigina near our nation's capital. I really envy this part of our country, there is so, so, so much brick! I swear that at least seventy percent of the buildings were made of brick. We went on a hasty whirldwind tour walking thru/by: Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, WWII Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Library of Congress, The U.S. Capitol, Constitution Gardens and the White House in a matter of four to five hours. To say that I was beat by the end of the day would be an understatement.

Bethesda Terrace at Central Park
The next day was spent at a far more comfortable pace. We went to the old town Alexanadria in Virginia and the Smithsonian Institute, ate some food and then sped off for our bus to one of the most beautiful cities on the planet - New York City.

The last time I was in New York City I was all of maybe two or three years old. I hardly remember a thing. This was quite the eye opening experience. I knew going into it that New York City is one of the biggest metropolises in the world but to be able to be physically there in the thick of the Manhattan was an enlightening experience. I like to consider Seattle as city but if NYC were the measuring stick for cities, it definitely made Seattle feel like a shanty town in comparison. All of the buildings in Manhattan were huge and there was so little green space in the city. However, when it came to Central Park it was kind of eerie. You would be walking along for blocks and blocks and blocks of seemingly endless skyscrapers but then low and behold you had a forest nestling up against all of these amazing buildings.

Coq au Vin from Brasserie Les Halles
I would have to say my most enjoyable period of time spent in New York would have to be at Brasserie Les Halles. If you do not know what this place is, it is a swanky little establishment that once had the good fortune of having none other than Anthony Bourdain as its executive chef. It was while he was working at this restaurant that he wrote his book Kitchen Confidential as well as A Cook's Tour. The restaurant specializes in French cooking and does their job well. A friendly woman from Texas served us and that had to have been one of the best meals of my life. Awesome venue, near Wall Street, friendly folks and delicious food...I could not have asked for more.

These random moments are what I live for. To be continued in a later post...

Less than two months two go before I can have that first drink post-medication...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reaching Deep.

The journey is everything.

                                 - Jerry Maguire

Weird huh? I just used a quote from Jerry Maguire. It has been about a month since my last post and part of that has to do with my own self taking some time to reevaluate some personal things. The other part has been my recent trip to New York City and Washington D.C. for several days over Labor Day weekend. The quote really encapsulates the point I want to get across. The last month has been one wild ride but has opened some new avenues for my future. Let me explain.

I basically work a glorified sales job and I do not have stomach to really continue with this career in the long term. It helps me pay the bills and insurance is always welcome. I avoid going into too much detail because I do not want to risk my frail job security by giving the moral ambiguities of the industry I work in. This can be said in all honesty; I love the people I work with and we make a very enjoyable and eclectic group of coworkers I have ever encountered. It reminds me a lot of The Office but that is a story for another day.

Because this job has little to no real future in it for me, it has given me pause to really sit and reevaluate what I want to do with my life. The raises are paltry and barely keep up with inflation and the commute is the worst I have ever heard of. I drive from Kent to the Tukwila International Boulevard Link Light Rail Station Monday thru Friday (and the occasional Saturday). The Light Rail subesequently takes me to Pioneer Square Station in Downtown Seattle. From Pioneer Square I walk a few blocks down to the Seattle ferry terminal and ride the ferry to Downtown Bremerton. I finally walk to my destination to work not far from the Bremerton ferry terminal. I reverse but repeat that commute coming home. In total the commute takes 2-2.5 hours a day. If someone knows of a worse commute please let me know as it might actually make me feel better about my day. Anyways, on to my main point...

My cousin brought a very interesting proposition to my attention immediately before our trip to the East Coast and on a couple occasions throughout. He has presented the possibility of a move to Houston, TX. On the surface it sounds like a huge change that might demand a lot of adjustment coming from Pacific Northwest to the "Lone Star State". But after experiencing the last couple of trips (East Coast trip and a SE Asia trip) it has made me take a long hard look at realistically considering this trip.

Reasons I have found:
  1. Money: One of those things I always thought I could do without (I live fairly frugally). I have come to the realization how much I can do with not only a salary bump but also to have that financial future as well. My parents have been hit hard by the recession and I know as the boy in the family I have a larger responsiblity in helping them out when retirement comes (which is coming sooner rather than later). Also, having seen how my father's side of the family lives in utter poverty, I see how much of a difference a couple hundred dollars can make in helping improve their livelihood. The lack of money I think has opened my eyes to its importance.
  2. Sanity: Seattle is a beautiful city filled with beautiful, intelligent people. I was a confused underachiever and went for a degree in History at a State College. Not to knock on WSU but I sometimes feel like I should have ended up at the UW. I learned a lot of things at WSU but there was a lot of wasted time and money in Pullman and I definitely have some regrets about it. If only I had gone into something more tech/science related because there are not a lot of opportunities for someone with a liberal arts degree. I need to move out of the house but it is hard with my salary! By moving to Houston my cousin and I would be able to afford a house (more of a mini mansion but a house nonetheless).
  3. Opportunity: Boeing is leaving Seattle whether we like it or not and the Pacific Northwest will be hard pressed to fill the void. I feel like the opportunities are only going to get more limited in the area even at the big tech companies (i.e. Microsoft and Amazon) with the advent of outsourcing and the constant need for fresh blood.Houston has a number of universities for me to go back to school. I want to go back to school and I have some pretty good gameplans to make a more secure financial future for myself in Houston. Plus, it does not hurt that I am also looking for the right woman (preferrably Vietnamese) and there a lot of opportunities for that to happen too.
The journey I am trying to refer to is two fold. One is that all the choices and actions in my life have led to this for better, for worse. Secondly, one aspect of travelling that has really gripped me is help enlighten me to the things I do and do not have. It is sad to say but I really to feel that money is the lubricant that gets the gears of happiness going. It is not to say that you cannot be happy without money but it certainly is a means to an end. There are so many things I want to see and experience (i.e. travel the world, raise a family and eat and cook delicious foods from all over the world) that really do require to one extent or another: Money. Money is not a means to materialistic things but to be able to experience more of those life altering, life fulfilling adventures that I hope I will forever endeavor towards. Money truly never sleeps; it is that teasing, sassy insomniac-girl/guy next door that when you have them, can make you at times a happy, happy person and at other times becomes the devil inside that manipulates, enslaves and binds us. Sometimes it is the very preventing us from doing the things we really want to do. I hope I become the former rather than the latter.

Day 100/180