Saturday, September 22, 2012
End of Watch is one of the best movies this year. And yes I am completely serious. And not only is it a fantastic movie, it might be one of the best cop films I have ever watched. Its written amazingly and acted just as brilliantly. The characters are amazingly fleshed out and seem like real people. It is a great movie from start to finish.
The movie follows Officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) as they go through their days as police officers in one of the most dangerous zones in Los Angles. The characters of Taylor and Zavala are the greatest thing about this movie by far. Not only are they not perfect people, they're actually very flawed people. For example the movie opens with them chasing 2 suspects in a car. They PIT the car, get out and after being shot at, shoot and kill the suspects. The movie then shows after the killing were Taylor and Zavala are cleared of the shooting and acting like...well...kind of like douchebags. Not like bad people or anything but they act very arrogant and douchy. And the films achieves a monumental award by making you like them. That's right through a decent portion of this movie the characters act like arrogant douchebags...and you like them. And you don't just kind of like them, you really like them. Because they seem like real people. Everything about them, from the way they act, look, talk, and especially their friendship seems completely real and genuine. They act like arrogant douchebags but...come on, wouldn't you? They might act like douchebags, but in reality they're good cops, not just good cops but great cops.
I was with these guys 100%. Yeah, they acted like dicks sort of, but they earned it. And the weird part is later in the movie (in an amazingly tense and fantastic scene) they rescue three kids from a burning house at huge risk to themselves. They receive the Medal of Honor and everything and yet...they don't act like dicks after that. In fact there's a pretty subtle moment where they talk to each other about how they don't feel like heroes and, in fact, have no idea how a hero is supposed to feel. They take matters into their own hand and try and track down suspects and such and save quite a few people...they still don't act like dicks because of it. They sort of just keep the same level of dickishness and stick with it, actually it goes way down by the end of the movie.
The friendship between Taylor and Zavala is fantastic. They way they interact off of each other and talk to each other seems real and genuine. Alot of it is because of the excellent script (and directing) from David Ayer, but mostly it's because of Gylenhaal and Pena who deliever 2 of the greatest performance of their careers. They way the talk and even argue with each other, its brilliant. And the movie never does that stupid thing movies like to do, were they have a fight and stop being friends but realize in the end that they'll always be friends. No, none of that. Yeah, they argue and stuff but its just a part of their friendship, they take it in stride and roll with it.
The movie is also amazingly tense. Unlike most movies today that like to make a spectacle of action scenes to the point were they don't feel real and because of this are never really that tense, this movie takes the complete opposite approach. Its because you like the characters so much and its because, in a stroke of genius (yes i said genius), the film goes out of its way to hammer in the fact that Taylor and Zavala are not invincible. So, when shoot outs come or when car chases come they are some of the most intense scenes of the year precisely because you feel that they are not invincible. You know they can be hurt, or even killed, if something goes wrong and it serves the action in a dramatic way. This all means that every time they get shot at, have a car chase, enter a home (were you can just feel that something bad is in there), or enter a burning building you are on the edge of your seat with tension.
The movie is also horrifying in a human, realistic way. I won't go into too much detail because, you know...spoilers... but almost everytime Taylor and Zavala go into a house, something terrible has gone down, and again its the reactions from the characters that make the scenes work. They see something that's inhumane and horrible and they get mad, which in turn makes you get mad.
The ending is also just...beautiful. Again not gonna go into too much detail because spoilers, but..wow. The ending shootout is one of the most intense scenes I have sat through in a long, long time. And because you feel that sense of danger for the characters it makes even worse. And they way that shootout ends...you have to see it. It defied every single convention of what you would think and even what I thought was going to happen. There is no big epic speech at the end either. Gyllenhaal's "speech" at the end is one sentence. That's right, one sentence. Four words. And that one sentence, those four words, hold more weight and power behind them than entire movies do. There is so much emotion and power in just those four words that it almost brought me to tears. I would like to hammer it in FOUR WORDS. This movie did more with four words than alot of movies can do in a 2 hour run time.
I would like to compliment this movie on its directing too. It employs a half documentary style (yes its actually explained) and half conventionally shot narrative and it works. It works completely. I only saw one other movie by David Ayer and that was Harsh Crimes and the only thing I really remember is what powerhouse performances Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriguez gave. And Ayer did it again. He got, what I think, are 2 of the most honest, realistic best performances of the entire year. And that is a very big feat. I cannot compliment this movie enough on what it did. It defied my expectations and actually surpassed them exceptionally. Everything about it is excellently done from the directing, to the writing and acting is just wonderful. I implore you to go see it.
Monday, September 3, 2012
The new short story I wrote for http://terribleminds.com/.
What exactly did Star Trek mean when it said space is the final frontier? Since space is a seemingly endless vacuum there isn’t a clear goal to be had besides to see more of the endless mostly empty vacuum. Science had shown that every planet within reach of ours is uninhabitable so there was not a whole lot to frontier. That was 2012. That was 50 years ago. A lot can happen in 50 years.
Remember so long ago when landing on the moon was such a huge deal? Half a billion people turned on their black and white TVs and adjusted their antennas to watch Neil Armstrong be the first man to set foot on the surface of a rock that was not Earth. Now taking a trip to the moon is a high school field trip. Mars was once the unreachable red planet and almost every time we sent a probe droid it was destroyed entering the atmosphere. Now? Now Mars is a more popular vacation destination than Hawaii, or anywhere else on Earth for that matter. Jupiter? There’s a Burger King and a McDonalds orbiting it, just in case you get hungry on your way out of the Milky Way.
In 2020 a 55 year old man named Timothy Phillips announced to the world what he called “The Light-Speed Drive”. Phillips was a NASA engineer who graduated magna cum laude from MIT with PhDs in Physics and Engineering. For 30 years, most of his adult life, he spent his time alone tinkering with old parts and what most people would deem junk on his off time. He never married, had no children or immediate family and lived in a cheap rundown one bedroom apartment. He rarely spent any money on anything except more parts. When NASA’s space program was ended they had layoffs, Phillips was one of the layoffs. No one really missed him. He was a genius, but then again most people working at NASA were. Phillips was a completely different kind of genius. Very focused on finishing what he started he used his savings to perfect his invention. One day, he did just that. If you’re still confused at what it is think of it along the line as the engine in the DeLorean in Back to the Future. Only instead of traveling through time, you’re traveling through space. And instead of going 88 miles an hour you’re going much, much, much faster than the speed of light. Or, to make it even simpler, Phillips invented the Hyper-Drive.
Needless to say that wasn’t the only thing needed for space travel. Sure you now had a way to cover the distance, but we still needed a way to survive in the extreme cold or heat and land and survive on planets that are not hospitable to life, on top of all that we needed a vehicle that could survive at such speeds. Phillips solved all this. Not alone this time, instead he was given his own division at NASA. He and a huge team of scientists (scientist=geniuses) spent the next 10 years designing, testing, and perfecting all the equipment to do all those extraordinary things. Until, one day, we moved to the Moon. Seems weird right? It happened. Phillips and his team designed some sort of device that took the extremely limited source of water buried deep inside of the moon and created life. Not a complete, fertile, lush environment such as on Earth, but well enough for a few million people to live. Eventually the same thing happened with Mars. Same basic technology only tweaked. And the human race just sort of…expanded. It all happened very quickly and suddenly. One day we were completely confined to Earth, a few decades later and we were starting to expand outside of the Milky Way.
Of course there were accidents. An important machine stopped functioning for 33½ seconds on Mars one day and BAM, 475 people dead. Other times shuttles have flown into asteroid fields and in a few very, very rare occurrences have collided with comets. The excitement and importance of what was being accomplished was deemed more important than the risks and the expansion was, of course, continued. Phillips himself was, rightfully, deemed one of the most important men in history and he had schools, parks, and towns named after him and there were quite a few statues made. He won prizes upon prizes upon prizes, including the Nobel Prize for Science. His work was continued by his team after his death at the age of 70 in 2035.
Eventually more and more and more habitable planets were found. Some were even much better than Earth, although no extraterrestrial life was ever found to the disappointment of most of the world. After a while the novelty of what was happening finally wore off. It was still important yes, but people just didn’t seem to care much anymore. Few paid attention to what was happening and even fewer cared. Maybe space isn’t the Final Frontier because it was the last thing mankind ever explored, but because it is the last thing mankind will ever be able to explore. What if space is not endless? What happens when you find the end of space? How would that even work if it is even remotely possible? How far do we have to go before we realize that we do not need all the extra room? It’s the equivalent of owning a 30 room mansion when you live alone, there’s just no point in all the extra space. Of course there’s the one question no one wants to ask. The question that everyone is always thinking, but no one dares utter. What do we do now?
Sunday, August 19, 2012
My newest entry into Chuck Wendig's weekly flash fiction contest. his website here: http://terribleminds.com/
Lately I started watching the show Prison Break, which is a great show full of interesting characters and some of the greatest tension in television history. Anyway, it inspired my story for this week.
Run. Must run. Faster and faster. Ow, dammit I tripped. Come on, have to get up and run. Can’t get caught, if they catch me they’ll rip me apart. Being a prison guard wasn’t usually that dangerous. The convicts almost always went after each other instead of the guards because it was easier and, to be honest, no one really cared if a prisoner stabbed another prisoner. But tonight, tonight was different. The air had gone out. It was not long before they started getting mad. Then furious, when the guards tried to force them into their cells they attacked them. Stole their keys and were flooding through the prison, toward me. Now it was dangerous, much too dangerous for my taste. I had to get out, I gritted my teeth, took a deep breath and sped up, trying to reach the entrance before the prisoners reached me first.
Hahaha. I haven’t had this much fun in years, six years in fact. Since they locked me up in this box fun hasn’t really played a big part in my life. Oh, but now it was, so much fun to be had. I love starting mayhem and when the air went out and those guards started shoving us around I knew it was the perfect time. I stabbed one with a shank I had planned on using on some unsuspecting inmate; don’t know who, hadn’t decided that yet. Once I stabbed that guard, all hell broke loose. Roundabout 20 others jumped on the remaining guard and beat him to death, stole his keys and made their way. Me, I stayed behind for a bit. Little bit of privacy for me and my…new friend. He just whimpered and started crying, pleading for his life with this sad pathetic look in his eyes. I love it when they do that, it’s the best part. I smiled and leaned in closer, staring deep into his eyes as I slid the knife up in between his ribs and into his heart, nighty night friend. I wiped the blade clean and continued on, determined to find more prey before the fun came to an end.
I can hear them behind me and I was lost. I don’t know how I got lost, I’ve been working here four 4 ½ years and not once have I ever gotten lost, but somehow in my frenzied panic I did, indeed get lost. This is not good. I can hear the prisoners getting closer. Chanting something unintelligible, but it can’t be good. A split ahead, crap which way which way…left, I’m going left. I slipped as I made my way around the corner, catching myself as soon as I hit the ground and jumping back up. I didn’t give myself time to catch my breath, just a pause, a deep breath and then off I go. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m getting farther away from the riot so that’s good. It had to happen in A wing. That’s where all the dangerous prisoners are, mostly murderers and rapist…and a single, solitary serial killer. If it any other state he’d probably be on death row, but this state doesn’t have the death penalty so he was thrown in with the rest of the violent offenders. A madman they say, and I have to deal with him on a daily basis. I learned not to look in his eyes; it’s the most unsettling thing I’ve ever gone through. Those cold dead eyes, light blue like chips of ice that seem to stare right into the deepest part of you. Like he’s staring at your deepest darkest fears and memories and laughing at them. At the thought of him I speed up slightly, I’m getting farther from the riot, but you can never be too safe.
This one tried to fight back, oh how cute. Probably doesn’t feel like fighting back much now, what with the missing fingers and all, cutting off fingers with a prison shank is not an easy thing to do, but I pride myself on my resilience…plus most anything can be accomplished with the right amount of force. He was much younger than the other ones, mid-late twenties I’d say, and I had a knack for this sort of thing. Actually, I have a knack for most things, waste of talent is what my psychiatrist said. Didn’t really say anything after that, mostly just gurgles. Not very strong psychiatrists. This prison guard on the other hand, pretty strong, probably worked out every day. Well, not anymore, I don’t think I’ll kill him, just leave him here, missing fingers and toes. Good luck oh brave one. Quick tip though, next time a 6’2” 200 pound delusional schizophrenic comes at you with a knife with blood soaking his clothes, just lay down.
I made oh thank God I made it. There’s the door, I finally made it, I never thought I’d be so happy to see an exit sign in my life. I must have made a right turn somewhere because here was freedom right in front of me. I stumble out the door and am met with the sight of several guns pointed at me. I need to find a new line of work.
Oh damn I can hear the cops outside. Well, guess the fun has come to an end. I see an unsuspecting inmate in front of me, I slam his head into the wall and drag him into a deserted bathroom. I strip myself down and wash all signs of blood off of me. After readying myself I punch the mirror and take a piece of glass and give myself a few cuts. Then I slam my body into the wall a few times for some bruises, after checking myself for blood again I put on the unconscious man’s clothes and get him into my blood soaked ones. I smile and make my way back to my cell. I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.