The Movies You Absolutely HAVE To Go Into Spoiler-free (Cross Talk Ep. 28)

There are so many ways in which movies can be spoiled for us in this day in age – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Reddit, and on, and on, and on… Not to mention humans. Humans still are incredibly good at ruining the best of cinema within a matter of sentences. It doesn’t matter if you are watching The Walking Dead or just saw Thor: Ragnarok, it’s a minefield out there creative cuties.

Some people think that etiquette for spoilers lasts within the first hours of a release, others think it is primarily subject to the timeline of digital download and home release, while others come up with deadlines of years and even more arbitrary considerations like when a franchise final closes up.

The truth is, there is no right or wrong here, but Shirley you cannot think that spoiling a movie for someone is going to work out and not expect some hurt feelings and consequences?

And dammit I will call you Shirley if you spoil The Last Jedi for me!

Threads and forums usually make it easy, the subject line will usually exclaim – SPOILERS AHEAD. And still others have rules about what can be said within hallowed digital halls. The challenge really comes from social media, because we can’t draw a policy down for an individual.

People are going to post and share whatever they feel like, as long as it isn’t immoral and illegal, that is.

But with any luck, your humble hosts on Cross Talk are going to give some examples of films that should never be spoiled, films that often are spoiled to this day, and the major repercussions of doing that to your brethren. Hint: it’s nothing good. Because the thing is, dear readers, there are schedules out there, and you can rest assured in the knowledge that you are beholden to the same social etiquette as others are.

If you spoil something, be prepared to have the same happen to you in kind. And I do not write this with malice in my heart, in fact, I wouldn’t wish a spoiler upon my worst enemy. Some movies deserve to be spoiler-free. And yes, I know I’ve mentioned that twice now…

You should just watch the video and see what I mean for yourself. Caution though, there aren’t any spoilers ahead!

All said-and-done, that was episode twenty-eight of Cross Talk! I can now admit that we will probably never be rid of spoilers on the internet. But thankfully, with some consideration, and an evolution of social intelligence, there will become a proper statue of limitations on information sharing – when it comes to pop culture, that is.

And the fact remains, while I haven’t explicitly pointed it out above, film criticism really is a dish best served as a dessert after a meal. You can’t expect to eat your dessert first, now can you? A teenager might defy the odds and have pumpkin pie for dinner, but we all know that they either come around or face dietary issues as they age. And that’s just dark.

Now we want to know what you think! And if you liked this video, please share, comment, and subscribe! I’m out of theories for the day, but this has been Cross Talk and timotheories will be back tomorrow with something melodic.

Tim!

Turn It Down Already! (The Essence of Listening Skills)

I’ve struggled to accept this fact for almost the whole of my life, but for the most part, we are bad listeners. Communication problems are often at the heart of the issues most of us deal with – at the office, in the car with the kids, over dinner with our spouse, and pretty much everywhere we go.

Listening skills should NOT be a latent talent that only a few of us possess, something that is mocked or worse, both of those things. We need beacons of light to demonstrate the awesome prowess of listening, and I know examples exist – I’m looking at you Steven Universe, and your genius creators for one!

Why You Are A Bad Listener

I’m not going to pretend to know what makes people into bad listeners, but I can tell you that there are behaviours out there, which I am just as guilty of as the next person, that contribute to bad listening, and even moreso, bad communication. I’ve gone over the basics of communication already, and I’ve even dedicated some efforts to addressing the ever-so-subtle interpersonal communication, but stopping behaviours can be just as important as starting up new ones, dear readers.

Have you considered that you think of yourself too much, for starters? We all do it, we think of how information is going to impact us, but when you only focus on your own challenges, it just won’t jive in good listening. On top of that, your mind can wander from one topic to the next if you don’t concentrate, and when you do focus on what’s being said, you risk getting caught up in the topic, and completely missing the point at hand. Also, being distracted by other things can make it worse – deadlines, illness, problems in other life arenas all vie for your attention. You need to do yourself a favour and put a pint in it until the chat is over.

And we haven’t even considered how nurture, in the eternal struggle between nature, screwed the pooch on your listening training growing up. What, you say? There was training on listening skills? Well not exactly, etiquette isn’t a universal truth shared with all students.

Of course if someone decides to start cutting you down, you might get defensive, and that’s when you fail to hear what has been shared. On the opposite side of the equation are the helpers who assess a problem, and attempt to fix, without an invitation. And so Mr. Fix-it stops properly listening.

The Types of Listening Skills

Now that you’ve gotten a good dose of where we fail to listen, I think it might be a good time to address what kinds of listening you will need to apply to improve your social standing.

Critical – this for is when you need to evaluate information and either formulate a solution, an opinion or make a decision.

Appreciative – listening for the sake of personal growth and enjoyment. Movies, music and theatre all come to mind.

Discriminative – you need to determinate a dialect, members in a group, if a conversation is amicable or turning violent and a host of other nonverbal cues related to someones feelings.

Relationship – listening to understand someone, whether they need to vent or not, you have to show your support by retaining the details and feeling what they feel.

Comprehensive – focus on the speaker and the message they are sharing, in order to take direction and then apply it to your own role.

How To Become An Artful Listener

Ultimately, if you want to become an excellent listener you are going to have to learn how to be present. This is not a metaphor for becoming a present, but it is a gift nonetheless.

Forbes wrote a great article on the 10 key steps to skillful listening, and the brilliant thing about this post is that while you may need to practice one or all of these steps to get better, you can totally fake it till you make it, because so many of us are terrible at listening already.

But what are the steps you ask?

  1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact
  2. Be attentive, but relaxed
  3. Keep an open mind
  4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying
  5. Don’t interrupt and don’t impose your “solutions”
  6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions
  7. Ask questions only to ensure understanding
  8. Try to fell what the speaker is feeling
  9. Give the speaker regular feedback
  10. Pay attention to what isn’t said – to nonverbal cues

You’ll notice that these steps all relate to the previous symptoms of bad listening AND simultaneously recognize the 5 types of listening skills we need to employ. On top of that, the author suggests that at the end of your conversation, to summarize any actionables and agreements that were made.

It might not feel comfortable at first, but over time it will become second nature to you. And lastly, while I didn’t spell it out above,you need to create a receptive environment for listening – turn off all the digital distractions and refrain from bad habits like yawning, frowning or fidgeting.

theories Summarized

Silence might be golden, but it is not guarantee of authenticity. Fool’s gold can look just as valuable to the untrained eye. The skilled person takes on listening as an active skill which will always need to exercised to maintain your health and wealth. It shouldn’t be a mere theory that there is gold in them hills, let’s get out there and level the playing field folks!

And that’s all the wisdom I’ll dole out today.

Tim!

Dear Diary, Jackpot (Logan Lucky review)

Sometimes greatness is thrust upon us, whether we are willing to accept it or not. I often think of this adage when I watch an exceptionally brilliant piece of cinema, one that takes its time to prove itself. This weeks movie review is an excellent example of a great movie hidden within the context of its time.

When everyone is complaining about entrenched politics, Steven Soderbergh has proven that judging a book by its cover can be fatal.

 

Logan Lucky (2017)

Cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Farrah Mackenzie, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane
Director: Steven Soderbergh
re-released on blu-ray November 28, 2017
********* 9/10

IMDB: 7.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Audience Score 76%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Steven Soderbergh is an American director, producer, and screenwriter. His debut film, Sex, Lies, and Videotape garnered huge attention for him in 1989, and ever since then, he has gone to great success with titles like Erin Brockovich, Traffic, the Ocean’s Eleven remakes, Side Effects, and Magic Mike. Soderbergh has also produced and been  involved in a host of other commercial and critically successful movies.

Logan Lucky marks a return to directing for him after a four year hiatus, and I think with this gem, he has proven that he still has a good handle on filmmaking. It’s actually quite a brilliant story.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a blue collar laborer whose once promising football career was ruined by an injury, is laid off from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. While visiting his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) to pick up their daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) for a beauty pageant, he learns that Bobbie and her new husband intend to move to Lynchburg, making it even harder for him to visit.

Angry, Jimmy goes to a bar run by his brother Clyde (Adam Driver), an Iraq War veteran who, on account of losing part of his left arm, wears a prosthetic hand. Max Chilblain (Seth MacFarlane), a pretentious British businessman & NASCAR team owner, and his friends arrive and insult Clyde before getting in a fight with Jimmy. Meanwhile, Clyde sets fire to their car with a molotov cocktail. On his way out, Jimmy yells “cauliflower”, which Clyde recognizes as an old code word from when they used to commit crimes as young boys. Next day, Jimmy explains his plan to rob the Speedway, exploiting his knowledge of their pneumatic tube system for moving money.

Clyde agrees to the plan, and he and Jimmy recruit Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), a convicted safecracker, as well as Joe’s dimwitted brothers Sam and Fish (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid), and their own sister Mellie (Riley Keough). They plan to break Joe out of prison and return him as soon as the heist is complete before anyone notices. Clyde gets sent to prison on a minor charge. Mellie, Sam, and Fish infest the Speedway’s main vault with cockroaches, forcing it to be cleaned and allowing them to measure it. While gathering supplies, Jimmy meets former schoolmate Sylvia (Katherine Waterston), who runs a mobile clinic in desperate need of donations; Sylvia provides Jimmy with a tetanus shot and the two strike up a conversation. Later, Jimmy learns that construction at the speedway is being finished ahead of schedule, forcing them to commit the heist earlier, during the much busier Coca-Cola 600 race on Memorial Day weekend.

Joe and Clyde arrange for the prison’s inmates to stage a riot, the lockdown hiding their absence. They escape through the infirmary and exit the prison by hiding under a delivery truck. Mellie meets them with Bobbie’s husband’s stolen sports car, and drives them to the Speedway. Meanwhile, Sam and Fish destroy the main generator with an explosive, forcing all vendors to switch to cash. Joe improvises an explosive from bleach, gummy bears, and a dietary salt substitute to detonate the main pneumatic pipe, and the crew begins vacuuming the money. The staff notice smoke coming out of the tubes, and security guards are dispatched to investigate, but a diversion set up by Jimmy and one of Clyde’s bar patrons prevents them from discovering the heist. Complications arise when Clyde loses his prosthetic hand during the vacuuming, and he and Joe are spotted by Chilblain and his sponsored NASCAR driver Dayton White (Sebastian Stan) while making their way back to prison. Nevertheless, the job is a success, and Jimmy makes it to his daughter’s pageant just as she performs a rendition of his favorite song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Jimmy abandons the money and anonymously alerts the police so they can retrieve it.

FBI agent Sarah Grayson (Hilary Swank) investigates the heist but – due to the unwillingness of the prison authorities to disclose the extent of the riot, the refuting of Chilblain’s eyewitness account by White (disgruntled as he crashed during the Coca-Cola 600 due to his drinking some of Chilblain’s energy drink as part of the sponsorship deal), and the Speedway administration’s satisfaction with their insurance settlement – the case is closed after six months. Joe is released and returns to his old home where, prompted by a red shovel, he finds part of the money buried by a tree in his yard. During the heist, Jimmy purposely separated several bags from the rest of the loot and sent them to the local dump with the regular trash. The rest he returned to throw off any potential investigations. Jimmy also retrieved Clyde’s prosthetic hand from the vacuum machine. Now working as a Lowe’s salesman and with a house he bought next to his daughter’s, Jimmy happily reunites with his family at Clyde’s bar, where they and the rest of the gang share drinks. Sylvia also arrives and shares a kiss with Jimmy. Clyde doesn’t recognize one of the patrons, who turns out to be Grayson.

What is absolutely brilliant about this movie was revealed to me upon my second viewing of this film with my parents.

They are avid movie watchers, and my dad has probably seen more movies in his lifetime then I have albeit spread out over years of casual watching. So when they both told me that this movie surprised them because they weren’t expecting it to be entertaining, it confirmed a theory I have about a bias many people have – Just because a movie has a slow start, with seemingly boring and simplistic characters, does not mean that it will be a “bad movie.” In fact, the cast of this film demonstrated perfectly how a caper flick should work. If you are watching the flick with the expectation you know what is happening, but are inevitably surprised at how the protagonists pulled off the job, and then movie explains it smartly, you as an audience get to share in the accomplishment. In that case it’s been executed properly. Period.

Pros: It’s a stylish movie, but not for obvious associations of style – these are salt of the earth southern Americans, who have dry humour, and a subtle confidence in their own identities. And consequently the stakes are never raised to distract, because it’s not how these people carry themselves. We get to identify with the principal leads because they act like how we might act at any given moment.

Cons: When the dust clears and all of the mad-cap moments have been revealed, I have to wonder if there were too many one shot characters helping orchestrate the heist behind the scenes. That reminded me too much of Oceans 11 and took me out of it.

Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes

Points of Interest: This is the first film Soderbergh has directed since his announcement to retire from film. The movie ends on a seemingly ambiguous note, but stops on Clyde’s prosthetic hand, indicating the Logan Curse might not have been lifted, after all.

theories Summarized

There is a newscast scene towards the film which dubs the robbers as Ocean’s 7-Eleven. I thought this was a fitting description of the film for people who haven’t seen it yet, and clever bit of self-depreciation on Soderbergh’s part. But that doesn’t mean this movie should be dismissed as just a riff on what has come before. It stands all on it’s own, and has heart, much like the anthemic Take Me Home, Country Roads, which dovetails the story nicely.

Ultimately, I think that what really matters about this film is that it does what it promises intelligently, without putting on airs. And maybe I’m seeing more there then the average filmgoer, but you can tell me if my theory pans out.

Oh and that reminds me! Speaking of tolerance, heart, and disarming movies… Chris and I totally have a recommendation for a great movie to watch with the whole family, one that’ll put a hop in your step. Pun intended.

Tim!

Fly Like An Eagle (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Who Built the Moon review)

If you love something, you should let it go, and if it returns it was meant to be.

A fitting line for this new album by the infamous Noel Gallagher, and his High Flying Birds, and consequently my return to the high-paced world of popular culture and social media. What have I been up to, you ask?Well dear readers, it wouldn’t be right to derail this album review with tales of my personal life, thusly we’ll just have to save that for a later post this week, perhaps something in the realm of a Timely Thursday?

 

 

 

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built the Moon?

released November 24, 2017
******* 7/10

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (NGHFB) are an English alt rock band comprised of… surprise, surprise, Noel Gallagher, and… a bunch of other people. It’s actually kind of confusing to list off the members of NGHFB. After reading the liner notes of this album and then looking into the history of the group, it seems the dominant figures of the recording sessions were Noel Gallagher on vocals and guitar, Jason Falkner on bass, Jeremy Stacey on drums, and Keefus Cianda on keyboards.

But it turns out that NGHFB is mostly about Noel Gallagher and a response to the breakup of legendary britpop supergroup Oasis. So while Who Built The Moon is the fourth studio album for Noel and his birds, if we are being perfectly honest with ourselves, then it’s mostly a Noel show, featuring guests.

Like Jesus!

And Santa! 

Just kidding folks. But that Christmas pun was so perfectly placed, I couldn’t help myself.

Much like the timing of this album release and brother Liam’s As You Were – I can’t believe it was just over a month ago. Though it remains to be seen which record is better (Liam has gone to number one on the UK charts), I’m putting my money on Noel, as he has taken his sound further and built off of the success of Oasis post- (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Who Built The Moon is a test to see if we can remember how great the 90s were for pop music, and remarkably it gets a passing grade.

Fort Knox, Holy Mountain and Black & White Sunshine all call back to rock bands of history like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Of course, Noel has always been quite capable of channeling these voices, and while the group Metric once asked the eternal question of who was cooler, Noel has proven, it’s your decision on who you want to be.

This biting cynicism shows up in various places, Be Careful What You Wish For comes to mind, but we also get postive vibes on Keep On Reaching and The Man Who Built the Moon, the eponymous answer to the album’s question. Spoiler alert, it’s not what you think!

Pros: I cannot get over how much It’s A Beautiful World reminds me of a fleeting moment, albeit an anger-fueled one. And Dead in the Water will make an auditorium of 30-something males cry.

Cons: There are moments when it all feels like a spin cycle of rhyme; She Taught Me How To Fly embraces this wholeheartedly. And while some reviewers can’t seem to get enough of the instrumental tracks about Wednesday, I found them to be mostly fill.

Runtime: 48 minutes

Points of Interest: I found it really interesting that the standout track of the album, the acoustic number Dead in the Water, was a bonus track. A seeming after thought, but the intimacy of it and raw power is a delight to hear after the experimentations of earlier songs. The album really showcases how far this Gallagher has come from the good ol’ days of Oasis and Blur battles, and the heartbreaking never-ending story of Gallagher VS Gallagher. And bonus points to Noel for recruiting David Holmes as a producer on this record.

If the 90s are finally making a comeback, it only makes sense that britpop gets a taste of the limelight, and so we shall fly on the wings of these eagles. Hopefully no one gets burnt when we coast past the sun.

theories Summarized

We probably won’t see an Oasis reunion in the near future, but it is nice to see that both Gallagher brothers are churning out thoughtful albums, I only wonder if it’s all been a blur and we’ve already gotten the best we can from chaps like Noel. One of many theories.

Tim!

Peek A Boo, I See You (Ghost In The Shell (1995) review)

Deus ex machina are supposed to reveal truths of the world, not leave it covered in darkness. Which is why this film is rather prophetic, and should probably be in the queue for monthly consumption, at a minimum.

 

Ghost In The Shell (1995)

Cast: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, Koichi Yamadera, Yutaka Nakano, Tamio Oki, Tessho Genda
Director: Mamoru Oshii
re-released on blu-ray Sep 23, 2014
********* 9/10

IMDB: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Audience Score 89%
The Guardian: ****/*****

Mamoru Oshii is a Japanese director and screenwriter. He has directed a ton of anime films and television shows, including Urusei Yatsura, Red Spectacles, Ghost in the Shell, Avalon, and Patlabor 2: The Movie. His directorial style has often been detailed in how different it is to most films made in the United States, with visuals being the most important element to him, followed by story, and then characterizations.

The Wachowskis and James Cameron have been in awe of his work for decades, especially with Ghost in the Shell, so I thought it fitting to time my review of the original film with the release of the live-action remake. Because, well, it’s even more relevant today than it was 20+ years ago.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 2029, with the advance of cybernetic technology, the human body can be “augmented” or even completely replaced with cybernetic parts. Another significant achievement is the cyberbrain, a mechanical casing for the human brain that allows access to the Internet and other networks. An often-mentioned term is “ghost”, referring to the consciousness inhabiting the body (the “shell”).

Major Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka) is an assault-team leader for the Public Security Section 9 of “New Port City” in Japan. Following a request from Nakamura (Tessho Genda), chief of Section 6, she successfully assassinates a diplomat of a foreign country to prevent a programmer named Daita (Mitsuru Miyamoto) from defecting.

The Foreign Minister’s interpreter is ghost-hacked, presumably to assassinate VIPs in an upcoming meeting. Believing the perpetrator is the mysterious Puppet Master (Iemasa Kayumi), Kusanagi’s team follows the traced telephone calls that sent the virus. After a chase, they capture a garbage man and a thug. However, both are only ghost-hacked individuals with no clue about the Puppet Master. The investigation again comes to a dead end.

Megatech Body, a “shell” manufacturer with suspected close ties to the government, is hacked and assembles a cybernetic body. The body escapes but is hit by a truck. As Section 9 examines the body, they find a human “ghost” inside its computer brain. Unexpectedly, Nakamura arrives to reclaim the body. He claims that the “ghost” inside the brain is the Puppet Master himself, lured into the body by Section 6. The body reactivates itself, claims to be a sentient being and requests political asylum. After the Puppet Master initiates a brief argument about what constitutes a human, a camouflaged agent accompanying Nakamura starts a diversion and gets away with the body.

Having suspected foul play, Kusanagi’s team is prepared and immediately pursues the agent. Meanwhile, Section 9 researches “Project 2501,” mentioned earlier by the Puppet Master, and finds a connection with Daita, whom Section 6 tries to keep from defecting the country. Facing the discovered information, Daisuke Aramaki (Tamio Oki), chief of Section 9, concludes that Section 6 created the Puppet Master itself for various political purposes. This is why Section 6 is desperately trying to reclaim the body.

Kusanagi follows the car carrying the body to an abandoned building. It is protected by a large walking tank. Anxious to face the Puppet Master’s ghost, Kusanagi engages the tank without backup and is nearly killed. Her partner Batou (Akio Otsuka) arrives in time to save her, and helps connect her brain to the Puppet Master’s.

The Puppet Master explains to Kusanagi that he was created by Section 6. While wandering various networks, he became sentient and began to contemplate his existence. Deciding the essence of humanity is reproduction and mortality, he wants to exist within a physical brain that will eventually die. As he could not escape section 6’s network, he had to download himself into a cybernetic body. Having interacted with Kusanagi (without her knowledge), he believes she is also questioning her humanity, and they have a lot in common. He proposed merging their ghosts, in return, Kusanagi would gain all of his capabilities. Kusanagi agrees to the merge.

Snipers from Section 6 approach the building, intending to destroy the Puppet Master’s and Kusanagi’s brains to cover up Project 2501. The Puppet Master’s shell is destroyed, but Batou shields Kusanagi’s head in time to save her brain. As Section 9 closes in on the site, the snipers retreat.

“Kusanagi” wakes up in a new cyborg child body in Batou’s safehouse. She tells Batou that the entity within her body is neither Kusanagi nor the Puppet Master, but a combination of both. She promises Batou they will meet again, leaves the house and wonders where to go next.

For me, it’s tough not to watch this movie and be reminded of The Matrix. I had the unfortunate experience of watching that movie a great many years before this classic, and the repeated viewings of The Matrix trilogy over the years haven’t helped either. And so, the story is a familiar one, exploring self-identity as we relate to machines in a time when humans and machines have become interchangeable. God praise the internet, amirite? And the timeline is not that far away either, in both the film and reality.

Consciousness, humanity, autonomy, empathy, and mortality are all explored in a relatively short hour and twenty-some minutes. In a time when international corporations have basically done away with national identity too.The ghost in the shell is literally a play on the wandering consciousness that inhabits the meaty husk, and it wants to know if we hear it’s voice.

Pros: Visually compelling and with a message which has allowed it to age far better then films like Blade Runner or Total Recall, Ghost in the Shell is violent, emotional, and poetic to experience.

Cons: The individual characters are difficult to warm up to, but it might just be all of the robot parts they have imbedded.

Runtime: 1 hour 23 minutes

Points of Interest: Motoko’s eye are intentionally animated to not blink very often, giving her a feel of a doll, rather then a human. The title of the manga which inspired the film is written as an homage to the Arthur Koestler work, The Ghost in the Machine.

theories Summarized

So is the 2017 film better than the 1995 one? I’d like to think not, and not for the obvious whitewashing allusions that have been to popular on the internet over the past year or so. In fact, Mamoru Oshii has gone on record to state that the Major may or may not be Japanese, but regardless of her current appearance, her name and body have changed numerous times, and so it is in fact acceptable to have Scarlett Johansson in that role.

But I think the problem is that the anime far better depicts the story at hand, and that the visuals are far more compelling with their mix of traditional drawing and CGI. The Matrix will never be the same for me. And that’s no theory.

And speaking of things that The Matrix tried to wreak… Andre and I have a new Watch Culture video up for your viewing pleasure. Please tell us if you agree that Equilibrium is worth a watch, and if not, your comments are appreciated.

Tim!