Cultural diet

List of media consumed by Stephen F.

movie still - The Tree of Life, 2011 dramaThe lists of personal media consumption seen here were previously included on the Queue page (short for Entertainment queue). Upon reading an article about Steven Soderburgh’s work on the 2011 pandemic thriller Contagion, I decided to borrow the name Soderbergh used to collectively refer to the media he consumed: Cultural diet. I like that. [more on Soderbergh’s cultural diet]
Page contents
movie still - The Tree of Life, 2011 drama
Big screen: Movies
Small screen: Shows on TV, cable
Anime
Books
Magazines
eBooks
PDF essays

Update: Don Cheadle rocks
I went on a Don Cheadle kick recently; he’s one of my favorite actors these days. Don Cheadle’s acting is so… well, believable; he seems quite down-to-earth. This kick began when I watched Traitor (2008); Cheadle’s performance was incredible, and I found the film riveting. Shortly thereafter I watched a few other Don Cheadle performances:

Movies seen during 2011

The titles of my top movie recommendations are in bold type; generally speaking, these are the films that I have rated at 7/10 or above.

Crash, 2004 drama and star-studded film
Verdict: 85/100… Supremely moving film highlighting racism in modern U.S. life, set in Los Angeles
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 80)

Changeling, 2008 drama with Angelina Jolie
Verdict: 80/100… Inspiring film based on a true story; underscores discrimination against women and police corruption in 1920s Los Angeles; directed by Clint Eastwood – need I say more?! It seemed unusual to see John Malkovich playing the role of a high-moraled good guy and Angelina Jolie in a non-sexualized role; excellent film
Plot summary: A grief-stricken mother takes on the LAPD to her own detriment when it stubbornly tries to pass off an obvious impostor as her missing child, while also refusing to give up hope that she will find him one day.
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 79)

The Ides of March, 2011 political drama (Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood)
Verdict: 70/100… A look at modern politics from the perspective of the campaign staffers; at first, I didn’t even recognize Wood, despite my longtime crush on the cutie.
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 75)

Interpreter, The, 2005 political thriller (Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn)
Verdict: 65/100

A-Team, The, 2011 action flick (Liam Neeson)
Verdict: 60/100… Standard big Hollywood action fare, meaning it was enjoyable and full of great stunts and gunfights

Fair Game, 2010 political thriller (Valerie Plame, Sean Penn)
Verdict: 70/100… Exposes a dark side of big government; virtually without fail, the appearance of Sean Penn in a film is a reliable quality indicator

The Town, 2010 crime thriller with Ben Affleck
Verdict: 80/100… Another great bank-heist movie causing us to root for a criminal! Directed by Ben Affleck
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 76)

Blitz, 2011 U.K. crime thriller with Jason Statham
Verdict: 68/100… Quite a good crime thriller; authority-hating miscreant goes on a cop-killing spree, and tough cop played by Jason Statham is in pursuit with the assistance of Paddy Considine’s cop character; Paddy Considine is definitely a favorite amongst many talented U.K. actors
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 61)

Your Highness, 2011 medieval quest comedy (Danny McBride)
Verdict: 50/100… Another medieval quest comedy, another Danny McBride comedy; the high point is probably the inclusion of the ravishing Natalie Portman
Resources: IMDb

The Debt, 2010 espionage thriller
Verdict: 75/100… Great film; Israeli spies capture an infamous Nazi doctor and things don’t go as planned; stars Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Marton Csokas, Sam Worthington (this fellow materialized out of nowhere to be one of the biggest movie stars of the last two years; if you don’t recognize his name, you will his face: think Terminator Salvation, Avatar, Clash of the Titans – coming up in Avatar 2)
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 70)

I Love You, Man, 2009 comedy (Paul Rudd)
Verdict: 70/100… One of the better recent comedies, IMHO; less crude and more moving than most modern comedies – centers on the theme of guy friendship; Paul Rudd is definitely becoming a favorite comedy actor
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 72)

Unthinkable, 2010 terrorism thriller (Samuel Jackson, Carrie-Anne Moss)
Verdict: 65/100… Unthinkable actions, indeed; what should we be willing to do to wrench information from the lips of terrorists in custody? Wow.

Unknown, 2011 action mystery (Liam Neeson)
Verdict: 75/100… Fans of Taken will take to this flick; a decade ago, I never would have pegged Liam Neeson as an action film star, but he certainly has become one of late

The Rum Diary, 2011 biographical drama (Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson)
Verdict: 68/100… Depp is great as usual; one scene really cracked me up; when Depp was sitting in his friend’s lap out of necessity to drive a broken car, I laughed hard – must see to get it
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 67), Wikipedia

Planet 51, 2009 animated comedy
Verdict: 55/100… Another good animated comedy; not as outstanding as Despicable Me or Coraline, but good enough for both youngsters and adults to enjoy

Despicable Me, 2010 animated comedy
Verdict: 82/100… One of the best animated films I’ve seen yet
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 75)

Coraline, 2009 animated fantasy film
Verdict: 85/100… Incredible, creepy, funny; an outstanding display of creativity
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 78)

Centurion, 2010 action adventure
Verdict: 80/100… Excellent; loved this one – fans of Braveheart, Gladiator will appreciate this film

Brooklyn’s Finest, 2009 crime drama
Verdict: 70/100… A very good dirty cop flick

Date Night, 2010 comedy (Steve Carrell, Tina Fey)
Verdict: Average

Cedar Rapids, 2011 comedy (Ed Helms as naive dork)
Verdict: 55/100, average comedy; Fans of Ed Helms will probably enjoy it

The Guard, 2011 U.K. comedy
Verdict: 60/100

My Idiot Brother, 2011 comedy (Paul Rudd)
Verdict: 70/100… I particularly enjoyed the message of this comedy

30 Minutes or Less, 2011 comedy (Jesse Eisenberg)
Verdict: 65/100… Like the aforementioned Sam Worthington, Jesse Eisenberg’s acting career has absolutely skyrocketed the last few years; it seems Jesse is a newer version of young-faced comedy favorite Michael Cera

Red Hill, 2010 Australian crime thriller
Verdict: 55/100

Boondock Saints, 1999 crime/action
Verdict: 75/100

Real Steel, 2011 action (Hugh Jackman as ex-boxer)
Verdict: 65/100
IMDb (Rating: 76)

Salt, 2010 action (Angelina Jolie as double agent)
Verdict: 65/100… Action-packed, interesting, but also defies physics/reality a bit too much – some of her stunts would not have been successful, to say the least. Then again, most movies (apart from dramas) fail miserably in the reality check department. For this reason, I usually do not consider it a negative. Basically, Salt was fairly standard Hollywood action fare.
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 65)

Red, 2010 action (Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, many other stars as ex CIA agents)
Verdict: 80/100… I loved this action-packed flick; a higher-caliber big Hollywood action movie

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, 2010 action-adventure
Verdict: 68/100… Enjoyed it thoroughly; though some don’t care for Jake Gyllenhaal, I think he’s at least as good as most… plenty of bad-ass fighting, physical stunts
Resources: IMDb

Drive, 2011 crime drama (Ryan Gosling)
Verdict: 90/100… This film seems from another era; this is a must-see! Ryan Gosling is a very quiet but interesting fellow; he’s a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver who gets tangled up in a botched robbery and falls for his cute, short-haired blond neighbor
Resources: IMDb

Drive Angry, 2011 action fantasy (Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard)
Verdict: 45/100… Avg. overall, but with exciting, over-the-top gunfights a la Machete; blond bombshell Amber Heard’s eye-popping good looks add at least some appeal to this film!

Extract, 2009 comedy (Jason Bateman)
Verdict: 60/100… I enjoyed this somewhat average comedy

Horrible Bosses, 2011 comedy (Jason Bateman)
Verdict: 50/100

In Time, 2011 sci-fi
Verdict: 55/100… Avg. overall; it was interesting and even different or unique in some ways, but also full of plot holes; I like Justin Timberlake as actor more than vocalist

Altitude, 2010 sci-fi horror
Verdict: 40/100… Below avg.; the stunning beauty of blue-eyed brunette brunette Jessica Lowndes made this movie more watchable
Resources: IMDb

TRON Legacy, 2010 sci-fi (J. Bridges)
Verdict: 55/100

Iron Man 2, superhero action/sci-fi
Verdict: 65/100

Attack the Block, U.K. horror comedy
Verdict: 45/100

Infestation, 2009 horror comedy
Verdict: 40/100… The horror comedy is one of the worst sub-genres in modern film, IMHO; Severance (2006, U.K.) was among the better

Office Outbreak, 2006 U.K. horror comedy
Verdict: 45/100

Creep, 2004 German/U.K. horror film with Franka Potente
Verdict: 55/100… An urban version of The Descent, starring the girl I’ll always associate with The Bourne Identity; The Tunnel Movie (2011, Australia) is also similar but more frightening
Resources: IMDb (Rating: 55)

Killer Elite, 2011 crime thriller action (J. Statham)
Verdict: 65/100… Packed with action, guns, stunts – a good ride

Transsiberian, 2008 crime/ adventure
Verdict: 72/100… An American couple’s truly harrowing and realistic misadventures while traveling by train in Russia

The Wackness, 2008 drama comedy
Verdict: 72/100… Excellent; a funny, moving film I’ll watch again; it’s not for everyone, what with its large doses of casual drug use
IMDb (Rating: 70)

The Thing, 2011 sci-fi horror remake
Verdict: 70/100… Excellent effects
At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson. While Dr. Halvorson keeps to his research, Kate partners with Sam Carter, a helicopter pilot, to pursue the alien life form.
IMDb (Rating: 67)

Margin Call, 2011 financial thriller

Verdict: 5/10; Lost potential despite impressive star power; goes nowhere.

The Visitor, 2007 drama crime film

Directed by Thomas McCarthy
Verdict: 85/100… A low-key yet wonderful film; proof positive of the acting chops of Richard Jenkins (whom I’ve usually considered a character actor)
Plot summary: A college professor travels to New York City to attend a conference and finds a young couple living in his apartment. (Talk about low key! Give this one a chance despite this pedestrian-sounding plot.)
More about The Visitor
The Visitor is a 2007 American drama film written and directed by Thomas McCarthy and produced by Michael London and Mary Jane Skalski. Executive producers were Jeff Skoll and Omar Amanat. The screenplay focuses on a lonely man in late middle age whose life changes when he is forced to face issues relating to identity, immigration, and cross-cultural communication in post-9/11 New York City.
For The Visitor, McCarthy won the 2008 Independent Spirit Award for Best Director,[3] while Richard Jenkins[4] was nominated for Best Actor in the 2009 Academy Awards.
Resources: The Visitor
IMDb (Rating: 78), Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic (Metascore: 79)
Movie reviews

The Tree of Life (2011 American experimental drama)

Directed by Terrence Malick (IMDb)movie still - The Tree of Life, 2011 drama Verdict: A beautiful, artistic film, The Tree of Life is an absolute visual feast which should be seen by all those who appreciate the more subjective, creative, artistic aspects of film-making. Photographers, for example, should definitely add The Tree of Life to their own cultural diet list. However, because of the experimental, impressionistic nature of this movie, I cannot say that it will be enjoyed by everyone.

From the very start, this film skates along the often thin line between religion and spirituality; despite this, the message of The Tree of Life isn’t a preachy one – only reflective. While there are Christian elements, I don’t think this could necessarily be called a Christian film; if it were, I couldn’t really see myself recommending it to all artsy types.

Plot summary: An impressionistic story of the O’Briens, a Texas family in the 1950s, The Tree of Life follows the inner journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.
movie still - The Tree of Life, 2011 drama
Thoughts about The Tree of Life
What at first appears to be the unique introduction to the film is maintained throughout. About one third of this film consists of prayerful comments or inner dialogue directed toward God, or Mother Nature, or to the universe – much of it from Jack’s viewpoint as a child, full of curiosity and wonder.

  • I want to know what you are.
  • Where do you live?
  • I want to see what you see.
  • Are you watching me?
  • Why should I be good if you aren’t?
  • Where were you? You let a little boy die.

Light artifacts and shadows have starring roles; science buffs will recognize shots of the Horsehead Nebula as well as two types of dinosaur, jellyfish, cellular life, and other shots depicting nature during the era between the Big Bang or creation and the present day.

Resources: The Tree of Life, 2011 creative drama

Movie reviews

The Book of Eli (2010 American post-apocalyptic action sci-fi film)

Plot summary, brief version: A post-apocalyptic tale, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind.
Detailed plot summary: In a violent post-apocalyptic society, a drifter, Eli, has been wandering westward across North America for the last thirty years. He finds solace in a unique book which he carries on his person and guards closely, whilst surviving by hunting small animals and seeking goods in destroyed houses and vehicles to trade in villages for water and supplies. When he reaches a village ruled by the powerful mobster, Carnegie, the man views Eli’s impressive fighting skills and offers Eli a place within his gang. Carnegie presses his blind lover Claudia to send her daughter, Solara, to at least convince Eli to spend the night by sleeping with him. However, Eli proves to be the better man when he gently declines her advances. The girl sees Eli’s book, and when Carnegie finds out he beats her mother until she reveals what she saw. Carnegie sends his gang into the wasteland to take the book from Eli, but the man proves to be a formidable foe as he makes it more than clear that if they want the book, they must first take his life.
About The Book of Eli (Wikipedia)
The Book of Eli is a 2010 American post-apocalyptic action film directed by the Hughes brothers, written by Gary Whitta, and starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson and Jennifer Beals.

Filming began in February 2009 and took place in New Mexico.
The film was released for theaters in January 2010. Alcon Entertainment financed and co-produced the film with Silver Pictures, while it was distributed by Warner Bros. in the US, and international sales handled by Summit Entertainment.
Resources: The Book of Eli, 2010 post-apocalyptic thriller

  • IMDb (Rating: 68), Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes (Rating: TMeter 48/Audience 68)
  • The Book of Eli: Not What People ThinkSpill.com – how the film delivers an anti-Christian, anti-religious message; an alternative to the common view of the film as having a pro-Christian theme
  • Reflecting on The Book of Eli: Exploits in Religion
  • The Book of Eli Review: Screen RantThe Book of Eli is a tough one to call – you may find yourself liking or disliking it based on your particular point of view…
  • If you’re expecting action, you’ll be disappointed to find mostly empty religious propaganda. Even if you’re on board with a little bit of Christianity in your post-apocalyptic action movie, you’re still unlikely to walk away satisfied. The Christianity presented in Book of Eli is base and dishonest, clumsy and without any of the meaning contained in the Biblical ideology which has fed the faith of people for generations. (Source: The Book of Eli Movie ReviewCinemaBlend)

Melancholia (2011 U.K. drama sci-fi)

2011 drama film MelancholiaDirected (and written) by Lars von Trier
Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide into the Earth.
About Melancholia (Wikipedia)
Melancholia is a 2011 apocalyptic drama film written and directed by Lars von Trier, starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland. The narrative revolves around two sisters during and shortly after the wedding party of one of them, while Earth is about to collide with an approaching rogue planet. The film prominently features music from Richard Wagner’s prelude to his opera Tristan und Isolde.

2011 drama film MelancholiaTrier’s initial inspiration for the film came from a depressive episode he suffered and the insight that depressives remain calm in stressful situations. The film is a Danish production by Zentropa, with international co-producers in Sweden, France, Germany and Italy. Filming took place in Sweden.

The film premiered in May 2011 at the 64th Cannes Film Festival. Kirsten Dunst received the festival’s Best Actress Award for her performance.
2011 drama film MelancholiaMelancholia Resources: IMDb (Rating: 77)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melancholia_%282011_film%29

Rotten Tomatoes (Rating: 81 TMeter, 84 Audience)

List of apocalyptic films – Wikipedia

The Reeds, 2009 U.K. horror film)

NOTE: Most of this info was moved to a new post on the Supernatural Horror blog.
Verdict: My opinion diverges from the herd; I thought The Reeds was an excellent, unique, highly creepy supernatural horror film; I give it a 65.
Plot summary of The Reeds: A weekend boating party turns into a nightmare for a group of young Londoners when they stumble upon a terrifying secret hidden in the reeds.

Castle in the Sky, 1986 anime

Verdict: Excellent (as expected of any title associated with either Hayao Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli)
Resources: Wikipedia

Kick Ass, 2010 comedy

Verdict: Good

Outlander, 2009 sci-fi action film

Verdict: OK

Paul, 2010 U.K. sci-fi comedy

Verdict: Very good; enjoyable, funny

Brokeback Mountain, 2005 western romantic drama

Verdict: Good
Directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hulk)
Summary of Brokeback Mountain: Ang Lee’s adaptation of E. Annie Proulx‘s story Brokeback Mountain; the screenplay was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. Brokeback Mountain stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger [Wikipedia] as young cowboys, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, hired to corral sheep on the title location. Their platonic relationship explodes into a physical one, but soon the two are separated when their job comes to an end. Although the two follow different life paths (one becomes a father of two and the other marries into a successful business), they have ongoing reunions. Each is affected profoundly by the rekindling of their old feelings for each other, leading both men to consider what continuing their hidden relationship would cost them.
Fun fact: In Feb. 2006, the pair of shirts from the film Brokeback Mountain sold for $101,100.51 USD on eBay. The buyer, film historian and collector Tom Gregory, called the shirts “the ruby slippers of our time,” and intends never to separate them.
Questionable: According to Wikipedia, Brokeback Mountain received positive reviews from Christianity Today. (I did not perform any due diligence on this hard-to-believe statement.)
Disgusting attempt at humor: Brokeback Mountain subsequently became the butt of jokes on Gibson’s Fox News Radio program for months after the film’s release. After Heath Ledger died from an accidental drug overdose in January 2008, Gibson was widely criticized for mocking the deceased actor hours after the news broke. At one point during the broadcast, Gibson played Jake Gyllenhaal’s line “I wish I knew how to quit you,” before telling his listeners, “Well, I guess he found out how to quit you.” Gibson defended himself by saying there was “no point in passing up a good joke,” but later apologized. (Source: Wikipedia)
Heath Ledger and depression:

At a news conference at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, Ledger spoke of his desire to make a documentary film about the British singer-songwriter Nick Drake, who died in 1974, at the age of 26, from an overdose of an antidepressant. Ledger created and acted in a music video set to Drake’s recording of the singer’s 1974 song about depression, Black Eyed Dog — a title “inspired by Winston Churchill’s descriptive term for depression” (black dog); it was shown publicly only twice, first at the Bumbershoot Festival, in Seattle, held from 1 to 3 September 2007; and secondly as part of A Place To Be: A Celebration of Nick Drake, with its screening of Their Place: Reflections On Nick Drake, a series of short filmed homages to Nick Drake (including Ledger’s), sponsored by American Cinematheque, at the Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, in Hollywood, on 5 October 2007. After Ledger’s death, his music video for Black Eyed Dog was shown on the Internet and excerpted in news clips distributed via YouTube.(Source: Wikipedia)

Bet you didn’t know this: Heath Ledger was an avid chess player, winning Western Australia’s junior chess championship at the age of 10. (Source: Wikipedia)
Resources:

Adventureland, 2009 comedy

Verdict: Good coming-of-age comedy drama; strangely nostalgic for this Kristen Stewart fan – probably because the music is from an era only a few years after my own high school experience
Plot summary of Adventureland: In 1987, James Brennan’s (Jessie Eisenberg) eagerly anticipates an upcoming summer European tour with his best friend prior to launching his college studies at a Ivy League school in New York City. As a result of his father’s poorly timed and severe career setback, James must get a summer job at the decrepit local amusement park, Adventureland, to cover his future expenses, which no longer include any adventures in Europe. In that humorously quirky workplace, James falls in love with co-worker Emily Lewin, and the young carnies have unforgettable and sometimes painful learning experiences about life, love, and trust.
Resources for Adventureland: IMDb (Rating: 71), Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes (Rating: Tmeter 89, Audience 56)

Dinner for Schmucks, 2010 comedy

Verdict: Good comedy, especially for fans of Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, and Zach Galifianakis; the intro to this movie, which examines the fruits of Barry’s odd hobby, is one of the most memorable and even endearing parts of this movie!
Plot summary of Dinner for Schmucks: Upon impressing the higher-ups with his ideas, rising executive Tim (Paul Rudd) learns that the boss (Bruce Greenwood) hosts a secret, cruel dinner for company insiders during which the idiocy of their guests is lampooned. On the same day that Tim is invited to attend the dinner and told to bring a guest, he serendipitously befriends Barry (Steve Carrell), a man who would make the perfect guest.

Where the Wild Things Are, 2009 fantasy

Verdict: Good, unique

Green Zone (2010 U.K. sci-fi, comedy)

Verdict: Good
IMDb (Rating: 70)

The American (2010 crime thriller)

Verdict: Good, but a downer
Plot summary of The American (2010)
In Dalarna, Sweden, the lonely hit man and craftsman Jack has a tragic encounter with two assassins hired to kill him and survives an ambush. Jack travels to Rome and calls his contact Pavel (Johan Leysen) that meets him in a cafeteria, gives a Fiat Tempra to him and asks Jack to travel to the countryside for a next assignment. Sooner a woman called Mathilde meets Jack and delivers the specification of a sophisticated weapon to be constructed by him. While living in the village and building the weapon, Jack befriends the local priest and has sex with the prostitute Clara. The distrustful Jack gets closer to Clara and sooner they date outside the brothel. When Jack tells Pavel that this will be his final job and he will retired after delivering the weapon, Jack is betrayed and he does not know who can be trusted. (Source: IMDb)
Resources

YellowBrickRoad (2010 horror)

NOTE: Most of this info was moved to Resources: Watchmen (2009 action/ sci-fi)
Watchmen (2009 action/ sci-fi) – IMDb, Wikipedia

Adjustment Bureau, The (2011 sci-fi romantic thriller)

Verdict: 75/100… Great
Plot summary: Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? A man glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York the only woman he’s ever loved. On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) – a woman like none he’s ever known. But just as he realizes he’s falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself – the men of The Adjustment Bureau – who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path…or risk everything to defy Fate and be with her.
Resources: The Adjustment Bureau, 2011
Adjustment Bureau, The (2011 sci-fi romantic thriller) – IMDb (Rating: 71), Wikipedia

Splice (2009 Canadian/French sci-fi film)

Verdict: 40/100… Weak
2009 sci-fi film SpliceSplice plot summary: Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are scientists of the Newstead Pharmaceutics researching the splice of DNA from different animals to form new genetic beings and find medical benefits to mankind. They have just created the hybrid Ginger and Fred and now they intend to join together human DNA to alter the genetic structure of their experiment. When the senior management calls off their experiment, they decide to secretly proceed and they generate a life form with human characteristics. They call it Dren and Elsa is very fond of their creation that grows up fast and showing intelligence. When the company shutdown their experiment, they bring Dren to Elsa’s abandoned farm and the scientists raise Dren like a daughter. But when it reaches adulthood, the sex drive of Dren (Delphine Chanéac, a French actress) is activated and Clive and Elsa learn that they have a serious problem to resolve.
Splice resources
Splice (2009 sci-fi) – Wikipedia, IMDb (Rating: 60)

Limitless (2011 sci-fi)

Verdict: 80/100… Excellent movie!
2011 sci-fi film Limitless Verdict: Limitless was a very enjoyable movie – I loved it!
NOTE: This info moved to separate post; please see Limitless: A wildly entertaining 2011 sci-fi film
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Source Code, 2011 sci-fi

Verdict: 62/100… Good flick
Plot summary of Source Code (2011): Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), a U.S. Army helicopter pilot whose last memory is flying a mission in Afghanistan, wakes up on a commuter train sitting across from Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan), a pretty brunette. He has no idea how he got there or why the girl is calling him by a someone else’s name. Soon he catches what is apparently his own reflection and figures out that he has assumed the identity of another man. Exactly eight (8) minutes later, the train explodes and Stevens finds himself in some kind of pod. He then communicates with a woman named Goodwin, who tells him he has to go back and find out who the bomber is. He is sent back to go through the whole thing again and attempts to find who the bomber is but fails. A couple of cycles later, Goodwin and Rutledge – the scientist in charge – finally let Stevens know that he’s part of a project in which he has the experience of another person’s consciousness during their last eight minutes of life. Stevens then asks why he cannot just stop the bomb. He is told that he is not going back in time but placed in the moment so he can find out who the bomber is and if there are any other targets. On the side, Stevens finds himself falling for the woman traveling with him while he is still in the other man’s consciousness.
Resources: Source Code, 2011 sci-fi film

Inception, 2010 sci-fi

Verdict: Great, but a little hard to follow
About: Inception is a 2010 science fiction action heist film written, co-produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film features an international ensemble cast starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine.
Plot summary: DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a specialized corporate spy and thief. His work consists of secretly extracting valuable commercial information from the unconscious minds of his targets while they are asleep and dreaming. Wanted for murder and unable to visit his children, Cobb is offered a chance to regain his old life as payment for a task considered to be impossible: “inception”, the planting of an idea into a target’s subconscious. (Source: Wikipedia)
Brief plot summary: In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception.

Gran Torino (2008)

Verdict: 85/100… A fantastic film! Clint Eastwood is one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history, and Gran Torino only adds to his long list of achievements.
Brief plot summary: Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbor, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski’s prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino.
Resources – Gran Torino (2008)
Gran Torino (2008), IMDb (Rating: 83)

Cypher, 2002 sci-fi film w/Jeremy Northan, Lucy Liu

Verdict: Good; unique & trippy
Director: Vincenzo Natali (Cube)
This flick was a total head trip! There was more double-crossing and secret-agenting in this movie than the proverbial stick can be shaken at. Lucy Liu was a mysterious femme fatale.

Cypher plot summary, courtesy of IMDb
Hoping for a more exciting life than the suburban drawl he currently inhabits, nerdy salary man Morgan Sullivan takes a job as an industrial spy at Digicorp, a global computer corporation. Digicorp assigns him the duty of flying to various conventions around America, recording the speeches that are made. But when Sullivan meets a mysterious woman he begins to realize that his job may not be what it seems, as he descends into a dark underworld of brainwashing and struggles to maintain his own identity.

Surrogates, 2009 sci-fi film w/Bruce Willis

Verdict: Good; a solid sci-fi action flick
I enjoyed Surrogates; the androids in this interesting action sci-fi offering bordered on creepy at times.

Thor, 2011 superhero action film

Verdict: Good
Natalie Portman, one of my favorites
Enjoyable flick, but I might not have liked it as much were it not for Natalie Portman…

Requiem for a Dream, disturbing drama

Verdict: good – but very disturbing, rather depressing; a cautionary tale about drug use

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Verdict: Great for HP fans – contained at least two scenes that could have been from horror movies: 1) girl suspended in the air, shaken, then dumped onto the ground like a broken doll 2) what was that other scene…
I enjoy certain aspects of the Harry Potter franchise, which has made its author a billionairess… the Harry Potter brand has been estimated to be worth as much as $15 billion… For the release of Goblet of Fire, 9,000 FedEx trucks were used with no other purpose than to deliver thousands upon thousands of copies of the book…)

Awake (2007 crime/mystery; Rating: 6.5)
Verdict: Decent mystery
Plot synopsis: The story focuses on a man who suffers “anesthetic awareness” and finds himself awake and aware, but paralyzed, during heart surgery. His mother must wrestle with her own demons as a drama unfolds around them, while trying to unfold the story hidden behind her son’s young wife.

World’s Greatest Dad

Verdict: Average
World’s Greatest Dad (Rating: 7.0)
Plot synopsis: Lance Clayton is a man who has learned to settle. He dreamed of being a rich and famous writer, but has only managed to make it as a high school poetry teacher. His only son Kyle is an insufferable jackass who won’t give his father the time of day. Lance is dating Claire, the school’s adorable art teacher, but she doesn’t want to get serious — or even acknowledge publicly that they are dating. Then, in the wake of a freak accident, Lance suffers the worst tragedy and greatest opportunity of his life. He is suddenly faced with the possibility of all the fame, fortune and popularity he ever dreamed of, if he can only live with the knowledge of how he got there.

Adventureland (2009) Rating: 7.1
Verdict: Good; nostalgia-inducing for me
Plot synopsis: A comedy set in the summer of 1987 and centered around a recent high school grad who takes a nowhere job at his local amusement park, only to find it’s the perfect course to get him prepared for the real world.

Crank: High Voltage (2009) Rating: 6.2
Plot synopsis: Chelios faces a Chinese mobster who has stolen his nearly indestructible heart and replaced it with a battery-powered ticker that requires regular jolts of electricity to keep working.

Zombieland (2009 zombie comedy/zomedy)

Verdict: Good for a zomedy
Zombieland (2009) Rating: 7.8
Plot synopsis: A shy student trying to reach his family in Ohio, and a gun-toting tough guy trying to find the Last Twinkie and a pair of sisters trying to get to an amusement park join forces to travel across a zombie-filled America.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)
The Descent 2 (2010)
Paranormal Activity
Paranormal Activity 2
Star Trek (sci-fi/action, 2009)
Up in the Air (drama – G. Clooney, 2009)
Shutter Island (thriller, 2010)

Anime watched in 2011

Monster, 2004 anime thriller

In short, anime doesn’t get much better than this. Users of the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) know their ratings are reliable, and Monster gets the incredible rating of 90/100 – very rare, indeed.

Monster anime – plot summary (IMDb): Dr. Kenzou Tenma, a Japanese neurosurgeon, is one of the best doctors in Germany. He’s respected by his peers, he’s engaged and has a promising future. Dr. Tenma disagrees with hospital politics and sticks to his view that all human lives are equal and that no life is more important than another. One day he decides to work according to his own view on life and not follow hospital politics and he operates a young boy in critical condition, who arrived first, over the life of a politician. After this, Dr. Tenma’s peers no longer have the same respect for him and his fiance breaks up with him. But some time later, some of Tenma’s peers are found murdered, his fiance wants to get back together with him and he’s appointed as head of the surgical department. 9 years later, the BKA is investigating a series of murders and one agent from the BKA suspects that Tenma is involved with the murders. Tenma starts to investigate after one of his patients is murdered and discovers that the murderer is someone from his past… (Source: IMDb)

The final paragraph of ANN‘s review of Monster

Given its faithfulness, fans of the manga will know that the series won’t get any better than this. That knowledge is as close as this set gets to a fault. Well, that and the licensing problems that presumably prevented Viz from using David Sylvian’s creepy original closing. Very few series can knot the gut the way Monster can, and fewer still while simultaneously knotting your brain and breaking your heart. If that doesn’t sound like your definition of a good time, look elsewhere. To everyone else: welcome to Tenma and Johan’s world. Don’t expect to be released anytime soon. (Source: Review of DVD Box Set 1 of Monster at Anime News Network/ANN)

Monster anime resources

Quick note about my film ratings (verdicts)
One might assume I am too generous in my movie reviews. Although this is true to an extent – I’m certainly no harsh critic – one should also keep in mind my criteria for watching movies in the first place. I basically ignore films that do not score an IMDb rating of at least 6 of 10. The result is that most of the movies I watch are considered to be relatively good by viewers in general. My standards for horror movies are less stringent for various reasons; horror films are addressed in a separate blog (Supernatural Horror). Even so, I believe my reviews would be improved if I were more strict. The simple truth is that I love movies; immersing myself in film is a favorite activity. Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Cultural diet

  1. Deanna

    I have to admit, I’ve been out of the US for several years and recently heard a presentation from the Media Manager at Sony Music. He kept talking about users consuming pictures and feeding them with a fire-hose to keep up with consumption. Seriously, the talk was so full of jargon, it was hard to follow.

    When did the phrase “to consume media” start being used? The meaning doesn’t seem to fit, since you don’t actually use up a film or book just because you’ve seen or read it. When I clicked on the cultural diet link, I thought I’d be reading about typical foods eaten in a particular culture. Maybe media diet would be closer to the mark :)

  2. Stephen Post author

    Your points are certainly valid. I can’t really say exactly why I like the phrase, but for whatever reason – I do!

    However, one thing is virtually certain: far fewer people will read the “Cultural Diet” page, simply because its meaning is quite unclear and not as intuitive as other terms might be.

    “Cultural diet” also implies that movies and TV shows are the equivalent of culture, when in reality they represent only a sliver of our culture.

    It might be wise to change it.

    Thanks for visiting and reading, and especially for taking the time to leave a comment!

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