Monday, March 28, 2011


Regular readers of the blog (if they’re out there) know that I’m not a fan of action movies. So, as you may imagine, I was just thrilled to sit down and watch Salt, yet another action movie about a rogue agent. But, despite its many problems (and many there were), Salt was still better than Knight and Day. So, there’s that.

Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is a CIA agent, specializing in Russian matters. A Russian defector shows up and, during Salt's interrogation of him, accuses her of being a Russian spy with the intention to murder the visiting Russian president. Rather than submit to questioning and prove herself innocent, Salt immediately runs, causing her (now former) coworkers to make chase. Salt, though eager to escape from the assailants, finds herself incredibly concerned for her husband’s safety—this concern only increases when she is unable to contact him. The entire movie consists of the chase with a few "I hope my husband's okay" moments.

Even though I didn’t care for the movie’s action, there was one plot point that intrigued me. The defector who labeled Salt a spy explained that there exists a Russian group that raises children with the intention of sending them to live in America as spies. These children were taught the English language and American ways before they were taught Russian, and were eventually shipped off to America with given identity and mission. If the movie centered more on this process, spending time with the children raised as spies and dealing with how they felt about the role they were forced to play, I would have been more invested. Though the mystery of whether or not Salt was a member of this group made the movie more exciting, I would have liked to see the group highlighted in a different way.

My main problem with Salt, though, was its lack of substance. The movie jumped from one chase scene to another, spending little time advancing plot or explaining why characters were taking the actions they did. Maybe that’s what the action movie audience wants, but I wish motivations for the action (other than “get away”) had been clearer. I would have cared more.

Salt gets a 1/5. Though parts of its premise were thought-provoking, the majority of the movie was a mindless chase. I don’t need to watch that.

I'm sorry that there was no new post last week (and that the writing on this post is lackluster and borderline-bad). I'm in the last 3 weeks of my first year of grad school (woo-hoo!) and have been bogged down with papers, projects, and readings. Soon, though, The Daily Shill will jump into summer mode, which means that there'll be more reviews of books and often posts more than once weekly.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Suburbs

I had never listened to Arcade Fire until I picked up their album The Suburbs for my Daily Shill challenge; but boy had I heard a lot about them. According to my friends who listen to Indie Rock, The Suburbs is unlike any album and that listening to it is an almost divine experience. Though I wouldn’t go that far (perhaps because I’m more of an Alt Rock gal than an Indie one), The Suburbs is quite the album and worth the listen.

First, though, let me warn you: don’t try to do anything else while listening. Much of what makes the album is its lyrics and you have to actually pay attention to get them. (I made the mistake of trying to make cookies while listening and quickly realized that was not going to work). The 16 tracks that make up The Suburbs are pieces of the whole, rather than individual songs (though they do have their own names) and should be listened to uninterrupted. Having only listened to the album twice, I can’t claim to fully understand the story it’s telling, but it provides a rather depressing look at suburban life and how its changed the way we live (or, at least, I think that’s what it’s saying).

The driving drums and sustained strings throughout the album provide a feeling of anticipation: not can’t-sleep-the-night-before-going-to-Disneyland anticipation, but can’t-sleep-because-there’s-a-monster-under-the-bed anticipation. The album as a whole is overwhelming—I feel like I would need to listen to it a dozen more times to really “get it.” But the unbalance I feel when listening to The Suburbs contributes to the experience of the album

The opening track “The Suburbs” draws you right into the album and was my favorite, upon the first listen. However, on time two, “Month of May” took that place (probably because it was up-tempo and could stand alone.) I found some of the songs (especially “Deep Blue”) to be a little slow—not just in tempo, but in interest and development. Generally, though, The Suburbs is a very good album and gets a 4/5.

Watch Arcade Fire perform "Ready to Start" and "Month of May" on the Daily Show

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2011 List

I've decided to keep up the Daily Shill by continuing to review all of the movies promoted within the interviews on The Daily Show. (Plus, I may review some of the books, TV shows, and albums too, you never know.) So, now that I've made that decision, it's time to start up a new list. Everything on the list is a film unless otherwise marked.

1/3: Barney's Version
1/11: The King's Speech
1/13: The Dilemma
1/25: 127 Hours

2/15: Unknown

3/9: Battle: Los Angeles
3/30: Source Code

4/13: Rio: The Movie

5/9: Last Night
5/10: Everything Must Go

Monday, March 7, 2011

Knight and Day

If your idea of a good time is watching Tom Cruise act like he’s too cool for school and Cameron Diaz panic and scream like a child, then Knight and Day is the movie for you. If, like me, you think that sounds revolting, save yourself the 109 minutes and avoid the film.

June (Diaz), while flying home for her sister’s wedding, finds herself in the middle of a rogue agent’s attempt to escape with Zephyr, a battery that never runs out of power. Roy (Cruise), the agent, claims he’s running off with Zephyr to keep his partner from selling it, and says that June has to come along with him because now the government will be after her, too. The two find themselves in all sorts of danger throughout the movie with plenty of car chases, gunshots, and explosions.

I had problems with the Knight and Day from the beginning. First of all, the story was difficult to follow— it felt like I had missed the first five minutes where characters (and their motives) were introduced. I had a hard time grasping why June had to go with Roy (and why she went along without taking any action). Really, June’s character frustrated me to no end. I’m not what I would call a feminist, but the helpless, idiot, damsel-in-distress nature of June made me want to protest. Making June a mechanic (a job typically associated with men) does not cancel out the fact that she became a screaming mess whenever anything went wrong. And when she suddenly becomes “brave” towards the end of the movie, there was no reason for her character shift. Get it together, Hollywood. I don’t need my character development to be subtle (though that would be nice), but I do need it to be moderately plausible.

This whole Daily Shill challenge (including Knight and Day) has confirmed my dislike of action movies. I find fighting and chasing boring. But, even if I were an action fan, I don’t think Knight and Day would have been a better movie. The story and characters are too weak (and obnoxious). It gets a 1/5.

In other news, I’ve made the decision to continue reviewing all movies features on future seasons of The Daily Show. I will, of course, complete my goal of reviewing everything featured in the 2010 season, but I don’t want to let the Daily Shill fade away after that. (But I also want to read the books I want to read, not just the Daily Show ones). If anyone has anything featured on the show that they want me to review, let me know, though, and I will add it to the list.