Monthly Archives: June 2014

Sweet Dreams Are Not Made Of This

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A few days ago, I had the following dream…

I was producing an episode for a show featuring Karl Pilkington. For those of you who don’t know, Karl Pilkington is a somewhat dimwitted British personality who was once a producer at XFM Radio in the U.K. for Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant, the original creators of the comedy The Office.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 11.54.20 AMThanks to Ricky and Steve, he became famous and starred in a program called An Idiot Abroad, a hilarious travelogue, where Karl goes to different parts of the globe and comments on his experiences. I’m a huge fan of Ricky, Steve and Karl. If you’re not familiar with Karl (or Ricky and Steve for that matter), and you like hilarious drivel, I highly recommend you search for Ricky Gervais on iTunes and download his audiobooks or check out The Ricky Gervais Show on HBO. But I digress.

I was producing an episode of An Idiot Abroad. My crew and I, along with Karl, were visiting sick kids in a hospital in either India or an African country, but the area was in the midst of a civil war. We were in a hospital room when all of a sudden, we hear gunfire out in the hallway. The dream/scene shifts to the hallway where there are dead bodies all over the place. Men with machine guns are standing around and they have one guy cornered, who’s crying like a baby. One of the men says calmly, “Run away. Try to escape.” The crying man pleads, but the hostile repeats himself. The crying man turns and starts walking away slowly. He gets to the doors leading out of the wing, pushes them open, whereupon the hostile shoots him dead.

The scene cuts back into the hospital room with Karl, my crew and I, but now, Karl is on the ground and he looks like he’s in agony and there are bodies piled on him, with bullet holes. The hostile that was outside in the hallway is now inside the room with his men but now there are women with machine guns. These women look like distinctly African and they look like everyday housewives, with print and patterned dresses on. And they seem extremely nervous. The original hostile is forcing everyone in the room to lay down on the pile, then he and his men shoot them. My crew and I are watching with a detachment; at this point, my subconscious (?) has transformed my mentality into that of a journalist, meaning that I don’t yet feel like I am at risk of being shot because I’m merely reporting a story.

Then, while the hostile and his men are firing on others, one of the women turns to me, grabs me with one hand and gestures to a corner of the room with her gun and says, “You. In corner. You go. You escape. ” The visual is low angle, so even though she is a middle-aged somewhat out of shape woman who looks nervous about what she’s preparing to do, she looks threatening. And at that point, I know I’m in trouble. I calmly say, “Oh, no, I’m with them,” and I point in the direction of the crew, who now look horrified. She repeats herself but she doesn’t raise her voice at all, which makes it even more chilling. She grabs me and pushes me into the corner. Then I wake up.

A few months ago, I had the following dream…

I was driving on the New Jersey turnpike returning from a video shoot in either New Jersey or New York, heading back to my home in Philly. Some of you may know that I live in the Philly area, but all my clients are up in Jersey and NY. Oddly enough, the time of day kept changing: one minute it was late at night, another minute, it was broad daylight. At one point, when it was night, there was construction on the turnpike and I didn’t notice the sign saying “Do Not Enter” so I crashed through it. Suddenly, it’s daytime and my mind’s camera changes the shot and I’m driving along a highway that’s built on water. If you remember the movie True Lies, at the end where Jamie Lee Curtis is being held hostage in the limo which is driving on the highway that links the Florida Keys, I’m guessing?

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 11.55.52 AMAnyway, for a brief second, the highway looks like that. Then the camera switches and I’m back on the turnpike.

Out of nowhere, a brick wall appears right in my path and I’m doing 75 miles an hour. I plow through the wall to discover that there’s no more highway. Not only that, the highway is now hundreds of feet in the air and underneath is water as far as the eye can see. So I begin to plummet towards the water. I wake up.

Just last night, I had the following dream…

I had been hired by Tony Soprano to edit some video project. I was sitting in a room with Tony and two female assistants in what I believe was either my home or an office which I was leasing, or it could’ve been Tony’s place. The environment was not anywhere I’ve been before, so even though my subconscious invented it, it was someplace I’ve never actually seen. I was sitting at a traditional editing setup while Tony and his people were seated behind me, as though in a typical edit suite. I remember for whatever reason, my seven year old and my two year old were playing in the next room, making a lot of noise, and one of the women closed the door to the suite. I got up and opened it, saying, “I need to be able to keep an eye on my kids.” Because my kids were there, I believe it must have been my house, although as I said, it looked nothing like my real home. Knowing that Tony Soprano was a mob guy, I looked at him to see if there was any hint at anger for my defiance in re-opening the door. He just had that Tony Soprano “Whaddaya want from me?” look, so I was okay.

Although there was no dialogue to indicate this in the dream, I knew (my subconscious knew?) that I had been working on this project for Tony for some period of time, maybe a couple weeks. And he was paying me a nice fee, more than I would actually charge for the project. I also knew that Tony was extremely happy with my work. Again, from a narrative standpoint, there was nothing to indicate that, but my mind just knew that Tony really loved what I was doing. Even though I knew he was a mobster, I didn’t feel uncomfortable or threatened by him because he liked me and my work.

At one point, Tony and the women start talking amongst themselves; I wasn’t really paying attention, but the general gist of the conversation involved Tony trying to skim some money off a construction project for a new public school called Whitehall. Although I was facing my edit monitors, back turned to Tony and the women, my mind’s camera cut to Tony’s face as he looked at me with “that look” after realizing I could have possibly heard everything they were talking about.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 11.56.52 AMA few minutes later, Tony gets up, grabs a broom handle and says, “Time for a break!” He then points the handle at me and says, “Let’s take a walk.” Now I’ve seen a ton of gangster movies and even my subconscious in a dream state knows that when a mobster says, “Let’s take a walk,” you’re about to have a bad day. But I still don’t have any reason to think anything’s wrong because, although my mind knew what Tony’s conversation was about, my dream self hadn’t really heard what they were saying and I didn’t suspect anything was wrong. However, Tony grabbed me by the shoulder with one hand, pressed the broom handle hard into my back and forced me to walk forward.

That’s when I started to get nervous and said, “Heh, you know, Tony, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were taking me to get fitted for a pair of concrete shoes, heh heh.” He smiled then his face went back to “that look.” We went downstairs to a screened-in back porch. It was nighttime and the porch was illuminated only by a single bulb in the center of the ceiling, giving it that deathly pall of an interrogation room. I glanced around, looking through the porch screens into the neighborhood to see if anyone else was around. Tony then grabbed my shirt at the chest and lifted me off the gourd with one hand. He said, “If you say one fucking thing about Whitehall–” and I said, somewhat calmly, “What? Whitehall? What are you talking about? I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Tony replied, “Keep it that way or you’re fucking dead, you hear me?” I was like, “Yeah, yeah, Tony, no problem, you got it.” Then he put me down and we went back upstairs.

Now I didn’t wake up at that point, but I guess the conscious side of my brain must have kicked in because I started accessing all the movies, TV shows, anything I knew about mobsters. And I pictured multiple scenarios wherein I was going to end up dead anyway. My mind imagined Tony having a sit-down with his capos and they would say, “Oh, he’s gotta go, Tony,” and Tony would give that hangdog look, thinking they were right, no chances could be taken. I thought of the scenes in Goodfellas, the one where Henry and Jimmy meet at the diner and Jimmy tells Henry to take care of a hit down in Florida; Henry knew at that point he was a dead man, and the scene where bodies started turning up all over after the Lufthansa heist. As Henry states in that film, once the thought pops up in their head, you’re a dead man. Then I remember clearly an image of me slumped over at the edit station, eyes and mouth open, blood pouring out and a bullet hole in the back of my head, while the flashing lights, police tape, and detectives swirled around me, all the hallmarks of a crime scene.

Now, the first dream I attribute to the fact that I’ve been following the news and all the terror reports such as Boko Haram and the unrest in Iraq with ISIS. Also, back in 2002, I was hired by my church to travel to the Middle East with a religious fact-finding group. One of the places we visited was a hospital in Bethlehem, which I believe was in a Palestinian territory that had been converted to an orphanage populated by children whose parents had been killed in all the fighting over there. Prior to our arrival in Bethlehem, we had been detained by soldiers of the Israeli army, all of whom carried machine guns. Our tour bus had been ordered to the side of the road while they checked our legitimacy as a religious group and I suppose to confirm we weren’t delivering weapons or some such into Palestine.

The second dream was the scariest for me, believe it or not, perhaps because driving throughout New Jersey and New York, construction is extremely haphazard and hard to navigate and road signs are sometimes difficult to see or decipher. The New Jersey turnpike has a car lane and a car/truck lane from exit 8A all the way up to exit 18, but sometimes either lane is closed off and, at night, it’s hard to notice the sign that informs you of that until you’ve almost gone through it (hence the switching from day to night in the dream?). I do have a phobia about really high elevated roadways at these massive interchanges (there’s one on I-95 right outside of Baltimore, MD that’s terrifying) So that one is not too hard to understand.

The third one, I have no idea. What’s interesting is that I only woke up because either one of the kids woke me up or I had to pee. I suppose I didn’t wake up from the dream immediately because there was no threat of imminent death (as they say your subconscious won’t allow you to die in a dream). There was an image of me laying dead at my workstation, but the shooting itself was not part of the dream. I was a big fan of the Sopranos, but that show went off the air almost six years ago.

What’s fascinating is that I’ve read more than once that dreams, no matter how long they may seem to the dreamer, happen over the course of a few minutes or seconds. But I guess the larger issue is that all three dreams involved my profession of video production, a profession that’s on its way to potentially becoming extinct as a professional career, what with how inexpensive the equipment has become and the rapidly changing technology.  All this to say: am I subconsciously telling myself to go find work at the post office?

Edge Of Tomorrow Review

"Live, die, repeat, my ass. You get one last take, Liman, or we walk!"

“Live, die, repeat, my ass. You get one last take, Liman, or we walk!”

First was War Of The Worlds. Then Oblivion. Now we have Edge Of Tomorrow. Earlier this week, I posted on Facebook whether or not Tom Cruise is contractually obligated to work with aliens. After seeing this film, turns out it took three attempts to get it right.

That’s not to say the previous films weren’t good films. But what they lacked, this film makes up for in spades, namely a just right amount of humor intermingled with wall-to-wall action. This is a film that knows precisely when it needs to be serious and when it needs to relax, go with it and have fun. Are you listening, Godzilla?

On the surface, the story is a mashup of 1986’s Aliens, with all the futuristic weapons and exo-suits employed by the military, even down to aliens with acid for blood; a dash of Starship Troopers, and a heaping dose of Groundhog Day. Tom Cruise plays former ad-exec William Cage, now a major in a unified Western military that is at war with an alien race called the Mimics. Cage is essentially a cheerleader for the military, using his marketing skills to convince the public that the war is winnable, which in fact it is not. After insulting the general of the allied forces, Cage is thrown on the frontline of battle, although he has no combat training. Seems a little harsh (and contrived) to sentence a man with no fighting skills to death for mouthing off a little, given he’s in fear for his life, but no matter. Predictably, Cage doesn’t last long when deployed on the battlefield, in a scene that, perhaps in slight bad taste, is reminiscent of the Normandy invasion (especially given the fact that the movie opened on the 70th anniversary of that event). However, despite the comparison, the opening battle scene is a wonder and through a series of circumstances, Cage finds himself in a time loop, where he repeats the day every time he dies. Which is frequently.

It’s in these scenes where Cruise just absolutely shines. I cannot begin to tell you how much of a joy it was to see the usually indomitable Cruise portray a feckless powerless grunt who has absolutely no clue what he’s doing, in advance of the hell he’s about to experience. It’s Cruise playing totally against type and he nails it. The first time his unit is deployed, I genuinely felt pity and sorrow for the guy because he reacted just as I would were I forced into a heavy metal exoskeleton which I didn’t know how to operate, with an inadequate number of rounds, surrounded by soldiers who couldn’t care less if I died, and I were forced to jump out of an exploding plane into the midst of a battle with multi-tentacled aliens. As the story progresses, of course Cage gets better and better with each reset, until he becomes the superhuman Tom Cruise we’re all familiar with. As a matter of fact, the last act of this film, plays like Cruise’s Mission Impossible franchise; all humor is jettisoned for all-out action. But it works. Even the ending, as hokey as it is, plays out exactly as we expect and it’s exactly what we want.

As far as the cast, Emily Blunt is awesome. It shows that she trained her butt off to perform many of her stunts and I wonder if her agent didn’t screw up by not getting her an audition for the Wonder Woman role in the upcoming Batman v. Superman film. Noah Taylor, otherwise known as Locke, the guy who cut off Jaime Lannister’s hand on Game Of Thrones, has a small role as an engineer who assists Cruise and Blunt in their mission to defeat the aliens. Bill Paxton appears as Master Sergeant Farrell, Cage’s commanding officer, and he does what he does best. Paxton, throughout his career, has proven there’s pretty much nothing he can’t do; he goes toe to toe with Cruise onscreen and more than holds his own. I love that Paxton is back at playing smug wiseass characters as also seen on Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD, because he’s so damn good at that. But as is usually the case in a Tom Cruise movie, the film belongs to Cruise. No matter what you may think of him offscreen, the guy consistently delivers, and does no less here. Despite the impossibly good looks and fit build at 51 years of age; unlike many of his films in the last decade or so which occasionally played as vanity projects, here Cruise brings humor, humility and vulnerability to the role. He doesn’t come off as a superman, as he so often does in his action films. That is, until he is required to become the hero, and by the time he assumes that mantle, we’re absolutely ready for it and we demand it.

The aliens were a bit of a letdown. While they are monstrous, their design is CGI overkill. They’re imbued with abilities that don’t make much sense, given their appearance and the fact that they seem as personable as the xenomorphs from the Alien franchise. They’re afforded all the cliches that many summer movie alien hordes of late have suffered. The logic behind some of the plot makes little sense. The title sounds like a soap opera that your mom watched back in the 1950s. But this is Cruise in top form and the movie fires on nearly every piston. Edge Of Tomorrow demands that you see it today. 4/5 reels