Friday, July 4, 2008

Blast of Silence

Every once in awhile I get to see a really good film that has slipped though the through the cracks, and has widely been ignored despite its quality.  When this happens its always a pleasure because it feels like I’m discovering a film that almost no one has heard of.  That can be easily said about the gritty 1961 film noir from writer, director, and star Allen Baron.  This hard as nails crime film is a little known film and is more then worth the effort to seek out for a viewing.

            The film opens with some great shots showing a man, Frank Bono, entering New York via a train.  Frankie Bono is not in New York for pleasure though, he is there on business, and his business is killing.  Bono is a professional hit man for hire and has been called to New York to assassinate a mid level mobster. With little time wasted Bono is on the job and begins to plot out how and when to kill his victim. 

            Aside from his job, Bono has more to worry about as New York is his hometown, and his hometown is filled with lots of bad personal memories.  He fears being back in New York as he thinks he will have to relive his painful past and deal with people he thought were out of his life forever.  Unluckily for him he runs into an old pal one night and though him runs into an old girlfriend of his.  This naturally complicates things, as Bono does not know how to cope with his personal feelings and makes his time in New York even more difficult.

            That’s what really makes this film interesting, it features a hit man that is not really a complete tough guy but a very troubled man.  In most films featuring hit men, like Le Samourai or The Professional, hit men are cool and almost glamorized.  Frank Bono is not this at all.  He is a deeply troubled man whose past haunts him, and in a wonderful scene he reflects back on his troubled childhood in an orphanage.  Now that he is an adult and he is scared deeply and this is made evident by his lack of communication skills.  He is a loner like most hit men in movies, but he is sadder and darker then the average film hit man.  He is also a hit man that is not particularly good at his job, as he often second guesses himself and makes mistakes based on emotion.  That is interesting to see this different take on a hit man story, as it is often routine.  There is a really human element because of that. 

            What is really great though about this film is that it has a great mood and a strong execution of film making by director Allen Baron.  The film is a really sharp one as it makes lots of right decisions and very few if any wrong ones.  It glides at a nice pace and the film never has a dull moment really.  The film also has a feel to it that is just pure film noir, as it looks and sounds just like a tough crime film should.  Its cinematography is effective and captures some great shots of New York city.  Blast of Silence does a really good job of showing the dark side of the city and gives this film a gritty feel.  Historically it also is one of the first films to be shot all on location and you get a reel sense of the city and its mood.

            The film is also a very short one that has little imperfections and is a very tight piece of film.  Blast of Silence clocks in at a brisk seventy-seven minuets but it is very well rounded as a whole.  The film kind of washes over you and before you know it the film is already over.  It ends quickly but it tells a fascinating story with a healthy dose of style.  It is a genre film that hits its marks and does it well.

            What is really interesting is that the film was made for nearly nothing at all in 1960 with a first time director and a leading man that was not a professional actor.  The director and star Allen Baron had really no experience in filmmaking, and was widely known as a cartoonist.  Baron’s lack of training though does nothing to harm the film, as he actually does a wonderful job of both acting and directing.  His acting is cold and intense, yet it is very effective.  He also has a face to remember, as it looks like its chiseled from stone.  Baron also dominates the his scenes in the film and makes for a fascinating character to watch.  His direction is very solid as well and he makes a film that seems incredibly focused.  For a first time director he makes a film a seasoned pro could be proud of even.

            This little haunting gem is a marvel of independent filmmaking that has lots of style and a smooth feel.  It is a short, concise, and brutal genre film that leaves little to complain about.  As far as a genre film goes it hits all of its marks, and makes for a moody and enjoyable film noir.  It has been lost for years now but is finally on DVD, and I think it is very much worth seeking out for a view.  It’s a sleek little crime film that is sure to please.

4/ 4 Strars    

The Happening

            The Happening is the kind of film that we seem to see every summer.  An end of the world film, where some kind of threat endangers the world as we know it.  Sometimes you get something good like War of the Worlds and sometimes you get something horrible like the Day After Tomorrow.   The Happening is a film that is not the best of its kind and is probably one of the worst films of the year.

            What is really flawed with this film is that is just plainly and simply hits lots of false notes and has moments that just do not work.  It is a film of constantly silly moments and unbelievable events.  The film itself has a silly enough story, but many plots of these films have silly plots.  What makes the difference is the delivery.  The delivery here is less than impressive and the twists in the films here are just ridicules.  The story itself revolves a large out break of mass suicides in New York City and the chaos soon spreads west.  In the city people are running of roofs, stabbing themselves and multiply other violent and silly ways. 

Trying to escape the chaos is a science teacher in Philadelphia played by Mark Wahlberg and his wife Zooey Deschanel.  The film follows their struggles from there as they run for their lives.  They travel across the countryside and find nothing but more trouble, but of course there would not be film if they didn’t.  The film follows their struggle to survive and it just goes down hill from there.

What’s wrong here is just how silly the set up and execution of the film is.  It is a film that has a dull build up and a terrible pay off.  It is a film that is very anti climatic, with really nothing to get excited about.  I wish I could tell all of you the supposed twist here but I am a firm believer in not revealing endings of films.  Let me tell you this one is a train wreck and is on the level with the horrible The Village.  When the twist of this film is revealed it just opens up more question and doubt in the films credibility.  On top of it all, the end is really very preachy and silly.  If you bore me, like this film did, then don’t preach to me.

M. Night Shyamalan has really fallen from grace with me here.  With this film and the unspeakably bad The Village and the disappointing Lady in the Water, Shyamalan has been on a loosing streak.  This is a really rough patch and he seems to have lost his way.  In his last three films he seems to be more interested in the twists and plot devices of the films then the actual films themselves.  How can the man who made such exceptional films like The Six Sense, Unbreakable and Signs make this mess?  I think he still has good films in him but he needs to stay away from plot gimmicks and rely more on solid stories and characters.  He also needs to make more plausible or at least interesting set ups for his stories.   

It is sad to see a talented man make such a dull film like this.  Not only a dull film but it also has moments so ridicules that I was laughing out loud.  I was not laughing in a good way either.  When you find out what is killing the people I cant see how you don’t laugh.  I might like the ludicrous plot, or at least forgive it, if the rest of the film worked.  Nothing in the film really works very well as it all seems so stale and dull.  I was not frightened and I did not care.  The Happening is a film that builds to nothing and leads to plenty of yawning by the end.  This film is mismanaged and deadly dull, it also is one of the years worst.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Magnificent Ambersons

When someone speaks about the legendary director Orson Welles, he is usually identified with his most famous film Citizen Kane.  Citizen Kane was a film that began as well as defined Welles film career.  Citizen Kane is even considered to be the best film of all time or at least one of the best by many film lovers.  I can not say that I can disagree with that statement either.  Kane is a sprawling masterpiece of innovation and inspired artistry.  Yet I feel there it is another Welles film that is fantastic but seems to be slowly disappearing from the face of the earth.  The film is Orson Welles’ follow up to Citizen Kane and it is entitled The Magnificent Ambersons.  It is a film that has much of the same brilliance as Kane does but no one seems to ever talk about it.  The Magnificent Ambersons is a film of great power that appears to be vanishing from the minds of film fans, a fate that a film this strong does not deserve.



            The film is a period piece that is set in a turn of the century small town, which name is never given.  In this small town lives a wealthy and larger then life family named the Ambersons.  The film begins as the young and passionate Eugene Morgan is trying to woo the youngest of the Ambersons daughters Isabel.  Morgan tries to win her love but she marries the more financially stable Wilbur Minafer.  When Isabel gets married Morgan leaves town heart broken.  While Morgan is gone Isabel has one child, a boy, with Wilbur and the child is named George.  George from a young age is horribly spoiled by his family and becomes an ungodly brat of a child.  The entire town has a great dislike of him and most wish he would “get his comeuppance.”  After twenty years or so go by Morgan returns to the small town again.  Morgan now brings with him the fortune he made in his automobile business and also a beautiful, young daughter named Lucy.  Morgan is now a more matured man as both a father and a widower.  When the Morgans arrive Lucy and the bratty George soon fall in love with one another at a dinner party.  Though George loves Lucy he does not trust her father and has a resentment of him being around the Ambersons family.  Soon after the Morgan's arrival, Isabel’s husband, Wilbur, dies suddenly of an illness.  After Wilbur’s death both Morgan and Isabel discover that they love each other and always have loved each other.  Morgan soon asks Isabel to marry him and this is an action that makes the ill tempered George very unhappy.  At all cost George tries to split up his mother and Morgan, even if it hurt his relationship with Lucy or anyone else.  In his fight to split them up he finds an ally in his aunt Fanny who has always also loved Morgan.  Both of the bitter Ambersons try and sabotage the romance.  Along the way a series of disasters also occur to George and the rest of the Ambersons family, partly to do with his careless behavior.  The films plot is at essence a story about a spoiled son finally learning lessons about life and a family that is crumbling from the foundation.



            One thing that I believe is necessary for a good period piece film is a strong ensemble cast.  This film is for sure one that has that trait.  The actors all give something in there performances that strengthen the film on a whole.  The Magnificent Ambersons cast consists mostly of Welles personal cast of actors called the Mercury Theatre Group.  They were an acting troop that Orson Welles had assembled for his productions of plays he did on Broadway.  When he moved from the stage into film making Welles decided to use his trusted actors in his films.  In the lead role of George Ambersons, Tim Holt gives a very strong performance as a destructive brat who never grows up, until it is too late.  Holt is an actor who is mostly known for being in low grade films for most of his career but in this film he shines.  Holt makes George a plausible and complete character.  Along the way the viewer also gets another sturdy performance from the impressive Agnes Moorehead as the jealous Aunt Fanny.  It is wonderful how by with just little movements Moorehead can convey her character’s thoughts.  Moorehead does not need words to show what her character is thinking.  The most subtle of facial gestures and body language she uses to convey her character.   Joseph Cotton also gives a complementary performance as the romantic and caring Eugene Morgan.  Cotton plays the character as someone with youthful passion and the maturity of an older man.  I have always thought Cotton to be one of film’s most under appreciated actors.  Joseph Cotton was alsot great in films like Carol Reed’s The Third Man or Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.  Along with Cotton the rest of the cast is at minimum satisfactory and as a group they work together to help excel the film’s quality.



            Now the story is fascinating and the cast are sound in their performances but the true genius of the film comes from the legendary Orson Welles.  This is a film that in all actuality would be nothing with out Orson Welles.  The man did everything in the film.  Welles directed, produced, narrated the film and adapted the film’s screenplay from Booth Tarkington’s novel.  On top of all that he did all these tasks brilliantly.  As a director Welles was at least twenty years ahead of his time and most of his techniques were revolutionary.  The variety of creative camera angles and experimental lighting alone were out of this world.  Welles establishes a lush black and white look to the film and sets a distinct style.  The look of the film ranges from haunting to beautiful and is very impressive to just look at and admire.  One technique of Welles that I admire is that he is able to sneak messages and meaning into the film.  The film is an almost harsh look at the class system and the cruelty of the wealthy.  Welles uses the Ambersons as a model for all rich people who do not think of the consequences of their actions and how they will come back to haunt them.  Just like his first film Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons is a film that at its core is about having happiness and loosing it through poor decisions. 



            From the films conception it seems like it was destined to be doomed.  For starters after Welles made his first film, Citizen Kane, he had a horrible reputation in Hollywood.  Welles started off as the golden boy of Hollywood but Citizen Kane destroyed all that.  It was a film that he had complete control over and the studio hated it.  Citizen Kane also caused a huge amount of negative publicity for the studio but even more damaging, the film was a bomb at the box office.  From the fall out of Kane Welles marched on and made The Magnificent Ambersons as his follow up film.  It was completed with out any big incident and Welles left the country once it was completed.  While Welles was out of the country the film was screened for test audiences.  The results of the test audience were all around very negative.  The screening of the film was held shortly after Pearl Harbor and the audience said the film was too depressing.  The studio heads became spooked because they thought they would have another Orson Welles flop on their hands.  So the studio rushed to re-shoot and reedit the film while Welles was out of the country.  By the time Welles returned to America he had found his film shorten by about fifty minutes and it had a cheerful ending tact on to it.  To add insult to injury all the footage that was taken out of the film was destroyed.  Now no one will ever know the brilliance of Welles true vision.  The cuts of the film are noticeable too.  Some of the scenes appear to be cut short and the happy ending the studio tacked onto the film is nearly unbearable.  With those minor quarks aside Welles vision still is strong enough in this film to shine through.  His brilliance was hard to fully compromise.            


            When the film was finally released, in 1942, it was given a limited release and was promoted as a second rate film.  It was dumped on any theatre that would take it and the studio was just trying to get rid of it.  With at least some luck the film was able to gain some critical buzz.  It also was able to gather four Academy Awards but lost all of them that year.  Soon after that the film kind of drifted away.  Years later when Welles work was finally being appreciated by film goers, The Magnificent Ambersons finally received some recognition. In 1982 it even was ranked number seven on The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll of the greatest films of all time.  Fast forwarding to today it seems to be forgotten by most film fans.  Only true film fanatics or Welles fans ever talk about these dyas.  Even when it is talked about it is usually considerd just a side note to Citizen Kane. 



I also fear that it may be facing a slow death at its current rate.  At one time it had a good amount of respect but in resent years it has become less and less known.  It has disapeared from most film lists and has mostly been forgotten by the general public.  As of now it has never been avaible in America on DVD and has been out of print for the last decade or so in VHS.  It is fairly hard to find a copy for viewing and might take some searching.  A person searching for it may be lucky to find a VHS copy in an older video store and sometimes it is on cable.  The film is also in some need for film restoration because every print of the film I have viewed has been very rough and has a scratched look to it.  If action is not taken soon the film could be lost for perhaps ever.  This would be a crime against all film fans as well as the artistic world in general.


            When it comes down to it the film never had a fair chance.  From creation it was tinkered with and it never was given a chance to catch on with film goers.  It also had the unfortunate luck of having to live in the shadow of one of the greatest films of all time.  The Magnificent Ambersons has always had the stigma of having to be the film Orson Welles made after Citizen Kane.  It was never given a fair break to prove its own worth.  The bottom line, with everything else aside, this is a great film.  The film has Orson Welles’ inspired genius all over it and a strong cast to support it.  Yes the film may not be the complete of Welles but it is still a monumental work to behold.  Through the enourmous set backs and censorship the film still prevails.  It is a film still worth the publics consideration and I hope it will find an audience again.  The Magnificent Ambersons at least deserves that.  

Friday, May 2, 2008

Iron Man


            As far as super hero films of recent years go, they are either hit or miss.  You either get a complete wreck of a film like the terrible Fantastic Four films, or you might get something that is a complete pleasure like the great Spiderman 2 or the magnificent Batman Begins.  The quality of these films really does vary but one thing is for sure, Iron Man is one film not to worry about.  It is a smart, smooth, and surprisingly funny comic book movies that I think everyone could enjoy.

            Iron Man revolves around the billionaire weapons manufacturer playboy Tony Stark, played with lots of charisma and comic grace by Robert Downey Jr.  He is a carefree, playboy who wants little more in life then to chase woman, drink, and tinker with his toys.  Life is a game for the charming Stark or at least until some terrorists capture him, while demonstrating new weapons his company made.  In the process of being captured his heart is severally harmed and he must make a devise that attaches to his in order to stay alive. 

            While captured Stark is forced to make a powerful weapon for the terrorist that have captured him, but he knows he will never survive unless he escapes.  So Stark goes to work on making an advanced suit of iron that will help him escape from his captures.  He blasts his way out of the prison he is in and uses his new suit of iron to escape to his freedom.  This experience sobers Stark up a bit and makes him reconsider his way of life, and now Stark decides he needs to do something good for the world.  Stark decides then to refine the suit he made while captured and use it in order to protect the people that his weapons put in harms way. 

            Once the action starts in this film, it is already pretty far into the film, but that is not a complaint for me.  All this back-story is interesting and I think it helps the film by going the more intelligent route.  It develops the characters and takes its time to tell the films story.  Iron Man is a film that puts action almost second to developing a good story and some actually solid characters to watch on the screen.  Now I don’t want to make it seem like the film is boring at parts, because it surely is not.  It may not be filled with wall-to-wall action but it is paced well. 

            What really caught me off guard is just how clever and funny this film actually was.  As far as super hero films go, I have never seen one as funny as this one.   The script is rather witty and has some razor sharp one-liners that Robert Downey delivers wonderfully.  In particular I think that the scenes between Stark and his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) are really well done.  Paltrow and Downey have some real chemistry with one another and there exchange of dialogue is something that seems more suited to a comedy from the thirties then a modern comic book film.  This kind of sharp dialogue was a nice touch to the film as it provides surprisingly good laughs. 

            The film itself does not take itself as serious as others might.  It really has some very light moment that mesh well with more serious ones.  The sense of humor of this film is a good one and I laughed a good amount of times.  It is really sharp in it laughs too and this took me off guard.  It is a funnier movies then most of the bland comedies that come out now of days.  I laughed at this film a hell of a lot more then trash like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry or Fools Gold.

            As far as the action goes it is still fairly effective.  The action scenes don’t pop up at you with great visual flair but they do there job well enough.  Jon Favreau directed this film and I think he just does not have a complete mastery yet on scenes of action.  That not to say he did a bad job, but he did a much better job at scenes of dialogue or comedy.  He is no Sam Raimi but like I said he is effective enough to make the film work.  Favreau has never made a big action movie like this one before so this is new turf, and I think he will do a better job the next time, as this film is a likely candidate to have a sequel. 

            What really is the high light of this film is the great (yes I said it) performance by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark.  He really elevates this film and makes it better then it could have been.  He delivers countless laughs and does it with great skill.  Downey’s charm is working over time here as he delivers one-liners like a pro and uses a wonderful kind of sarcasms to great effect.  While he is on screen there is never a dull moment and essentially he steels the show.  Downey’s charms make the special effects and about everything else seem secondary.  I think he hits just the right note for this film.

            Over all there is lots to enjoy in this cool super hero flick.  It is an effective enough action film, but it also has a smart side to it with plenty of good laughs.  Adding to that Robert Downey gives a very solid performance as the lead and for that matter the entire cast is rather good.  Lots of talented people are in this films cast.  I think this is up there with the best of the super hero films and it has something for everyone.  It has some nifty special effects and some good action if you want that.  It also is smart and has not one dumb moment in it.  Then on top of it all it is surprisingly funny and witty. So if you want a good popcorn film, plus a little something more, then Iron Man is for you.

31/2 / 4 Stars   

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall


Perhaps the best way to start this review is just to come out and say this film is a pure joy to watch.  It is the kind of comedy that I love too see and I have a hunch already this will be a film I will revisit in the future.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall is the kind of comedy that will have you smiling, if not laughing out loud for most of its run time.  It also works well as a romance and has an actual sweet side to it that I found hard to resist.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a much better comedy then Finding Sarah Marshall this year.

            Forgetting Sarah Marshall tells the story of modest musician Peter Bretter, played here in a star making performance by Jason Segal.  He is a kind of lovable slob who is happy with doing little more then writing music and sitting around in his apartment.  Peter in the film is dating a famous television star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) and peter is some what obsessed with her.  One day Sarah comes by his apartment, in a very funny scene, and dumps Peter.  Naturally Peter is crushed by this and cant get over his ex, so he decides to get his mind off of her by going to Hawaii. 

            Unfortunately for Peter his ex is staying at the same resort as he is and to top that she is there with her new boyfriend, a cool British rock star.  Getting over Sarah has just gotten a lot harder for Peter but soon Peter meets lots of off beat natives at the resort who help him get over Sarah.  Among these new friends he meets a cute girl at the Hotels front desk, played with real charm by Mila Kunis.  Soon they begin to grow romantically attached with one another and Peter finally loosens up.

            For me the thing that keeps the film together and makes it work as well as it does is the wonderful performance by Jason Segal.  Segal plays his character in a way that you can not help but root for him and like him.  He provides a kind of sympathy that makes you want him succeed and gives you a rooting interest in the film.  Also the jokes are much funny, as many of the jokes are at his expense.  Segal I can see being a great romantic comedy actor in the same league as John Cusack.  Along with a strongly sympathetic and comic performance, Segal also wrote the very funny script for the film.  The script has some really fun gags in it but there is also a lot of smart observations.  There is a really funny send up on shows like CSI for instance.  The screenplay also has a real nice touch of real emotion and sweetness that adds to the film.

            The supporting cast is also a great advantage to this film.  There is a whole bunch of funny supporting characters that add a lot of laughs to this film.  Jonah Hill is funny as an obsessed waiter, Paul Rudd good as a stoner surfer, and Russell Brand is hilarious as the goofy rocker Sarah is with.  There are more I could go on with but these are just some of the highlights. 

            Looking back I really can find few things I find wrong with the film.  I really enjoyed the film when I watched it and walked out with a smirk on my face that lasted for awhile.  Even now as I look back on the film I seem to like it more.  I already see it growing on me as I write this right now.  I think maybe I could be over hyping this film but I really cant lie about how much I liked it.  Its rare enough to find a film as funny as this one, it’s even harder to find one that is as sweet and smart as this one.  In the future I can see this being a film I could watch again and enjoy it just as much the second time.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a comedy is not to be missed, and it has a little of something for everyone. This is already a good contender for the best comedy of the year, as it will be pretty hard to beat.      

4/ 4 Stars

Tuesday, April 22, 2008



At times while watching the film Leatherheads I got the impression that maybe it was stretching itself too thinly and in to many directions all at once.  The film is part sports film, part romance and part screwball comedy.  The film does a modest job at balancing the three but it also lags in gaps.  Leatherheads defiantly is ambitious, which I can’t flaw, but it doesn’t really succeed at achieving its goals either. 

            The film tells the tale of a washed up pro football player and coach in the early days of football, Dodge Connelly (George Clooney).  Dodge’s team is in danger of going under for good, as no one has much interest in professional football in the 1920’s.  While Dodge is struggling a young war hero, John Krasinski, is having huge success as an all star college player. Seeing his success Dodge thinks if he can get this hot shot college kid on his team then he might have a chance of keeping the team together.  An obstacle in his way is a quick witted report played by Renee Zellweger who is sent to uncover dirt on the young football stud.  Soon Clooney’s character is put in direct competition with Zellweger as they both want different things from the collage star.

            Naturally as romantic comedies go the two rivals, Clooney and Zelwiger, fall for each other and love blossoms.  As far of this film goes, that is maybe the best part of it.  When these two stars are together they have some real chemistry with one another.  The two exchange lines with one another with reel charm and ease.  The one liners they exchange with one another really do go back to the days of 1930’s screwball comedies.  Now they are no Carey Grant or Katharine Hepburn, but for today’s standards they might as well be.  Clooney is really working his charm to the extreme hear and Zellweger is really lively.  Watching the two stars verbally spare with each other was really very enjoyable.  The scenes where they just exchange comic dialogue with one another is the best part of the film. 

            As for as the football aspects go I felt the game scenes were only ok but provided little laughs.  If anything the football aspect seemed to hurt lots of the films strength.  In too many scenes the film gets bogged down in the details of how pro football came to be.  It seemed that it was almost from another movie and that the comedy was harm because of it.  Long stretches of the films subplot about the formation of the NFL slow down the comic magic that was shown early in the film.  There were too many dull scenes about pro footballs formation and far too little of Clooney and Zellweger.     

            As far as the film goes it is a fairly competent one, and Clooney proved to me again how talented he is as a director.  His direction is solid and he really does know what he is doing.  Its not on the same level of his last film, the masterful Good Night and Good Luck, but still this film shows off Clooney’s skills.  The film also had a nice kodachrome look to it and flet like the twenties.  Any fault I have with the film can not be blamed on Clooney, as he is solid as both director and actor.  The source of the films problems is that the script looses focus in many parts and becomes uneven.  The script began to be consumed with the background of football and instead it should have focused on comedy.  This caused the film to really lag in about two parts of the for me.

           In all laughed a good amount in this film and smiled for a good portion more.  Sure there are sections of this film that are absolutely dull and ruin the momentum but there are just enough good scenes to enjoy the film.  The only real fault I can find in with the film is that the script should have been tighter and less bloated about how pro football came to be.  If the film would have focused more on the screwball comedy aspects and put the two stars of the film together more often then may have been a better film.  Over all it is not an entirely bad film and I would mildly recommend it for the charms of the two stars, along with a few funny scenes.  

¾ Stars

It's Been Awhile

Well I have been out of commission now for some time now and I have not posted a review in some time.  Well if anyone even reads this thing anymore that is about to change.  Now that my school and work are smoothing out again I will begin to write regularly again.  So brace yourselves.