Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Ummm... yeah. If you live within a hundred miles of an IMAX theater showing Avatar in 3-D... you should go. And if you don't live within a hundred miles radius of an IMAX theater showing Avatar in 3-D... you should still go. It's just that mind-blowing an experience.
Sure the story is so predictable that you'll feel you've suddenly become psychic. And yes, the plot is so black & white that you could cut yourself with the sharp division between good & evil. And true, it's got some stuff going on that seems so forced that you'll swear a giant shoehorn is going to appear on-screen any minute.
It's also the singular most immersive spectacle you're likely to see for a while.
After seeing the miraculous CGI used to create an entire world, you will believe that anything is possible. Anything...
You keep telling yourself that it's not real... that it's just a computer-generated image... but then you forget. And pretty soon you just give in to the fact that 10-foot tall blue aliens actually exist.
And that alone would be amazing.
But the 3-D pushes it to the next level. There were several times throughout the movie that my fear of heights was literally kicking in. This isn't some cheesy attempt to use 3-D for quirky effects... it's 3-D used with such subtlety and mastery that it puts you in the film. Which is why you really need to make an effort to see it in IMAX 3-D before it's gone.
Well, until the sequel comes along.
Bravo, James Cameron. This time you've created a movie that actually deserves to make billions of dollars.
Posted on Friday, January 15th, 2010
At long last.
The news I've been waiting over 25 years to hear has just been released by Disney...
BURBANK, Calif. (January 15, 2010) - Principal photography is underway in London for Walt Disney Pictures' "JOHN CARTER OF MARS." Academy Award-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton brings this captivating hero to the big screen in a stunning adventure epic set on the wounded planet of Mars, a world inhabited by warrior tribes and exotic desert beings. Based on the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom Series," the film chronicles the journey of Civil-War veteran John Carter, who finds himself battling a new and mysterious war amidst a host of strange Martian inhabitants.
After I had watched Star Wars in 1977, my 11-year-old mind was ensnared by science fiction and I was desperate for more. I had read a few teen sci-fi books here and there, but the genre never really caught hold. It wasn't until Star Wars that an obsession was born. I quickly became bored with the "kids" version of science fiction and decided to see what awaited me in the adult section of the library. That's when I found A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs...
I devoured all of the Burroughs "Barsoom" books, and used it as a spring-board to the worlds of Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Herbert, and other science fiction giants.
But it was the John Carter of Mars books that remained my favorite (so much so that I even "became" Edgar Rice Burroughs when joining in on Kapgar's "The Lost Blogs" contest).
Sure they are relatively flimsy stories filled with outrageous coincidences and tacky dialogue, but the bizarre creatures and fantastic places that are a hallmark of the stories more than compensated. It was those things that had me dying to see John Carter movies on the big screen.
And, after numerous false starts, that day has finally come.
Here's hoping Andrew Stanton doesn't fuck up a childhood dream...
Posted on Monday, February 8th, 2010
Today I noticed that I'm getting increasingly upset over things that just aren't important. This morning, for example, I went on a tirade after listening to somebody on television use the full title of the movie "Precious" while discussing Oscar nominations. I don't know why. Probably because "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" is a stupid-ass name for a movie. I am guessing the film studio wanted to capitalize on the author somehow, but it only makes them look pathetic and desperate when you consider that "Stand By Me wasn't released as "Stand By Me: Based on the Novella 'The Body' by Stephen King." I mean, holy shit, if the people making "Stand By Me" didn't feel the need to whore out STEPHEN FUCKING KING for their movie, should we really have to give two shits where "Precious" came from?
Granted, my disdain is undoubtedly amplified by the fact that I don't give a crap about EVER seeing the film "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"... but honestly, is this really a reason to start freaking out?
Apparently it is if you are me.
I'm really hoping that this unfounded hostility towards inconsequential things goes away soon.
Preferably before "Alice in Wonderland: Extrapolated from the Novel 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' as Well as the Novel 'Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There' by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Better Known as Lewis Carroll" is released to theaters on March 5th.
Posted on Sunday, February 21st, 2010
It's Bullet Sunday from one of the most beautiful days I've ever seen in Seattle!
• Pet Shop. The hotel I'm staying in tonight is really, really nice (especially considering the bitchin' rate I got off PriceLine), but does have one minor draw-back. It's "pet friendly." Now, don't get me wrong... I love animals. I think it's great that there's hotels which accept our furry friends when they travel with us. I do not, however, think it's great to be woken up at 5:30am by a yappy little dog barking it's head off in the room next door on a Sunday morning. Though I suppose I should count myself lucky that it was just a dog and not a hyena or something.
• Zombie Walk. As far as iPhone games go, Plants Vs. Zombies may be the best game ever released. More addictive than crack (or so I'd guess), it's one of those games that you never want to stop playing. It looks great, plays amazing, and keeps gameplay fresh with new features for a good long time...
The game, in a nutshell, has wave after wave of zombies attacking your home, and you have to plant an ever-growing variety of vegetation to fend then off. Highest possible recommendation (unless you have a life, in which case it will will destroy you).
• Spell Check. If you're going to use the word "w00t!" then it's spelled in all lower-case letters with two ZEROS in the middle, like this...
If you don't believe me, you can look it up in the dictionary!
• Saturday Break. After working non-stop for the past several weeks, I decided to take a break and attend a blogger meet in Seattle... thanks to Ms. Sizzle and Chris for putting it together and giving me a much-needed distraction! The beautiful drive alone was worth the effort...
• ONE Ring? Great news! The Lord of the Rings trilogy is finally coming to Blu-Ray! How awesome is that? Oh... wait a second... not so awesome... BECAUSE THE GREEDY FUCKERS AT NEW LINE STUDIOS ARE RELEASING THE BUTCHERED THEATRICAL RELEASE INSTEAD OF THE FULL DIRECTOR'S CUT! They're waiting for everybody to buy the incomplete trilogy THEN they'll release the complete films on Blu-Ray so everybody will have to buy them AGAIN!
I mean, seriously, we already had to buy them twice on DVD, so why not give everybody what they want the first time around? Oh... that's right... NEW LINE IS RUN BY GREEDY FUCKERS! Blu-Ray easily allows the option of viewing both the theatrical release OR the director's cut on the SAME disc thanks to their "branching" technology, but why would we want to do that when we can sucker fans into buying the movies FOUR TIMES!
Well, as much as I'd like to see these beautiful films in HD, I'll take a pass until the COMPLETE films are released. Holy crap I hate it when studio executives try to pull this bullshit. And everybody wonders why otherwise law-abiding citizens turn to piracy! THE MOVIE STUDIOS FORCE THEM TO!
And another week bites the dust...
Posted on Saturday, March 6th, 2010
My head-cold only lasted 24 hours, but the resulting sinus infection is ongoing. Yesterday the pain was so bad that I had to leave work early, which meant that my planned half-day of work today turned into a full-day of work. I wouldn't have minded so much, except the weather outside was so beautiful. It makes me miss my motorcycle.
Of course, right now what I really miss is having the energy to stay out of bed all day. The antibiotics really wipe me out, so pretty much all I can do is work and sleep. This is a darn shame, because I've got a to-do list a mile long before I start traveling again in two weeks.
Hopefully I'll have the energy to make it through The Oscars tomorrow night...
In general, I find The Oscars to be a load of crap, but it still makes for an interesting evening of television.
My "best movie" last year was Star Trek. For sheer entertainment value, I just can't seem to get enough of it. But it wasn't nominated for Best Picture, so I'd probably have to go with Inglourious Basterds, followed closely by District 9 and The Hurt Locker which were all amazing films. So was Moon but it wasn't nominated either. The odds of Inglourious Basterds winning Best Picture are slim, but I think it's a lock for Best Original Screenplay (and deservedly so).
As far as Best Director, I think that Kathryn Bigelow nailed it with Hurt Locker, but I wouldn't be unhappy if James Cameron got it, because his fingerprints are on every frame of Avatar, which is a magnificient achievement in filmmaking. And, of course, I'm not going to have any complaints if Quentin Tarantino wins. Ever.
I don't care about any of the actor categories except Best Supporting Actor for Christoph Waltz. His incredible performance in Inglourious Basterds is about as Oscar-worthy a role as you will ever see.
Speaking of Inglourious Basterds, it's my pick for Best Editing. Quentin's films are always paced impeccably, and the way the various storylines are so perfectly woven together in the editing room is a testament to Tarantino's vision.
The Best Animated Feature Film I saw last year was probably Up, which had a really good story behind it (though I thought the actual "traditional" animation on either Ponyo or The Secret of Kells was the best of the lot). That being said, I also enjoyed Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline, and Princess and the Frog so I'd be happy with any of them winning. As for Best Animated Short, that clearly has to go to Nick Park for his Wallace & Gromit short A Matter of Loaf and Death.
Art Direction and Visual Effects are clearly Avatar's to win. This is the future of filmmaking, and has opened entirely new worlds in movies.
I'd give Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Makeup to Star Trek on principle.
The other categories I don't have enough information to make an opinion on.
Of course, this is The Oscars, so I'll be lucky if even one of my picks is actually a winner. But there you have it.
Posted on Sunday, March 7th, 2010
Blergh. Muh head is assploding on Buwett Swunday! Sinus infections suck.
• Oscar. Look, I liked The Hurt Locker as much as anybody (I saw it twice in theaters and bought the Blu-Ray), but winning Best Original Screenplay over Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds? What the hell? I can see The Hurt Locker taking Best Picture over Basterds, I'm right there with that... but Screenplay?? Seriously? It's things like this that makes me want to swear off ever watching the Academy Awards each year.
• Can't. I have had at least a dozen people tell me that I need to see The Cove which just won Best Documentary. I love films of all kinds and am a huge fan of documentaries, but I cannot watch anything where dolphins are slaughtered. That's a weakness I'm perfectly willing to live with...
• Strange. Katheryn Bigelow was well-known to me long before she directed The Hurt Locker. Mostly because of this poster which has hung on my bedroom wall for the past 13 years...
Her movie Strange Days is one of my all-time favorite films. Written by (her then husband?) James Cameron, it's just cool entertainment. It has a great cast (I fell hopelessly in love with Angela Bassett after this performance), a really good story, an intriguing premise, and most everything else I love about the movies. The fact that it was so beautifully directed was just icing on the cake. All I can do is hope that the Oscar win for Kathryn Bigelow will mean we finally get a release of Strange Days on Blu-Ray.
As an added bonus, Kathryn Bigelow also directed a movie in 2000 called The Weight of Water starring the incomparable Elizabeth Hurley... TOPLESS!! I owe Kathryn Bigelow a massive debt for that astounding moment of brilliance in cinematic history, so congratulations on your Academy Awards!
• Teaser. The stupid-ass "teasers" that television news shows do during commercial breaks are getting more and more asinine. Shows like "Entertainment Tonight" always waste time before taking a break telling you what's coming up after the break. It's stupid, but nobody cares because it's not like you'll die if you miss anything on "Entertainment Tonight." You can, however, die from missing something on the news...
"And this just in... another big auto-maker launching a recall. We'll show you what cars pose a risk for your safety this time! It's eleven minutes of uninterrupted news at 11:00 on KIRO 7... tonight!"
Yes, let's not just come out and say which cars might kill you as a public service in the name of safety... instead let's keep it a secret so we can whore out our shitty local news program. Whatever.
And now my sinuses are smooshing into my brain, so I should probably go to bed.
Posted on Monday, March 8th, 2010
I can't help myself. I love Crasher Squirrel!
I don't understand why somebody hasn't him to a picture development deal... he's Oscar gold!
Posted on Monday, March 15th, 2010
One of these days, I'm going to mount a video camera on my dashboard so I can have evidence of just how insane my 5-minute commute home can get. Today I added stops at the post office and the bank, which just tripled the crazy-ass shit I had to deal with. Being cut-off twice, nearly hit three times, and fuming over the SEVEN CARS coming from the opposite direction that DIDN'T stop while I waited to let a young boy cross the street... it's no wonder I'm near-homicidal by the time I get home. ARRRRRRRRRGH!
Peter Graves died over the weekend, which was some really sad news for me. As a mega-huge fan of both his Mission: Impossible television series and the Airplane movies, Graves has been a permanent fixture in my memory as both a brilliant source of suspense and comedy, which is a rare thing for an actor. My respect for him only grew when he turned down what was certainly a nice chunk of money to reprise his Jim Phelps role in the Mission: Impossible movie. The film totally betrayed the character, and Peter Graves would have none of it, which is really cool.
I always held out hope for another Airplane movie, but any attempt to do so now without Captain Oveur in at least a cameo would be a huge mistake. Most of the best scenes in Airplane are his...
"Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"
Oveur and out.
Speaking of scenes...
There's a very cool article over at The Guardian where their film critics pick their favorite movie scenes. That got me to thinking about what my favorite scenes might be, so I decided to take a stab at listing them over the next several weeks for MOVIE SCENE MONDAYS! The first scene I look at is from Katheryn Bigelow's Strange Days released in 1995. There be SPOILERS below, and the film is well-worth watching if you haven't seen it, so don't click through unless you have!→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010
And so my vacation is over.
The DutchBitch dropped me off at the train station for an uneventful ride to the airport. I then had a blissfully uneventful 10-hour flight home. I'd like to say I had a blissfully uneventful drive back over the mountains, but that would be a lie. In addition to "wintery mix" blasting the mountain passes (it's a mix of snow and rain)... I nearly got into an accident twice because people apparently don't know what a Yield Sign means...
Even though it's pretty much a universal symbol meaning "STOP YOUR STUPID ASS IF TRAFFIC IS APPROACHING, BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY"... but while I was out of the country, apparently here in Washington State they've become merely roadside decorations you can ignore.
The first incident wasn't too spectacular. I just had to slam on my brakes to let the dumbass into my lane, even though he should have been the one stopping since he was the one with the YIELD MUTHA FUCKA! sign. The second incident was far worse, and took place as I was making the Cle-Elum turn-off from I-90...
That red line is me. After making my stop at the end of the off-ramp, I continue onward after turning left. That blue line is an oblivious douchebag who didn't even LOOK to see me already in the lane he was merging into. He blew on by the YIELD MUTHA FUCKA! sign and came gunning right at me. Not only did I have to slam on the brakes, but I had to swerve outside of my lane and then swerve back before being hit by oncoming traffic! But you know what the BEST part was? The dumbass lays on his horn when he finally notices me swerving all over the place! And it gets better! Since I was turning right and he was turning left, I pulled up alongside him WHERE HE PROCEEDED TO GIVE ME BITCHY LOOKS AND POINT HIS FINGER AT ME! Like he was calling me out or something.
It took all the self control I could muster not to ram my car into him and bust his shit, but instead I pointed at him and screamed "YOU'RE THE ONE WITH THE YIELD SIGN, ASSHOLE!" He probably couldn't hear me, but I'm pretty sure he sure got the message that HE was the one who made the mistake.
It wouldn't be me traveling if there wasn't some drama involved.
While on the plane I watched a bunch of in-flight movies to pass the time. Usually I only watch movies that I don't care about and don't want to spend the money and time to rent...
First up was "Precious, Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire". I never wanted to watch this film based on the stupid-ass title alone, but the subject matter didn't appeal to me much either. I ultimately found this movie about an abused and neglected teen a crashing bore, and ended up fast-forwarding through chunks of it. So people are horrible and life is depressing... wah! Big news. There was no break-through plot element here that made the story worth my time. I thought Gabourey Sidibe's performance was good, but not really Oscar-worthy. Mo'Nique was very good at being thoroughly reprehensible though, and probably deserved her nomination. But the break-out performances to me were actually by Paula Patton as Ms. Rain and (heaven help us) Mariah Carey as Mrs. Weiss. I may have hated the movie, but there were no denying the great acting.
I also watched The Blind Side... a movie I avoided because all these "football inspirational" stories usually bore the crap out of me. Boy was I wrong. The story of a Southern white family who takes in a black homeless student who then goes on to become a football star was definitely entertaining. Sure the "based on a true story" plot was predictable and manipulative, but the performances were all-around amazing. Sandra Bullock earned that Oscar. And who the hell knew Tim McGraw could act? I also thought that Quinton Aaron added dimension to what could have been a pretty pedestrian and straight-forward character. These kind of bland stereotypical pablum films may not be my cup of tea, but I thought it was pretty good for bring in that genre.
Next up was Pandorum, a sci-fi thriller that I knew nothing about starring Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid. The film was basically a combination of a dozen sci-fi films I've already seen before (mostly Alien and Sunshine with a little Serenity thrown in) but somehow managed to pull off the "zombies in space" idea in an entertaining way. I was happy to have seen it, but didn't think there was anything new or groundbreaking here. Had they found something unique and surprising to catapult the story out of the copycat rut they found themselves in, this could have been a home-run. I was pleasantly surprised by Ben Foster though. He always seemed so one-note in other things I've seen him in, but does a great job here.
After that was Whiteout, based on the comic book mini-series of the same name that I had never read. It's a story about the first ever murder-mystery in Antarctica, and the special circumstances such an environment creates in trying to solve it. While I enjoyed the movie well enough (I can't help myself because I love Kate Beckinsale), the limited number of characters made guessing the mystery villain and the plot-twist villain absolute child's play. I literally had everything pegged in my head fifteen minutes into the film. Still, the arctic location made for some interesting plot elements and I liked the scenery.
And then was The Invention of Lying, with one of my favorite comedians Ricky Gervais, plus Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, and a lot of cameos from people like Tina Fey, John Hodgman, Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jason Bateman (PLUS Jonah Hill, in the ONLY role I haven't positively hated him in!). This thinly-veiled pro-atheism film was pretty much a let-down. Sure the premise of a world where people can't lie is funny at first... but the jokes grow stale far too quickly and the internal logic just didn't hold together for me. It was a half-hour of material that was drawn-out far too long (sometimes painfully so).
And lastly there was The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson's epic retelling of the classic Roald Dahl children's book about a fox who craves adventure and danger... sometimes at the expense of his family and friends. I had already seen the film once, and liked it enough to watch it again. The voice cast is stellar (George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, and more), the stop-motion animation sublime, and the story just bizarre and quirky enough to keep things interesting. Oddly enough, I can't imagine kids enjoying the film that much, as most of the dialogue and story elements seemed very adult to me.
And now... it's time to try and get a few hours rest. It's hard to get jet-lag when you only sleep 4-5 hours each night, but hopefully this long, long day will make me tired enough to manage some sleep.
Posted on Friday, April 23rd, 2010
This afternoon was a beautiful day for driving over to Seattle... until I actually got here. I thought that I could beat rush hour traffic, but somehow arrived right in the middle of it. By the time I had checked into the hotel and made my way to the mall, I was late for my movie date to go see Kick-Ass. Luckily(?) there were twenty minutes of commercials, previews, and other crap, so I didn't miss any of the film.
I liked the movie, and don't feel I should have to make any apologies for that. Even though I am sure there are plenty of people who probably think that I should apologize for enjoying a movie which features an 11-year-old girl with a foul mouth and a predilection for killing bad-guys in the most violent, bloody, horrifying, way possible.
But it's a movie.
Obviously if it were an 11-year-old girl actually murdering people for real, I'd feel different. But it wasn't and so I don't, because I can distinguish hard-core entertainment from real life.
Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski, a geeky high-school comic book fan who decides to become a costumed crime-fighter named "Kick-Ass." Unfortunately, he doesn't have any training or fighting skills, so he spends most of his time getting the crap beat out of him. Repeatedly. Almost dying after his first "adventure."
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Mindy Macready, who has been trained since early childhood by her father to be a ruthless killing machine. Seeking revenge for Mindy's mother's death at the hand of organized crime, the duo become costumed crime-fighters known as Hit-Girl and Big Daddy (featuring one of Nicholas Cage's best performances ever!).
If there's a problem with the film, it's that I found Dave Lizewski's screen-time to be mostly boring. Probably because every single scene with Hit-Girl brutally mowing down criminals was awesome times 100. There's just no way that Kick-Ass can compete with her. She completely steals the movie, and it got to the point where I spent my time wishing I could fast-forward to her next appearance...
All in all, Kick-Ass was solid entertainment that tries to provide a "realistic" take on the super-hero genre film. Of course, it's nowhere near being actually realistic, but the portrayal tries to be. And I give them a solid "B" for the effort.
Posted on Friday, May 21st, 2010
The Hilton SeaTac Airport charges $14.95 for internet. I guess I can post this tomorrow, because Hilton can suck it.
Today is a day where the entire internet is celebrating a movie so astoundingly brilliant... so wonderfully imaginative... so monumentally game-changing... so vastly superior to everything that came before... that it redefines what cinema entertainment means.
I am talking, of course, about MacGruber, from which I just returned.
This was the film I was most looking forward to this summer, and it did not disappoint. It was funny and action-packed from start to finish. Kudos to Will Forte and Kristen Wiig for their fantastic performances, and welcome back to comedy Val Kilmer! Of course, I like MacGruber on Saturday Night Live, so I'm probably biased.
Coincidentally, today is also the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite films of all time: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back...
I never saw the original Star Wars in an actual theater until the re-release in 1978. Instead I saw it at a drive-in with some neighbor kids. I, of course, loved the film and became obsessed with it in whatever ways were available to be obsessed with it back then. You couldn't buy VHS tapes until later, but you could buy outrageously expensive snippets on 8mm film. And then there were the books, magazines, posters, and all the other crap an 11-year-old simply must have or else they'll die.
By the time Empire was released in 1980, my Star Wars mania was at a fever pitch. The idea of seeing the sequel on opening day was too much to resist, so a friend and I got dropped off at the theater so we could wait in line for entirely too long and be among the first to see it. The time spent was, obviously, worth it. The Empire Strikes Back is easily one of the best films ever created, and holds up on all counts to this day. As a movie, that alone is remarkable... but a science fiction movie?!? Magic.
If I was obsessed with Star Wars, I became positively stupid-insane over Empire. It pushed the Star Wars envelope in all directions, and has some of the best dialogue quotes ever to hit the silver screen in ANY genre (I can only guess that this is because George Lucas didn't write or direct it... if only we were so lucky with the prequels). My imagination wasn't just captured by all the amazing things the film offered up, it was blown away never to return.
Once you here those immortal words... "Luke, I am your father" you don't have much choice but to be blown away. Screw The Sixth Sense, THIS is the ultimate twist ending in modern cinematic history.
Even though I was eventually let down by the follow-up effort, Return of the Jedi, my spirit was never dampened. Empire was simply too good to ever die. Toss in all the Ewoks, fart jokes, and other stupid crap you want, it doesn't matter. Once you've learned the ways of The Force from Yoda, there can be no turning back.
Star Wars is in your heart and mind forever.
I know it is in mine.
Posted on Saturday, June 5th, 2010
Nobody can see every movie ever released, so when they declare a film to be "the worst movie ever," what they are actually saying is that it's "the worst movie I've ever seen." Still, given the number of movies out there, this is still a pretty bold statement.
To me, the worst movie ever used to be a Renny Harlin flick called Born American. The tagline on the posters was "Freedom is just a word...until you lose it." It was a Reagan-era flag-waver about three college students vacationing in Finland who decide to cross the Russian border as a joke. Unfortunately for them, they are spotted by the Russian army. They then get captured and tortured as suspected spies... something they consider unjust because they're Americans, dammit! Eventually they escape and, in the process, kill people and destroy a Russian town. The movie was utter shit and made no sense. It was meant to portray Soviet Russia as a nation of monsters, but the only monsters in the film were the Americans. Can you imagine if the situation were reversed and it was the Russians who were caught on American soil blowing up towns and killing people circa 1986? But movie audiences are stupid, so it was easy to cover massive gaps of logic with patriotic "Russia is evil" rhetoric. Born Americans was so bad it made me embarrassed to be American.
But that was then.
Now a new movie has taken its place... Rolland Emmerich's 2012.
Worst. Movie. Ever. Truly excrement on just about every level. First of all, it's a film made for idiots. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because even intelligent people can have great fun turning off their brain and enjoying a stupid flick. Heck, there are a lot of stupid movies I really like. But 2012 goes so far beneath stupid that it's fucking insane.
Heaven only knows I wasn't expecting much, but I was hopeful. Sure Emmerich unleashed such turds as 10,000 BC and Universal Soldier and The Day After Tomorrow and that shitty Godzilla remake. But he also did Stargate, which I liked quite a lot.
And yet nothing could prepare me for just how awful this film could be.
Yes, the special effects were stunning in places... breathtaking even... but the story and events were positively asinine. Oh noes! The earth's core is heating up and the world is going to end! Let's pile up catastrophic spectacles and wild-ass coincidences and see if anybody notices that it's all window dressing bullshit!
What's truly perplexing is that 2012 managed to attract some real talent... actors like John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover, and even Dr. Phlox(!). But it doesn't matter. Even the best actors on earth couldn't save this steamer. Events are so contrived and manipulative, that it feels like you're being force-fed a load of bullshit. And while I could give a dozen examples to illustrate this, the most offensive is the cracks that open up as the earth goes into spasm. They always... always crack across that "perfect spot." Like EXACTLY BETWEEN the fingers of God and Adam in Michelangelo's famous painting in the Sistine Chapel ..
In some films, this might be interpreted in a number of ways. The original painting has God giving life to man. So maybe this is symbolic of man's abandonment of God, creating a rift between them. Or maybe it's meant to be ironic... the painting depicts God giving life to man, now all mankind is facing extinction. Or perhaps it's allegory for religion in general, illustrating that even God can't help you when the world ends. Etc. Etc.
But attributing such deep thought to anything in 2012 would be absurd.
I know this because earlier in the film, Amanda Peet is shopping with her boyfriend when he says something cheesy and ridiculous like "I don't know honey... I feel like there's something pulling us apart..." just before a crack opens up directly between them...
Yes. This movie is that fucking stupid.
But even that's not the reason I loathe the film so vehemently.
As I said, this film was made for idiots. And because idiots don't have the intelligence to think for themselves or figure things out on their own, filmmakers like Roland Emmerich have to design their films to appeal to the lowest common denominator. They insert obvious clues in order to tell the audience how they should think, feel, and react. More often than not, these clues come in the form of a character. Somebody in the film whose only purpose is to help an audience of idiots know when to laugh, cry, get mad, or be scared. A douchebag moron to spell it all out.
In the case of 2012, we get this piece of shit...
First it's the "Oh no, we're doomed!" look. Then the "Hooray, we're saved!" elation. It's so pathetic and absurd that seeing it makes me want to punch somebody in the face. Starting with this asshole...
I hate characters like this. Fucking HATE THEM!
And yet they're becoming more and more common in movies... and more and more blatant in their manipulations. It's getting so bad that pretty soon movie directors will just add subtitles which say things like "THIS IS SAD SO YOU SHOULD CRY NOW" and "THIS SCENE IS WHERE YOU GET ANGRY" and "THIS CHARACTER IS A BAD GUY."
Which is pretty much what 2012 is all about. Telegraphing audience instructions with blatant eye candy and shameless manipulation for no practical purpose... including entertainment.
The Blogography Movie Rating System...
Which brings us to...
Dave2 rating for 2012 (2009)
Posted on Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
Usually I take the direct Amsterdam to Seattle flight at 10:15am, arriving 11:25am. But since I didn't know my schedule in Berlin when I bought my plane tickets, I opted for a later flight via Minneapolis that leaves Amsterdam at 1:25pm and arrives in Seattle at a gut-wrenching 7:19pm... a full five hours of extra travel time.
At which point I have to drive 2-1/2 hours to get home.
Usually the drive is no big deal, but yesterday it became one by the time I left the airport at 8:00pm completely exhausted. Things were further drawn out when I stopped 45 minutes outside of Seattle in North Bend at the Mt. Si Shell Station (pronounced "Mount Sigh") to fuel up.
I only mention this because the gas station is across the street from the Mt. Si Chevron Station, which is the place that Sandra Bullock disappeared without a trace in the Jeff Bridges/Kiefer Sutherland thriller The Vanishing. This was a crappy remake of a pretty good Dutch movie called Spoorloos, but with the customary Hollywood "happy ending" slapped on to ruin the film. Well, it was actually ruined before the ending, but that's what I remember disappointing me most...
Speaking of movies, I rather liked the film The Young Victoria that was playing on-demand during my flight home...
This was surprising to me, because usually I can't stand weepy period romance films. But this was something entirely different, with politics and power playing a bigger role than romance. If that wasn't enough, the production values and performances were all top-notch. Emily Blunt has come a long way since The Devil Wears Prada... which is kind of incredible when you consider the movies were only two years apart!
And now I suppose I should get back to work. I seem to be buried again.
Posted on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
Today's word in the TWENTY/TWENTY meme is "heaven."
Which is easy, because I've been there...
"Is this... is this heaven?"
"Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven."
"Is there a heaven?"
"Oh yeah. It's the place where dreams come true."
"Maybe this is heaven.""
Posted on Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Today's word in the TWENTY/TWENTY meme is "move."
I spent most of my day moving... down the highway... so this was an easy one.
Usually, I drive over the day before I have work in Spokane, spend the night, then start fresh in the morning. But time is so scarce now-a-days that I couldn't afford to do that. So I drove three hours over. Worked for 25 minutes. Ate at David's Pizza for 20 minutes. Then drove three hours back home. All in one day. It's not an ideal situation, but the work is critical and must be performed in person, so whatcha gonna do?
I constructed a rig out of an old GPS window mount to hold my iPhone. I then use a photo app that lets me take a photo with a simple tap to the screen. This allows me to easily snap photos of my journey safely, since I don't need to look at the display to shoot. Occasionally I stop and relocate the mount to my side window just to mix things up. Most of the photos end up looking like crap, because they're not composed in any way, but I do end up with enough shots to tell a story of my day...
In other news... I finally got around to watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tonight...
Hands down one of the best films I've seen in quite a while.
And I'm including the awesome MacGruber, so you know I'm serious.
The Swedish film is actually called Män som hatar kvinnor ("Men who hate women" in English) but it's based on Stieg Larsson's 2005 book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In some ways, the movie title is more appropriate, because the story has some rather shocking violence in it. Fortunately, it's anything but gratuitous, and serves a very necessary purpose to the plot (a shamed journalist is hired to solve a 40-year-old murder where things aren't as they seem, and gets help from a remarkable and unexpected ally).
It also has one of the best revenge scenarios I've seen since Kill Bill.
What's amazing is that the two sequel novels in the "Millennium Trilogy"... The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (2007) have already been filmed. In fact, remarkably, all three books were filmed as a six-part mini-series for Swedish television and aired in 2009. Apparently, both sequels are coming to the USA this year as a theatrical release in bigger cities first, then on video at the end of the year. Sweet!
Due to the massive success of the books here, Hollywood is planning American adaptations, with actors like Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney rumored as leads. It's an interesting idea (though central plot elements seem like they'd need changing if the story is relocated domestically), but the originals are so good that it seems a bit pointless. Unless you factor in American's hatred of reading subtitles, in which case it makes perfect sense. Oh well.
In any event, if you can handle a bit of violence and can read subtitles, the movie is worth a look. If you're a Netflix customer, you can even watch it instantly!
Posted on Sunday, July 18th, 2010
I am really too busy to blog, but if I don't rant about all the fake-ass crap that's been building up inside of me this week, I'll explode. So, apologies in advance...
• Faux Advertising. Am I the only one who thinks that the ads currently running for the new Kia Soul are stupid? I mean, once you get past the cuteness factor of hamsters rapping and driving around, what does it say about the car? That they're so small only hamsters can drive them?
What's odd is that the ad is being overplayed. Almost as if Kia is wanting people to get sick of it. I mean sure it's entertaining one or two times but, once the novelty wears off, it's useless. I'd argue it actually works against the brand, as the existence of this bullet would attest. But, then again, any publicity is good publicity. I guess.
• Faux HD. I was channel-surfing for some background noise yesterday while I worked, and ended up watching Kevin Smith's underrated Jersey Girl on the TBS's HD Channel. And ended up screaming the entire time because the movie was NOT presented in HD. They just took the butchered SD version and stretched it out to fit the HD width. Which is bullshit. Don't go calling yourself an "HD" station if you're not going to show movies in HD. This kind of crap drives me insane. To illustrate, here's a scene from the movie Lost in Translation where a critical conversation is reduced to lips talking...
The scene as God (and director Sofia Coppola) intended.
The scene butchered on Standard-Def television and Pan-n-Scan DVDs.
The scene butchered in Stretched-SD-Faux-HD, ala TBS
And another. This time made worse, because an entire character has been obliterated...
The scene as God (and director Sofia Coppola) intended.
The scene butchered on Standard-Def television and Pan-n-Scan DVDs.
The scene butchered in Stretched-SD-Faux-HD, ala TBS
Now, TBS is hardly the sole offender of butchering movies so stupidly, but they're one of the worst offenders. I wish the FCC would fine stations who misrepresent content. If you're an HD channel showing SD content, then don't distort the content in the hopes that nobody notices. Present it for the butchered bullshit it is...
• Faux Justice. On Monday, child-raping-piece-of-shit Roman Polanski officially got away with violating a 13-year-old girl when Swiss authorities refused to extradite the infamous sexual-predator director back to the US to face charges from 30 years ago. Ultimately, I'm upset that just because somebody directs a few critically-acclaimed films they can get away with rape... but it was a decision for the Swiss, they made their decision, and I understand that. What I don't understand is how a big chunk of Hollywood stood behind Polanski and advocated for his release. People like Natalie Portman. Penelope Cruz. Whoopie Goldberg. Darren Aronofsky. Wes Anderson. And loads more. It's just baffling. My feelings were pretty well summed-up by Chris Rock on Leno a while back when he said "IT'S RAPE! IT'S RAPE!!! in total disbelief. How in the hell do you defend that?
• Faux Hulk. Word dropped this week that Edward Norton, who played Bruce Banner in the last Incredible Hulk movie, was not going to be reprising the role in the forthcoming Avengers movie, even though he wanted to. This is monumentally stupid on so many levels. Mostly because the Hulk is a computer special effect, and Norton only appears when Bruce Banner is in the scene. And, let's face it, in an Avengers movie they're not going to spend a lot of time with Bruce Banner...
Marvel just wanted to save a few bucks, so they used some bullshit conflict with Norton from years ago so they could find a cheaper actor that will kiss their ass. You'd have thought they'd have learned something from the massive success of the Iron Man movie franchise... quality people make a quality product, and you get what you pay for. Not that I'm saying there aren't other actors out there that could do a good job, I just think it's incredibly lame that this is how Marvel has decided to approach the project. Fortunately, Edward Norton has managed to stay classy.
• Faux Righteousness. I've never understood how being Pro-Choice when it comes to abortion automatically removes you from the Pro-Life camp. I am most decidedly Pro-Life... it is the cornerstone of my beliefs. But I fully understand that this is the United States of America where people are allowed to have beliefs that are different from mine, so I am also Pro-Choice (which I explain in further detail here). Being Pro-Choice does not make me "Anti-Life" in any way, it simply makes me supportive of the ideals and freedoms upon which this country was based. And, while I don't in any way support suppressing free speech, I do feel that people should be able to make their choice free from persecution. Especially when the choice is one that's forced upon you and you're heartbroken about it.
Earlier this week, Aaron over at The Daddy Files blogged about having to take his wife to terminate their pregnancy because the baby had a rare birth defect which was causing it to slowly die inside of her. As they approached the clinic, idiotic protesters were there "doing God's work" of mercilessly abusing people by shouting things like "YOU'RE KILLING YOUR UNBORN BABY!!" Which is horrifying enough for a woman who is already scared and vulnerable... but for somebody who wants to have their baby, but can't? It's nothing less than torture. And Aaron decided to do something about it by confronting these monstrous people. I encourage you to read his story. Yes, I'm a Pro-Life-Pro-Choicer. And I am 100% for free speech. But this is not "free speech" it's harassment. It's abusive. It is literally torture. And I think it should be illegal to so ruthlessly persecute women who are already making what has to be a difficult decision THAT'S AFFORDED TO THEM LEGALLY UNDER THE LAW! These are not compassionate people of any God I know. They're evil, pure and simple.
• Faux Problem. What's surprising... but really not... is how most of the bitching about the iPhone 4 antenna problems come from people who don't own an iPhone 4, don't plan to buy an iPhone 4, and just enjoy mindlessly bashing everything Apple does because they're more fanatically obsessed with iPhone than even the people who own one. Of the dozen people I know that ran out and bought iPhone 4, not one has anything but raves for it. I would be one of those people, but Apple still hasn't released the iPhone 4 White, which is the one I want. With a lime green Bumper...
Not to belittle anybody who is having problems, but... If you don't want an iPhone 4, don't buy it. If you bought one and don't like it, bring it back. It's not rocket science.
• Faux Trust. I am more appreciative than anybody will ever know of the people who drop by here to read my crazy crap... then thank me for creating it. I write and draw and photograph things for Blogography pretty much for myself, but it's nice to know that other people like it too. The friends I've made from this website have been a true gift, and I never feel alone no matter where I end up because my online life is always there (AT&T willing). But, as swell as blogging has been to me, I admit to being afraid of it from time to time. More and more, people are treating personal blogs as if they were irreproachable news sources rather than the opinion-pieces they really are. Even here, everything you read is just one opinion with one view and one side of the story. Mine. And even though I've met dozens of people in-person and have been blogging here for years, the scary truth is that I could be a serial killer. Or one of those Russian spies. Or a pathelogical liar. Or an agent of the devil. Or anything.
The fact that I'm a genius who is always right may seem to be a reason to trust everything I do at Blogography... and I totally encourage blind trust and allegiance as a part of my quest for world domination... but I feel compelled to point out that no blog, including mine, will ever have the whole story. I would fervently hope that before acting upon or accepting anything I say or do here, people would attempt to be fully informed. It's not a matter of trust... but responsibility.
Well I certainly feel better now. Annnnd... back to work.
Posted on Sunday, July 25th, 2010
Here I am in the Peach State of Georgia, where it's time once again for Bullet Sunday. Apparently I'm now in an area which is not included in the "97% of Americans" that AT&T's cellular network professes to cover, so Bullet Sunday is about all I got! Thank heavens for WiFi.
• Weather! Hot with a chance of hot humidity and hot thunderstorms? Well, let's just say I don't plan on spending a lot of time outdoors while I'm here...
• Wheaton! While at Comic-Con, I posted a photo of Wil Wheaton to my Flickr stream. After responding to @Whall making a Stand By Me joke about it, I mentioned that I had met Wil Wheaton twice, and wasn't going to stand in line for two hours to meet him again. For this, I got called "bullshit" on by some random stranger, and was told that "Standing in line at a Star Trek convention for a two second autograph doesn't count as 'meeting Wil Wheaton'."
Well, whatever... while I do have an autographed photo of Wesley Crusher that I was happy to stand in line for, that's not what I was talking about. Where I "met" Wil Wheaton was while he was an evangelist touring with NewTek, and it was hardly a "two second autograph." In fact, all I did was talk to him, I didn't even get an autograph at all. Or a photo. Though Wheaton did appear in the background of one of the photos I took of Kiki Stockhammer...
Bazinga! I'd mention that I stood in the airport security line out of San Diego with Paul Sr. of West Coast Choppers (from the TV show American Chopper) yesterday, but you probably wouldn't believe that either. Apparently I have nothing better to do than sit around and invent stories of chance encounters with famous people.
• Waffles! There is not a single Waffle House in all of Washington State (the closest is in COLORADO!), which means the only time I get to eat at one is when I'm traveling. This sucks, but at least I have something to look forward to...
The food is (relatively) inexpensive, tastes good, and available 24 hours. What more could you ask for?
• Wobble! When I was at the San Diego Zoo the other day, I was wandering through the new Elephant exhibit and came across an elephant dancing to some music that was playing nearby (you can barely hear it in the background there, as my iPhone doesn't have the best microphone)...
Rock on, Tantor! Though a part of me is kind of sad at the idea that he might be wobbling around because he's bored in his cage and doesn't have anything better to do. San Diego Zoo is better than most at providing nice habitats for their animals to live in, but it's still a cage at the end of the day.
• Watch! They keep adding cool bits to the TRON: Legacy trailer, which only makes me want to see the film more than ever. December is so far away...
They've youthed Jeff Bridges! And did a really good job of it! I hope the movie lives up to even a fraction of the hype that's building around it.
• Web! I hope that Flash videos in my previous two bullets didn't crash on you! For anybody who says that Mac users who whine about Flash are stuck in the past, and Flash has been much improved and runs perfectly on the Mac, I beg to differ. It's still the bug-ridden pile of bloated FAIL! it's always been, and still crashes all the time, as I can testify to because it happened again just today...
Flash just can't die fast enough.
And now... I guess I really should get back to work.
Posted on Saturday, July 31st, 2010
Since I couldn't get a flight home today without paying a fortune, I'm flying home tomorrow on the cheap. I thought the whole "Saturday Night Stay" price-reduction scenario had died off in the airline industry, but apparently it's alive and well. Though it's not like I'm going to complain about having a free day in Chicago, which is one of my favorite places. Especially since the city is full of friends that I can hang with when last-minute travel plans drop in my lap.
My day pretty much went like this... work, take a shower, work, put on clothes, work, lunch and LEGO hunting in the city, work... movies.
The strange part here is the movies, because I so rarely have time to see them.
And I hate going to the theater.
Because going to the movies pretty much sucks ass anymore. People talking. People texting. People taking calls. People sneaking in noisy bags of Doritos and other distracting crap. People in general, really. Because people are stupid, rude, and suck ass.
But my hotel was near Muvico, which is supposedly a much better class of theater, and so I thought my problems were solved.
First I saw Angelina Jolie in the post-cold-war spy-thriller Salt, which I enjoyed quite a lot. It's kind of a cross between No Way Out and James Bond in a nicely stylized film that keeps the action moving. Sure there are entire sections that were downright silly in their implausibility, but overall I thought it held up pretty well. At the very least, it was entertaining, which is about all you can ask for in a movie.
I saw Salt in Muvico's "regular" theater. It's the same as most theaters, but the seats and views are a bit nicer. That didn't change the fact that I ended up staring at glowing mobile phone screens throughout the whole damn movie...
Next I saw Inception, which is a clever Christopher Nolan film that proves his previous successes with Memento and The Dark Knight were no fluke. And though I usually don't care for Leonardo DiCaprio, I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page more than compensated with their excellent performances. The story involves corporate espionage via "shared dreaming" which is an interesting concept to begin with, but Nolan (who both wrote and directed) took it to the next level by tossing in a nice dose of reality-bending twists. The result is both interesting and entertaining, which is a rare surprise. This is not to say that the film is flawless... there were more than a few problems with the internal logic of How Things Work, and Ellen Page's character was a laughable catch-all for any story exposition or filler that Nolan needed to keep things moving. But still... a solid effort, and well-worth your valuable time.
I saw Inception in Muvico's PREMIUM theater. Here you get a huge comfy seat and free popcorn for the bargain price of $20. Or at least it would be a bargain if it lived up to the hype. The problem is that the theater has other people in it...
And why do I go to movies in the theater again? Even the so-called "premium" experiences such ass.
Guess I'll just start waiting for Blu-Ray.
Posted on Friday, August 13th, 2010
Despite multiple horrible experiences at the movies recently (not with the films, but with the dumbasses in the audience), I hooked up with some friends to go see Sylvester Stallone's latest epic masterpiece The Expendables. I ended up enjoyed it quite a lot.
Which is somewhat surprising given the number of poor reviews the film has been getting. Critics just can't seem to leave it alone, saying that it "doesn't live up to expectations," like it's a complete waste of the big-name action stars stacked up behind it...
Which raises the question... What the hell were the critics expecting?
What I expected was a lot of bad dialogue, major ass-kicking, and huge explosions attached to a paper-thin plot and recycled storyline. This seemed logical given that it was co-written, directed, and starring... SYLVESTER STALLONE!
Surprise! The film featured a lot of bad dialogue, major ass-kicking, and huge explosions attached to a paper-thin plot and recycled storyline.
Yes I wish that they hadn't cast drastically over-used Eric Roberts as the bad guy (yet again). Sure I wish the story was tighter in the pacing and expanded in parts to add depth to the characters. Of course it would have been nice to functional dialogue... but that's obviously not what The Expendables was about. It's an homage to cheesy 80's action flicks, and fits the bill perfectly (even if all those 80's cheesy one-liners are curiously absent... Ahnold didn't even say "I'll be back!"). If you turn off your brain and just go with it, as intended, it's entertaining movie fare.
Just don't forget to turn your brain back on as you leave the theater.
Posted on Friday, August 20th, 2010
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a good film which could have been a great film if it hadn't turned out to be Michael Cera vs. The World.
My relationship with the original Scott Pilgrim comics by Bryan Lee O'Malley is a long story. Five years ago I was introduced to the book because of a girl I really liked. She was geeky and cool and cute and everything else you could possibly want in a potential girlfriend.
Except I was stuck in the dreaded "Friend Zone" with no hope of ever escaping.
A friend who knew of my predicament was more amused than sympathetic, and his solution in consoling me was to loan me Scott Pilgrim Volumes 1 & 2. Which, as anybody who has read those books would realize, is not much of a consolation at all.
But they were an awesome read. I became an instant fan.
The story of Scott Pilgrim is funny, smart, crazy, random, complex, beautiful, bittersweet, epic, and wholly entertaining. I've read each of the subsequent volumes as they've been released, and made a point of not seeing the movie until I had finished the final book of the series, Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour...
Since I read the finale last week, it was just a matter of finding the time to see the film, and tonight was the night. Off to the theater I went with all my expectations firmly in check. Sure the movie was lauded at Comic-Con, critically acclaimed by Scott Pilgrim fans, and getting good reviews in the press... but it was also bound to be a very condensed version of a highly complex story that ran over a thousand pages in six big manga-sized volumes. But would it be enough?
First of all, I was shocked at the amount of heart they managed to keep in the love story given how much of the background to the relationship was lost in translation to the Big Screen. I was anticipating that the movie would simply be one stylized fight scene after another with little room for anything else. This was pretty much the case. Except... director Edgar Wright managed to squeeze in just enough to make you actually care how things work out in the end. That was unexpected. That is what elevated the movie to near greatness. That is why I want to love the movie so much.
Because what's not to love? Boy meets Girl. Boy has to defeat Girl's seven evil exes so he can date her.
With one major exception, the cast was flawless. Mary Elizabeth Winstead was inspired as Scott's love interest Ramona Flowers. Kieran Culkin was genius as Scott's gay roommate Wallace Wells. Ellen Wong was a revelation as Scott's high-school ex-girlfriend Knives Chau. It was one home run after another. Even the "League of Evil Exes" made a big impression despite their extremely limited screen time...
Where the movie fails... and fails massively... is the casting of Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim.
It was an awful, awful choice that dogged the movie from start to finish. Michael Cera was NOT Scott Pilgrim. He was Michael Cera. He's Michael Cera in everything he's ever in. Don't get me wrong... I liked his nervous geeky schtick the first time I saw it in Arrested Development. I even liked his nervous geeky schtick in Superbad... and Juno... and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist... but I'm done with it now. I wanted to see Scott Pilgrim in Scott Pilgrim, and it never happened. You can surround Michael Cera with all the incredibly cool special effects and kick-ass fight scenes you want, and it doesn't change the fact that it's Michael Cera up on the screen... he never lets you forget it...
Because after all that fades away, you're left with MICHAEL CERA BEING MICHAEL CERA...
I can only guess that the decision to cast him was made to please some movie studio executive so they had a "known name" to sell the film. It was a decision that pretty much sabotaged the flick in every way possible, and it kills me to say that. So much went right with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World that it could have survived just about any flaws that managed to creep in. I mean, they overcame so much just to get it all to come together so beautifully. But when that flaw is the main character?
In the end, my love of the Scott Pilgrim books makes me mostly love the movie too, despite a near fatal weakness in the lead role. It's one of the most imaginative and artistic flicks I've ever seen, and miraculously manages to capture the core concept of a highly complex and lengthy story. It's well worth your valuable time to check out.
Next up for Michael Cera? He will be playing Gilligan in a movie remake of Gilligan's Island, which I fully expect will end up being Michael Cera's Island.
Posted on Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
It's a boring day for Bullet Sunday, but here it comes...
• Read. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the Curious George. It was George who ignited my life-long love of monkeys, and his books remain some of my favorites of all time (the best being Curious George Goes to the Hospital. For this reason, I was happy to see that the Library of Congress was using him to promote reading with a series of cool ads...
Books come and go, but the classics are forever.
• Digital. As a long-time fan of comic books, there's something... wrong... with the idea of reading them digitally on an iPad or computer screen instead of the wonderful tactile experience of flipping through the pages of a book. But, after downloading a bunch of freebies on my mom's iPad using the Comixology app, I have to say... I'm almost convinced. I'm growing to love the effortless navigation, brilliant colors, and distraction-free panel-by-panel "Guide View" that leads you through the stories. As if that weren't enough, you can store a lot of comics on a digital device, which beats having to lug around stacks of books and finding room to store them all...
However... pricing and availability sucks ass.
Take for example the acclaimed Vertigo series Y: The Last Man. I've never read the series, but have always wanted to. The first issue was FREE on Comixology so I snapped it up and was immediately hooked. I wanted more. So I click on the "Full Series" button only to find this...
WTF?!? They have just THREE issues of a SIXTY issue series... FOR A DOLLAR-NINETY-NINE EACH!! Even if the entire series was available, who is going to pay $120 when you can get PHYSICAL COPIES of all ten trade paperback volumes for $90? Heck, you can get all the OVERSIZED DELUXE HARDCOVER volumes for $100. This is insanity. Nobody wants to pay more for less. No printing. No shipping costs. No distribution. No retailer markup. No resale value. Nothing extra or special. Except the price, which just sucks. I would gladly pay $60 for the entire digital series, I may even pay $90, which is what the trade paperbacks would cost me. But $120? Screw that. Especially since there's no guarantee they'll ever release all the issues for digital sale in the first place. If this is the future of publishing, count me out. EPIC FAIL!
• Emmy. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Betty White won an Emmy for her hilarious guest host performance on Saturday Night Live...
To this day, I remain astounded at how she cut no corners... she appeared in every sketch, plus an SNL Short, plus all the MacGruber interludes plus Weekend Update. Truly one of the hardest working people in show business (she just signed on for a TWO-book deal!), this is Betty's fifth Emmy win and she deserved every bit of it. As always, I can't wait to see what she'll do next.
• Miyazaki. Good news for fans of Hayao Miyazaki (perhaps the greatest animator in history). Despite saying he was going to retire years ago, a recent interview revealed that he has no plans to retire. In fact, he's planning two films and is musing over a sequel to his underrated gem, Porco Rosso...
When I flew to L.A. and met up with Howard for a rare live appearance of Miyazaki-san discussing his career, I thought it was a kind of "retrospective farewell," and am happier than words could express that this is not the case. Next up, Karigurashi no Arietti (The Borrower Arrietty) based on Mary Norton's 1952 novel The Borrowers...
If there's anything you can rely on, it's that this movie will be yet another awesome Miyazaki work of art.
• Eggs. My fried egg sandwich was delicious. So far so good... but salmonella can take up to three days to incubate, so I could have a diarrhea explosion any minute now. I'll keep you posted.
Annnnd... I'm spent. This is going to be a loooooong week.
Posted on Thursday, August 26th, 2010
The internet is all abuzz over Taylor Lautner filing a lawsuit against an RV dealership because they didn't deliver a $300,000 custom trailer to his movie set on time. For people (like me) who don't give a crap about the Twilight movies, Taylor Lautner is the "Jacob" of that whole "Team Edward vs. Team Jacob" debate that has every teenage girl's panties in a bunch. Apparently he's like a werewolf but he can change anytime, not just when the moon is full. Or something like that. I dunno. All I do know is that in those movie ads he hangs out with a bunch of other guys and they all take their shirts off a lot...
Now, on one hand, breach of contract is a breach of contract. If the RV dealership said they would deliver something on time and didn't, well, they're in breach of contract. Legally, Taylor Lautner has every right to sue.
On the other hand, shit happens. Maybe the gold-plated toilet Taylor wanted wasn't delivered to the dealership on time, and it's not their fault they're late. Maybe the person installing the diamond-studded bumper on the trailer got sick and had to go to the hospital. Maybe the platinum coating on the hubcaps needed to be polished up before they could deliver the thing. We just don't know. Because shit happens.
But surely the movie studio could get Lautner a substitute trailer for a few days until his $300,000 dream-home-on-wheels arrives. It's not like the guy wasn't going to have a place to stay. And it's not like the RV dealership was grossly negligent and gave him a motorhome with exposed wiring in the crystal chandelier hanging in the shower so he got electrocuted or something horrible like that... they're just late.
Which makes Taylor Lautner kind of a douchebag diva here.
Apparently now that he's a big-ass star, the universe is supposed to bow to his whims. Shit happens, but it doesn't get to happen to him. He's too important. He's too special. He's too deserving. You don't fuck with Taylor Lautner or you get your ass sued.
Something tells me that Taylor Lautner has forgotten who he is. Where he came from. What it's like to be merely human.
He's gone full-on Hollywood douchebag.
Taylor, dude, you were fucking "Shark Boy" in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D!
You don't go from being "Shark Boy" to suing people for "emotional distress" because your $300,000 RV is late to your movie set... unless your intention is to make people hate your spoiled ass. The internet is cruel and unforgiving that way.
Something also tells me we won't be seeing a sequel... a Shark Man and Lava Woman, if you will... any time soon. Taylor Lautner is just too big a star for something like that now.
What a darn shame.
Posted on Sunday, August 29th, 2010
This Bullet Sunday is my last before I leave this Saturday. Bullet Sundays 198, 199, and 200 will be written while I'm on vacation. I'm happy just thinking about it. But happiness, as always, is tempered by sadness...
• Dreaming Machines. I was profoundly sad to learn that the brilliant animation director Satoshi Kon had passed away earlier this week from pancreatic cancer. As the man behind Millenium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, and his brilliant tour de force of the imagination Paprika, this is a terrible loss to Japanese anime fans around the world.
"The 24-bit eggplant will be analyzed!"
••• IF YOU READ ONLY ONE THING FROM THIS ENTRY, PLEASE READ THIS! •••
Even if you dislike Satoshi Kon's movies. Even if you don't like Japanese animation. Even if you have never heard of Satoshi Kon. Even if you don't care about any of this... you must... MUST read the translation of Kon-san's final words, which his family generously posted on his blog. Because when it comes to facing mortality with a grace and dignity above and beyond what you could ever dream a human being is capable of, this is it. Satoshi Kon's letter is about as inspiring a message as you'll find, and his words are some of the most beautiful I have ever read.
I am heartsick over the fact that he did not live to finish the production of his latest film, Yume Miru Kikai ("Dreaming Machines") which was sure to be yet another work of genius. I am hopeful that Masao Maruyama of Madhouse Animation manages to "figure everything out" and complete the film in Mr. Kon's absence. Given their past collaborations, I have ever confidence in Maruyama-san to carry out Satoshi Kon's vision and create a movie worthy of his legacy.
• Paprika. And just because I can't express in mere words what it means to lose a man of such boundless imagination and sublime vision as Mr. Satoshi Kon, here is the crazy-ass trailer and genius opening credits for his film Paprika. Crank up the volume, because the stunning soundtrack by Mr. Kon's frequent collaborator, composer Susumu Hirasawa, is worth a listen...
Rumor has it that director Wolfgang Petersen (The NeverEnding Story, In the Line of Fire, Outbreak, etc.) is working on a live-action version of the film. Heaven only knows how he'll manage it, as Paprika has imagery that doesn't seem as though it would work in "the real world"). Personally, I think a live-action adaptation of Paprika has already been made with Christopher Nolan's Inception, which is a very different film, but operates along the same ideas.
Rest in peace, Kon-san, you will be missed.
• Alas, MacGruber. One of my favorite performers on the current Saturday Night Live line-up, Will Forte, has announced he will not be returning for another season of the show. Now, I'm firmly of the opinion that SNL started tanking after Eddie Murphy left, and then went on a full-on decline once Phil Hartman left... but I still watched because there were occasional flashes of brilliance. Will Forte was responsible for many of them...
So long, MacGruber... you will be missed.
• Unloading. If I've depressed you with my first three bullets, I'm sorry. For a dose of funny to cheer you back up, check out the Madge & Dave podcast where they unload on pop culture with style. Well... not so much "style" per se... but they do unload.
• Booky. DK Publishing produces some of my favorite books. Their visual travel guides are the benchmark by which I judge all others. Their visual history titles redefine how interesting our past can be presented. Their visual art and architecture volumes can make a fascinating subject even more amazing. But my favorite thing they do is their pop culture visual guides for such worthy subjects as comic books, television & movies, toys like LEGO, and... STAR WARS! Their amazing reference works and brilliant cut-away guides has added depth to the Star Wars universe in more ways than a fan could hope for. Their latest visual title is sheer genius... Star Wars: Year by Year...
What makes this book so great is that it's about the things both surrounding and involving the Star Wars films. Influences, comics, games, books, interviews, production notes, television shows, posters... anything and everything... all taken year by year. It's a fascinating look at all things Star Wars that no fan can miss.
And now... I'm off to try an fit 16 days of clothes into a suitcase...
Posted on Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
I am starting to really, really despise Amazon.com — not because they suck or anything... for the most part I find their pricing and service to be excellent. No, the reason I hate them is because they make it entirely too easy for me to spend money I don't have. Stupid Amazon and their stupid product suggestions and their stupid One-Click ordering!
Here are three of my latest totally non-essential purchases that I just had to own or else I would die...
THE MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Star Wars is awesomeness defined. So awesome that at the time it was released, it was nearly impossible to process. Most everything about it was so new and revolutionary that the brain had no choice but to explode at the thought of it all. But by the time The Empire Strikes Back came along three years later, we were accustomed to all the amazing special effects and mind-blowing elements that made Star Wars such a phenomena. We wouldn't be surprised again.
Or so we thought. The Empire Strikes Back proved us wrong. Upping the ante in every possible way, the film raised the bar so high that few... very few... films have managed to top it. It remains one of my top-five favorite films of all time, and cemented my love of Star Wars for all eternity (even when the franchise turned to shit with Return of the Jedi and the horrendously craptastic prequels).
So how could I possibly not purchase The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, J.W. Rinzler's stunning follow-up to The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones? This massive 372-page tome has a definitive look at every aspect of the movie's creation taken from countless hours of research and interviews. It includes numerous pieces of production art, behind-the-scenes photos, and other tidbits which gives the reader an insider's look at Empire in a way that will make you not only fall in love with the film all over again... but have an entirely new appreciation for the people behind it...
It's a complete and total steal at $49.72 (list price $85.00!), and I give it my highest possible recommendation for Star Wars fans and anybody who's interested in film production. The Force is indeed strong with this one!
THE SECRET OF KELLS BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO
Where to start with this one. Probably with the fact that I am a total animation whore. I remain hopelessly fascinated with the artform and obsess over its every incarnation. Everything from a simple flip-book to full-blown computer-generated animations captivate me. But hand-drawn animated features are my favorite. Even when Pixar unleashes their latest computer-rendered genius, I still find myself pining for the animated classics I grew up with.
So imagine my surprise when I happened across a production blog back in 2006 for an animated feature called The Secret of Kells. I had visited Dublin and seen the jaw-dropping beauty of The Book of Kells the previous year, and thought it was pure genius to use it as the foundation for a movie. For years I followed the updates, watching with amazement as the film took shape...
With each update at The Blog of Kells, I became more and more excited at the visual feast that was being created. Even at its very earliest stages, you could feel this would be something special. When peeks of the animated sequences were revealed, you knew it was something special. And when it finally opened in limited release in Washington State back in May, I finally got to see it and know that "special" was a drastic understatement. The film was magic. And I don't use that term lightly.
Infused with Celtic mythology, The Secret of Kells tells the story of a young boy named Brendan who sees an unfinished book of secret wisdom and magical powers which holds the hope of banishing darkness and defeating evil. Leaving his world behind, Brendan undertakes an amazing journey through an enchanted forest to help complete The Book of Kells. Along the way he meets mystical creatures and the fairy spirit Aisling to aid him in his quest...
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. Every frame of this movie is a sublime work of art in its own right. Every frickin' frame! The fact that it's all beautifully animated in old-school stylings is just the icing on the cake. I could use words like "stunning" and "breathtaking" and "Glorious" to describe it, but there is simply nothing I can say which would adequately prepare you for the experience of viewing the film. Though a part of me wonders if the story is a bit too abstract for younger kids, I can't imagine anybody not enjoying The Secret of Kells.
For $25 you get a combo Blu-Ray/DVD pack (alas, no digital version to be found) and it's worth every penny. Again, my highest possible recommendation.
GRINDHOUSE: COLLECTOR'S EDITION BLU-RAY
Finally... finally... Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's wonderful experiment in old-school double-feature cinema has been released on home video as they intended it to be seen... an uninterrupted back-to-back experience complete with all the pseudo-trailers, aged film damage, missing reels, and intermission card goodness!
Grindhouse combines two films of senseless campy violence, horror, and action by two of Hollywood's most genius and unconventional directors... Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino, and Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez. You also get a bunch of brutally cool "faux trailers" for films like Werewolf Women of the S.S. by Rob Zombie and Don't by Edgar Wright (and, of course, Machete which was later made into an actual film!). It's not going to be for everybody, but any fan of shlock horror films will probably love it...
While both films have their charms, it's Death Proof that I can't get enough of. When it comes to Tarantino movies, it's but a blip on the radar of his impressive oeuvre, but it's still genius when compared to most of the shit that gets released. Kurt Russell(!) plays a psychopathically homicidal stuntman who likes to stalk lady drivers in his "death-proof" stunt car, eventually running them off the road and killing them. It's all fun and games for the maniac... until he terrorizes the wrong women! This twisted tale of suspense and revenge has one of the best car chase sequences ever put to film, and is chock-full of Tarantino's witty (and borderline scandalous) dialogue. As I said, it's not going to be for everybody, but it's dead-on target for its intended audience. If that's you, I give Grindhouse my highest recommendation. Amazon has it for just $23, which is more entertainment per dollar than you can shake a machine gun at!
And there you have it. $100 of my hard-earned money blown with three clicks. I wish I could say this was a rare event but, alas, there are even more unnecessary but essential items waiting for me, I'm sure.
Don't act surprised when I'm selling myself on the street for Amazon gift certificates. It's only a matter of time...
Posted on Thursday, October 28th, 2010
Comic book super-hero movies are a mixed bag. For every great film (like Superman, Iron Man, Dark Knight, and Spider-Man 2), there's a crapfest unleashed (like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Elektra, Batman & Robin, Spider-Man 3 and any of the boring X-Men films).
But the latest round of Christopher Nolan Batman flicks and Jon Favreau Iron Man flicks are leading the charge in a new era of comic book super-hero awesomeness. Filmmakers are getting serious about making good films that are true to the source material because they realize there's a reason the originals are such enduring characters.
And there's every indication that even more great stuff is coming down the pipe.
I'm fairly certain that Thor is in capable hands with director Kenneth Branagh and acting talent like Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman onboard. I loved the comic during the Walt Simonson era, so hopefully Thor won't disappoint. Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern sounds almost too good to be true. The upcoming Batman film, The Dark Night Rises, is certain to be awesome. And I'm sure Iron Man 3 will be fantastic. I'm not so sure about the Spider-Man reboot, but surely it can't suck more than Spider-Man 3.
But it's Captain America that I'm holding my breath over. He's easily one of my favorite Marvel heroes, and I've followed his exploits for decades. The movie is set during World
And today Entertainment Weekly unveiled the World War II period costume on its cover...
Yep, that's Captain America alright.
This means there's only one of the "big guns" left who has yet to get their major motion picture...
I'll be really disappointed if Wonder Woman gets screwed out of a movie because she's a girl. Her origin and mythology are amongst the most interesting of any comic book super-hero, and she deserves a shot.
Posted on Sunday, November 7th, 2010
Welcome to an ALL-REVIEW EDITION of Bullet Sunday!
• SIDEWALKS! I still haven't come down off the high I got from Matt and Kim's second album masterpiece, Grand, so when I heard they were dropping their third album, Sidewalks, I was skeptical. How could they possible come up with anything even near as awesome? Well, they're Matt and Kim, so how could it not be awesome? I love it, and have been listening to Sidewalks constantly. Here's a short video talking about the album with a sweet taste of the awesome first track...
The only song I don't much care for is Northeast, which deviates from the happy funtime sound that makes me love the band so much. The other nine tracks are gold, however, with my clear favorites being Block After Block, Cameras, AM/FM Sound, and Good for Great. My only criticism of Sidewalks would be that it seems over-produced compared to what's come before. The charm of Matt and Kim's music has always been the raw, unpolished, basement sound that lets their indie roots shine through. But everything here is polished so heavily that no rough edges show, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Kim's wild, unapologetic brashness when banging on the drums is kinda... muted... this time around. And while the complexity they've layered into their latest songs adds a welcome maturity to their sound, I'd hate for them to eventually be buried by it.
SIDEWALKS RATING: B (Recommended).
• THE WALKING DEAD! Comic book adaptations for television have historically been hit-or-miss, with even the most successful translations feeling like something is lacking. So imagine my surprise when one of my favorite comic books ever, The Walking Dead, actually managed to elevate the source material so high that it exceeds my impossibly high expectations. In some ways, it's even better than the comic book upon which it's based...
Shocking, I know. But no more shocking than a comic book where no character is sacred and anybody can die at any minute. What's truly shocking is the production values on the series. AMC is putting some serious cash into all aspects of the program, and it shows. The special effects and location shooting are brilliant. The zombies are works of art and not the schlocky B-movie retreads I was expecting. And the acting is top-notch, with Andrew Lincoln's flawless performance as Rick Grimes adding a sense of danger and realism that's almost too good to be true...
Genius television on every level, and already renewed for a second season!
COMIC RATING: A+ (Highly Recommended).
TV SHOW RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
• EARTH! As a huge fan of The Daily Show, I was quick to snap up their humorous primer on all things USA called America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. Even though The Daily Show is a comedy program, it still manages to have an intelligent discussion of news and politics between the funny. With America (The Book), they poke fun at the country by reducing our culture and history down to a ridiculous grade-school textbook filled with witty essays that illuminate while they amuse. It was a terrific book, which compelled me to pick up the follow-up tome, Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race...
It's reminiscent of America (The Book), but on a global scale. Except this time they dismissed with the essays and went with page after page of easy jokes and witty one-liners slapped on wacky infographics and amusing photos. While still funny and moderately insightful, it doesn't leave the reader with much to think about (which seems to be the point). So while I definitely enjoyed Earth (The Book) it was kind of a step-down from their previous effort.
AMERICA (THE BOOK) RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
EARTH (THE BOOK) RATING: B (Recommended).
• BLU-RAY COLLECTIONS! I've been opposed to wasting my money on re-purchasing videos on Blu-Ray that I already own on DVD unless there's a very good reason for doing so. Unfortunately, two new sets have dropped which left me with no choice, because they both contain some of my favorite films of all time PLUS very good reasons for buying them...
Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy. I am convinced that all three of these films are some of the most brilliant and inventive movies to ever grace the silver screen... and it's all because of the details. The original Back to the Future not only had a great story, but showed the consequences of time travel with numerous small details that geeks like myself go crazy over (such as when Marty destroyed one of Old Man Peabody's trees in 1955, causing the "Twin Pines Mall" in 1985 to transform into "Lone Pine Mall"). Then we got Back to the Future II, which managed to create an all-new story WITHIN the original film all while giving us a fantastical look at the future. Sheer genius. Back to the Future III was a bit more mundane, trading the future for the Old West, but managed to wrap-up the trilogy in a way that was satisfying and respectful to those that came before. This new Blu-Ray set has an incredible transfer to hi-def that's a marked improvement over the old DVD versions. Despite having been filmed in the 80's, everything looks crisp and new, and there's tons of extras that any BTTF fan will love (some of which I have never seen before). An added bonus... digital copies of all three films is included, so you can transfer everything to your iPod, which is awesome. Two down-sides. 1) The packaging can make releasing the discs a real challenge. You pull down on the disc to unhook it, but sometimes it doesn't work like it should, and I worried that I'd snap the thing in half. 2) The menu system is FUCKING STUPID! Maybe it's just my player, but every damn time I view something, the menu won't come back and I have to eject the disc, then wait the five minutes it takes for the menu to load again. A serious flaw that drops my rating... I'll take functionality over design any day.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: 25TH ANNIVERSARY TRILOGY RATING: B+ (Highly Recommended).
Alien Anthology The issue here is picture quality. The Alien films are fairly dark, which is a real problem for DVD/TV. You can get some nasty compression artifacts and murky shadows that obliterate details and kill the spooky atmosphere that makes the movies work so well. Thankfully, the new Blu-Ray Hi-Def transfer is fantastic. The picture is probably better now than it ever was, which makes me wish they'd re-release the films in digital theaters. In any event, the original Ridley Scott Alien film was a masterpiece blend of science fiction and horror that can still scare the crap out of me even today. It was followed by Aliens, where James Cameron did the impossible by grafting a high-octane "space marine" action flick onto the original sci-fi/horror concept... and actually made it work. David Fincher's Alien3 was a disastrous disservice to the story from Aliens, but a pretty good film when looked at independently. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Alien: Resurrection has some amazing visual sequences that are tied together by a rather weak story which revives Sigourney Weaver's deceased character in a way that never really worked for me. And even though I hated the freaky-ass mutant alien that provided the "villain" for the fourth installment, I think I enjoyed the film overall. Everything is brought together beautifully with a shitload of awesome extras that will take me days to get through. The packaging (again) is a bit odd (WTF-?), but workable. For any fan of any of the films, Alien Anthology is a must-have.
ALIEN ANTHOLOGY RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
And now I'm out of money, so that will have to be enough unabashed consumerism for the day.
Posted on Tuesday, December 28th, 2010
Tonight I'm going to discuss the hot mess of a film Black Swan.
I never intended to see this movie because A) I don't like ballet, and B) I find Darren Aronofsky films to be very hit-or-miss (
Sooooo... tonight was the night...
Needless to say, this review will be riddled with spoilers. If you haven't seen the film and are planning to, you might want to bookmark this page and come back later.
For the most part, I found Black Swan to be pretentious crap with fantastic performances and some admittedly disturbing scenes. Despite wanting to enjoy it, I was mostly bored through the predictable story and unimpressed with the heavy-handed presentation. The only reason I can honestly say I'm glad I saw it is so that I can knowingly roll my eyes into the back of my head when people start talking about what a fantastical work of art it is.
And I suppose I should get that problem out of the way first, because THEY NEVER LET YOU FORGET IT...
30 minutes into the movie I wanted to stand up and scream "OKAY, IT'S ART! WE FUCKING GET IT!" because I was so sick and tired of the massive film grain that was so obviously meant to give the picture an art-house cinema look. I mean give me a break... usually when movies are this bad, they're deemed to be in need of restoration. Studios spend millions trying to get rid of abusive grain when re-issuing old films because modern movie audiences are accustomed to a cleaner picture. But Aronofsky is apparently so desperate that Black Swan not be mistaken for anything but art, that he takes it to an entirely new level.
And I get that. As somebody who started out in photography using a film camera, I totally miss the beautiful, warm, classic "feel" of film that's been lost in the digital age. But there has to be limits. When I spend more time trying to ignore the grainy haze obstructing the picture than I do on the story, you've failed. Artistic visual choices I totally understand. But, just like JJ Abrams' absurdly stupid overuse of lens flair in nearly every fucking scene of Star Trek, I didn't agree with the choice here, finding it more "distractive" than "artistic."
That's kind of a shame, because if there's one thing that truly shines here, it's the actors. Natalie Portman's wooden and shitty performance in the heinous Star Wars prequels can forever rest directly on George Lucas's shoulders, because she is genius working with Aronofsky. Her vulnerable and damaged brand of crazy is nothing short of remarkable here. And it doesn't stop there. Barbara Hershey played her abusive-obsessive mother with such beautiful restraint and subtlety that it was disturbing to watch. There was nothing forced or synthetic about it, which makes me look at her work in Beaches in an entirely different light. Mila Kunis turned in an unexpectedly great performance as well (SHE'S MEG ON FAMILY GUY FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE!). And then there's Winona Rider. I have no idea what it is, but every time I see her on screen I am inexplicably mesmerized, and her tiny role in Black Swan was no exception.
Sadly, none none of the awesome acting can save the story, which was remarkably unremarkable despite special effects and bizarre pandering to make it appear that way.
Natalie Portman plays Nina, an aspiring prima ballerina who hammers away at her dancing with a fury so intense that she's borderline crazy before she goes literally crazy. Nina's golden ticket arrives when she is given the lead performance in Swan Lake. It's then that her never-ending drive to achieve perfection ultimately consumes her, and the movie takes us along for the ride right to the bitter end (which, if you know the story of Swan Lake, is exactly what you'd think it is).
As I mentioned, Nina has serious psychological problems... assumably brought on by her controlling and equally crazy mother, but amplified by her overwhelming obsession to perform flawlessly at the ballet. This eventually starts to transform her with ever-escalating psycho-delusions which are meant to echo the transformation she undergoes from White Swan to Black Swan within the performance of Swan Lake (even though they are different characters, they are played by the same dancer to illustrate the mirrored duality of good vs. evil, or so I'd imagine).
The reason we know this is because THEY BEAT YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH IT OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!
I gave up on counting the direct references, which usually go something like this: "Oh Nina, we know you can play the graceful White Swan perfectly, now you just need to let yourself go so you can transform into the seductive Black Swan!"
And let herself go she does... falling deeper and deeper into her transformation until she destroys herself getting there.
The film tries some trickery to make you wonder how much of Nina's world is real and how much is just her twisted delusions. It's very cool at first, but it ultimately goes over the top and fails. At one point Nina goes into her mother's room where dozens of mommy's painting self-portraits come alive to torment her. Until this point, you only get flashes of crazy, but now it's bluntly spelled out for you. Nina is fucking insane. Any blurring of the line from this point onward is pointless because you've already got The Big Picture. Even worse... it doesn't matter from then on what's real and what's not. It doesn't matter if her dancing partner Lily is trying to be a friend or is instead a vicious, conniving rival who is intentionally messing with her head. It doesn't matter whether her director is just trying to get her best performance or is instead manipulating her in some kind of seductive game. It doesn't matter whether her mother is just concerned and over-protective or instead an abusive, crazy oppressor. It doesn't even matter if her mother is even real or instead just a delusional invention. None of it matters at a point when it very much should matter.
But it doesn't, and so I stopped caring.
Instead I was just bored. If I liked ballet even a little bit, I could have at least found entertainment in the many beautifully-filmed dance sequences. But, alas...
I truly wish that Aronofsky would have had a lighter touch when crafting this movie. Something tells me that it could have been so much more had only he not tried so damn hard to make "art" and just let it become art.
As an example...
At one point Nina goes out with Lily for a wild night of clubbing with drugs, alcohol, and men — all in defiance of her mother. The evening culminates when Nina brings Lily home for some hot lesbionic sex — also in defiance of her mother. In order to make sure they're not disturbed, Nina props her bedroom door with a wood board so Mommy Dearest can't open it. The next morning she oversleeps and awakes to see the board has been moved, the door is ajar, and Lily has gone. NOW... since the board was moved, the only assumption you can make is that Lily was really there and Nina didn't imagine it. EXCEPT... when Nina arrives late to the theater, Lily acts as if she never went home with her (delivering the movie's best line in the process). This leaves the viewer wondering... "Did Nina imagine it all and never prop the door, or is Lily lying to make her (more) crazy and steal her role?"
Had the film continued down THAT road, we could have had a beautifully fucked-up ending where the viewer is left to decide what was real, what wasn't, and what that all means to them... instead of what it means to Aronofsky.
Except, as I said, it ended up not mattering what's real or not when you've got over-the-top scenes of Natalie Portman literally becoming the Black Swan at the end (an "homage" to Jeff Goldblum in The Fly?). Way to spell it out. I would have totally missed the symbolism if you hadn't done that. So instead of letting Portman's performance stand on its own, we get special effects to take the audience by the hand and lead them to the only conclusion possible. In my humble opinion, this sucked all the power out of her character, but c'est la vie.
Black Swan ultimately fails as a film and lost my interest. Still, I give it a C- for the awesome performances.
Darren Aronofsky has been hired to direct Hugh Jackman in Marvel Comics next Wolverine movie. Granted, he has no choice to be fairly direct with such a mainstream film, but I'm hoping he can elevate the material to something worth watching. He is, after all, still the guy who made Requiem for a Dream and Pi, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Though Black Swan leaves me with more doubts than I had before I saw it.
I'm fickle that way.
Posted on Thursday, December 30th, 2010
2010 -> AUDIO -> VIDEO -> DAVE
I'm going to split my list of top ten video entertainments for 2010 between television and movies. I'm only including stuff I've seen, which is why films like True Grit (which I understand is great) aren't showing up.
Here is a list of my favorite television shows from 2010 :
#1 Raising Hope.
As perfect as a television show gets. Flawless cast. Priceless writing. Endlessly entertaining. Hysterically funny. Nothing I could say would do the show justice... just tune in and watch it.
#2 The Human Target.
To be honest, I don't quite have the words to describe how much I love this show. Loosely based on a comic book of the same name, The Human Target is the story of Christopher Chance, an ex-assassin who now works as a bodyguard for hire. His dark and mysterious past is always coming back to haunt him, but with help from his business parter (an ex-cop named Winston played by Chi McBride) and fellow rogue assassin (Guerrero played by Jackie Earle Haley) he tries to make up for past wrongs. Part of what makes the show so great is that it has a low bullshit factor. Bad guys die when the shit goes down. This is a welcome change from the unrealistic approach taken by other shows in this genre. Two new characters were added this season, which is a little annoying since it messes up the dynamic of the show, but it's not a deal-breaker for me.
It's Murder She Wrote for the 20th century! Smart, clever, and funny, Castle stars Nathan Fillion as famous mystery writer Rick Castle who gets inspiration for his novels by helping out the police, led by the brutally hot Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic). Hilarity and murder ensues.
#4 The Walking Dead.
Somewhat based on the comic book of the same name, this show is about a small group of people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse of unknown origin. It's totally brutal and kicks copious amounts of ass.
#5 Tower Prep.
I started out as a big fan of Lost but eventually grew tired of the show meandering without purpose because the writers didn't know what the fuck they were doing. Enter Tower Prep. Billed as a school for kids with special abilities, students are recruited for some mysterious purpose with no memory of how they arrived. With no escape possible, a small group of students make it their mission to figure out the secrets of this mysterious place and find a way back home. Unlike Lost, the writers behind Tower Prep actually seem to have a plan for what's happening. Don't let the fact that it airs on Cartoon Network and stars a bunch of kids fool you, this is a great show.
ALSO GOOD IN 2010: The Big C (smart, smart, smart television), 30 Rock (Consistently funny. Thank you Tina Fey), Community (Defining excellence in television comedy), Grey's Anatomy (Still managing to surprise me), Modern Family (Isn't running out of steam yet!), Fringe (I initially didn't care for this show, but am really digging it now), Breaking Bad (Um. Wow), Mad Men (Declining, but I can't help watching it), Cougar Town, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Burn Notice, White Collar, Psych, Project Runway, Graham Norton, Top Chef, On the Road with Austin & Santino, Rules of Engagement, Hot in Cleveland (BETTY WHITE!!), Doctor Who, Hawaii Five-0.
DISAPPOINTING IN 2010: Outsourced (Holy crap. Take a movie a really liked, strip it of everything that made it great, and you get this pile of FAIL!), The Event (Boring, plodding, meandering, bad television).
COMPLETE SHIT IN 2010: Survivor (Look, the formula for this show is dead-simple... find interesting people, make them play games. The end. Stop fucking up the show by having Jeff Probst inject himself into the drama at Tribal Council. Stop influencing the natural progression of things with producer-meddling bullshit. Stop picking boring-ass people to be on the show).
Here is a list of my favorite movies from 2010 (with ALL the films I remember seeing this year):
#1 Iron Man 2.
Look, I know that this was a massive drop from the sheer awesomeness of John Favreau's original Iron Man. I know it didn't crack the vast majority of "best of" lists this year. I know a lot of comic fans criticized the movie. I know. I know. I know. So how DARE I have it as my #1? Simple. I just don't care what anybody else thinks. I loved this film. Robert Downey Jr. embodies the role of Tony Stark so brilliantly that he's easily my favorite movie version of a super-hero ever... even surpassing Batman, my favorite comic book character. Add in yet another great performance by Sam Rockwell, plus Scarlett Johansson in her skin-tight Black Widow costume, plus an over-the-top Mickey Roarke as the villain Whiplash, and you've got a movie I am compelled to enjoy. I've watched Iron Man 2 on Blu-Ray no less than a half-dozen times, and will undoubtedly watch it dozens more.
#2 Toy Story 3.
It always amazes me how Pixar manages to pack such heartfelt emotion into a computer-generated cartoon, but they never fail to deliver. Near-perfect, Toy Story 3 is an amazing finale to two of the best films ever made. I love how Lasseter & Co. are not afraid to keep moving things forward as opposed to constantly re-treading the same stories over and over again. And, when you consider the fact that all the human characters are computer generated and could stay the same age forever, it's even more remarkable. This sequel sequel has the toys treading waaayyy outside their comfort zone and finding the value of friendship in even the worst of circumstances. Touching and funny, it makes me hope there's more Toy Stories to come.
Yet another comic book adaptation, and one that still surprises me it was ever made at all. Kick-Ass is the story of an ordinary teenage kid who decides to become a real-life super-hero. Things quickly get out of hand when he gets tangled up with Big-Daddy and Hit-Girl's mission to take down crime kingpin Frank D'Amico. Things also get more interesting. As a hyper-violent, foul-mouthed, and deadly "hero" of entirely another kind, Hit-Girl ends up stealing the movie. Assuming you can stomach all the bloodshed, it's bloody good fun.
In many ways, I'm not 100% convinced that I even liked this film, which is just part of the reason it's so darn compelling. Another reason would be that the story wasn't dumbed down for the typical movie-going audience. There was real complexity and ambiguity that you just don't find in the dreck that usually comes out of Hollywood. Even putting aside the mind-bending special effects, Inception has a lot going for it.
#5 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
This is one of those rare instances where I am very glad I saw the movie before I read the book... for one reason only: Noomi Rapace's absolutely brilliant portrayal of troubled punk-rock hacker Lisbeth Salander. Being able to picture her as I read the novel made it that much better. Easily one of the best movie characters ever, Lisbeth gets embroiled in an investigative reporter's quest to unwrap a mysterious murder in the powerful Vanger family. Since the film is Swedish, of course there's an American remake underway, though I can't for the life of me understand why. Maybe too many Americans are just too damn stupid to have to deal with subtitles? In any event, I genuinely pity whatever actress they get to fill Noomi's shoes on this one. There's just no way they can measure up. Dark, disturbing, violent, and wholly wonderful, I can't wait to see the two sequels (which, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were released in 2009 in the rest of the world, but are flowing like molasses here in the USA).
ALSO GOOD IN 2010: The Social Network (A much better film than the subject would imply, I loved it), The Illusionist (Wonderful animated feature from France that's a bit depressing but ultimately rewarding), Salt (Angelina Jolie brings it in this taught action-thriller), The Kids Are All Right (A much-deserved slap in the face to assholes everywhere who think their definition of "family" is the only one that matters), Exit Through The Gift Shop (surprisingly smart and entertaining), MacGruber (Go ahead, mock me, but this film was funny as hell), Red (Actually improved a bit over the comic book it was based upon. Not great movie fare, but highly entertaining), Despicable Me (Clever, fun, animated delight that ISN'T from Pixar... who'd a thunk it?), Last Train Home (Brilliant film from China that's guaranteed to move you), TRON: Legacy (As a fan of the original, I am compelled to enjoy this flawed sequel with lots of eye-popping visuals, but little character), Let Me In (Color me shocked. A fantastic remake of a fantastic Swedish vampire film that puts that Twilight shit to shame).
DISAPPOINTING IN 2010: Black Swan (My review is here), Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (It had such awesome potential but Michael Cera IS NOT SCOTT PILGRIM!), Alice in Wonderland (It has Tim Burton and some excellent production values... but didn't click with me for some reason. Maybe if I see it again but skip the 3D this time?), Jonah Hex (I have no fucking clue what in the hell they were thinking. While not a huge fan of the comic book it was based on, the source material is literary GENIUS compared to this bullshit, The Ghost Writer (I struggled not putting this film on my "GOOD" list but, despite some tense moments, I think it ultimately falls a bit flat).
COMPLETE SHIT IN 2010: The Last Airbender (What. The. Fuck. A joyful, fun, exciting, amazing cartoon had the very life sucked out of it to create this horrendous pile of shit. Shameful. Just shameful.), Skyline (Who greenlit this crap? HELLO, YOU NEED A STORY BEFORE YOU SHOOT THE MOVIE!).