Posted on Monday, January 14th, 2013
In the 1992 movie The Distinguished Gentleman, Eddie Murphy plays a con artist who figures out that the most profitable con jobs of all can be found in American politics, so he bluffs his way into Congress.
The movie was widely panned by critics. They just couldn't say enough bad things about the film, and most movie-goers seemed to feel the same way. Not me. Yes, it felt like Eddie Murphy was making the shit up as he went along, and the movie would have benefitted greatly from a tighter script... but, overall, it's a pretty funny film.
And a very disturbing film as well...
Early in the movie Eddie's character, Thomas Jefferson Johnson, has just arrived in Washington and is meeting with a lobbyist representative named Terry Corrigan who matches lobbyists to politicians who share their views. Terry asks Thomas how he feels about sugar subsidies. Thomas doesn't know how he feels about sugar subsidies, so he asks Terry whether he should be for them or against them. Terry says something like "Shit, it doesn't matter to me... I can get you money on both sides." This kind of shocks Thomas, who says "Terry, tell me something. With all this money coming in from both sides, how does anything ever get done?" Terry's reply? "It doesn't. That's the genius of the system!"
The rest of the film is how Eddie and his friends try to maximize the money they can get out of the system, all while being in a constant state of shock at just how fucking easy it is for a Congressman to rake in absurd amounts of cash. At the end of the movie, Eddie's character makes a statement about how all his con-jobs in the past are nothing compared to the massive cons going on every day in the US government, except with Congress it's all perfectly legal.
The movie is as relevant today as it was when it was made twenty years ago, and I still think it's worth checking out. And here's why... As crazy and as exaggerated and as outrageous as the situations are in The Distinguished Gentleman, I am absolutely certain that what goes on in real-life Congress is a thousand times worse. And the more I read about what's happening with the assholes we elect into office today, the more I'm convinced that has to be true.
At least in the movie version I can have a laugh while getting fucked by Congress. Reality is not quite so entertaining.
Posted on Saturday, January 19th, 2013
I'm so happy I could just shit because I only had to work a half-day today. Of course, a "work day" for me is 16 hours long, which means my half-day is the same as most people's full-day, so I guess I should be as excited as I think I am...
I miss animated GIFs. They seem to be a dying art in the age of YouTube videos. If you're reading this in a feedreader, then odds are that it dropped support for displaying animated GIFs because nobody cares any more. I can only guess web browsers will eventually follow suite.
I was thinking of that this morning when I found a box of VHS tapes filled with awesome television shows that cannot be found on DVD. The VCR I had been saving to play them wouldn't even turn on, so I guess that's the end of that since the alternatives are pretty terrible. Kind of makes me nervous to try turning on my LaserDisc player.
I remember when records gave way to 8-track which, in turn, gave away to cassette tapes. Those, of course, gave way to CDs. Now all music is digital, so I guess it's only natural that video catch up.
The shame of it all being all those terrific television shows and movies that get left behind.
Like animated GIFs in the wind.
Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013
I started today the same way I start every Martin Luther King Jr. Day... by listening to his brilliant and beautiful "I have a Dream" speech in its entirety. In my humble opinion, it's probably one of the best-known speeches that most people never bother to listen to. That's a real shame, because it's famous for a very good reason.
I get MLK Jr. Day off, so I really, really didn't want to go into work today. But it ended up being unavoidable. Now I'm back home where it's 4:00pm, all my energy has been sucked dry, and I don't feel like doing a damn thing. Except watch Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country which is playing on television.
And it's while watching it that I've suddenly realized something I never knew...
Scotty is one badass motherfucker and a stone-cold killer!
For reals. Let me walk you through it. SPOILERS AHEAD!..
At the end of the film, Captain Kirk discovers a massive conspiracy to destroy a peace conference which involves Starfleet, The Klingons, and The Romulans. To foil the conspiracy, he beams down to the peace conference with his crew. The first thing he does? Tell Scotty to check out the back...
Meanwhile, a Klingon assassin is going to kill the President of the Federation of Planets...
But Captain Kirk saves the President, no problem...
One of the conspirators is Lt. Valeris, who is caught by Spock...
Another conspirator is held by Chekov...
Dr. McCoy captures a Romulan conspirator...
Then Sulu captures Admiral Cartwright, yet another conspirator...
As for Scotty?
That's a different story.
Mr. Scott finds the assassin hiding in some kind of balcony... so he kicks the fucking door down...
The assassin turns his head to see what the ruckus is...
While his gun is still pointing in the opposite direction out a hole in the glass...
Does Scotty then say "Drop the weapon!" and take the assassin prisoner? No. No he does not. Even though he's not in any immediate danger, he pulls out his phaser and shoots the guy...
Which blows him through the fucking window...
Plunging him to his death...
What does Scotty do then? He marches to the front of the crowd like a boss, gun in hand...
Then stands in front of everybody to soak up the applause for a job well done...
Everybody else on the Enterprise takes prisoners. But Scotty don't play that. If you're up to some crooked shit, Scotty shoots your ass dead and pitches you out the fucking window. Making him one of the baddest motherfuckers in the galaxy and a stone-cold killer...
Who knew? Sure he could get a little excitable from time to time, but Scotty's the quiet one of the group! Just goes to show that you never know who the true badass motherfuckers are.
Even in outer space.
Live long and prosper, everybody.
Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013
The geek news of the day has been burning up the internets, so everything there is to be said about it has probable already been said.
Not that it's going to stop me from adding my two cents over J.J. Abrams directing the next Star Wars film. As somebody who has been obsessed with the films and the culture surrounding them for most of my life, it would be impossible for me not to say speak my piece because I've never been one to hold my peace.
In many respects, J.J. Abrams is a no-brainer to helm the next generation of Star Wars movies. He very successfully relaunched Star Trek, so he can obviously handle a special-effects laden sci-fi film... even if his annoying over-use of stupid fucking lens flare was such an amateurish style choice as to be laughable...
To be completely honest, flare aside, I loved the Star Trek reboot. It was respectful to the source material as much as it could be (for what it was). It had really good pacing. It had excellent structure with a definable beginning, middle, and ending. Characters were multifaceted and interesting (despite the fact that they were retreads of television icons). The threat was viable and felt dangerous. But, most important of all, it was just good Star Trek and a lot of fun.
But that's just one film. What about the rest of his work?
As a "Television Guy," Abrams has a pretty big body of work there with writing, directing, and producing. Of his shows, Alias is my clear favorite... for the first couple seasons. After that, it just spiraled out of control in a gradual slide towards an unsatisfying conclusion. Which is pretty much the story of most his stuff, including Felicity, Lost, and Fringe. His other major works... Undercovers, Alcatraz, and Revolution, never managed to grab me at all. A truly mixed bag.
But it's his film work that tells the tale. Since Abrams' projects always start strong, a movie would seem to be the ideal format for him. There's no room for that slow decline that plagues his television projects. Mission Impossible III is a good example. I thought it was a fresh and interesting take on the franchise that was really well thought out. It also ended with a satisfying bang that capped it off perfectly. Just like Star Trek. And while I thought that Super 8 was a whiny, corny, disastrous mess, there's no denying it was a well-made film. The true test, of course, will be when Star Trek Into Darkness comes out, because that will tell us if the first film was a fluke.
In the end, about all I can say for certain is that J.J. Abrams can't do any worse than the shitty Lucas prequels.
For one thing, he can write dialogue that's not cringe-worthy.
And he seems to put things like "story" and "characters" above special effects.
I also get the feeling that he won't dumb everything down to a 2-year-old level by accenting the film with burp and fart jokes.
And it feels like he might have the cojones and integrity to stand up to Disney and not turn his movie into a 2-hour toy advertisement filled with stupid shit like Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks.
As a huge Star Wars fan, I want so very badly for J.J. Abrams to get a fantastic script from Oscar-winner Michael Arndt and turn it into the most mind-bogglingly amazing Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. This is an impossibly high expectation but, after what I've been through, I deserve it! We all do. And the wait is going to be torture.
Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
My love of animation knows no bounds.
And while a part of me will always believe that the hand-drawn stuff will never be eclipsed as the ultimate expression of the art-form... there is no denying that the miraculous work being done by Pixar and others in the realm of computer animation bodes well for the future.
And then today I see that John Kahrs and Disney has come up with a way of making CG look very much like traditional hand-drawn animation with a beautiful and touching short film called Paperman...
I've lost track of the number of times I've watched it.
No, it's not in the same league as a Hayao Miyazaki film. And I wouldn't say that it reaches the heights of Disney classics like Snow White and Jungle Book or even The Lion King and Lilo & Stitch. But the technology is young. And the results are mind-blowing. And there's no telling where this might lead...
My only worry being that this will be the final nail in the coffin for hand-drawn animation. And as great as this new technology might one day be, I think there will always be a place for putting a pencil to paper... then putting your heart into making something come to life, frame by frame...
Ones and zeroes has a hard time competing with that. But it's getting closer every day.
Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Uh. Yeah. About that blog post...
Usually I just bang out my Blogography entry at the end of the day once I've caught up on work and life. I have no idea what I'm going to write about, I just fire up MarsEdit and away we go. Most of the time this works out okay, but not always. Today was kind of different though, because I had an idea for a post that had been brewing all day long. It came to me in the morning, then kept building and building. By the time I was driving home from work, I pretty much had the entire thing composed in my head, and was quite pleased with myself for having such a great post idea during the usually-boring days of winter.
But then I decided to catch up with the world during dinner, which turned out to be a big mistake.
Because that's when I saw this...
And it's been all I can think about ever since.
On May 3rd we're getting another Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man movie.
Written and directed by Shane Black!
What else is there to blog about?
Posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2013
Cancel your post-Super-Bowl plans... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Poop! On March 1st, one of the greatest innovations in toilet technology ever conceived will finally be available... THE DIGITAL 2-IN-1 POTTY WITH ACTIVITY SEAT FOR iPAD! Or, as I like to call this stunning testament to genius... the iPotty...
Why this isn't available in adult sizes, I will never know. If you want to order one, Amazon is accepting pre-orders!
• Bowl! I really don't give a crap about football in general, and the Super Bowl in particular, but my love of a good television commercial definitely have me looking forward to the big game. Or, since I don't watch the thing, I guess I should say after the big game... where I rush to see all the ads that aired.
This year was a massive disappointment. Most of the ads sucked ass (that idiotic GoDaddy ad was just fucking gross), and there was only one... ONE commercial that I felt was Super Bowl worthy...
And even that was a bit manipulative and predictable.
What happened to the epic Super Bowl commercials of yesteryear?
• Closing! One of my favorite guilty pleasures is searching the internet for "The World's Most Dangerous Airport Landings." There are several really good lists, and a number of scary videos... all glorifying those airports that are insanely difficult to land at. Later this month, one of those airports... Ecuador’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito... is due to close. I am very familiar with it, because it's appeared on a number of those "Most Dangerous" lists I love, and for good reason. It's right in the middle of a big city, is surrounded by mountains, is plagued by nasty cross-winds, and is at a high altitude...
Having trouble finding it? Yeah... that's just one of the problems...
Photo was uncredited, but I got it from Flying Magazine.
I always thought it would be cool to have bragging rights to have landed at one of these crazy airports. Guess there's one less chance of that happening now. Though I'll bet the people whose homes are surrounding Mariscal Sucre aren't sorry about that.
• Trek! The Lone Ranger, Man of Steel, Oblivion, Monsters University, A Good Day to Die Hard, Gravity, World War Z, Elysium, Despicable Me 2, Thor: The Dark World , Oldboy, Pacific Rim, R.I.P.D.... the list of awesome-looking movies coming out this year is nearly endless. But there are two that I am looking forward to above all others. This is the first...
Talk about boldly going where no Star Trek has gone before... Into Darkness looks amazing.
• Metal! And, numero dos... the ramp-up to Iron Man 3 is going to be excruciating. The new Super Bowl ad seems to indicate that the film will hit all the right notes...
Of course, after this installment, I'm just going to be pining away for Iron Man 4, so I guess it's always something.
And... time to take my busted body to bed.
Posted on Monday, February 4th, 2013
I never got to see the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, in theaters. I had to watch it on a plane the first time I saw it. But that tiny seat-back screen made it impossible to see the beautiful cinematography that made the movie so compelling, so I watched it again tonight (iTunes has it available in HD a week before the DVD/Blu-Ray hits on the 12th... just $14.99!).
I really liked this film, even though I thought the story was kind of small for a James Bond flick. The villain isn't out to conquer the world or cause mass destruction or steal tons of money... he just wants to kill M. It makes for a more personal movie, I guess, but kind of one-note...
And now a few SPOILER-FILLED notes from this long-time James Bond fan...
And, on that note, I guess it's 007 out.
Posted on Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
After reading my take on the latest James Bond feature, Skyfall (which I said was "one of the best"), I was asked "Well, if this wasn't THE best... which movie IS your favorite?"
The easy answer is to toss out Goldfinger or From Russia with Love... maybe Dr. No... but the truth is that I didn't know. And since your favorite James Bond films probably says a lot more about you than what toothpaste you use, I wanted to think on it.
And so I did. My ranking of all twenty-four films follows.
And that's a wrap. My hope is that Daniel Craig (who is contracted for two more films) will continue doing amazing things with James Bond before the inevitable passing of the torch. Time will tell, but looking at the latter half of this list has me dreading that day.
Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2013
The Oscars are on Sunday. Here are my picks.
BEST PICTURE: My pick is Django Unchained, which I enjoyed more than all the other films combined (excluding Beasts of the Southern Wild and Les Misérables, neither of which I wanted to see). It won't win, of course, but it completely deserves to (like Inglourious Basterds before it).
BEST ANIMATED PICTURE: Heaven only knows that I wanted Pixar's Brave to blow me away... but, while it was jaw-dropping beautiful to look at, the story just didn't measure up. ParaNorman, Wreck-It Ralph, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits were all good films, but it's Frankenweenie that was my favorite.
BEST SHORT FILM: John Kahrs' Paperman is haunting and beautiful and has Disney magic all over it. The other nominations are great, sure, but Paperman is genius.
BEST DIRECTOR: Ang Lee's absolutely masterful handling of Life of Pi makes him my clear favorite. But who doesn't think Spielberg will take it for Lincoln? But the bigger question... how in the heck did Quentin Tarantino get overlooked for Django Unchained?
BEST ACTOR: While I thought Bradley Coooper gave a winning performance, it's pretty hard not to pick Daniel Day-Lewis for his amazing turn as Lincoln.
BEST ACTRESS: This was a toughie, but I give the nod to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. She just seemed more necessary to the success of her film.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Yeah, Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln with Christoph Waltz a close second for Django Unchained.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hated The Master so Amy Adams is out. Didn't think Sally Field disappeared into her role enough in Lincoln. Refused to watch Les Misérables for Anne Hathaway. Thought Helen Hunt was "okay" in The Sessions, but not remarkable. So I guess that leaves Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook... although Anne Hathaway is almost certain to take it.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: The easy choice would be Life of Pi, but I think too much of what made it cinematically amazing was the special effects. Django Unchained would be a solid choice, but I'm going to have to go with Roger Deakins for Skyfall. A big part of what made it such a good film was the stunning cinematography, and the film is definitely Oscar-worthy.
BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS: For all the reasons I think Life of Pi should not get "Best Cinematography," I think it probably deserves the Oscar for "Best Special Effects." That being said, the incredible visuals of The Battle for New York in The Avengers (not to mention the hundreds of other effects plus Hulk and Iron Man) make me wish a tie could happen here.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: I'm not a fan of Adele's music, but have always liked her as a person in interviews and stuff. And yet... Skyfall was about as good a theme as James Bond movies get, and Adele blew the doors off it.
BEST WRITING, ORIGINAL: I have gone round and round on this, trying to decide between Django Unchained and Moonrise Kingdom, and can't decide. I would be equally thrilled if either won, though Zero Dark Thirty probably has the edge.
BEST WRITING, ADAPTED: Just about everyone (including me) thought that Life of Pi was unfilmable... and yet, here it is. It would be hard not to reward that ingenuity.
Posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2013
Another boring February Sunday got you down? Don't despair... because and even MORE boring Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Oscars! Meh.
• Over! By this time next week, Tiwlight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part Two will have been released on DVD and Blu-Ray. And then it's over, right? I mean, it's the final shitty movie of the shitty Twilight movies based on the shitty Twilight books, isn't it? I won't have to be subjected to any more of this crap... right?
• Overer! And speaking of over... the three internet trends I am so over with this month are...
• Hook! I have to admit that I haven't seen a single episode of Once Upon a Time. I'm not into fables and fairy tales, so the show is not my cup of tea. But I keep seeing these television promos which feature a surprising element...
That's Colin O'Donoghue, who apparently plays Captain Hook. But I don't care about that. I mean, yeah, I guess he's a good-looking guy and all... and I'm sure he's a decent actor and everything... but I'm talking about something more important than any of that...
EYELINER! Or, as I like to call it, "Captain Jack Sparrow Guyliner"...
Apparently it's impossible to be a pirate now-a-days unless you've got eyeliner on. I approve completely. Mostly because I can totally rock the guyliner look...
But also because I'm totally a pirate at heart. The day this goes mainstream, I am so there.
• Suck! I am one of those rare people who believes in paying for the stuff I want. If there's a game I want, I buy it. If there's a movie I want, I buy it. If there's a television series I want, I buy it. If there's a song I want, I buy it. Thanks to Apple's iTunes, most any media I want to own can be purchased quickly and easily, so I pay the price. Until now. I went to purchase the latest season of Archer only to find that FX Network has placed ads in each episode. That's right, I'M PAYING FOR ADS! Well fuck this shit. FX Network is out of the damn minds if they think that I am going to pay for advertising when there are alternatives for getting Archer ad-free.
And now... time to call it a night. Tomorrow promises to be a long, long day.
Posted on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
Today is National Alfred Hitchcock Day. I enjoy his films, but am not a huge fan. What I am a huge fan of is the recent movie about Hitchcock starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren. It details the making of Psycho, the most famous and successful of his films. The story behind the film was far more interesting than I thought it would be. And it was perfectly cast. I don't know that Anthony Hopkins looked much like Hitch, but he felt like Hitch. And Helen Mirren... well... it's Helen Mirren...
Well worth your valuable time. You can rent it at iTunes, or own it for $15.
And speaking of really good films... Disney has decided to release a series of shorts starring Mickey Mouse in June. As a teaser, they released the first installment, Croissant de Triomphe, at Disney.com...
It's wonderful. And it has a number of things going for it...
Heaven only knows I'd like to see Disney produce more 2-D animation to offset the escalation of 3-D stuff. This is a good start. Go watch it immediately at Disney.com
Posted on Thursday, April 4th, 2013
The big news today is the passing of famed movie critic Roger Ebert, which I'll get to in a minute. But also passing today is Carmine Infantino, a prolific comic book artist whose work when a long way towards shaping the comic books as we know them today. The man redefined The Flash, for heaven's sake, and paved the way for The Silver Age of comics.
Despite all his influence and success, I was never a fan of Carmine Infantino. I thought his art style was sketchy and sloppy. I felt his anatomy and proportions were off-putting. I didn't care for the way he used (or didn't use) perspective. And I never like his background art for those rare times he bothered to actually put any detail into his backgrounds. Don't get me wrong, the guy knew how to illustrate a story... I just didn't care for the way he did it...
And yet, it would be impossible for me not to admire the guy who did so much for the comics medium that I love. For that I thank you, Mr. Infantino... rest in peace.
As for Roger Ebert...
Photo by Buena Vista Television/AP Photo
For me, he was THE film critic. Along with Gene Siskel, he created At the Movies, which was a program I obsessed over in the 1980's. I love movies, and back then there wasn't an internet to hang out with fellow buffs to discuss them. Instead there was Siskel and Ebert every week. Of the two, Ebert was the one who was closest to my tastes, and his "thumbs up" sent me to the local movie theater more times than I can count. He expanded my love of cinema, helped me to find films that I still love to this day, and was a tireless voice in the movie geek community that I valued right up until his death. Even when I didn't agree with him.
But movies were not the only thing Roger Ebert helped to open my mind to.
His astounding positive outlook in the face of devastating health problems were inspirational in a way that I can't even begin to enunciate. The guy was in hospitals all the time, he lost his jaw, he lost his ability to speak and eat, he was dealing with crap that would crush the spirit of most anyone. And yet... he refused to let it get him down. He kept working. He kept inspiring. He kept living...
Photo by Associated Press
"I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute to joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."
We should all do so well to leave such a legacy. Rest in peace, Mr. Ebert.
Posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
A fellow cinephile and I were chatting about the large number of awesome movies being released this year, and decided we should make lists of our most anticipated films so we could compare them. We started with 10 films each, then added another 10 to create a "Top 20" list. After some discussion, I added 5 more films, which means I now have a "Top 25 List of Dave's Most Anticipated Films" for the remainder of 2013.
I should probably come back and grade them all after I've seen them.
That's a lot of movies.
Posted on Saturday, May 4th, 2013
Happy Star Wars Day!
Which would be a lot more fun if I had internet. Oh well.
Darth Monkey would say "May the Fourth be with you"... but they don't do that on the Dark Side.
Posted on Monday, May 6th, 2013
Don't get confused that bullets are flying on a Monday... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Downey Jr.! Marvel's box office streak continues. Iron Man 3 had the second biggest domestic opening of all time ($175.3 million), second only to Marvel's The Avengers (which bowed last summer with $207.4 million). This is a continuing, shining example of how staying faithful to the source material with popular characters will result in popular movies...
I can't wait to see it! I just have no idea when I'll have time to.
• Gates! Look, I understand that Bill Gates has to continue to support Microsoft even though he's not running the place any more. I get it. The company made him billions upon billions of dollars, and he's obligated to say fantastic things about it no matter what happens. Anything less would be ungrateful.
Look, if I am going to be doing a lot of data entry or typing a lot of text, I'm going to use a computer. But for surfing the web, taking notes, checking and writing email, reading books and comics, and dozens upon dozens of other everyday tasks? I grab for my iPad. It's not the best tool for typing, of course, but it's really comfortable and useful for a lot of the stuff I do on a regular basis. So, no, Bill... I am not a frustrated iPad user. What I WAS was a frustrated Windows 8 user. So frustrated that I took your new piece-of-shit operating system and tossed it in the garbage after downgrading to Windows 7, which was at least tolerable. So... Bill... before dumping all over iPad with your pathetic whining, you might want to take a look at the turd that you're claiming is such a superior experience. Because it's not. It so totally and absolutely is not.
• Rollins! I just tuned into Hawaii Five-0 tonight only to see that it's guest-starring Henry Rollins and Mare Winningham as child kidnappers! Yes... THE Henry Rollins!
As a big fan for a very long time, it was cool to see Henry Rollins playing a bad guy on TV. His performance was pretty darn good given that he didn't have a lot to do... however... there was a problem.
<< SPOILER ALERT >>
At one point, Henry's character has been caught. But he refuses to talk, so the cops decide not to be cops and beat the shit out of him to get the info they need. The first thing to enter my head was "Well this is going to be hilarious!," because the idea of two Hollywood actors beating up Henry frickin' Rollins is absurd. Even if he was handcuffed. But then the camera turns away, which means that the people making the episode also thought the idea of two Hollywood actors beating up Henry frickin' Rollins was absurd. And that made it even more hilarious.
• Restless! So... turns out that "Restless Legs Syndrome" is not the load of bullshit I always thought it was. I've had leg pains for as long as I can remember, but it's always been fairly mild and ignorable. Over the past year, I've been having increasingly odd and un-ignorable "rolling pains" that move up and down my legs. It kind of feels like electricity on the inside that will give me mild shocks in random places, then tingle and go dead. But it only seems to be a problem late in the day when I've been sitting at work... or sitting on the couch... or sitting on a plane... or laying down in bed. But when I move my legs, the weird feeling subsides. This means I am constantly shifting my legs, often-times without even realizing it. So it looks like I now have a neurological disorder. Which makes me wonder yet again "What's going to go to shit on my body next?"
• Riker! HOW DID I NEVER NOTICE THIS?!?
So... bad back... or lifestyle choice?
And... no internet. Again. This is getting silly.
Posted on Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
Despite what you may have read, this is not the best Iron Man movie ever made.
The best Iron Man movie ever made is The Avengers. And that's because, so far as comic book super-hero films go, that movie was insane. Finally... finally we got to see all-out super-hero action taken to the degree it's at in the comics, and Iron Man was a huge part of that.
So I guess that Iron Man 3 would be the second-best Iron Man film ever made.
More or less...
Co-written and directed by Shane Black, the writer genius behind Lethal Weapon and The Long Kiss Goodnight, Iron Man 3 is a very good film in a surprising number of ways. Even if you were take Iron Man out of the equation. Which the movie does... a lot... because Tony Stark is the star of this show. Iron Man is relegated to a supporting player (albeit an important one).
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark so flawlessly that you're always left wanting more... on the other... well, you're going to an Iron Man movie to see Iron Man.
Putting all that aside, the film feels very Shane Black. Which is mostly a good thing.
There be spoilers from here on out, so don't click through to the extended entry unless you've already seen Iron Man 3...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
Do you remember in You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown where Charlie Brown won Pro Bowl tickets in a bike race but it ended up they couldn't afford to give him the Pro Bowl tickets, so they instead gave him a certificate for five free haircuts? And then Charlie Brown laments that even when he wins he loses because his dad's a barber and he hardly has any hair to cut anyway? Remember that?
That pretty much sums up my entire day.
It got so bad that, on my way back from running errands in town, I swerved off the road to the movie theater just so I could be distracted for a couple hours. I didn't even care what I watched.
Much to my delight, the next film playing was Star Trek Into Darkness. I was planning on waiting to see it in IMAX but, at this point, I just didn't care...
Overall, I thought the movie was excellent. It was action-packed and oh-so-beautiful to look at. This is the first time I can remember watching an effects-laden film where half my brain wasn't analyzing the special effects shots. They were all executed so flawlessly that there was nothing to really analyze. That went a long ways to taking the edge off of some story points that bothered me, and pushed my love of the film to an A rating.
It's impossible to discuss the finer points of Star Trek Into Darkness without spoilers, so I've put my thoughts in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2013
This may very well be the greatest movie ever.
And now I can't wait for 2014...
Because... Morgan Freeman, for real?
I hope there's a video game released to go along with it.
Posted on Sunday, July 7th, 2013
I'm in an 80's state of mind... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Sadness. My thoughts are with those affected by the Bodh Gaya Temple bombing in India... including Buddhists around the world. This most holy site is said to be the place that Buddha obtained enlightenment, and is a hugely important pilgrimage spot I have long wanted to visit. Why somebody would wish to destroy a place of importance to a people whose entire belief system revolves around non-violence and inner-peace is beyond me, but here we are.
• Heat! Was very pleasantly surprised by The Heat. From the trailers I couldn't tell if it was going to be funny-funny or funny-stupid. Sure, it dips into funny-stupid a few times... usually when Melissa McCarthy is allowed to improvise for too long a stretch... or Sandra Bullock tries too hard to be awkward and uptight... but it always gets back on track. Basically, Bullock plays an FBI Agent that ends up in Boston to track down a very, very bad man. While there she runs afoul of local cop McCarthy but, as so often happens, ends up teaming up with her. The supporting cast is pure gold, with appearances by Jane Curtin, Michael Rapaport, Taran Killam, Thomas F. Wilson (Biff!), Nate Corddry, Joey McIntyre, Zach Woods, Marlon Wayans... and probably a lot more I don't remember.
It's worth a matinee price to see in theaters, and definitely worth a rental.
• Concert! The Chateau Ste. Michelle is a winery over in Woodinville that has an amphitheater which gets some pretty decent musical talent to play. It's a beautiful venue, but the lawn seating is mostly obstructed and not laid out very well. This means it's not the best place for a concert, but it's okay. Except when you have to watch a drunken train wreck pee her pants.
Anyway, tonight it was Pat Benatar headlining with Terri Nunn and Berlin opening up. Benatar was a little rough vocally, but entertaining. Berlin was amazing. They have a new album coming out, and the taste they gave us at the concert will definitely have me checking it out.
• Faced! I've often wondered about what kind of mentality it takes for somebody to think that people would like to see their giant face plastered all over a bus. Whatever it is, I'm seeing more and more of it, so it must be pretty common. This one I saw on my way to The Coast on Friday was particularly clever, because they had to position afore-mentioned giant head between obstacles...
• Woman! There's a video of Dustin Hoffman discussing his role of Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie which has been burning up the internets. It's a pretty powerful piece, and the epiphany he had about "interesting women" being dismissed because of their looks comes from a perspective most men will never have...
Not surprisingly, not everybody can appreciate what Mr.. Hoffman is trying to say. Some of the comments I've read are positively awful. But that's the internet for you.
No more bullets... but tomorrow is another day...
Posted on Sunday, July 14th, 2013
Don't let invading Kaiju keep you down... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Rim! Okay, I am having trouble deciding if Pacific Rim is so bad it's good... or so bad it's bad. The concept of giant robots fighting giant alien monsters is fantastic. But the story they came up with around that concept was shockingly bad and hugely inconsistent (IT TAKES TWO PILOTS TO OPERATE A JAEGER ROBOT... UNLESS IT DOESN"T!). The acting was, with one exception, awful. And it didn't help that they were being given groan-inducing, cheesy dialogue to work with. That being said, I am still glad I saw the movie in a really good theater because the special effects and battle sequences were mind-blowing...
All in all, a bit of a misstep for brilliant director Guillermo del Toro... but an entertaining one. If you have time to kill, it's worth watching on the big screen. Just keep your expectations in check.
• Acting! The one exception to the really bad acting in Pacific Rim I was talking about? Mana Ashida's performance as young Mako. Absolutely riveting. You could feel her terror in every frame, and it was almost enough to believe that she was actually being chased by a Godzilla-sized monster. She should get some kind of award for that...
I'm guessing this photo came from Warner Bros. and/or Legendary Pictures.
It will be very interesting to see where Mana's considerable talent takes her as an actor.
• Idris! Yeah, okay... if I'm being honest here, Idris Elba was pretty brilliant playing Stacker Pentecost considering the genuinely awful lines he had to deliver.
• Stereotypical! One last comment about Pacific Rim... thanks to everybody involved for once again giving us genius scientists that act so damn stupid and geeky that it's impossible to believe that they are, in fact, genus scientists. Burn Gorman and Charlie Day, both of whom I like as actors, were completely wasted in their roles, being used as some idiotic attempt at comic relief that only served to disrupt the film. Badly. Can we please give up on this overused, stereotypical crutch that never ends up as hysterical as was intended? (see: Brent Spiner in Independence Day or any number of other flicks in genre entertainment where genius scientists appear for "humor value" in a script).
And in another direction entirely...
• Verdict. Well, I wish I could say I'm surprised, but the not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman was hardly shocking. I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers here, but there's a few things I feel I have to get off my chest...
Zimmerman's story is, at the very least, exaggerated and not entirely supported by facts in evidence. And because of Zimmerman's actions and poor judgement, a 17-year-old kid is dead. Hopefully some lessons will be learned from this tragic situation. But the verdict has me worried that people will take away the wrong lesson.
Heaven help us.
As always, Faiqa has written up a response that's far better than anything I could come up with, so I leave you with a link to her blog.
Take care of each other out there.
Posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2013
The plan was to wake up early, have a quick breakfast, get my work done, go shoe-shopping, have a nice leisurely lunch, then head to the airport a full two hours early.
The reality was that I woke up early, had a quick breakfast, started in on work... WHEN ALL OF A SUDDEN EVERYTHING WENT TERRIBLY, TERRIBLY WRONG! AAAAAAHHHHHHH!
And so I managed to get to the aiport just 45 minutes before my international flight, boarding the plane just 30 minutes before take-off (thank you TSA Pre-Check!).
Without new shoes. Without lunch. Without my santiy.
The flight to the Netherlands itself wasn't too bad. I just watched movies to pass the time.
Add in some episodes of The Newsroom and the 10-hour flight was over just like that.
Posted on Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
I mean, I know he was the bomb in Phantoms, but BATMAN?!?
Look, it's not like I have anything against Ben Affleck. He's a decent actor who has played several parts I've enjoyed, and I think a lot of times the criticism he gets is just because people like to hate on Ben Affleck, not because he deserves it.
He's also really funny, and not above poking fun at himself... or others, which gives him high marks in my book...
But he's NOT Batman.
He doesn't have the gravitas to pull off the Dark Knight.
He doesn't have the suave sophistication to pull off Bruce Wayne.
And it's not that hard to understand.
When playing the part of a man that is supposed to be taken seriously when dressed up as a big bat, the actor doing the job has to be able to ground that character in some sense of reality. He has to have the weight to make you believe that Batman is on the screen. Ben Affleck is not that actor. He's just going to come across as a guy in a suit.
And it's not like there's no precedent to see how this will play out.
Daredevil, which I enjoyed more than most people, has Affleck struggling to make a guy in a relatively "normal" looking vigilante outfit feel real. He never quite pulled it off. You could never get past the fact that it was Ben Affleck gritting his teeth in a red leather suit.
And now he's going to attempt Batman?
Again, this is a guy dressed up as a frickin' BAT.
I'm sure Ben will give it his best shot. I'm sure it won't be truly horrible.
But it's not going to be Batman.
Posted on Sunday, October 27th, 2013
No need to be Sleepless in Seattle... because a boring, coma-inducing Bullet Sunday starts now...
• SALTALAMACCHIA! Well this is bad. You can candy-coat it all you want, but an error in judgement by one of my favorite players, Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, pretty much cost the Red Sox the third game of the World Series last night. At first I didn't even understand what happened... and even after they walked through it, I'm not entirely convinced it was the right call to make... but there's no denying that this is not going to bode well for Salty. The last couple games have not been good for him and, considering they're World Series games, it's tough to see what the upshot might be. I'd be heartbroken if this was the factor that resulted in him leaving the team, but it's not like Boston would be without cause. The good news is that the Red Sox came back in tonight's game to tie things up 2 games to 2... albeit without Saltalamacchia behind home plate... and I guess that's the thing I should be focusing on. But... damn...
• DIMENSION! I've said it many times before... but I loves me a great television advertisement!
Considering how badly most TV ads suck, it's always great to see somebody put effort into creating one that people are actually going to want to watch. With the cost of a national ad campaign being so hideously expensive, I remain shocked that more companies aren't more clever with their money. Especially given the advent of DVRs, where being able to fast-forward through commercials is commonplace. Well played, Honda.
• CURFEW! I used to watch the ending to the Danny Boyle film Millions whenever I needed to crawl my way out of depression. Now I find myself watching Curfew, which feels so much bigger than the little short film it is...
Surprising how something so dark can manage to be so uplifting, but here it is. Totally deserving of the dozens of awards it's racked up... including an Academy Award for Best Short Film. But the best news? You can get it for just $2.99 at the iTunes Store! I can't wait to see what writer/director/actor Shawn Christensen is up to next after "Grandma's Not a Toaster."
• VELVET! I was never a big fan of Velvet Underground singer Lou Reed, but it's tough to deny his influence when it comes to music. Perhaps this was best expressed by Brian Eno who had this to say about The Velvet Underground's first album selling only 30,000 copies... "I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band!" Keeping that in mind, it was pretty tough to hear that Mr. Reed as died at age 71. He was still making music, and undoubtedly had a lot more to say with his work. Rest in peace, sir, your influence will live on.
• WALLACE! And, ending things on another down note, I was sad to learn that actor Marcia Wallace had died at age 70. Probably best-known for playing Bob's acerbic receptionist on The Bob Newhart Show, she went on to make dozens of appearances... including a reoccurring role on The Simpsons as 4th grade teacher Mrs. Krabappel. It had to be tough coming up with a character that could be so well-liked while also being an adversary for Bart Simpson, but Marcia Wallace was a big part of what made it work. Her many flirtations in early Simpsons episodes was a staple of the show, and I was always upset that they ended up marrying Mrs. K to Ned Flanders... but there's no denying Marcia Wallace maintained her character's appeal despite it all. You will very much be missed.
Annnnd... I'm spent.
Posted on Sunday, November 3rd, 2013
With nothing but work to write about, I've decided to take a look at some films I've seen recently.
So grab your popcorn... because a Special All Movie Edition of Bullet Sunday starts now...
• The Way Way Back (B+). Every once in a while you tune into a movie on a long plane ride simply because it's the least unappealing option out of the crap you haven't seen. In this case, I picked The Way Way Back because the cast included Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Steve Carell, and the amazing Sam Rockwell. Turns out it's a really good "coming of age" story about an awkward kid named Duncan who is forced to accompany his mom, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's spoiled daughter to a summer resort town. There he meets the slacker manager of the local Water Wizz theme park, learns what life is really about, and has his life forever changed. Yeah, it sounds like a movie you've seen a hundred times before, but it's surprisingly fresh (despite the ending, which falls back to more familiar territory). The great cast and smart performances were just the icing on the cake.
• Now You See Me (D+). Holy crap what a stupid, stupid film. The movie begins as four D-list magicians are recruited by a mystery man to band together to become the hottest magic act in the world, "The Four Horsemen." Of course, absolutely no explanation is given as to how they actually become the hottest magic act in the world... all of a sudden they just are. With their fame escalating, they perform their biggest show yet (or one would assume, since you don't see a single magic trick before the finale), where they proceed to "magically" rob a bank. Thus begins a tedious game of cat and mouse between The Four Horsemen and a special investigator (Mark Ruffalo), his Interpol collaborator (Mélanie Laurent), and a famous magician de-bunker (Morgan Freeman). With each new show the foursome become inexplicably more famous... and understandably more wanted by the law for the crimes they perform on stage. Along the way they perform elaborate but unnecessary magic tricks which make -zero- sense to the plot (why in the hell pretend to rob a vault and come back later for the money when you can just JUST TAKE THE FUCKING MONEY IN THE FIRST PLACE?!). And that's the problem... nothing here really makes sense. Even the things that might make sense go unexplained, which doesn't make sense. Regardless of whether or not the magicians get away with their crimes... they're still going to be wanted by the law. And for what? To join some secret society that nobody gives a shit about except them? And the ending is about as stupid as it gets... the nonsensical "trap" set for one of the characters can be defeated in five minutes if the character calls a lawyer... or ANYBODY... to explain who set the trap and what happened. Dumb. SO dumb. I'm embarrassed for everyone involved.
• Monsters University (B). Make no mistake, Monsters, Inc. is my favorite Pixar film by far, and the idea of getting to revisit that world had my expectations running high. And I wasn't let down. Mike and Sully were just as funny and appealing as ever, and Pixar's attention to detail was shining through stronger than I've seen in years. So why did this feel like a sorry retread of Revenge of the Nerds via a made-for-TV animated special? Probably because it didn't really break any new ground. Since it's a prequel to Monsters, Inc., characterization actually takes a big step backwards so you can start from the beginning. Not that it wasn't cute to see a young Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan pal around, but I'd rather see what they're doing now instead of looking back at where they were. Still, the story isn't all bad. After starting out as rivals, Mike and Sully team up with the nerds of a forgotten Monsters University fraternity to prove they have what it takes to become "scarers" at Monsters Inc. Except they don't, which means the entire premise of the story was moot. Oh well. It had funny moments and was beautifully imagined... that alone from Pixar is better than most movies you'll see.
• World War Z (B-). Anybody expecting that this film will in any way resemble the brilliant novel by Max Brooks (or the even more brilliant audiobook of the same novel) is in for severe disappointment. This is an action flick which just happens to share a name with the afore-mentioned book, and that's all. However... if you are able to put that behind you, it's a pretty good action flick. Gone are the lumbering zombies of old, these zombies are shockingly fast and virtually unstoppable. Lucky for us, Brad Pitt arrives on the scene to save us all as a United Nations investigator intent on scouring the globe for a cure. What ensues is an intense and dark thriller that relies on really good special effects and some surprisingly good acting talent. At times the combo proves lethal, sucking you in and suffocating you with a plague that never seems anything less than overwhelming. It's for this reason that I enjoyed the film so much, despite fully expecting to hate it. As if that weren't delicious enough, there are scenes that won't leave your head any time soon, and I can't offer bigger praise than that.
• Enough Said (C). I went into this film with high hopes given the 95% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes. It was painted as a romantic comedy, which I generally hate, but the previews featuring James Gandolfini and Julia Louis Dreyfus looked as though it was a rom-com that was thinking outside the box. Unfortunately, the exact opposite proved to be true. This movie is so far inside the box that it simply didn't work for me. I go to movies to escape my boring life, and Enough Said was so pedestrian that it had me longing for the more exciting things I experience every day... like sitting on the toilet. What's worse is that the big "twist" at the center of the story (Julia Louis Dreyfus finds out that she is dating the man her new best friend divorced) is something right out of a bad Seinfeld plot, but not as funny. Not even a little bit. It's actually painful to watch, and the predictable outcome is so unsurprising that you'll wonder what the point of the movie was in the first place. From what I can tell, it was to prove that James Gandolfini is a gifted actor who has unexpected range. And he does. He's easily the most enjoyable part of the film, and about the only thing I enjoyed in it. Which makes his passing all that more painful.
• Man of Steel (F-). When I first saw the latest Superman re-re-boot, I loathed the film so much that I didn't even want to think about reviewing it. Instead I decided to wait until it hit video so that I could look at it with fresh eyes and see if I would revise my opinion. Nope! If anything, I hate the movie even more upon second viewing. This is incredibly painful to type given that I love the character of Superman, felt the cast assembled was top-notch, and had such high hopes for the film. Instead I was disappointed at every turn. I hated just about everything to do with Man of Steel, and am horrified that this abomination is the cinematic future direction for the character. The is not Superman. Not the Superman I know, anyway. This imitation origin story begins on planet Krypton where scientist Jor-El is predicting doom and gloom for the planet, and decides to salvage the legacy of his people by stealing "The Codex"... a wholly unnecessary plot device masquerading as some kind of genetic program that breeds Kryptonians. This raises the ire of General Zod, though who knows why. Anyway, Zod is exiled to the Phantom Zone, Krypton goes boom, and baby Kal-El is rocketed to earth where he is raised as human Clark Kent by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane (easily the two best things about the film). The death of his father results in Clark wandering the earth... saving lives and trying to find his place in the world. Meanwhile intrepid reporter Lois Lane tries to track down this "mystery man" and stumbles upon one of the worst-kept secrets ever. But that's not Clark's only problem, as General Zod has escaped and returned to Earth to reclaim The Codex and remake our planet into a new Krypton... destroying everything in the process. Loads and loads of laughable super-battles and disaster porn ensues. None of it even remotely worth watching. The controversial moment in the film comes when Superman chooses to kill General Zod because humans are too fucking stupid to run away when somebody is trying to vaporize them with heat vision, at which point I didn't give a shit if Superman, Lois Lane, Perry White, or any other idiotic characters in the film lived or died. And why should I? The people behind this atrocity aren't writing about Superman and don't give a flying fuck about maintaining the integrity of the characters. Next up? Imitation Superman vs. Ben Affleck Batman. Oh how thrilling. Praise be to Odin's raven that Marvel's new Thor and Captain America films are coming to rescue us.
And now it's time to update my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance Scorecard" as follows...
The Amazing Spider-Man... B-
The Avengers... A+
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Batman Dark Knight Rises... A
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Daredevil (Director's Cut)... B+
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Ghost Rider... C
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance... D
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A-
Iron Man 3... A+
Jonah Hex... F
Kick-Ass 2... C
Man of Steel... F+
Punisher War Zone... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Amazing Spider-Man... B
Superman Returns... C+
The Wolverine... B
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
Posted on Thursday, November 7th, 2013
On my recent flight from Da Nang to Hanoi, I spotted an ad for Montblanc watches in the in-flight magazine...
"In acting as in real life, Nicholas Cage pursues perfection, a value he shares with his Montblanc Star Classique Automatic."
And the price for such perfection? $3340.00 cash! Cheap!
Now I'm trying to reconcile Nicholas Cage in Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance as "pursuing perfection."
Unless you consider his $7,500,000 salary for appearing in that turd of a film as perfection.
I know I do.
Posted on Sunday, November 17th, 2013
Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Disaster. First a typhoon in The Philippines, now tornadoes in the USA Midwest outside Peoria. Again, my heart goes out to everybody affected by these tragic events.
• Cornetto. After thuroughly enjoying the first two movies of the "Cornetto Trilogy" (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) I was really looking forward to seeing the final film of the trilogy, The World's End. And I wasn't disappointed. It may very well be the best of the lot...
Alcoholic loser Gary King sets out to recapture the heady days of his youth by assembling his old schoolmates for a trip back to the town they grew up in. There he wants to complete "The Golden Mile," which means drinking a pint at all twelve pubs in the town. His mates reluctantly agree and everything is going fine... until they discover that the town has been taken over by space robots. Hilarity ensues. What really surprised me with the film is how great the visual effects were. Not once was I taken out of the story by some random shot where the effects were off. Everything was seamless, which was a pleasant surprise. In the end, the movie was almost too good... it left me wanting a fourth movie in the Cornetto Trilogy.
• Frank. I wasn't terribly impressed with the Warren Ellis comic Red when it debuted back in 2003. So imagine my surprise when I ended up really enjoying the movie that was inspired by it starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman. It was a smart, funny, action-packed film with an impeccable cast and a really good script. Willis plays Retired Extremely Dangerous ex-black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses. One day somebody decides they want him dead. Hilarity ensues. Three years later, and here comes Red 2...
It's pretty much more of the same... but bogged down by some unnecessary complications and an astounding body count that makes it less fun than the original. And yet, it's still a really good film and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The movie picks up where the first left off, as Frank Moses is trying to lead a normal life with girlfriend Sarah. Unfortunately for them, Frank is framed as a participant in a secret op called "Nightshade." Because of this, a lot of people want him dead. Hilarity ensues. Kinda. It's not as funny as the first one. But Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones have joined up this time around, and that counts for something (but it's still Mirren and Malkovich that steal the show). If you liked the first one, the sequel is worth checking out on video.
• Gondola. Venice is one of those cities that really leaves an impression. There's simply no confusing it with any other city on earth, and exploring it has been a highlight of my travels. Which is why I was very happy to learn that Google has gone above and beyond their "Street View" technology to create "Canal View" for the floating city of Venice...
So now, thanks to Google Maps, not only can I walk the crazy maze-like route from the Rialto Bridge to the hotel I usually stay at... I can also explore the city as seen from the canals. It's pretty nifty, and I don't even have to leave the comfort of my own home... or put on pants. If you want to have a little web holiday in Venice, Google has an info hub that's a good place to start.
• Coin! Ever since I started carrying a wallet again, I've been looking for ways to make it slimmer. But no matter which brand I buy and how thin the wallet may be, it's the stack of cards I have to carry that thicken the thing back up again. A big part of that is the four credit/debit cards I carry. Now a company has come along with a product that may be able to help. Introducing Coin...
If you'd like to get a Coin at 50% off the $100 retail price, just follow this link they gave me and pre-order your own for $50! They aren't shipping until next summer, but it looks like they'll be worth the wait!
Annnnnnd...scene. Take care of yourself out there.
Posted on Friday, November 22nd, 2013
As a life-long comic book geek, the influx of comic book movies over the years has been both a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes when a comic is faithfully adapted to the screen and you get to live out your geek fantasy by seeing characters you love come to life on the big screen.
For me it all began in 1978 when the super-hero to end all super-heroes was unleashed on an unsuspecting world and Richard Donner made you believe a man could fly. There had been other super-hero movies, of course, but it was Superman... followed by Superman II... that defined what it meant to make a comic book movie work.
A decade later, Tim Burton would give us Batman. While lacking the darker elements that made Batman be Batman, it nevertheless was a decent interpretation. Unfortunately, like Superman, it was a franchise doomed to degenerate into idiocy after its second outing.
What followed was a murky period filled with a few highs (Spider-Man, Spider-Man2, and Blade come to mind), a few disappointing lows (the Fantastic 4 and X-Men franchises), and a few epic disasters (Elektra, Catwoman, and Superman Returns were all soul-crushingly awful).
But then the current cinematic super-hero renaissance began.
Christopher Nolan finally gave us Batman.
Robert Downey Jr. was flawlessly cast in a series of brilliant Iron Man movies.
Captain America and Thor were given fantastic films, then Marvel owned the cinematic universe when The Avengers brought everything together.
Even 20th Century Fox finally got their shit together when they rose above their X-Man disasters by releasing X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine, both of which were excellent.
DC Comics has fared less well, unleashing turds like Green Lantern and Man of Steel, but I remain hopeful. More or less. Time for a look at ten upcoming super-hero film projects...
But what's missing? Time for a look at ten super-hero projects I want to see happen...
There are loads of other properties I think would make good films... The Hulk, The Flash, Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Deadpool, Power Pack, Luke Cage, and Doom Patrol, to name a few... but the above ten would probably have the best chance. If they're handled correctly.
And that's the trick isn't it?
Assuming studios keep getting it right more than they get it wrong, there's no reason that the success of the super-hero film genre has to end any time soon.
And now, just because this entry wouldn't feel complete without it, my "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance Scorecard" is in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Sunday, November 24th, 2013
Don't give another thought to your impending doom... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Einstein. You know how somebody comes out with a product you just love, so you buy and buy and buy... fully expecting to get sick of it, but all that happens is you end up loving it more? That was me when it came to Kraft "Bagel-fuls." These delicious bits of amazing are pre-cooked bagels wrapped around cream cheese (and other fillings) then frozen. You keep them in your refrigerator, then pop them in your toaster when you have a bagel craving. The brilliant part? The outside is deliciously crispy while the cream cheese stays cool. Truly an amazing product, and I ate them constantly...
Until they were discontinued. I couldn't find them anywhere.
Then, like a miracle, Bagel-fuls mysteriously reappeared in my grocer's freezer... but now they're branded as coming from Einstein Bros. Bagels. Regardless, they're the same thing and taste as amazing as ever. Now everybody needs to go to their local grocery store and buy every box so that they don't get discontinued again. Thanks!
• LEGO. At long last, the follow-up to LEGO
If you've played any of the LEGO video games before, this is pretty much more of the same... but with some nice upgrades in play mechanics and graphics. For the most part, it's an amazing game that's just as good as
IMPORTANT... I should note that the reviews for the Nintendo 3DS version of LEGO Marvel Superheroes are really bad. I bought a copy because I love LEGO on the go gaming... but I returned it unopened the minute the reviews started pouring in. This is really sad given the quality of other 3DS LEGO games (save Lord of the Rungs, which is a rare exception), and I wonder how something like this happens given how great Batman 2 was. Oh well. Money saved and all that.
• Kermit. I admit that I am not a big fan of the post-Henson Muppets... but holy cow does this look like fun...
Count me in!
• LAIKA. Speaking of fun... the stop-motion animated film ParaNorman was on sale for Halloween and I had heard good things about it, so I grabbed it. For reasons unknown, I only got around to watching it now. It's absolutely beautiful. Between this and films like Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline, stop-motion-animation just keeps blowing me away. Bravo LAIKA Studios...
Interestingly enough, this cartoon was considered "controversial" when it was released because one of the lead characters ends up being gay. I kept waiting for the kid-inappropriate graphic gay sex scene, but it never came. All I saw was one quick throw-away joke about a character's sexuality at the end, and that was it. So, apparently, just the fact that gay people are acknowledged to exist in a cartoon is enough to spark controversy. The only thing controversial to me is that idiots who find this controversial n the year 2013.
• Hunger. And, while we're on the subject of movies... THIS has to be the funniest movie review I've ever seen...
The Onion strikes again! When it comes to The Funny, they consistently knock it out of the park.
And... another Bullet Sunday slides into the sweet abyss.
Posted on Saturday, November 30th, 2013
I had written a long, drawn-out entry about the absurd reactions I've been reading regarding the cast of Kinky Boots performing at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade... but even I didn't want to read it, so I trashed it and moved on with my life.
Suffice to say that I just don't get it. What is so terrifying about drag queens in shiny boots?
I especially don't get the "BUT WHAT AM I GOING TO TELL MY CHILDREN?!?? reaction, which has to be about the most incredibly stupid thing to say in ANY situation. Tell them whatever the heck you want. If you're hugely offended that drag queens exist, just channel your inner bigot and say something to that effect. They're your kids and you're the one raising them, so be a fucking parent and do your damn job.
Years ago I was at my friends' house where we were watching The Bird Cage while their kids were out playing in the pool. When one of the kids came in for a snack, he saw the television and said "Why is that man dressed like a girl? To which his mother replied "Oh he's just being silly and having fun." — AND THAT WAS THE END OF IT. The kid shrugged his shoulders, finished his sandwich, then went outside to play some more. Nobody ever gave it a second thought. Nobody was scarred for life. Society didn't fall. Humanity endured. The universe soldiered onward.
And yet, to read some of the reactions by "parents" whose kids were =gasp!= exposed to men wearing women's clothing during a parade... you would think that the world had ended.
Which, naturally, means that they're training their children to think the world is ending. Because of the clothes somebody was wearing.
These are sure going to be some well-adjusted kids when they grow up.
In other news... the Broadway show Kinky Boots (which I have not seen) is based on an awesome movie of the same name starring Chiwetel Ejiofor...
If you haven't seen it, it's worth a look.
Unless, of course, the idea of seeing a man in women's clothing is so traumatic that you'll get the vapors. In that case, I don't know what to tell you.
Posted on Saturday, December 14th, 2013
I was very sad to learn that actor Peter O'Toole had died today at age 81.
He was an amazingly talented actor who could make the most of any role regardless of how grand... or how small... the part. The guy was a giant of stage and screen, having been nominated for eight Academy Awards (but, remarkably, never won). And though an Oscar eluded him, Mr. O'Toole received untold numbers of accolades and awards for his work spanning the 55 years of his career (including an honorary, and much-deserved, Academy Award).
He is, of course, best known from one of his earliest films... Lawrence of Arabia...
But if I had to pick a single Peter O'Toole film as my favorite, the choice would be easy... a little-known and terribly under-appreciated 1985 Ivan Passer film called Creator. Everything I love about O'Toole as an actor is vividly on display in this movie. It doesn't hurt that he had such wonderfully funny and touching material to work with. I give the film my highest possible recommendation (just $2.99 to rent, $4.99 to buy at the iTunes Store but, sadly, not in HD)...
For decades I've been secretly hoping that Peter O'Toole might one day re-visit the role of Dr. Harry Wolper... easily one of my favorite movie characters of all time.
Yes, I knew that the possibility was beyond remote, but it wasn't until today that I could truly accept it would never happen.
Rest in peace, sir, your incredible body of work will ensure you are not soon forgotten.
Posted on Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Couldn't be happier!
"When Edgar Wright came to us with the idea of Paul Rudd, we felt a huge sense of relief because the first step in creating any Marvel Studios film is finding the right star. We knew early on that we had found the right person in Paul. When he not only agreed to do it but became as enthusiastic as any actor we'd ever met with about doing the work, we knew we'd found the right guy. We couldn't be more excited for our audiences to see what he's going to do to bring Ant-Man to life."
— Kevin Feige, President of Production Marvel Studios
Well, you do the math.
It works out to several magnitudes of awesome, I'm sure. Oh how I hope that Hank Pym (aka Ant Man) makes an appearance in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron! Seeing as how he's the guy who created Ultron in the comics, it should be mandatory. But something tells me that he won't, given that the Ant Man film will be released after the next Avengers movie. It also makes sense to have Ultron inadvertently created by Tony Stark, given the sentient armor that appeared in Iron Man 3. This way things are continued to be tied together in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Oh well. That'll give Robert Downey Jr. an emotional arc to play with, that's for sure.
Can. Not. Wait. 2015 is going to be a good year for movies!
As a side-note... whatever happened to crediting the photographer or artist of a work you use in your story? I searched and searched for photos of Paul Rudd and Edgar Wright that had credits on them... nothing. Then I searched for an epic shot of Ant Man with artist credit... nothing. That's really unfair to the people whose hard work deserves recognition. But I guess even "professional" websites disagree, seeing as how nobody is giving credit where credit is due. It's even more infuriating when there are sites making money off of somebody's work uncredited. Shouldn't we be doing better than that?
So thanks to whomever took those photos and drew that art! I wish I knew who you were so I could give you the recognition you deserve.
Posted on Sunday, December 22nd, 2013
Times to put down that snow shovel and grab a mug of delicious hot chocolate... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Thrice Nine. I am very happy to announce that today we have released the ninth issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine, featuring a bevy of talented writers and artists all wrapped up in this stunning cover by the amazingly talented Katelin Kinney...
Do yourself a favor and go download a FREE copy at the THRICE Fiction website... you'll be glad you did!
• Light. If I ever come up lacking blog fodder, all I have to do is drive down Wenatchee Avenue (the main drag running the entire length of the city of Wenatchee). Today I nearly ran over a guy crossing the street against the light while hauling a filled body bag! Filled with what, I have no idea. But that's not all, as I also saw... two white guys poppin' and lockin' on a street corner... a woman in a motorized wheelchair dragging a wagon filled with Christmas presents... a little girl twirling like she just don't care in front of an Indian restaurant... Santa Claus... a guy in shorts and a fur parka sitting on the trunk of his(?) car smoking a cigarette and drinking from a giant coffee mug... AND this...
It says "CHURCH THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD"... but they drew a streaming pile of shit in the middle of it? Which is covering the secondary brake light, rendering it useless. Oh... and if you think that I managed to get into Denny's at 2:30 on the Sunday before Christmas? NO! No I did not! Which makes me sad, because that Hobbit Specialty Menu ain't gonna last forever.
• Mango! I'm a Kool-Aid kid. I would rather have a cold glass of Kool-Aid than soda pop any day. Tropical Punch is my favorite flavor, but I try to shake things up by making classic flavors like Orange, Grape, Lemon-Lime, and Watermelon. I also have tried specialty flavors that pop up from time to time like Purplesaurus Rex, Arctic Green Apple, and Sharkleberry Fin. And then this week I found Mango, which I almost skipped because I worried it would be too weird like the Pineapple flavor I tried last month. But, sanity prevailed, and I thought I'd give it a try...
Delicious! Really good color, aroma, and flavor! If you like mango, then this is absolutely worth a shot.
• Reel. I've mentioned a couple times how I'm really stoked to see the Russian film Stalingrad, which takes place during World War II in the middle of one of the bloodiest battles in world history. The trailer looks absolutely amazing, even though I'm not a big fan of war movies. And now they've released a special effects real showing how they were rendered for 3-D. It's pretty mind-blowing...
Needless to say, I want to see the movie now more than ever. I guess it's in limited release, because I haven't seen it playing anywhere yet. It'll be a pretty big bummer if it leaves theaters before I can see it.
• Bittersweet. On one hand, New Mexico and Utah have joined the marriage equality bandwagon...
On the other hand, Uganda has passed an "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" which mandates life in prison for anybody having gay sex. I suppose we should all be thankful that the punishment wasn't set to "death," which was their original idea for a sentence. But I'm too busy being absolutely horrified. Even more so because anti-gay abominations of humanity here in the USA played a part in it. The very ideal of "The United States of America" is one of a beacon of freedom and hope known throughout the world. What in the hell happened? Our government is spying on its own people. We're passing horrific laws allowing the indefinite unlawful detention of American citizens. Our politicians are bought and paid for by Special Interest money with no consideration given to the people they profess to serve. Our media so thoroughly polarizes us that we've become a country hopelessly divided in venom and hate. And now? Now? We have assholes so filled with blind hatred and homophobia that they're exporting it to other countries because their efforts are finally failing here at home. Hardly a new concept, to be sure, but still fucking abhorrent given that these people are professing to be spreading hate in the name of religion. God bless America.
Because somebody has to.
• Pass. And lastly, in what I can only describe as a Christmas miracle come early, BARRY EFFIN' GIBB actually made an effin' appearance on The Barry Gibb Talk Show on last night's surprisingly funny Saturday Night Live...
Ordinarily, I wouldn't spoil the surprise like this, but... 1) he's right there on the video frame, and 2) The show featured guest host Jimmy Fallon and musical guest Justin Timberlake... was there any question that The Barry Gibb Talk Show wasn't going to make an appearance? Not the best installment of the long-running sketch, but certainly one of the most eventful! And a sad reminder that Robin Gibb is no longer with us, having died May last year.
And... time to make some holiday magic happen, people...
Posted on Saturday, December 28th, 2013
And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of movies that came out this year. As usual, many of them were viewed on an airplane screen or my iPad since I rarely get to the theater now-a-days. Not the most engaging movie experience, but I wouldn't have seen a fraction of these films if not for killing time while traveling. Not having to deal with idiots talking and texting on their mobile phones at the theater is just a bonus.
THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw.
#1 Iron Man 3
Another flawless performance by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, without which this movie would have been half the film it was... even with Shane Black writing and directing it. Marvel truly has a handle on their cinematic universe, and the fact that their films just keep getting better and better makes no sense at all. Comic book movies usually suck, after all. But Black did exactly what he had to do to keep Marvel moving forward... which included giving Iron Man a case of post-traumatic-stress syndrome (after the events in The Avengers) for Robert Downey Jr. to flex his acting chops. The story was great, and this is probably the first time in history I haven't been annoyed to death by a kid-sidekick. Please, please, please, somebody get Downey Jr. onboard for Iron Man 4.
#2 Star Trek Into Darkness
I shouldn't like this film as much as I do, because I absolutely hated the unnecessary Khan re-tread. I mean, why? Yes, they added a few new twists to the story, but that's all window dressing. The simple fact is that we've seen it all before, and I'm not convinced this was a better version than we got years ago from Space Seed. But boy did it look good on-screen. And man was it entertaining as all get out. And wow did they nail the characters. And it's frickin' Star Trek! So I loved it, of course. Here's hoping Star Trek 3 boldly goes in its own direction rather than continuing to re-write the past.
A stunning film by Alfonso Cuaron that has more sphincter-puckering moments than should be legally allowed. Yeah, it dragged a bit in spots, but that didn't pull me out of the movie at all. Kind of makes me wonder how anybody could possibly follow with a "disaster in space" film now that Gravity is out there. If I have one criticism, Sandra Bullock's escalating fear should have started at zero. Instead they start at 5, which means it gets a little irritating by the time they crank it up to 10.
#4 Thor: The Dark World
The first Thor film was a wonderful exploration and introduction of the character. This sequel tries to do one-better by playing with the more mystical elements of The God of Thunder... and it mostly succeeds. What's missing is character development, which seems as though it was so far on the back burner that even The Avengers did a better job (and that was an ensemble film!). Regardless, it's a gorgeous spectacle with fantastic performances... some truly humorous moments... and yet another opportunity for Tom Hiddleston to chew up the scenery as Loki. I just wish that it was a little tighter in ramping up the impending doom and a little better at exploring what makes Thor and Jane tick. Still, I'm completely onboard for Thor 3.
#5 The World's End
Holy crap does Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost know how to make an entertaining film! The third (and final?) film in the so-called "Cornetto Trilogy" (preceded by Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) takes things to another level entirely... this time in the science fiction genre. Well, kind of. The real element that makes this movie so compelling is the characters, all of which have stories and interactions that are not only critical to the storyline... but also provide a genuinely moving look at friendship and our transition into adulthood. Here's hoping that the team behind three really good films realize there's more than three flavors of Cornetto out there!
#6 Sound City
In an age of shitty reality shows like American Idol telling us what music is, Sound City comes along to tell the real story. This documentary by Dave Grohl is a love letter to actual MUSIC that every music-lover needs to see. I've watched it three times and am just as caught up the last time as the first. I have always appreciated Grohl's talent, intelligence, and creativity as a musician... but his film still hit me as something incredibly smart and unexpected. I hope he continues to raise my expectations, because there's a lot more stories he can tell.
#7 American Hustle
Despite having a killer cast including Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Robert De Niro... I had really low expectations for this film because I just don't care much for 60's and 70's period films (X-Men: First Class being a notable exception). But I needed to kill some time and American Hustle was there, so away I went. And I ended up loving the movie. David O. Russell has crafted a mafia con epic that is about as compelling a film as I've ever seen... and did it with an unexpected level of humor that was like piling gravy on top of gravy. But what I loved most was just how amazing Jennifer Lawrence is in her role. She's hands-down one of my favorite actresses because she comes off as incredibly likable, smart, and funny in "real life"... but she's got jaw-dropping talent as well. I can't wait to see where she... and David O. Russell... go next.
#8 Saving Mr. Banks
Yes, yes... I know. This is a highly fictionalized account of Walt Disney and how he managed to get the film Mary Poppins made. I've read the press and I've seen the rants over the unreality of it all (including the Harlan Ellison smack-down). But none of that changes the fact that Saving Mr. Banks is a really good film with a terrific story and some great performances by Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. I enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would, and the fact that it's more myth than fact doesn't take away from that for me. Mostly because I know it's fiction... but also because I've tried to get to the root of all the atrocities that modern pop culture attributes to Walt Disney. Ultimately I ended up feeling quite badly for him, because the things I've read about these claims of fascism, racism, anti-semitism, and the like, seem to be mostly exaggerated. Yes, it was a different time and, yes, he even stepped over the line of what was disgustingly considered "acceptable" back then, but there's a lot of research showing that he was hardly the rabid racist, anti-semite, fascist, Nazi he gets painted as even today (he's a big target in Family Guy). But I guess that's the way it goes. Heaven only knows I'm not attempting to excuse anything he actually did here, but it's disheartening to know that there's a lot of evidence against the severity of these claims that's widely overlooked. As for "ignoring" Mary Poppins author P.L. Traver's bisexuality... why is it that a person's sexuality is so critical to their make-up as a person that excluding such information in a film portrayal is some kind of travesty? Had she been straight, would anybody even care? No. It's only because she was bisexual that suddenly it's CRITICAL that her sexuality MUST be splashed on screen. Absurd. There is more to a person than their sexuality, and it actually seems a bit bigoted to suggest that a bisexual can't be an interesting character without their sexuality being explored in the story. And... blargh. I've rambled on way too much. This is a good film and terrific entertainment. I hope that doesn't get lost in the shuffle here.
#9 The Heat
YES, I'VE PUT THE HEAT ON MY BEST MOVIES LIST FOR 2013! And the reason is simple... it was funny. Much funnier than I thought it would be. And despite Melissa McCarthy going off the rails a few times, Paul Feig ended up using her to brilliant comedic effect as a rough-and-tumble police officer on the mean streets of Boston. As if that wasn't enough, Sandra Bullock was pretty much perfect playing a by-the-book FBI officer having to team up with her. AND, YES, I WANT A SEQUEL!
I've voiced my concerns over parks, zoos, and animal captivity many times. On one hand, I realize there are places that do their level-best to care for animals and create a habitat that they can feel at home in (Disney's Animal Kingdom and the San Diego Zoo come to mind). But, on the other hand, I know that these animals would be much "happier" outside their captivity. And yet... if not for animal captivity, species like the Tasmanian Devil are sure to go extinct. So I'm not sure what the answer is. Animals as entertainment seems wrong, but a lot of times it's this entertainment which pays to save them. That being said, Blackfish sure makes a compelling argument against Sea World. This is absolute must-see material, and the ramifications of the film's popularity could be far-reaching. Especially if you own stock in an animal entertainment park...
#11 World War Z
Anybody expecting that this film will in any way resemble the brilliant novel by Max Brooks (or the even more brilliant audiobook of the same novel) is in for severe disappointment. This is an action flick which just happens to share a name with the afore-mentioned book, and that's all. However... if you are able to put that behind you, it's a pretty good action flick. Gone are the lumbering zombies of old, these zombies are shockingly fast and virtually unstoppable. Lucky for us, Brad Pitt arrives on the scene to save us all as a United Nations investigator intent on scouring the globe for a cure. What ensues is an intense and dark thriller that relies on really good special effects and some surprisingly good acting talent. At times the combo proves lethal, sucking you in and suffocating you with a plague that never seems anything less than overwhelming. It's for this reason that I enjoyed the film so much, despite fully expecting to hate it. As if that weren't delicious enough, there are scenes that won't leave your head any time soon, and I can't offer bigger praise than that.
#12 The Way Way Back
Every once in a while you tune into a movie on a long plane ride simply because it's the least unappealing option out of the crap you haven't seen. In this case, I picked The Way Way Back because the cast included Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Steve Carell, and the amazing Sam Rockwell. Turns out it's a really good "coming of age" story about an awkward kid named Duncan who is forced to accompany his mom, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's spoiled daughter to a summer resort town. There he meets the slacker manager of the local Water Wizz theme park, learns what life is really about, and has his life forever changed. Yeah, it sounds like a movie you've seen a hundred times before, but it's surprisingly fresh (despite the ending, which falls back to more familiar territory). The great cast and smart performances were just the icing on the cake.
What a great film! I'd recommend it, even if you're not a baseball fan. The movie focuses on Jackie Robinson's struggle for acceptance as he becomes the first African-American to play for the major leagues. In that respect, it really does the job, and the casting is flawless. Chadwick Boseman, who I've never heard of before, plays Robinson with an enthusiasm and dignity that is essential to the character, and his performance anchored the movie beautifully. The biggest surprise to me was Harrison Ford's role as Dodgers President and GM Branch Rickey, which is probably one of the best performances of his career. Maybe it's because I fully expected John Goodman to get the part, but I honestly didn't think Ford was going to work as well as he did. No less shocking to me was seeing Alan Tudyk (my favorite actor from Firefly) as racist Phillies manager, Ben Chapman, and I have to give him credit for taking on a part that is the polar opposite of the lovable roles his fans love him for. If I have one bit of criticism, I wish the film had dug even a little deeper into Robinson's life outside of the game. Yeah, I know that's not the focus of the film, but I can't help but feel it would have been a much stronger movie if they had added more dimension to Robinson's personal life. Still, a film worth seeing.
Make no mistake, Monsters, Inc. is my favorite Pixar film by far, and the idea of getting to revisit that world had my expectations running high. And I wasn't let down. Mike and Sully were just as funny and appealing as ever, and Pixar's attention to detail was shining through stronger than I've seen in years. So why did this feel like a sorry retread of Revenge of the Nerds via a made-for-TV animated special? Probably because it didn't really break any new ground. Since it's a prequel to Monsters, Inc., characterization actually takes a big step backwards so you can start from the beginning. Not that it wasn't cute to see a young Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan pal around, but I'd rather see what they're doing now instead of looking back at where they were. Still, the story isn't all bad. After starting out as rivals, Mike and Sully team up with the nerds of a forgotten Monsters University fraternity to prove they have what it takes to become "scarers" at Monsters Inc. Except they don't, which means the entire premise of the story was moot. Oh well. It had funny moments and was beautifully imagined... that alone from Pixar is better than most movies you'll see.
Despicable Me 2
If you liked the first one, this is more of the same. Steve Carrell and a cast of hundreds (of Minions) make for smart fun that's perfectly realized cartoon entertainment. While not reaching the heights of the original, this sequel manages to keep things funny while moving in a new direction. Evil genius Gru is back along with his adorable trio of adoptive daughters... who are intent on finding Gru a wife so they can have a mom (Kristen Wiig!). But Gru has bigger fish to fry, as he's been recruited to use his talents for good by tracking down another evil genius. The result is a bit scattered, but worth your time.
Well imagine that... another X-film that somehow managed to not suck. Who knew that X-Men: First Class would set such a precedent? This film pretty much ignores all the previous shitty X-Men film travesties (including the first Wolverine film... X-Men Origins: Wolverine) to forge onward with a story that actually bothers to stay faithful to the source material. The result is pretty darn good, playing into the Japanese roots of the character. If this is the kind of thing we can expect from future films in the X-Men Cinematic Universe, then there's hope after all. And I need a little hope seeing as how crap director Bryan Singer (responsible for much of why the X-Men movies suck so badly) is heading up the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Now-a-days, more often than not, black & white films are a pretentious effort at creating "art cinema" for projects that are anything but. Happily, sometimes that's not the case, and Nebraska was a refreshing return to actual art. Bruce Dern is receiving a lot of praise for his portrayal of a cantankerous old fart who wins the lottery and has to travel through four states to claim his prize. But his role seemed the easy one compared to Will Forte's fantastic turn as his son who's along for the ride. While not quite as great as the reviews would lead you to believe, this is still a very good movie that manages to be entertaining in all the right ways.
In a World...
Seeing this movie was a complete accident, and it ended up taking me completely by surprise. Lake Bell (whom you may recognize from The Practice and Boston Legal) wrote, directed, and produced this comedy which revolves around the life of a voice-over artist. Hilarity ensues. Well worth a rental on video when it comes around.
DIDN'T SEE, PROBABLY WOULD HAVE MADE MY LIST...
This movie just came out, so I still have a chance to see it. Spike Jonze's latest film is a futuristic tale about a man (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with the advanced operating system of his computer (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who is more than a little human. The trailer looks fantastic, so I can't wait.
Twelve Years a Slave
Chiwetel Ejiofor is one of my favorite actors, and I would watch a movie where he did nothing but open mail for 90 minutes, because I know he'd do it in the most interesting way possible. But give him a compelling story that actually means something? Boy do I regret not getting to see this in the theater.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
My comments on the first Hobbit movie still stand... "WTF?!? I mean, seriously, how could Peter Jackson manage to condense the fucking massive Lord of the Rings trilogy into three films... but not keep a short story like The Hobbit as a single film? I probably could have forgiven stretching it out to two films... but THREE?!?" The Hobbit was a pretty simple and straight-forward story. There was no need to pad it out to such a ridiculous level. And yet... Desolation of Smaug is when we get to the good stuff, so I'm sure it made for a much better film than the first one. If nothing else, I bet it looked amazing, so I'm sad to have missed its theatrical run.
The buzz out of Cannes was that this was the most powerful movie to play at the festival, so it made my "must-see list." I remember hearing the news that a man named Oscar Grant had been shot and killed at a BART station on New Years Day in 2008, and this film follows his final 24 hours leading up to this tragic moment.
Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan? Sign me up.
I was aware of this movie, but it didn't sound like it was something I wanted to see so I passed it by. Then I started seeing reviews heaping praise on the film, saw friends were talking about it, and ended up wanting to see it after all once I had taken a closer look. Sadly, I waited too long.
I enjoyed The Hunger Games novels well enough... but the film adaptation of the first book left me cold. They changed the ending, skipped over some pretty important points, and generally made a watered-down version of a better story. So I was going to pass on the sequel... until everybody started talking how much better it was... how it was so faithful to the source material. Well, darn. Another one to catch on video, I guess.
The Man of Steel
I hated just about everything to do with Man of Steel, and am horrified that this abomination is the cinematic future direction for the character. This is not Superman. Not the Superman I know, anyway. This imitation origin story begins on planet Krypton where scientist Jor-El is predicting doom and gloom for the planet, and decides to salvage the legacy of his people by stealing "The Codex"... a wholly unnecessary plot device masquerading as some kind of genetic program that breeds Kryptonians. This raises the ire of General Zod, though who knows why. Anyway, Zod is exiled to the Phantom Zone, Krypton goes boom, and baby Kal-El is rocketed to earth where he is raised as human Clark Kent by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane (easily the two best things about the film). The death of his father results in Clark wandering the earth... saving lives and trying to find his place in the world. Meanwhile intrepid reporter Lois Lane tries to track down this "mystery man" and stumbles upon one of the worst-kept secrets ever. But that's not Clark's only problem, as General Zod has escaped and returned to Earth to reclaim The Codex and remake our planet into a new Krypton... destroying everything in the process. Loads and loads of laughable super-battles and disaster porn ensues. None of it even remotely worth watching. The controversial moment in the film comes when Superman chooses to kill General Zod because humans are too fucking stupid to run away when somebody is trying to vaporize them with heat vision, at which point I didn't give a shit if Superman, Lois Lane, Perry White, or any other idiotic characters in the film lived or died. And why should I? The people behind this atrocity aren't writing about Superman and don't give a flying fuck about maintaining the integrity of the characters. Next up? Imitation Superman vs. Ben Affleck Batman. Oh how thrilling.
Now You See Me
Holy crap what a stupid, stupid film. The movie begins as four D-list magicians are recruited by a mystery man to band together to become the hottest magic act in the world, "The Four Horsemen." Of course, absolutely no explanation is given as to how they actually become the hottest magic act in the world... all of a sudden they just are. With their fame escalating, they perform their biggest show yet (or one would assume, since you don't see a single magic trick before the finale), where they proceed to "magically" rob a bank. Thus begins a tedious game of cat and mouse between The Four Horsemen and a special investigator (Mark Ruffalo), his Interpol collaborator (Mélanie Laurent), and a famous magician de-bunker (Morgan Freeman). With each new show the foursome become inexplicably more famous... and understandably more wanted by the law for the crimes they perform on stage. Along the way they perform elaborate but unnecessary magic tricks which make -zero- sense to the plot (why in the hell pretend to rob a vault and come back later for the money when you can just JUST TAKE THE FUCKING MONEY IN THE FIRST PLACE?!). And that's the problem... nothing here really makes sense. Even the things that might make sense go unexplained, which doesn't make sense. Regardless of whether or not the magicians get away with their crimes... they're still going to be wanted by the law. And for what? To join some secret society that nobody gives a shit about except them? And the ending is about as stupid as it gets... the nonsensical "trap" set for one of the characters can be defeated in five minutes if the character calls a lawyer... or ANYBODY... to explain who set the trap and what happened. Dumb. SO dumb. I'm embarrassed for everyone involved.
The Lone Ranger
Marry a flawless cast with a script that's filled with action yet incomprehensibly dull, and you get this turd of a film that was my biggest disappointment of 2013 (I already figured Man of Steel would be shit, but this was a shocker). The whole project was inexplicably more complex than it had to be... but not in an interesting way at all. Both Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer were completely wasted, and I'm still trying to figure out how Gore Verbinski could have fucked-up such an un-fuck-uppable franchise. Even so, I still have to say The Lone Ranger had moments that saved it from being the horrific failure that the reviews would lead you to believe. But not by much.