29 May 2009

Star Trek

Star Trek
starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho,
Anton Yelchin
,Bruce Greenwood, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
based on "Star Trek" created by Gene
directed by J.J. Abrams

Paramount, 120 mins., 2009



Star Trek
is awesome! Outstanding! Perfect! Fantastic! Fun! Witty! Brilliant! Amazing! Pretty! Majestic! Glamorous!

By the time I have finally sat down to write this full review, I've seen Star Trek three times; it's impossible for the movie to get old. In fact, this sci-fi epic may very well surpass my 'theatrical movie quota' of seven viewings awarded to Star Wars - Episode III: Reve
nge of the Sith in 2005, it's THAT damn good. The movie is exciting and wonderfully acted. Quite simply, it's perfect in my eyes. And because of my uber-love for the movie and my nutty state of 'Woah', I find it difficult to write anything of actual substance, so I've thus decided to go the '5 Reasons Why' route in my review. As follows:

- The cast. Pitch perfect. Chris Pine (Smokin's Aces) as James T. Kirk was simply brilliant; he personifies Kirk perfectly. Equally awesome is Karl Urban (The Bourne Supremacy) as Leonard McCoy - I would honestly purchase a $10 DVD that has his scenes alone and wouldn't call it a waste of money. Zachary Quinto (TV: Heroes) is basically the only choice for our Vulcan friend Spock, and he performs above expectations (that's a good thing); completely channeling Nimoy but making the character his own, Quinto's Spock is a highlight. Bruce Greenwood's Captain Pike is awesome, and delivers some of the best lines from the movie. Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz), John Cho (Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay), and Anton Yelchin (Terminator Salvation) are all terrific in their respective roles of Soctty, Sulu and Chekov; I'm especially fond of Cho's Sulu, kinda iffy on Yelchin's Chekov as it's the only one of the lot that doesn't feel completely 100% true to form, and Pegg's Scotty is a delight every second onscreen. Zoe Saldana's Uhura definitely deserved more screentime (though the same thing could be said for Scotty). Last but certainly not least, Eric Bana as the vengeance-driven Nero: completely unstable and consumed with hatred towards Spock and all of Starfleet, Nero is a frighting force to be reckoned with, and Bana's performance is nothing less than extraordinary. Not persuaded? Just off the top of my head, Bana's delivery of: "Hello Christopher, I'm Nero." Priceless.

- A perfect movie deserves a perfect score; a year ago, I probably would have recommended [John] Williams or [Hans] Zimmer without hesitation, but since encountering Michael Giacchino's music in Speed Racer, Cloverfield, and the TV series Lost, there really was no better choice. (OK, maybe Steve Jablonsky would be a runner-up, but he was probably busy with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) Giacchino's music is marvelous; for evidence of this, I present to you Exhibit A and Exhibit B: A) The destruction of the U.S.S. Kelvin and birth of James T. Kirk; the entire sequence is devoid of sound effects, with only George Kirk and his wife communicating via their nifty space phone thingies, and Giacchino's haunting composition conveying every emotion within the sequence. B) When the Romulan ship started going kablooie, Giacchino's score takes center stage as the choirs goes all choirs-y and creates a chilling, epic sensation to the death of the baddies. For anyone who even remotely enjoyed the score, I implore you to find the soundtrack and buy it - you won't be disappointed. To this point, it's the best soundtrack of the year, although I fear Jablonsky might take the mantle with his Revenge of the Fallen score. Point is, it's wonderful.

- Quite simply, the special effects in Star Trek is, well, even more perfect. Realistically rendered, and never actually 'feeling' like CGI properties, and isn't that a good definition of perfectly crafted visual effects? The CGI didn't over-step its bounds, never making it more important than the characters or the story, unlike Lucas and his Prequel Trilogy which was nearly all spectacle. And speaking about spectacle, the U.S.S. Enterprise has never looked better, nor has Warp Speed ever been so stunning. One scene that particularly left my tongue drooling on the floor was when the Enterprise emerges from the dust clouds around Saturn - that was b-e-a-utiful.

- J.J. Abrams. That man is a friggin' genius with a camera. I wouldn't feel out of place relating his visionary style to Spielberg. And I also seem to be one of the few people who absolutely LOVE the lens flares; if it were up to me, I'd incorporate it into as many movies as deemed appropriate. If I'd have to choose between flares or shaky cam, I'd choose the flares. But aside from that nifty trick, Abrams keeps the camera in constant motion, and there's some truly interesting shots, primarily the crooked ones like during Spock's hearing about joining this Vulcan Academy club/group/whatev, or when Kirk, Uhura and McCoy are running to command center to tell Pike about the "lightning storm." Abrams' visual style adds another fantastic layer of awesomeness to an already stellar movie. The nifty thing is that it seems effortless.

- Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Transformers) have got to be one of the more intelligent but yet witty and fun screenwriters in the field today. They managed to craft a phenomenal story that works as a sequel/prequel/re-imagining, and it actually has some brain cells. Sure, if I had a more sophisticated mind, I would probably be able to spot time travel/alternate dimension/whatever inconsistencies, but as it stands, I find everything to match perfectly. I loved how they handled it all, and how they left it allows Abrams & Crew. to go in any direction they want without being burdened by continuity. And how they integrated the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, into the equation was a stroke of pure genius. Simply said, if I see Orci and Kurtzman's names on a title, I know I'm heading into a movie that has some brains, but can simultaneously be an excellent summer blockbuster flick, and that's a difficult thing to balance. I also love how they integrated original lines of dialog into this new installment, such as the two most obvious and commonly quoted ones: McCoy's "Dammit, Jim!" and Scotty's "I'm giving her all she's got!"

- (Alright, here's a sixth) Editing is tight, but not too tight. Even at past two hours, the movie moves briskly and without dodgy areas - in fact, the movie seems to go by too fast. By the time Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise save the day, and it cuts to Starfleet Academy, I didn't want the movie to end. And/or if it had to end, at least have the decently to have the sequel ready to project on the screen! And is this not a sign of a damn good movie? The re-watch value for Star Trek is super duper supremely high, in case you can't tell. I demand sequel now! Or at least a 4 hour extended edition!

In review - I loved the writing, the performances, the direction, the editing, and the score. Hell, I even friggn' LOVED the 5-minute monster segment on the Hoth planet! (yes, I realize that wasn't officially Hoth, but it was never disputed, right?) Star Trek has all the ingredients of a successful summer blockbuster movie in spades, and I'm in such a state of euphoria that I'd say it really has no faults to speak of.

When Star Trek hits DVD on a 2-Disc Special Edition, I'll buy it; and five months later, when Paramount is in the need for another cash cow and they release a 3-Disc Edition, I'll buy it. Hell, if a 4-Disc gets released later next year, I'll buy it. Why would I waste all this bloody money on a movie that I would already have in my collection one or two times over? Because dammit Jim, I love this movie! (in case you couldn't tell already) My love for this movie only intensifies with each successive viewing.

J.J. & Co. have crafted a goldmine, a perfectly accessible popcorn movie with intelligence that anyone from a Trek devotee to a random audience member will enjoy to the fullest. Go see Trek, I'm pretty darn tootin' sure you're not gong to regret it. At the very least, you got some pretty space battles.

26 May 2009

EDITORIAL: So, my TV season is over...

Well, the 2008-2009 TV season is pretty much over with (I think there's still a few more shows still going on, but I don't really watch 'em; but the Big Leaguers are over with, like Lost and Grey's Anatomy, both of which I skippo), so I figured I'll just do a little write-up on my thoughts, which will most likely get expounded upon in a thorough review once the DVD sets are available. There are some shows that I missed that I'm quite excited to watch, such as the new show Fringe on FOX, and both seasons of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and perhaps Volume 4 of Heroes' fourth season, "Fugitives."

ANYWAY, onto the goodies...


24 (Fox) - Season 7 - Picking up the pieces from the not-so-stellar season 6, 24 came back to tele screens in January after a year-and-a-half absence, and although it's not the best (an award that will seemingly never budge from season 5), it was quite damn awesome. Jack versus a longtime friend, the torture debate which I initially wasn't all systems a-go about but ended up warming to, a siege on a major political building, and an enormous conspiracy spanning all of Washington. Yes, vintage 24, and well done. The sad part, though, is that there's a few episodes scattered between the really damn good episodes that do nothing to further the plot. Like, really nothing (here's me looking at hours 19-22). But for the most part, the good outweighs the bad. There were, of course, some lame plot lines and not-fully-explained character motivations, but I'm cool with that. My only real disappointment is that the conspiracy aspect of the story wasn't carried throughout the entire season, which would have made it really uber-great. Jack vs. Everybody. How can you tell me you're not salivating over that idea? I just picked up the Season 7 set for my birthday, so once I re-watch them and listen to the commentaries and view the special features, I'll chum out a review, but until then - 24 is still good for a show that comes up with hundreds of twists and turns each 24-order season. Don't give up on it.

Battlestar Galactica
(Sci-Fi Channel) - Season 4 - The last batch of episodes leading up to the cataclysmic series finale, there were revelations, there was frustration, there was drama, and there was excitement. Revelations pertaining to explanations about the Cylons and the 2000-year nuked earth the Galactica crew landed on in the mid-season finale; frustration in the seemingly filler material, or at least ideas/concepts that were dragged way past their welcome; excitement in the last episode, "Daybreak, Part 2" which has a 30-minute space battle that rivals and may even surpass cinematic space wars; and drama, in the two-part episodes "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales" - if you haven't seen those episodes, I won't ruin it for you, but they are truly awesome. Battlestar Galactica has been an awesome show, and it's a little sad to see it leave, but it ended on a high-note. Sure, there were some inconsistencies and unsatisfactory answers, but overall, it truly is can't miss television.

(NBC) - Season 2 - When the first season aired on NBC, I didn't dig it. Then I bought the season one box set, consisting of 13 episodes, and watched all of them within two days (counting work hours). I was addicted to Chuck, and sorta still am (Yippie for its third season renewal!!!). Although its sophomore season has moments of true awesomeness, particularly the last three episodes, there are plenty of 'filler' material with those 'Bad Guy of the Week' plots that helped propel Smallville into eight seasons (more below). Point is, the writing may not have been as sublime as its freshman season, but our main principal leads - Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, and Adam Baldwin - make every second they're onscreen a goldmine. So, no, I don't consider it a wasted 22 episodes. It was Awesome (get it? *chuckles*).

Kyle XY
(ABC) - Season 3 - My new favorite show didn't exactly end on a high note, sad to say. Sure, there were some huge high-points, notably the first and last episode. The new season opened with a spectacular conclusion to season 2's prom cliffhanger and promised a lot of juicy Kyle tidbits to be revealed later in the truncated 10 episode season run. Instead, the show spent eight episodes fully indulging themselves in teen angst - the relationship between Kyle and Amanda, the will they won't they? with Kyle and Jessi, the "frienemies" battle with Lori and Hilary, and the list continues. As with many of these serialized shows, perhaps it's best watching them on DVD as watching them week-by-week became a nuisance with the lack of any solid answers. Kyle suffered the Clark Kent factor (more on that later) in that he just became too side-tracked by other things to fully take charge, and that's unfortunate. However, the series finale nearly makes up for the entire season, with some satisfying Kyle character development [but a season-finale "cliffhanger" that is just sadly pathetic and uninspired] but it's a little too late. Basically, it's still a good show, but its last season wasted too much time in the teen world and went away from the sci-fi aspect that made it unique. But hell, I'll still pick up the box set just to complete the collection.

(The CW) - Season 2 - Similar to Chuck, Reaper had a stellar freshman season, but its sophomore season felt far too filler-y. Granted, Reaper is the type of show that works better with nonstop DVD viewing (which will be released 09 June, and you can sure as hell expect me to pick up that beauty), so my opinion might change, but I simply didn't dig the storylines, nor the characters as much the second time around. Sam, the dude who has his soul owned by the Devil (still played mischievously and brilliantly by Ray Wise), doesn't seem to have progressed at all since the Pilot. And that's the rub, none of the characters with the exception of possibly Andi (Sam's girlfriend) show any development. Sock and Ben are pretty much the same, even with the addition of love interests for both of 'em (side note: Ben gets an awesome demon girlfriend that is SO Anya from Buffy, it's like going back in time!). And, as per usual, the really good stuff happens in the last few episodes of the season, making all the other 100% filler material (including a half-brother for Sam, and the build-up of Sam's true father given very little fare) sorta worth it. Due to piss-poor ratings (though probably still better than Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on FOX), the show will most likely get canceled, and that's a shame, because it's fun, quirky, nicely written, and has three leads that make every moment of screentime great.

(The CW) - Season 8 - Yep, it's still on the air. Somehow. Apparently it takes eight plus years to tell the origin story of Clark Kent becoming Superman. This wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact the show takes a few steps forward with Clark accepting his destiny, only for him to pussy out by the season finale or get side-tracked by some hot tail and become a whiny wimp for another season; it's aggravating. And if there was any season that should have shown progress for Clark, it would have been this: a new person taking over the reigns of LuthorCorp in the absence of Lex Luthor, the continued formation of the Justice League, employment at the Daily Planet, and a mysterious paramedic who has a Doomy-beast inside him. Season 8 started off strong, and was even pretty decent towards the middle [strange Lana arc notwithstanding, but I can't complain too bad with more Kristen Kruek screentime], but it ended on a not-so-outstanding note. But despite my lack of enthusiasm for the show now, I'll still check back in sporadically for season 9, just to see where's the show's heading, which it itself doesn't really seem to know...

(The CW) - Season 4 - The crown program of the 2008-2009 season, Supernatural is the show to beat; perfect writing, phenomenal actors and phenomenal guest stars and even phenomenal extras, season 4 of Supernatural is at its best. I honestly could go on and on about how wonderful this show is. Of course, I'm a little biased because it features everything in a program that I love - monsters, supernatural entities, good versus evil, kick-assery, and witty dialog; it's difficult to make me not like an episode. Sure, there were a few too many episodes that seemed like the writers were stalling for the really good stuff, but the great thing about Supernatural is that even those episodes are top-notch awesomeness. Basically, if you're not watching Supernatural, that is unwise. Season 4 is it's best as the Apocalypse is just right around the corner, and the only people able to maybe stop it is Sam and Dean...with the "help" of some Angels, sent by the Lord Himself. Yeppers, SP gets into religious territory, but frak, I've never seen it this well handled.

The Shield
(FX) - Season 7 - Oh my god. That's almost all one can say about the show. O. M. G. The Shield was never fearful of going to the darkest reaches of mankind's abilities, and no other season perfectly encapsulates this than its final season. I hardly want to talk about it because the beauty of this final season is that everything that happens in ever episode relates to past events, particularly a shocking death in the finale of the very first episode. This final season is absolutely, 100% brilliant, and although it's a shame this fantastic show will no longer be on the air, it ended in a satisfying way and I can't wait to have an two-day all-day marathon of the show from the beginning to end, and see how all the pieces fit together, and watch the development of this human tragedy that not even this Shakespeare bloke could have written. The Shield is, quite simply, a masterpiece.


Left on my TV quota
: Dexter (Season 3), Fringe (Season 1), The Big Bang Theory (Seasons 1 & 2), Rescue Me (Season 5), Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Seasons 1 & 2), Dollhouse (Season 1), Heroes (Season 3), and Lost (Seasons 1-5).

Verdict on the 2008-2009 season
: Pretty damn good. The Shield and Supernatural are truly the masters of the season, with the final batch of Battlestar Galactica episodes right up there. Another plus is that a long-standing show that had a faulty sixth season regained its feet for season 7 (24), so that's pretty much great. There were, of course, some dissapointments in Chuck, Kyle XY, and Smallville, but there were so many good episodes scattered throughout their respective seasons that it almost cancels out the bad...just almost. But whatev, I enjoyed my time this year, and there's plenty of television goodness awaiting me in a few months! (here's looking at you Chuck and Supernatural)

23 May 2009

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation
starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood, Common

written by John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris

directed by McG

original release date: 21 May 2009

The Halcyon Company, 130 mins., 2009

Pretty Frakkin' Good

On break one day I opened up the
Official Terminator Salvation Movie Guide and read the interviews with actor Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) and director McG (Charlie's Angels), and they both emphasized that story was their prominent and overbearing concern, and that the emotional journey of legendary character and leader of the Resistance John Connor would be central to the movie, and potential trilogy. This news gave me hope more than anything else that Terminator Salvation would be more than popcorn kiddy-fodder.

Sadly, it is not. However, the action is so intense and the performances so very good that I can, somehow, overlook - although begrudgingly - its failure in this regard.

To sum up the movie is simply as possible without giving away OH MY GOD THAT'S AWESOME!!! spoilers (I kid, I kid),
Terminator Salvation takes place in a post-Judgment Day world (the year is 2018, in fact) as machines are currently winning the war against the depleting human race. However, the Resistance will not give up without a fight, and although not the official leader of the pack, most of the Resistance looks up to a man named John Connor (Bale) to battle these soulless, ruthless robots of destruction! Meanwhile, Connor's also on the look for a guy named Kyle Reese (Yelchin), but his search has come to no avail; but that's not trouble for Marcus Wright (Worthington), who stumbles upon Reese in a demolished city and forges a sorta friendship with the young adult. But there's something a little odd with Wright...Who will win the battle for supremacy? Mankind or the machines? Will John Connor fulfill his true potential? Check out the first in a planned trilogy to find the answers!

As John Connor, Christian Bale is awesome as per usual. Any faults with his character lies with the poor script, which doesn't give us much of an insight into any of the characters above a one-sentence vague description. Sam Worthington (
Rogue) steals the show as Marcus, the human/machine/human/conflicted dude who is conflicted with who and what he is; but his performance is nearly outshines by Anton Yelchin (Charlie Bartlett), who plays a young Kyle Reese perfectly as a young adult hellbent on exacting some justice, and if death is his destiny, he'll be damned to die without taking a few machines with him. Bryce Dallas Howard (Lady in the Water) does the most she can do with the little she's given, but is far from a prominent figure in the movie; and Moon Bloodgood's role is nothing more than a plot device.

And now we come to director McG, who has made quite a fuss about his renowned "nickname" and how
Salvation is his T2 for James Cameron's Piranha 2. Well, you can definitely tell McG wanted to infuse Salvation with visual flare - of which there is plenty of - and prove that he's not just a fluff director. I admit, I gotta give the man props: Salvation is beautifully shot. There are some sequences (the post-credit battle and the single-shot helicopter scenes come to mind) that are fascinating to watch, but I can't help but wonder if McG shot it this way to say, 'Hey, I can do some cool Alfonso Cuaron action shots!' or thought it would genuinely help the audience get into the moment. I confess I initially had my fears that this would be as lazily shot as X-Men Origins: Wolverine by the quick-cut pace of the opening conversation between Worthingtons and Helena Bonham Carters characters, but those fears were quickly gone - McG can direct not only some good emotional character moments, but also some intense action sequences, which I'm about to touch on...

An action scene about forty minutes into the movie involving Marcus, Reese and Star as they try to outrun and/or destroy a bunch of Terminator robot thingies on the road is absolutely riveting; these guys simply couldn't catch a break - it's one thing after another, with multiple 'Oh shit!' moments a plenty. It's an awesome sequence that is not only entertaining, but serves the story to the point that it's quite pivotal - I like those type of action scenes. In general,
Salvation offers up guns, explosions, and brawls galore, as to be expected; and the movie delivers in spades. In fear that the movie will be all talkie about time travel and robots, never fear - this film's action will probably only be surpassed by the other summer robot movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Addressing nothing particularly, I just want to bring up some stuff I noted while watching the movie: never before have I been afraid of a Terminator as I was this installment. And this point is kind of a testament to how well the action works - Connor and the Resistance are continually bombarded with one giant frakkin' machine thing, hardly ever catching a break, just like an actual war (nice touch). These Terminators, especially once Connor is in Skynet (er, I think), are freakin' frightening: resilient, beating at our heroes with everything they got, and seemingly indestructible. When one of our characters (even Connor) is locked in combat with a Terminator, I felt a genuine threat of jeopardy in these scenes - kudos goes to everyone involved. These Terminators are badasses, and I
so wouldn't want to be stuck in a post-Judgment Day world.

Oh! And about the ending (
spoiler), I thought McG & Co. were actually going to be ballsy enough to lie about the early reports on the ending and go ahead with it as originally planned, because some stuff went down I didn't expect. Instead, it went to a generally audience-pleasing, safe conclusion with a wide-open final monologue leaving the doors wide open for possible future installments. Of course. The ending came kinda abruptly, and although it did make this viewer ready for more, it didn't exactly leave me jazzed nor did it leave me with a sense of conclusion to this story (for an example of what I mean if I'm not saying it right enough, think of the Lord of the Rings films and the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy).

Salvation was over with, I absorbed what I just watched, and was struck with the question: 'What was the purpose of all this?' T1-T3 was all about stopping Judgment Day, and this new (potential) trilogy is about what happens afterward (obviously), which is an interesting topic to explore, but Salvation simply feels like there is no point other than to see shit get blown up. The question is posed, 'What make an human human? What separates a Terminator from a person in the case of Marcus?' The ending even further hammers down the question with the intent of making us think it over after a nice dinner/breakfast session at Perkins, but just feels tagged on as a way of saying, 'See? It's not all about the explosions.' But, if the IMDB Trivia is any indication, perhaps the novelization by Alan Dean Foster (Star Wars: Splinter in the Minds Eye) is worth checking out to see how character-based it is as opposed to the final product.

The CGI was extremely well done; for trying to accomplish a realistic post-Apocalyptic setting with robots pretty much everywhere, everything looks fantastic and looks 100% real (at least, from my point of view). And there's also a completely CGI cameo that will definitely make fans of not only the
Terminator films but also action movies in general go ga-ga, and I can say it's a thousand times better than the piss-poor work on Patrick Stewart in Wolverine. Basically, the machines, the Terminators, the ships, the digital characters - splendid work. On another technical level, the score by Danny Elfman (Spider-Man) is quite nice, and perfectly melds with the other installments whilst creating its own uniqueness to the franchise. And the cool thing is that it doesn't feel like a bloody Elfman score, and it wasn't until the credits when I found out who the frak actually composed it. Kudos to you, Elfman.

The script is just fine for what it sets out to be - summer blockbuster flick with big explosions, but it lacks the real human element that the interviews with Bale and McG made me believe would play a crucial part of the movie. Aside from when he's yelling, I don't understand what John Connor is going through; none of the characters - with the possible exception of Marcus - are ever fully explored enough that we get to know and care about them. With Reese, we only care because of his role in bringing about Connors existence (no offense to Yelchon), and with Connor...well, we spent three movies caring about whether or not he lives or dies, we sorta can't help our caring. But believe it or, with all the time travel questions it raises, the only script gripe I had was a side comment from a Resistance fighter mocking Connor and his "prophesied" leadership role; um, who aside from the now deceased Sarah Connor and John's wife Kate know anything about his supposed destiny? That line made no sense, and threw me off moreso than anything else in the movie. A little sad, I know...

Terminator Salvation
isn't about to become a fan favorite, nor is it remotely close to the best of the series, but it's a fun ride and is wholly enjoyable. Big explosions, gun fights, Christian Bale, more explosions, robots, Terminators, CGI cameo, time travel - what's not to love? It may not be the most brilliant thing to come out this summer, but it's certainly worth a look.

Scenes I Like a Lot - Halloween

The Movie
Halloween (1978)

What's Up
Some guy in a William Shatner-y mask wants poor Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) dead, and after dispatching of her closest friends, he sets his sights on her, and he'll stop at nothing to finish her off.

Why I Dig It
This very simple moment in the movie - small potatoes I guess you can say in comparison to the rest of it - is perhaps one of the most frightening, spine-tingling, nerve-wracking, and genuinely freaky minute of suspense I've ever seen. As a leg-wounded Laurie runs across the street to her house, director John Carpenter's creepy and pulse-quickening, heart-poundingly intense music escalates, the viewer is worried about our protagonists safety. Will The Shape get to her? To quote that annoying dude in Scary Movie: "Run, bitch, RUN!!!!" It's moments like this that cements Halloween as a freakin' classic - Carpenter made the simple act of walking/running for your life as your serial killer calmly and methodically walks like there's all the time in the world into a intense act of cat and mouse that grabs the viewer's attention and no matter any outside distractions, your eyes are glued to the screen. Plus, the usage of a seadicam helps, too. Michael Myers HAS come home, and there's no stopping him.

So, basically, RUN LAURIE!!!

And Tommy, get the freakin' door!

20 May 2009

In Short:: Adventureland, Fast & Furious, Observe and Report

starring Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Ryan Reynolds
written & directed by Greg Mottola
release date: 3 April 2009

Miramax Films, 107 mins.
, Rated R

There's Frakking Worse Things

As people who actually put the effort to review flicks on blogs know, it's a little hard to write about something that was neither so horrible or so good that the words flow nearly effortlessly. With those type of movies, you're left thinking what the hell to write, hoping that you come up with sentences more creative than 'well, that was good' and 'that actor did a fine job'. This is the trap that I've fallen into with Adventureland, which is publicized as "from the director of Superbad", although it's far from similar fare.

Adventureland is a drama about a socially awkward wealthy boy named James (Eisenberg), having just graduated from college with his sights on going to Europe as a graduation present. But the plan doesn't really follow through because of that wonderful green thing that keeps the economy "going." Thus, James is forced to do something he's not quite familiar with: work. James applies for a summer job to pay for New York living and school expenses at the nearby theme park, Adventureland. Run by Bobby (Hader) and his wife Paulette (Wiig), James is welcomed with open arms to the park where the day seems to repeat itself over and over. At least he's got some strange company that actually end up being good friends. On the romantic side of things, James finds himself fixated on co-worker Em (Stewart), who is a bit of a wild card.

The movie is neither great nor bad; it's simply there...it's simply good. The performances are average, with no one giving us anything that we haven't seen before. Jesse Eisenberg creeps back into his Squid and the Whale skin, Bill Hader is Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds channels his cool-yet-reserved character in Definitely, Maybe, and the much talked about Kristen Stewart really is no different than any of her other movies; she seems to be stuck in character constipation. For me, the best onscreen presence came from Bobby's wife, Paulette played by
Kristen Wiig (of Semi-Pro fame, a far inferior movie); she's a fantastic actress who brought hilarity to her every scene and has great comic timing.

I see Adventureland as a movie showing a boy opening up to the world; for most of his life, he's been sheltered by the best lifestyle money can buy - now he's forced to face the world and all it's dirtiness and imperfections. He meets and befriends people he didn't expect, and faces hardships and learns from them. A classical teenage movie about maturing. Another reason is why Stewart's Em is brought into the equation - a girl who seemingly has nothing going for her: she parties all the time and doesn't seem to give a damn about anything. [Speaking of which, I still can't fathom any reason James would want to get to know this girl other than to get into her pants; which, sure, is a reason, but I was looking for something a little more deep] It's another version of the story but from a different teen's P.O.V.

Some see a masterpiece in Adventureland, perfectly encapsulating the trials of being a teenager and growing up to face those challenges; I merely see a mediocre movie with a less than stellar story but told by an average and unremarkable cast. Judging by the various responses by critics and audiences to Adventureland, I recommend one doesn't just take a reviewer's word this time - actively seek out this title and give it a shot and come up with your own opinion. At the very least, you'll come across a few laughs, but at the most, you'll come across the classic American tale of ones teenage years going into adulthood. Or check out the 'hotness' of Kristen Stewart - your call.

Fast & Furious
starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez,
written by Chris Morgan
directed by Justin Lin
original release date: 3 April 2009
Universal Pictures, 107 mins., Rated PG-13

There's Frakking Worse Things

Cars go fast. Girls in hot, skimpy outfits. And for the ladies, guys flexing their muscles. Cars go fast. Cars do crazy stunts. Lot of action. Hot girls. Zoom, zoom! Explosion. Story point. Cars go fast. Hot girls. Zoom, zoom! The End.

Perfect for anyone who simply wants to be entertained, or look at beautiful girls or drool over pretty cars, because Fast & Furious offers nothing in the way of Watchmen-level meditations. But then, you're not exactly going into this movie expecting that, is one?

The fourth The Fast and the Furious movie is notable in the resurrection of all the main characters from the first installment, and I admit that was my main draw [well, that and the chance to hang with a good friend]. The other nifty thing is that all these guys are brought back in a believeable, cool way in a rather satisfactory storyline [it involves vengeance - of course I'll dig it]. Granted, there's times where I honestly didn't know what the frak was going on, but then a new chase or action scene happens and I suddenly didn't give a damn anymore: there was stuff gettin' blown the hell up!

Paul Walker (Running Scared) doesn't exactly impress with his acting chops; but Vin, man, all he needs to do his look at the camera and brood and I'm sold. Yes, this is coming from one of the few guys on planet Earth who thinks The Chronicles of Riddick is an spectacular movie. Michelle Rodriguez (TV: Lost) has limited screentime, so can't really comment on that. But the beautiful Jordana Brewster (TV: Chuck) is wasted in a few throwaway scenes but add little to the movie, but damn if she doesn't look as gorgeous as ever [if girls can "love" this movie because "Diesel/Walker's HOT", than I can give it kudos for Brewester; 'nuff said]. Like I said above, watching these characters come back and interact is enough for me, no matter their time onscreen, so color me happy.

Fast & Furious is a good installment of the franchise - although I still crown Tokyo Drift the best - and hopefully this film's success will encourage Diesel and Walker to come back for more. Because, really, this is their franchise, and I wouldn't have it any other way. You want fast cars and hot guys/girls? Look no further than Fast & Furious.

Observe and Report
starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta
written & directed by Jody Hill
original release date: 10 April 2009
Warner Bros., 86 mins., Rated R

There's Frakking Worse Things

True to word-of-mouth, whether or not you're going to like Observe & Report depends entirely on one's comedy preferences. I consider myself fairly relaxed on comedy standards, and I don't get offended easily, so I figured I'd have no problem with the flick.

But as it stands, the genre of comedy is a tough pickle to get absolutely right. On one hand, this could be one of the funniest things a audience member has ever seen in their entire existence, and for others, it's a pure piece of cinema crap without a single bloody laugh. Although my viewing of the movie isn't nearly as harsh, I didn't especially love Observe & Report as everyone else seems to be as taken with it. It has its moments, but for the most part for me, it was difficult to enjoy a movie where our main protagonist is a crazy, ego-centric jackass who swears a lot and not even worth rooting for. Although, that could be why some people dig this more than others...

I personally think I Love You, Man is the best comedy released thus far; it has terrific actors with a terrific script, and followed a formula of sorts but given it it's own fresh take which made it interesting. Observe & Report is most definitely interesting and not something you see everyday: it's absolutely ballsy, going places and saying things you wouldn't expect. This movie is seriously frakked up, and for that, I give it high kudos. But it simply doesn't work - at least, not for me. This is where that whole comedy preference thing comes into play.

Right off the bat, I'll tell you the things I loved [spoilers follow]: 1) Ronnie coming out of freakin' nowhere and shooting the streaking man; 2) As seen from the trailers, Ronnie and his partner being the shit out of a bunch of teenagers hanging around the parking lot; and 3) Ronnie kicking some police ass as a one-man fighting machine, a la Rambo. So, basically, I loved the moments that were more fantasy-fulfilling and high on the 'shock' value.

Although I'm not a fan of the film, I can't not give the film the kudos it deserves. Seth Rogen is awesome as Ronnie; although I think his truly perfect role was Kevin Smith's wonderful Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008), I can't imagine anyone else playing this character. Ronnie is an annoying douche bag, but is expertly played by Rogen (not sure if that's a diss or compliment). There's probably more people to appoint accolades to, but hell if I can think of them. Is that a good sign? The FBI dude had his moments of funny, and the only other notable actor in the piece is Anna Faris, who was annoying as all hell, so I guess that means she did a good job, y'know, getting into her character.

I myself am not really in love with Observe & Report, but it's interesting and unique enough to warrant a look through.

03 May 2009

GEEK Bits w/Commentary 001

Hey all! Welcome to a new feature here at Ramblings of a Minnesota Geek. Obviously, there's a gazillion of web browsers that are brilliant at getting news pretty much right away (Ain't-It-Cool, E! News, etc., etc.), but I thought I'd just include this anyhow to cover news that relates to the stuff I dig.

GEEK Bits w/Commentary 001

- Despite a full-length workprint of the title leaked a full-month before its theatrical release, X-Men Origins: Wolverine grossed a whopping $87 million debut over the May 1st weekend. Although impressive, it's still behind Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) which opened with $102.8 million, although it did better than Singer's opening numbers. Now, does this mean that the ploy Fox executed by saying that there were 10 minutes of missing footage and refined special effects not seen on the downloaded copy (which is false) really did work? I don't really think so, and even if it did, I think we should all be a little ticked off at Fox for, well, fakking it.

- Not only has the official movie trailer for Rob Zombie's H2: Halloween 2
premiered on the web (last Friday), but Zombie updated his official blog with a new pic of a hooded gangsta Michael with a messed up mask. And I gotta say, I dunno how I feel about it: overall, I'm more than OK with Zombie's 2007 Halloween re-imagining, but if there's one thing that's sacred, it's that damn mask; mess up the mask and make his actual face more visible, and you ruin 5-% of what makes Halloween such a frakkin' masterpiece. The only other bit that I'm iffy about is his mom telling him what to do and forming his decisions - it's a little too Friday the 13th-ish for my taste; not like I have a problem with that series, I just don't want it here.

- Warner Brothers is actively seeking to adapt the first three installments of the 13-part manga series Death Note to American theaters (
Variety). Charley & Vlas Parlapandies (War of the Gods) have been sanctioned the task of writing the screenplay, based on the original manga by Tsugumi Ohba. Personally, I think this is going to blow. I hold the Japanese live-action adaptations to such a high esteem that anything Warner Brothers chums out will be a load of baloney. If this project actually sees the light of day, I implore all viewers to watch the original Japanese films by Shusuke Kaneko (Crossfire).

- TVShowsOnDVD.com has cover art for Smallville - The Complete Eighth Season, Blu-Ray and standard DVD, as well as Supernatural - The Complete Fourth Season, and are expected to hit retail shelves around mid-September. Once more info surrounding the special features are revealed, I'll update. Concerning Smallville, I'm sure there's plenty of people rolling their eyes thinking, "Holy frakkin' crap, how the hell did that show manage eight seasons? How is it not done with?" And surprisingly enough, Smallville's finally getting good again. It's like their hitting a creative reprisal after a disappointing six and seven. And as for Supernatural - well, its fourth season is perhaps one of the best things television has ever brought us, and I'm not sure that's an exaggeration. Give 'em a look when they're released.

- The future for NBC's Chuck is looking grim. Its April 27th season (series?) finale drew in 6.1 million viewers (TV Squad), of which it typically draws in 6.5 million. For a brilliant series, it sucks that it's life is on the line. It seems shows that have some intelligence to them are usually the ones to hit the axe - Reaper (most likely), Veronica Mars, Firefly, etc., etc. I just don't understand how this program is on the 50/50 scale while Heroes, a convoluted mess that barely had more season finale viewers than Chuck has already been renewed for a 18-episode fourth season. If this is indeed Chuck's final season, than the best I can say is that it ended on a creatively high note, and that I'm thankful NBC gave fans a full 22-episode second season order. But pllleeeaassse renew?


- 1991's Drop Dead Fred is being resurrected by Dennis McNicholas (Land of the Lost), and to be produced by his studio Marc Platt Productions along with Working Title. Dark Horizons reports that McNicholas seeks to make the tone similar to Beetlejuice.

- 1983's Videodrome is next in the remake list for Universal, according to
Variety. The "re-imagining" is to be written by Ehren Kruger (Scream 3, The Ring Two) and produced by Daniel Bobker. It is their intention to "modernize the concept" for todays audiences.

01 May 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch, Scott Adkins, Lynn Collins, Dominic Monaghan
written by David Benioff & Skip Woods
directed by Gavin Hood
original release date: 01 May 2009
Fox, 107 mins.

There's Frakking Worse Things

What people remember from X-Men after leaving the theater for all three installments isn't simply the action sequences or the story, it's a specific character that has won the hearts of nearly every audience member - Wolverine. A man with a mysterious, assuredly painful past who is torn between what side to choose: join Professor Xavier and his gang of mutants who believe in peace, or Magneto and his brotherhood who understand the dark side of human nature and seek to strike first? Although the ending choice is obvious, it was interesting watching Logan's journey of identity in X-Men and X2: X-Men United (2002). It wasn't long after the release of X-3: The Last Stand (2006) that two "origin" stories were announced as in-development: Wolverine (exploring Weapon X) and Magneto (picking up directly after the prologue in the original X-Men). Suffice it to say, fans were salivating.

And now here we are, summer 2009 is upon us, and we have X-Men Origins: Wolverine to watch whenever we want. Does the film do justice to the Wolverine character? Does it fill in the gaps? Is this The Dark Knight 2.0? How is Weapon X portrayed? Why the hell is Gambit in the movie? Why's a teenage Scott blowing up a hallway?

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is first and foremost an action movie, and a character movie second. Don't go in expecting the Second Coming like Iron Man or Dark Knight, and you won't be disappointed. Things go boom, there's mutants a'plenty, government aberrations, and a romance story tossed in for good measure.

At a young age in 1859, Jimmy, in a state of rage, kills a man who turns out to be his actual father. His brother Victor whisks him away before the police can get to him. And on the run they go for years on end, going head-first into every war, killed a bunch of times but keep coming back. The brothers join an team of mutants run by Stryker who seeks to locate the landing site of a meteorite that contains special properties. When Stryker goes too far to get the information he desires, Jimmy/Logan leaves the team. Fast forward six years later: Logan is living the simple life up in the mountains with his girlfriend Kayla, but everything turns to red when she's murdered by Sabertooth, the newly-coined title to his brother Victor. Logan, seeking bloodthirsty revenge, asks Stryker for his help, and infuses adamantiam as an exoskeleton. With his super healing ability power and near invulnerable body, Logan goes out to face and kill Victor.

In comparison to other Marvel ventures, I would place Wolverine in league with Elektra and The Fantastic Four. For most, that's the kiss of death, but since I'm one of those few insane movie-goers and evidently "not-a-true-fan" fan, I dig 'em. But the comparison is only in that Wolverine seems overly interested in the battle sequences and overuse of CGI than actual character development, a unfortunate habit of movie studio's part that I hoped would be extinguished with The Dark Knight [but I can't necessarily hold Wolverine entirely at blame; they were probably in the midst of principal photography while Dark Knight was released]. If there were to be any other character that could benefit from a character-driven adaptation in the same league as Batman, Wolverine would be the guy. But instead, we're given a explosion-fest of bad CGI, quick editing, funny one-liners, and a overall sense of the filmmakers blatantly saying, 'We're not taking this seriously.' It seems like Jackman himself is the only one who understands the character and intends to do as much as he can with what he's given.

Origins: Wolverine should by all rights, and as the title indicates, be a character study of Logan, and how he became the person he is when you meet him in Bryan Singer's awesome superhero flick X-Men (2000); and although there are some beats that influence the overall character of Logan and changes him, but it comes off as an everyday action movie with Wolverine at the center of the action, and his past and personality are secondary to the fights and one-liners. Of course, I could be completely wrong in my assessment, but that's simply my initial response.

As his fourth outing as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman (Australia) is, as always, magnificent; I can honestly say I can't imagine another actor taking the reigns from Jackman for the role - he owns it completely. Sadly, the majority of his cues here are to growl, look mad, yell, and punch things, and doesn't leave enough room for him to pursue other aspects of the character not yet hinted on. What exactly - hell if I know; my X-Men experience is limited to cartoons and the movies.

Competing against Jackman as top-biller is Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth/Victor. Whenever he's onscreen, I couldn't help but grin as Victor's sheer glee at doing what he does is evident in every frame: this guy loves to kill, and his candidness makes us dig the character more, despite his being a rotten bastard. Victor and Logan have a love/hate relationship: their brotherly love makes them want to save each other, but if only just so they can kill one another on their own time. It's an interesting dynamic, and easily the most interesting thing about Origins: Wolverine. Oh, and this is just a little side question, but has Sabertooth always had the fast-healing power Wolverine had? I don't recall him every featuring said power, so it sent me for a loop.

So...Gambit. Yeah, I dug him; I liked the character in the film. My experience with Gambit is solely secluded to the 1990's animated series, so I'm not privvy to his history and particular character traits, but as a viewer with only a miniscule knowledge of a character seeing him on screen, I liked it and I think they did a fine job with his portrayal, and leaves the possibility for his appearance in future X-titles. Performed by Taylor Kitsch, he's about what I would imagine the character to look and act. He gives a impressive, albeit unspectacular, performance. Dominic Monaghan gets a bad shaft as he's in the film for maybe 5 minutes, same goes with Ryan Reynolds - their involvement includes two quick Weapon X sequences and one of them gets a death scene, and that's it. Disappointing, but I enjoyed their one-liners and visual jokes immensely.

As early reports indicated, the CGI work here is dodgy at best. There's some truly excruciatingly bad moments such as when Wolverine takes shelter at a ranch, uses the bathroom and inspects his newly instated blades, and thrashes them together: the CG work is horrendous.; I don't think even a 9-year old kid would be convinced by this effect. Another horrible, horrible offender is an digital cameo of someone mentioned briefly in a early Aint-It-Cool News review: Patrick Stewart as Professor X in all his digital glory. Except, without the glory. This was bad, bad, bad CGI. The background, the composition of the live-action group of ex-jailers all comes together in one of the worst digital shots in a major blockbuster production. Another instance that comes to mind is a quite naked Wolverine jumping from a waterfall - that was more awkward than the Beowulf fight in the nude.

There is an over-reliance on the CGI, enough that made me ponder that if it was financially feasible to digitize every character instead of hiring actors, Fox would do it. The backgrounds, the stunts, the explosions - computer generated, computer generated, and oh look: more computer generated. I'm all for special effects, believe me, but using it when it's really unnecessary bugs me.

I'm also not sure this is the avenue the story should have took. Do all heroes have to have a fallen romantic entanglement which pushes them to do good in the world? The film handled it well, and there's even an unanticipated twist near the end with it that helps the story a few notches, but I'm done having a cut-short romance be the instigator of a life of crime-fighting.

When all is said and done, did I enjoy my time in the theater? Yes, immensely. I was as giddy as schoolboy getting the newest Spider-Man issue after class watching Wolverine beat down his brother and all the baddies in his way. But, however, I can't help but feel disappointed in that there was an avenue not taken, a opportunity that wasn't fully exploited in this movie. For what we have though, it's a okay installment of the series, and a below average origin story. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a big-budget summer blockbuster movie - it doesn't have time for thorough character analysis and a deep script.

I don't know - perhaps my disappointment is clouding my judgment with the movie, but I don't think I'm wrong with some of my points. It's time for the character's to take center stage and the action be icing on the cake, not the main entree. One way or another, you're definitely going to enjoy yourself watching Wolverine - 'cuz what's there not to at least find fun? There's action, attractive girls, explosions, beat-downs, motorbikes and helicopters, secret government organizations, and for the truly fan-obsessed, some nods to comic and movie continuity that will at least elicit a grin.