31 August 2010

EDITORIAL - Evaluating 2010 Thus Far

Opposed to last year, 2010 hasn't had a lot of movies I was anxiously looking forward to. There were only two big films that I literally couldn't wait to see, and now they've come and gone. And as far as the rest of the year looks - well, I'm not holding my breath for anything, really. I mean, there appears to be some good ones, but nothing that screams "OMGZ!!" Last year we had Avatar and Sherlock Holmes to look forward to - this year....hell, I don't even remember. But now that we're at the end of August, and subsequently the summer season, I'd thought it be nice to do a little look back, er, Top 10, of the last eight months. I am curious if this list is going to change much at all by years end, though I'm pretty confidant my number one will still be my number one.

Ranking The Top 10 of 2010 (Thus Far)

10. The Last Airbender
Directed by M. Night Shyalaman
Shyamalan's box office 'disaster'. Well, I'll admit, I wasn't a fan of the movie when I first saw it. There was a obvious major lack of talent in the cast, and the script could have used improvements, but quite honestly, the more I think about the film, I find myself liking it more and more. It's not the disaster everyone in the universe thinks it is. This is what I like about the movie: the script remains faithful enough to the source material while delivering a two-hour movie and covering most of its bases. The story of a boy waking up to find that everyone he ever loved has died, and that he must assume a responsibility he really doesn't want. Cut in a few jokes here and there, and the script itself is passable, if not anything remarkable. There's two other things I really, really love about the movie, and it relates to cinematography: a single, rotating shot of Aang and Katara in the Icey Place, doing nothing more than practicing water bending against James Newton Howard's fantastical score. It's a gorgeous, peaceful shot that has resonated with me longer than nearly anything else has. Another aspect I love: the final 15 minutes, which was just awesome by any consideration of the world. Aang accepting his path, Aang raising the water and freaking the shit out of the Fire Nation, and the battle between Aang and Zuko. Great, great stuff. And did I mention Howard's score yet? Basically, a good movie that has a lot of pitfalls, but still worth seeing.

09. Get Him to the Greek
Directed by Nicholas Stoller, 109 mins.
As a spin-off flick to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, there really wasn't a ounce of me that thought Get Him to the Greek would be any good, let alone the fact I loathe Jonah Hill. Um, sorta turns out I was wrong. While not being a perfect comedy by any means like last year's I Love You, Man, the movie still has great, great moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity, and manages to make the often insufferable Jonah Hill a pretty cool cat who I wouldn't mind hanging out with. Russel Brand, mind you, is just as awesome as he was before, and despite my fear that more screentime for the lad would make him less likable, the reverse is actually true. This is Brand and Hill's movie through and through, and they totally own it; they've got great chemistry, easily working off one another and creating some great gags. Definitely one of the surprise likes of the summer, I quite intend on owning it on DVD.

08. Iron Man 2
Directed by Jon Favreau, 125 mins.
A worthy follow-up to 2008's mega blockbuster Iron Man, indeed. Summation as follows: 1) I didn't so much mind all the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D heavy workings until about the third time in, but it's still very, very cool. 2) The movie went to places, story-wise, I didn't expect; darker places, and I'm very grateful for that. 3) Unfortunately, the script didn't capitalize on the emotional milkyway they had with those plot development (e.g., the blood poisoning from the suit and Pepper's reaction to finding out about it). 4) Sam Jackson as Nick Fury - still awesome. 5) The old video with Howard Stark - awesome. 6) Mickey Rourke actually wasn't too bad, but his character and his motivations could indeed have been fleshed out more. 7) Robert Downey, jr. is still frakken awesome, as was Gwenyth Paltrow, of whom I was very happy to have increased screen time. 8) The movie works quick until the final reel, then the time begins to become feelable. 9) There may have been too much comedic moments in the movie...maybe. 10) Overall, I liked what director/co-writer Favreau did with the movie, where he took it from a story standpoint, and I still think it is a success, no matter the promotion of other films and tie-ins throughout this picture.

07. Predators
Directed by Nimrod Antal, 107 mins.
I love the Predator franchise, and the last two AVP movies were shit. Honestly, completely, you know deep down they're shit. So with that in mind, I was quite expecting Predators to be following that same line of shittiness. Turns out, Predators was awesome. Like, super awesome. Better than I could have expected. Adrian Brody was pretty damn kick-ass in the lead macho man role, the Predators were threatening and frakking awesome once again, and best of all - the movie stayed true to the original motion picture - in tone, design and atmosphere. First of all, the movie boiled down to the characters once again, and this time, the movie features a bunch of diverse dudes we actually find interesting and worth rooting for. Now granted, they're not the best human beings on the planet - far from it - but they're utterly captivating, and I was never waved in my interest to see where this was heading. The Predator designs were pretty gorgeous, even the new version made for this movie; y'know, the big ultimate kickass one. And director Nimrod Antal did a most excellent job creating a bleak, dangerous planet atmosphere. Basically, Predators rocks.

06. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightening Thief
Directed by Chris Columbus, 120 mins.
In the pantheon of young adult novels that received live-action adaptations in the wake of Harry Potter's success, Percy Jackson is by far one of the more successful - and the funny thing is that the movie hardly stays true to the source material. The movie adaptation is fun in its own regard, and also works as a great advertisement for the five-book series, so that's accomplishment #1. Really, the thing that seems to bother me about other movies such as this, is that they tend not to have a fully developed screenplay or likable/good enough actors on their payroll. Or, more often than not, a lack of enthusiasm by the director that oozes into every facet of the movie [e.g., this summer's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Sorcerer's Apprentice]. From that standpoint, Percy Jackson is a rousing success - every frame features that same infectious enthusiasm I'm sure the filmmakers had, and by the end, I didn't want it to go. Logan Lerman, the titular hero, was fantastic, so much so that I wouldn't have minded a least if he became the new Spider-Man [whoever this Andrew Garfield dude is]. I liked how they integrated Greek mythology into contemporary times, how the Greek Gods were represented in the film, and even the miscellaneous adventures our trio [always a bleedin' trio] underwent to save the day and stop a Olympian war. It was good stuff.

05. Toy Story 3
Directed by Lee Unkrich, 108 mins.
Alright, confession time before I go any further. I saw Toy Story 3 a few days after it opened. I liked it. I was moved by it. I thought it was a good movie. And considering that I grew up with this franchise, and the main human character's name is Andy, I've felt a bit of a kinship with this trilogy. But the sad thing is I didn't love it; I didn't exit the theater thinking, Wow, that was a spectacular, awesome movie that compliments the previous two perfectly. Don't get me wrong, it works magnificently as a conclusion to this series - a marvelous ending, better than I could have hoped, but I just feel like something was missing. Perhaps it's the script. Perhaps it's just me. Sadly, I haven't had a opportunity to revisit the film since I saw it, so I can't give a proper review, or a proper sussing out of what I feel towards it, so its placement at number five on this list is purely a reflection of my admiration for the series, and my emotional state after it ended. I don't wish for their to be a Toy Story 4 - this nicely knitted everything together, and it felt very conclusive.

04. Inception
Directed by That One Guy, 148 mins.
Arguably the single most looked forward movie of 2010, the surprising thing about Inception is that it wasn't the colossal mind frak that we all guessed it would be. The reason it feels so convoluted and massive is that Nolan establishes all these rules and sub-rules and different levels of dream states scene after scene in the midst of action sequences, that it can become a little daunting. Actually, Inception is pretty cool in its simplicity - the heart of the story being Cobb's desire to see his two children again, and his emotional quest to forgive himself for his involvement in his wife's death. Gorgeous cinematography, magnificent music by Hans Zimmer, fantastic performances from everyone involved, and a all-around fun and exhilarating watching experience. And if it wasn't for the pure awesomeness of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and a new super-awesome fight scene every seven minutes, the hallway fight - which I will rewatch, rewatch, rewatch, and oh...rewatch! on Blu-Ray - would most definitely be my favortist action scene all year.

03. The Karate Kid
Directed by Harald Zwart, 140 mins.
Yeah, surprises the shit out of me. I would never have guessed that the 2010 re-imagining of The Karate Kid would make any sort of positive Best Of list, yet here we are. It may run a little long - and with repeated viewings it becomes more noticeable - but the ironic thing is that what I want out of it is more. Simply put, the characters are so rich, and the story is so well told and acted by these great performers, that I wanted every scene shot included in the final cut; I wanted to follow Jaden Smith's journey from beginning to end, and the evolution of Jackie Chan's character who suffers from deep grief over the death of loved ones. From frame one all to the way to the conclusion where - big zero spoiler - Jaden Smith is victorious over his bullies, the movie grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Marvelous performances, a wonderful, wonderful screenplay, this movie was spectacular. With news of a sequel in the works, I'm not exactly too thrilled or optimistic about it, but this film - even if you're a faithful fan of the original movies and/or series - it's absolutely 110% worth seeing.

02. Kick-Ass
Directed by Matthew Vaughn, 115 mins.
The movie that improves with each subsequent viewing, Kick-Ass is a monumentally awesome movie. Much like Scott Pilgrim, the movie is brilliantly faithful to the original material, and any changes made not only make sense, but remains true to the source and works just as well for the motion picture. Of course the main attraction of this movie is Chloe Grace Mortez (Let Me In), who literally and figuratively kicks ass in her role as 12-year old Hit Girl. This is her movie, her crowning achievement, and I doubt this movie would be just as grand without not only her character, but this actress. Mark Strong plays the villain (surprise) magnificently, and Aaron Johnson plays dweeby Dave perfectly - a teenager who is utterly scared shitless, but makes a astronomical choice anyway. A great, fun movie that hits all the right notes - the comedy is all there, the violence is pleasantly violent, the actors are fantastic, the direction, music, and editing is spot on. All these elements come together to make Kick-Ass a infinitely re-watchable movie that is highly appealing.

01. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Directed by Edgar Wright, 107 mins.
Does the fact that I've seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World four times possibly hint that I'm in love with the movie? It truly is the best movie of 2010, and perhaps the best flick period since Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight [yeah, I know a lot of people will disagree with this; like, a lot a lot]. Every iota of this movie is, for me, perfect. Even the seemingly out of place dance sequence with Matthew Patel, the first evil ex, works after seeing it again and thinking about it. For such a short running time, tasked with accomplishing so much - establishing Ramona Flowers, the seven evil exes, Scott's personality, Scott's relationship with Knives Chow, Scott's relationship with his band, friends, and sister, and the overall style, tone, and music of the movie - director/co-writer Edgar Wright has pulled out a crowning achievement. Of course I would love for there to be a three hour director's cut that further explores characters and storylines, but I'm quite happy with what we got here. This is a super duper awesome perfect movie that fulfills all the quotas of a 'boy meets girl' movie as well as the video game/live-action adaptation requirements. I honestly can't say enough good things about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and it's a utter shame - nah, I crime! - that after two weeks, the film had virtually disappeared from the Top 10 and will be a financial failure. If you haven't seen Scott Pilgrim yet...well, WHAT ARE YOU BLEEPIN' WAITIN' FOR?

30 August 2010

MMAM - Vol. 6

Today's selection comes from Bear McCreary, who has already been featured before in this columns short run (for TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES), which I hope by that you get that Mr. McCreary is a very gifted artist and his music comes highly recommend. Alright, now that I got that love-bashing out of the way, I present to thee "Apocalypse", from the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA direct-to-DVD film THE PLAN, which was released to DVD & Blu-Ray of October last year. Although the movie itself does leave something to be desired, McCreary's work most certainly does not.

"Apocalypse" is just but one of many tracks I could use to exemplify the grand and majestic music from the GALACTICA series [in fact, I had planned on using his "All Along the Watchtower" for today, but I guess I'll postpone that]. Quite honestly, you could literally take away all the visuals, all the writing, all the human drama of the series, and just leave the music - and you'd still have a winner on your hands, a television show so powerful, even the score gives you the impact of its content [same could be said for Michael Giacchino and LOST]. In a nutshell, don't be surprised if by Vol. 122 of this feature, five or ten more GALACTICA tracks would be used. But for now, enjoy!

Oh, and one final note - background information: this track plays during the destruction of the 12 Colonies on Caprica, inter-cut with shots of our lead actors of the series and what's going on with them as this apocalyptic blowy-uppiness is reigned down upon their lives.

23 August 2010

MMAM - Vol. 5

Hello all! I just finished the fifth season of Rescue Me a few days ago before leaving for the University, and this song has been literally GLUED into my brain. Every episode, the theme song blazes with some absolutely gorgeous New York scenery, and it's simply a super awesome opening. Plus, the music really gets you pumped for the day; in fact, it'd probably be really good work out music.

How bout THAT as a introduction, eh? Listen to it, enjoy the awesomeness.

22 August 2010

EDITORIAL - New Life, New Schedule!

Hello ladies and gentlemen, and the few three of y'all that read this super duper blog. It is I, Andy of Galifrey, one of yee remaining Time Lords - alright, Andy from Minnesota, but Galifrey is so much cooler, and trust me on that, 'cuz I've been there - and I am here to inform you of two things:

1) I am very much with the sorry about the super lack of posting that's been going on. I swear that I've started about 12 different posts, wrote a good couple of paragraphs (more than two, less than six), but could never muster the enthusiasm or creative vigor to continue. Another big thing in my life that sorta helped with the complication of that: I am now a student at the University of Minnesota Mankato! (*cue applause*) . What does that mean? Well, for one, I have high-speed internet which enables me to surf the net faster and look at videos; dial up, no more laddies! Plus it also means a lot more school work, but the main jist is this: the last two and a half weeks have been a hectic time of dealing with the Office of Admissions, Financial Aid, and (of course) housing. But now that all that jazz has been situated, this leads me to announce...

2) I am back and committed and initiating a schedule to prompt me to continue writing! (*cue more applause*) Thing is, though, I'm not too creative with the whole creating games or interactive community feature thingies, so the extent of this schedule will be reviews, editorials, and music tracks. At the very least, I challenge myself, and it produces more content, which is always a nice plus. Well, without further ado, I present to thou the weekly schedule here at Ramblings of a Minnesota Geek:

Monday - Much Music Awesomeness Mondays - a feature I introduced awhile ago, basically to show off the beauty of The Last Airbender and Inception score. I like it, I'm gonna keep it up.

Tuesday - Editorial - I write up a post about something on my mind - well, obviously with the being with the movie relatedness. Should be interesting.

Wednesday - Review Day - Either a TV show or a movie, I write a review, and post said review, to coincide with it being review day, thus having a review.

Thursday - The TV Obsessed - Basically write-ups/reviews of television programs I watch on a weekly basis. Here's the list of shows I'll most likely be watching and writing about: Rescue Me, Smallville, Supernatural, Chuck, Warehouse 13, Stargate Universe, and Fringe. Doctor Who and V will be discussed again when they re-air.

Friday - Movie Review/List Day - One way or another, Friday will feature either a new nifty list of some sort, or a movie review (most likely from a new release, depending on my level of interest). I know, the anticipation is killin' yah.

So that's it in a nutshell, the schedule that I will do my damnest to maintain for the foreseeable future. Thanks for stopping by, and please do so again in the really foresseably soon future. May the Force Be With You, Always.

17 August 2010

True Blood: Season 2

True Blood: Season 2

Created and produced by Alan Bell
Based on "The Southern Vampire Mysteries: Living Dead in Dallas" by Charlaine Harris
Starring Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Rutina Wesley, Nelsan Ellis, Sam Trammel, Ryan Kwanten, Chris Bauer, Anna Camp, Michael McMillian, Mechad Brooks, Michelle Forbes, Deborah Ann Woll, Alexander Skarsgard, Allan Hyde
Transmission dates: Summer 2009

Broadcast on HBO, 12 episodes, 50 mins.

Plot: Sookie's in a relationship with vampire Bill, and his connections to Sheriff Eric brings the couple to Dallas to help solve the kidnapping of two thousand year-old vampire Gordic. Meanwhile in Bon Temps, the mysterious and deadly Maryann is casting a spell on the townspeople, intent on pleasing her Gods with a very specific sacrifice.

Hardly been buying into this huge vampire craze that's risen up the last few years. Sure, I loved the hell out of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but since Twilight, I've since failed to understand this new attraction. With all the reignited interest in vampires, it was only a matter of time before the small screen's schedule became occupado with the undead bloodsuckers. The CW gave us The Vampire Diaries, a show that's pretty badly acted but features at least a decent script thrown in here and there. And for the adult, HBO produced True Blood, a show full of nudity, sex, and gore. Obviously True Blood is the more popular of the two. Out on a blind whim, I bought the first season, and wasn't all that impressed. I waited for a friend of mine to lend me his second season set, and lo and behold - season two is leaps and bounds superior to the first and boasts some really interesting ideas and utterly compelling episodes.

The reason for my admiration for season 2 rests in, I believe, the expansion of the shows mythology. Unlike the first season, the viewers and writers are not limited to a confined story about a human and a vampire falling in love and dealing with the prejudices and repercussions that come out of that. Instead, the writers were allowed to delve into the other supernatural creatures and entities that go bump and the night, and craft a storyline that literally brings in every character of the series, new and used, and culminate in a bigger scale finale. Now, folks, please don't send me death threats, but the relationship between Bill and Sookie is, to me, the absolute least interesting thing about the entire series. From one episode to another, I was glued to the screen wondering what would happen to Godric, how the relationship between Daphne and Sam was going to develop, where the writers were going to take this seemingly one-dimensional courtship between Tara and 'Eggs', what Maryanne's end game is, and what the hell is going on with The Fellowship of the Sun [a subplot introduced at the end of season 1 with little enthusiasm on my part, but ended up being another favorite aspect of this season].

It was like everyone was flying high on all cylinders - the actors, the writers, the editors, the cinematographers - whether it be new-found energy or all the great publicity the show was gaining through word of mouth, but no matter the reason, True Blood's second season was pretty much a fun and awesome experience to watch. And, lest us forget, probably the next best vampire show to air since Whedon's days. Basically, that's high praise.

This seasons Big Bad is about as opposite as last seasons very human antagonist - Maryanne is some sort of supernatural creature called a maenad. Apparently she's been around on this earth for a long, long time, and has the ability to be immortal just by believing its true. Her presence in Bon Temps is clouded in mystery for the major portion of the season, her character instead inserting herself into peoples lives, causing complications, hosting giant orgies that includes nearly everyone in the area. Truth be told, Maryanne's character wasn't very strongly written, but actress Michelle Forbes (Battlestar Galactica: Razor) goes above and beyond the written material to give us one menacing bitch. Even I was freaked out by her before she decked out in minotaur/bull claws and head! So the ever present question in the last two episodes, when Sookie, Bill, Jason, and Eric return is: how does one kill a seemingly indestructible being?

One fantastic character first introduced this season and then sadly written away is Godric, a 2,000-year old vampire and Maker of Eric the Viking. Barely about 5'2, Godric looks like a short prepubescent teenager and strikingly un-imposing. Well, Godric is a great case of deceiving appearances - this character is the most threatening, most captivating, most freakin'ly awesome character in the show period. Forget Eric, forget Bill, forget 'em all - Godric is the real deal vampire, the type in the old days who could kill a good percentage of warriors in mere moments, the type that relished blood foaming in his mouth. And now, his years of existence has provided a epiphany, a choice to make some sort of peace with the humans, content with cohabiting without feeding. Actor Allan Hyde gave a Emmy-worthy performance in those few featured episodes. The character's cool demeanor and soft-spoken voice will continue to irk me and chill me whenever I think about him.

Sookie and Bill are given a rather uninteresting story, tasked by Eric to find Godric and infiltrate the Fellowship of the Sun. Their services aren't even really needed until the sixth or seventh episode, and they spend their time before hand sexing each other up and simply being genuinely annoying; however, once Sookie meets up with Jason - another character who has a interesting but sorta aimless arc this season - the storyline gains momentum, and eventually leads the trio back to Bon Temps. By the final episodes, the Sookie character does become a bit more interesting, as her supernatural powers are addressed once again, and the question of what she is exactly lingers in the air without conclusion, frustratingly enough. I daresay the truth of what Sookie is is quite possibly the most interesting plot thread the show has going for it - at least for me.

Lafayette gets kidnapped and subsequently loses all his mojo, becoming a pale imitation of his former kick-ass self; Detective Andy Bellefleur once again becomes the town joke, but his character rises to impossible odds near the end in a mostly satisfying way; Sam deals with a lot of personal issues, and for the most part his arc was the second coolest story in the series; Eric - well, I just don't care; Tara finds love with this guy named 'Eggs' but it doesn't end well - because the only thing the writers can do with this character is give her a guy and some tragedy, and that's that; and a new character is introduced in the final two episodes, the Vampire Queen, and she is freakishly awesome (!).

A absolutely fascinating thing about HBO shows that still boggles my mind is this: each episode of one of their shows features roughly a runtime of 51-54 minutes, without commercials. Frankly, that is a lot of running time, and the fact that showrunner Bell is able to fill in those extra minutes is nothing less than astounding. The average show on a network station is 41-43 minutes, with plenty of commercials thrown in. Now for the part that blows my mind - even in the first ten episodes of this season, and even the entirety of the first season, not a whole lot of stuff happens. Er, let me rephrase: there's not a lot of Jack Bauer-y, OMG!, OMG!, OMG! action-y pieces until the final three episodes where all the characters come together to bring down the wicked witch. During the preceding episodes, Sookie and Bill do something in Dallas, and Maryann continues to infect the residents of Bon Temps. So it's amazing that even though the episodes are rather uneventful, those 54 minutes still breeze by like it was your everyday half hour sitcom, and the tension and characters are so engrossing and superbly acted that all sense of time in these episodes' runtime goes bye-bye. Showtime's Dexter, which has a lot more plot each episode, feels longer and hits about the same running time. Interesting, no?

I recognize season two has gotten a lock of flack, but I really enjoyed it. The Maryann mystery was played out well enough, Jessica's un-life as a newborn vampire was very interesting to watch, everything with the Fellowship of the Sun was humorous and wickedly awesome (especially towards the end), and this season also brought us the phenomenal and memorable character of Godric, which I will always be thankful for. True Blood is improving in the interesting department, but still needs to find ways to expand its characters and add a bit more dimension to them, as well as exploring other supernatural realms besides vampires and werewolves if it intends on surviving more seasons. Nevertheless, onwards to season 3!