31 December 2010

Movie Prowlin: 2010 Edition, Vol. 4

Thanks to the suckiness of not having money and a close-by movie theater, I missed out on a lot of flicks that I really, really wanted to see (e.g., FASTER, MEGAMIND, LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS), and my TV obsession hit a huge high as I started shows I had missed or fell in love with recommended programs (e.g., AVATAR). Therefore, my tally for 2010 is short my goal of (minimum) 200 movies, and my New Release viewing of theatrical flicks is rather low by comparison of last year [unrecorded on this site]. Oh well, there's still hope for next year. Perhaps I should work at Blockbuster, get some free rentals out of it.

As per usual, if you're interested in reading my opinion on a unreviewed title listed below, just give me a shout below and I'll remedy it.

Looking at this list, it's given me renewed interest in revisiting cinema on a more regular basis instead of becoming enthralled by TV land. As for the likelihood of that happening until the summer when a bunch of releases are Must Sees, it ain't high, but at the very least this blog will be heavy Netflix Watch Instantly and TV show-review based. Speaking of Netflix, and I know I mentioned this before, but I full heartedly plan on participating in One Month Exploring Netflix Streaming, so look for that most likely in February. Next month will be finishing reviews that have been in Draft mode for months...

Goodbye, 2010!

Movies Watched from 1 October 2010 - 31 December 2010

151. Let Me In
152. Let the Right One In
153. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
154. Red
155. Killer Condom
156. Paranormal Activity 2
157. Jeepers Creepers 2
158. Troll 2
159. Night of the Demons (2010)
160. Salem’s Lot
161. Suspiria
162. Seven
163. Piranha
164. From Dusk Till Dawn
165. Saw VII
166. Breathless
167. Rashomon
168. Inception
169. The Seventh Seal
170. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
171. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
172. Silent Hill
173. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
174. Devil
175. Happiness
176. Ninja Assassin
177. Sherlock Holmes
178. The Final Destination
179. 9
180. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
181. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
182. Vampires Suck
183. Going the Distance
184. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
185. Serenity
186. Killers
187. The Kids Are All Right
188. True Grit (2010)

TV Shows Watched from 1 October 2010 - 31 December 2010:
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Book One: Water
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Book Two: Earth
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Book Three: Fire
Stargate: Atlantis - Season 1
Fringe - Season 2
House - Season 1

The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right

Starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasakowska, Josh Hutcherson. Written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg. Directed by Lisa Cholodenko. Release: 9 July 2010. Gilbert Films, 104 mins., Rated R

Plot: Family is difficult, marriage is complicated.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is, as expected and expressed (by millions and millions of similar reviews), a good movie. Now, with that said, does it really express warm "family values"? Is it a comment on how even a lesbian couple with years of marriage between them will still have disputes similar to heterosexual couples? Is the movie even saying a damn thing at all? Personally, and I might be missing the entire point of the movie entirely, assuming there is one, but the whole lesbian marriage thing isn't really important to the movie, I think. I mean, the relationship is, but the fact that they're lesbians isn't. The entire movie is about relationships, using its 104 minute runtime to detail a very specific point of time that's apparently critical to this family unit. Infidelity, sexuality, adulthood, etc. All subplots that make up THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, but although they're cleverly handled and very well written, I'm not going to be recommending this movie to anyone because of the subject matter or its showcase of a lesbian couple (which still is nowhere in the same league in the honest relationship between Willow and Tara in BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER).

The real beauty of this movie, the thing that stunned me and kept me interested in all these different plots and characters, are the powerhouse performances. Julianne Moore, who I've never really been a fan of, is fallible and relatable. Annette Benning spends the first two thirds of the movie being the object of major bitchiness, but in the final act delivers some really serious emotion that's quite heart stopping. The children, Mia Wasakowska and Josh Hutcherson, are just as brilliant if not moreso. Wasakowska, who I hadn't seen prior to the forgettable ALICE IN WONDERLAND earlier this year, is truly remarkable. Hutchersen gives a nuanced and restrained performance that forgives his train wreck work in CIRQUE DU FREAK. And best and most memorable of all is Mark Ruffalo. I still can't see him as The Hulk, but this man practically makes this movie. If you were at all interested in this title, minus the Oscar-buzz, I'd throw it in your hands for the sole reason of experiencing the Ruffalo.

So overall, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is quite the good production, and entirely recommendable. A good story, some amazing performances, and a runtime that flies by. Aside from the actors, it may not be a movie that will elicit much discussion after the credits roll, although the family did talk about how unwarranted Nic going batshit on Paul in the first two thirds of the film was. Trying to finish all the award-worthy titles before the Oscars? Give it a whirl. As a stand alone movie, it's interesting and well worth your time, but again: the performances sell it.

30 December 2010

Vampires Suck

Vampires Suck

Starring Jenn Proske, Matt Lanter, Christopher N. Riggi. Written and directed by ason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Release date: 18 August 2010. Fox, 88 mins., Rated R

Plot: The guys who eliminated brain cells with EPIC MOVIE, MEET THE SPARTANS, and DISASTER MOVIE are back to riff the TWILIGHT SAGA, meshing elements (read: scenes) from TWILIGHT and NEW MOON [in addition to random ALICE IN WONDERLAND and JERSEY SHORE cameos].

The beautiful thing about THE TWILIGHT SAGA is that we don't necessarily need a movie to poke fun at it; they're bad enough as is, and the audience can deliver the punchlines themselves MST3K-style. It's in this environment I watched VAMPIRES SUCK, the latest Oscar contender from EPIC MOVIE and MEET THE SPARTANS writers/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. A get together with some friends, loads of Dr. Pepper, and a few Little Ceasers pizzas (the best) is the perfect way to watch a incredibly bad 'satire' and make it somewhat less bad. By no means by the end of this will I say VAMPIRES SUCK is worth your time - although I reckon there just might be something akin to chuckle-worthy 'jokes' (e.g., "cat!") - but if you were to indulge in your curiosity of the title, a friend-rich atmosphere is recommended. And pizza.

As for 'reviewing' VAMPIRES SUCK, I truly believe it's a impossible feat. Besides, there's a few thousand reviews circulating on movie review websites blasting the flick a bazillion different ways with some quite inventive disses (BTW, kudos folks!). The thing is, most of us have seen DATE MOVIE way back when, before we realized exactly what type of filmmakers we were dealing with. And then in 2008 the appropriately titled DISASTER MOVIE which only the really, really unintelligent teenagers of my time found utterly hilarious. We know what Friedberg and Seltzer produce, and if the idea of getting a few nags at the TWILIGHT SAGA (which you could do on your own, entirely for free, and would most likely far surpass anything this film had to offer in the hilarity department) tempts you, than it's a moderately sufferable enterprise. Just be warned, there's the familiar farting, falling-out-a-window, and running-into-something gags that are a Friedzer staple [see what I did there? I mixed their names together! Like a 'ship'!]. Oh, and on occasion the [point] 'Look! It's [insert current fad here]!'.

It sorta sucks, too. I enjoy dissing THE TWILIGHT SAGA as much as the next moderately intelligent bloke, so it would have been pleasing to actually have a comedy that executes its premise well. No matter, there's still two movies left to go. In that time frame, who knows what super clever and outrageously hilarious vampire satire will grace our screens. I wager it's too much to hope for something of a SHAUN OF THE DEAD-type quality. Gasp! I invoked the Wright/Pegg/Frost dynamic in a VAMPIRES SUCK review...what's wrong with me?

Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter, Ben Barnes, Simon Pegg, Liam Neeson, Tilda Swinton. Adapted for the screen by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni. Directed by Michael Apted. Release date: 10 December 2010. 20th Century Fox, 115 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Lucy, Edmund, and their cousin Eustace are transported back to Narnia via painting to vanquish a island of evil that seeks to infect the whole of Narnia (!!!), but first must confront the 'evil' within themselves.

PRINCE CASPIAN was a near perfect film for me, and remains my favorite of the franchise. I know it's not the popular choice, but the second movie had so much emotion, power and story in its two hours, and director Andrew Adamson really stepped up to create a equally visually pleasing film. The magnificent score by Harry Gregson-Williams didn't hurt, either. Sad thing is, CASPIAN didn't perform all that well at the box office, and there was less than major excitement in commissioning a third. Luckily FOX got into the picture and picked up the franchise for a third, and rumored last, installment of the cinematic adaptation of C.S. Lewis' seven Christian novels. Although a fine movie overall, and well worth spending money and time to watch it, THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER lacks all the emotion and intensity PRINCE CASPIAN exuded with every frame, and contains a lot of story ideas that just end up not being used to their greatest potential.

In addition to gaining, accepting and maintaining faith in something - in this case, the physical embodiment of God in the form of the lion Aslan - the main theme of the NARNIA saga is the tried and true Good versus Evil, and not just in a good guy v. bad guy type of way. PRINCE CASPIAN especially showed the darkness within ourselves, and asked our main characters, specifically Peter and Prince Caspian, to confront it before they can lead effectively and truly be men. Their insecurities, their doubts, their jealousy - it all needed to be laid out on the table and dealt with. Lest I forget to mention the tremendous seduction scene as the White Witch who, despite being dead in the first one shows up in both of the sequels, attempts to tempt Peter with promises of power and victory and a grand leadership. By the end of CASPIAN, Aslan notes that Peter and Susan have already 'grown up', have already gained the necessary skills in life to live, but Lucy and Edmund still have some learning to do.

Enter VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, which continues the theme of inner struggle, but this time, it's brought out by a green mist which represents 'evil'. As the heroes continue down their voyage to unite seven swords which will re-install Aslan's power of goodness in the land and dispel the evil, Edmund and Caspian have a row, and Lucy faces a temptation of her own about her personal insecurities. Frankly, I love when the 'heroes' fight themselves and truly have to conquer their own personal demons, but DAWN TREADER seems more concerned with flashy visuals and digital effects than maintaining coherency with the story, eliciting good performances, and gaining any emotion weight to the story at hand. I understand it's a movie meant to deliver a message and have fun while doing it and perhaps should not be given too much of a analysis, but I can't help but think up the missed opportunities. For example, the climax has our 'heroes', and I use the term loosely, coming to a island which is pretty much The Island of Evil Evilness, where their darkest fears come true and bad, bad, bad things are bound to happen cos, y'know, no one ever comes back from that island. So I was hoping for plenty of confrontation with temptation, against well-worded and mannered entities mocking our heroes and their journey - something juicy. What we get is a pretty sea serpent action sequence, which I loved don't get me wrong, but we could have had some more emotional intensity from the characters.

You'll notice I haven't mentioned Lucy yet, and I frankly don't know why. Admittedly, she has a nice subplot of her own, fearful her beauty won't live up to Susan's, but it's dealt with rather quickly and resolutely, that by the climax she really has nothing to do but look scared and scream. Even Eustace grows as a character more, and not just in a 'initially annoying to moderately tolerable'. Lucy was fine, not much more to say about it than that. She led us to our Necessary Exposition Scene where the threat of Narnia is revealed and our reactive characters have to go on another mission to restore Aslan's goodness to a small sector of the world.

I wager it seems like I have a distaste for VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, and that's not so. By all means, it was a enjoyable film, boasted some great visual effects, tight editing, and creative directing by Michael Apted. So, yes, it's recommended, especially if you've already seen the other two. If this is the end of the NARNIA cinematic franchise, I can deal with that, and I applaud all the efforts of the people involved, from the actors, directors/writers, and everyone on the production team. Together, these three films weave together nicely, creating, in a way, one big interconnected story about friendship, faith, and fighting for the greater good. I'm glad we got to experience that, and glad the folks at Walden, Disney, and 20th Century Fox created a trilogy that the whole family can enjoy.

The Watcher: Doctor Who 2010 Christmas Special

This installment of The Watcher will be a bit more different, mainly because of it being all about DOCTOR WHO, of which I have one hell of a obsession for. So the entire thing is dedicated to it. That and the fact that there really isn't much else new I'm watching on the tele. Merry belated Christmas, folks!

Transmission date: 25 December 2010 (BBC One/BBC America)

Plot: Amy Pond and Rory Williams are trapped on a airliner descending rapidly towards a planet destined to crash, and the only man on that world who has the power to save them just doesn't give a damn. Thus The Doctor springs into action, using time travel to his advantage to change the mind and heart of Kazran Sardick.

Starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill. Guest starring Michael Gambon, Katherine Jenkins, Laurence Belcher. Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Toby Haynes.

The most Christmassy DOCTOR WHO Christmas Special, indeed.

Oh, Doctor, how I've missed you. It's been six months since the last episode, "The Big Bang", and another few months until you return in April with a split season (noooo!!!), so this 2010 Christmas Special is sort of a big deal. Plus we've got Dumbeldore (Michael Gambon) and UK singer sensation Katherine Jenkins as guest stars, so how does that not sound interesting?

In case the title was a bit vague on the episodes story, this is the DOCTOR WHO version of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Suffice to say, if I ever become a teacher, I will never, ever show my students the 44,000 re-enactments of that story; I'll just show them this. It hits all the right notes, and makes the Scrooge-character even more of a possible lost cause, making his (gasp! spoiler!) change of heart all the more powerful. The Doctor is clearly having a blast, as Matt Smith continues to make the role his own and perfectly make create one of the best interpretations of The Doctor.

"A Christmas Carol" is full on fairy tale, continuing the 'dark fairy tale' theme from Series 5, as well as full on 'timey-wimey', where time travel is used more consistently in this new series than before and none so important as now. The fairy tale of the son fearing he'll become like his abusive father and inevitably fulfilling that fear, but gaining a second chance to change. The fairy tale of the woman who can sing to "the monsters" and actually tame them. The fairy tale of the man who came down the chimney bearing gifts and changed many lives. And the best fairy tale of them all - traveling through time and space, and the wonders that come with it. Not only is "A Christmas Carol" a fine story for the holidays (and the most appropriate of the DOCTOR WHO Christmas specials), but also captures all the elements that make the show click, making it a great jumping on point for the crazy lots who chose not to jump onboard with "The Eleventh Hour."

Fun, timey-wimey, and most of all, humanity are trademarks of Steve Moffat-written DOCTOR WHO episodes, and this is no exception. There's fun from the first frame to the last, and time travel hasn't been more important since the previous Series 5 episode "The Big Bang", and the humanity - oh boy, the episode is all about it, tapping into a seemingly soulless mans humanity in order to save lives. Couldn't be a better Christmas tale, eh?

But then there's another element of the story some other reviews noted: The Doctor changing the man to suit his own needs, a comment also addressed by Kazran as the holographic Amy pleaded for help. In defense, it could be said The Doctor is doing this to save the 4,000 passengers onboard the airliner, but really the truth is The Doctor is deliberately changing not only the memories, but the personality of Kazran Sardick. True, The Doctor noted the deeper meaning of Kazran's refusal to hit the young boy in the first act and later his younger self, as well as refusing to believe Kazran's statements of not caring about the doomed souls on the ship. Really, the whole thing is a jumbled mess that could turn into debates of ethics, of The Doctor becoming too controlling again which lead him down the tragic path of "The End of Time", but for entertainment purposes and for fulfilling the story requirements of "A Christmas Carol" - well, it's pretty brilliant. For example, The Doctor showing a young Kazran his future self: entirely didn't see that one coming, and a ginormous surprise.

The Grand Moff, as is apparently the coined named for showrunner and Head Writer Steve Moffat (SHERLOCK), has crafted a very, very good episode with all these different elements that come together nicely. If there are any major faults, it's that a story like this probably could have used a tad longer of a running time, just to fully appreciate the transformation of Kazran Sardick, which does feel a little rushed. I'm not hating or anything, I do realize we got a full sixty minutes of commercialess story, and it's grand, all I'm saying is that a longer runtime would have allowed this specific aspect to feel a little less abrupt and, dare I say, forced. As for Moffat's trademark witty dialogue that often feels very Joss Whedon-y, it's all there and more. Nothing quite as quotable as the "Hello Stonehenge!" speech from "The Pandorica Opens", but a exchange about The Doctor being a 'very mature' person elicited quite a collection of giggles, for example.

Seeing as how the episode is very Doctor-centric, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are more background figures, initiating the story but not really becoming a part of it. Well, with the exception of the hologram Amy making a futile attempt to tug at Kazran's humanity. Darvill plays up his comedic one liners just fine, but Karen actually comes off a bit more mature, more adult and confidant here than what we saw in Series 5. Perhaps the events of "The Big Bang" have left quite the impression on her. As for Matt Smith being The Doctor, there's not much to be said that hasn't already been mentioned in earlier DOCTOR WHO reviews. Brilliant as always, and his entrance at the five minute mark and his rambling monologue was pure gold. If there's only one fault I'd attribute to Smith, it's that on occasion I can't necessarily suss out what he's saying, and it's usually the aside funny lines.

Guest stars Michael Gambon and Katherine Jenkins fare quite well, too. Gambon gives a grand performance, full of menace when consumed with anger, or sorrow in contemplation of making a fatal choice, it's the best role I've seen him in...which basically includes just the HARRY POTTER films. So, yeah, take that with a grain of salt. And as I understand it, this is Katherine's first acting job, and I feel she did quite fine. Hell, I would never have thought she hadn't done any roles beforehand.

Under the gifted direction of Toby Haynes, fresh off the two-parter "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang", "A Christmas Carol" is visually startling and beautiful to look at. The wide shots inside Kazran's study room, capturing the spacious loneliness the room produces; the beauty of Christmas time, with the falling of snow and all around magic that comes with the holiday; and when need be, a intense chase sequence as The Doctor and a young Kazran run for their lives from a monster (which half reminded me of JURASSIC PARK III, when the main characters hear a familiar ringtone but realize it belongs to a deceased friend eaten by the Spinosaurus - who just happens to be watching them right then). There's even some visual inspiration from J.J. Abrams as lens flares are abundant onboard the space liner; the camera's movements even mimic the constant motion of Abrams' film. The close ups, medium and wide shots are all splendidly framed, and the overall dark color scheme makes for a very interesting visual presentation. Indeed, this new series of DOCTOR WHO has visually felt the most cinematic, and "A Christmas Carol" is no different. This 60-minute production could literally pass off as a theatrical experience, as all the elements come together brilliantly: the acting, writing, direction, editing, visual effects, and score, etc.

Speaking of score, I might as well be a broken record: Murray Gold as composed yet another outstanding soundtrack. Perfect in every single possible way. I also get quite giddy listening to multiple variations of the Eleventh Doctor's theme; I love "All the Strange, Strange Creatures" as much as the next music-giddy bloke, but the energy and boundless sense of fun "The Doctor's Theme" provides just makes me want to break out and dance all Doctor-y like (see: "The Big Bang"). Um, anyway. Also, I still have no clue as to who Katherine Jenkins is or what type of music she performs, but her last song in the final ten minutes was fantastic. Her voice, the editing of Amy and Rory saved, of Kazran finally happy and peaceful, of Christmas and lives saved - it sends shivers up me spine, I tell you! And Murray's music emphasizing the magic of the moment...that's magic all onto itself. I'll be purchasing the soundtrack for that track alone. So all in all: Murray Gold, I love you.

Although, I still dunno who I'd be forced to vote for if it was Murray Gold vs. Bear McCreary. Two totally awesome composers boasting some of the best television music of all time. Yikes.

DOCTOR WHO doesn't have a limitless budget. May seem like it does, but like all programs, it don't. So the question becomes: how does a $1.8 million budgeted episode look nothing less than $120 million? The digital effects alone are breathtaking. The opening shots of the space liner plummeting towards a cloudy planet, the post-credit shots of a entirely digital city that is comparable to ILM's Coruscant, and the realism of the Shark. Wow, that was amazing. Lest I forget The Doctor, Abigail, and Kazran's flight through the city pulled by the Sharkie. Amazing, brilliant stuff [note to self: I really need to come up with new words]. CGI aside, the production design is just as gorgeous: the interior of Kazran's building is eerie and very plain, the cold chamber with the frozen 'investments', and the exterior shots of a snow-prone planet covered by a major cloud system. Just wowzers, mates, wowzers; yes, technical term.

"A Christmas Carol" is a success. Truly the most Christmassy special yet, it's a brilliant spin on a very, very old and reused tale making it seem at least moderately fresh and loads of fun. Since it's going to be a long, long time until the next episode, I thought I'd leave this review with a hilarious and trademark shot from Series 6, taken from a short sixty second trailer that aired after the special. Area 51, River Song, and the Doctor wearing a Stetson now. Blimey, I can't wait!!!

28 December 2010

Tuesday Cap - Vol. 13

Title: Serenity

Notes: Earlier this evening some friends and I popped in the SERENITY Blu-Ray since most of them hadn't seen the flick, let alone have a clue as to what FIREFLY was. And after rewatching it, I'm once again floored by Joss Whedon's brilliance and am currently enjoying a Browncoat high. It may be my bias for all things Whedon (DOLLHOUSE included), but watching the film again, I firmly believe that this movie is pretty much perfect. Now, to be frank, I've never been one to really spot plot holes unless they're so supremely obvious, so if the script suffers from logistical errors or discrepancies, hell if I know. As I watched the movie for the nineteenth time, I once again became just as mesmerized and in love as I was the first. The cinematography and direction is flawless, as is the visual effects, displaying a mastery over spacecrafts and digital movements that rival if not exceed bigger budgeted enterprises. Case in point, the descent towards Mr. Universe's control hub as Serenity emerges through the clouds with a whole battalion of Reaver crafts behind them, as well as the bumpy landing when they make it to the floor a bit damaged; the digital effects are so well rendered, so expertly crafted it nearly puts Abrams' STAR TREK to shame (and I say that lightly, being a major fan of the 2009 installment of the franchise). And the script - I can give accolades after accolades about how perfect and witty and snappy the dialogue is, but any fan or casual viewer of Whedon will already know this. As for the performances - there's hardly reason to comment on them at all. By this point, there's not a inch of acting. When the cast don their outfits, they completely, 100% inhabit their characters to the final live action frame. For Joss Whedon's big screen directorial debut, he couldn't have picked nor created a better movie. In salute to Whedon's brilliance and the pretty much perfection of this piece, I call all bloggers and film lovers to revisit SERENITY in the not too distant future. Although I know the probability of it happening is pretty slim, when the final credits rolled, my eagerness and giddyness for another SERENITY film hit a new all-time high. Joss Whedon, I love this franchise and I love these characters; I can't wait to see them again.

Discuss: Joss Whedon's strength as director with a cinematic lens instead of TV-scope. In the wake of a hefty body count, what worked and what didn't. Did the Operative of the Alliance interest you as it did I? Were you as visually impressed by the CGI as I was? General feelings about SERENITY, and, to a extent, FIREFLY. Would you be giddy for another helping?

27 December 2010

MMAM - Vol. 22

It's almost the end of 2010, and with the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, what does that give us...besides a new year? Another TRANSFORMERS movie! Duh! Well, same could be said about PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, but I haven't been rockin' to that as of late. In case you're noticing a theme, I tend to post tracks of songs I really dig or have been having on repeat a lot the past week. Well, this week just so happens to be Steve Jablonsky's rather ingenious score for TRANSFORMERS. The first one. Jablonsky did do some good work on REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, but not enough to be memorable; at least it was a saving grace for the botched up production.

"Arrival to Earth" is the epitome of perfection, a true testament to Jablonsky's competent ability to conduct when given good material to work with. This track conveys all the wonder and splendor of not only the movie, but the notion of giant frakkin' robots from space!!!! This scene, and the music, gave to me what I assume seeing CLOSE ENCOUNTERS or STAR WARS to children back when they were released gave them: awe and excitement, the idea that the fantastical can happen. Enjoy. And Happy New Year!

23 December 2010

The Watcher: 12/10 - 12/23

Oh yes - I know I have been a horrible, horrible blogger the past week and a half. Where other blogs are updating on a daily basis, this baby has sort of been on the back burner. Sadly, I sort of expected it with the lack of easy internet access my way during winter break, but the horrible rate I'm going at - it's a disaster. My excuses are as follows: as anticipated, my hours at work have increased (which results in a bigger paycheck, so that makes me quite with the pleased); I haven't been able to see nearly any movies in a long, long time [the last theatrical movie I saw was DEATHLY HALLOWS, which is unheard of from me], thus unable to review anything; I've also been writing a novella at nighttime, titled A CHRISTMAS STORY (points for unoriginality), and I'm quite pleased with the results; and I've spent most of my free time being consumed by catching up on TV shows, notably a STARGATE: ATLANTIS binge and some other 2009-2010 programs I failed to watch (e.g., HUMAN TARGET), so expect reviews of those in the soon future. But once this week concludes, I'll have more time to devote to the blog. For those who do make this a usual stop, I have a planet-full of gratitude to you, and I promise content will be up and running smoothly quite soon.

As for The Watcher, it's going to be facing a difficult time: there's nearly nothing to watch. Most if not all of my shows are in their mid-season finale, ended, or canceled. I got a DOCTOR WHO episode for the next Watcher, but nothing else after that. Blimey. What to do. Until then, enjoy the super late reviews for the following.

S05E12 - "The Big One" (13 December 2010) - And it all comes down to this. Lumen has been kidnapped by Jordan Chase, Liddy is dead at Dexter's hands, Deb is getting closer to tracking down the vigilante couple, and Quinn is finding himself in some serious shit in connection to Dexter's latest victim. Gloom and doom was destined for Dexter, and was that what we got? No, satisfyingly enough. "The Big One" is appropriately titled, for it was Dexter's 'big con', in a way. He had to save Lumen, decide on what to do with Quinn, cover up Liddy's death, and prepare for Harrison's birthday party; quite a lot on our favorite serial killer's plate. First, I'd like to give major kudos for the very nice portrayal of Jordan Chase. I'm not going to make comparisons between Chase and Arthur Mitchell, as that would be unfair. I will say that Chase and his rapist friends were the exact type of evil Dexter needed right now: just the right amount, but not too much. Rather, season five was all about emotion, moreso than the evil man(s) that need to be put down by the finale. Dexter and Lumen in various forms of grief and anger, and channeling that (and in Lumen's case, finding justice and satisfaction) through the carnage. It appears the overall theme of the season was Dexter finally and firmly accepting who he was: his life, his responsibilities, and (of course) his Dark Passenger. I was hoping for a greater progression of the Dexter character - for more emphasis, I guess, of Dexter's humanity that is slowly but surely shinning through [but not nearly as profound as "My Bad"] - but I can happily take what we got.

Lumen and Dexter reunite to take down Chase, and it's a sweet moment. Lumen makes her second and final kill, and watches as Chase dies in front of her. The last villain has been vanquished, and by the morning, Lumen has felt a release of her hatred and desire to kill; she is, for all intents and purposes, a free individual, unburdened. Sensing that Dexter isn't capable of giving up that type of life, sensing that she is, in a sense, reborn, Lumen makes the choice of leaving Dexter, pretty much pronto. Although I'm glad Lumen wasn't killed off, for I would have vehemently been in the group outraged at her demise and the redundancy of the plot device, I still have issue with this final story beat. Nonetheless, I do hope Julia Stiles returns to DEXTER again, and makes just a prominent affect to his life like he did this year.

The scene when Deb tracks down her vigilantes and makes the decision to let them go - well, that was just some outstanding acting on Jennifer Carpenter's part, and I quite like this sort of morally shattered, broken down woman we've got. Her life has been messed up since the end of season one, and it just increases with craziness. Current boyfriend was accused of murdering Liddy, last boyfriend murdered by the Trinity Killer, and her ex-fiancee tried to murder her. The Morgans are possibly one of the most interesting families on television right now, and I'm anxious for the day when Deb finally does find out about Dexter, because if this scene in "The Big One" is any indication, it will be...um, a big one.

So outside of all this rambling, what did I think? A overall enjoyable episode and decent conclusion to another far-too-short 12-episode season; it had a very good book-quality to it, with a beginning, middle and end. The final scene at the park for Harrison's birthday was tremendous, with the conversation between Dexter and Astor (one of the few moments where I genuinely didn't mind her) and the final, sweet image.

Season Review: Season 4 had its faults - it wasn't nearly the seemingly flawless batch of episodes many reviews make it out to be - but it finished in such a strong, profound episode that redefined the entire season, in a way. Season 5 is nothing spectacular in its own right; in fact, I would probably rate this as one of its less successful seasons. Asinine subplots 97% of the time involving the side characters that have no relation to the main story [which is all I'm going to say about the Angel/Maria junk, the Latino Bros. junk, etc.] or, for that matter, any interest from this viewer, a overall lack of coherency to the story, and - among many other things I'll inevitably fail to mention - not accomplishing enough with its twelve episodes of story. This tale could easily have been told in about six or seven episodes, allowing much, much more plot and character growth to be included and emphasized on. Give Batista, Maria, and the other dudes more material to work with, and actually integrate them into the main plot in some way; make them be continuous foils for Dexter and Lumen, have them work a case that ties into Boyd and Chase, have more fallout from the Latino Brothers ordeal than just Deb, etc. Basically, season 5 just felt half-assed. In the contents of these twelve episodes are the ingredients of something majorly fantastic, and what we got here was little more than half of its potential. I don't mean to rag on DEXTER or say that I dislike/hate the show. Quite the contrary: it's one of my favorite television shows, and have been a loyal follower for several years, and I'll keep on being so until the end. Just, right now, the writers don't seem to have a clear destination for Dexter. It's as if he's weaving through several different plots until the series is canceled and the show doesn't receive the necessary closure. We've had four seasons of the same-like Dexter character and story beats, I just expected season five to completely change not only the game, but Dexter.

The strongest aspect of the season was entirely Lumen and Julia Stiles' strength in her portrayal. The chaos and fear in her eyes when Dexter first finds her, the gain of trust and comradery between the two, the unforgettable moment where Lumen makes her first kill and the adrenaline and passion that followed afterward, the way a part of Dexter's "soul" was stirred because of her, and the strongish, mostly confidant woman she became by the finale. Normally I give massive amounts of kudos to the writers, but in this specific instance, I think full credit needs to be attributed to Julia Stiles, who became through the course of the season one of my more respected actors in the showbiz today. Her expressions and ability to tap into not only hers but the audiences' emotions is amazing.

Frankly, there's not much to be said about season 5. Season 4 ended with a tragedy, and 5 shows Dexter coming to terms with that, and helps Lumen in a way to make right a wrong, ending with Dex alone, even when surrounded by 'family' and 'friends'. I really, disparately hope Dex undergoes a greater transformation with season six, or we gain some sort of clearer understanding of the characters overall arc (if there is one). In the end, season 5 was a good but not great installment of the DEXTER mythology, and will be remembered for the powerhouse performance of Julia Stiles, the consummation of the Deb/Quinn romance, and really shitty subplots. Okay, perhaps that last point wasn't the best note to end on. So here's a optimistic one: looking forward to the future, and am eagerly excited to see what season 6 will hold!

S01E11 - "All the Way" (09 December 2010) - Way to close the series at the halfway point, "All the Way" was the most splendid, most awesome episode NIKITA has produced yet. I'm not lying when I say I was glued to the screen the entire time. The stakes were the highest they ever have been, the characters had to make some tough decisions, and the story and script had more twists and turns in this singular episode than the ten preceding it. Although the final result with Alex and Thorn was inevitable and predictable, the emotional impact of the moment was not lessened. Hell, let me just say this: every scene, every beat, every awesome punch and kick was pretty much perfect. For example, the scene where the elevator doors in Division open and Nikita is greeted by all the trainees and she subsequently kicks each and everyone of their asses was frakkin' gold. Definitely one of the television highlights of the year! Lyndsey Fonseca and Maggie Q deliver their finest performances of the season, the episode is jam-packed with twists and turns, action and thrills. There's nothing left to say than it was stellar, and I can't wait to see where it goes from here.

S10E11 - "Icarus" (10 December 2010) - A strong batch of episodes, "Icarus" disappoints in some ways and succeeds in others. First, I need to say that the episode ends on one hell of a stupid cliffhanger until over a month away. A pyramid of white light emerges from the sand and knocks them unconscious? Really? That's just lazy. And the previews seem to indicate Clark will have lost his powers again. Unless there's a really good frakkin' reason why, I can't see myself particularly pleased with that storyline. Anyway, back to the episode at hand. The teaser with Lois and Clark getting engaged was as corny and romantic as expected, with Tom Welling and Erica Durance giving us as strong performances as they've given all year. STARGATE alumni Michael Shanks returns as Hawkman, in addition to Michael Hogan as Slade Wilson (once again sporting a dead right eye, this time taking a metallic insertion over a eye patch) and both actors bring their A games. Shanks excels as Hawkman, giving his best, personable performance yet, and makes the duel at the end all the more tragic and sad. Hogan is just fun as Slade, although I think it's more out of hearing that fantastic gravelly voice again I've missed since Colonial Tigh left the screen over a year ago.

Unfortunately, "Icarus" just wasn't a outstanding episode. Rather, it's function, I believe, is transitional. Now we're going to be entering the final eleven episodes of the season, which means the stakes need to be higher, the relationships reaching their final resting place, and the plots need to converge, split, re-emerge, and converge again in a inevitably stellar finale. One interesting bit: Clark chose to deal with Slade by zapping the man into the Phantom Zone. Hmm. Clark's darkness or a showcase of his affirmative action? Consider me intrigued.

S06E11 - "Appointment in Samara" (10 December 2010) - Since the appearance of Death in "Two Minutes to Midnight", the return of Julian Richings to the role in SUPERNATURAL has been eagerly anticipated by many, including myself. His return did not disappoint. "Appointment in Samarra" is yet another superb episode, tackling so many bits of the shows mythology, reflecting on things past, hinting towards the future, and showcasing the characters in such contrasting lights. Plus, we've got a cameo by Robert Englund (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) as a doctor who 'kills' Dean. In order to arrange a meeting with Death, Dean 'dies' to negotiate getting Sam's soul out of Hell, since he figures Death just might be the only entity in the universe who'd be willing to help him. But it comes at a stake: Dean must wear the horseman ring for twenty-four hours and literally becomes Death for a day, executing Death's duties and attempting to answer some of the popular questions from the recently deceased ('What does it all mean?'). The end result of this heavily used plot ['main character becomes [insert] for a day to gain greater understanding and appreciation for another'], but necessary to have Dean grow a little bit more, as he begins to understand and appreciate the role of Death in the universe, how there is a interconnected web that must be maintained or it will created irregularities.

And that's where some juicy stuff comes in. At the end, Death makes some startling and exciting remarks: first, the humorous jab at Sam and Dean and their constant resurrections and defiance of not only Death, but destiny throughout the seasons. Nice moment. And second, Death wants Dean to keep on digging, cos he's close to finding out something monumental about the soul business. Consider me friggin' excited. As expected, Julian Richings was stellar as Death, and his creepy, intelligent, refined, and powerful portrayal remains just as impressive as it was the first time 'round.

My love for Jensen Ackles isn't as high as it used to be, cos Jared Padalecki is just shinning this season. It's with great sadness that Sam gets his soul back - but I gotta give the writers credit, it's one hell of a cliffhanger - because I feel Padalecki has done his absolute best work this year. Taking away all the angst, fear, and brooding visage of the soulful Sam, this ambiguous kill first ask questions later type of Sam is amazing. It will be sad to see him go. That being said, this whole deal with the mental wall is quite the interesting notion, and the long term story potential can be...well, something far beyond amazing. Of course, as a writer seeking to accomplish creating drama, having Sam's wall break down would be the inevitable course, but what would happen then? Will Sams entire body burn into nothingness? How is Lucifer handling this? (it'd be nice to get a little side cartoon showing Luci's pissed offness) The ideas are limitless, and I can't help but find myself floored and impressed by the brilliance of this storyline.

"Appointment in Samarra" was fantastic, bringing a end to the whole Crowley/Purgatory/Sam's soul storylines, and entering a whole new canvas of ideas and directions. Is Purgatory still a important part of the mythology? What's up with the monsters? How is Sam gonna deal with Balthazar? Is the war between Heaven and Hell going to spill onto earth? Will God ever play a major physical role in events? What direction will the Grandpa Campbell storyline go? I'm just so giddy!!!

21 December 2010

Tuesday Cap - Vol. 12

Title: Satan's Slay

Notes: The perfect Christmastime movie. Screw the lovey-dovey Hallmark junk that regurgitates the same plot over and over and over again, watch this brilliant flick where Santa is the spawn of Satan and, no longer bound by his contract to bring joy and kindness to children, enjoys wrecking havoc on all and everyone who crosses paths with him. Destroying churches, killing random blokes who just remotely irritate him, beating the shit out of dudes at a strip bar, and a reindeer chase against the protagonists are just but a sampling of the sheer awesomeness of SANTA'S SLAY, not even counting the superb opening four minutes which is one of my new favorite opening scenes of all time. There's just something so very enjoyable with the idea of Santa Clause going on a killing spree. Perhaps it's my frakked up mindset, but SANTA'S SLAY is 100% enjoyable. It's not a great film by any stretch of the imagination nor does it make any attempt to weave creativity in its execution, but it delivers wholeheartedly on its premise and there's not a ounce of lacklusterness in the script or Santa himself. Commonly On Demand, there's no reason not to watch this immensely enjoyable dark comedy horror flick which really epitomizes possibly one of the most important lessons in history: don't piss off Santa Clause.

Discuss: Christmas. Ba-humbug.

20 December 2010

MMAM - Vol. 21

Me and Christmas music...well, we don't mix. So I'm sure you can understand my gritted teeth every time I step into mum's car and she's blasting jolly 'ol jingles. But there does happen to be one song I like, "Carol of the Bells." I love it: beautiful violin work, great momentum and zigzaggyness (yeah, I don't know what that means either). But that's not the song I'm going to be using today. Nah, the song in question is from the band Relient K, and since it's a Christian band, it's the only way she can deal with some quasi-punk rock. 'Cuz, y'know, it's God-lyish.

Anyway, they did a FANTASTICly fun and awesome "Twelve Days of Christmas", and it never fails to get me in the mood. Makes me genuinely like Christmas and enjoy the obnoxious customers, crowds, and unintelligent drivers. [Oh, how retail has ruined my love for humanity] This is how they should sing the song at churches, and most definitely should be the staple on how to remix a song. Without further ado, enjoy, recite, repeat, love. And, of course, Merry Christmas and all that good stuff.


Simply Script: No. 3

It's the holiday season (in case the snow outside didn't quite convey the idea), so I thought it'd be appropriate to have a holiday-themed installment of this feature. The following is just a hint of the magnificence that is the Lex Luthor character given so many multiple dimensions in this television series. Forget Clark Kent, Lex Luthor was the most captivating, complex bloke in the entire saga. Perhaps one day I'll write a essay on the character; give me a excuse to watch the first seven seasons again...

S05E09. "Lexmas"
Written by Holly Harold

I thought you didn't make house calls.

Giving the circumstances, I made an exception.

Ah, not to worry, Griff. We Luthors are made of pretty tough and definitely expensive material.

Are you sure your morphine drop isn't turned up too high?

Well, it's not everyday one has a near death experience. And it's true, much like Ebenezer Scrooge, I realized that what I want more than anything is to live happily ever after, and do you know what the secret to happiness is? Power, money, and power. See, once you have those two things, you can secure everything else and keep it that way.

So, what am I doing here, Lex?

I want you to pull the grenade. Find it, fake it, do whatever it takes to knock Jonathan Kent out of the race. I wanna be Senator. I want it all.

Consider it done. Merry Christmas.

14 December 2010

MMAM - Vol. 20

I can't believe I haven't included this song yet! Blimey, what's wrong with me, eh? While finishing up my finals, I was blasting "Scotty Doesn't Know" quite a lot. Dunno why, got me in the mood to read up some Oceans of the World literature. The song just screams education, don't it? For those unfamiliar with "Scotty Doesn't Know", this brilliant song originated from the comedy EUROTRIP (by the same guys who gave us ROAD TRIP), and in a bloody hilarious cameo, Matt Damon showed up as the singer. The actual band named is called Lustra. Anyone with a immature sense of humor or have an affection for Matt Damon, EUROTRIP is well worth your time. Below I've embedded a high quality sounding video from YouTube. After a listen, there was some great music videos on the site that I didn't use because of such dodgy audio, so I'd recommend a quick preview of those.

And my apologies to anyone named Scotty who has a girlfriend coincidentally named Fiona.

13 December 2010

Simply Script: No. 2


4.18. "The End of Time, Part Two"
Written by Russell T. Davies

I'm sorry.


Just leave me.

Okay! Right then! I will! Cos you had to go in there, didn't you?! You had to go and get stuck, oh yes! Cos that's who you are, Wilfred. You were always this. Waiting for me. All this time.

But really. Leave me. I'm an old man, Doctor. I've had my time.

Well exactly! Look at you. Not remotely important. But me! I could do so much more. So! Much! More! But this is what I get. My reward! And it's not fair!!!

- proper fury, turning away to lash out, kicking something -

Then silence.

Then quiet, calm:

Lived too long.

He walks back towards the OPEN BOOTH.

...don't, please Doctor, no don't, please don't, sir, please...

The Doctor's hand on the door.

Wilfred. It's my honour.

But you're better than me.

Don't you ever say that.

11 December 2010

The Hunger Games, Left Hand of God

Written by Suzanne Collins

There's been a lot of press about THE HUNGER GAMES as of late, what with the trilogy now complete, its popularity increasing, and (of course) movie deals being struck. The good news is that HUNGER GAMES is quite worth the acclaim and interest, with a writing style that adheres to the young adults but simultaneously boasts complexities similar to, but not to the extent of, Rowling's POTTER franchise. It's no wonder this book, and the series, has gained notoriety these last two or three years: set in a unspecified but not-too-distant post-ruin world where the remnants of America has been transformed into a strict, divided society as Panem, there's a young girl, Katniss, thrown into a game of death with twenty plus other peers, who finds herself competing to stay alive and in the middle of a love triangle between the boy back home and Peeta, a man the rules dictate one will inevitably kill the other. Guns, action, romance, futuristic-like setting: all the ingredients of a interesting and addictive read. Include Suzanne Collins' brisk and nicely detailed style, HUNGER GAMES is most definitely a recommendable book.

Apologies for being one of 'those people', but the best comparison to the story of this book is the novel/feature film BATTLE ROYALE: teenagers thrown into the arena, charged to kill one another until last man standing. Same principle applies here. What Collins is more interested in, however, is the human element, the relationships, hardships, and choices that come out of Katniss being in the Hunger Games. That's not to say Collins refrains from embellishing in some combat and mayhem, as there's plenty of the narrative dedicated to that, enough to make fans of the horror genre quite pleased. First and foremost, Katniss is richly and beautifully developed. She boasts a fantastic personality: head strong, resilient to dying for nothing, independent and resourceful, opinionated, and all around charming at heart, Katniss is a brilliant lead character, and a far more suitable role model for young girls reading this than another hit franchise that is (hopefully) losing steam.

As mentioned, there are two love interests. Gale, a boy back home with whom she has at least entertained the idea, but hasn't seriously considered it, and Peeta, her fellow District 12 teammate who harbors a love for her that she believes is nothing more than a cover for the game. Of course, the role of the men play a important part in the narrative, but points to Collins, the romantic aspect doesn't overshadow the story, nor Katniss, at all. It's Katniss' book through and through. She doesn't stand idly by being pushed around as a result of plot necessity, she's a, as mentioned, assertive girl who does what must be done, and is brilliant to boot.

HUNGER GAMES is a highly recommendable book, and a worthy trilogy to invest in. If there's one complaint I have, it's this: it doesn't feel complete. Now before someone facepalms and exclaims, "Duh! It's the first in a trilogy stupid!", I recognize that, but as a self-contained novel, it has the feeling of being unfinished. Apologies for making yet another cliched comparison, but take Rowling's HARRY POTTER books - there are multiple(s) plot threads weaving through each book, but each and every one feels like one story, one full complete narrative that has a beginning to end that just happens to pick up again at a later point. However, this small glitch in fullness does not dissuade me from enjoying and, frankly, loving what Collins has given us. A brutally honest book of blood, sweat, and emotion with a subject and frankness I was surprised would gain such notoriety. Now, onto the sequel...

Written by Paul Hoffman

Taking a gander at the New Release wall at Barns & Noble a few months ago, the cover grabbed me at once. Even the premise, although highly reliant on the 'young man who doesn't know he he is gifted and has a greater purpose in this world' formula used a hundred times before, sounded interesting, with the introduction of religious overtones and a seemingly fresh take on the whole 'destiny' idea. The good news is that THE LEFT HAND OF GOD is a good book, and highly addictive once you're a good thirty pages in. Paul Hoffman's writing bridges young adult and mature readers quite effortlessly, making a book that would be genuinely pleasurable to all ages. Of course, the teenagers would find themselves more taken in by the protagonist, Cale, a teenager who is both brilliant and naive, defenseless and a weapon, and is above all trying to survive and find his role in the world. He's a interesting character, to be sure. Secretive, playing things rather close to the chest, yet rash and hot headed, he rings similar to Anakin Skywalker, even with the whole destiny thing at the end. Hoffman writes the character just right, and it's the excitement to see what happens to Cale and what is true function is that makes me eager to read the sequel, THE LAST FOUR THINGS (due next year).

A quick look over some of the other books I've reviewed show that I find myself grabbed in by books immersing themselves in religion, where it becomes a prominent aspect of the plot without specifying. Same goes here. The antagonists are the Redeemers finding a war against the Antagonists (gasp! originality name!) and plotting to go against pretty much the entire world. Devoted to their faith messed up in the head, abusive, and blood thirsty, these Redeemers are a great, lethal threat imagined by Hoffman, and the confrontation sure to erupt later in the series will no doubt be juicy.

Although THE LEFT HAND OF GOD is, by all means, a good and entertaining read, I can't honestly say too much about it. The book adheres to a monomyth formula with just a few character tweaks here and there to 'spice' the story up. I do recommend it for anyone; fun read, cool characters, first of a trilogy. Just don't go in expecting much. For a far more detailed review, I recommend you check this out.

09 December 2010

The Watcher: 12/2 - 12/9

S04E11 - "Hop a Freighter" (5 December 2010) - A lot is happening in a short amount of time for Dexter, as he adequately says, Quinn/Liddy is closing in on him, and Deb is narrowing in on Lumen, so time is of the essence. Luckily, we got one hell of a fast paced episode that's leading us to what will inevitably be one interesting of a finale. There's plenty of threads left up in the air, and although I'm not about to make judgments of what's going to happen, I do hope that Julia Stiles continues her role in DEXTER for quite some time, and preferably not as a Harry-esque aberration. Anyway, it's not worth speculating just yet. What this episode is is intense. The last thirteen minutes with Dexter and Liddy was quite stellar. The personal way Liddy was dispatched, the way I felt, for the first time since the character's appearance, that he was something of a dimensional individual instead of a cardboard cutout waiting to be taken out, and the anxiety of whether Quinn was going to break into the van. A overall great sequence that will, judging by the commercial for the next episode, lead into something big. As mentioned in the last DEXTER review, I quite like and find interest in the Lumen/Dexter relationship, so their continuous hand holding and touching was appreciated and, dare I say, cute. Now all they need to do is survive. No big deal, right?

S01E10 - "Dark Matter" (2 December 2010) - For some reason or another, I refrained from writing this review until after the following episode, "All the Way", premiered, and in light of that amazingly fantastic experience, I can't say I recall too much from "Dark Mater" and had to look up a guide to remind me of some of the details. Perhaps that indicates the episode wasn't entirely memorable or all that engaging, "Dark Matter" was nonetheless a well put together episode. It featured some very nice spying and action sequences as Nikita and Owen formed an alliance and performed one helluva MISSION: IMPOSSIBLEesqe stunt to get out of a jam. The subplot involving the Engineer was interesting until Percy re-entered the picture and murdered the Engineer. Frankly, I'm a bit tired of Percy. It's been firmly established he's a evil rat bastard of near Vic Mackey proportions, and although I heart Xander Berkley, I just don't find myself drawn to this guy and his wicked dealings. On the interesting category of things, Alex is having a even more difficult time keeping her cover intact, so I'm anxious to see how that evolves.

S10E10 - "Luthor" (3 December 2010) - Parallel realities/universes isn't particularly a new idea in the Superman/SMALLVILLE realm of storytelling, but the beautiful way it was written and directed in this episode, it's entirely forgivable [although there are some issues I find myself having that I won't hold against it too much: Clark Luthor should not be named Clark; Clark's seeming hatred towards Lionel in particular is confusing, given the comradeship established between them the last two and a half seasons before Lionel's death). It's great to see Lionel Luthor again, even though John Glover did ham up the performance a tad. I also found myself surprisingly rooting for the Tess/Clark romance/kiss. Yeah, I know it's all Lois and Clark, but there's undeniably something there between these two characters, as evidenced in the final scene. The direction, with heavy emphasis on dark lighting and hand held cinematography, was appropriate and, dare I say, near perfect. The writing was also top notch, as it remarkably has been all season long. And the performances - can't say enough good things about 'em. "Luthor" is truly a episode worth writing a entirely separate glowing blog post about, but I won't bore everyone with the details here. This episode excelled on multiple levels, although it did feature some faults they weren't of such a magnitude it interrupted the enjoyment aspect, and I am entirely too eager to see how Lionel's reappearance in the real world will disrupt the natural order of things.

S06E10 - "Caged Heat" (3 December 2010) - Wow. What a spectacularly fantastic episode of SUPERNATURAL. As mentioned in prior reviews, this season has been a bit uneven, but since Castiel entered the picture and Sam has been front and center, every episode (save "All Dogs Go to Heaven") has been a goldmine. "Caged Heat" was amazing on so many levels, and accomplished so much: 1) the wonderful character of Crowley found himself a amazing departure, and the way he was eviscerated from existence by Castiel was brutal and straight-to-the-point. 2) Everything about Sam's soul. Frankly, I don't blame the guy. If I was in his shoes, I would do whatever I can to ensure that fractured, mutilated thing doesn't get back in my body. Besides, I love the hell out of this take action Sam. His aggression, his resourcefulness, even his sense of humor. Kickass Sam, and it's amazing. But this stuff about Sam's soul being a punching bag for Lucifer and could quite damage Sam beyond repair - some amazing and unexpected stuff. Damn. 3) Samuel intent on getting Mary back. Not too interested in this subplot, taking into consideration my general disinterest in the Samuel character, but major kudos for the emotion stemmed from Samuel's plight. 4) Meg was fantastic, hot and seductive, and just the right amount of manipulative. First time I've liked the character in awhile. 5) Castiel and his porno experience. A perfect episode if ever I've encountered one. Awesome.

S01E04 - "Vatos" (21 November 2010) - Although the two sisters haven't really grown on me and I can't say I've been particularly moved by either of their performances, the opening sequence of this episode - the simplicity of two sisters fishing in some gorgeous surroundings - was pretty awesome in what it set out to do. Each week, THE WALKING DEAD surprises me some way or another, either with its dedication to showing bloodshed stations tend to shy away from or its commitment to emphasizing the human drama moreso than the ever prevalent threat of a zombie attack. Speaking of zombie attack, and foregoing any mention of the convoluted and forced complications that befell Rick and the gang back in Atlanta, the night massacre back at camp was utterly fantastic. The zombies, the body counts, the gore - all the elements lined up just right, and the most surprising aspect was its unexpectedness. Kudos to the writers/directors for not letting it slip. A fantastic finale to a otherwise lackluster episode.

S01E05 - "Wildfire" (28 November 2010) - Built entirely out of emotion and desperation, "Wildfire" was a terrific character oriented episode. Andrea mourning over her deceased sister and being the one to take out Zombie Amy was moving and powerful. The character of Jim is given just as much screentime and profound emotion as he denies what has happened to him, accepts it, and finally makes a choice about his zombie-bitten state. Good stuff, entirely. 30 minutes dedicated entirely to some raw, hard emotion of awesome proportions, the zombie version of THE SHIELD, and we enter the new Situation of the Week. After being unfairly rolled on with the accusation that his presence could have made a difference with the attack, Rick makes another bold stroke: locate the nearby CDC and find out how to beat this thing and get shelter. Although not as powerful as the material before it, the editing, tension, and music all came together in the final minutes to create something riveting. The zombies closing in, the use of John Murphy's mesmerizing SUNSHINE score, and the unexpected and possibly game-changing ending. Overall, a good episode high on emotion and bringing us to our premature season finale..

S01E06 - "TS-19" (5 December 2010) - Nice computer simulation of the brain of a zombie victim. Never saw something like that before, and that sequence was chilling and engrossing all at the same time. It nicely adds a layer of tragedy to the whole thing, which just splendidly ups the horror and doom that awaits the survivors. The question of the hour was in the wake of a hopeless world, why continue to hold onto hope and live day after day, fighting the odds to stay alive? It's true, the world Rick and company inhabit is a shitty one, with virtually no hope and apparently no solution on the horizon, there is a point in just letting go and succumbing to death. A fair quandary, and quite appropriate for the season finale. Instead of a safe haven, instead of a place to live and find the answer to their problems, the group leave the CDC even more broken and morally shattered than before. It offered for some great scenes - specifically the last five minutes as the self destruct clock winds down and it's a question of who lives and dies. As many have commented, the six episode season does feel awfully incomplete, and it leaves you wanting more entirely, but in a way, it does tell one satisfactory complete narrative. The group has a bit more information, they're stronger together now, and they maintain a singular goal now: just stay alive. Things will be harsher and harder from now on with the knowledge they attained at the CDC, but I have a feeling season two will offer some interesting twists and turns.

Now that the season is over, here's a small little retrospect: Although initially unsure about the benefits and parameters of a zombie show on the tele, THE WALKING DEAD has most definitely exceeded my expectations. Anticipating little more than a gore-of-the-week type show, it has instead explored the humanity and tragedy of the situation, and the writing/directing has allowed for the emotional center of the series to breathe and engage the viewer. It's a riveting drama that just happens to have zombies in it. Beautiful decor, a interesting enough cast of characters, the freshman season has most definitely left me satisfied. Now I just hope the boundaries can be pushed further, the emotion reaching unprecedented heights, and that the series ends with a calculated and well thought out conclusion. As it stands, a series that both horror and non-genre fans can enjoy. And great zombie effects. THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON 1 will most definitely be on my list of DVDs to buy.

08 December 2010



Starring Jane Adams, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Baker, Cynthia Stevenson, Laura Flynn Boyle, Justin Elvin Jon Lovitz, Gerry Becker, Molly Shannon. Written and directed by Todd Solondz. Release: 16 October 1998. Good Machine, 134 mins., Rated R

Plot: Life sucks. But it's funny. ish.

Frankly didn't plan on reviewing this movie, but it was the last one we watched in Film History class and out of the lot of 'em (including METROPOLIS and SEVENTH SEAL), this one sort of just grabbed man. The large cast of characters never come off as stereotypical archetypes, never becoming a cardboard puppet. The script ventures into directions one never would have thought, and is quite daring and frank in its depiction of scenarios and life itself. Simply speaking, when the film was over, I was stunned. Not because I was repulsed by some of the subject matter or dark comedy in it - of which there is plenty - but because there's something quite unique and captivating about this production. The performances, the script, the pacing - it's all exquisite and lends itself for one hell of a interesting film that is quite possibly going to stick around in my head for quite some time.

I'm not going to go deeply into each character and their storyline, I feel that after this brief review, if you're inclined to rent it, that's more important, but there is one character I'm going to discuss longer than the others. Before continuing, I'll just add that each and every character is messed up in their own way. One killed a man and chopped him up into pieces and stuck those pieces in their freezer; one is socially inept and projects his frustrations in a sexually harassing way; one is leaving his wife but not filing for divorce; one can't seem to establish any sort of relationship further than a one-night stand; and another can't seem to find any connection in her sexual exploits. The specific character that spoke the most honest and utterly captivating is the phenomenal Dylan Baker (TRICK 'R TREAT), who plays a psychiatrist who secretly harbors sexual attraction to young boys. Although his compulsion is a repulsive trait, the man himself is a charming, and immensely likable human being. He's seemingly the perfect family man and shares a special friendship with his eleven year old son (not in that way), where the two of them engage in some of the most frank, honest, and no bullshit discussion I've seen between two family members in a film for quite some time. The man's acts are unforgivable, but they're presented in a darkly comedic way, and this unwavering like towards his character miraculously makes your stomach queasy when it looks like a outside source is catching on. This is a great example of a writer and actor coming together to create one hell of a striking character.

Not saying the other characters or cast are any less stellar or nuanced in their presentation. As expected from anything he does, Phillip Seymour Hoffman excels in his role, but actually comes off as more pathetic and revolting than Baker's character. At least from my perspective, as no one else in the class seemed to have any objections to his arc or personality. Jane Adams impresses as Joy, the girl who can't quite catch a break. She shares a splendid opening scene with Jon Lovitz, and provides a majority of the comedy in the film. Her character also crosses paths with Jared Harris, who I only mention for his mesmerizing work on FRINGE.

The humorously ironic part is that the title is a true mislead; not a single one of them are happy. In fact, they're all quite miserable, and in the final reel, they end up no better than when they began. I'm not sure if there is some lesson or message to be conveyed here, it just feels like a month snapshot of these folks lives. In that regard, it reminds me of the Coens Brothers, specifically A SERIOUS MAN, where it's just one train wreck after another for the main character(s).

Honestly don't know if you'll find it as interesting as I have, or the various subplots and characters as engaging and multidimensional, but it's a film worth watching.

07 December 2010

Tuesday Cap - Vol. 11

Title: Southland Tales

Notes: I made it all the way through once, and was confused as Hell. A second attempt was made, but ended unsuccessfully. Richard Kelley's masterpiece or train-wreck of disaster is difficult to comment on. Either the movie is possibly quite brilliant but hindered by too much crammed into the short running time, or the amount of oddities in the film are just too pronounced and this is Kelley's self-indulgent production. Recently Kelley said he had written a screenplay based on the graphic novels of the first three chapters and hopes to make it into a animated film to accompany the live action extravaganza. Maybe then, Kelley's complete vision can be realized and everything will make sense and I can finally make a decision on whether I like the film or not. As it stands, I'm confused by it, but I don't necessarily hate it. Editing, pacing, and performance issues are a constant concern with the film, but it does present plenty of entertaining and interesting ideas that are worth giving kudos to. With two original scripts brought to the screen, I'm interested to see what he'll go with on a third production (THE BOX not counting, as it's based on a Matheson short story). On a final note: isn't that shot just pretty?

Discuss: Anything. I dunno where to start with this movie...

06 December 2010

MMAM - Vol. 19

Love him or hate him, Quentin Tarantino knows just the right songs to use at just the right time on his films. Such is the case in KILL BILL VOL. 1, as the "GREEN HORNET" theme plays as The Bride is circling her prey. Initially the theme was obnoxious as Hell to me, but I've grown to love it. And now with a new GREEN HORNET movie coming out in a little over a month, what better time to post this, eh? Enjoy the awesomeness while I slip in my KILL BILL VOL. 1 Blu-Ray...

04 December 2010

EDITORIAL - Cloak of Death

Note: This originated as a paper for Film History class. Since there's no sort of rule saying I can't post this paper per se, voilia, you may now all enjoy this super awesome, I can't-believe-it's-not-butter paper. And since my name is all over this blog, any teachers can't say I plagiarized it. Besides, who'd want to plagiarize my paper? It's rubbish! If there's any factual errors, repetitive notes, or things that just don't make a lick of sense, the goal was to hit 4-5 pages, and I was desperate. My apologies. Otherwise, enjoy!

Cloak of Death:
Ingmar Bergman’s Personal Journey through The Seventh Seal

Renowned filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal is often regarded as one of his best works, if not the most imitated and parodied since its 1957 release, but it’s also perhaps his most personal in his filmography. That being said, one of Bergman’s last works, Fanny and Alexander, is universally regarded as his most autobiographical production, a confrontation on Bergman’s part against his father, of whom he had less than ideal childhood experiences with. Although Fanny and Alexander concentrates on aspects of Bergman’s life, it is arguably not as autobiographical or personal as The Seventh Seal. An exploration of theology, The Seventh Seal is a conduit in which Bergman can battle his own demons and posit questions and explore their implications through the characters, taking lifelong fear and childhood experiences as inspiration to make this film his most personal and a representation of who Bergman is.

First and foremost, The Seventh Seal continues the tradition of certain themes and motifs typical of a Bergman film. Similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s running gag of a blond female murdered in a majority of his productions, Bergman manifests the perfect woman in his films. In this case, the honor goes to Mia, coincidently played by a woman engaged in a relationship with Bergman for a number of years. Commentary on the emotional cruelty of humanity is also prevalent here, as the case of the woman who allegedly has the Devil in her displays by the cruel actions of the soldiers and (inevitably) executioners. The plague becomes a physical manifestation, in a way, of God’s cruelty and seemingly indifference. If there was a God, surely the horrors of this phenomenon would not exist, or be cast out. And therein lays the greatest theme of The Seventh Seal, the existence or lack thereof God.

As a child, Bergman was raised under strict discipline. His father, Erik Bergman, was a Lutheran minister, and his mother Karin, was a wealthy, strong and proud woman who clashed with her husband on multiple occasions. Although religion was a heavy aspect of Bergman’s childhood, he altogether did not subscribe to one. Nevertheless, he attended church with his father which lead to various visual inspirations in the final film, and increased his interest and fear of dogma and death. Another aspect of his childhood worth mentioning that undoubtedly had an impact on his obsession with matters of death and the existence of God is his job as a gardener when he was six years of age. It was his task to carry corpses from the Royal Hospital Sofia Lemmet to the mortuary. Suffice to say, Bergman is not a religious man, a skeptic and fearful man of death from childhood to old age. However, religion inevitably crept into his life, and used it for his own artistic means, making screenplays and cinema the outpost of his inner struggles.

Multiple visual images from the film originate from medieval paintings Bergman came across in his life, most likely during his time at his father’s church in Uppland with its walls and ceilings decorated with paintings. Three specific paintings are the most pronounced, becoming iconic images from the film. First is Albertus Pictor’s famous painting of Death engaged in a chess game with a knight, highly influential in Bergman’s finished production and one of the leading images representing his work. Pictor’s sizable influence leads to a physical cameo in the film, as Jons the squire engages in the painter in conversation in the films first act. Second is The Dance of Death (or Danse Macabre), a 1493 rendering by Michael Wolgemut, depicting Death summoning people to dance on graves, a reminder of the frailty of life. This painting makes its way to the renowned penultimate shot in the picture as Jof is imbued with his “vision” of Death leading the Knight and his companions in a dance. The third world renowned painting finding a physical depiction in the film is Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Although not explicitly composed in accordance to the painting, there are similarities not only in member position (e.g., the Knight’s squire in the middle overlooking the table, the man content and full of wisdom and figurative head of the household) but the overbearing mood of the sequence. Bergman doesn’t foreshadowing the impending fate of these people, but there is the overwhelming sensation of a final supper taking place. 

Although visuals do play a role in The Seventh Seal’s mood, it’s the script, written by Bergman, which enjoys the greater emphasis. Visually speaking, Bergman appears restrained in the majority of his compositions, as if directing the audience’s attention to the musings of Antonius Block the Knight and asking them to place your concentration on the questions than the way they’re presented. Through Antonius Block, all of Bergman’s contemplations on the existence of God, of the existence of an afterlife, and death itself, are voiced for everyone to hear and share in his theological dilemma. In the rare instances where Bergman favors emphasizing the visual aspect of the film aside from the necessary close-up and establishing shots, he conveys a sort of symbolism in their composition. The scene between Antonius and Death in the church, shot from the side of Death, has a very specific lighting: with the exception of the two figures’ faces barely lit, all around them they are enveloped in darkness, separated by a bar that symbolically stand for the divide between life and death. The script in this scene, the Knight raging against God’s indifference, mirrors the consuming dark lighting. Undoubtedly, the words are spoken by Bergman as much as they are the Knight.

Not only is it a visually and verbally striking scene, it is also perhaps the most personal to Bergman, and also displays the autobiographical nature of the film. Living in skepticism and fear, of God and death and some sort of meaning of life (a theme also richly explored in Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru), Ingmar Bergman is, for all intents and purposes, Antonius Block. The Knight’s journey is his own, the Knight’s fears and queries his mind and mouth, and ultimately, the Knight’s fate and Bergman’s fate is inescapable. In addition to their analogous tales, they also share similar personalities. The Knight, like Bergman, speaks little, focusing instead in their introspective thoughts and meditations, and the little Antonius Block does speak, conversations of a friendly carefree manner are irregular, instead divulging his innermost thoughts and ideas. As a little nudge to Bergman’s acknowledgement of his own philosophical musings as lackluster conversation starters, in the scene between Mia and the Knight engaged in discussion outside, the Knight refers to himself as “boring company”.

As Antonius Block is the representation of Ingmar Bergman in the film, the script is a bible of Bergman’s viewpoints, questions, philosophical stances, and existential musings. By the films closing minutes, as well as Death’s ironic claim of Skat complimenting this concept, Bergman seems to accept that no one can escape death, but instead posits that the trick is banishing the fear of death. This is represented by the squire’s closing words of protest and resolution, as opposed to the Knight who remains defiant to the very end, despite his fulfillment of doing something worthwhile. If the viewer is to accept Antonius Block as Ingmar Bergman, his final stance is to lash out at Death no matter the futility of the action. Stemmed from fear and certainty of entering a state of nothingness, Antonious/Ingmar’s cry to the heavens is understandable. Indeed, the dialogue from all the characters in their final moments speak for Bergman’s conflicting feelings: the silent girl overcome with joy and fulfillment, Block’s wife and Plog the blacksmith defining themselves as who they are, Jons protestant resolution, and the Knight raging against the inevitable asking for mercy from a deity he doesn’t fully believe in. A fight of faith and reason is the quintessential theme of this movie and, by extension, Bergman’s life.

The Seventh Seal wouldn’t mark the conclusion of Bergman’s quandaries about death, as it’s a running theme in many more of his films, either as a not-too-subtle subject or a physical presence in the background. In the end, Seventh Seal didn’t answer any questions nor did it spark a profound epiphany concerning the existence of God or what awaits a person after death, but in later years his fear did diminish and Bergman finally became resolute on a position. In the 2006 documentary Bergman Island, a series of operations a number of years ago forced him to ‘go under’, and he found the ease and quickness of the transition from consciousness to unconsciousness interesting and startling simplistic. He no longer fears death as Antonius Block does, instead adamant and excited to see his late wife Ingrid Bergman waiting for him.

In the end, The Seventh Seal is Bergman’s greatest and most personal work as he posits his questions to the audiences and battles his own inner demons of fear and skepticism. There are no answers offered, as Death refuses every charge of Block’s, just the resolution that death is inevitable, and the film provides multiple different points of views from all the characters for the audience to identify and side with. The Seventh Seal is Ingmar Bergman at his greatest, wisest, and most personal state of being, and his timeless production continues to ignite debate and interest even now and undoubtedly years to come.