31 March 2011

Simply Script: No. 8


Written by Andy & Larry Wachowski

Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?

Because I choose to.

The Watcher: 03/25/11 - 03/31/11

BEING HUMAN S01E11 - "Going Dutch" (28 March 2011) - A terrific episode full of drama, beheadings, a pregnancy, betrayals, and an exorcism! C'mon, how can that not be great? First off, I gotta mention how absolutely terrific it was to watch Sally in a really compelling situation this time around, and to see her physical weakening and transformation as the exorcist was nearly clawing her out of the house - damn, that was chilling, mesmerizing, and simply spectacular. And Aidan had quite a lot on his plate as well, juggling playing nice with the vampire Elders, humoring Bishop, interacting with Rebecca, and in the end, betraying Bishop, running for his life, and then (gasp) killing Rebecca! Gotta admit, I feel bad for the guy. Rebecca was just recently growing on me, and I would have liked to see her arc continued; seems rather anticlimatic, frankly, but still spectacular, mind you. And then we have Josh finding out the extremely hot doctor Nora's eggo is preggo, and holy potatoes, that's a lot of stuff happening in one ep (well, it's nearly the finale so the wheels need to start being turned). I'm actually quite happy with this pregnancy development, and I am excited to see where this goes. At the very least, it ties Nora and Josh together, and they make a cute albeit unlikely couple. Again, great episode! Grade: 10/10

FRINGE S03E18 - "Bloodlines" (25 March 2011) - Now that's what I call a friggin' great episode, especially the last fifteen minutes when Olivia (Alternate Olivia) gets away from her captors and delivers the baby! I'm not usually a sucker for baby-delivery scenes, but this one tugged at my robotic heart just a little. And then the reveal that Walternate was behind the whole deal, accelerating Olivia's pregnancy - um, wowness! I'm simply curious if he accelerated in hopes for having Olivia survive her fatal disease that would have killed her had she delivered on the normal timeframe, or to serve some alternate, evil purpose. And here I thought he was turning out to be such a nice bloke. Now Olivia is a mother, far, far sooner than she anticipated; can't wait to see how she handles this and takes this new responsibility. And also Lincoln and Charlie know something is up with the Secretary of Defense, that he's been hiding valuable information for months. Will their allegiance to their universe falter and end up joining forces with the Other Side? "Bloodlines" was terrific, full of drama and surprises, and it will absolutely suck to have to wait for another three weeks for a new episode. Bloody, bloody hell. Grade: 9.5/10

S02E08 - "The Spoil" (30 March 2011) - Not a bad episode at all. Plenty to cover: the scene at the church (?) where Carol was giving her address and Mags interrupts and gives her own monologue, casting the folks of Harlan County under her spell, reminded me of the great days of THE SHIELD. Chilling, electrifying, and mesmerizing in her performance, Mags Bennett genuinely freaked me out. Boyd and Raylan are on the same side of the fight once again, and although I understand where his animosity is coming from, I'm getting a little tired of Raylan constantly belittling Boyd and reminding him of his past deeds. I know, I get it, let's move on. I dug the extremely hot Carol hitting on Raylan, I dug that for the first time all season nearly all the principle characters were in the same room at the same time, I dug watching Raylan getting the shit beat out of him by Coover [I hope Raylan pays him back], Ava shooting Coover's pig (?) Charlie, and I dug how events are now in motion and the plot is moving forward to whatever finale they have in plan. Oh, and before I go, good news: Justified has been officially renewed for a season three! Rejoice, folks! Raylan Gives will be shooting first and asking questions later fora third year. The world is kind to us. Grade: 9.4/10

STARGATE UNIVERSE S02E14 - "Hope" (28 March 2011) - Holy crap, ladies and gentlemen, we have a fantastic episode on our hands. The trademark humor of the Stargate franchise resurfaced, with plenty of hilarious bits that left me laughing (I will never forget the iPod fiasco), as well as genuine tension and drama in basically everything else. And best of all, I think we can say this is the first true episode of SG-U that is focused entirely on character. There's no great peril that Destiny is heading towards here, there's nothing that's going to destroy the universe, it's a intimate story about these characters facing emotions and bodily limits. And also, for the very first time, I didn't mind Greer! That in on itself is remarkable. It was fantastic to finally see T.J. up and about and actually being central to the story somehow, and I hope to see her character evolve. That's the beauty of this episode: it's about the characters, man! Thank God, the writers did this - except too late, it is. Aside from T.J., Greer and the nerds, we have Rush and Eli being visited by the consciousness of Amanda Perry and Ginn, both who 'died' earlier this season, but their 'soul', for lack of a better term, shoots out of Chloe. Um, cool! I for one love Ginn, so it was great to see her back, and the relationship between her and Eli is sweet and awesome, so for him to have a chance with her again is just spectacular. And Amanda Perry has been saved, and Eli and Rush are going to find bodies for both of them...That's just sweet! However, I do wonder how they're going to go about doing that, the whole getting bodies thing. Whatever, I'm intrigued. Great episode. Grade: 10/10

29 March 2011

Tuesday Cap - Vol. 21

Title: The Exorcist

Notes: The scariest movie ever made didn't do much for me, but that above shot, that single friggin' shot and the dust spraying across the screen - it freaks me out moreso than the entirety of the film. Maybe it's the way it's composed, maybe it's the music (or lack of music), but it is creepy. Overall, The Exorcist didn't do much for me other than keep me intrigued by very good direction and performances. Sad to say, but I did find Dominion to be more thrilling, at least with the story (execution of both Dominion and The Beginning leave much to be desired, though). In the end, I still respect the film and understand its cultural significance, but can't be behind the wagon train of movie loving.

Discuss: Were you freaked out by the film? What are some of your fondest or freakiest memories watching it? Favorite scene? Comments on the score? Reflections? Free reign!

28 March 2011

MMAM - Vol. 31

I think we all know by now that SUCKER PUNCH [review here] didn't quite live up to expectations and sorta mostly bombed at the box office ($19 million opening weekend), but there are some good things that came out of it. For one, the music. Director Zack Snyder has always had a knack for picking some extraordinary music for his movies, and SUCKER PUNCH is no exception. So today let's celebrate some of the films successes' by listening to the awesomeness that is "Sweet Dreams" with vocals by Baby Doll herself, Emily Browning.

27 March 2011

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch

Starring Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, John Hamm, Scott Glenn
Written by Steve Shibuya & Zack Snyder
Directed by Zack Snyder
Release: 25 March 2011
Legendary Pics., 109 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Wrongfully institutionalized in a mental asylum, Baby Doll plots her escape with her inmate friends finding the strength within from a fantasy world full of samurai swords and guns.

SUCKER PUNCH is an example of Zack Snyder having a cool idea but failing to deliver on the boundless promise it had. While still knee-deep in WATCHMEN, Snyder was interested in action pieces not bound by the laws of physics, where literally anything was possible. Sounds intriguing enough. Now with INCEPTION's success, audiences would be more open and accepting to the idea of action pieces taking place within the mind. And then the trailer(s) hit the web, and they looked amazing. There were few films I looked forward to more than SUCKER PUNCH, and I don't think there will be many that have disappointed me so.

No matter the attire of the girls, or the brilliant compliment of action and music, or the gorgeous and stylized visuals, or spectacular action sequences, it cannot work without drama, without some sense of jeopardy or matter. That, for me, is where SUCKER PUNCH fails to achieve the great film it could have been. When Baby Doll retreats into her fantasy world to escape reality, Snyder treats us with some truly spectacular imagery. Baby Doll and her friends Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber engaged in combat with extraordinary forces - reanimated Nazi zombies, dragons, robo ninjas - is visually arresting, but lacks stakes or any emotional involvement from the viewer. Yes, Baby enters this landscape as a form of escape but also as a means to 'guide' her towards procuring her freedom in reality, but the fight scenes come off as a little heartless; there is no emotional investment from the viewer other than the 'pretttty' factor. And I thought that would be enough for me, I thought I would be satisfied and happy with just watching Emily Browning and Vanessa Hudgens in attractive outfits fighting motherfrraking zombie Nazis and dragons with guns and a sword. But I wasn't. It's as if Snyder couldn't figure out the key to his own script, coming up with some brilliant, original reason/device that would make everything in the movie fit and tie in with one another, and instead settled with what we have now: reality and a fantasy world full of fantastical but shallow battle scenes.

Surprisingly, I found myself more glued into the drama of the institution, particularly the last act as the body count rises and a ending I didn't see coming graced the screen. I watched with full attention as Baby Doll and her friends carry out their plans to retrieve the items that would lead to their escape, because there was real drama, real emotion, real jeopardy in those scenes. And when Blue Jones (Isaac) starts putting two and two together and confronts the girls about their scheme, that was some intense material, same as the opening scene with Baby Doll's story told in effective slow motion.

I feel it worth saying that I did not expect, nor wanted, another MATRIX level film that boasted thought provoking questions and philosophy. I just wanted to sit back in my seat and enjoy my time, but ultimately, the shortcomings of the script weighed too heavy. If Snyder and Shibuya had just found a way to generate some sort of connection and peril with the fantasy scenes - and maybe tighten them up a bit in editing - I would be all over SUCKER PUNCH glorifying it with accolades, but they sadly miss a rather vital part of screenwriting: making the audience care.

Without delving deep into the argument breaking out concerning whether SUCKER PUNCH promotes female empowerment, my two cents is if that was Snyder and Shibuya's desired result, they didn't achieve clearly, either. Without the connection to the action scenes, we don't have a connection to Baby Doll and her friends and their subsequent empowerment of body, mind and, dare I say, soul. It could be said that they gained the strength to rise up against their oppresses, and Baby Doll's fantasy world [and, I take it, only hers - I don't think her friends partook in their own dreamscape] gave her the strength to plot her breakout and execute it, but again, if that was the case, the writers and actresses did not sell that well enough.

Visually, director Snyder is at the top of his game here. There are two instances that absolutely wowed me: a simple scene of Blondie, Rocket and Sweet Pea sitting in front of the dressing room mirrors talking, and Snyder tracks across the girls, through the mirrors reflect and back to tracking the girls again. It's not exactly new filmmaking, but never fails to leave me impressive, and this is not exception. Another feat that I have mixed feelings about is in Baby Doll's fantasy world when they're battling robots on a train who are guarding a bomb. Snyder indulges in slow motion and single takes to the point it gets fairly tiring and (at times) unconvincing (thanks to a bit too much CGI), but nonetheless is visually pretty cool. There are times, though, Snyder makes the slow motion work for him. Take the opening ten minutes for instance. Grainy, beautifully lit, and hauntingly juxtaposed to the song 'Sweet Dreams', the slow motion adds intensity to Baby Doll's familial predicament and incarceration. The fantasy worlds are equally magnificently brought to life, visually and through digital effects, such as the spaghetti western vibe when Baby Doll faces off against the gargantuan samurai when she first detaches her mind, or when Baby Doll and Amber face off against a dragon. Impressive and awesome as they may be, there are times, however, where it does get to be too much - either the dark brown color palette or rapid editing - and it's nice to be back in the institution.

Emily Browning pulls off the action scenes with ease, as if she was born for this, but ultimately doesn't deliver as well with her character pieces. That said, she definitely sells the saddness and sorrow when she 'performs' with her eyes and stilted movements. Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung aren't given adequate time to really give memorable performances, and they all are kind of glued together in the "they were okay" category. Malone in particular I was looking forward to, after her great stint in SAVED!, and I would say out of those four she is the strongest actor. Scott Glenn is the Wise Man, the one in the fantasy world that debriefs Baby Doll and the girls on their next mission, spouting off lines of philosophy with a wide smile ("if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything"). Oscar Isaac is equally enjoying his role as the man in charge Blue Jones, full of fun and menace simultaneously.

So, final thoughts on SUCKER PUNCH. I was entertained for the most part, and like everyone else on the planet, the visuals and special effects were gorgeous, and the girls were attractive and fulfilled the obligations of their roles, but Shibuya and Snyder simply didn't deliver a script that cashed in on the promise of its premise. SUCKER PUNCH could have been great, but instead is Snyder's least attractive efforts, with WATCHMEN still his crowning achievement.

Rating: 6/10 = Misses the punch, but still an impressive endeavor boasting jaw-dropping visuals but lacking in the drama department



Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen, Joe Lo Trugilo, Blythe Danner
Written by Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
Directed by Greg Mottola
Release: 18 March 2011
Universal, 104 mins., Rated R

Plot: Two geeks and a alien road-trip comedy with lots of car chases, geek references, and lack of anal probing.







That's just a sample of the many science fiction geek haven references in this loving sci-fi comedy from the brilliant British duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who you may just happen to know from Shaun of the Dead (although I still hold that Hot Fuzz is superior), and are responsible for script writing duties on this one. Pegg and Frost craft a story that is many things: a crazy road trip adventure, hilarious comedy, a geekgasm central, movie reference world, and a fun and honest look at friendship (well, bromance, really).

Now, I did quite enjoy Paul, and I won't hesitate to recommend it to anyone (especially fans of the sci-fi genre), but there's something that doesn't sit completely well with the movie. It feels...uneven. Although I love the movie references - I really, truly, honestly do - I think it's there where the movie has some fault. At times, it feels as if the film trends too deeply into the referential moments instead of spending more time on evolving the friendship/bromance of Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost). There are heartfelt scenes spliced between hilarious and action-y scenes, but they don't ultimately have the satisfaction and dimension I was looking for. It's not until the final half when all the elements of the movie come together beautifully, and it flows effortlessly from there. That being said, the friendships that come out of meeting Paul and Ruth are fantastically rendered, with Paul becoming a instantly lovable character [and I mean character, not just fancy CGI work, he really becomes a character instead of impressive pixels] and Ruth's epiphany about the universe is hilarious, as is her consequential flirtation with Graeme and concern for her angry father's well being (who has been following them for some time now).

While on the topic of characters, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio's agents Haggard and O'Reily are awesome and hilarious, particularly Haggard who never fails to bring a laugh. By contrast, usual funny guy Jason Bateman is full on serious as Agent Zoil, hellbent on retrieving Paul for the Big Man Upstairs. Even Seth Rogen is fantastic as the titular Paul, never coming off as obnoxious as he typically does, instead delivering enjoyable and hilarious voice work. Kristen Wiig rocks as the die-hard Christian who gets her faith blown apart by Paul imparting the knowledge of the universe to her, and Ruth's subsequent enjoyment of a care free life is absolutely hilarious, a comedy bit that will be hard to beat this year.

Paul isn't laugh-out-loud funny and it doesn't match the same brilliance of Pegg and Frost's collaborations with Edgar Wright, whose equally zany sense of humor created some truly marvelous films. Still, this is a fun movie, with enough geek references to make a true die-hard fan laugh and chuckle in the movie theater as everyone else in the audience scratches their head puzzled at why you laughed when a character dies driving off a cliff. Pegg and Frost are, as expected, awesome...even their really bad looking hair. The entire cast is committed to making this movie fun, and they succeed. Pegg, Frost, Wiig, Bateman, Hadder, Trugilo, Danner, Rogen - it's a great ensemble cast who deliver the funny. Paul may not be the end-all, true-all awesomest geek comedy of all time, but it's a great start in the right direction.

Rating: 7/10 = A damn good road trip comedy with sci-fi references galore and some great performances, just wish it had a bit more in the character department

26 March 2011

Banzai! 2010 Catch-Up, Part II

I think I have one more 2010 Catch-Up in me, so expect that before months end. I want to enter April completely anew without thinking of last year releases. Enjoy!

The Fighter

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee
Written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
Directed by David O. Russell
Release: 10 December 2010
Relativity Media, 115 mins., Rated R

Plot: Mickey Ward is a boxer with a crazy family life that may either be his strength or weakness.

I made a serious error in judgment with choosing not to see The Fighter until yesterday. Can't blame me, really. The trailer, the title, the poster - it all stank of those damn inspirational Disney flicks where a underdog builds himself into a legend, overcoming any and all roadblocks that may confront him and in the end, succeeds and lives his dream. I did not, and still do not, want to see another retelling of that damn story. It's no longer inspirational or 'impossible' (as the trailer for Secretariat likes us to believe), it's just redundant with no value whatsoever.

Luckily The Fighter is not this.

Yes, The Fighter is about a man overcoming obstacles and becoming something and fulfilling an ambition, but it's also about a lot more than that, and with all those elements and the interesting angle the film takes - emphasizing the family dynamic and rounded personality of our protagonist - the movie ended up exceeding my expectations and becoming an completely enjoyable film that I daresay I liked a lot.

Direction by David O. Russell, although not award worthy, is definitely worth recognition: the title shot with the speedy pullback was quite cool, the hand held cinematography (especially in the boxing scenes) worked quite well, despite being overused in films these days. As mentioned a thousand times before, Christian Bale is quite awesome as Micky's troubled brother Dicky, but frankly, I found the real powerhouse performance to be Amy Adams as Micky's love interest (and mine, too!) Charlene. Full of sass, vigor, and ass-whoopin', Charlene is a great character brilliantly brought to life by Adams. And what's more, it's Charlene who knocks some sense into Micky, who makes him take charge of his life more instead of being submissive to what his mother, Melissa Leo, and family want for him. So what it's worth, Adams is amazing in this movie. But that's not to underscore the great job Mark Wahlberg and Bale provided, cementing a brotherly love constantly tried by a crazy family, loads of cocaine use, and other really shitty events that seem to blow up in Micky's face.

I liked the emphasis on family, and Micky's attempt to go down his own path made up by his own choices, not directed by his mother or bazillion sisters who seem to speak in unison. In the end, Micky settles with needing his family involved somehow, but not being overbearing. It's the sort of development I'm not 100% behind - it seems a little backpedaling, really: a few steps forward, one step back - but it's sweet and displayed with unflinching honesty by the screenwriters and director Russell. In fact, it's the blunt honesty of everything onscreen (in addition to the fine performances) that make this movie work well.

The Fighter is not amazing, it's not something you've never seen before, but it works, and it feels fresh and original while you're watching it and never fails to keep your interest. The really odd but good-willing family dynamic and sassy performance from Adams make this movie. It's all in the title: it's not the fights, it's the fighter that's on display here, and for my two cents, it's pretty damn good.

Rating: 8/10 = A fight you can believe in.

How Do You Know

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson
Written and Directed by James L. Brooks
Release: 17 December 2010
Gracie Films, 117 mins., Rated R

The first thing one should know about How Do You Know is that it is not a romantic comedy. Yes, there are moments of funny, but first and foremost, it seems to be a drama. Here we have two characters with dark, depressing lives: an 31-year old athlete (Witherspoon) who is let go from her team, and a business man being investigated for fraud and facing three years in prison (Rudd). The comedy stems from the utter disbelief off Rudd's face and, mostly, Owen Wilson's womanizing millionaire who fancies himself in "love" with Witherspoon's Lisa. But for the most part, the movie isn't funny, it's a bit confusing, and is most definitely does not adhere to expectations. For one, the characters come off extremely unlikable, particularly Lisa who seems like a bitch far more than remotely likable. Were it not for Rudd's George and his ability to sell love-struck puppy magnificently, I wouldn't have one iota of a clue that there was some sort of attraction between these two. If there's one way to sum up How Do You Know, it's unconventional. These characters' lives suck, they're either a bitch, super freaked out, or a clueless stud who is new to the whole relationship thing. And surprisingly, I was at a point where I genuinely didn't know where this story was headed. In retrospect, it's all very obvious now, but the film throws a bunch of elements into the mix that what one is expecting seems like it might not come to pass, which is a good thing. Overall, How Do You Know means well, and the actors do all they can (especially Rudd and Wilson, the true stars of the film), but it isn't successful in conveying its story, making us really fall in love or even care for these characters, and ends up being a mess moreso than an enjoyable movie.

Rating: 4/10 = Most definitely odd, misguided, and not for everyone, and very much "meh"

It's Kind of a Funny Story

Starring Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan
Written and Directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Release: 8 October 2010
Focus Features, 101 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Craig feels like he's about to burst, getting to the point where he's contemplating suicide, and checks himself into a hospital for some help in dealing with his issues.

I'm just going to be straight up: I loved It's Kind of a Funny Story, and in fact, I plan on buying it on DVD next paycheck. I don't think it's for everyone - it may seem unoriginal, a bit forced, and at times groan-worthy with the acting (particularly the lead) - but I think it all works from beginning to end, this is a solid movie with a clever script and some damn fine performances. I love this movie, and this is why:

Zack Galifianakis, for the first time ever, was restrained, not obnoxious, and actually delivered one hell of a fine performance. Zack plays Bobby, someone who establishes a friendship with our protagonist Craig (even nicknaming him 'Cool Craig') and plays a sort of mentor for Craig. Galifianakis is all about the acting here, not so much preoccupied with acting like a dumbass and bringing on the laughs - he's completely in character, and thanks to the very cool script, his character becomes just as cool and entirely memorable.

Youngsters Emma Roberts and Keir Gilchrist are great in their respective roles, Keir as Craig the awkward boy who feels boggled down by stress, and Roberts as Noelle, a girl with her own problems and ends up sparking a relationship with Craig. The chemistry and relationship between these two is fantastic, and definitely a highlight. Can't help it, I got all giddy like a girl watching The O.C. or something when these two leads were onscreen and their friendship was building.

The script is superb. Craig has quite the comical personality, full of sarcastic asides and humorous awkward moments. Craig is a teen, falls into the same teen traps: hormones, stress, need for fun, and it's all brought to screen wonderfully. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have written and directed a movie that accomplishes so much. It has heart, it has some great characters that are not stereotypes and are very much rounded and completely interesting, it has a nice, fast-paced story worth telling, and loads of comedy and genuine humor. It doesn't get hammy like a bloody Hallmark movie; it does say, 'hey, mental illness sucks', it's simply about a teenage boy who is going through a lot in life to the point where he's contemplating ending it, and he finds help in the friendships and relationship he starts at the hospital. It's a happy story that's told honestly in a non-corny way, and I give kudos to it for that.

Overall, just give it a chance. It's smart, it's funny, it's endearing. At the very least this will be the only time Zack BeardedMan gives a great performance, so that's definitely worth checking out, no?

Rating: 9/10 = It's Kind of a Great Movie.

My Soul to Take

Starring Max Thieriot, Denzel Whitaker, Raul Esparza, Shareeka Epps, Emily Meade, Zena Grey
Written and Directed by Wes Craven
Release: 8 October 2010
Rogue Pics, 107 mins., Rated R

Plot: The soul of a serial killer may just have implanted itself in one of the kids who were born sixteen years ago on the night its original host 'died'.

My Soul to Take is something special. It's written and directed by Wes Craven, one of the true masters of horror, and one of the directors in that field I super respect thanks to the Scream trilogy. And honestly, that's quite puzzling, cos Craven is known for some really great cinematic ventures. This is not one of them. In fact, My Soul to Take is special because it's so damn weird, so damn horribly written and acted and completely messed up, it therefore enables me to say this:

What the FRAK?

Just a word of caution: this review is going to be all over the place, because even hours later, I'm still in a state of disbelief of what I just watched. I went in expecting badness, knowing full well I would get that in spades, but what I got in addition to that is rather surprising. I went in with the expectation of something like David S. Goyer's The Invisible mixed in with a serial killer which isn't actually a serial killer but one of the kids. Well, I was sorta right, but mostly wrong. Yes, the killer does end up being a bit obvious, but whereas The Invisible but a coherent script that knew full well what it was, what direction to go, and wrote logical, dare I say dimensional characters, My Soul to Take boasts characters that I feel were written by a kid in sixth grade.

Let's take, for example, the character of Leah, or as she's known around campus "Fang". Firstly, her character comes across as a complete cartoon throughout most of the film, and it's not until the last act where she is given greater depth. Well, it just so happens that she has a sordid past that has made her act out and be generally crazy. One case that particularly left me smiling wondering what the frak was going on was when she flat out beats the shit out of her brother, Bug. And not just a bunch here or there, but something from a less spectacular kung fu movie, as she knees him in the stomach, punches him in the face, pushes him to the ground, etc., and the real kicker is Bug has no friggin' idea why the hell she's doing this or why he even bloody deserves it! Sure, it may stay in character considering Leah is a bit of a hardass, but the whole affair comes off as a hugely comical skit from a satire.

Actually, to keep with that line of thinking, I firmly believe My Soul to Take was intended as a comedy. There's no way writer/director Craven could think audiences would suck up the lame characters and lazily written 'foreshadowing' and kills and...well, just about everything that makes up a horror movie. Hell, y'know, these characters aren't bad because they're cliches - cos there's plenty of those [e.g., religious redhead nut] - but exactly because they scream of fakeyness and jocularity. Take another example: the jock of the movie gets killed by the Ripper (surprise), and as the Ripper gets his knife on he asks the jock if he wants to say goodbye to someone, and the jock replies, "my unborn child", and the Ripper says as the jock falls: "fuck you and fuck your unborn child."

This cannot be anything other than a comedy, right?

And the kills. Oh, the kills! This is a horror/slasher movie, so at the very VERY least, the kills should be the highlight, no? The moment where all the viewers in unison watch with delight as the special effects guys come up with some cool deaths with plenty of blood spraying all over the place. Well, sadly, that ain't this movie. It's as if the deaths were an afterthought. 'Oh, wait, we gotta kill this person, right?' So we have the Ripper come out of nowhere sometimes (and at one point comically yells, 'Fear yee the Ripper!' or something like that) and just slice someone's throat or knife them in the gut a whole bunch of times. It's not brutal like, say, the Scream franchise, it instead just comes across as lazy. I would be a bit more okay with that if we at the very least cared about the characters, had one iota of connection to them. Instead, they literally are just cardboard things to be killed and taken off the board.

And let's talk about the lead. Max Thieriot is Bug, the protagonist, who the Ripper is primarily targeting because of who he is. I know that's vague, but Bug's past is one of the very few things the movie has going for it, so I'll conceal that little bit here. Thieriot delivers his lines so, so horribly. Imagine a braindead zombie, or a teenage boy who had his brain liquefied or lobotomized, and that's exactly how Thieriot sounds. The thing is, Thieriot is actually pretty damn good at mimicking the voices of his deceased co-stars (apparently their souls are apart of him, now, for some reason or another), so it's odd that he's impressive in that regard, but absolutely lacks any acting talent when it comes to his solo lines. Bloody hell, y'know?

One last note: I can't fathom how on earth 3-D would have helped this movie. At no point did it appear that Craven made a effort to show off the 3-D technique, with no special camera angles or somethingorrather heading straight towards the lens. Nada. Zilch. It was a regular 2D movie with 2D visuals, and I have very little doubt those who chose the 3-D option were a tad disappointed by the lack of 'awe' factor.

In conclusion, My Soul to Take is a train wreck of a movie (hehe, train wreck; and the next review is about a train...that wrecks...hehehe), but miraculously, it was fun. Everything is written so horribly, from the characters and plot to the dialogue, it's all one big mess, and definitely a black spot in Craven's resume (here's hoping Scream 4 kicks ass). So if you're in the mood for a wickedly bad time and some laughs on the side, My Soul to Take is for you!

Rating: 4.5/10 = I'm appalled and yet can't look away.


Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee
Written by Mark Bomback
Directed by Tony Scott
Release: 12 November 2010
Telecino Cinema, 98 mins., Rated PG-13

Let's be honest here: the real star of Unstoppable is the train. After all, that's what people came to see, and in that regard, Tony Scott delivers. The train zooms, the train BOOMs, and the train causes a look of ruckus and chaos. The characters Denzel Washington and Chris Pine play are just there to be the saving grace at the end of the day, but really, they're one-dimensional puppets placed here and there in order to bring the desired outcome into fruition. Attempts at creating character is given in-between Scott's trademark quick cuts and circling shots, but they don't overall add up to anything substantial. But like I said, we're not here for characters, we're here to experience this motherfrakking train be motherfrakking unstoppable. And oh yes, it does do that. Thanks to Tony Scott, the only director who could have pulled off this "missile the size of the Chrysler building" story, the visuals of the train are spectacular, the scenes of Denzel and Chris racing to save the day intense (especially in the third act), and the enjoyment factor major high.

Rating: 5/10 = Look at things go BOOM! Wait, hold it, character moment for a sec. Okay, good, time for more BOOM! Did you see that BOOM!? There was a BOOM!

Stylish Blogger Award

Jack L. over at Jack L. film reviews has bestowed upon thee the Stylish Blogger Award! Major thanks, kind sir, and for your kindness, me, and other factions of geekdom, say to you: May the Force be with You, and Live Long and Prosper. It feels good to be stylish. Now, as it seems to be customary, I must list seven facts about myself, and then pass on the Stylish Blogger Award to seven other lucky bloggie peoples.
  • My first movie experience was Aladdin at the age of three; however, it wasn't until Godzilla 1985 a few years later that my love for movies - and dinosaurs - was cemented.
  • When I was ten or eleven, bugger if I remember, I submitted a short piece of fiction for some sort of contest at the Rosedale Mall Borders. I ended up winning second place with a short story called "Yamoto Warrior". I attended this ceremony in front of a good chunk of people at the mall and everything; had my award given to be in a glass frame, the whole nice yards. A year later I won third place in Chicago at the Godzilla convention, G-FEST, for an drawing I did. That was pretty cool, but the really, really cool part is that my art was judged by none other than Bob Eggelton!
  • Another thing about Godzilla: I actually owned a official T-shirt and production hat from the 1998 Godzilla film, given to me by a crew-member who lived at the apartment my mom and I lived in 1996-1999 in Oakdale. Unfortunately, I lost both items in 2004, although I have a hunch as to were they might have been...
  • Thanks to loads of Buffy, Doctor Who, and miscellaneous British programs, I tend to say "mate", "bloody hell", "bollocks", and "blimey" far too often and my friends get a tad frustrated. Not like I mean to do it, just sort of comes out, like my friends' ability to say "like" and "you know" more in one day than anyone should in their whole lifetime.
  • This may be a cliche, but I'm an aspiring writer. I hope to become at least a quasi-successful novelist, with some people in the world either buying and reading my book(s) or looking at it at Wal-Mart, skimming the back over and then putting it back. If I ever do become successful in this endeavor, my specific genre of interest: science fiction. But no matter what I do, I always end up incorporating good vs. evil/religious undertones to my stories, despite not being a remotely religious man.
  • I own two Master Replica lightsabers, two of my three most prized possessions. One is the Anakin Skywalker lightsaber from Episode III, the other Darth Vader's. Oh, happiness. My third most prized possession is the Eleventh Doctor's sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who.
  • I'm not very 'hip' with the music scene. Concerning regular everyday vocal music - the non compositional movie soundtrack kind (which I'm addicted to) - it usually takes a film (like The Hangover) to open my eyes to new music. So when my roommate plays something that is apparently quite popular and I haven't a clue who they are, he's completely shocked I don't know, say, Linkin Park. At the very least I now know Linkin Park had some music in the two Transformers movies. I do know I hate Screamo music, but if anyone wants to suggest some cool bands or what have you, you're encouraged to do so.

And as for other Stylish Bloggers:

Rachel's Reel Reviews
Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob
Blog Cabins
Cultural Compulsive Disorder
Reel Whore
Dan the Man Movie Reviews

Avatar: The Last Airbender - Book Two: Earth

Avatar: The Last Airbender - Book Two: Earth

Starring the voices of Zack Tyler Eisen, Mae Whitman, Jack DeSena, Jessie Flower, Dee Bradley Baker, Dante Basco, Mako, Grey DeLise, Cricket Leigh, Olivia Hack.
Created by Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko.
First transmission date: 17 March 2006.
Nickelodeon, 20 episodes, 24 mins.

Plot: With Katara as his water-bending teacher, Aang and Co. set out to find a earth-bending teacher, and he rather needs to do this quick for time is running out quite quickly as new information is revealed that could lead to the Fire Lord's destruction.

Whenever there are seconds of something, natural progression states that the second helping must have more, must be more complex, darker, with higher stakes. This has happened with multiple franchises, like The Empire Strikes Back and The Temple of Doom. It’s a natural order the creators and producers of The Last Airbender adhere to.

At the end of Book One, Aang was successful in saving the Northern Water Tribe, but it came at a cost – entering his Avatar State, he has no control of his choices or power, his entire self completely given over to this raw power, and it terrifies him. As a result, throughout this Book and the following third and final Book, Aang is petrified of losing himself. And with threats facing him and his friends at every corner, the need for entering the Avatar State becomes bigger and bigger.

As Zuko and Iroh are on their own once again, trying to craft lives for themselves outside of the Fire Nation, the villains of this piece is Zuko’s sadistic sister Azula and her two friends Mai and Ty Lee. Together, the three girls are make for a terrifying opponent, and just might bring Aang down to size. Azula is often described as a “monster”, at least by those who have the misforune of being her victims, and she completely lives up to that description. She is ruthless, merciless, without compassion or anything that doesn’t expressely concern victory for the Fire Nation – or whatever fits her needs at the time. The strongest and most sadistic opponent Aang has yet to face, she will continue to hunt him, and in the end, Aang will be stronger for it. Azula’s ‘friends’, Mai and Ty Lee, are not as evil – although with their talents, they are still quite deadly.

Next to Aang, the single character to gain the most development this volume is Zuko, who is engaging in a battle within himself. He can’t decide where his loyalties ly, what his destiny is – if he even has any – and most importantly, who he wants to be. The end result is something completely unexpected and tragic for the character, but watching Zuko undergo this crisis is riveting storytelling, brought to life masterfully by the animation studio and voice actor Dante Basco.

Katara and Sokka continue their journeys from Book One “Water”, still intent on finding their father, helping Aang, and overall providing the comic relief and tension to the group. “Earth” isn’t their strongest season from a character standpoint – although Katara does have some strong scenes with Zuko later on – but they are nonetheless a integral and funny part of the team and show.

But here's the most important aspect of season two: Toph! The blind Earthbender, Toph is awesome, hilarious, kickass, insatiably quotable, strong willed, well rounded, and never fails to grab our attention. Plus she's interesting, the blind girl who runs away from her tight, protective parts to embark on a journey of excitement and inevitable danger. Thanks to clever scripts, awesome character design and brilliant voice over work, I can't fathom another awesome and strong female character on the tele matching Toph at all. Oh Toph.

This season is all about character development, and characters making choices that will impact the outcome of the upcoming war. Life and humanity is brutal - but there's still hope, seems to be the closing sentiment of the season. Toph may overshadow Zuko and Aang cos, y'know, she's awesome, but this is undeniably their season, and it is riveting.

Book Two: Earth
As expected from a season where I have already given plenty of accolades, “Earth” has no shortage of stellar episodes. First, I want to point out “The Chase”, which features the best animated fight sequence of all time. Hell, maybe the best fight sequence of all time. It’s a eight-way battle in a western setting as the elements literally clash with each other. Staggering, and I was hooked as hell watching it. “The Cave of Two Lovers” is a fun episode that gives greater hints of the Katara/Aang relationship that is a slow time coming; “The Blind Bandit” is nothing short of terrific, and a splendid introduction of Toph; “Zuko Alone” is fantastic, following the titular character as he searches for his place in a world that won’t receive him; “Bitter Work” has Toph hammering in some Earthbending skills, which Aang completely sucks at; “The Library” is a wonderful ep that is important to the shows mythology and really starts the ticking clock of the series; “The Tales of Ba Sing Se” is a nifty anthology episode with several stories going on simultaneously with our lead characters – not overall important to the narrative, but it’s fun and gives greater emphasis on character; and the last three episodes of the season, “The Earth King”, “The Guru” and “The Crossroads of Destiny” together make some of the most compelling television I have ever seen…and I’ve seen a lot.

There’s no one episode that is rubbish. They all end up serving some greater purpose later in the series or at least provides us with some character detail we didn’t have before. I can’t say enough good things about LAST AIRBENDER, and season two is a particularly prime example of its awesomeness. The writing is top material, the animation continues to push the boundaries and is nothing short of startling, the music is extraordinarily engaging and beautiful, and the overall story is a sweeping epic not unlike the above mentioned Empire Strikes Back.

A few episodes on, the season is noticeably tighter. No longer interested in multiple standalone episodes in successive order, “Earth” feels very much like one volume that has a beginning, middle and end…that just happens to pick up again in a third volume. Tight, satisfying narrative, and full of tension and excitement and drama, “Earth” is, in my opinion, the best of the three-Book saga. Plus it doesn’t hurt that I love Toph, the coolest female character in the universe.

Toph’s journey and Zuko’s inner struggle make “Earth” must-see television, and elevates AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER from a intriguing children s show with adult themes to something unforgettable and recommendable to everyone of all ages.

25 March 2011

Fringe: Season 2

Fringe - Season 2

Created by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, J.J. Abrams
Starring Ana Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Jasika Nicole, Kirk Acevedo
Transmission season: 2009-2010
FOX, 23 episodes, 43 mins.

Plot: With new information about a oncoming war between this world and the other, Special Agent Olivia Dunham, Walter and Peter Bishop face shapeshifters and enemies of the Other Side as a plan of attack is underway. Meanwhile, a dark secret Walter harbors may spell doom for the team.

Sophomore slump? What of it? The FRINGE writers, actors, directors, and producers don't fall victim to this frequent demon in the ass, instead making the second season of FRINGE even more brilliant, even more complex, even more emotional and tragic and exhilarating than the first, and that's a difficult thing to pull off. All twenty-three episodes encompass the best of television. Even the quasi-stand alone episodes.

Now, every family have their own little secrets and complications - it's a way of life, pretty much Luckily, 99% of those families don't have to deal with the threat of quite possibly causing Armageddon and igniting a war between two universes. Unfortunately, that is the dire consequence if Peter Bishop learns a terrible truth that his father Walter has hid from him for all of his life. Secrets, lies, and the burden of truth weigh on the family, and this season, more than the last, is all about the dynamic between Peter and Walter.

Similar to LOST, this show excels when it comes to the characters. You can throw as much awesome scientific catastrophes in a episode as you want to, but the slightest mournful look from John Noble's Walter Bishop or the angry expression of Peter can absolutely turn your stomach and rip your heart into pieces. The writers know where the shows strengths lay, and they exploit it well. It helps that the show boasts such a strong cast, for sure. Concerning Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham, she is often cast at the sidelines with few exceptions (such as the episodes dealing with her abilities and other Cortexiphan trial children), and it's a tad disheartening to see her used in such a limited capacity. As a result, moments of true emotion and heavy material doesn't get the treatment it deserves. For example, fives episodes in a fan favorite character and longtime friend of Olivia's is revealed to be dead, but reaction-wise, other than a choked up line of sadness, one doesn't fully get the weight of her loss. Of course, it could be argued it keeps in line with Olivia's character, of always hiding her emotions and keeping herself mentally and emotionally in check, but it's a shame. Therefore, making a judgment on Olivia Dunham is sort of difficult: on one hand, you can say she doesn't emote enough, but on the other hand, it does stay within character.

The actors are superb, the scripts clever and twisty turny, the music is gorgeous, and the overall program is addicting. For anyone looking for the Next Great Show in a post-LOST world, look no further, this is it, right here.

One of the gorgeous things about this show is its capacity to have Case of the Week standalone episodes still feel very vital in the grand scheme of things. "What Lies Below" is a fine example of a otherwise standalone episode that actually carries far more weight in the overall story arc of the show, as in Walter's guilty conscious and more hints about Peter's past.

Season two also has no shortage of stellar episodes. "Grey Matters" which investigates the danger of Walter's past experiments and his overall intelligence; "Jacksonville" where Olivia needs to channel her abilities and pinpoint what building will be disappearing in a matter of hours and evacuate it before it goes bye-bye; "Peter", the much-anticipated flashback episode providing answers for certain things Walter mumbled under his breath over the span of the past fifteen episodes; "Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver" offers further insight into the effects of the trials induced on Olivia and others like her by Walter and Bell; and of course, the two-part finale "Over There" which provides so many awesome ideas and one hell of a jaw-dropping cliffhanger finale that will undoubtedly lend itself to one stellar of a third season.

FRINGE - SEASON 2 is just as epic, dramatic, comedic, and amazing as the first, and it shows no sign of stopping its apparent boundless creativity. It's quite similar to another brilliant show on the airwaves right now: SUPERNATURAL. As each season passed, the mythology grew from a simple one-line premise of "two brothers on the road hunting demons and monsters" to Apocalyptic heights, and the same applies here. No longer is FRINGE a show just about "science gone awry" in the world, but about a war between two worlds and two fathers. I understand FRINGE may not be for everyone, but I still strongly recommend a watch. The performances alone are extraordinary and well worth it, but if it helps, I'd give it kudos based on the super nifty and highly interesting sciences exploited week after week.

Tao of McKay: Vol. 2

[This feature is a compilation of dialogue and scenes from the great Dr. Meredith Rodney McKay of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis fame]

"It's time for the How Screwed We Are report."
- The Ark

24 March 2011

The Watcher: 03/18/11 - 03/24/11

Last week V had its season finale, this week SKINS has that honor, so this feature is going to be a bit small-like the next two weeks until SMALLVILLE and SUPERNATURAL start up again. Good news, though, is that NIKITA continues next week. w00t! Anyways, onwards!

S01E10 - "Dog Eat Dog" (21 March 2011) - A pretty interesting episode that definitely got my interest. If memory serves me right, this was in the original U.K. series, but I don't quite recall all the details (also makes me think about TORCHWOOD). Overall, it was fun seeing Aidan scrambling to come up with some sort of plan, hear that Bishop knows the Elders intends on killing him tomorrow, and Josh feeling betrayed by Aidan and being overall royally pissed off. That all made for a fun hour of television, despite less than spectacular wolfie CGI. But next week looks crazy cool with a pregnancy! w00t! w00t! Raise the roof! Three more episodes to go, interested to see where this leads. Score: 9.5/10

S04E19 - "Chuck Vs. the Muuurder" (21 March 2011)
- Highlight of the season: Kevin Bacon, the pig, being propelled through the vents by a giant explosion from within Castle. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Overall, episode nineteen was quite enjoyable, full of jokes, action, whodunit?, Buy More problems with Big Mike, Lester, and Morgan, and just loads of fun like the good ol' season one and two days. Heck, there was even a quasi-emotional moment near the end when it looked like the other CIA director chick was going to bite the dust - I felt a moments sympathy for her! (audible gasp) And then there's the end, with Ellie being scanned by Papa Bartowski's laptop. Not so sure if I'm too interested in this development, that she may play some larger superperson role, but it's nice to see Ellie get screentime outside of being married, pregnant, and now nursing. Also, loved the final minutes with Casey saying "for real, this time" when Chuck remarked that he actually has a nemesis...Vivian Volkoff. Nice. Score: 8.1/10

S03E18 - "Stowaway" (18 March 2011) - Still not completely sold on the Olivia/William Bell soul storyline, nor completely in love with Anna Torv's channeling of Nimoy's voice, but "Stowaway" was a pretty damn good episode regardless. And I believe we owe that to the two guest stars. Seth Gahl reprises his role as Lincoln Lee, but with a catch: he's not the alternate universe Lee who assists the Fringe team with Alt-Olivia and Alt-Charlie, he's our version of Lee, and he's just as charismatic, goofy, and awesome. Paula Malcomson, from Caprica, plays the immortal woman Dana Gray, doing everything in her power to die. Her storyline is surprisingly very interesting, and the wonderful performance from Ms. Malcomson really sells it, and I hope her character isn't written off completely because there is some real potential there. So, awesome points = Prime Universe Lincoln Lee, Dana Gray - the woman who can't die. The climax has Bell musing that perhaps there isn't a random order to the universe, that perhaps some things are just fated, destined to happen. As intriguing as that storyline always is when introduced in a show, I hope they don't go that route here. Fringe has always grounded itself in science and interconnectedness, where one character makes a choice and affects the narrative from there eventually resulting in where we are today. So everything is connected through logical domino effects, and I dig that; destiny or fate doesn't play a part in it, and I hope it stays out. However, if those themes become integral to the show, I at least trust the writers that they will have their own unique spin to it. And the William Bell storyline continues on... Score: 8.9/10

S02E07 - "Save My Love" (23 March 2011) - I had a blast with "Save My Love", a reminder of the good ol' days of THE SHIELD when Vic Mackey and his gang were constantly trying to be two steps ahead of the police or who have you so they don't get busted, and in this case, Raylan was doing that for Winona. Although I dig Winona - she's hot and for some reason I want to see her and Raylan together moreso than Ava - I am interested to see how this affects their relationship. In the final thirty seconds, the silent elevator ride shows that there has been a shift in the dynamic of their relationship. Overall, it was immense fun watching Raylan and Winona try to put the bag of money back but constantly being pulled away by the Case of the Week or some other character intrusion (like the super-awesome judge). And now with Boyd hired by this woman as a security enforcer, and her eyes set on the Bennetts, it looks like the season arc is starting to heat up and things are going places. Still not entirely in love with this season, but "Save My Love" is my second favorite next to the premiere. Score: 9.7/10

SKINS S01E10 - "Eura; Everyone" (21 March 2011) - And here we are, the season - and most likely series - finale, and it's a fantastic one. All the events of the last nine episodes have hit a boiling point, and here they explode. Tony, the once King of high school, has become a silent teen laying in bed day in and day out; by contrast, Stanley seems to have taken the reigns as the person people respect and turn to. Shit just hits the fan, and in the end, it's obvious that these characters, through these ten episodes, have greatly evolved.

This episode is mostly about Stanley and the decision between two girls: Cadie or Michelle, which is pretty cool considering Tony was the hot shit with all the girls coming to him. Tony's siter Eura is simply the catalyst. A character we don't necessarily gain a lot of insight to, in part due to her choice of being mute a majority of the time, but it's through her actions the characters confront their fears, angers, bitterness, and difficult choices, and end up okay in the end. Stanley makes his choice (YES!!! So happy it was Michelle. I was worried it would be Cadie, but then again, I feel sorta bad he didn't choose her cos she put it all out there for him this episode), Tea understands that she loves whats-her-name no matter what and stays with her in the hospital, Tony's humanity is coming through and his 'friends' seem to recognize that; Abbud and Daisy confront their friends-with-benefits thing and Abbud realizes he actually digs her (saw that coming, nice development, nonetheless); and Chris is pretty much still Chris. Score: 10/10

A wonderful, lovely finale. And I'll most likely be singing that "Shout!" song for another few days now; bloody Hell. Overall, it's been an uneven first season of SKINS, but that's to be expected of a show finding its footing. The most surprising thing is that the episodes have, more than less, been very strong, cleverly and intelligently written and very well acted from relative newcomers. And aside from all the controversy around the show, it's a pity that it hasn't gained a bigger audience, and it's a shame that it most likely will be seeing a unfortunate fate befall it. SKINS is a great drama about life, about contemporary high school students, about backstabbing, relationships, love, and friendship, and actually something memorable and worthwhile. As opposed to JERSEY SHORE, which will most likely see a fourth and fifth season renewal, and offers nothing substantial to the television world. Cruel, unjust fate of good shows.

If SKINS does get the axe - and I motherfrakking hope it doesn't - I'll write another piece about the show and its many successes because it deserves that. I loved SKINS from episode one and hope to see these characters continue to evolve. If not, well, it is a very satisfying ten-episode arc that leaves things concluded and open just enough to work either way. Season Score: 8.7/10

S02E13 - "Alliances" (21 March 2011) - What a lame episode. There were no characters or plot that I felt invested in, that I gave a damn about. Just another 43 minutes of "meh", which is completely unsatisfying, especially after last week's stellar "Twin Destinies." Never have been a fan of Greer, and I doubt the actor is too thrilled being the character either, nor that other Asian lady who just walks around barking orders cos she's a 'civilian and we have rights!' and shit. Just don't care. And whatever this big thing with the Lucian Alliance and their attack on Pentagon - meh, whatever. I do not care. The threat has not been built up properly, the tension was completely absent, and the only tiny bleep of goodness of the episode was when the two Earth people using the communication stones had to go back to their bodies and inevitably die - that was some genuine emotion there. Otherwise, screw this episode, show me the next one already. Score: 3.2/10

23 March 2011

Rage, Rage Against the SyFy

There once was a time when I clicked to the Sci-Fi Channel with anticipation and happiness and the knowledge that I was about to watch programming that I would love. Now I click to the Syfy channel with the hope that a program that has at least something to do with science fiction is playing. And, to a extent, they’re not regurgitating Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus for the one thousandth and eleventh time.

I remember, not too long ago, when the Sci-Fi Channel was one of the awesomest stations on the tele, when it was the premiere station for the genre I love, dedicated to showcasing, celebrating, and honoring the science fiction (and sometimes horror) genre. That network no longer exists.

It’s difficult to not blame the name change. After all, it does feel like these massive channel overhauls happened during the time of their monumental “name-branding”. But the truth is signs of the channel losing its steam happened a bit before that. The channels great anchor shows were Battlestar Galactica and Stargate: Atlantis, and they were preparing to close up shop. In response they picked up a few other shows, but nothing really remarkable. And then the unthinkable happened: wrestling.

They introduced wrestling. On a motherfrakking science fiction channel.

I do a lot of channel surfing, and (of course) flip past Syfy, except I didn’t realize it. When I go back just to make sure I saw what I think I saw, my worst fears are confirmed. The once go-to channel was sci-fi was hosting Jack Black’s School of Rock, and (later on) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End [which arguably falls under the category, I suppose]. Not to forget mentioning I recall seeing anime played; leave that for Cartoon Network.

Never was a fan of Thanksgiving, but it did provide the opportunity for some sort of themed all day marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel. A particularly fond memory of one of those days is when they played a good six or seven Godzilla movies back-to-back, as well as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and other beastie films. Those were the good days, when they played black & white science fiction and horror, and television shows like Dark Shadows and Twilight Zone…a lot.

And they never failed to have really spectacular promo ads. For example, there’s this one ad I remember and will remember for a long time coming: it was a futuristic setting, some girl in a tight suit was running away from some blokes, jumps off a platform, and lands on some sort of levitating computer board and controls it by some sort of digital pop-up screen. I surfed around YouTube looking for it to embed here (if you find it, let me know!), but those thirty seconds or so were genius and awesome and brilliant. I want some of that brilliance back. Hell, I would love to see a full blown TV show made out of that.

With Battlestar Galactica done and over with, and a rather brilliant prequel series Caprica canned and Syfy’s only remaining flag series Stargate canceled with only seven episodes left, where does that leave us? Well, first, let’s take a second to see what was lost. In regards to Stargate: Universe, I understand it. The show simply hasn’t executed its premise nearly good enough, and as a result, fans and general audiences alike just aren’t getting into it and thus tuning in to make it a ratings success; so I get why that was canned, unfortunate as it may be [so bring back Stargate: Atlantis, dumbasses!]

But Caprica? Sure, it was probably an expensive show with a small group of faithful followers, but it was the most original, most brilliant, most science fictiony show that channel had. Caprica gone from the airwaves was a nearly unforgivable decision. It was a show that perfectly blended what the channel was promoting: real, human characters, themes that reflect contemporary questions and problems, and some serious hardcore science fiction imagery, motifs, and stories. What more, creativity-wise, could they ask for? Notta.

If one show were to survive, audience be damned, it should have been Caprica.

Now with the exception of Being Human and, to a small extent, Face/Off, the Syfy Channel is a pale imitation of what it used to be, that greatness I always looked forward to watch. Hell, those two shows can hardly be considered sci-fi at all.

Recently the channel announced SyFy Channel Original Movies and reality and scripted series that are being put into production now for the Fall 2011 slate. There are some possibilities of interesting properties, but nothing that really grabs my attention. The early renewal of Being Human for a season two doesn’t even strike me as all that spectacular, good news as it is.

Maybe it’s not just the Syfy Channel. Maybe the demand for science fiction shows has decreased in the last few years, and the channel is making do with what they have. In that respect, I understand their decisions, and can possibly commend them for surviving this long. But something needs to change. A re-dedication to their name brand, perhaps, fully immersing themselves into the genre they promote.

Show us those old 1940s, 50s, and 60s black & white/color movies. Show us the films many grew up watching and falling in love with. Air repeats of long dead sci-fi shows like Sliders, Farscape, The Chronicle, Doctor Who, Special Unit 2, Xena, Hercules, Highlander. Be more diverse in programming instead of Star Trek: Enterprise and super crappy Z-movie repeats, please.

I want to love you again, Syfy Channel. I want to be a proud supporter, to tell my friends that “Syfy is cool again!” and “dude, did you check out that awesome show on the Syfy channel?” Lame Hallmarky examples, I know, but it conveys my point neatly.

Just wish things were different.

Simply Script: No. 7


Written by William Goldman

I'm 26, and I'm single, and a school teacher, and that's the bottom of the pit. And the only excitement I've known is here with me now. I'll go with you, and I won't whine, and I'll sew your socks, and I'll stitch you when you're wounded, and I'll do anything you ask of me except one thing. I won't watch you die. I'll miss that scene if you don't mind.

22 March 2011

Tuesday Cap - Vol. 20

Title: King Kong (2005)

Notes: Peter Jackson's epic, and I don't use that loosely. At over three hours, it could be argued that King Kong is bloated, far too long for its own good, and too reliant on CGI. All perfectly fine criticisms and completely understandable, but I disagree with them all. Yes, Jackson may be stretching the limits of audience running time tolerance [but at least it was twenty minutes under his other epic, if one is to look at the bright side], but I daresay he makes the endurance worth it, crafting one hell of an emotional and engaging production. Using all the lessons he learned from making The Trilogy, he forms a fully realistic digital creation that has emotion, that has thought, that has personality, and moves fluently and without falsehood. King Kong is long, but I argue that the running time is necessary in order to tell this story, in order to sell the emotion and create round characters that live and breathe. The story works, the references and homages to the original work, the music by the brilliant James Newton Howard is nothing short of beautiful, the CGI is stunning and quite the accomplishment, and the movie overall simply rocks. And yes, I even own the Extended Edition (great commentary, BT to the W).

Discuss: General thoughts on Kong: running time, Naomi Watts, Adrian Brody's nose (not like I noticed), the digital effects, original vs. remake...

21 March 2011

MMAM - Vol. 30

Damn! Thirty of these! Not bad Andy, not bad at all. To celebrate, below is a song I regret not putting on the Desert Island CD mix, but I remedy that now. I dug SPIDER-MAN 2 like most everyone else, and whoever was in charge of music selection for that flick should be promoted. Out of the three 'Music Inspired by' discs, SP2 features the best tracks, or, at least, the tracks that I listen to the most [SP3 falls in last, with only one song I listen to repeatedly]. So to celebrate thirty Music Much Awesomeness Mondays, below is my favorite song from the SPIDER-MAN trilogy.

Everything from 2:30 to 4:05 is beautiful. Listen, love, download. What are some of your favorite tracks from the SPIDER-MAN trilogy?

20 March 2011

Banzai! 2010 Catch-Up, Part I

So I still have some 2010 titles to watch and review and hope to finish 'em all up by months end, so here's part one of (most likely) three. Cheers!

127 Hours

Starring James Franco, Kara Mara, Amber Tamblyn
Script by Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
Directed by Danny Boyle
Release: 5 November 2010
Fox Searchlight, 94 mins., Rated R

Plot: Aron Ralston has the misfortune of getting his hand wedged against a very tough rock.

A couple of weeks ago I nominated The King's Speech as one of my top ten favorite movies of last year; I feel, now, that may have been premature. Danny Boyle's 127 Hours is one hell of a unforgettable ride, boasting a performance from Franco that is nothing short of a revelation, and Boyle's trademark stunning and in-your-face direction. And dare I forget mentioning A.R. Rahman returning to compose the score. Whereas King's Speech was generally good, 127 Hours is mesmerizing, intense, full of boundless creativity, and highly dramatic and engaging.

First, James Franco is generally a very good actor. I liked him in the Spider-Man trilogy, I loved him in Pineapple Express, and he's interesting enough that my interest was peaked with his whole soap opera guest star stint. So, I liked the guy, and thought he was talented. Enter 127 Hours, and I'm friggin' blown away. For a movie where the central actor - the dude the camera is glued to through the entire film - is pinned into one location, unable to really move all that much, one would think, Hey, this movie is getting a bit dull. That doesn't happen here. Thanks to Boyle (and I'll get to that shortly) and Franco, not a single iota of dullness or watch-checking. Franco sells Aron Ralston. Aron doesn't come off as a prick who doesn't leave a note, Aron is a man who seeks adventure, and wants to have a bit of crazy, impulsive fun. We identify with him, we get to know him deeply - his feelings (presented to us by confessions to his video camera), his past - through conversations with himself or some super nifty hallucinations (SCOOBY-DOO!!!). Look, I can't praise Franco enough, and his nod from the Academy was perfectly justified. It's a performance that needs to be seen - and to some extent, experienced - to believe.

Next to actor Franco, the real gem - if not the hugest biggest reason for the movie's success - is director/co-writer Danny Boyle. A few years ago he came out with some flick called Slumdog Millionaire, and from then on, I've been surfing through his career of movies. Pretty impressive. Also has one hell of a impressive visual style. A story like this demands that type of style, and Boyle doesn't disappoint. Before Aron is pinned down, Boyle gives us sweeping shots of the National Park in Utah, absolutely gorgeous stuff. And then the event (#1) happens, and naturally, it would appear that camera angles would be a bit constricted. Not for Boyle. Every camera angle imaginable, and then some, is used to great effect. Zooms, hand held work, P.O.V.s, crane shots, etc. All magnificent, all absolutely drawing me into the situation. When The Event (#2) comes about - that thing everyone never fails to mention - it's depicted without shying away of the horror, out of the sheer strength of will in the situation; it's brutal and victorious all at the same time. And we owe all our feelings, all of our intense interest on what's happening on two people: James and Danny.

127 Hours is can't miss filmmaking. Compelling story, engaging tour de force performance, and unforgettable. You may not leave the movie feeling like you just learned something so giantly monumental, but frankly, not like you get anything out of King's Speech but a feel good atmosphere overcomin' ya momentarily. It's unfair to compare the two, but when it comes right down to it, I would exchange King's Speech with 127 Hours. Watch it. Experience it. Love it.

Best Worst Movie

Featuring George Hardy, Michael Stephenson, Darren Ewing, Jason Steadman, Jason Wright, Claudio Fragasso, Percy Gioia
Directed by Michael Stephenson
Release: 14 April 2010 (wide)
New Video Group, 93 mins., Not Rated

Plot: A look into the cult classic Troll 2 and its status as the "best worst movie ever made."

I love me some Troll 2. I can't picture anyone not finding themselves having a hugely enjoyable time when watching it, solo or in a group. Instead of examining how this cult classic came to be made and all that behind the scenes stuff, Best Worst Movie concentrates on the individuals who made the film and what has come of them today, their reactions to their film being considered the "best worst movie ever made", and the film's general status by film lovers around the world. The documentary isn't as revealing or engaging as I had hoped, but it does lend itself to some interesting tidbits: Italian director Claudio Fragasso (pictured above), who helmed Troll 2, is absolutely adamant he crafted a damn good movie and Americans just don't appreciate it's strong points and, furthermore, 'message'; actress Margo Prey and her odd "complicated" life; George Hardy's general anonymity back home and goodwill towards men attitude, etc. The lives of the folks who helped realize Troll 2 is rather fascinating, and, at times, a little depressing, but director Stephenson doesn't throw in sad music or poke fun at Margo's obvious...er, complications...it's very direct, just shows how things are without making judgments.

Well, can't really say that about George Hardy. That man attends a horror convention or two, and is quite judgmental about the current state of horror films and, furthermore, actors and actresses charging $30-50 for a photo and autograph for films they barely starred in.

And Claudio is very vocal about his displeasure concerning certain actors.

To sum up Best Worst Movie, it's that it is interesting. Not mandatory viewing by any means, but a nice little update about the actors involved in the films production, its status right now as the best worst movie, and most importantly - revealing plans for a Troll 2, Part 2. I know, I know, retain the excitement. Overall, can't highly recommend it, but for parties interested in more details about Troll 2 and how bizarre the lives of some of the actors currently are, definitely give it a look.


Featuring Nev Schulman, Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Release: 17 September 2010
Rogue Pictures, 86 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Nev sparks a Facebook friendship with some eight-year old girl named Abbey, but slowly spots inconsistencies in the friendship that leads to a shocking revelation (!).

The trailers and posters indicate some sort of horror twisty vibe at the end as Nev Schulman's investigation of these mysterious "Abbey" and "Megan" lead him to a abandoned house (above). And I was frankly looking forward to that. But what we get instead is much more real, and, as commonly been stated, a perfect example of the dangers of Facebook and internet commingling. However, major kudos to the marketing department. The ads certainly peaked my interest.

The Social Network was about the creation of thefacebook, about the destruction of a tightly bound friendship over money and backstabbingness. Catfish uses facebook and shows that anyone can be anything they want. It's a useful lesson to know, and will definitely prevent the shenanigans that go down here.

I'm frankly at a loss as to what to say concerning Catfish. Yes, it does indeed show the dangers of social networking, the risks involved for people deciding to meet someone they haven't officially physically met, as well as the sad idea that some folks create alternate lives through the internet instead of coping with the one they have. Nev and his producing/directing partners are a delight, wise-cracking and intelligent. They know what they're doing, they know the risks involved, but their curiosity is far too high to let it go, and therefore we have this documentary, real or not. The one expected thing is that I ended up being a little choked up near the end when all is said and done, but it also became a little bit fascinating. Lie after lie made up to protect another lie. Relating instead of exploiting the lies.

It's a interesting (faux, if you wish) documentary and recommended to all.

Due Date

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Juliette Lewis, Jamie Foxx
Written by Todd Phillips, Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel
Directed by Todd Phillips
Release: 5 November 2010
Legendary Pics, 95 mins., Rated R

Plot: Peter (Downey) is late for meeting his wife, who is quite prego, and is forced to go on a car ride with the weird bearded man who got him into this situation in the first place, Ethan (Galifianakis).

I was hoping for a lot of laughs, like The Hangover provided, but instead I gave a chuckle here or there. Now, The Hangover isn't comedy gold like the common misconception seems to be, but it did have plenty of funny moments. Due Date, by comparison, doesn't work as well; which is odd, because the two film are quite similar in many respects, so it's a shame it doesn't succeed. As expected, Robert Downey, Jr. is funny, intense, and brings about most of the laughs whenever they happen. And, as expected, Zack's routine was tired and redundant. I'm getting to a point where I'd rather take another string of Michael Cera productions over seeing the Bearded One yet again. I apologize to any fans of Zack Galifianakis. The first hour I didn't find all that amusing, although I did enjoy bits with Peter and Ethan at the rest stop, and I'm embarrassed to say I did chuckle at the masturbating dog, but it wasn't until the whole Mexican border incident that I really got into the flick, and by then, it was almost over. The inevitable resolution doesn't ring all too true - the idea that these two dudes strike up a messed up friendship at the end seems not all that likely considering Ethan is obnoxious, instigated this whole mess, and put a bullet in Peter's leg. Not exactly someone I want to spend my free time with. Overall, I didn't enjoy Due Date as much as I expected to, and in all likelihood I won't be checking it out again anytime in the near future. The flick is one of those movies where it appeals to a certain sect of people, and to the other, they get my general feeling: which is, very "meh."


Starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Moon Bloodgood, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Maggie Grace, Mike Epps, Jennifer Carpenter
Written by Tony & Joe Gayton
Directed by George Tillman, Jr.
Release: 24 November 2010
TriStar, 98 mins., Rated R

Plot: Driver (Johnson) intends to execute everyone on his list of people who had a hand in his brother's death. Result: it ain't gonna be pretty.

FASTER has no misconception of what it is: a revenge action movie with Dwayne Johnson looking very, very pissed off and very, very much an unstoppable, relentless force that has only one function: kill the people involved in the murder of his brother (and drying really fast, too). Therefore, I’m not going to spend the time critiquing the movie as I normally would, but simply say that FASTER delivers on its premise one hundred percent. Dwayne’s stone cold eyes, full of anger and adrenaline is friggin’ intense, and the scenes where he does, indeed, take out his revenge is sweet, satisfying, and full of expected carnage. Billy Bob is Billy Bob, and everyone excels at their perspective roles. The bloodfest of revenge is even given a bit of dark humor as Billy deals with life issues and an assassin with a heart consumed with love decides to pop the question to Maggie Grace. FASTER is one hell of a joyride, and if you’re in the mood for a good action movie, look no further. Dwayne Johnson is back in the type of role he perfects, and as a result, an already good movie becomes great fun.